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FT. MEADE, Md. – A civilian dental technician alleges that she has suffered religious discrimination, a hostile work environment and was subsequently fired after filing a formal complaint. Deborah Schoenfeld said that her Evangelical coworkers and managers at Epes Dental Clinic called her a witch, discriminated against her religion, and called her practice of yoga and meditation ‘satanic.’

Deborah Meade [Courtesy Photo]

Deborah Meade [Courtesy Photo]

In a recent interview with The Wild Hunt, Schoenfeld described her faith as Hindu, but has also been studying Wicca for 2 years. She said that the harassment began in April 2015 and that both military and civilian coworkers and managers took part in the problem. Schoenfeld described this harassment as such:

  • Employees were expected to attend Evangelical religious events and were asked to pray that SCOTUS would rule against same sex marriage.

  • Predominately Christian music was played in the office during work hours.

  • Schoenfeld was told that, due to her practice of meditation, she was bringing demons into the office.

  • Her practice of yoga was called “satanic.”

  • She was called a “Hindu witch.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) has sent a letter to US Air Force officials, notifying them that the MRFF is “immediately providing aggressive advocacy services for Ms. Schoenfeld as a MRFF client pursuant to her resolute quest to obtain a just resolution to her shocking complaints.” The MRFF also said it has filed a formal complaint with the military Equal Employment Opportunity (EO) channel.

As explained by Schoenfeld, she first reported these instances to her chain of command, but received no help. Then, on Sept 2, she filed a formal complaint regarding the harassment. Later that day she was fired for “using profanity against coworker.” Her manager declined to name the coworker or further define the situation on which they had based the firing.

Schoenfeld said that this harassment and the subsequent firing has been stressful. “I have been trying to still deal with the whole complexity of the situation as a whole. If it were not for my Pagan friends and for all the support from outsiders, I don’t think I could have kept myself going. Even my yoga teacher roots for me saying, ‘I’m glad you keep on coming to yoga, it will ground you.’ ”

She also added that the firing itself was a complete surprise. Schoenfeld explained that she had worked very hard and had been asked to perform two jobs at once. Even with the increased workload, she was praised for the quality of her performance,“I even got an award for patient safety back in March 2015. My non-abusive co-workers would give me accolades for helping them with their extra patients, so they would not have to work through lunch or stay after work. This has been my first military job, and the first time in all my career I have ever felt this type of discrimination.”

In an off-the-record interview with the Air Force Times, two of Schoenfeld’s former coworkers confirmed that the harassment against Schoenfeld took place and that they themselves were threatened with termination if they were to back her claims. Additionally noted in the article, those two same co-workers added that a deep suspicion of Hinduism was the motivation for the harassment.

According to USAF regulations, all persons in leadership positions “must ensure that their words and actions cannot reasonably be construed to be officially endorsing or disapproving of or extending preferential treatment for any faith, belief or absence of belief.” Violations can be charged as a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

[Courtesy http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/]

[Courtesy http://www.ftmeade.army.mil/]

The Air Force District of Washington has received Weinstein’s letter and is looking into the allegations raised, said spokesman Maj. Joel Harper.

The Wild Hunt contacted Ft. Meade Public Affairs, but as of publication we have not received a response back.

After this experience, Schoenfeld said that she now has a different view of religious freedom in the US. “I believe it’s only free for certain of the religions. Polytheists are looked down upon by many faiths, although there are many of us. I do hope that one day the Christian church will realize some of us are really just happy just the way we are.”

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The Druid NetworkThe Druid Network (TDN), based in the United Kingdom, will be attending the Inter Faith Network’s Annual General Meeting for the first time. TDN was admitted into the government-funded IFN UK in the fall of 2014 along with the Pagan Federation.

TDN trustee and treasurer Neil Pitchford said, “I have the honour of being the first Druid to attend after I was chosen to be TDN’s first representative.”

The Inter Faith Network was founded in 1987 and serves to “to advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country.” Originally, the IFN rejected both Pagan organizations but at last year’s annual meeting, the decision was reversed. This year’s meeting, taking place on Oct. 14, will be the first one since the groups were admitted.

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Starhawk announced that fans can still pre-order a limited edition copy of her upcoming book City of Refuge: The Sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing. Originally the limited edition copies were only available as a perk though her Kickstarter campaign. However, Starhawk has opened that offer up to pre-orders. Readers can also order signed copies.

City of Refuge picks up where The Fifth Sacred Thing left off. As noted on her site, the book “answers the timely question: how do we build a new world when people are broken by the old?” Starhawk is self-publishing the book supported by her Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $80,000. The book’s cover art, created by Jessica Perlstein, is now complete along with editing and other final details. Starhawk said that she expects the first group of books to be shipped in Dec. 2015.

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uri_logo_star1-250_250The Parliament of the World Religions (PWR) is now only three days away. Many of our organizations, as well as individual Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, are currently packing up and beginning the trip to Salt Lake City, Utah. Already on the ground and in the city is Wiccan Priest and longtime Covenant of the Goddess member Don Frew, who is attending a lesser known interfaith function – the United Religions Initiative’s Global Council meeting.

The United Religions Initiative (URI) is a completely separate organization from PWR. URI’s purpose is to “promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.” This year, the organization decided to hold its annual Council meeting over the five days leading up to the Parliament, as many of their own members were already scheduled to be in Salt Lake City.

Frew, who is serving on the Council for a fourth term, has said that the meeting is moving along well and has been productive. Frew said that he will publish a full report on both CoG’s Interfaith blog. However, you may have to wait a bit for that report, because just as the URI meeting wraps up, the Parliament gets underway.

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Today, in some parts of the U.S., locals are celebrating Indigenous People’s Day. Long heralded as Columbus Day, this second Monday in October is now slowly transitioning to something entirely new. Columbus Day, as a national recognized holiday, has been a source of deep contention and intense debate for a very long time. As outlined in the linked Washington Post article, “Activists described the change as the first step in a larger effort to reclaim a more accurate telling of history.” The celebration of Columbus day “ignores a violent past that led to hundreds of years of disease, colonial rule and genocidal extermination.”

The push to change the holiday began to gain ground in 1990 and momentum is now quickly gaining. The Columbus holiday is slowly being abandoned throughout various regions of the country with the hopes of its eventual elimination entirely at the national level. The Associated Press reported that this year at least 9 different cities are now officially marking this second Monday as Indigenous People’s Day and others are looking to follow that trend. Current cities listed include St. Paul, Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque; Olympia, Washington, and Minneapolis.

In Other News:

  • The deadline is fast approaching on the Pagan Women of Color Media Project. This project, launched in August by Michigan resident Mistress Belladonna, seeks to celebrate Pagan women of color. She is collecting “images of real women of Pagan faiths so that other women who find themselves on these paths can look and say, ‘Hey, there is someone like me.’ ” The images will eventually be published in a book form. The deadline is Nov. 7. More information is available on the site.
  • Storm Faerywolf has announced the publication of his first book through Llewellyn. In a blog post, he said, “I’m pleased to be able to share with you all the beginnings of the manifestations of one of my long-term goals. I have wanted to publish a book about my take on Faery tradition for many years and that is finally about to happen.” The book is temporarily titled “Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft” and will explore the BlueRose tradition. Storm did not provide a release date but said that he’d post updates on the blog.
  • And, in other publishing news, Foremothers’ of the of the Women’s Spirituality Movement: Elders and Visionaries will be released on Nov. 1. It is an anthology edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter and Vicki Noble.
  • It’s that time of the year again: Witches Balls, public Samhain rituals and, of course, the Spiral Dance. This year marks the 36th annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance. The traditional event is a ritual to “to honor [the] beloved dead and to dance the spiral of rebirth.” It is also Reclaiming’s biggest fundraiser. Organizers write, “We support our community by coming together as a community in this dance.” They welcome everyone to the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco Oct. 31 at 6 pm. Tickets can be purchased on line.
  • Don’t forget! The Wild Hunt will be live tweeting from the Parliament throughout the weekend, Thursday Oct 15 to Monday, Oct 19. We will be using the hashtag #PagansPWR. Follow us @thewildhunt

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That’s it for now. Have a great day! And, don’t forget to support the Wild Hunt.


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As October marches onward, many Americans are prepping their costumes, yards and homes in anticipation for the secular celebration of Halloween. What are you going to be for Halloween this year? Did you buy your candy? Are you going to a party?

Kids Trick or Treating [Credit: H. Greene]

Kids Trick or Treating [Credit: H. Greene]

To be very clear, this festival is not the same as the spiritual vigil of Samhain or any other harvest or religious celebration. For the purposes of this discussion, Halloween is an American and Canadian secular holiday, complete with candy, costumes and PVC pumpkins. It often begins with door bells ringing and ends with a sugar-high unlike anything you’ve ever known.

Halloween has a somewhat uneasy place in the family of North American holidays. On the one hand, some Pagans and Heathens fully embrace the festivities. It is a tradition that many have enjoyed since childhood. Halloween is the one calendar event that tangentially adheres to modern Pagan religious practices. And, for better or worse, the Halloween season openly unleashes the Witch-archetype into stores, homes and entertainment media. When else can you buy a pentacle and black candles at Michaels?

Halloween also attracts the local media to coven practice, real Witches and metaphysical stores. In most cases, these press encounters provide public teaching opportunities. For weeks, articles interviewing “real witches” grace the digital pages of mostly local newspapers, while the national media tend to focus on broader topics, such as the origins of the Witch, the story of Salem and even the cultural meaning within the witch-archetype.

But, on the other hand, the secular celebration also mocks any spiritual components, modern or otherwise, that exist within Halloween. For many real Witches, the playful and wholly-commercialized, secular side of the holiday undermines attempts to build cultural acceptance of both the Craft and the sabbat as a serious holiday. For example, requesting Halloween off for religious reasons might be met with ridicule. The secular festival feeds both negative witch stereotypes as well as the false truth that Witchcraft only exists in a fictional universe.

One of the main contributors to this problem is, not surprisingly, Hollywood. The industry typically provides at least one new film and several television specials “exploring” witchcraft. This year is no different. On Oct 23, The Last Witch Hunter, starring Vin Dieselwill make its debut. While such films are purely fiction, they exist within our cultural space as the flip side to the positive press interviews and similar work.

Pagans and Heathens aren’t alone in their unsettled attempts to navigate through the Halloween season. Many American religious and community leaders have repeatedly attempted to ban the holiday. Why? The list is endless including concerns over the overindulgence in candy, the potential dangers of trick-or-treating, the holidays Pagan origins, the increased popularity of over-sexualized or violently graphic costumes and heightened displays of horror.

As recently reported, one New Jersey man found himself at the center of controversy after setting up his seasonal yard display. Bill D’Catt, as he is reportedly named, told a local journalist, “We choose to be on the spookier side of Halloween. You know what’s scarier than this thing? The real ISIS.” The display, which was deemed too violent for the media to show in full, depicts hanged figures including one wearing a Pres. Obama mask, terrorists, caged criminals and bloody body parts. After numerous threats and complaints, D’Catt removed the display, but he has said it will likely return for Halloween itself.

But yard displays are not the only source of contention. Over the years, store-bought costumes have attracted debate as they have have become increasingly sexualizedSexy Pikachu, anyoneMaxim magazine recently interviewed Yandy CEO Chad Horstman about these “ridiculously sexy costumes.” Yandy is the main distributor of these products and, in the interview, Horstman expressed his lack of concern, saying “this is just the way this generation dresses.”

As an aside, Horstman also specifically stated that his company “[tries] to stay away from religious things.” Yet, at the same time, Vandy does sell a number of sexy “Voodoo Priestess” costumes and, of course, witches. This demonstrates the continuing disconnect between modern secular lore and Voodoo or Witchcraft as genuine religious practices.

Regardless, complaints against the Halloween costume industry go beyond the sexy and into the realm of offensive and excessively violent. Vandy and other similar merchants offer, for example, a Salem Witch costume complete with blood stains and a noose. Others note the deeply offensive nature of many ethnic or culturally -inspired costumes, such as “the Indian Sweetheart” or “Chief Wansum Tail.” The list goes on and on.

The costume industry is a major business. Last year, the National Retail Federation reported that the Halloween business reached all time high of $7.4 billion. And Halloween is ranked the number one fastest growing American commercial holiday. As Horstman said, “What sells is what sells.” That is the business of Halloween.

Halloween Party [Public domain]

Halloween Party [Public domain]

For the majority of Americans, Halloween is simply an excuse to party. Halloween provides a unique canvas that can only be topped by the decadent bacchanalia that is Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve. It is an excuse to dress up, eat, drink and make merry.

Over the past decade, the Halloween debate has become quite larger. The secular holiday has spread across the globe, seizing the imaginations of youth cultures on every continent. Originally, it hitched a ride with missionaries, English language teachers and ex-pats. Now, it’s being promoted by imported American cultural commodities like internationally-based theme parks, McDonald’s stores, Coca Cola products and Hollywood movies. And, of course, the ever-increasing accessibility to the internet only fuels the fire.

In some regions, Halloween has been readily incorporated into long-established fall cultural traditions. In the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, Halloween finds itself at its ancestral birthplace. It has returned, in some respects. Today, the newly-imported version has mixed with surviving local customs associated with, among others, Guy Fawkes Day.  As noted by English writer Chris Britcher:

Trick or treat has now actually become a bona fide tradition in the UK ….Fireworks were our autumnal treat of choice and for a good little while we fought off any competitor to it. But then we gave that up and decided to embrace both.

Across the globe in China, Hong Kong and Japan, people have been enthusiastically adopting the American holiday. Lisa Morton, author of Trick or Treat: The History of Halloween, attributes this acceptance to the presence of two Disney Theme Parks (Tokyo and Hong Kong), Hollywood horror movies and a fascination with American pop-culture.

During at 2012 interview with The Wild Hunt, Morton said,“In Japan, there is a love of festivals and affection for costuming or ‘cosplay,’ which is associated with anime and manga.” In mainland China, Halloween is slowly replacing Yue Laan or “Hungry Ghost Festivals” during which people appease and entertain ancestral ghosts. To fuel and solidify this cultural shift, China will be getting a new “Haunted Mansion” at the new Shanghai Disneyland in 2016.

On the contrary, in continental Europe, Halloween has not entirely received a welcome reception. In some countries, like the Netherlands, the secular holiday has been embraced, along side similar local traditions.

In other countries, it is being openly rejected. For example, in Oct 2012, the Polish Archbishop Andzej Dzięga, was quoted on Polskie Radio, as saying, “This kind of fun, tempting children [with] candy, poses the real possibility of great spiritual damage, even destroying spiritual life.” He warned against the “promotion of paganism” and a “culture of death.”

More recently, in Russia, the war over Halloween rages on. In 2012, ABC Online reported that one Russian Education Ministry official called the holiday “a destructive influence on young people’s morals and mental health.” Moscow city schools have banned Halloween celebrations claiming that they were concerned about “rituals of Satanically-oriented religious sects and… the promotion of the cult of death.” In the same article, an unamed Russian psychologist warned:

Halloween poses a great danger to children and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.

Despite this heavily Christian rhetoric, the resistance is not entirely about religion. Morton explained that, “While it is difficult to fully separate the expression of nationalism from religious tradition, many European countries, like France and Slovenia, have strong anti-American undercurrents.” Religious fervor may, in fact, be serving nationalist interests. Morton said, in the end, she “believes the protests are far more about nationalism than religion.”

This is expressed in an article by Paul Wood, an Englishman living in Bucharest:

Just as the North American grey squirrel has made the red squirrel almost extinct so has the North American Hallowe’en taken over with extraordinary swiftness, extinguishing older, weaker traditions. This too is life, I suppose, but it is part of the process by which the whole world is becoming plastic.

Despite the rejection, Halloween is still growing, albeit very slowly within these European youth cultures. According to Morton, in some regions of Italy, Halloween is called La Notte delle Streghe or “Night of the Witches.” In Romania, home of the Carpathian Mountains, the local economy is profiting from world’s fascination with Count Dracula. What a better way to spend Halloween than in Transylvania on a “real Dracula Halloween tour” complete with a four-course dinner and prizes.

Moving into the Southern Hemisphere, Halloween faces a new obstacle. The harvest-based tradition simply does not apply. In this part of the world, Oct. 31 marks the middle of Spring, not Fall. Pagans are readying the Maypole and not jack-o-lanterns.

[Photo Credit: Cindy / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Cindy / Flickr]

Despite the seasonal difference, youth cultures in some of these countries are showing a small amount of interest in the October-based Halloween celebration. This is mostly true in the English-speaking countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. If for no other reason, the Northern holiday offers a chance to party and dabble in the macabre – even if it’s completely devoid of its seasonal aspects.

What about the Americas? As noted above, the countries in the Southern Hemisphere do not recognize Halloween chiefly due to the geographical complications. However, the closer you get to the U.S., the more the secular Halloween has influenced local October traditions. In Costa Rica, for example, some people “have taken this “foreign” holiday and used it to revive an ancient Costa Rican custom: Dia de la Mascarada Tradicional Costarricense or Masquerade Day,” as reported by the Costa Rican News.

Closer to home, in Mexico, the celebration of Dia de los Muertos is sometimes now called Dia de las Brujas or “Day of the Witches.” Halloween practices have been woven into this largely religious holiday. While there has been some backlash from Mexican nationalists and religious leaders, resistance may ultimately be futile. Mexico is just too close to the U.S. to prevent the blending of two very similar October holidays. And, for better or worse, that sharing is happening in both directions.

Just as Halloween has infiltrated Mexican culture, elements of Dia de los Muertos are now increasingly showing up embedded in U.S. Halloween celebrations. In an interview, Morton explained:

Last year I saw my first piece of major Dias de los Muertos American retailing – the Russell Stover candy company released several themed candy bars… That’s probably a sign that Dias de los Muertos is starting to be accepted into the American mainstream. It’s certainly very popular in those areas of the U.S. with large Latino populations. More people seem to be joining in large-scale Dias de los Muertos celebrations in America every year.

Since Morton’s book was published, this trend has only increased. Is it this a good thing? Some view the trend as culturally appropriative and symptomatic of the all-consuming capitalist engine. Most Dia de los Muertos products are, in fact, purely commercial in nature and devoid of their religious roots. It becomes part of the business of Halloween. As quoted earlier, “what sells is what sells.”

However, there are also those that view this sharing as an example of cultural exchange providing a teachable moment that can serve to increase respect for Mexican culture within the U.S. Certainly awareness of religious tradition has increased within the general American public. Regardless, the debate over Dia de los Muertos, whether appropriation or cultural exchange, wages on.


Dia de los Muertos display at the Fall Atlanta Botanical Gardens Festival [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

There are some areas of the world in which Halloween has yet to find a home for reasons already listed. These areas include the Islamic Middle East, the heavily Christian areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Israel, India and parts of South East Asia.

Generally speaking, modern Pagans and Heathens collectively may continue to find their relationship with the secular Halloween difficult. How it is handled is a personal choice. Some will embrace it, seeing this secular holiday space as an opportunity to educate the public or simply a time to host a Witches Ball and have some fun. Others will renounce it, along with all of the derogatory effigies and movie representations. They might join similar protests saying, “We’re a culture. Not a costume.”

Regardless of personal feelings about the secular celebration, Halloween does continue to gain popularity worldwide year after year. As a result, each October as the veil thins and the media comes knocking, Witches can say that both the Ancestors and the world are listening.

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[This article was adapted and updated from its original form published here in 2012]

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[Columnist Christina Oakley Harrington is our talented columnist based in London. She is one of the team members who has assisted in expanding our coverage beyond U.S. borders. If you enjoy reading her work, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive. We are completely reader-funded, so it is you that makes it all possible! So, donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

Among UK Pagans, everyone has heard of the Pagan Federation. It’s been with us forever: a bit staid and not always terribly exciting or visible. It’s the body that deals with officialdom; gives information on paganism to civil servants in government bodies; and provides balanced quotes when news stories come up. Most university chaplains, registrars and news journalists know the basics nowadays.

This is unexciting work, but it is worthy beyond measure. When a dramatic event occurs associated with a pagan, such as a crime, the Pagan Federation helps the news media separate the crime from the religion, and lets them know that our community will not tolerate otherwise.

But the Pagan Federation’s work is invaluable, too, in times when pagans meet officialdom in the daily business of life. My experience of the past week has shown that more clearly than I ever imagined.

[unknown origin]

[creator unknown]

I live in London, but nine days ago I raced to Heathrow airport to catch the first flight to Toronto. My father, a Canadian, was in the hospital; his health failing him. On arrival I learned quickly that he was dying. And I, his eldest child, faced the unimaginably painful task of asking for his extra oxygen to be removed, as Dad had wanted. It was the equivalent of switching off the life support.

It felt too much for me at that moment, so I asked for the nurse to send for the chaplain. I knew the chaplain would not be Pagan, but I had to have someone. To the hospital bedside came a loving and experienced man named Jason. He was a Christian of course, but we met as human beings. He did not bring any agenda; he brought his insight and care. Our two hours together at my father’s bedside helped me greatly, and I did what I needed to do.

Hours later, dad died. Almost immediately my relatives took me to the funeral home where we had to plan the funeral. With no sleep and still in shock, we had to negotiate religious differences. Dad was atheist, but came from a committed Presbyterian family. He had in me a pagan daughter and two spiritual, but not religious, other adult children.

A minister we’d never met would take us through the ceremony. In he walked to my aunt’s formal living room. His name was Darrow. Dad’s atheism was acknowledged with kindness, and he fit these facts into the way he guided us to choosing readings for a service which was framed in the Christian structure so important to my father’s sister. He noticed and understood my tiny silver pentagram pendant with a gentle smile, and we agreed on a reading about nature.

Somewhere, somehow, both the chaplain and this minister had learned a bit about paganism. They didn’t know much, but it was enough. They were neither confused nor disturbed by me, and I could be open with them. It was clear that pagans had been part of their interfaith education. To those nameless Canadian pagans who showed up to a seminary, a meeting, or a conference years ago, I say ‘thank you.’ Because of those pagan, at a time of great vulnerability, a bereaved pagan daughter thousands of miles from home could speak from her heart and hear words of consolation.

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

Pagans often express a healthy disregard for the bounds of convention. We pride ourselves on being on the edges and challenging restrictive norms. I love this about us, but there are times when we simply need our faith to be understood; so we can get through, without fuss or fight, those difficult times of death, suffering or despair.

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In the UK, when a person dies, the funeral normally takes place a week or two afterward. This gap allows time to plan a personalised ceremony. Most pagans are situated in a wider family who are not of their own faith, so they will have a balancing act similar to that of my own family. Some of us, however, do leave a majority of family and friends of our own faith.

Wiccan priestess Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) asked to have a pagan funeral and her friends accorded her one in the crematorium’s non-denominational chapel, with friends she had chosen in advance standing in the four quarters. Priestess Madge Worthington (d. 2004) of the Whitecroft line of Wicca had the Charge of the Goddess read at her funeral. Here in Britain, crematoria chapels are where most non-religious funerals take place and the staff are beginning to be less surprised when pagan rites are done in them.

When I opened the newspaper this summer to read of ‘Britain’s First Pagan Funeral’ I knew it was not true. The event for the death of Cornwall’s ‘Eron the Wizard’ was colourful, hippy, gothic pagan, with the press invited. Everyone who reads the papers in the UK now knows that pagans die too, and that we can have outlandish funerals. This is to be welcomed.

Some prefer a more sober style of funeral. But at the end of life, we need our spirituality there with us, just as do all people of faith. When we can receive an understanding smile from a crematorium porter, a funeral director, or a chaplain at this time, it means the world. The unglamourous work of interfaith education pays all of its dividends at those very moments.

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[Columnist Eric O. Scott is one of our talented monthly columnists and the creator of the Viking Panda. If you enjoy reading his work, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive and help us to bring you daily news and commentary. We are completely reader-funded, so it is you that makes it all possible!  And, if you do contribute at the correct level, you will receive your very own Eric Scott Viking Panda drawing. Donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

Your author is supposed to get through all of these books by December. Gulp. (Photo by the author.)

Your author is supposed to get through all of these books by December. Gulp.
[Photo Credit: E. Scott]

I have a special bookcase in my office, completely filled with the books I am reading to prepare for my comprehensive examinations later this year. Comps, which a friend of mine describes as “academia’s last accepted form of hazing,” are a year-long process in my program, in which students create a long list of books on certain themes, then write and defend essays based on those books. I have, as a result, been throat-deep in reading, focusing mainly on religious memoirs, the autobiographical accounts of individuals and their relationships to whatever they conceive of as Divine. These accounts break down, at least in my schema, into two kinds of work, the placed and the unplaced – those works in which the author’s experience of being in a certain location drives the text, and those more ephemeral narratives that worry less about the world around the author and more about the world within. Among the “placed” narratives, pilgrimage narratives grab my attention the most – stories of people who have traveled to distant lands in the name of their religion.

To read these pilgrim tales, especially those from the classical and medieval periods, is to be drawn into a foreign world where such travel was rare, expensive, and dangerous. It seems that every medieval expedition to Jerusalem involved at least one pirate attack, forcing even pacifists like the Franciscan friar Niccolo da Poggionsi to take up crossbows in self-defense. The ocean and the desert constantly threaten to devour those souls who attempt to cross them; while the autobiographers obviously survive to tell their tales, one has to wonder how many failed.

One thing that these old texts seem to lack, however, is a sense of personal revelation upon reaching the destination. Niccolo’s account of his pilgrimage, for example, stops using the first person voice entirely once he reaches the Holy Land, even though he uses it to describe his voyage in moving and dramatic detail. Consider his description of the Garden of Gethsemane:

On the road that leads up to Mount Olivet, you find on the right a piece of a wall and you enter a small plain, kept like a garden with trees. This place is called the flowery garden, in which Christ was arrested, and by Judas Iscariot betrayed. And here the Apostles slept when Christ prayed to his Father. And here was raised a church, which is now in ruins, and there are two big stones; and it is said that in that place Christ will stand with all his Apostles, to judge the just and the unjust; therefore the pilgrims pass the place on the right and say: Jesus Christ, make me stand on this side, me and my relatives. In this garden there is an indulgence of VII years. 

To my modern eyes, this seems like such a strange passage. Niccolo is writing about one of the most important places in his religion – the garden in which Jesus was turned over to the Roman authorities, directly leading to the Crucifixion. Yet there is no portion of his commentary that focuses on his own emotional experience of being in the place where his god once stood, no sense of awe, or wonder, or disillusionment. And this is the case with all of these older pilgrimage accounts, too; for some reason, the Holy Land does not bring out the kind of enthusiasm one might expect from someone devoted enough to risk their life to visit. In some cases, we have nothing more gripping than a list of room measurements and the number of years one might be able to shave off of Purgatory. It’s not until quite recently – the 18th and 19th centuries, as best as I can tell – that the personal sentiments of the author begin to get expressed. Even in The Innocents Abroad, one of Mark Twain’s lesser-known books, wherein Twain goes on a “pleasure cruise” to the Holy Land with a group of other Americans (the “innocents” of the title), much of the text reads like a scoffing guidebook. Yet we begin to find passages like this one, a reflection Twain makes just after finally arriving in the Holy Land:

We do not think, in the holy places; we think in bed, afterward, when the glare, and the noise, and the confusion are gone, and in fancy we revisit alone the solemn monuments of the past, and summon the phantom pageants of an age that has passed away.

Þingvellir, Iceland. (Photo by the author.)

Þingvellir, Iceland.
[Photo Credit: E. Scott]

Because I am studying religious autobiographies from the western tradition, the majority of my authors are European or American Christians. But they remain fascinating to me, in part because they form the context for what pilgrimage might mean in modern Paganism. There has been some scholarship on this topic – Kathryn Rountree has written about Goddess worship pilgrimages to Greece, for example, and Jenny Blain’s Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights project has explored British Heathenry’s relationship to place – but in many ways Pagans are still figuring out what exactly religious travel looks like, and what it means to our religious practices.

Take, for example, the impact of history on the significance of a pilgrimage site. Twain’s quote takes it as a given that a “holy place” must, by definition, evoke those “phantom pageants of an age that has passed away.” And indeed, in the Abrahamic milieu in which The Innocents Abroad takes place, that statement rings true. It is also true in some cases for modern Pagans – Rountree’s Goddess worshippers visit neolithic sites in order to connect with a “deep past” that doesn’t seem to exist in their own back yards, and, in my own experience, part of the majesty of seeing Þingvellir for the first time came from how important that place was to the Heathens who settled Iceland. But the most common kind of pilgrimage undertaken by modern Pagans, at least in the United States, is to places like the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose or my own beloved Gaea Retreat in Maclouth, Kansas – sites of living, vibrant religious festivals, places where the concern is on the here and now, not the “solemn monuments of the past.” And in the place of Niccolo’s impersonal descriptions of Biblical sites, we now have a Pagan internet full of personal reactions and experiences, the emotional intimacy of which would shock the autobiographers of old.

The Forn Halr altar at Gaea Retreat. Photo by the author.

The Forn Halr altar at Gaea Retreat.
[Photo Credit: E. Scott]

As both academic and adherent, I love to ponder the ways we, still living in the young days of these religious movements, define the terms of our faith. Pilgrimage – the idea of travel motivated by religion – is one of those big ideas whose contours we’re all still feeling out. We haven’t yet thrown up the guideposts that many other religions have; as with many things in Paganism, we’re often making it up as we go along. As I read through these stacks of dead men’s travels, I can’t help but wonder how readers in the ages to come will respond to our own accounts, and what kinds of traditions we will ultimately leave behind us.

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SALT LAKE, Utah — In one week, thousands of people from all over the world will descend on Salt Lake City to participate in the Parliament of the World Religions. The opening ceremonies and procession take place Thursday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. and are followed by four full days of workshops, observances, plenaries, meals and music. Within the expansive walls of the Salt Palace Convention Center, eager attendees will be seeking a unique educational, and potentially transformative, experience only found through global interfaith interaction, communication and harmony.

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

“The 1993 Parliament at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago was a truly transformational experience, one that changed my life in ways that I could not have anticipated. I’ve heard a lot of other Pagans say the same thing after attending their first Parliament. So, I would strongly encourage people to come with open minds and open hearts, and with a willingness to let change happen,” said Andras Corban-Arthen, who has attended every Parliament since 1993 and is currently serving on the Parliament’s board of trustees.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions began in Chicago in 1893 and was part of a larger exhibition event. Originally called The World Congress of Religions, the Parliament was the very first large scale meeting of western and eastern religious leaders. Due to wars and economic down turns through the 20th century, the event was never repeated.

Then in 1988, a council was formed to resurrect the concept and host a new Parliament. That happened in Chicago in 1993, a full century after the first one. Not only was that event a landmark as the rebirth of the Parliament, it was also largely considered one of the first times that Pagans “came out of broom closet” to the world’s interfaith community.

The Parliament was then held again in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain; and in 2009, in Melbourne, Australia. The basic idea was to continue hosting this international interfaith conference every five years. However, in 2012, the Council was having financial trouble and nearly had to shut its doors. Then, in 2013, the Parliament was saved with an emergency fundraiser, in which Pagans played a significant role.

Rev. Selena Fox and others plant a Peace Pole at the Cape Town Parliament 1999 [Courtesy Photo]

Rev. Selena Fox and others plant a Peace Pole at the Cape Town Parliament 1999 [Courtesy Photo]

Soon after, the Council began immediate planning for the 2015 Salt Lake event. Angie Buchanan, a trustee emerita and a member of the Parliament’s site selection committee, told The Wild Hunt, “So much work has gone into producing this event. Staff, volunteers, presenters, attendees but, it’s all worth it in the end because, this event can be life changing. The heart and energy of it has the potential to change the world.”

Before Thursday’s opening ceremonies, there will be a daylong women’s assembly. During that time, women leaders will speak on “two primary themes, which will [then] be further explored by attendees in small group discussions.” The themes include: “the responsibility of the world’s religions to affirm women’s dignity and human rights” and “share sources of religious and spiritual inspiration for women’s empowerment.” There will also be a number of related workshops.

Following the assembly are four full days of scheduled events, ending Monday with a closing plenary at 3:45 p.m. There are religious observances every morning, beginning at 7 a.m. Several Pagan observances are on the schedule. For example, Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox will host a Brigid Healing ritual and a Ritual for Planet Earth. Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Jim Dickinson will be offering “Chalice of the Four Waters.”

One of the big Parliament features is a free daily lunchtime meal called Langar, which is the Sikh word for ‘open kitchen.’ Sponsored by local, national and international Sikh communities, Langar is a tradition expressing inclusiveness and the “oneness of humankind.” Everyone is invited, and the only requirements are a head-cover, open mind and appetite. Rev. Selena Fox said:

One of my favorite memories of the 2004 Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona, Spain was having lunch with thousands of others at the Sikh’s Langar. The Sikh’s free food serving area was in a huge, air conditioned tent pavilion. We sat on the floor in long rows with our plates and cups before us and members of the Sikh community went down the rows and served each of us delicious traditional foods  … I look forward to experiencing Langar again at the 2015 Parliament.

Throughout the conference, there are multiple workshops, talks and lectures during every single time slot and even in-between. In some cases, one time slot may host 20-30 different events at once. Corban-Arthen said, “Be prepared to feel overwhelmed by all the programs you want to attend, which conflict with one another. Pick and choose wisely.”

He also advised, “Don’t just attend workshops – there are also great concerts, religious observances … films, artistic presentations, exhibitions … informational/merchandising booths, and of course, lots of opportunities for making new friends.”

Within that staggering four-day schedule, there will be number of specifically Pagan or Heathen -themed programs. Corban-Arthen said that the 2015 Parliament will have at least double the amount as were ever offered previously. In fact, there is even a specific “Pagan track” listed in the Parliament’s mobile scheduling software.* While there are too many to list here, some highlights include:

“Staving off Ragnarök: A Heathen Response to Climate Change” with Diana Paxson
“Black Madonnas and Dark Goddesses: Images of the Divine Feminine” with Vivianne Crowley
“Calling the Ancestors Home” with Solar Cross
“Diversity in Contemporary Paganism” with Jeanine De Oya, Eblis Correllian and Andras Corban-Arthen
“Goddesses Alive! Ritual Perfomance” directed by M. Macha Nightmare (as featured in a previous Wild Hunt article)

Those are only five of the many amazing workshops, observances, panels, performances and talks with Pagan or Heathen themes. How does this measurable increase in events impact the overall interfaith Parliament experience for everyone? Corban-Arthen said, “This time around, we will have the chance to present various elements of paganism in much greater depth and breadth.”

In addition to an increase in programming, the 2015 Parliament will also have the largest Pagan and Heathen representation than ever before. There will be an estimated 200 Pagans and Heathens in attendance, which is 120 more than the well-attended 1993 Chicago Parliament. Buchanan said, “We are glad so many friends and community members have chosen to come experience it for themselves.”

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit's Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

MotherTongue, EarthSpirit’s Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

Many national and international Pagan and Heathen organizations will be represented including, Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, EarthSpirit, Solar Cross, Earth Traditions, The Pagan Federation, Cherry Hill Seminary, the Pagan Federation International, The Wild Hunt, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and others. Rev. Selena Fox said “Circle Sanctuary has more than three dozen ministers, ministers in training, community members, and networking associates as part of our delegation.” Some of these groups, like Circle Sanctuary, will be hosting informational booths in the Parliament’s exhibit hall.

While an attendee’s day could certainly be filled with Pagan and Heathen events alone, there are 100s of other offerings on the scheduled as well. Buchanan said, “I would encourage you to try new things, see as much as possible, sing, dance, participate in rituals and ceremonies that you may never have another opportunity for. Stretch yourselves, learn something new, share, be amazed, and be amazing to those who find you as curious as you find them.”

Corban-Arthen agreed, reminding attendees that this isn’t a Pagan event. He advises, “Leave your prejudices at home … You might be surprised to realize how much others at the Parliament already know about us, how willing they may be to accept us. Some might even tell you that they not only take us very seriously, but that, if anything, they don’t see us taking ourselves seriously enough … And don’t be surprised if a Christian offers you a heartfelt apology for what their religious ancestors have done to pagans over the course of history (I’ve had that happen to me at least once every Parliament). It’s that kind of an event.”

During the conference, there will be six plenaries, each is separately themed and will include a panel of speakers and a major declaration. The topics include: Focus on Women; Emerging Leaders; Income Inequality; War, Violence and Hate; Climate Change; and Indigenous Peoples.

Corban-Arthen said, “The one question that will weave as a common thread throughout this Parliament and beyond is: what insight, what wisdom can our spiritual traditions offer to help us heal these global problems?” He added, “Pagan voices can, and should, be heard in those conversations.”

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World's Religions.

Peace procession of Pagans at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions [Courtesy Photo]

Buchanan agreed, saying, “When the world’s religions come together to be part of the solution, the possibilities are endless. It is positively magical and we Pagans are an important part of it; an important voice in the interfaith movement and at the table for the discussion of global issues that have an impact on our planet; our environment.”

The Council is now in the very final stages of preparatory work as attendees prepare to make the trip to Salt Lake City. The mobile application is available to download and, while it is not perfect, the app does provide a basic tool to help navigate this seemingly monstrous event.

For those that will be attending, Buchanan is hosting a Pagan Reception at the Marriott Hotel Thursday at 3:30 p.m.This scheduled social time will provide a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones before the Parliament begins in earnest.

The Wild Hunt will be in attendance and live tweeting beginning Thursday morning through Monday. You can follow us @thewildhunt.


* Important note: Not all Pagan or Heathen – themed events are listed on the Pagan track. This is due to the way they were cataloged. 

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Following an official announcement last February, Druid College UK has opened its doors, quickly filling up all slots for its first year of study. This is a British sister school to the Druid College in Maine, and will be following the same underlying philosophy, as described by co-founder Joanna van der Hoeven in her personal blog:

There are many Druid Orders and other pagan and earth-based organizations that offer solid training within their respective traditions. The Druid College is for those who wish to journey further. We wish to work with those who want to be ‘carriers’ of Nature-based spirituality –- as compared to ‘followers’. We saw a need for a programme for people who desire to go deeper, for those who wish to be in service, to fill the role of priest for their community and the land they dwell in.

To understand what this might mean for practicing and erstwhile Druids in the United Kingdom, The Wild Hunt asked van der Hoeven to expand on the details of this project.



The Wild Hunt: How long has the UK branch been in the works? What did it take to get it started?

Joanna van der Hoeven: I’ve been in discussion with my colleague from America, Kevin Emmons about Druid College UK since the summer of 2014, talking on how we can create a sister college here in the United Kingdom. I had been in contact with Kevin for a few years now, finding in him a kindred spirit on the path of Druidry and he spoke to me of his vision for the expansion of Druid College. I was honoured that he thought of me for beginning something on this side of the pond, and it’s taken off with great success.

Kevin and I discussed the subjects and the programme, and we simply went with what he had already established, as it is a great programme to begin with. Our teaching methods will be slightly different, obviously, because we are different people and we have different tutors.

My co-tutor here in the UK, Robin Herne, has a skill set that I do not possess, and vice versa, so we complement each other very well. Robin is Course Leader in the Religion and Ethics Modular Degree Pathway at University Campus Suffolk, West Suffolk College, and has taught for many years as well as being a professional storyteller. His experience is invaluable to Druid College in so many ways.

We also have external tutors coming in to offer various workshops — this weekend we had local forager David Slate coming in to give us a foraging workshop in the beautiful venue setting, rich with diversity in its water meadows and river’s edge.

TWH: It looks like you run a tight ship on both sides of the pond, with three people in the USA and two in the UK. How many students do you think you can handle at one time? How many do you have registered?

JvdH: We currently have 13 students this year on our Year 1 programme, which is a nice number. Our current venue will not allow much more than that at one time, and as it is a student/apprentice programme, any more people joining would require more tutors in order to be able to offer them the time and teaching required in between the four weekends that we gather for study and discussion.

TWH: Are there differences in the program offered at the two schools? Could you describe what’s different, and explain why?

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

JvdH: We follow the same curriculum, so for instance in Year 1 we are both teaching: Core principles and teachings of Druidry, Living with Honour, Rooting in the Earth, Working with the Ancestors, Animism and the Spirits of Place, Listening and Druid meditation, Awen and the cycle of creativity, Working with the Nemeton, Developing Authentic Relationship, Inspiration and the Poetic arts, Storytelling and cultural heritage, The Cycle of Life and the “Wheel of the Year”, Working with the Gods/Deity, Anarchism and the end of Submission, Emotions and “riding the energies.”

The method in which this is delivered is pretty similar, with a combination of lectures and discussion, as well as incorporating ritual into the weekends. Our ritual for the beginning of Year 1 follows the same intention, though the “delivery” of it will, of course change depending upon certain variables such as venue, space, physical ability of participants, etc. Year 1 focuses on re-weaving our broken connection to the land, and also offers a basic foundation in the principles of Druidry.

Some of our students are members of various Druid orders, some have had no experience of Druidry and so we’re getting everyone on the same page with the basic concepts. At the moment, Druid College USA uses the four elements as guides for teaching on the weekends, while we use the concepts of Land, Sea and Sky with Sacred Fire at the centre. Similar outcome with a slightly different approach.

TWH: What does the Druid College UK provide that a student can’t get anywhere else at any price?

JvdH: I think this question is difficult to answer, because there are people and organisations teaching Druidry at all levels, both in offering guidance and in varying price ranges. At Druid College we provide physical teaching, as opposed to a correspondence course, with interactive weekends four times a year, plus a fifth weekend that comprises ritual and celebration at the end of Year 1. Druid College is both informative and experiential, and so you will be able to learn and try out what you have learned with others on the course in a guided setting.

Our intention with the three-year programme is to take people on a journey toward becoming a priest of nature, and this is perhaps what makes us different from other learning opportunities about Druidry. It is learning Druidry and then taking that next big step toward living a life in service. It is for those who want to do more, who feel called or who feel a deep responsibility toward this planet, promoting sacred relationship using whatever skills they have and all that they have learned and will continue to learn.

Second and third year students will receive specific guidance and teaching on how to be a Druid Priest, how to work in the modern world as one and what it means to live a life in service. They will learn essential skills for their work in a real “hands-on” approach, rather than just through book-learning. It is more akin to an apprenticeship, and so in Years 2 and 3 students will be able not only to receive teaching, but also opportunities to shadow us in our work for the community as Druid Priests to further inform their own path to living in service.

Druid College UK

Declaring one’s “chair” seems central to the program. Can you elaborate on what’s involved?

It is finding your place, both in the environment and in the community, and living a life in service, awake and integrated, fully realising that we are a part of the whole, of the natural world. It is using your skill sets and personal experience, combined with Druid teachings and a deep love, reverence and respect for nature, enabling one to work full integrated in the world, to be able to give back and enabling others to do the same. It is about inspiring relationship, being inspired by the world and inspiring in return a love and responsibility for this planet. Awake and aware to our soul truths, riding the currents of energy through the tides and times of the cycles of nature, the natural result leads us into a life in service to the environment, the community, the gods and the ancestors.

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Applications for the first year closed September 27, and this past weekend the students gathered as a group for the first time. For those who are disappointed that they missed out, the wheel of the year turns quickly: applications for this term were opened last February, so the time to sign up for next year should be only a few months away.

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“We expect a candidate to be bland, uninteresting … We pretend we want politicians who are honest or unconventional, someone who has not sold his soul to special interests. But as soon as that person arrives, we crucify him. Trying to understand him is the last thing on anyone’s mind.”  – U.S. Senate candidate Augustus Sol Invictus

Florida attorney Augustus Invictus is garnering national headlines in his run to replace Sen. Marco Rubio. Most of those headlines focus on or include sensationalized reports about him drinking the blood of a sacrificed goat. Mr. Invictus’ attempt to run as a Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF) candidate has also resulted in the resignation of the party’s chair and vice chair, both of whom protest the lack of LPF Executive Committee opposition to the possible candidate prior to the primary vote

In his resignation letter, former LPF Chair Adrian Wyllie alledged that Invitcus’ Thelema-inspired religious views, his name, and his stance on eugenics and future civil war make him an unfit Libertarian candidate. He wrote, “My strong opposition to him has put me in conflict with the LPF Executive Committee.”

The mainstream press is having a field day with some of the allegations and reader comments tend toward either mocking or open hostility. Is this a case of non-Pagans misunderstanding Pagan views and religious practices? Does religious bigotry play a role in some of these reactions? Or, are these allegations true?


The Wild Hunt takes a closer, interviewing Mr. Invictus and others involved. First, we’ll break down the allegations from Mr. Wyllie’s resignation letter.

Animal Sacrifice
This is the allegation which has captured the most reporter and reader attention. Wyllie states, “I would never disparage anyone on the basis of their religion. But, since Mr. Invictus cites his religion as the motivation for his violent intentions, I believe it must be scrutinized. Mr. Invictus practices Thelema, an occult pagan religion based on the teachings of Aleister Crowley. Mr. Invictus was ejected from Ordo Templi Orientis for brutally and sadistically dismembering a goat in a ritualistic sacrifice.”

While Invictus disputes he dismembered a goat he readily admits to sacrificing a goat in a ritual of thanksgiving, “What actually happened is that I undertook a religious Pilgrimage in the Spring of 2013, walking from Orlando, Florida to the Mojave Desert in California. I did not expect to survive the journey or the desert, and so I sacrificed a goat to the God of the Wilderness in thanksgiving some time later, after my return to Florida. But that does not grab the headlines quite as well as ‘Chairman resigns to protest animal sacrifice by Senate candidate,’ which is how this is being spun.”

As of publication date over 140 news articles have been published in the last 72 hours focusing on Invictus’ sacrifice of the goat. There are a number of religions that practice some form of ritual animal killing, slaughter or sacrifice. However, the mainstream press regularly treats all forms of ritual sacrifice as outlandish and barbaric. Many comments claim Invictus’ ritual killing of an animal makes him unfit to hold office, while others point out the hypocrisy of being horrified by animal sacrifice while dining on factory meat.


Some people have condemned the act as “Satanic witchcraft,” while others call for Invictus to be killed. If Invictus was a Muslim sacrificing a lamb during Hajj or a Jewish person sacrificng a rooster the day before Yom Kippur would the media coverage and reader reaction be different?

The Wild Hunt has covered the controversy surrounding animal sacrifice many times and even Pagans disagree about the ethics of the practice.

Many modern Pagans and Heathens shy away from — or are downright horrified by — the idea of animal sacrifice. Arguments against the practice generally come from a place of concern for the animals involved, or a fear that it would result in an “othering” by mainstream society. On the other hand, the sacrificial priests say that the practice is rooted in compassion and community, and that criticisms of their work reveal a fundamental disconnect with the food system, and perhaps a smoldering of racism as well.

Jeff Billman, a Libertarian Pagan, definitely believes that religious bigoty is in play here, both within the media coverage and in the allegations by Wyllie. In a Facebook post, Billman wrote:

 All the reasons that Adrian Wyllie tried to convince the Libertarian Party of Florida to take action against Augustus Invictus went unreported. Instead, Bay News 9 (the 24 hour cable news channel on Bright House Networks in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida) insinuated that Wyllie resigned because Invictus practices animal sacrifice. Despite the continued denials of his supporters, Adrian Wyllie is conducting a witch hunt against Pagan Libertarians, and this report proves it. I demand that the Libertarian Party of Florida take steps to censure Adrian Wyllie, and to make a statement that the Libertarian Party of Florida respects the religious beliefs of all, including Pagans. I will be making a formal motion to that effect with the Executive Committee of the Libertarian Party of Florida, once I ascertain Mr. Wyllie’s current membership status.

Wyllie has not only resigned as LPF Chair, but has also left the LPF Party. In a written interview, he told The Wild Hunt, “I was not familiar with Thelema specifically before this, but I am familiar with Paganism. I’m probably most familiar with Wicca, because I have some close friends that practice it. I have other friends who identify as Pagans, but not any specific order. I think a candidate’s religion is absolutely irrelevant. The only reason it became at all relevant with Mr. Invictus was because he used it as his justification for violence and starting a civil war. I strongly believe that his view of Paganism is completely warped, and that the overwhelming majority of Pagans are good, peaceful people who don’t share his apocalyptic visions. He doesn’t represent Pagans any more than a violent Jihadist represents Muslims.”

Ejection from Ordo Templi Orientis
Invictus posted a video of himself performing the sacrifice and said that he was expelled by the OTO shortly after for what he said were political reasons. The OTO Public Information Officer would only confirm that Augustus Sol Invictus has not been a member of Ordo Templi Orientis since November 9, 2013, and that the circumstances surrounding his expulsion are confidential.

Thelema is a religion based on the teachings of Aleister Crowley and has as its two main tenets: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and “Love is the law, love under will.” The goal of Thelemites is to discover their True Will, which is defined as “what they were meant to do on this earth.” Initiations of violence are generally frowned on in Thelema, while physical defense of individual rights is allowed. This is similar to the Non-Aggression Principle in Libertarian philosophy.


We spoke with author and Occultist James Wasserman about Invictus’ run for Senate and his alleged expulsion from OTO. Wasserman has been a member of OTO since 1976 and knows Invictus.” It is difficult to comment on this individual without understanding that he suffers from mental illness. We are repeatedly warned in the mystic teachings of the dangers of madness: ‘The mystic swims in the same waters in which the psychotic drowns.’ ”

Wasserman goes on to explain, “The unrestrained plunge into the Abyss comes through attachment to the Ego. In the Star Wars story, Luke hears Obi-Wan calling upon him to trust “The Force.” Such ancient myths, translated into modern cinema, can retain their truth when skillfully told. Augustus Sol Invictus pursues his fantasy life on YouTube with phony accents, unbalanced rants, and even despicable acts of violence. Anyone contemplating taking him seriously should first ask him to remove the password protection from his YouTube video of a goat sacrifice. If you find him acceptable after that, go in peace. While some of his written political philosophy may contain some coherence, we would expect no less from one who was once sane enough to earn a law degree. To pretend that the teachings of the Law of Thelema justify his behavior or his opinions besmirches Truth with the tarnish of delusion, egomania, and narcissism. I am sorry to witness his fall. At one point, I believed he might have had some potential.”

Changing His Name
Wyllie said that “Even the legally-changed name he chose for himself is revealing. August Sol Invictus is Latin, and translates to ‘The Unconquerable Sun God’ ” He sites this as another reason that Invictus is unfit to be a Libertarian candidate. His name was also joked about in reader comments attached to articles.

Although Invictus primarily calls himself Pagan, those close to him say he is a Roman Reconstructionist, or a person looking to revive the religion of ancient Rome. Similar to how Pagans may have a Craft name, converts to other religions will sometimes change their name to reflect their new religious identity. For example, it’s not an uncommon for those converting to Islam, and it is not considered egotistical to change that name to that of their Prophet, Mohammed. Changing your name to Augustus Sol Invictus may be an indicator of an inflated self worth and a desire to rule over others, or it may be a sincere sign of devotion to a specific God.

Advocating Violence and Civil War
One of the more troubling allegations for many within the Libertarian Party is Invictus’ interest in inciting a second civil war. Wyllie said, “Mr. Invictus has repeatedly vowed that it is his destiny to start a second civil war in America. In a 2013 memo to his colleagues, he wrote, ‘I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War, I would begin it myself.’ ”  This memo was published by Above the Law in 2013.

Wyllie also has claimed that, in a private, face-to-face meeting, he asked Invictus directly, “Do you actually intend to kill millions of people and start a civil war?” Wyllie said that his answer was, “It’s my religion.” Invictus remembers the conversation differently. He said that they were talking about transhumanism and Nietzsche and the idea that mankind must be overcome.

In our interview, Wyllie directed us to a video created by Invictus titled Give Me A War. Wyllie cites this as an example of Invictus intentions. When we asked Invictus about the video, he said that it was a poem made several years ago. He explained, “This is in reference to the poem Seven Seals, which Wyllie has taken upon himself to rename to Give Me a War, in keeping with his dishonest tactics. Seven Seals is a poem and an Enochian invocation, not a call for a civil war. The original recitation can be found here.” He added that these videos are poetry readings and have nothing to do with his stance as a political candidate.



This is the allegation which appears to disturb the LPF Executive Committee the most. Wyllie claims that Invictus supports a return to a government supported eugenics program, which would sterilize, euthanize or forcibly abort ‘the weakest, the least intelligent, and the most diseased.’

This particular allegation also appears to strike the strongest nerve among Thelemites, many of whom expressed private outrage while refusing to make comments on the record.

When we asked Invictus directly if he supports eugenics, as alleged by Wyllie, he said, “I do not support a eugenics program, and this is a bold faced lie by Wyllie. This was addressed in one of my first Fireside Chats. Wyllie has heard me say a hundred times that I do not support a eugenics program, and he knows all the reasons why; but he also knows that in ceaselessly repeating this allegation he does not need to argue about it. It reminds me of a statement attributed to Joseph Goebbels: ‘If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.’ ”

However, Invictus’ Senate campaign website contains conflicting information on this subject. In a blog post titled “A Declaration on the Failings of the Federal Government,” bullet point number 25 states:

It has abandoned its eugenics program & elitist mindset in favor of decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength and demands the exponential growth of the weakest, least intelligent, and the most diseased.

Yet in the site’s FAQ section, Invictus notes that, while he wrote a paper in support of eugenics during law school, he has since changed his mind and regrets writing it. He asserts that a portion of the U.S.eugenics program is still legal today and that “no ruler or group of bureaucrats should have that sort of power over another person” and calls forced sterilization an “abuse of power.”

General Policy Positions
In looking at Invictus’ campaign website, his actual policy positions are much less controversial. He is against the drug war, constant war, government bans on same sex marriage, firearms, and marijuana. He departs from typical Libertarian policies on supporting government protection of the environment and for FDA regulations.

Other portions of his website reveal a candidate who is far from the “bland” or “uninteresting ,” as Invictus says voters expect. Many of his fireside chats have him affecting an accent that is difficult to place. He describes himself as a poet, artist, and a scholar. In one featured video, Invictus says that he wants “you to revolt…I want you to be dangerous…I want each and every one of you to be a legitimate threat…I don’t want you to vote so much as I want you to wake up, drop out and tune in, I want you to take LSD and practice sorcery.”

 *   *   *

On Sunday, the LPF took action, considering two motions concerning Invictus. The first motion proposed expelling him from the party. That motion failed. The second motion called for the LPF to formally condemn Invictus for violating the Non-Aggression Principle. That motion carried.

The LPF put out this statement on Monday. It reads, in part: 

During yesterday’s meeting of its Executive Committee, the Libertarian Party of Florida (LPF) voted to condemn platform issues associated with U.S. Senate candidate, Augustus Invictus. The LPF finds the initiation of violence through his call for civil war and state-sponsored murder abhorrent. These platform issues are diametrically opposed to the principles of the LPF.

Char-Lez Braden, chair of the LPF said this morning, “Legally, the LPF has no control over a candidate’s political affiliation. Florida election laws allow anyone, with any ideology, to run as a candidate in the party they declared when registering to vote. The LPF has not endorsed Augustus Invictus and has not provided him with any support. Under the law, we cannot prevent him from running as a Libertarian and he is not required to enter our certification process.”

Currently, Invictus is the only candidate seeking to run as a Libertarian for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. Even though Florida election law allows anyone to run, as noted in the statement, his inclusion on the ballot as a third party candidate is not assured. To be listed on the ballot itself, Invictus needs to gather 100,000 signatures or pay $10,000.

At this point, Florida voters and LPF members will have to decide for themselves if Invictus is a candidate worthy of support, or if his views, past or present, are problematic. At the same time it appears that the ways in which much of the media are covering the story, with a focus on animal sacrifice to near exclusion of many of the other allegations and concerns, demonstrates unexamined religious bias. In addition, the general public’s reaction to these reports, as seen in various comments, suggests the same stark religious bigotry – one that could cause tension and problems for any Pagan politician in a run for public office.

We will continue to follow the story and update our readers as it develops.

*   *   *

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badger heraldOn Sept. 28, the Badger Herald, a University of Wisconsin, student-run newspaper, published an article detailing their experience at Madison Area Pagan Pride Day (MAPPD). Traditionally, PPD coordinators welcome journalists, student or otherwise, to their events. In fact, it is one of the outreach objectives of the entire international PPD project. Writers are invited to participate with the hopes of a published article serving to educate the local community.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Badger Herald article, titled “I spent my Saturday praising the gods of old at Madison’s Pagan Pride Day,” the outcome wasn’t exactly what PPD organizers or attendees would have expected or wanted. Student Aaron Hathaway described his experience: “The attendees appeared to be sourced exclusively from the bulk quinoa sections of various organic co-ops around Madison … If I were asked to define Paganism based simply on my experiences at this event, I would guess it’s a mixture of viking roleplay, animism and ethnically ambiguous arts and crafts…

Hathaway’s attempt at tongue-in-cheek humor did not amuse Pagan readers who happened to stumble upon the article. Several PPD attendees criticized his ethics, saying that he never introduced himself as a journalist or asked to take photos – a standard and often necessary courtesy at all Pagan events. Circle Sanctuary members were in attendance and confirmed this to be the case.

Since the article’s publication, Rev. Selena Fox and Circle Magazine‘s Florence Edwards-Miller have met with MAPPD coordinator Jessica Maus. They are turning this unfortunate circumstance into a “teachable moment.” Fox said, “I have had a series of phone meetings with administrators at the University of Wisconsin, including the Office of Equity and Diversity in central administration as well as with administrative advisors in the School of Journalism. I also have reached out to the student editor of the Badger Herald to discuss the situation. Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League see this as an opportunity to turn concerns we have heard about this article into a teaching moment for students, faculty, staff, and administrators and the University of Wisconsin system as a whole.

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CPWR-150x150The Parliament of the World Religions is close at hand, and we will be sharing a look at what Pagans and Heathens can expect from their experience. But today we focus on a recent announcement by the Council. The organization has published the names and bios for the keynote speakers in the Emerging Leaders category.

The diverse list of young speakers includes EarthSpirit Community’s own Isobel Arthen. The article says, “Isobel Arthen is an environmental activist, organizer and trainer. She grew up in a community with an understanding of the Earth as sacred. That spiritual perspective has driven her to make change in the world, particularly around issues of climate justice.”

Arthen is the daughter of Andras Corban-Arthen and Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, and has grown up around the Parliament experience and interfaith work, in general. The upcoming event in Salt Lake City will not be her first. During this year’s festivities, Arthen is attending as a representative of the PeaceJam Foundation and member of the Emerging Leaders Task Force. She will be speaking together with the other listed youth leaders.

*    *    *

txlclogoTexas Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess, regularly offers basic classes in Wicca. However, this fall, organizers are trying something new – diversity education. The organization, based in Dallas, is hosting a free community outreach event titled, “Let’s Make a Difference!” They have invited Dr. Beth Fawcett, PhD, MPH., a local professor of sociology who “specializes in race and ethnicity courses. She credits her students for inspiring her to step outside the classroom to promote diversity and social justice.”

During this daylong event, Dr. Fawcett will lead a Privilege Walk. The announcement reads, “Be a part of this powerful experience that helps us recognize in a very personal way how power and privilege affect our lives, even when we are not aware of it. … join us after the walk as Dr. Fawcett leads a discussion and presentation on diversity and racism.

Held at the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church, the event will include vendors, a Unity ritual, BBQ, and a raffile with prizes. All donations and money gathered will be given directly to the organization Black Trans Advocacy. “Let’s Make a Difference” will be held on Nov 14 from 10 am – 4 pm.

In Other News:

  • California’s Adocentyn Library has announced its first Friends of the Library meeting. R. Dean Jones writes, “We are gathering to assemble a group of like-minded people to help the Adocentyn Research Library.” The purpose of this group will be to provide the needed organizational support for the building, maintaining and growing of this unique facility. Adocentyn is located in Albany, California. The meeting will be held on Nov. 15 at 5:30 pm.
  • In an article for South Africa’s Penton Independent Alternative Media, Arias Fåglar talks about South Coast Pagan Moots. She details how the popular moots got started and how local people can join the fun. “In May 2015 we all met at the local baker’s shop, Lilly’s Bread Bin, in Margate for Bunnies and Beer. And that’s where it all started to go well for us …” The group has been meeting regularly ever since and is hosted by KZN Pagan Network. Since developing and attending these moots, Fåglar said, “We discovered our own bit of magic.”
  • Get your new Witches Almanac. The latest edition of The Witches Almanac is now available. The publication has been in print, in some format, since 1971 and was established by Elizabeth Pepper. The almanac contains “pictorial and explicit delineations of magical phases of the moon” along with short articles covering “various aspects of occult knowledge.” This new edition covers spring 2016 to spring 2017 and, as noted in yesterday’s article, contains Pope Francis’ astrological chart.
  • Humanistic Paganism has begun a new project. The editors are putting together a book called “Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans.” To do this, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $687 dollars to cover publishing costs. The goal was met in just 2 days. The new book will contain the “writings of atheist and other non-theistic Pagans.” Editors have also put out a call for submissions on the topic. And, as a side note, The Wild Hunt would like to personally thank the Humanistic Paganism editors and readers in advance. All donations earned above the goal of $687 will be donated to The Wild Hunt fund drive
  • Prairie Land Pagan Radio (PLPR) has a new home. The online station is now completely owned by Prairie Land Productions LLC, which supports both PLPR and Prairie Land Entertainment. The announcement came over the weekend. Broadcaster Lynn Williams writes, “I will be broadcasting at an earlier time both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1 PM CDT I am open to bookings from pagan musicians, artists, authors, bands, singer/songwriters, crafters etc….. If you are planning an event … I want to hear from you!

That is it for now. Have a great day and remember to support your journalists!

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Over the past few weeks, the international media has followed Pope Francis as he journeys to the United States and other places. At times, it seemed as if his activities were all there was to talk about. Mariane, a member of France’s Ásatrú community, voiced her frustrations when she said “My man likes watching the news on television. Today he went into our room to do so… [Then] I saw him coming out of the room. He said ‘Pfff, it’s about the Pope again. Sometimes using the remote control just isn’t enough.’ ” She added, “I wish the Pope a long life. A very long life. TV news broadcasts about a lot of people watching a chimney and waiting for it to emit smoke of the right colour is just sooooo booooring…”

Pope in Philadelphia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

Pope in Philadelphia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

Mariane’s opinion is just one of the many that have been circulating through our collective communities during this time. In reaction to his public letter on climate change, the Pope was recently called “pagan” by conservatives. On Sept 18, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that, at a news conference, Gene Koprowski, marketing director of the Heartland Institute said, “What is environmentalism but nature worship?” Koprowski specifically used the term “pagan” in another statement.

Interestingly, there are some Pagans who have also called him “pagan-like,” not for his religious views, but for his positions on climate change, capitalism and world poverty. Since the release of the Papal Encyclical, a number of articles have been punished applauding the Pope for his seemingly progressive rhetoric. Jason Mankey writes “I love Pope Francis.” John Halstead, the director behind the Pagan Statement on the Environment, explained in a Huffington Post, article “what Pagans and the Pope have in common.” John Beckett writes, “The Pope Gets it.”  And, the most recent edition of The Witches Almanac includes his horoscope.

At the same time, the Church has also been accused of simply running a high-takes publicity campaign to bring its flock to the fold, or convert others. Halstead recently published another Huffington Post article titled, “Why the Pope Is Not Pagan.” And, as is reported by a number of Catholic news sources, the Pope has used the term “pagan” himself to describe non-believers and those Christians who don’t really practice. He called these people “enemies of the cross.” And, what is all this about Kim Davis?

These debates and discussions on Papal authenticity and authority, the Church’s true goal, and its global socio-political role abound. In the wake of this media frenzy, The Wild Hunt decided to reach out to Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists living around the world to collect a viewpoints on this intriguing and headline-generating Catholic leader. How much do you pay attention to his whereabouts and his rhetoric? Should we pay attention at all? Are his actions legitimately progressive or just part of some modern Church publicity stunt?

From the Pope visit to Philadelphia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

Priests giving communion on the streets of Philadephia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

Not everybody answered our call or wanted to weigh-in. But the responses that we did receive are as varied as the lands and cultures our interviewees came from. Here is what they said … (When appropriate responses are provided in both English and the original language of origin.)

Finland: Tuula Muukka, practitioner of Suomenusko and a representative of the Finnish Pagan Network

“The Pope is rarely mentioned in the discussions of Finnish pagans, because our country is Evangelical Lutheran, and we focus on being heard alongside the state church in issues like religious education. Because of this, we don’t usually hear what the Pope does – it is not considered important enough to be covered by our news channels. When we do hear something, people are sometimes surprised and comment ‘Is there still someone who thinks like that?’ This is true especially on issues concerning sex and sexuality, because these matters are discussed very openly in Finland. For example, last year we passed a law allowing same-sex marriages.

“Since the Pope has a lot of power elsewhere in the world, we should pay more attention to what he says and does. However, this remains the task of the active few who follow news on him via the internet, and even then it seems that few people are really interested in hearing about him.”

[Translation: Paavi mainitaan harvoin suomalaisten pakanoiden keskusteluissa, koska maamme on evankelis-luterilainen ja keskitymme siihen, että tulemme kuulluiksi valtionkirkon rinnalla sellaisissa kysymyksissä kuin uskonnonopetus. Tästä syystä emme tavallisesti kuule, mitä paavi tekee – sitä ei pidetä tarpeeksi tärkeänä, jotta uutiskanavat kertoisivat aiheesta. Kun sitten kuulemme jotakin, ihmiset ovat joskus hämmästyneitä ja kommentoivat: “Onko vielä olemassa joku, joka ajattelee noin?” Näin tapahtuu etenkin sukupuoli- ja seksuaalisuuskysymyksissä, koska näistä keskustellaan Suomessa hyvin avoimesti. Esimerkiksi viime vuonna hyväksyttiin laki, joka sallii mennä naimisiin samaa sukupuolta olevan kanssa.

Koska paavilla on muualla maailmassa paljon valtaa, meidän pitäisi kiinnittää enemmän huomiota siihen, mitä hän sanoo ja tekee. Tämä jää kuitenkin niiden harvojen aktiivien tehtäväksi, jotka seuraavat hänestä kertovia uutisia internetin kautta, ja silti näyttää siltä, että harvat ihmiset ovat todella kiinnostuneita kuulemaan hänestä.]

Russia: Gwiddon Harvester, Moscow resident and the national coordinator for PFI-Russia

“I am convinced that Pagans definitely should pay attention to what the Pope says. Regardless of what he may actually think himself, he is a mouthpiece for an organization that represents over 1 billion people in the world. Although we may not agree on religious doctrine, if the Pope touches on issues that are important to us, like the environment, we should listen to what he has to say and if we agree, support him on those particular issues. While at the same time retaining the right to criticize those statements and policies, which we, as Pagans, do not support.”

[Я убежден в том, что язычникам следует прислушиваться к словам Папы Римского. Вне зависимости от его личных убеждений, Папа Римский служит рупором организации, представляющей более миллиарда жителей нашей планеты. Несмотря на то, что мы никогда не согласимся с его религиозными доктринами, если Папа Римский затрагивает важные нам темы – например, защиту окружающей среду, нам следует поддержать его по этим конкретным позициям. В то же время у нас остается право критиковать те заявления Папы Римского, с которыми мы не можем согласиться.]

France: Babette Petiot, a Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside

“As a Pagan I don’t pay much attention to the Catholic Pope. It’s not my religion, and I really don’t share his teachings about women’s reproductive rights, about marriage for everyone and equal rights to adopt children, about LGTB+ people…And those are just a few topics. But I believe keeping an eye on what leaders of other religious movements are saying is a wise thing to do because sometimes we can agree.”

[En tant que païenne je ne m’intéresse pas vraiment au pape catholique, ce n’est pas ma religion et je ne partage vraiment pas ses enseignements sur les droits reproductifs des femmes, sur le mariage pour tous et les mêmes droits pour adopter des enfants, sur les gens LGTB+…Et là, je ne cite que quelques exemples. Mais je crois que garder un oeil sur ce que les leaders des autres mouvements religieux ont à dire peut être une chose avisée à faire car parfois on est d’accord.]

Germany: Konrad Reinhold, a Historiker, Wiccan, living in Chemnitz/Deutschland

Of course, we can support Pope Francis in his demands to fight against poverty, against capitalism or for the protection of nature. We must not forget that he is an ideal for millions of people in this world. If we can share his goals – why not support him? On the other hand whe don’t need his opinion in especially Pagan questions. I don’t need the confirmation of the Catholic Church to live my religion. It’s enough for me to live peacefully and without tension within my Christian neighbour. Therefore I don’t need the Pope.

[Natürlich können wir Papst Franziskus unterstützen, wenn er für die gleichen Ziele eintritt wie wir – den Kampf gegen Armut und Kapitalismus oder gegen die fortwährende Zerstörung unserer Umwelt. Wir dürfen nicht vergessen, dass er ein Vorbild für Millionen von Menshcen auf diesem Planeten ist. Wenn wir seine Ziele teilen können – warum sollten wir ihn nict unterstützen? Andererseits bedürfen wir seiner meinung nicht, wenn es um spezifisch heidnische Angelegenheiten geht. Ich brauche nicht irgendeine Bestätigung von Seiten der katholischen Kirche, wenn es um meinen Glauben. Mir reicht es friedlich und unverkrmpft mit meinem christlichen Nachbarn zusammenzuleben. Dafür benötige ich den Papst nicht.]

South Africa: Damon Leff, former director of South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), editor of Penton Independent Alternative Media

“I personally believe, given the very long and painful history of criminal acts committed by the Catholic Church and its repeated denials of guilt and refusal to honestly atone for many of these sins, that this Church has no moral standing to pontificate on any subject at all, to anyone … This Pope would impress me more if he were actually changing Church doctrine and position, rather than just offering us his own liberal personal opinions on subjects his Church has and does disagree with in action.”

Australia: Michelle Claire White, Pagan Awareness Network (PAN) Media Officer

“Modern Pagans express the whole spectrum of social and political opinions and therefore any interest in the latest Pope or that of any of his predecessors will be a highly personal matter … With the current state of our ecological crisis and a need for humans to radically shift our perspectives and relationships with the natural world … it seems to me that it is important to pay attention to the attitudes being presented by mainstream religious traditions such as Catholicism to watch for shifts in opinion that may cause widespread changes on a range of levels.

“Earlier this year members from the [PAN] including myself responded to the Pope’s release of the encyclical on the environment by participating in an international collaboration, producing a Pagan statement on the environment. We felt as a community there is need to present a response from the point of view of Earth based religious traditions to compliment mainstream monotheism … It was an opportunity for our community to stand together, to find common ground and open the way for interfaith dialogue that is an essential component of the response to the ecological crisis.”

Thailand: Atiwan Kongsorn, Bangkok resident and co-owner of Ace of Cups Witch Cafe

“Pagan should pay attention to him. Not as an old enemy, but as a leader of another spiritual path. They have their own wisdom and so do we. Isn’t it better to share them?”

[เพแกนควรที่จะให้ความใส่ใจในองค์พระสันตะปาปา ไม่ใช่ในฐานะโจทก์เก่า แต่ในฐานะผู้นำทางจิตวิญญาณหนทางหนึ่งที่ต่างจากเรา พวกเขามีปรีชาญาณของเขา และเราก็มีปรีชาญาณในแบบของเรา ถ้าหากเราสามารถแบ่งปันให้แก่กันได้ จะไม่ดีกว่าหรือ]

Israel: Illy Ra, a Kemetic Pagan living in Beer Sheva and coordinator of PAEAN

“While I appreciate the Pope’s call for action on climate change, I can’t help but to wonder if beside the speeches the Vatican takes any actions within it? For example, changing the process Papal conclave that involves massive air pollution, as black smoke continues to come out from a chimney in the Sistine Chapel until the cardinals reach a decision about the new selected pope that is then signaled with white smoke. Therefore, besides being dazzled by the speeches, it’s merely a tale of hypocrisy regarding to the risk of the climate change.”

[בזמן שיש להעריך את יוזמתו של האפיפיור לפעול בנוגע לסכנות הנובעות משינויי האקלים, נותרת התהייה באם הוותיקן נוקט בפעילויות כלשהן למזער אותן מלבד נאומיו של האפיפיור? למשל, החלטה לשנות את מהלך טקס בחירת האפיפיור שמתרחש בו זיהום אוויר חמור, טקס זה כולל עשן שחור שיוצא מארובה בקפלה הסיס טינית עד שהקרדינלים מגיעים להסכמה לגבי בחירתו של האפיפיור החדש שמסומלת על ידי עשן לבן. על כן, חשוב להפעיל חשיבה ביקורתית ולא להסתנוור מהנאומים היפים, מכיוון שסיפור זה מהווה חלק מהצביעות החברתית המתרחשת סביב הנושא של נזקי שינויי האקלים.]

Locals offering prayer petitions in Philadelphia during Pope's visit [Photo Credit: E. DuPree]

Locals offering prayer petitions in Philadelphia during Pope’s visit [Photo Credit: E. DuPree]

Costa Rica: Esteban Sevilla Quiros, goði for Kindred Irminsul

“So far, he has been the nicest of all the Popes I’ve seen, many of his comments promote tolerance and maybe as Pagans we can agree with him on several points that don’t reflect the traditional and dogmatic Catholicism. I must also admit that I don’t agree with him on everything, since many of the ideas of Christianity are things that we as Pagans and Heathens oppose. But so far, I could say he is someone I could shake hands with, respectfully.”

[Por el momento, él ha sido el mejor de los Papas que he visto, muchos de sus comentarios promueven la tolerancia y como paganos podemos estar de acuerdo con él en varios puntos que no reflejan el catolicismo dogmático y tradicional. También debo admitir que no estoy de acuerdo con él en todo, ya que muchas de las ideas del cristianismo son cosas que nos oponemos como paganos y etenistas . Pero hasta el momento, creo que es alguien a quien le podría dar la mano, respetuosamente.]

Canada: Sable Aradia, a Wiccan Priestess, author and blogger at sablearadia.com

“There are more than a billion Catholics in the world, so there is no denying that the Pope’s opinion matters. Here in Canada 46% of our population are baptized Catholics, so perhaps it makes more of a difference here than in other places. Pope Francis is proving to be a champion of liberal values that I consider to be integral to *my* Paganism, which is likely to encourage a climate of open-mindedness; and that can never be a disadvantage to us, since we are essentially a counter-cultural movement. And since the anti-Capitalist movement is significant among some Pagans and Polytheists right now, and the Pope appears to be somewhat of an anti-Capitalist, we may find that, ironically, some of our political views align.”

United States:Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried, Galina Krasskova, Erick Dupree, and Dana Eilers

Dr. Karl E. H. SeigfriedThe Norse Mythology Blog 
“Catholic clergy and organizations continue to deeply involve themselves in American politics, while members of minority faiths such as Heathenry are denied any access to the same corridors of power that have been so willingly thrown open to Pope Francis. It’s odd that the leader of one denomination of one religion spends so much time giving lectures on right behavior to the billions of us from other traditions, instead of focusing on issues within his own faith community. At the end of the confrontational and conservative papacy of Benedict, the Vatican brought in Greg Burke of Fox News for a concerted public relations campaign to portray the Church as a progressive and welcoming organization. The projected image and the lived reality are out of sync. The relentless barrage of quotable quotes by Francis have effectively distracted attention from sexual abuse of children by priests and cover-ups by leadership as well as from the Church’s stance against ordination of women, its opposition to marriage equality and its fight against reproductive rights. While I appreciate the pope’s statements on environmental concerns and societal treatment of the poor, a few inspirational speeches do not outweigh the ongoing deeds of those who control the organization he represents.”

Galina Krasskova, blogger and author
“I like Pope Francis. I think he’s a breath of fresh air for the Catholic Church, at least when viewed in light of his predecessors. That doesn’t mean that I agree with him on everything. I think  he could use definite improvement on issues of women and LGBT rights within the church (in this way he’s a traditionalist or perhaps caught in the trap of traditional church structures and orthodoxy) but I admire his commitment to engaging with the poor. He’s walking his talk there and I think that is inspiring. Moreover, Paganisms and Polytheisms are still religions of converts and many of those converts come from Catholicism. Seeing a seemingly ethical person holding this position, one who shares concern about the environment, about social justice, may be one more step in healing old and sometimes grievous wounds. More importantly, our religions don’t exist in a vacuum. I think it’s very important, especially now with the state the world is in, to be religiously literate, and to keep abreast of changes and happenings in the religious world, even if it’s not our religion. That being said, I do wish he had not canonized Junipero Serra. It betrayed a serious disregard for indigenous peoples and the history of their oppression by the catholic church.”

Erick DuPree, blogger, author and Philadelphia Resident
Personally the Pope doesn’t impress me, but did I expected something? The Papal Visit was a ‘nonevent” for the residents of Philadelphia. The city sadly drove out most residents, and except for the Papal area, it was a ghost town, which personally as an introvert, I loved. Unfortunately, what we had was the feeling of a police state with check points, armed police and military, as well as a giant internment camp style fence, instead of “love, service, justice and peace.” The modified public transit, school closures, and shutdown highways, impacted working families who suffering most. It seemed that the Papal message about charity fell on deaf ears as the homeless were left without shelter access due to security systems, and the cities need to “clean up the image.” Apparently, the commerce also suffered, as the tourists did not reportedly spend any money in restaurants or shops. What could have been at least touristy, if not somewhat amazing (because after all, Pagan or not how often will you get to see a Pope in your lifetime?) I found it all rather ‘meh.’ ”

Philadelphia during Pope visit [Photo Credit: E. DuPree]

Philadelphia during Pope visit [Photo Credit: E. DuPree]

Dana Eilers, lawyer and author of Pagans and the Law
“First, should Pagans be concerned with the Pope religiously and/or spiritually? No. The Catholic Church and its doctrine are no friends of ours and never have been.  Recent niceties are just that: nice …

“Second, should Pagans be concerned with the Pope politically? This depends on one’s politics and whether one believes that the Pope can move the political needle anywhere. This might be possible in countries that are predominantly Catholic and which lean toward keeping their civil law in line with Church canon, but that is certainly not the United States…

“Third, should Pagans be concerned with this Pope from a historical viewpoint? Well, he did come and address the United States Congress. This was a first and therefore, it was pretty big news … Shortly thereafter, Speaker Boehner announced his plans to surrender the Speakership and retire from Congress completely. Coincidence? So, this Pope does seem to be having an concrete impact on modern history. Therefore, yes, we should pay attention, if only for this.

“Fourth and finally, should Pagans be concerned with this Pope from a cultural viewpoint? He commands more media attention than Hurricane Katrina and although I have no need to know whom he kisses while en route to mass, this is apparently a matter of great concern to our media. He is everywhere on television, in print, and on the internet. It would be wise to follow news of the Pope, if only marginally, because he is saying some things that sound really wonderful, even if he is not changing Church doctrine.”

Eilers comment above is only a very short summary of her words. Read it in full here. Eilers goes on to note the discrepancies between the Pope’s words, actions and Church doctrine. “He is thanking nuns, but women still are not admitted into the Priesthood and are not in line to become part of the Church power structure … This Pope does not feel that he, personally, can judge homosexuals, but homosexual marriage is still not sanctified by the Church …”

These inconsistencies are problematic for many of the people we interviewed, along with the notion that the Pope is now newly supporting concepts that have been long known or taught outside the Church for decades and even centuries. Eilers said, “According to this Pope, dogs might actually have souls and thus, enjoy the after life with us poor, miserable humans. This seems to be big news to the Pope, but we Pagans have pretty much known this since Man domesticated the wolf. And we will not even discuss cats.”

Pope Francis will undoubtedly continue to generate interest, and headlines, in many communities throughout the world. His position as the representative of a huge portion of the world’s population cannot be understated. However, as directly expressed by Leff, the key sticking point for our collective interviewees is mainly centered on action or lack thereof.

Within Pope Francis’ speeches, we may find, as non-Catholics, some of his ideas agreeable. However will these words be followed-up by action? Will the Church, as a whole, support its reportedly progressive leader and enact real world change or institutional change? Will Pope Francis use his global voice and position of power to support progress, environmental or otherwise, for the betterment of all humanity regardless of belief; rather than exclusively for those that serve and follow that one single institution and one single man?

[Editor’s Note: all opinions expressed in the article above are personal and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of associated organizations]

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