In my role as a Witch and a Pagan, I pay attention to the land where injustices and social action occur. I pay attention to the energies at work.“ – Jacki Richardson

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[Courtesy of C. Blanton]

It is an intense time in our society. Images and stories fill our news feeds and television screens, reminding us of communities in crisis all over the world. Many people have been called to spiritual activism during these times, and many Pagans have been more vocal and active about their commitment to justice.

Among activists, there is a common understanding on how emotionally taxing this work can be. I have personally experienced the drive to work harder to sustain the balance of spiritual wellness, the physical forms of activism work and socio-emotional self care. I, like many others, have found myself struggling, within this ever changing battle, to sustain balance and to process the traumatizing experiences that come with the intense reality of the times we are living within. The more things that appear to happen within greater society, the more challenging it can be to manage the amount of trauma that comes through primary and secondary traumatic exposure. It has also become clearer that the more I understand about my place in the world, the more I am aware of just how damaging these situations are on an individual level.

The latest rash of unarmed Black people who have died at the hands of law enforcement; the increase in trans murders and suicide; and staggering statistics about the increase of suicides of Native people within this country have reinforced many people’s personal commitments to working for equity and justice. Many are now supporting change in this country for marginalized populations, and stepping up to support these movements nationwide.

Courtesy of Stephanie Del Kjer

[Courtesy of S. Del Kjer]

After attending the April 12 vigil for Yuvette Henderson, a mother killed by the Emeryville police department, I got a chance to think about the toll these situations put on me as a person, a spiritual warrior and a Pagan. There were eight or nine other Pagans at this particular event, pushing me to question the intersections of community and justice work for some practitioners within the modern Pagan community. Although many people have been fighting for social justices causes for years, there appears to be more movement, recognition and understanding of just how these floating pieces are taking center stage in many communities, including our own.

How do Pagans see the intersection of social action and their own spiritual beliefs? How are Pagans impacted by their experiences of justice work? What things do Pagans do to continue this work and care for themselves in the process? While these are a big questions that will have a myriad of answers, looking at the impact of justice work in our communities is important to explore. For many practitioners that are involved with social action, there are some common threads of inter-sectionality that are explored through devotional work, divine mission, passion, core beliefs, and a sense of personal integrity.

Brennos Agrocunos

Brennos Agrocunos

My involvement in social justice movement is definitely connected to my spirituality. Both my Goddess and my morality call me to stand with the Black community during this struggle against a society that’s systemically racist and brutal towards them. The task of restoring Sovereignty to the land is accomplished through service, service the Gods and the Otherworld, service to the land itself and service to our community and fellow humans. My path of priesthood is defined by these acts of service. I am unable to sit by, comfortably wrapped in the privilege of the color of my skin, gender, and heterosexuality, while others face discrimination, violence, and death for theirs.

I’ve been involved in social justice and environmental movements for most of my life to varying degrees. Sometimes heavily involved and other times burnt out and frustrated. Over the past couple of decades I have watched as the political and social spectrum has turned frighteningly ugly and brutal. Becoming involved with the Black Lives Matter movement, being on the streets providing medical aid and support during the demonstrations in this latest iteration of the civil rights movement, has been transformative and inspirational for me personally and spiritually. Meeting the families of the victims of police violence, following the tweets of the leaders of the movement, and witnessing first hand the aggression of the militarized police force, has inspired me to become more involved and more active in the movement and seeing the power and solidarity of the demonstrators has given me a tremendous amount of hope for my community.

Since I tend to find myself in fairly dangerous situations at the demonstrations, I’m primarily concerned with protection. I have a number of ways of keeping myself safe when I’m out there. Before I leave my house I make offerings to my ancestors, spirit allies, and my Goddess. I also carry a small stuffed fox that my daughter made me that is charmed for my protection and that watches my back.

The Gods, our ancestors and descendants, and the spirits of the land are aware of these struggles and take an interest in our community’s well being. Our community goes beyond the realm of the living and the spirits stand with us in this fight. - Brennos Agrocunos

Beverley Smith

Beverley Smith

Your question gave me pause for thought. I hadn’t thought much about my spirituality in regards to my passion for social justice, not until recently. I had a conversation with someone about the rising anti-black sentiment and how do shaman and other magical/spiritual people address the atrocities. He informed me that he had no comment, as he doesn’t “mix his spirituality with politics”.

What?? For me, the two are inseparable. How can I, as a divine being of the cosmos, venerate my Ancestors, heal the Land, honor my Deities, and hold myself up as an example, a priestess, a teacher, or a leader if my spirituality doesn’t extend to the practical needs of my fellow humans on this earthly plane? How is the fight for civil rights incompatible with one’s spiritual life?

I’ve seen too many people define themselves as elders, as spiritual leaders, yet they seem reluctant to stand in solidarity with their marginalized sisters and brothers. I would feel like a phony, a spiritual fraud if my spiritual life and practices didn’t include justice work. How does one call oneself a priestess or teacher, and not give a damn about your oppressed fellow citizens? Who are you fooling when you participate in rituals but your heart remains hard and apathetic toward others?

So for me, social justice work is the root of my spirituality. It’s at the core, the very root. My love and empathy for humankind calls me to this work. And my ancestors demand that I fight the good fight.

Sometimes, I fail to be as gentle with myself, especially during times of heightened emotions, which happens frequently in justice work, at least for me. I need reminders to take care of myself. I’m still trying to find that balance between involvement and self-care.

I find that my yoga practice is crucial to my emotional and mental health. And as an energy healer, using Reiki and chakra-balancing lodestones, I still have to be reminded to turn some of that healing energy inward. - Beverley Smith

Autumn Crow

Autumn Crow

Most definitely, my spirituality and activism are connected and each flows from the other. As a Reclaiming Witch, I see the divine as immanent within all beings, meaning each human life is sacred. Structural racism and other systems of oppression have always undermined this by creating stories that people of certain colors, nationalities, genders, or levels of nominal wealth have lives worth more than that of others. The existence and the defense of these ideas is a desecration I can feel in my heart every time these systems of oppression abuse, imprison, maim, or kill someone. Part of my service to the Goddess is to participate in the dismantling of these harmful stories and their associated systems so we can build a more just world.

I personally feel intentional magic and ritual gives me experience of the mysteries of the divine in ways reading a book can seldom approach. And likewise, participating in social actions led primarily by those directly impacted by systems of oppression teaches me what needs to be done in a way more grounded and authentic than if I were limited to reading websites or clicking on petitions. This is especially important to me as I have both white and (transgender) passing privilege. With those privileges, our culture will happily insulate me unless I make an effort to hear the oppressed and try my best to support them in the quest for justice.

Taking action on social justice issues, especially where directly facing those representing the status quo in a protest or similar situation, is a magical act that can take a lot of my energy. Even if nothing happens in terms of physical violence, the police’s tendency to escalate rather than de-escalate conflict means that people tend to be on edge even in the most peaceful of protests. Keeping myself healthy and in shape to respond to changing situations is a priority. I make sure I have water and first-aid gear in a backpack and continuously reground myself during the action. Afterwards, I am fortunate in that I have a place of refuge in the intentional community I live in to be heard and held, so that my frustrations, my tears, and my hopes can be shared. Without my community and my beloved ones, I could not put myself out there as I do. - Autumn Crow

Jacki Richardson

Jacki Richardson

YES! My primary social action is around the deaths of unarmed Black people. Every single life on this planet is a precious gift, a star, a God/dess that has come to bless the Earth with their presence. Each and every fallen star is worthy of respect, remembering and honor.

I remember vividly the day Michael Brown was shot. I wanted so much to be able to reach through and touch him and let his last recollection of this world be in the presence of those who would honor and respect and cherish him. It wasn’t until later that I learned his mother was at the scene, which of course makes sense. So she was there wanting to be with her son with the desperate heart’s cry of a mother whose son has died and was treated with terrible indifference. Being energetically present to Mike Brown and his parents, holding them in Sacred Space, has left a deep mark on me.

As I moved in closer to what was going on in Ferguson, I noticed how much disconnect there was between what “the general public” was being told and what I saw with my own eyes.  It became deeply important to me to be able to bear witness and say, “I saw this myself.”  In response to my turmoil around how to make my spiritual practice relevant to my experiences, a mentor encouraged me to set aside a dedicated altar space for social action. Around that time, too, a lot of clergy were showing up at protests so I began wearing my pentacle outside my clothes with other “Witchy” items as a way to say, “I am here as a Pagan, too.”I don’t know if I would have developed a sense of alliance or interconnected community without social action as I know it now.  

I keep insisting and my wife can concur: my preference would have been to remain a below-the-radar hermit content staying home and building my own little temple. Being “out there” so much pushed me to building relationships with people of like minds – both in social action and Pagan communities. That, in itself, is a gift on a daily basis for refuge, support, and camaraderie – things I greatly undervalued before.I have come to deeply appreciate the capacity some Pagans have for being able to travel this harsh terrain. It is a terrible Gift to be able to witness the unending chain of brutality and remain soft hearted but unbroken. My primary goal is to increase and maintain my ability to “hold” this space of witnessing and compassionate Presence.  A big lesson for me was the realization that acting as a Witch/Pagan will kick the stuffing out of me differently than acting as a social worker operating from a primarily “middle world” perspective.” - Jacki Richardson

Michaela Spangenburg

Michaela Spangenburg

I think spirituality is foundational to the way that we experience ourselves in the world we live in, and the place we are occupy within that world.

I often hear others make the connection between social justice activism in human spirituality in the more unidirectional way that I’ve experienced it. Often I have seen other Heathens were engaged in social justice work cite the eddas to demonstrate that our faith is one deeply rooted in social justice. This seems to speak to the experience of social justice work as growing out of our spirituality.

For me the relationship between the two is more complex, largely bidirectional. Social justice has taught me just as much about being Heathen as Heathenism has informed my social justice work. And this process is dynamic and perpetual. My daily lived experiences as a multiracial, working class, 2 spirit, female-embodied person is what first taught me the necessity of social justice, out of a place initially of basic survival. I see this ongoing experience as pivotal to my identity as a Heathen, to being called by the Gods to traditions that originate in a time before the mass, systemic oppression of the modern world.

Parallel to our own development as human beings who are initially born free and whole before being quickly tempered by a world rife with injustice and oppression, the Heathen faith is one that has had to struggle against the global shift toward empire and the ensuing onslaught of oppression to survive. Heathenism is a faith that speaks to the experience of continuous, just struggle and simultaneously of restoring and maintaining balance. It’s no surprise that the Gods would call someone like myself, or any of the other countless Heathens of color, working class Heathens, Heathens struggling against ableism, or against gender oppression, or homophobia, or transphobia, or the myriad of other oppressions we struggle against now in this world. We are called not just to the Gods and their larger struggle for balance and justice, but our own struggles against oppression as well. And they help strengthen us in those struggles and guide us. The reality of our souls and the life we are born to is one. As much as I was born to the struggle of black liberation, I was born to the struggle and service of the Allfather, the gods of Yggdrasil and Irminsul, and our Heathen community. - Michaela Spangenburg

The Pagan community has always worked to understand the roles of the allyship, social activism, spirituality and manifestation. The last year we have seen another shift in the needs of our intersecting communities and, as the call for social action intensifies, we are seeing the face of Pagan activism transforming once again.

The emotionally, physically, and spiritually demanding effects of social activism often mean an increased toll on the body and the spirit. I have personally experienced this work as emotionally draining, and know this to be true of most who are present in the consistency of the struggle. The interconnectedness of our experiences puts stress on the delicate balance of holding space for social change, fulfilling our commitments to our deities, spiritual practice, personal growth and allowing one to take care of the self simultaneously.

The ritual of social activism work is a deep and practiced discipline for those who are performing magic through the tools of social resistance, information sharing, coalition building, and community tactics. Holding space for change and equity is a magical act that is not just done within a traditional circle or religious format, but is also being done at protests and vigils.

This is hard work. It is meaningful work. It is visionary work. It is a work of love.

 

Note from the Author: A special thank you to all of those who are fighting for justice in the myriad of ways that promote health and change for all people.

 

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Crowdfunding to finance a project is nothing new in Pagan circles, sometimes successful, sometimes less successful. And new tarot decks aren’t exactly thin on the ground either. So a crowdfunding effort by a Pagan to finance a new tarot deck would have to be something very unique and appealing to have even a slim chance of succeeding.

Lupa Greenwolf’s Tarot of Bones crowdfunding Indiegogo campaign hit its goal in less than 100 hours.

The deck isn’t yet created, but the campaign page shows a few photos, and one mock up of what it will look like. From these visuals, it easy to see why it appealed to so many people. It is unlike any tarot deck you’ve seen before. For each of the 78 cards, Lupa arranges animal bones and other other natural materials onto a display board. She then takes a photo of the display and, from that, will create the cards. A companion book for the deck will explore the symbolism of each card in detail, including her inspiration.

Sage Runepaw is one of the people who helped fund the Tarot of Bones campaign. He said that he wanted the deck because it is so unique. “I decided to contribute to her campaign because the tarot decks out there have nothing like what she is offering,” said Runepaw, adding “It will be a unique addition to the greater collective of decks and I believe it will stand out.”

Magician

© Lupa Greenwolf

Lupa is an artist and author from the Portland, Oregon area. She said that she started reading tarot cards in 1996, shortly after becoming a Pagan. By 1998 she was incorporating animal hides, bones and other natural items in her artwork and spirituality. Several of the books that she has written are focused on nature spirituality, and now she’s bringing together all those portions of her life to create the Tarot of Bones.

The Wild Hunt caught up with Lupa and asked her about this project, what the Tarot of Bones means to her, and why she thinks it’s such a success.

Cara Schulz: Why do you think this deck, one created out of photos of animals bones and other parts, had such an appeal that it was funded in under 100 hours?

Lupa Greenwolf:  One factor is the trend in taxidermy and other curiosities as aesthetically pleasing motifs. I’ve been making my hide and bone art since 1998, and I’ve watched as in the past few years natural history specimens have become chic decor. Taxidermy’s always been a beautiful art, even when it was primarily relegated to those of us who grew up in rural areas, but it’s reached a broader audience since then. Some of that appeal is purely looks-based–Portland is full of hipster establishments that have a couple of “ironic” taxidermy animal heads on the wall, for example.

However, there are also people who are genuinely interested in natural history, and who appreciate taxidermy and related arts both for their beauty and their preservation of specimens. Of course, there have always been Pagans running around picking up bones and moss and stuff in the woods. But I’ve observed the sort of nature-inspired art in which I engage gaining in broader popularity in recent years. I know I’ve gone from being that weird girl with a collection of dead things to becoming the founder and organizer of Curious Gallery, a two-day yearly arts festival here in Portland that celebrates modern-day cabinets of curiosity, due in part to this growth of interest.

More specifically regarding tarot, the majority of decks out there are fairly anthropocentric–that is, they concentrate mostly on human-centered symbolism. There have always been decks that focus on non-human animals, or on plants, or other natural phenomena, though many of them are more generalized oracle decks that depart heavily from the traditional tarot’s 78 cards. Many of the animal-based tarot decks still have a lot of human animals running around in them with their critter companions. So I think there’s definitely a demand for divination sets that still stick to the tarot framework but which depart from the usual “humans doing things” imagery.

I have worked hard for many years to get my creations out to where others can enjoy them, and I do have to give a lot of credit to fans of my work when it comes to the success of this campaign. I am absolutely and eternally grateful to the growing number of people who have been enjoying my artwork and my books and other writing. Some of them are dear friends, many are people I’ve never met in person (though some of them seem quite sweet over email), but all of them have just given me such a morale boost over the years, never mind the financial support of my work. So while I don’t think people would buy something just because I created it, there are some backers who thought me being the artist and author was a good incentive to chip in.

CS: Can you explain one of the cards and why you choose to create it the way you did?
LG: Oh, I get to talk about one of my favorite cards I’ve made! So when I was first plotting out which animals best fit my interpretation of each card, there were some that were really persnickety and wouldn’t come to a conclusion easily. But then there were a few where the combination just worked, immediately and perfectly. The Hermit was one of those. I chose a female black-casqued hornbill skull that I got from the Bone Room for very good reason.

hermittagged

© Lupa Greenwolf

So. Hornbills are a group of birds endemic to Africa and Asia. Some species nest on the ground, but others nest up in trees. These tree-nesting hornbills seek out a crevice high in a tree trunk, big enough for the female to climb in. She and the male then wall up the opening with a delightful mix of mud, fruit pulp and bird poop, until there’s only a small bit left open. Did I mention the female is inside the tree when this happens? She stays in there for the duration of laying, incubating and hatching her eggs. She’s so dedicated that she moults all of her flight feathers; even if she broke out she couldn’t go much of anywhere. So she’s pretty committed at this point.

This was the very first thing I thought of when I started meditating on the Hermit. Here we have this figure who, like the hornbill, goes into a productive solitude. He’s not just antisocial; he’s gaining wisdom that eventually he’ll bring back to the community. In the same way, the female hornbill comes out of her isolation both with a shiny new set of flight feathers and the newest generation of baby hornbills to join the forest community. I think that’s quite appropriate for the Hermit card, and I also enjoyed being able to break that card out of its usual gender stereotype.

CS: When you set $5000 as your goal, did you think you would hit it?
LG:  I was pretty dubious. $5,000 is a lot of money to ask people to give for something that isn’t even going to take material form for another year and a quarter. Actually, $5,000 is just a lot of money period. And it’s my very first limited-time crowdfunding campaign. My first foray into crowdfunding was my Patreon account, which I started last summer.

While I have awesome people who like my work, I’m not one of those really well-known artists or authors whose work routinely goes super-viral. I’ve been posting my art, blog posts and the like in various places online, and I’ll usually get some likes and comments on Facebook and a few dozen notes on Tumblr and a handful of likes and retweets on Twitter. Occasionally there’s an outlier; people REALLY liked the Magician assemblage for the Tarot of Bones, for example. But I’m not getting hundreds of shares for every piece of art or writing I post. So I was really startled (and grateful) when I got this tidal wave of response to the IndieGoGo campaign!

I admit I was coming up with contingency plans in case the campaign didn’t get funded–right up until the first day ended and it was already a third of the way there. Okay, to be honest, I was still making backup plans through Day 2, just in case Day 1 was a weird fluke. Apparently I set the bar too low, because everyone so far has showed me how much I didn’t need to worry. And now I’ve had to scramble to figure out stretch goals because the campaign is still going for another month and change and who knows at what level of funding it’ll end?

I do want to note that even though the campaign is now over $6,000, we’re far from the point where I’m just shoveling money into my pockets. The initial $5,000 was mainly meant to help me buy the rest of the materials I needed for the assemblage pieces, which I estimated at about $3500, less IndieGoGo’s and Paypal’s fees, of course. The leftovers from that would be put toward various administrative costs–printing and shipping, fulfilling perks, and so forth. The final costs are still a lot more than $6,000; this is part of why the IndieGoGo campaign isn’t my only form of funding for this project. That being said, the better it does, the easier it’ll be for me to stick to my production schedule for the Tarot of Bones and the less time I’ll have to spend in other fundraising pursuits instead of just making the set already!

CS:  How did you get the idea for this deck – it’s very unusual!
LG: I show my work at local galleries, and last October I was in a group show with a tarot theme held at Splendorporium in SE Portland. I created a piece, “Blight,” inspired by the Five of Pentacles, which is a card commonly associated with financial and material strife, something that a lot of people in the current economy still have to deal with. It had a simple black background with a single coyote skull in the center, flanked by five ears of wheat that I had spattered with black paint to represent fungal blight, and a piece of red slider turtle shell to represent coinage.

blight

© Lupa Greenwolf

The piece was displayed amid other artists’ works that interpreted the tarot theme in a variety of media and motifs, and between the fun of creating “Blight” and being immersed in this gorgeously curated collection, I started thinking that I really wanted to work with the tarot imagery even more. So there was that fateful moment after the opening, when I was hanging out with my partner and a friend of ours, where I said the thing so many other esoterically-minded artists have said: “I’m going to create a tarot deck!” And of course being the overachiever that I am, I couldn’t just do a deck–it had to have a full-length companion book, too.

I didn’t just go home and start throwing bones at things though. There are very specific reasons for the bones and other materials in the assemblages. The Major Arcana each have a complete animal skull whose species has been chosen for the appropriateness of the card; each court card has a partial skull with a missing or detached jawbone, and a single bone that represents its suit. The suits of the Minor Arcana are represented by specific types of bone: vertebrae for pentacles, teeth or jaws for swords, long bones for wands and ribs for cups. I also had to make sure that the bones I selected were both legal to possess and could be obtained sustainably. In a few cases I chose to use resin replicas of skulls. I strongly dislike resin because as a plastic it’s petroleum-based, which means it produces a lot of pollution in its manufacture and, unlike natural bone, it won’t safely biodegrade over time. But sometimes it’s the only option.

CS: Anything else that people should know about this project?
LG: I want to reiterate that the Tarot of Bones is a nature-based deck. One of my goals with it is to entice my fellow Homo sapiens back into our place in nature — not necessarily as hominin apes in the wilderness, but humans with an acute and conscious awareness of our interconnectedness with everything else. It’s part of why most of the materials are recycled or reclaimed; almost all of the backboards for the assemblages are thrift store finds like old cutting boards and TV trays, and many of the other materials, from acrylic paints to dried moss, are secondhand as well. And as with all of my work for the past almost-twenty years, I will be donating a portion of the money I make from the Tarot of Bones to nonprofit organizations that benefit wildlife and their habitats.

Folks who are reading this, even if you can’t back the campaign at this time, please pass the link on to other people who may like the project! Word of mouth goes a long way in this sort of promotion, and I would be quite grateful.

I have to admit there’s part of me that really, really hopes someone goes for one of the bigger Art Collector Packages, where one of the perks is an original assemblage used in the creation of the Tarot of Bones. Partly because I like seeing my art go to people who enjoy it, and partly because I live in a tiny apartment and the twenty-three pieces I’ve already completed are eating up the wall space and I still have fifty-five to go!

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In the northern regions of Europe, there is a growing Pagan and Heathen community in the Republic of Finland. With a population of 5.4 million, the Nordic country rests between Sweden, Russia, Norway and the Gulfs of Bosthia and Finland. Its capital, Helsinki, is the second-most northern national capital in the world, with Reykjavik being first.

Tampere region, from Western Finland [Photo Credit: Jarno Oivakumpu]

Tampere region, from Western Finland [Photo Credit: Jarno Oivakumpu]

Throughout that territory people, a growing number of Finns are discovering and connecting with new religions and spiritual paths. According to Lehto (The Grove), a Finnish nature-religions organization, there are “a few thousand Neo-Pagans” in the country. To help better understand this movement and religious traditions in Finland, we spoke with four people, who share their impressions and observations on this unique and growing culture.

The majority of Finnish Pagans and Heathens live in the southern portions of the country, concentrated in the major urban areas such as Helsinki, Tampere and Turku. However, there are some practitioners in the middle regions. Essi Mäkelä, president of Pakanaverkko (The Pagan Network), said “Pagans are quite spread out but southern Finland has the most active of them probably … although there has been growing activity in eastern and middle Finland too (Lappeenranta, Jyväsklyä and Kuopio)”

Mäkelä lives in Helsinki and is a “scholar in the study of religions.” She identifies as Discordian; however, she also said that she did study Wicca and “will sometimes use those rituals.” While Wicca appears to be the dominant practice, it is closely followed by various forms of eclectic Paganism. Jarno Oivakumpu, chairman of Lehto, explained, “I believe many Pagans don’t necessarily link themselves to any specific practice. In Finnish culture, religion/spirituality is a personal thing, and considered pretty individual.” That is certainly the case for Oiakumpu, who identifies as a pantheist/animist with interests in various spiritual practices. He said, “Spirituality is part of my everyday life” and doesn’t align himself with one religion.

Along with Wicca and the more eclectic forms of Paganism, there are small numbers of Druids, Asatruar, and more. Mäkelä added that Finland also has a strong and vocal movement of Discordianism as well as Satanism. She quickly explained the latter, saying that this is not “Satan Worship” and is accepted as a religious philosophy based on individualism.

In addition, Mäkelä and several others noted that there is a growing movement seeking to revive traditional Finnish Paganism, and this religion may actually be the most popular now. Tuula Muukka, editor of quarterly magazine Vox Paganorum, practices a form of Finnish Paganism or Suomenusko. She said, “I originally read about Wicca, but then ran into other Finns who had found the old tradition, and the rest was history. I’ve been on this path for about eight years.” She belongs to a Karhun kansa community, or “The Bear Folk.” There are other similar groups dedicated to such practice, such as Taivaannaula (The Nail in the Sky), although they do not identify as “neo-Pagan.”

In 2013, Karhun Kansa was granted official recognition as a religion by the Finnish government. Oivakumpu explained that this act made Karhun Kansa the first “neopagan religious community in Finland.” He said that, while the country has had “religious freedom since 1923,” religions must be officially recognized in order to earn special government protections.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the national church of Finland. According to 2012 statistics, 76.4 percent of the population belongs to the Lutheran Church. Another 1.1 percent belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, or similar Orthodox sects; 1.4 percent claimed “other” and 21.0 percent did not respond.

Mäkelä explained, “Finnish law is closely connected with the Church law … We are going toward better equality, but religion is still taught at schools.” She added that the practice of non-registered religions is permissible; however, those religions or groups are not protected by the “Violations Against Religious Peace and the Education Law.” For example, the police will treat the desecration of a Pagan religious site differently than that of Lutheran church.

Tampere region, from Western Finland [Photo Credit: Jarno Oivakumpu]

Tampere region, from Western Finland [Photo Credit: Jarno Oivakumpu]

But as she noted, things may be changing. Karhun kansa has received its official recognition, and as noted by Lehto’s Information Officer Katariina Krabbe, “The Parliament recently approved a new law which forbids religious education and practices in public day care.” She added, “The overall atmosphere has become much more tolerant toward Pagan religions than about 10-15 years ago.”

Despite these small strides, the ever-presence of the Lutheran Church can disrupt some aspects of Pagan practice. Krabbe said, “Regarding [mental] health services, people … who admit to having contacts with the spirits of nature, can still have a false diagnosis because their religion can be interpreted as psychotic delusions.”

More practically, sometimes finding a suitable outdoor ritual or festival site poses a problem. Muukka explained, “When we try to book an old school or other location for our camps, they are hard to find. Finland is [the] land of 1,000 lakes and we all like to take sauna baths and swim, if possible, but usually the best places are owned by the Lutheran Church, so we are not welcome. Or even if the place is owned by a city or some association, there may be a building or part of building in the area which has been consecrated for Lutheran use.”

Even with the difficulties, recent statistics support Krabbe’s belief that times are changing. In 1900, 98.1 percent of the population was Lutheran. That number has dropped significantly. Oivakumpu adds, “Finns are not very religious.” He said that “the mainstream mentality is atheistic” and “disregards spirituality as hocus-pocus.”

This points to the biggest problem facing Pagans and Heathens in the country. There is a total disregard for the practice of any these alternative religions. While Mäkelä considers this anonymity a plus in many ways, she did say that “the lack of knowledge and recognition from the state and Finnish society” are two of the biggest hurdles. Muukka agreed saying that they need to continue to “spread the right kind of information,” adding “I’d also like to [see] the separation of church and state, but that would require efforts from others as well.”

Krabbe said that another obstacle is the “lack of strong local Pagan communities, where you can live your every day life as Pagan among other Pagans.” She said that groups only gather for seasonal festivals, and that otherwise religious life is very private and cut-off from community.

To help bridge that gap, Finnish Pagans and Heathens are turning to online resources. Pakanaverkko, Lehto, Taivaannaula, Karhun kansa, the Pagan Federation-Finland, and other groups or practices, all maintain a digital presence. Some manage forums; some produce digital magazines; and others engage with social media. While the country does boast metaphysical shops, they are either dying, as in other countries, or turning to online sales. Krabbe said, “Facebook groups are the best way to gain information about local Pagan news and events.”

When asked to describe a unique aspect of practicing their religion in Finland, they all described two things: a natural connection with the land and the survival of folklore and tradition. Oivakumpu said, “Finland has a lot of clean nature with wide forests and large lakes. Also a seashore and arctic landscapes in the north. Experiencing nature is easy.” Muukka, who grew up in a small village, said, “I thank every birch tree if I take twigs from it to put in a vase at home, little things like that.” Krabbe said, “You cannot live in Finland without being influenced by the seasonal cycles of the year, so it would be very hard not to live attuned to it.”

In addition, those interviewed also mention the importance of the surviving Finnish folklore and traditions, even those people that do not practice Finnish Paganism as a religion. Krabbe noted, “We have the largest collection of folk poetry in the world in the Finnish Literature Society’s archive.” She also mentioned Finnish epic, the Kalevala.

Mäkelä was quick to note that many of these traditional works are not necessarily indicators of ancient practice, nor are they consistently used for religious purposes in modern day. However, she did not deny the influence of folk traditions on Finnish culture and modern religions. She said, “In Finland, it is easy to celebrate Yule and not have anything to do with Jesus.” She explained that many of these non-Christian practices are still present in the “how” of modern Finnish celebrations.

Due to be released in fall 2015, a new film, titled Ukonvaaja (The Hammer of Ukko), will explore traditional Finnish culture and religious practice. Recently, the filmmakers recently interviewed Muukka about the celebration of the fall harvest. The trailer is shown above.

In talking with the Finnish Pagans, Krabbe expressed something that is echoed in the film trailer. She said, “I think that most Finnish people have a pagan soul, even if they don’t realize it. It is a natural way of life here and we haven’t lost entirely our connection to nature or the way of life of our ancestors.”

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GLENGORMLEY, NORTHERN IRELAND — It took a combination of patience, paperwork, and publicity, but Patrick Carberry has been approved by the Northern Ireland government as a Pagan priest. His is the first person to be so designated in this country and, by some reports, the first “since the time of Saint Patrick.” Carberry is the sovereign of the Order of the Golden River, which he founded in 2009. Now he will be able to perform weddings and otherwise function as a member of the clergy for that group.

Patrick Carberry

Patrick Carberry [Courtesy Photo]

According to a February report in the Sunday World, Pagans have been licensed to perform weddings in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland since 2009. However, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have not been so forthcoming with similar credentials. Carberry brought his story to the World after he’d waited nearly four months for his application to be processed. He had hoped that it would speed things up.

“Five months was a very unacceptable time, and religious discrimination,” Carberry told The Wild Hunt. “I followed up and was told they were taking legal advice, which was very unusual.”

But this was not the only unusual step which was being taken. Carberry said, “We had to prove how often we worshiped and when, I was even asked to whom I worshiped and how.” As he noted to the World reporter, “They wouldn’t ask a Muslim how they prayed.”

Once his story was on the front page of the Irish newspaper, the process didn’t seem as daunting. “After that, I got a very quick reply. The Order of the Golden River was made an official denomination called Golden River, Glengormley, which is the area in which we are based. The letter said ‘Mr Carberry has been registered as an Officiant for the above denomination and Church under the provisions of Article 11 of the Marriages (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and is therefore authorised to solemnize marriages in Northern Ireland under this Order.’ ”

Hostility toward Pagan religions is strong in this largely Christian country, and Carberry’s order was originally quite secretive because of that atmosphere. “We were underground but at a meeting the Order members agreed to speak out about our faith and stand up for our beliefs,” he told the Belfast Media Group. The move toward a more public face and practice has led to other stumbling blocks, such as when Carberry was confronted last September, outside of a storefront outlet he was operating at the time.

I have been attacked and verbally assaulted and threaten[ed] in a shopping centre in Belfast last September. This was because I am a pagan, the headlines of a newspaper read [that I was] attacked because I’m a pagan priest. This man was shouting in my face, but I couldn’t go anywhere out of his way or get security, he was blocking my way calling me the devil, evil and vile. I could feel his saliva hitting my face, he then shouted from half way down the mall, ‘you’re going to get it,’ not what you like to hear in Belfast. Things didn’t stop there; I went though a few weeks of intimidation, [and] the police lost all the evidence CCTV footage. They couldn’t find the vehicle the man was driving, despite having the registration, make, and model. Nothing could be done.

Reports call Carberry a “full-time Pagan priest,” but he’s not exactly living high on the hog. “Income is difficult,” he admitted. “I work spiritually and I’m a Celtic Shaman working with healing, readings, past life regression, soul retrieval, [and] clearing evil sprits from homes. I put all my income no matter what the source into the Church, and draw only what I need to survive, I’m not in this for the money, just to get by. My love and trust in the Gods and Goddesses, the Spirit world and our ancestors always provide. When I’m stuck something always happens that gets me by.”

Carberry wants to be able to perform weddings at ancient sacred sites. His license permits him to wed throughout Northern Ireland, and he’s not planning on restricting his work only to those in his order, which currently has about 30 members. “We provide services to everyone who seeks our help, people don’t even have to be pagan, everyone is welcome,” he said. “We see people every day from all walks of life asking for help, so we have also set up a charity to provide help to people who cannot afford holistic treatments. The aim is to promote holistic, cultural and other types of spiritual healing and make it available to everyone.”

While his own tenacious desire to act in accordance with his will — as well as a well-timed front-page story — certainly made this achievement possible, Carberry doesn’t give himself the full credit. “I can only credit all this happening to the Gods and Goddesses and the Spirit World. Only they know what our true plan is, and they guide us towards that plan. They guide us in our lives if only we trust them, I trust them with my life every day. Having the battle Goddess the Morrigan, and the Lord of the Hunt, on my side, plus being a fighting Celt . . . how can you go wrong?”

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Priestess Deborah Maynard [photo from facebook profile]

Priestess Deborah Maynard [Courtesy Photo]

Wiccan Priestess Deborah Maynard successfully delivered an invocation before the Iowa State Legislature on Thursday, April 9. With reportedly two-thirds of the representatives present, Maynard stood before the government body and asked for the blessings of “God, Goddess, Universe, that which is greater than ourselves.” To benefit the day’s legislative work, her invocation called to each element, asking for support with things such as balance, compassion, reason, and strength. Then, she called to spirit and ended with “Blessed Be, A-Ho and Amen.”

Her invocation was met with backlash from some visitors and lawmakers. Several conservative Christian organizations called for silent protests and prayers during her invocation. Visitor Rieke Plecus, for example, told a local news reporter that he was attending to “pray for her salvation.” Others reportedly prayed to protect the legislative body from the Wiccan prayer. A number of lawmakers, such as Rep. Rob Taylor, turned their backs in silent protest, while others simply did not show up.

Despite the backlash, Maynard remained upbeat. She told The Wild Hunt, “There were some individuals in the audience that closed themselves off to hearing the words on my invocation. For the majority of those present that were open to at least listen, I think my words showed the positive message I had for the legislative branch. I hope more states learn to honor the diverse faiths of their constituencies as Iowa has begun to do.”

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Circle Sanctuary logo

In similar news, the video of Rev. Selena Fox’s 2009 invocation before the Wisconsin legislature has been recovered. Circle Sanctuary has purchased rights to show the video and has made it publicly available. Fox’s approach was different than Maynard’s. She called for a day of effective collaborative work through recognizing a connection to Wisconsin’s land, history and diversity. She used inclusive language, allowing all people present to connect with their own “religious, spiritual or philosophical” beliefs in the name of that work. The video can be seen here. (Note: a Silverlight add-in must be installed to see this video. It will instruct you on how to do this.)

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margot-adlerThe Firefly House has proposed a worldwide celebration of a new Margot Adler Day on April 16. As described, it is a day to “celebrate the birthday of legendary priestess, journalist, and activist Margot Adler.” She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on April 16, 1946. After a long battle with cancer, Adler died in July 2014.

On the first birthday after her death, Firefly members are calling for this annual day of remembrance. They have set up a Facebook event page, on which people are already sharing their memories of Adler or how her work touched their lives. Organizers offer suggestions on various ways to celebrate and honor Adler’s life. They say, “contribute writing to your favorite publication; preserve your community’s history by interviewing or archiving stories from your tradition; donate to your favorite Pagan or secular media outlets; learn about the growth of the Pagan movement and what you can do to get involved.”

In Other News

  • The Church of All Worlds (CAW) and the Morning Glory Zell Memorial Foundation have launched a new campaign to raise money for the purchase of a large property in northern California. As organizers explain, “Morning Glory’s & Oberon’s lifelong Dream was for a permanent sustainable Eco-Village where people would honor our Mother Earth through community gardens, green technology, seasonal celebrations, and passing on their skills and traditions to future generations. A place where residents could live, Elders could retire, students could study, and visitors could enjoy.” CAW has identified an ideal property, once used as a children’s camp, and is now turning to the greater community for financial support to make this dream a reality.
  • In a related story, Four Quarters Farm, located in Artemas, Pennyslvania, announced that it has just recently purchased another 110 acres of land adjacent to its current property. The Farm now owns 250 acres that are all dedicated to its mission: “to provide safe harbor for the practice of both indigenous and modern Earth Religions, and to help preserve their spiritual roots into the future.” The new property was purchased with the help of member loans and donations. Organizers added that “43 acres of this new land will be used in the coming years as altar sites and additional space for members camps.”
  • For those who watch the Fox Network show “Backstrom,” you may have caught Circle Magazine at the beginning of the April 9 episode called “Love is a Rose and You Better Not Pick it.” The magazine appears in full close-up during the credits within the first 10 minutes of the show. Its appearance had nothing to do with the episode itself, and was a complete surprise to Circle Magazine staff.
  • Erin Lale has written a short two-part history entitled “Early Net Experiences.” In these blog posts, she discusses her introduction to the early MSN Asatru group, and how she became its moderator. She then goes on the discuss how that work lead to the writing of her book Asatru for Beginners. She added, “Since I first wrote it, Asatru has experienced some generational change, and some change sparked by the changing technology of the internet. I’m working on a new edition to reflect these generational changes, which I hope to publish in 2017.”
  • Singer-Songwriter Celia Farran is currently traveling in Ireland, where she stopped to visit the broken Manannan statue at sculptor John Stutton’s studio. While there, she performed her “Song for Manannan.” In addition, Farran was invited to speak on BBC Radio Foyle. She played a portion of the same song and spoke with Mark Patterson about her work. The interview begins at about 1:38:40.

That’s all for now! Have a nice day.

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[Today we feature guest journalist Zora Burden. Burden is the author of five books of poetry and a contributing writer for the San Francisco Herald and California Herald for over 15 years. Her autobiographical writing narrates Goeff Cordner’s feature-length film “Portraits from the Fringes.” A segment of this film became the award-winning “Hotel Hopscotch,” which was shown in film festivals across the U.S. and on the BBC. Burden’s work focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism, and the esoteric. She is a San Francisco native, where she still resides.Today we present part 1 of a two-part series.]

Rosaleen Norton (1950s) [Courtesy Sonia Bible]

Rosaleen Norton (1950s) [Courtesy Sonia Bible]

Rosaleen Norton was a witch, occultist, artist, journalist and philosopher, who was infamous for her unapologetic, brazen and sexually-liberated lifestyle in Australia during the mid 20th century. Norton was known as the Witch of Kings Cross, named after the bohemian Kings Cross region of Sydney, Australia. To her friends, she was known as Roie; to others by her magickal name Thorn.

Norton practiced pantheistic witchcraft and what she called the night side of magick. She not only studied the Kabbalah but its shadow aspect the Qliphoth. She was a dedicated practitioner of sex magic and astral projection, exploring other realms and dimensions filled with both gods and mysterious creatures with whom she regularly communicated and captured in her art. These pieces were often compared to the automatic drawings of Austin Osmond Spare.

She led an incredibly controversial life; one that was constantly exploited and sensationalized in the media. Norton started out as an illustrator for periodicals but was dismissed from her jobs because her art was deemed too controversial. She found her outlet through a liberal magazine called Pertinent and it was then she met poet and surrealist Gavin Greenlees.Together they held an art show consisting of a huge body of her work. The show resulted in some of her art being confiscated by the police, including the paintings Witches’ Sabbath, Lucifer, and Triumph and Individuation. As a result, Norton was prosecuted for obscenity.

After a long successful legal battle, Norton and Greenlees moved to Kings Cross. It was then she met Dulcie Deamer, called “the Queen of Bohemia.” Norton gained much notoriety in the area when her art was included in Dreamer’s poetry book The Silver Branch.

Norton and Greenlees home became a haven for  local eccentrics full of murals and collections. They kept a placard on the door that read “Welcome to the house of ghosts, goblins, werewolves, vampires, witches, wizards and poltergeists.” A book of her own poetry and art was released in 1952 and was simply called The Art of Rosaleen Norton. Once again, she was charged with obscenity, and in the U.S. the book was destroyed completely.

For decades, the police continued to look for excuses to prosecute her. The constant court cases left her impoverished, but she never stopped pursuing her work as a witch and artist. Norton’s art is still treasured by many collectors today. It appears in galleries and is reproduced in books. She died in 1979 from cancer, but her last words were triumphant: “I came into the world bravely; I’ll go out bravely.” There is a plaque dedicated to her memory at Kings Cross.

[Photo Credit:  Clytemnestra Sardaka CC lic via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Clytemnestra Sardaka CC lic via Wikimedia]

In her day, Rosaleen Norton not only challenged every aspect of the female stereotype, but was also one of the most persecuted witches in the 20th century. Unlike her male counterpart occultist Aleister Crowley, who was never officially arrested once, Norton was arrested countless times. She founded her own coven and lived on her own terms through the great moral oppression of the 1940s and 1950s before the second wave of feminism ever began. Norton, in a sense, was a martyr for women’s liberation even though she did not identify with feminism.

To commemorate this remarkable life, Sonia Bible has written and directed a new documentary called The Witch of Kings Cross. As Sonia says, “The time has come to debunk the myths and reveal an intelligent, witty, complex woman who deserves recognition as a talented esoteric artist and writer.” I had the honor of conducting an interview with Sonia Bible about Rosaleen Norton and the upcoming film.

Zora Burden:  How did you first become introduced to Rosaleen Norton’s story and what about her compelled you to create the documentary?
Sonia Bible:
In 2010, I made a film called Recipe for Murder about women poisoning their husbands and family members with rat poison in Sydney in the early 50’s. During the research for that film, I came across Rosaleen Norton in various pulp publications. I started collecting articles about her and put them in the drawer, or the ‘too hard’ basket. But she just kept coming back and niggling at me, friends would mention her, I would see or hear things about her but I kept pushing the story aside…

Then in 2012, I was selected as an emerging filmmaker to be mentored by famous international documentary filmmakers as part of Adelaide Festival where Recipe for Murder had screened. Mexican filmmaker, Natalia Almada said, “There are no rules in documentary” and showed us her extraordinary experimental documentaries that had been shown at Sundance and The Guggenheim Museum. Then I just ‘saw’ it. The images were flying at me and I wanted to make an experimental ‘art’ film. Rosaleen’s story was the perfect topic …

What attracted me to her story? As a screenwriter and filmmaker, I’m always looking for a story that can become a film. It needs all the elements of a feature film. Some stories are better told as books or essays. Rosaleen Norton is a strong female protagonist. She has goals, she has obstacles, there is drama, there are antagonists and other character archetypes, and most importantly there is an opportunity to explore big themes. The film must be its own artwork and say something to the world.

ZB: Was is difficult to gather information on her?
SB:
After receiving some development funding from Screen Australia in early 2013, I was able to employ a researcher, Imogen Semmler, for a month. We accessed everything that we could from library archives, police records, court transcripts, newspapers and all the photography and moving picture archives. That was a solid starting place.

Since then I have continued to research and am constantly uncovering new material. I am actually overwhelmed by the amount of information that I have.  It all helps to build a picture that is truthful. Unfortunately, some of the television appearances that Rosaleen made have not been kept or have simply been lost in the records. I did find a television appearance that I believe noone else has seen for over fifty years. I got shivers up my spine when I previewed it at the archives…

I continue to gather research material and am about to embark on the major task or pulling all the images of artworks together. It is very difficult as the film is not yet financed, so I continue independently, without a research assistant or the other resources you would have on a commissioned film. I am working with a fabulous producer, Peter Butt who has a long career making history films. He is always there with advice and support so I’m not completely alone in a sea of research.

ZB: How were you able to fund the process so far?
SB
: In late 2012, we got some development funding from Screen Australia and Screen Queensland … I delivered all the requirements for the funding in late 2013 and since then have found it difficult to raise the finance to make the film … We did a crowd funding campaign last year and raised enough money to film some test drama so that I could make a slick promo, as well as film a few more interviews … Luckily my husband is a cameraman and we own equipment. So we have both [have] been shooting interviews with no money, no-one is getting paid and it has been incredibly difficult. I think it’s a real shame that Australian history is not supported by the funding bodies at the moment in this country …

This story is on the edge of living memory and I feel responsible for the research that has found its way to me. I have become the caretaker of this story for the time being and I am always aware of doing the right thing by Roie…

ZB: The response to your work has been positive. Do you think it would have been embraced like it has if the film had been planned years prior?
SB
: Currently people are reacting to a three minute promo and the pitch for the film. I do think the time is ripe for this film, and I am pleased to be the one who is making it. I will be doing my utmost to make something that really makes people think about the world we have created. I aim to make films that question the world rather than answer the questions.

ZB: Was there a large interest in Rosaleen among fans and friends that inspired you?
SB: In my life, the interest in Rosaleen has grown organically with the project. It started out as me making my third women’s history film, possibly for the ABC. Since then it has morphed into an independent ‘art’ film that could honestly now be described as an obsession. I have met wonderful passionate people who knew Rosaleen, or who have studied her work in one way or another. I have been blown away by the effect that this woman has on people. She has touched so many peoples’ lives. I feel privileged to be the person to introduce her to a wider audience. It is also a responsibility that I don’t take lightly…

ZB: Did anything about her personally resonate with you?
SB
: Rosaleen was courageous and uncompromising. She is ultimately inspirational. I think she has inspired me more than anything. She has inspired me to take risks step outside the safety of convention. In the last three years, that I’ve been working on the film, I have faced scrutiny and criticism, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Rosaleen has given me the strength to face the obstacles and to just keep on creating and not get distracted by the critics.

[Next Saturday, in Part 2 of the interview, Burden talks to Bible specifically about Norton’s life and its influence. BIble reveals some of the details that she found during her research as well as the discussing the reason that Norton became a feminist icon]

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[Once again we feature guest journalist Zora Burden and resume the conversation with filmmaker Sonia Bible, who is currently making a film about Rosaleen Norton or the Witch of Kings Cross. Burden is the author of five books of poetry and a contributing writer for the San Francisco Herald and California Herald for over 15 years. This article is the second part of a two-part series. The first part was published last week and can be found here.]

Sonia Bible [Courtesy S. Bible]

Sonia Bible [Courtesy S. Bible]

Zora Burden: Do you see her as being a feminist icon?
Sonia Bible: Rosaleen Norton was at the vanguard of feminism and the counter-culture revolution. She was doing it, living it, decades before the second wave of feminism. From the late thirties, when she left art school she was living an unconventional life. She was so ahead of the times, and it is important to look at her in that context.

Women were allowed to work during the war, and after World War II, women were told to go back into the homes, get married have babies and to desire washing machines. Divorce was frowned upon, eighty percent of the population was Christian, abortion was illegal and there was no social security for women at all. In the fifties, Rosaleen was divorced, living in sin with a man 13 years her junior, had no children, was living as an artist and was a self proclaimed witch. I certainly consider her a feminist icon.

ZB: Did she have many women who admired her? Or were there mainly males in her social circles?
SB:
I spoke to Dr. Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous Feminine about Rosaleen Norton. She told me how in the late sixties … she had heard about Rosaleen Norton. She and her friends hitchhiked to Sydney, went to Kings Cross and walked around looking for her. They had hoped to catch a glimpse of Rosaleen Norton, a woman they idolized as a feminist icon. By the late sixties and into the seventies, Australia was catching up. Younger educated women would have seen her as a feminist at that time.

Rosaleen did have a lot of male admirers in her life. In the early research stage, I appeared on the James Valentine radio show, with the aim of getting people to call in if they knew her or met her. We had a lot of callers and then people emailed later too. One woman, whose father was infatuated with Rosaleen, contacted me. She said she thought it was interesting that everyone who called in were men. Or the story was ‘My father… my uncle… or my grandfather…’ I did notice this trend as well.

But what I learned from working on Recipe for Murder, when you are dealing with history, it’s important to keep digging. Often the women were there, they just don’t become part of the history. Women of that era are less likely to come forward. They think that their story is not important, so as researchers and tellers of history we think that they didn’t exist. By digging deeper and also because the film has been a long time in gestation, I have found that there was a strong community of creative women around Rosaleen, particularly in the earlier years.

I interviewed dancer Eileen Kramer, who has just turned 100. She lived with Rosaleen in an all woman artistic commune in Circular Quay in the late thirties. There are more stories or creative collaborations in the forties. As with most people, Rosaleen had many different stages in her life. There certainly was a stage when there were a lot of men in her life. There was also a stage when there were a lot of transgender people in her life …

[Courtesy S. Bible]

[Courtesy S. Bible]

ZB: How do you feel she affected the women’s liberation movement then and now?
SB:
I admire her courage and determination. She never compromised, even though it would have made her life considerably easier. I think, in the late sixties and seventies, she would have been an inspiration to young women at university etc. I do think that she has the potential to affect the women’s liberation movement now in a more profound way.

ZB: Will you give examples of how Rosaleen was punished by the male establishment for her rebelliousness, like with her extensive arrest record and constant scapegoating in the media?
SB: Following the razor gang war of the 20’s and 30’s, when Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine ruled the underworld, the Vagrancy Act of 1929 was introduced to stem the violence. A consorting clause was designed to clean up the street gangs. It specified heavy penalties, including jail for anyone who consorts with reputed thieves, or prostitutes, or vagrant persons who have no visible or legal means of support.

Kings Cross police abused the vagrancy act to persecute artists, transvestites, musicians…anyone who didn’t have a job really. Rosaleen Norton and Gavin Greenlees were constantly arrested on vagrancy charges and thrown into jail. A couple of Catholic detectives really had it in for her, including the notorious Detective Bumper Farrell. Once the tabloid media realized that Rosaleen Norton sold newspapers, they pursued her for stories, and it didn’t matter if they were true or not. Dr Marguerite Johnson talks extensively about the changing relationship between Rosaleen and the media in the film.

ZB: Can you describe the many ways she lived an unconventional lifestyle?
SB: For a woman to be an artist in the late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s was a rarity. To be a woman artist painting occult themes was extremely unconventional. Rosaleen lived in group housing with other young women artists in Circular Quay and then in Darlinghurst. In those days, women got married young, had babies and that was it. Looking after a husband and a family was the only expectation.

ZB: What inspired Rosaleen’s infamous artwork? How did she cope with her arrest?  Please talk about the obscenity laws that they used to prosecuted her.
SB: Rosaleen Norton holds a unique place in Australian art as an esoteric artist. The late Dr Nevill Drury explains how she went on to the astral plane through trance and met the various gods and goddesses there. Her paintings and drawings are depictions of these experiences. Art curator and dealer Robert Buratti explains how her art is like the most ancient art, where the artist depicts their place in the universe as a way of figuring it out. Dr Marguerite Johnson talks in detail about the meanings and origins of the gods and goddesses in Rosaleen’s art and the notion of duality – between male and female, human and beast. The work is extraordinary and when you start to look into the symbolism in the work, it comes to life on a whole other level.

Rosaleen Norton coped with her obscenity charges with dignity. She never apologized for the work. She tried to explain it and charges were often dropped. The judges on the most part seemed quite reasonable, but it didn’t stop the police from continuing to arrest her for the same pictures over and over again. The police were the censors.

ZB: How did Rosaleen survive as a woman artist during a time when women had no real options for work, living as a single woman and was so open with her sexuality?
SB
: Rosaleen worked as a journalist, writing articles for ‘pertinent’ magazine. She and Gavin were employed by Walter Glover to create the book The Art of Rosaleen Norton. She did little paintings and drawings that she would sell at the cafés. People would bring food and coffee to the house, and she would give them a little drawing or something. I’ve uncovered quite a few of those artworks, all with similar stories. She was always very poor, but she didn’t desire a material life. She thought that people should worship nature not the dollar.

ZB: Will you describe how she influenced those around, and how her coven came about, operated and evolved? Did she prefer to work alone and the coven was more of an entourage?
SB:
The coven was made up of a small group of close friends who liked to practice magick together. The members I’ve spoken to are protective of their privacy and I respect that, so I don’t have much to offer in that area. She worked alone at times and other times with a small close-knit group.

ZB: Do you feel she was ahead of her time with her explorations of the astral plane and the occult, working with the entities she met, along with her other esoteric interests?
SB:
Rosaleen was a very studious woman. She was well versed in the works of Jung, Freud, Crowley, the Jewish Kabbalah, and much more. She developed her own unique practice while continuing to learn from others. She was a prolific writer, and much of her writing is still coming to the surface through my research…

Rosaleen Norton (1950s) [Courtesy Sonia Bible]

Rosaleen Norton (1950s) [Courtesy Sonia Bible]

ZB: Do you feel that any of her work was simply done for shock value to get media attention? Or was it a response to her villainization by society? Did she begin to consider her life a form of performance art in a way?
SB:
I think her art was a serious ritual practice and that she should be recognized as Australia’s leading esoteric artist. She did little caricatures of judges and police that were a response to what was going on. But there is a difference between the little works for bread and butter and the major works. There are comments about society in some of her major works, about censorship … She was certainly provocative and communicating through her art. She held a mirror up to society and they didn’t like it. I don’t think that she considered her life a performance, as performance art is a modern concept. She did what she did to survive and to live the life she wanted and that included managing the media. You’ve got to remember that there was no precedent. People weren’t as media savvy as they are today.

ZB: How do you see her as inspiring women today to empower themselves?
SB:
I’m not so sure that she would want to inspire women today to empower themselves. I think she did what she did, and lived the way she wanted for her own reasons. And that’s why she is an inspirational woman without necessarily trying to be. Women’s history is so important as it’s easier to see where we are now, by looking back at where we’ve come from. There’s still a way to go so let’s celebrate the things that courageous women like Rosaleen Norton did to pave the way.

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Baseball third baseman and hall-of-famer Wade Boggs, who played for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays was well-known for his rituals. Though not Jewish, he always drew the Hebrew symbol Chai, meaning “living,” in the dirt of the batter’s box before he went to bat. Wade also ate chicken before every game, took batting practice at 5:17 a.m. and ran sprints at exactly 7:17 a.m. I have no idea what Mr. Boggs’ faith is, but his use of ritual was widely publicized.

Boggs was not the only famous example of ritual behavior in sports. Tennis Champion Serena Williams will only wear a single pair of socks during any given tournament; successful NCAA Men’s Basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian would chew towels during games; Basketball player Mike Bibby uses nail clippers during timeouts and Wayne Gretzky used baby powder on his hockey stick famously remarked “I think it’s essentially a matter of taking care of what takes care of you.” And finally, baseball outfielder Moises Alou pees on his hands to toughen then up.

Fan dons a Ritual Rally Cap [Photo Credit: Kevin Harber / Flickr]

Fan dons a ritual rally cap to help team win [Photo Credit: Kevin Harber / Flickr]

Yes, you read that right. And while there is no evidence that urine will make your hands tougher, science does speak to how ritual behavior can help us in our tasks. On a cultural level, rituals serve to promote structure. They serve as a means to communicate across individuals and generations while routinizing social behavior to mark transitions, time or power as well as belongingness, remembrances and traditions. In this sense, ritual behavior is actually fairly common regardless of faith.

But rituals do not work within faith traditions alone. My husband just became a citizen last month. As I watched him taking his Oath of Allegiance, it was clear that this was part of “United-Statesian” ritualized behavior that “transforms” a person into an “American.” There were also elements of the citizenship ceremony to underscore both the significance of the event as well as highlight the new affiliation and the powers it confers. There is imagery throughout the ceremony reminding the new citizens of American values. Other imagery shows the struggles of past immigrants: an echo of ancestors. You stand, you sit, you perform and you recite. And finally, there is imagery of place reminding the citizens of the land itself.

Pagan and Heathen rituals are equally complex though often with a markedly different purpose than nationalism. They can vary in motive and goals. They can be part of a larger ceremony. They celebrate time and rhythms or invoke personal even divine power to transform ourselves, our consciousness, and our world or shape will and reality within them. They can be private or public; spontaneous to ceremonial. But their purpose is always to intensify our relationship with the sacred.

As Rev. Selena Fox wrote, “Through rituals, Pagans deepen their relationship with the Divine in one or more sacred forms. Through rituals, Pagan culture flourishes and evolves.”  Like prayer, rituals serve as a source of reflection. They help us better understand the present moment and our place in the web of relationships around us. They also help us understand the actions we must take to develop ourselves personally and spiritually.

It turns out that there is some interesting science about how rituals serve as a basis for improving and empowering individuals. To explore this, let’s take out the spiritual side of ritual for a moment and focus only its psychological and behavioral effects. Magical ritual has been most typically viewed as an error in cognition – a misinterpreted framing of actual events. In the case of Wade Boggs, for example, the cognitive error emerges when he attempted a ritual and succeeded with his performance thereby increasing the likelihood he would attempt that ritual again.

In psychology, this is the stimulus-response-reward cycle that leads to the building of our behavioral repertoire. Psychology sees our behaviors as the result of collective rewards. In other words, we do what we do because we are rewarded for doing it, and because we are rewarded for doing it, we continue to do what we do.

And then there are other effects like the Galatea and Pygmalion effects that come into play in our ritual behavior as well. The Galatea effect refers to the phenomenon where an individual’s own opinion about their ability and self-worth influence the performance tasks. For example, if an employee thinks that she will perform well, then she improves her own chances of succeeding at the task. The Pygmalion effect is similar. In this effect, the employee improves his performance because his supervisor communicates her belief that he will succeed. The employee then tries harder to perform at the supervisor’s expectations.

Both of these are part of the self-fulfilling prophecy, a term that fails to convey the real substance of these effects. Neither of these produces a causal effect, as it were. Rather they create beliefs that then create motivational states and ultimately produce performance effects.

Thai Pagan Pride Altar [Courtesy Photo]

Altar used in Pagan Seasonal Ritual [Courtesy Photo: Thai Pagan Pride]

Legare & Souza (2012) wanted to explore the effectiveness of ritual action when there is no available causal information; that is the lack of evidence of causal effect. To do this they brought together the understanding from both cultural and psychological science by looking at simpatias in Brazil.

In Latin America, simpatias (the Brazillian term) are charms, a sort of common magic or simple spell that are embedded and ubiquitous in the culture. We don’t look for cause and effects because they are representative in how we perform our culture. For example, my grandmother taught me to place (and change weekly) a clear glass of water in the room where you sleep to silence spirits that insist on speaking without your permission. The simpatias address all sorts of issues from love to ailments.

What the researchers did is “invent” simpatias that contained elements that made sense to the Brazilian culture; for example using religious iconography, specific steps and order, and the number and types of items used. They presented the “invented” simpatias to a Brazilian sample then conducted the same study with a U.S. samples. The researchers then asked each group to rate the effectiveness of the simpatias.

Now here’s the interesting part, the Brazilian group, who already believed in the effectiveness of simpatias, identified the number of steps in the charm, the repeated procedures of the charm, and the specified time in the charm as important elements that lead to the charm working. The U.S. group, who did not believe in the effectiveness of simpatias, identified the exact same elements to creating an effective charm. What the findings suggest, is that the logic of a ritual is important in its effectiveness.

Now let’s take that into context with this: Damisch, Stoberock and Mussweiler (2010) reported a set of intriguing experiments where participants attempted 10 golf putts from a distance of about 1 yard. Some participants, a primed group, were told ‘‘Here is the ball. So far it has turned out to be a lucky ball.’’  A control group was told ‘‘This is the ball everyone has used so far.’’

Obviously participants were blind to the differences between the two groups and were not told the objective of the experiment. Surprisingly, participants in the control group made 48% of putts while participants in the primed group made 65% of putts, a statistically significant difference accounted for only by the priming statement. While there have been challenges in replicating the findings and much more work needs to be done, the initial data suggest that belief matters a great deal toward creating performance or meeting performance standards.

Finally, Norton & Gino (2013) conducted a series of experiments to examine how rituals can help regain feelings of control during periods of loss. They conducted a series of lab experiments to examine loss. One experiment involved individuals receiving $15 for participating in an experiment that involved the possible winning of an additional $200. Participants thought that the experiment was about the lottery but it was actually about how rituals help mitigate feelings of defeat and grief. Before participating, participants were asked about their belief in rituals and then asked to participate in one involving using some words, salt and paper to limit feelings of loss. As expected, the participants who partook in rituals, reported feeling less grief regardless of whether they believed in the ritual. The research points to the acts of (a) referring to a set of actions as ritual and (b) that executing them as such are critical elements to produce the beneficial psychological effects.

Taken together, the findings of all three investigations are provocative. While the studies are not looking at Pagan ritual per se, the parallels are important. They underscore the fundamental benefits of Pagan ritual practice independent of spiritual underpinnings. The science hints to the powerful combination of psychology and culture that creates a transformative experience leading to better performance, whether in life or in work or in golf.

But there are other positive outcomes here that we can potentially leverage. Science is the religion of the secular and everyone has some exposure to it. While science cannot validate who we are and why we do things, it can helps us communicate our actions to those unfamiliar with our rituals. Science can serve as a more accessible bridge with those individuals who are unable to see the elegance of Pagan practice because their biases forbid them clarity.

Handfasting [Photo Credit: Michela Horvath]

Handfasting Ritual [Photo Credit: Michela Horvath]

The science here can also help us support those who are new to Paganism as they develop their own spiritual awareness in their traditions. I’m reminded of the old artistic adage “Trust the process.” It is about not worrying how a work (or a ritual) unfolds, but rather to be present in the experience. It is a challenge of patience not a test of faith. The research above underscores the transformative potential of ritual that can help new Pagans approach personal work without having to believe in anything except the process. While that may sound atheistic to some, which may be fine in and of itself, developing faith is a much longer road with its own challenges. In the meantime, spiritual and personal growth can happen. Rituals can help open both doors.

Our rituals are also a form of transgression. They do not seek to limit or humble or drain; though their power they may show our weaknesses, reminds us of humility, or leave us exhausted. Our rituals do not seek to make us, less. Our rituals are empowering. Our rituals are about building the person and the community, while marking the sacred. They allow every practitioner to serve as both transformer and transformed. They build and create relationships without intercessors. And, most, seriously we can see them as mechanisms for influencing the natural world as well as the lives and minds of others. They are a sobering display of Pagan strength.

References

Damisch, L., Stoberock, B. & Mussweiler, T. (2010)  “Keep our fingers crossed!  How superstition improves performance.” Psychological Science, 21, 1014-1020. doi: 10.1177/0956797610372631

Legare, C.H. & Souza, A. L. (2012).  “Evaluating ritual efficacy: Evidence from the supernatural.” Cognition, 124 (1), 1-16.

Norton, M. I., & Gino, F. (2013, February 11). “Rituals Alleviate Grieving for Loved Ones, Lovers, and Lotteries.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031772

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The Rider-Waite Four of Wands, by Pamela Colman Smith.

The Rider-Waite Four of Wands [Public Domain U.S.]

The infant sleeps in her mother’s arms; she is brown of hair, tiny, only six weeks old. Her father sits next to me on the floor, beating out a rhythm on a hand drum. I am kneeling next to him, matching his beat by slapping my knees and stomach. The baby’s brother, three years old, walks in and out of the circle, anxiously waiting for all the chanting to be over so he can blow out the lone candle sitting on the altar. My heartbeat rises to match the drumming of animal hide and human flesh. I am on the edge of ecstasy, induced by the kind of breathing I only do during ritual. Lorelei stands above us, leading the invocation: she lifts a ceramic liquid incense burner, passing its sweet scent over us, and calls out to the elements. Powers of the south, spirits of fire, she says in a dream-like whisper, we ask you for your blessings…

The term for the ritual, I suppose, is a Wiccaning. I don’t know, really. As far as I know, my coven has never had such a thing. If I had a Wiccaning as an infant, nobody has told me about it. For me, this is uncharted territory. We are calling in the elements to give their blessings to the baby, the invocations beginning with Lorelei and then passing around the circle to the child. Our words are all improvised. When it is my turn to speak, I do so in a slightly archaic, elevated way – We call to thee, spirits of the south, guardians of the watchtower of staves, the powers of fire – language stolen from the hundreds of rituals I have seen in my life, repurposed to this occasion. Others speak in words closer to their normal registers, or in streaming sentences, in phrases full of air and weight.

Again – we are making this up as we go along. The meaning we create is created in the moment; it appears and then vanishes, like smoke from the incense.

My dissertation adviser knows a lot about nonfiction writing, but not much about Paganism. I once brought an essay to her that described a set of rituals from the late 1980s I had found in a box of old materials from the early days of my coven; I speculated as to what those rituals might have meant, the reasons why they might have been written. My adviser didn’t know what to say to my speculations. It had never occurred to her that religion could be a creative act, could be art. For my part, I don’t know that I can really understand practicing a religion without the sense of reinvention and creativity that I have grown up with. Writing about Paganism, but having that writing seen and commented on by a mostly non-Pagan audience, constantly reminds me that the differences between my childhood and many others’ are more than just the appearances of the places we called church. Some of it goes down to the bone.

In this ritual, this Wiccaning, we are weaving together a portrait of hope – everything we think important enough to beseech the numinous. It is a family conversation, a statement of what we value and what we regret. The words come from individuals, but the end result – the tapestry we weave – reflects all of us together, our history and future.

And yet it is ephemeral. It was only a week ago, but I can’t remember exactly what I asked the fire to give the baby or the exact construction of my sentences; I certainly can’t recall the specifics of my coven-mates’ requests, beyond the usual associations of fire, passion and warmth. The baby herself will never know exactly what was said on her behalf, either. Our prayers were formed from the stuff within our hearts that night; its magick is now out in the world, doing whatever it will do, invisible and untraceable.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about inheritance. It’s a concept the Pagan world isn’t really equipped for yet, at least in my estimation. Paganism mostly cares about the new: new rituals, new traditions, new names, new covens, new families, new identities. Even when we look to the past, when we pore over the histories of our founders and our gods, we look to innovate and reconstruct, hoping that whatever discoveries we turn up will add new dimensions to our practice. It feels like something borne in the blood of our enterprise. Paganism is an apostate movement, formed by and large by people spurning an old way of life. We have turned away once, hoping to find something re-enchanted and new; perhaps we are inclined to continue turning away. But what does a person who has left behind a way of life leave behind themselves?

Creativity and tradition, apostasy and inheritance; these are thoughts that swirled around me as I thought through my invocation to the powers of fire. We were giving this baby a gift that she would not understand for years, if then; I know, because it was a gift given to me as well, and if anything, the more I consider it, the less I’m sure I understand it. My religion has, for better or worse, been the cornerstone of my life, the shaper of my perceptions and the sculptor of my ethics; I have been, in turn, ashamed, dazzled, and enmeshed by it. It is a weighty gift.

The baby is sleeping in her mother’s arms, unaware of the magick that surrounds her, all the hope and fear we hold for her. The elements are called in, sweep over her in her slumber, granting whatever blessings they may. We welcome her into our family; all of this is hers now, to keep, to change, to burn away.

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On April 5, at 2:16am, 7-year-old Thor von Reichmuth died after a two year battle with cancer. He was at his home in the Minneapolis area, with his mother and father and surrounded by his stuffed animals.

Thor von Reichmuth [photo provided by family]

Thor von Reichmuth [Photo provided by family]

Most obituaries in The Wild Hunt are of famous authors, well known teachers, or founders of a Pagan Tradition. They are of adults whose life’s work, spanning multiple decades, impacted hundreds or thousands of people in our collective religious communities. Thor didn’t have decades, but his death and the way he lived his life have deeply affected the Heathen community worldwide.

Robert Rudachyk said:

Even though our community is a fractious one often torn by fighting, we were all brought together in hope that this young child could find the strength to defeat his nemesis. Sadly they were too evenly matched. Like his namesake battling the Midgard Serpent, he was only able to defeat his cancer at the cost of his own life.

Heathens from across the U.S. and beyond had been following young Thor’s battle with cancer on Facebook, cheering him on and marveling at his bright smile and bravery. They watched a family pull together and live the ethics of their religion, placing faith in the Gods, each other, and their community.

As Thor’s health turned worse and doctors said he had but weeks to live, the community prayed for strength for the family. We all witnessed a mother, father, and young child still striving to live the ethics of their religion while facing death; still placing their faith in the Gods, each other, and their community.

After Thor’s father Eduard posted on Facebook that Thor had died Sunday morning, tributes and condolences poured in from all regions of the world. Kindred from South America, Europe, and Australia sent messages and poured offerings from horns. Universalists, Tribalists, and Folkish Heathens, were all united in grief.

10439357_10204139165219166_8167124831698262751_nAs Sunday wore on, Heathens began changing their profile picture to the rune below, as a way to honor the child and stand in support with the family. The rune is Eiwaz, which means yew. It is thought to signify the knowledge of the mysteries of death.

Eduard had this to say about his son:

Thor was a very special boy, and a hardened warrior by the end of his short life.

He came to us on October 17, 2007, prematurely, and had some health issues in the beginning, because of this. He got better in time for his Heathen naming and blessing ritual 9 days after birth, as custom dictates. His placenta was buried within the roots of our Thor Oak in the front yard.

He was a Heathen all his life, Bloting, Praying and making offerings to the Gods, and Hailing them every night in our altar room, before bed. He asked many questions about the Ancestors and the Gods, as he wanted to learn more and more. He would Hail Odin at the top of his voice every time he saw or heard a raven or crow, no matter where he was. He wore his hammer constantly except during scans or x-rays. He will be cremated Thorsday wearing that very same hammer.

He battled a very rare and very aggressive cancer for about a year and nine months. Several surgeries, several HARSH rounds of chemo, several transfusions and hospital stays. But, he was always quick with a joke, smile, and a thumbs-up. He was adored by his clinic staff, radiology staff, oncology staff, and hospital staff. He especially loved the younger, cuter nurses.

Towards the end, he told me not to worry if he passed first…… because he would come visit me, since we were bestest buddies forever.

On his very last night on Midgard, he struggled hard to breathe. I held his hands in mine, told him his body was tired, and it was time to go meet Grandpa. I told him not to worry about Mama or Me, because we would be ok even though we would miss him. I did a hammer sign over his body, and told him it was ok to go, but come visit any time. He lay there for a quick second, and then rolled over and breathed his last.

I carried his little body outside to the waiting funeral home car and placed him inside. I have never cried that hard in my life. He will be missed by many and spoken of for years to come. His memory will never fade, and he will be honored often.

Thanks to all who have shown support with kind words, prayers, donations, gifts, and love. May you all be blessed for all you have done.

Hail the Bavarian Prince
Hail the mighty little warrior
Hail my bestest buddy
Hail THOR!

This morning Eduard is presiding at a simple ritual cremation for his son. Thor is wearing his hammer pendent and tucked next to him is his favorite stuffed animal and a copy of The Theft of Thor’s Hammer. His father will toast his son’s departure with mead and then push the button to start the cremation process.

Below is a sample of the outpouring of grief by the Heathen community at Thor’s passing:

Little Thor passed on this morning and now rests in Helhome with his ancestors. He will be missed by his family. It is amazing how, despite all our bickering, the suffering of this young man did so much to bring our community together. You did your namesake, the friend of man, proud little guy. Truly you are a friend to us all and your family is truly touched by the gods. Hail Thor! Hail Eduard von Reichmuth and all your kin. – Nathaniel Jeffers

*   *   *

With heavy heart comes a farewell. The son of Karen and Eduard von Reichmuth – Little Thor -passed away after a long battle with cancer. He fought long and brave and showed more awareness, maturity and bravery than most adults and has taught us much about grace. I am sure Little Thor is now welcomed as a hero in his ancestor´s hall and charms the socks off them all. May many horns be raised to his memory and his song of bravery be sung for a long time. As I firmly believe that Valhalla is not the only hall that can be earned, I can see the Prince also running around happily in Bilskinir. Hail Littel Thor! As a sign of honor and support many are changing their profile pics to Eiwaz – to show a bright light has passed from Midgard to the Higher Realms. – Patricia Lady-Asunja

*   *   *

It is with a heavy heart that I pass on the news that we in the Heathen community have been dreading. Thor Von Reichmuth, son of Eduard von Reichmuth, succumbed to his lung cancer last night. Even though our community is a fractious one often torn by fighting, we were all brought together in hope that this young child could find the strength to defeat his nemesis. Sadly they were too evenly matched. Like his namesake battling the Midgard Serpent, he was only able to defeat his cancer at the cost of his own life. I would like to convey my most heartfelt condolences to Eduard and his family. As a father I can only imagine the pain you are now feeling, and hope that with time it is eased. Your son is now being welcomed into the halls of your ancestors with his name being honoured around the world. Be at peace young Thor, your struggles are at an end. – Robert Rudachyk

*   *   *

I returned home tonight to sad news. Thor, son of Eduard Thorsgodhi von Reichmuth, lost his final battle with cancer. That is the reason so many of us have changed our profile picture for a time to the Eiwaz / Eoh rune, from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem.

The yew is a tree with rough bark,
hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots,
a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.

Early this morning Thor drew his final breath. This little warrior passed from Midgard making his way to the halls of his ancestors where his grandfather awaited him. Thor was only seven years old and spent too much of his life fighting against the cancer which struck him down this morning. It seems like for many the fight against cancer is one in which you may win battles, but in time you will lose the war.

His passing was not sudden so his family had time to say their goodbyes and pack as many happy memories into their too-short time together. We all knew his time was soon.

Thor’s struggle, perseverance, optimism, and constant smile have done wonders to bring together people from all over the world. Coming together and setting aside all the petty squabbles of the international Heathen community. His story reminds me better than many of two pieces from history. First,

“I like the northern way –
do not expect more than life gives;
meet good and bad fortune with an equal mind;
treasure life while you have it;
but treasure above it the honour which belongs to a man.
And should there be a life beyond, honour will come to meet you;
and should there be none, honour will rest on the stones of your
cairn and for a while your name will live in the thought of men.”
– Miss E.J.Oswald “The Dragon of the North” 1888

Thor von Reichmuth’s name will surely live on in the thoughts of many for a good long time. It is hard not to think of him when I look at my own little son and be grateful for every precious moment that my boy and I have together.

And from the words of our ancestors,
Hávamál, The Sayings of the High One, Óðinn

  1. Give praise to the day at evening, | to a woman on her pyre,
    To a weapon which is tried, | to a maid at wed lock,
    To ice when it is crossed, | to ale that is drunk.
  1. When the gale blows hew wood, | in fair winds seek the water;
    Sport with maidens at dusk, | for day’s eyes are many;
    From the ship seek swiftness, | from the shield protection,
    Cuts from the sword, | from the maiden kisses.
  1. By the fire drink ale, | over ice go on skates
    Buy a steed that is lean, | and a sword when tarnished,
    The horse at home fatten, | the hound in thy dwelling.

Thor’s journey in Midgard has ended, he goes to his pyre, his strength and virtue tried and tested. He goes to join his ancestors, greeted warmly by his grandfather. His family and friends here to drink to his memory and share stories of his long struggle around many a fire.
Hail Thor! – Anthony Arndt

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