standing rock logoCANNONBALL, N.D. – It was announced Sunday that the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. The corps will be researching an alternative route. In response to the welcomed news, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

Chairman Archambault also thanked “everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause” from the youth who initiated the movement, to volunteers who visited the camps, other tribes, and supporters around the globe.

With the help of Pagan activist Casey McCarthy, who has been back and forth to Standing Rock over the past few months, we gathered several reactions to the news. In a Facebook post activist Payu Harris said, “This is a short term delay … nothing…the corps only said they would not grant the easement for the remainder of this administration that means the Trump administration can (and will I’m sure) fast-track the easement as promised.”

Longer responses are in the following links, including reactions from Solar Cross Temple, Union Labor Camp leader Cliff Wilmeng, Lakota Tribe member Tiffany, and Pagan activist Jenn Wedgle.  In her response, Tiffany writes, “I view the Vets who arrived at home on Standing Rock as our living armor, our living weapons. Not weapons of destruction but weapons of peace and safety.” She then begs them to stay,”I ask that out of fear of history once again repeating itself because ETP responded that today’s decision means nothing to them.”

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5810423235_f121e14f28_bGATLINBURG, Tenn. — As we reported Thursday, the city of Gatlinburg was engulfed in flames after a mountaintop fire spread through the mountain resort community. The area is home to many Pagans and other like-minded people, including the popular band Tuatha Dea, and the well-known festival spaces of Dragonshire and Cerren Ered.

As has been reported since, Tuatha Dea is back in business. Band leader Danny Mulliken reported that he was able to return to his home Sunday, saying, ” [We are] back to writing and prepping to pay back with the new CD! Full speed ahead.” He added that the band has already written a song inspired by what happened. It is aptly named, “Appalachia Burning.” Band member Tesea Dawson has raised nearly $2,500 to help the city’s children.

Similarly, the Valley of the Dragons community was reportedly untouched by the fires. However, as priestess Jewels Wyldwomyn reported, a visiting crew of Alaskan firefighters has been patrolling the area, and that helicopters were flying regularly overhead. With gratitude, the owners of Cerren Ered wrote, “The Valley of Dragons remains safe and healthy. Thanks and gratitude to family. This entire experience as shown a great outpouring of love and care for each other. Folks in the VotD have gone out of their way to offer aid to each other, the emergency and forestry service workers, and to others in the local community.”

Currently Gatlinburg is still closed, but they expect to open soon. According to the latest reports, there are 150 people still in shelters; the death toll is now at 14 and the injured stand at 130. The fire burned a reported 1,700 structures and 17,000 acres.

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operation-circle-care-logoBARNEVELD, Wis. — Circle Sanctuary is once again running its annual Operation Circle Care (OCC). This is the 10th anniversary of this Yuletide program, and Circle is looking for assistance. In 2006, the program began as a way to send gifts “to military Pagans stationed in areas where ritual supplies and access to Pagan community were limited.”

This year, in lieu of packages, the organization will be sending out commemorative patches to those on active duty. “This is our way of giving thanks for our Pagan service persons,” said Rev. Fox. To offset the costs of this program, the patches will also be available for purchase.

To assist in the program, OOC coordinators Jeanet and David Ewing as asking that the Pagan community send in the names of those on active duty and, if possible, donate to the program directly or purchase a patch. David Ewing said, “I hope that our community can come together this year and help us send this beautiful token of appreciation to every Pagan currently serving. I know it will mean a great deal to them.” For more information, they direct interested people to the program’s website.

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oakland_sealOAKLAND, Calif. — The city of Oakland was shaken after learning that a fire had broken out in a warehouse during a crowded Friday night party. Investigators are still uncertain what caused this fire, now being called one of the deadliest in U.S.history. The death toll stands at 36, and there are still people missing.

Several members of Come As You Are Coven (CAYA) attended vigils and memorials at the local site. One of its members was interviewed on local news. We will have more on this story in the coming days.

In Other News

  • Hellenion, a US-based religious organization “dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism,” has relaunched its ritual group, or “Proto-Demos,” in Delaware. On its new website, the Delmarva Nikephoros Proto-Demos states, “emphasizes our respect for the Hellenic Deities and Mysteries, our ancestors and our past, the principle of inclusiveness, and an ethical code inspired by the Delphic Maxims.”
  • In associate with his new documentary Call of the Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom of Treesfilmmaker Jeff McKay has launched an associated crowdfunding campaign to raise money and awareness toward the protection of the world’s forests. McKay is the husband of Wild Hunt writer and filmmaker Dodie Graham McKay. His film “features scientist and acclaimed author Diana Beresford-Kroeger as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests.” At this point, the film can only be seen in limited showings throughout Canada, but is available in DVD format through the IndieGoGo campaign. The money raised will fund an educational program in Canada and the U.S. starting in March, 2017.
  • Along similar lines, the newly formed Pagan Environmental Alliance and the Florida-based Palm Beach Pagans group, along with the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, are organizing an environmental conference to be held Jan. 28. The event’s focus will be on spiritual activism in the region. The group is currently looking for keynote speakers and panelists.
  • In late 2015, Lynn and Will Rowan produced a Yuletide music CD with Pagan themes.The CD, titled Sing the Sun’s Return: Wassails and Carols for Yuletide, is back out making the rounds for a second season. “This CD offers an alternative to mainstream holiday music, informed by folk customs, animist spirituality, and the revived worship of ancient deities.”

UNITED KINGDOM — On Oct. 6 this year, the British Government granted fracking company Cuadrilla permission to begin operations at two sites in Lancashire (north-west England). This decision, taken by Business Secretary Sajid Javid, overturned a previous decision made by the Lancashire County Council to grant permission at just one of the two proposed sites.

Under the banner of Frack Free Lancashire, a coalition of local anti-fracking groups has formed. Included in the coalition is the inimitable mothers and grandmothers group The Nanas. Nana is a British colloquialism for grandmother and frequently used in the north-west of England.The Nanas used this term because they wanted to invoke the spirit of the typical Lancastrian matriarch synonymous with the county.

Frack Free Lancashire Demonstration [Courtesy Photo]

Frack Free Lancashire Demonstration [Courtesy Photo]

Among the many anti-fracking groups involved, there is the Pagan-focused group The Warrior’s Call (TWC), who has campaigned hard to get local voices against the fracking sites heard. We spoke to Alan from TWC to discuss the group’s involvement with the Lancashire campaign, and how they intend to move forward.

“TWC was set up by someone, who isn’t me, to be a focus for Pagans on the topic of fracking,” says Alan. “What the originator found was that a lot of Pagans don’t take a lot of notice of the papers or the BBC but listen to what other Pagans are saying, so the group was set up as a way of saying ‘this matters’ and being able to give it a voice to talk to other Pagans.

“It wasn’t ever intended to be a separate group. It’s for whoever feels the call to step up and defend their land in a magical or physical way. They’re answering the warriors call, so anyone who connects with that kind of protection.”

Frack Free Lancashire (FFL) ran a successful campaign uniting lots of different local anti-fracking groups against the granted permission to frack at one of the two proposed sites. The decision to overturn that ruling was disappointing, but not a surprise, according to Alan.

He says, “It’s expected that the industry is going to challenge. This happened in Wrexham in 2014. There was a site, just outside Wrexham in North East Wales on the border with England, which had been outlined for exploratory drilling. Local people put up a big campaign. The council turned it down.

“The company put in an appeal and the Government overruled the local council. That overruling sparked a massive local interest, because not only was it Government overturning the local council but the English deciding what is happening on Welsh soil.”

Alan thinks it is too early to say if these over-rulings from Westminster are a pattern or not. But he did say that the watershed Balcombe fracking protests of 2013 in West Sussex, Southern England, have ensured that campaigners are much more “clued up and found out what’s really going on” regarding the fracking industry.

One way the anti-frack movement tracks information is to identify where seismic testing is being carried out, and where Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences are being issued. PEDL licences are issued for a specific parcel of land where a company thinks gas or shale may be found. Seismic testing, which involves drilling shot holes about 30 feet deep and then filling the holes with dynamite, offers the data needed to build up a picture of where optimal places to extract might be located. According to Alan, this is also a big clue for anti-frackers as it involves a serious financial commitment on the part of the company and shows “they intend to drill there.”

Education is a big part of TWC message. Ensuring that people are properly informed about the effects of fracking is key. Much of the UK Government’s rhetoric in support of fracking has been to stress the number of jobs the industry will create.

However, as Alan explains, “Fracking is a specialised job, and [the companies] have to keep moving on. So there are no permanent jobs to come out of it. Once the initial set up is complete it runs on computer. One person can control about four sites. It’s not as if they’ll need more people to work in the sandwich or chip shop. Once the gas has gone, they move on.”

Australia, which has a much longer history of fracking than the UK, has already come to this conclusion. “In New South Wales, they banned fracking.They showed that for every 10 jobs created by the industry, 19 were lost from tourism or agriculture.”

Anti Fracking Protest in Chesire 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

Anti Fracking Protest in Chesire 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

In the UK, one fracking company has already come unstuck due to its own claims. Alan says, “Somewhere in the South East, one company sent out a promotional leaflet about the benefits of fracking, which got pulled up by the Advertising Standards Agency.” According to Alan, the leaflet had based its information on then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s rhetoric about fracking.

“So basically the policy had been rubbished by the Advertising Standards Agency,” Alan chuckles.

Since the overruling in Lancashire, FFL has been intent on keeping the story in the public eye. The formidable Lancashire Nanas went down to London and camped outside Buckingham Palace. Alan got one of his local councillors to visit the Lancashire site with him, which led to an interview with Russia Today, as well as an increase in local coverage.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the anti-fracking campaign is the cross-pollination of ideas between different groups. Alan says, “[Anti-fracking campaigning] is a gateway into other things. People that are getting involved in opposing fracking are from ordinary life, as [they get involved] they realise the system doesn’t work like they think it does, and once they’ve goten over that they see injustices in other things.”

He continues, “What I’m seeing is that people come and get involved with fracking and move toward a Pagan way of thinking. I’ve seen a lot of people come through the camp, and they say they’re ‘almost Pagan’ and feel a good connection to the Earth, and loving trees, and loving water and loving air. And, although they’re not joining a coven or an order, or training or learning anything they are becoming genuinely Earth-loving, so there can be a massive boost to British Paganism in general.”

Alan compares this process to Gweir’s prison, referenced in the poem Preiddu Annfwn/The Spoils of Annwn. He explains, “Once your eyes are open though, and you see through the fallacy of what you thought life was, I don’t know if you can go back and close your eyes again. The first line of The Mabinogion is that Pwll feels the call to go hunting, and he responds to that call. He doesn’t decide to go hunting. He responds to the call, ‘He takes it into his heart and his head to go hunting that day.’

“It’s touched on in The Spoils of Annwn. The initiate is held in a prison of their own making, thinking that I have to go work, I have to have a car. Once you have engaged with this, and you’ve seen what the world is like then you’ve broken out of the prison and you’ve shattered that wall.”

Alan believes that the anti-fracking campaigning community also has much to teach Paganism – especially regarding group structure. He says, “We’re encouraging people through the Warrior’s Call to learn about what fracking is and to get involved with their local communities. We’re also encouraging people to look at consensus decision-making and horizontal structure to groups rather than hierarchies.

“All the groups I’m a member of now operate in that way. There’s no one in charge, there’s no leader and we decide by majority. This goes against how most groves and covens are structured as they are hierarchical and I don’t know if that could feed into Paganism. There is a lot of opportunity for crossover and for new ideas to come in now. If they work people can take them into other areas.”

Although the FFL campaign will now change its focus in terms of campaigning, the fight goes on. A fracking approval has recently gone through in Nottinghamshirem in central England, which TWC will be campaigning against.

The movement has produced a network of very committed people. As Alan explains, “One of the things we say, whether fracking goes ahead or doesn’t go ahead, is we can have this structure to campaign on why the local hospital is closing, or the local playground, and these structures are ready to go.

“It’s about driving power into the community again, rather than the people who you voted for three years ago deciding for you. It’s about setting up these groups that can do other things, so even if fracking goes, the network is still there. Part of the nine aims of the Warrior’s Call.”

Renewing the warrior's call 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Renewing the warrior’s call 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Alan stresses the importance of getting involved with local activism. “Pagans that I know of tend to turn up for the rituals but don’t get involved in the campaigning. Ritual is action, action is ritual. You have to give the help you requested from your spirits or your gods, you have to give that away to come through. You have to physically go and make this come about.”

He continues, “Once Pagans move in Pagan circles, in my experience, they tend to remove themselves from the contemporary world. Pagans tend to remove themselves and form their own society, and I think the warrior’s call is pulling people back into the community and saying, ‘You’ve got training and knowledge and spirits, come back into this world and use your skills for the benefit of this world and the land you’re on.’ ”

Alan adds that there is so much people can do. “The stereotypical thing is that you go and chain yourself to a lorry, and some people will want to do that, but there are so many other areas that need help as well, such as becoming a legal observer. They cannot be arrested and it’s vitally important role.

“There is quite a bit of social change involved with the Warrior’s Call. It’s not just about doing a ritual and then going home, or even doing a ritual and then chaining yourself to a lorry, there are different angles to it.”

This interaction between Paganism and activism can make for magical results. Alan says, “At the Upton Protection Camp [the base camp in Chester] we did a massive ritual. There weren’t that many Pagans there, it was mostly local people and we were going around and beating the bounds and I led everyone round the camp

“As I turned the first quarter, I turned around and saw a massive line of people behind me beating drums as if their lives depended upon it! We asked people to write a letter to state how far they were prepared to go to protect the land, and obviously, some are prepared to go further than others, it was secret and there was no disclosure, it’s not a competition or to compare.

“Then we burnt all the letters in a bonfire. After that ritual, when local people turned up to the camp to confront the people doing the seismic testing, there was a bit of a stand-off and a bit of arguing going on, and we got covered in ladybirds, they weren’t on the contractors they were on us, and they were swarming around us for about 15 minutes and then they just all went. This was at the end of September.

Alan says, “If you’ve learnt stuff from being a Pagan bring that back, use it to boost. There’s a crossover of people coming in being more sympathetic as well. As we come into mainstream society more, mainstream society moves toward us.”

The Warriors Call sigil. Image courtesy of TWC.

The Warriors Call sigil.

Author’s Note Some names have been changed to protect identity

There is something special about being a polytheist. Belief and practice with multiple gods necessitates an understanding that all gods are real. Certainly, polytheists argue over a “hard” or “soft” approach, debating whether the gods are actual individual entities or exist in a more archetypal manner, but either way a polytheist is able to accept another person’s religious experience with another deity as valid. We are comfortable with experiences that differ from our own. This is much more difficult in monotheistic faiths.

But what about when a polytheist is confronted with the miraculous claims of a monotheist? Can two seemingly opposing cosmologies live together? Can one overcome skepticism of the “other” religion while still validating their own cosmology?

This was the question in my mind as I entered an exhibit at the Bower Museum’s new exhibit.  Entitled “The Virgin of Guadalupe: Images in Colonial Mexico,” the installation documents the origins of the Virgin of Guadalupe, an apparition revered by Mexican Catholics as symbol of religious favor and national pride, yet often derided as a hoax meant to convert and oppress the native, pagan population.

Photo credit: Tim Titus

Photo credit: Tim Titus

As told in the exhibit, the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe enfolds though the experience of an illiterate, converted Aztec man named Juan Diego. While Diego was out walking on the hill of Tepeyac on the morning of December 9, 1531, he was called to a spot on the hill. There, a unique manifestation of the Virgin Mary appeared to him in all her glory and spoke to him, giving him a message for the local Catholic bishop.  Diego tried to take the miraculous message to Bishop Zumárraga, the highest religious authority of the colonial government, but he was sent away.

The virgin appeared to Diego three more times, however, and finally instructed him to gather special roses into his tilma (cloak) and carry them to the Zumárraga. He did so, and when he unfurled his tilma to reveal the flowers to the bishop, the famous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe shone out, imprinted forever on Diego’s tilma. A church in honor of the virgin was constructed at the manifestation site. The original image, emblazoned on a poor peasant’s cloak, became a source of religious worship, Mexican pride, and large-scale conversion of the native population by its colonizers. Her feast day is December 12.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The image on the tilma, and now on countless canvases, candles, and items of jewelry, contains icons that brilliantly combine the competing Catholic and native Aztec spiritualities, including symbols that many modern Pagans would recognize today. A young, dark-skinned woman in a pose of prayer stands or kneels in the center, rays of light streaming out from her body. She wears a 12-pointed crown and a cloak covered in stars, and stands on a crescent moon held by a youthful angel. The icon combines power with reverence, but it gives that power to a woman. The entire shape is quite clearly yonic in nature.

Catholic and native symbols combine seamlessly. The Virgin Mary is easily suggested, and her pose is one of Catholic prayer. She is held by an cherub and in a pose of submission, and her unbound hair is a sign of maidenhood. Yet the ribbon around her waist was an Aztec signifier of pregnancy. The flowers inscribed on her lower half, particularly a four-petaled one on the lower right, hold native meaning. The crescent moon would appeal to the locals, but the fact that it is held up by an angel suggests the dominance of the invading culture. Her cloak of stars could likely be seen through either culture’s eyes: is she descending from the heavens above or is she Queen of the Earth covered by the sky? The exhibit relates the star patterns on her cloak to the constellations of the zodiac. Is her 12-pointed crown significant of the zodiac signs, or of the apostles?

Many within the Pagan and Polytheist communities have had direct contact with spirits or deities. It is a relatively noncontroversial belief that entities can and do present themselves through visions into the physical world. Since polytheists admit the existence of multiple gods, it is intellectually honest to admit that the Hebrew god may have communicated and manifested himself through Diego and this image. If Zeus can speak to you in meditation, why can’t another god speak to a young Aztec? Therefore, those who practice a polytheistic faith must accept the possibility that the virgin is a true message from a deity.

Photo Credit: Tim Titus

[Photo Credit: Tim Titus]

Believers in the miracle of Guadalupe point to many facets of the original work to prove its divine origin. They say that Diego’s tilma is made of agave fiber, which is not durable enough to have lasted as long as it has. They note the lack of a “preparation,” an undercoating that painters use to even out the surface, and they claim that no identifiable brush strokes can be seen as they would be seen on a human painting. The tilma has survived two attacks and was not very well taken care of for 100 years after it was created, and yet it remains vibrant. Artwork that depicts the Christian god as an artist painting the virgin’s image tell the story of divine inspiration.

The Christian god "creates" The Virgin of Guadalupe [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

The Christian god “creates” the Virgin of Guadalupe [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

Through a form of sacred geometry and the law of contagion, official copies of the image are reputed to have magical powers. Reproductions that preserve the same proportions and colors as the original, especially if they have physically touched the tilma or a faithful copy, are used as talismans and are said to grant wishes for health, prosperity, love, and safety. Thankful petitioners create ex-votos, images of worshipers thankful for the boons bestowed upon them by the virgin, and display them as offerings to the virgin.

Brian Dunning at skeptoid.com points out the other side of these arguments. He notes that Bishop Zumárraga, to whom the miraculous image was first revealed, never wrote a word about it. It seems strange, to say the least, that a Catholic bishop who wrote prolifically during his career would never say a word about a miracle that manifested before his own eyes. Dunning also notes that the major recounting of the story comes from a text written after both Diego and Zumárraga had died. How did the writer hear about the story?

Dunning adds to his argument the fact that the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who conquered the Aztecs, was from a region of Spain known to worship an image of the Virgin Mary with dark skin, and that he carried a statue of her with him to Mexico. The natives, he argues, would identify with the dark-skinned statue. Plus, Cortés knew a monk who was both an accomplished painter and familiar with Aztec language and customs.

A representation of the conquering faith that incorporated symbolism of the subjugated, Cortés would have reasoned, would be a powerful weapon in subduing the locals, and it was. There is no question that the conquered citizens of what is now Mexico were successfully converted to the faith of the invaders. In fact, Latin America is now one of most staunchly Catholic corners of the world.

But, as magicians know, one must be careful with the energy they send out. The Virgin of Guadalupe also figures prominently in the expulsion of Spain from Mexican lands. The Mexican revolution against Spain began on Sept. 16, 1810 as Miguel Hidalgo invoked the Virgin of Guadalupe as a symbol of Mexican patriotism and pride in his famous “scream” for independence:

Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once…. Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the gachupines!

While the “miracle” led to the spiritual takeover of the native Mexican population, it also led to the Spain’s loss of its conquered lands and the return of freedom to the people of Mexico. The new energy of independence placed into the image on a humble peasant’s cloak forever changed a country’s future. That is magic in action.

Is the Virgin of Guadalupe a piece of magic or a deliberate hoax meant to subvert a colonized population? The answer may lie at the crossroads of these two questions. Magic is performed in the in-between spaces: crossroads, circles, mountaintops. It manifests in strange ways, and it is sometimes said to return to its creator in ways he or she cannot predict. Is it at least possible that this image of the divine feminine was placed by deity for its own purposes, beginning at the hands of a conqueror but finally turning against its creators and ending in the hands of a free people who constantly strive to overcome lingering effects of colonization? Whatever one’s belief, it is undeniable that this image of the divine feminine has powerfully constructed and reconstructed an entire corner of the globe. She may indeed have become, as the exhibit ad banners name her, “the most powerful woman in the world.”

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.

– Guy Debord

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One of the first things I noticed upon arriving in France last summer is that battles were being waged on multiple fronts.

There was the most obvious battle, the one that the media was covering, a nationwide uproar over a set of controversial labor reforms that were widely viewed as a betrayal of the working class on the part of a supposedly left-wing government.

There was a secondary battle that was playing out alongside that uproar, a guerrilla battle against capitalism and international finance that was being waged by leftists and anarchists in the form of smashed bank windows and repeated violent confrontations with police.

And then there was the battle for the imagination, the battle of dueling narratives that leftists and fascists alike were waging on every blank surface imaginable, from street poles to mailboxes to the walls of boarded-up buildings. As opposed to the aforementioned battles, the battle for the imagination was one that the leftists were obviously and solidly winning.

The words and imagery that adorned pretty much every conceivable surface passionately and effectively reflected the world that could be, the world that they were trying to build. With stickers and graffiti and street art, those who believed that ‘another world is possible’ were successfully appealing to the hearts and minds of the populace.

img_1827

That success was reflected in not only in the physical presence of a leftist culture, but in the widespread public acceptance of many of their ideas and visions and how those ideas manifested in the physical world. Actions that would be almost universally condemned in the United States, such as the repeated destruction of ATMs, were met with an attitude that ranged from indifference to gleeful acceptance.

Even those who disapproved often expressed their sympathies with the sentiments behind such actions, despite criticizing the actions themselves. They understood why the battle was being waged, and their understanding was in part closely connected to the consistent anti-capitalist messaging that they were exposed to on a daily basis.

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The distracted person, too, can form habits. More, the ability to master certain tasks in a state of distraction proves that their solution has become a matter of habit. Distraction as provided by art presents a covert control of the extent to which new tasks have become soluble by apperception. Since, moreover, individuals are tempted to avoid such tasks, art will tackle the most difficult and most important ones where it is able to mobilize the masses.

– Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’

In the above-quoted essay, arguably his most well-known and influential work, Walter Benjamin characterized a primary component of fascism as the politicization of the aesthetic and argued in favor of the revolutionary potential of art. Written in 1936, and grounded in his observations of the role of aesthetics as employed in Hitler’s rise to power, Benjamin detailed the transformation of art as a medium through the technologies of reproduction.

He explained how such modernization had created the potential for the utilization of art as a means in which to influence the masses, but also pointed out how that potential could and would be used for repressive and totalitarian purposes if and when the means of reproduction was concentrated in the hands of the few.

He stressed that if and when the means of reproduction were democratized, art potentially holds the same power as a tool of resistance that it held in Germany as a tool of manipulation which normalized and reinforced oppression.

While his point had always resonated with me, the truth of his statements became plainly evident after my interactions with the countless propaganda-covered street poles that I constantly encountered throughout France.

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More than anything, Hillary [Clinton] forgot that Obama owed his first victory to an image, to an idea.

I heard the comment as I walked past an art student, talking on the phone as he was waiting for the bus outside of PNCA in northwest Portland. I knew immediately what he was referring to: Shepard Fairey’s iconic ‘HOPE’ poster, which was a near-ubiquitous image during the 2008 presidential campaign.

barack_obama_hope_poster

While his actual campaign promises and proposed policies were undoubtedly a factor in his success, one cannot underestimate the degree to which his victory was on account of his winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of a disillusioned populace through the ideas of ‘hope’ and ‘change.’ The strength of Fairey’s image and the resonance of the message inspired voters to hit the polls in record numbers.

It was many of those same voters, especially those from rural areas, living in poverty and once inspired by the ideas of ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ who switched parties and voted for Trump eight years later.

They flipped in large part because the changes that they had hoped for and expected did not materialize for them, and their hearts and minds were then subsequently captured by a very different but equally captivating message.

But this time, instead of abstract concepts like ‘hope’ and ‘change,’ this message provided not only concrete promises but definitive scapegoats.

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The growing proletarianization of modern man and the increasing formation of masses are two aspects of the same process. Fascism attempts to organize the newly created proletarian masses without affecting the property structure which the masses strive to eliminate. Fascism sees its salvation in giving these masses not their right, but instead a chance to express themselves. The masses have a right to change property relations; Fascism seeks to give them an expression while preserving property. The logical result of fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.

– Walter Benjamin

Among other factors, fascism gains its traction on account of a compelling narrative.

Fascism takes advantage of crumbling social conditions, evokes a false nostalgia for the ‘good old days,’ and frames the current material conditions as a ‘fall’ from that greatness. It then scapegoats specific parties as the cause of the fall, and promises a restoration to greatness if and only if the people place their trust in an authoritarian leader and give that leader free rein to rid us of the scapegoats that are responsible for the ‘problems.’

To its credit, liberal democracy also presents a compelling narrative. The promise of ‘freedom’ and ‘prosperity’ and ‘rights,’ especially as it is contextualized within the idea of the ‘American dream,’ has captured hearts and minds for generations now. While it is a narrative that realistically has only ever applied to certain segments of the population (mostly able-bodied white people), over the past few decades the promises of that narrative have repeatedly failed even those who had previously been granted that dream .

The ideology of fascism was birthed out of the ashes of World War I, birthed of the anger of a generation in which working-class people throughout Europe were brutally slaughtered in a war that was mainly fought in the interests of the ruling classes and in the name of democracy. It was the betrayal and/or failure of the narrative and the promises of liberal democracy in Europe that caused large segments of the population to embrace the narrative of fascism.

Although its been mostly forgotten in the mainstream retelling of history, the present turn of events in the United States is not the first time that the narrative of fascism has captured the interest of the American public. Fascism first rose in America in the years after the Great Depression, the last time that the narrative and promises of liberal democracy were proven to fail en masse throughout the North American continent.

While there were multiple factors that in combination were able to overpower the pull of fascism in America that first time around (such as the effects of the New Deal), it was ironically the economic boost that came from the war against fascism in Europe that acted as the nails in the coffin for the power of the fascist narrative in America.

Out of that war came the resurgence of liberal democracy in even greater forms, from the recognition of the United States as a global superpower to institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union.

It is the crumbling and decline of those powers in the present day which in large part has ushered in the current wave of fascist tendencies. History demonstrates very clearly that when the contradictions of liberal democracy, both the obvious and hidden, start to weigh heavily enough to crack the foundations of that system, those who have benefited and profited from that system and its contradictions will inevitably embrace fascism in order to secure their wealth and their safety.

In the absence of an equally compelling counter-narrative, a significant portion of the masses will also inevitably embrace fascism and history will be left to repeat itself.

*   *   *

Il est interdit d’interdire (It is forbidden to forbid)

– Situationist slogan, May 1968

In the summer of 1968, revolutions and revolutionary tendencies echoed throughout the Western world, with varying degrees of success and lasting power. Among the most well-known uprisings of the time was the series of events in May of 1968 in France, which at its peak brought the entire French economy to a standstill and nearly toppled the national government. While history generally characterizes the French uprisings as being fueled by violence and physical resistance, the underlying current which sustained the uprisings was based in artistic expression, most notably the tactics and aesthetics of the Situationist International.

The SI was formed a decade earlier, a fusion of libertarian Marxist ideas and the ideologies and aesthetic expressions of the surrealist and dada art movements. Arguably the strongest idea to come forth from the situationists was the concept of the ‘spectacle,’ which Guy Debord described and defined as “a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.”

The concept of the spectacle was in itself a deep critique of capitalism, specifically the ways in which commodity fetishism had shifted society away from social relations based on direct experience and instead created an arena where individual expression was primarily exercised through the consumption of commodities. The aim of the SI was to reverse that trend, to prioritize and emphasize direct experience and to replace the manufactured desires of capitalism with actual and authentic desires.

This philosophy was central to the artistic and symbolic expressions that fueled the uprisings of May ’68. The emotional appeals of the SI, which stressed personal freedom, social authenticity, and political liberation, created a climate in which many believed that a new world was truly possible. Despite the eventual failure of the uprisings to foment an actual social revolution, the ideas and tactics of the SI left its mark on an entire generation of French youths, who continued with and passed on those ideas into the modern day.

Situationist graffiti in France. Public domain.

Situationist graffiti in France. Public domain.

The propaganda and messaging that is currently seen throughout every major urban area in France, as well as the understandings and philosophies behind it, is a direct and often obvious descendant of the imagery and emotion that characterized the SI and the events of May ’68.

*   *   *

When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany;” it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.”

– Halford E. Luccock, as quoted in the New York Times, 1938.

Many tend to position liberal democracy and its inherent values as either the prophylactic against or the antidote to fascist tendencies, just as they consider the same system to be inherently opposed and in contradiction to the narrative and the promises of fascism. The values expressed in fascism are framed as the antithesis of democracy, and it is stressed that it is the failure to uphold the values of democracy that inevitably will lead to fascism.

But in reality, they are two sides of the same coin, pun intended.

Liberal democracy is the clothing we put on to hide the obscene nature of the body exposed, so to speak. When the actualized brutality and obscenity that is necessary to uphold liberal democracy is revealed, such as the violence recently witnessed at Standing Rock, it is demonstrated for all to see that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

In that moment, liberal democracy is then maintained and upheld by the portion of the populace that continues to praise the emperor on the beauty of his garments, despite the obvious nature of the body exposed.

“The system is broken,” they say, when the actual truth is that the system is being exposed in and for its true and brutal nature, momentarily stripped of all its trappings and distractions.

It is in those moments that fascism and anti-capitalist leftism are actually in agreement, united in contradiction to the liberal democratic narrative, that in fact the system is working exactly as intended. The fascist praises and encourages the mechanics as a justified means to an end, while the leftist argues that the means do not justify the ends and that the only ethical response is to abolish the system altogether.

When the lies of liberal democracy are exposed for what they are, when the child comes forth and finally points out to the crowd that the emperor is naked, it is the narrative of either/both the fascist and/or the leftist that hold the potential power to define what is accepted as reality.

Which side actually gains power in that moment is dependent on many factors, but among the strongest factors is the ability of their respective narratives to capture the imagination.

Logical arguments do not hold much sway in those moments. Instead it is a matter of which side wins the hearts and minds of the masses.

*   *   *

Nature is a temple in which living columns sometimes emit confused words. Man approaches it through forests of symbols, which observe him with familiar glances.

– Charles Baudelaire

Writers such as Baudelaire or Benjamin are far from the only ones who recognize the power inherent in imagery.

Witches, Pagans, occultists, magicians, and related folk have long understood the potential power that art and symbols have to affect reality and material circumstances.

A powerful reminder of that knowledge popped up in my inbox while I was in the process of outlining this very article.

“Have you seen this?” a friend asked, and sent me a link.

The link was to a website called Curse DAPL, complete with specific instructions and an accompanying sigil intended to curse those building the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The neverending argument around the ethics of cursing notwithstanding, the use of symbolism in the form of sigils as a method of fighting oppression and resisting is a time-tested method that spans countless cultures and societies.

On a personal level, seeing that folks in our communities are using sigil magic in order to disrupt capitalist forces filled me with pride and hope, especially considering that so many are unable to participate in the on-the-ground fight against the DAPL.

As the material circumstances that characterize our world as we know it continue to shift and disintegrate, I can only hope that such methods become more and more utilized and widespread.

*   *   *

The spectacle cannot be understood as an abuse of the world of vision, as a product of the techniques of mass dissemination of images. It is, rather, a Weltanschauung which has become actual, materially translated. It is a world vision which has become objectified. 6. The spectacle grasped in its totality is both the result and the project of the existing mode of production. It is not a supplement to the real world, an additional decoration. It is the heart of the unrealism of the real society.

— Guy Debord, ‘The Society of the Spectacle’

While most corporations and retailers used Black Friday as a way to convince people to buy tangible items at rock-bottom prices, the folks at Cards Against Humanity had a different idea.

They decided to dig a literal hole in the ground for three days straight, with an appeal to the public to pay for the digging by the minute. They had a live video feed of the hole, and a running tally that looked no different from any other crowdfunding campaign.

Despite its absurdity, the stunt resonated with people on several levels, not only as a commentary on consumerism and the existential bleakness of the modern day, but as a painful and arguably hilarious example of what people were willing to actually spend money on. Excerpted from the website’s FAQ:

What do I get for contributing money to the hole?

A deeper hole. What else are you going to buy, an iPod?

Why aren’t you giving all this money to charity?

Why aren’t YOU giving all this money to charity? It’s your money.

What if you dig so deep you hit hot magma?

At least then we’d feel something.

In the same country where thousands are dying on the streets without aid and thousands more are suffering from lack of medical care, after three days, the ‘holiday hole’ brought in over $100,000. As has been shown countless times before this one, the plight of the suffering has nothing on the draw and the temptation of the spectacle.

Aside from the obvious resonance in terms of the current sociopolitical climate, my first thought was of Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies showering Wall Street with dollar bills and then laughing while the hapless traders on the floor abandoned their tasks in order to scramble for every dollar, disrupting the machine of capitalism with the very substance that fuels it.

While such tactics and stunts owe an certain debt to the situationists and the idea of the spectacle, its important to recognize that the theatrical tactics of the American ‘New Left’ were arguably responsible for replacing and displacing the last vestiges of actualized radical struggle in the United States. Once political theater became mainstream in terms of both public acceptance as well as expectation, militant tactics were for the most part abandoned by the mostly white, college-educated left in the United States. This eventually led to a massive loss of political power and social capital, which contributed to the rise of neoliberalism and the post-civil rights era conservative movements that now dominate the political landscape and control much of its discourse.

Moreover, the movements and organizations that did not abandon militant radicalism, such as the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement, were left standing alone and subsequently targeted and destroyed from both within and without by the likes of COINTELPRO.

While the humor of such political theater doesn’t lead to direct and actualized change, the potential effect that such humorous spectacles can have on the masses should not be understated. Cards Against Humanity just proved that to the tune of $100,000, and while part of me winces at that reality, another part of me wonders if and how that tendency can be manipulated in favor of a spectacle that creates an actual means to an end.

*   *   *

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.

– Walter Benjamin

The ‘culture jamming’ movement, which came to prominence in the political climate of the mid-1980s, was deeply influenced by the work of Guy Debord and the Situationist International, most notably their concept of détournement.

Adbusters corporate flag. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

Adbusters corporate flag. Photo by Jonathan McIntosh

But of course, in accordance with the tendencies of capitalism, it did not take long for culture jamming itself to go from a simple method and strategy of expression to a marketed product with the emergence of publications such as Adbusters. It only took a few years for Adbusters to reposition themselves from critics of consumer culture to willing participants in commodity fetishism under the guise of ‘ethical capitalism.’

I personally think that the spirit of Guy Debord is simultaneously horrified and amused by such circumstances, as it equally acts as an insult to his legacy as well as a solid confirmation of his theories around the nature of the spectacle. But the success that Adbusters found in marketing dissent is also important lesson in terms of its reach and effectiveness and should not discourage us from carrying on the traditions of politicizing art that were pioneered by either the situationists or the culture jammers.

*   *   *

“Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.”

– Jean Anouilh

We tend to interpret the word ‘propaganda’ as information that is inherently untrustworthy. We refer to “Soviet propaganda” or “anarchist propaganda” with the understanding that those folks likely aren’t telling the ‘truth.’

Historically, propaganda was generally regarded as a neutral force, holding true to its Latin roots. ‘Propaganda’ derives from propagare, meaning ‘to propagate,’ and propaganda was recognized as a powerful weapon that could be wielded in the name of countless agendas. It was only with the rise the phenomenon that Benjamin observed, of authoritarian governments that disseminated mass propaganda through the means of mechanical reproduction in order to manipulate the public in favor of repressive tendencies, that the word took on a permanently negative connotation.

While our tendency is to distrust anything that we consider to be propaganda, we place a rather impressive amount of trust in the great corporate propaganda machine known as advertising. The assumption is that the unsanctioned graffiti or flyer or poster is trying to pull one over on us, but we tend to accept that four out of five dentists recommend Crest without much thought or criticism. We generally grant the benefit of the doubt to the claims made by advertising, despite widespread knowledge of the degree to which that medium is manipulating us.

And yet, just as the only true difference between ‘militarism’ and ‘terrorism’ is legitimatization on the part of the state, the only difference between what we consider to be ‘advertising’ and what is disparaged as ‘propaganda’ or ‘graffiti’ is legitimatization on the part of society and our acquiescence to the various ways in which the state and capital control the commons. Our trust in one over the other is rooted not in fact or substance but in our cultural programming, in our tendency to trust authority.

Those who condemn political graffiti generally do not reserve the same criticism for corporate and/or political advertising, and in that inconsistency they further strengthen the power that capital has over the commons and by extension over our thoughts and our minds.

Graffiti by Banksy, Brighton, England. Photo by ShoZu

Graffiti by Banksy, Brighton, England. Photo by ShoZu

The ubiquity of advertising in modern society and the tight control of access to that medium and the spaces it inhabits act as a current reflection and confirmation of Benjamin’s observations concerning the effects of the means of reproduction when concentrated in the hands of the few.

While the idea of ‘reclaiming the commons’ is usually centered on occupying public space and ‘commoning’ activities such as community gardens, reclaiming and rewriting the messages that currently define the modern commons is an overlooked and necessary component of creating a narrative that has the potential to challenge that of the status quo.

If fascism relies on the aestheticization of politics, fascism needs to be fought by politicizing the aesthetic.

*   *   *

Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.

Banksy

*     *     *

This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

*     *     *
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The bustling mountain resort town of Gatlinburg was devastated Monday as wild fires ripped through town, reducing some areas to only ashes and rubble. Believed to have been started by hikers, the fire is being called “the perfect storm” as high winds and dry air created ideal conditions for this tragic event. Officials are now saying the so-called Chimney Tops fire has taken as many as seven lives, burned 17,000 acres, and destroyed more than 700 buildings.

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Downtown Gatlinburg, Tuesday morning Nov. 30, 2016 [Courtesy A. Harvel]

“It’s a horror movie,” posted Angie ‘Pinkie’ Harvel. “Our hearts are twisted and in pain at the site of what’s going on around us.” Harvel is a priestess with Dragon Palm Circle, and lives in an area fondly called “Valley of the Dragons” by the resident local Pagan community. This area is 13 miles east of Gatlinburg up Highway 321. While Harvel does not live in one of the areas that fell under mandatory evacuation, the fires reached within 1/4 mile of her home, forcing her and her neighbors to pack up and leave.

At this point, investigators believe that the fire was started days earlier by hikers on the Chimney Tops Trail. Tuatha Dea‘s Danny Mullikin and Rebecca Holman, who live near the city limits of Gatlinburg, noticed the mountain top fire Sunday night during an evening walk. Mullikin told The Wild Hunt that it looked almost like a volcano with the fire ablaze at the very top and lines of orange fire running down.

However, he added, “Nobody was overly concerned at that point. They said everything was contained.” But, by Monday, conditions changed, and changed quickly.

The entire Appalachian region was already in a severe drought with humidity levels rarely experienced in the area. The dry conditions were fueling wildfires throughout eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and northern Georgia. Winds carried the smoke as far south as Atlanta, making breathing conditions difficult for days, and even forcing school systems to keep children indoors for recess.

As it was, these dry conditions made firefighting difficult, but it was largely manageable. However, when a late November storm front closed in on the area, winds began to pick up. By Monday afternoon, there were reports of regular gusts and straight-line winds reaching as high as 89 mph. These high winds began to carry embers and ash from Chimney Tops down the mountain.

Local resident Jewels Wyldwomyn, priestess of Dragonshire, said, “The winds were so bad that I had to dodge tree limbs as I drove home.” Her car was eventually hit and damaged by one of the flying limbs. She did make it home before conditions worsened.

Wyldwomyn owns and lives on Dragonshire, a 32-acres ‘Valley of the Dragons’ campground that hosts annual Pagan festivals and retreats. She said that when she got home, she assumed that a bad thunderstorm was coming. Due to her remote location, Wyldwomyn does not have television, satellite, or cell service. Therefore, she had no idea what was in store for her later that evening.

Local artist and owner of Sword and Ivy Kathryn Rutherford lives on the other side of Gatlinburg in Wears Valley. She was doing errands in town Monday as the fires began to spread, and heard details through her husband Greg, who works for the National Park Service. According to Rutherford, the fire first spread to the Chimney Tops picnic grounds, and then further down the mountain. The winds, then, spread ashes out in all directions, creating more fires. She also reported that the high winds knocked over trees and power lines, causing downed electrical wires to spark their own fires.

“Nobody knew it was coming,” Rutherford said. She recalls hearing the mandatory evacuation, and the call to simply “get out.”

Mullikin said the same thing. “It happened so fast. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Tuatha Dea was rehearsing in a basement when the fire started. Unlike Rutherford, who was receiving reports as early as 2 p.m, the band didn’t know what was going on until the power went out around 8 p.m. As Mullikin explained, they rushed outside immediately and what they saw was “apocalyptic.”

Gatlinburg Nov 28, 2016 [Taken by Tesea Dawson of Tuatha Dea, as she evacuated]

Gatlinburg Nov 28, 2016 [Taken by Tesea Dawson of Tuatha Dea, as she evacuated]

“We came outside.The skies were red,” Mullikin said. “There was heavy smoke everywhere. Ash was coming down from the sky. Sirens were going off everywhere. It was like a movie.” Mullikin and the band ran back inside, packed up their equipment, and evacuated.

Back at Valley of the Dragons, Harvel and her family had made the decision to evacuate as well, and to assist others in the community. Wyldwomyn is one of their neighbors. Wyldwomyn said, “At 8 pm. DJ [co-owner of neighboring property Cerred Ered] knocked on my door and said ‘get out.'” The fires had reached Cobbly Knob, an area located only 2 miles from the valley. Wyldwomyn grabbed her three puppies, everything that she could pack in her car, and left. By 9 p.m., a caravan of cars and trucks, including Harvel’s family and Wyldwomyn, drove slowly down the single lane road that leads people from the Pagan sanctuary to the main highway.

“I don’t know how we escaped. The fire got within 1/4 mile of our property. Our mountain was on fire,” Wyldwoman said.

When they reached the road, as she reports, there was steady stream of cars leaving Gatlinburg, and only “firetruck after firetruck” heading toward the city. “There was so much smoke,” she added. The caravan of Pagans, then, met at a parking lot to decide how to proceed. From there, they separated to find safety for the night.

The members of Tuatha Dea also separated for the evacuation, each taking different side roads out of the city. But as Mullikin said, “It wasn’t easy.” Embers and ash were being blown in every direction. “There is was no rhyme or reason to it,” he added. You could take one road, as he described, and find yourself facing a pocket fire. “And it isn’t like you can go back,” he added. One Twitter user filmed his own escape out of the burning resort town.

It took Mullikin two hours, he said, to reach Dandridge, where he could find a hotel room. Once there, he met up with Holman and others. They have been there ever since.

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Gatlinburg is a small town with a resident population of only about 4,000. However, as a resort city, there were many more people in the area at the time. Officials estimate that as many as 14,000 people had to be evacuated Monday evening. Complicating the matter is the city’s location. Being a mountain town located in a valley, there aren’t many roads leading in and out. Some of them, as noted by Mullikin, were completely blocked by fire.

Rutherford watched from afar as the fires blazed. The mountain situated between her home and the city looked as if it were glowing. She was packed and ready to evacuate at any point. Late Monday night, she remembers hearing officials repeating the words: “Gatlinburg is gone! Gatlinburg is gone!” She imagined the worst.

She added that one of her friends, who does not own a car, had two minutes to evacuate as the flames came down on his home. She reported him telling her, “I stood. I ran.” She also said that she heard reports of “windshield wipers melting” and windows cracking just from the intense heat put off by the flames.

Mullikin described a similar scene, saying “The fires were so hot that the ground itself was on fire.”

As the evacuations continued, the rains came. First a mist and then eventually a downpour. Mullikin said, “I don’t think we would have made it without the rains.” Harvel reported that she and friends stood outside in a parking lot and danced. When Wyldwomyn reached her destination at a friend’s home, she immediately began doing water magic to help. She said, “What saved us was the rains. I thank the gods. I thank the gods.”

Despite the Monday night storm, the fires still burned. Winds picked back up on Tuesday, spreading more ash and more fire. But again, by evening, the rains came.

The properties that make up Valley of the Dragons were spared the flames, but did receive significant wind damage. The area of Wears Valley, where Rutherford lives, was also spared. Mullikin’s home, which lies only one mile outside the city, was undamaged by fire, but is currently without power. All of our interviewees called themselves “lucky.”

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Mullikin was first able to get back to see his house Thursday morning. In describing what he witnessed, Mullikin said “It is like tornado; the fire jumped around. There are homes burned to the ground, and then next to them, there will be one that is fine.”

While four Valley of the Dragons residents never evacuated, many of the others, who did leave, are now back home. They have spent the last day cleaning up the damage done by the high winds, and assessing needs. A tree went through Harvel’s roof. She and her family are now temporarily living in one of the cabins at Dragonshire.

The center of Gatlinburg is closed as city officials attempt to assess the scope of the destruction. There is no electricity in area and the mayor is advising all area residents to boil their water before drinking. As Mullikin explained, there are contaminates in the air, which may have gotten into the water system. He said, “remember not everything burning was natural.”

Unfortunately, the danger is still not over; fires continue to burn. In fact, WBIR reports that a second Chimney Tops fire is currently “0% contained.” According to one source, officials are patrolling the area, looking for more fires. Residents are being told that further evacuations may be necessary.

As for the people, the local news is saying that 1,200 of Gatlinburg’s 4,000 residents are currently in shelters. The death toll is now at seven, at least 53 are people are injured, and more are missing. Officials say that they expect the death toll to rise.

Wyldwomyn noted that the long-term devastation may run far deeper. She said that most of the residents, like those living at Valley of the Dragon, have jobs in the area’s lucrative tourist industry. Now, they have no jobs to go to. She is concerned with how long it will take for the local economy to recover.

When talking about the area, Harvel explained, “Gatlinburg itself is a very small town as far as residents go. Right now, because of how many folks drive into work in [Gatlinburg], many of us have spent years working and living together. Pigeon forge and Sevierville are one greater community.”

Despite all that has happened, Wyldwomyn offered a “silver lining,” saying that her own community came together in its time of need. In addition, her extended community, those who attend festivals and enjoy her campgrounds, have also reached out to offer assistance to her and other Valley of the Dragons residents. She said, “We are grateful.”

Mullikin echoed that sentiment, saying, “I’ve seen the community [of Gatlinburg] come together like I’ve never seen before.” He said that this is not about being Pagan or Christian or anything else. “People are coming in from all over to help.”

In addition, he said that friends and fans have been sending Tuatha Dea messages and emails, asking how they can help. He said, “We love everybody. Thank you. Tuatha Dea will be fine. We are one of the lucky ones.” But he did add that his daughter, Tesea Dawson, has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to buy toys for Gatlinburg’s children.

On the campaign page, Dawson writes, “Many of the people who lost everything I know personally, my children go to school with or are family of my close personal friends. Many are children […] Many are left without jobs and here we are at Christmas.”

Dawson has, in one day, raised over $1,200.The money will be used “to buy Christmas presents for those children who’ve lost it all or whose parents will be delayed a much needed paycheck during this time. The victims of this living nightmare.” Any remaining money will be given to local charities supporting the recovery, and there are many of those.

Dolly Parton, who owns the nearby Pigeon Forge resort Dollywood, has pledged to give $1,000 per month through her Dollywood Foundation to families devastated by the fires.

In addition, Heathen Amy Kincheloe, the Troth’s Steward for Kentucky, is currently taking up a collection of supplies to bring to the area next week. While she doesn’t have personal connections in Gatlinburg, she said that she “is naturally a caring person” and just wanted to help. Kincheloe said that she knows what it’s like to “lose everything.”  She is collecting clothes, toys, and basic necessities this Saturday in and around her area. She said, “I live in Dixon, however I can travel to Owensboro, Madisonville, and Evansville IN.” For anyone interested in donating, she said to email her at poorventrue1@gmail.com with the title line:donation goods. 

There are many other opportunities to assist the people of Gatlinburg and its surrounding towns. A new hashtag campaign was launched to uplift spirits and foster community: #smokeymountainstrong.  As a fundraiser for victims, two local news outlets are selling t-shirts with the tag on it.

All the interviewees with whom we spoke said that, at this point, the full extent of the damage and any long-term needs are not yet known. The reality of what happened, and is still happening, has not fully set in. They need time.

Mullikin said, “More than anything. This is our home. We have been deeply affected by the fires.” He was breaking up as he spoke about the mountains and city that he loves. “It is part of who we are inside. We are connected to this place. It just hurts.” Now, he said, there is not much to do but manage basic needs. He did say that, as things settle, he and Tuatha Dea will be doing something more for the city, for the community, and for the beloved and magical Smokey Mountains.

 

Note: The Knoxville News Sentinel is providing an updated list of the conditions of various buildings and areas as officials are able to make assessment.

UNITED STATES — Even as activists took to the streets to protest the results of the presidential election, others adopted a quieter approach that has been since dubbed “rage donating” or the giving money to organizations that support populations deemed at risk once Donald Trump takes office. A web site named RageDonate was quickly created to channel this very desire; each screen pairs a Trump quote with a donation button tied to a related cause.

Donald Trump [Wikipedia]

Donald Trump [Wikipedia]

Reports from the offices of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) indicate that those are perhaps the two most popular targets for post-election donations, although others also have benefited. On the season finale of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver listed a number of other organizations that he believes could use extra assistance while Trump is in office. These include the National Resources Defense Council, International Refugee Assistance Project, the Project, and the Legal Defense Fund of the NAACP.

Specific Pagan causes have not been included in these high-profile lists, perhaps not surprising given that Pagans and those practicing related spiritualities collectively are only a very small portion of the population. The Wild Hunt reached out to representatives of some Pagan groups to find out if it appeared that they have benefited from these so-called “rage donations” since Nov. 8. Given the small sampling, this can only be considered anecdotal evidence, and no clear pattern can be gleaned at first glance.

A representative of Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship responded, “ADF, as a church, is not permitted to engage in the political process, therefore we tend to whether political storms pretty well. I haven’t noticed an uptick in membership numbers” since the election.

Oberon Osiris noticed a change in the yearly cycle at Covenant of the Goddess, and it wasn’t a positive bump. Typically, they see a post-Halloween bump in emails from seekers, but that did not occur. “I have a feeling . . . the decline is tied to nervousness or paranoia about being known or seen to be contacting ‘Witches,’ since the election was won by Mr. Trump.”

“I can’t base it on any actual evidence, just the lack – even possibly more so than normal,” Oberon Osiris continued. “As of this date, late November I have no regular flow of other ‘info’ type questions I might have to handle. Just a lot less flow/volume than we normally get. I was not in this position in 2008 or 2012 so I can’t address if it happened during that Presidential campaign.”

On the plus is The Wild Hunt itself, according to managing editor Heather Greene. Social media followers and email subscribers have increased measurably, and there were even some unexpected donations, which are rarely made outside of the annual fund drive. Greene wrote, “Typically, we receive most of our funding through the fall drive, and that campaign ended before the election. But, since that point, we have been gifted with several unexpected donations. We appreciate the extra support.” Even without this small bump, Greene was clear that The Wild Hunt’s writers will continue to serve the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities through what is widely expected to be uncertain times to come.

A representative from Lady Liberty League declined to comment, and no response was received from the Patrick McCollum Foundation in time for this story.

[Pixabay]

[Pixabay]

That is not to infer that Pagans only donate to specifically Pagan causes. Several people have expressed support for the idea of shoring up at-risk causes at this time. Sabina Magliocco posted on Facebook, “I don’t know about all of you, but I’m seriously not feeling like holiday shopping this year. . . . after discussing it with some of my family members, we’ve decided that this year, we’re going to give donations to worthy organizations in lieu of holiday gifts.” Her list includes the Southern Poverty Law Center, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and support for the Standing Rock protesters.

Gwendolyn Reece posted a list of recommended organizations, and wrote,

This is not a sprint. Therefore we must consciously build our individual capacity and the capacity in our communities to keep going. That means self-care and cultivating joy. Grim determination only really works when it is an expression of love.

Other Pagans asked about their intentions had a variety of opinions. Some, like those above, intend on starting or increasing donations to various organizations. Elizabeth Sturino, for her part, is looking to hunker down and focus on local needs. “I think it is prudent to only spend on necessities, stock up on canned foods and alternative heating sources and put any ‘extra’ money into credit unions instead of a bank at this time. Volunteering is the most authentic form of donation as I am sure my time is going to directly benefit those whom I am serving.”

Activist Peter Dybing raised another question for those heading up progressive causes: “What is your organization’s plan for working with other unrelated progressive causes to defeat Trump? Our old fractured ‘my cause first’ approach is not something we can afford now. Real progressive mutual aid is the order of the day.”

Overall, it doesn’t appear that Pagans — nor any falling under the shadow of the Pagan umbrella — are feeling the need to express rage through their wallets. It is possible that they, like Sturino, are keeping charity close to home, or perhaps they are attempting to supplant rage with a different emotion for their own actions.

WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Pagan-owned businesses face all the usual challenges of any small business: overhead costs, long hours by the owner, and maintaining a customer base. Yet they also face the additional challenge of being different than the mainstream, which can result in either an exchange of ideas and mutual respect with customers, or in confrontation. The Minnesota-based Enchanted Boutique often enjoys the former, but more recently experienced the latter.

7269788_origThe Enchanted Boutique is a metaphysical store that has as much product and services about angels and the paranormal as it does items specifically for Pagans and Witches.

On Nov. 18, Bonnie Gurney, owner of the Enchanted Boutique, was helping another customer when she noticed a woman hanging around the back of her store. As she later found out, the person’s name is Kristine Burque. When Ms. Gurney finished with her customer, she approached Ms. Burque to ask if she could help her. Burque asked about another metaphysical shop. Gurney told her that this other shop was out of business, but the owner still did tarot reading. Gurney then handed Burque a flyer about some of the services offered at the Enchanted Boutique, and the woman left.

Up to that point, the exchange was typical.

What Gurney didn’t know was that Burque is a devout Christian who feels a calling to witness in stores and places she feels are “diabolical.” Burque is known to the local Pagan community for her past activities at other business. In August, it is alleged Burque harassed the two owners of Collective Harmony Massage and Healing Arts. They hired an attorney to have Burque’s posts about them, one of which displayed their license plate number, removed from Facebook.

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Their attorney, Patrick Farley, told The Wild Hunt, “We did issue a Cease and Desist letter to Ms. Burque and threatened further legal action if she did not comply.” Mr. Farley said Burque was engaging in acts that damaged the reputation of the business, in addition to the harassment of one of its owners. Since Ms. Burque has complied with the terms of the letter, no further legal action is pending.

At the Enchanted Boutique, Gurney received a second visit from Burque. This time, she was holding a bible. “[Burque] stated that she wanted to introduce Jesus to me,” said Gurney.

In response, Gurney reportedly told Burque that she already knows Jesus, and that the store caters to many different religions and Gods. “She seemed uninterested in that, and continued to talk about my meeting Jesus. I told her that I was not interested and asked her to leave. She continued, and I asked her to leave a couple more times before she actually walked out of the shop.”

Burque shared her visit to the Enchanted Boutique on Facebook. She posted a photo of the store with the comment: “This had been a breakthrough for me. I can stand with God’s armor ON!! … and confront my first witch in person.”

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In a statement to The Wild Hunt, Burque said that she’s done nothing wrong, “I just wanted to share Jesus with her. No harm in that. There is nothing to report. I see you are not a Christian according to your timeline. I hope you seek Jesus. That is what all of this was about. To stir them up to pay attention because Jesus is be returning. Maranatha.”

Yet the question remains, when does proselytizing cross the line into trespassing? At what point does free speech and the ability to practice one’s religion turn into harassment and stalking? Is it when the unwanted contact is repeated over months, as it is alleged to have happened to the partners of Collective Harmony? Is it when there are social media posts showing your flyer being burned, or when someone drops off wood in the driveway of your home to “burn things?

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Burque’s posting of the store’s burning flyer [Facebook photo]

Farley has said that he has started paying closer attention to Burque’s Facebook page now that he knows that she is continuing her behavior toward another, “I am, of course, concerned for my clients.”

Gurney says she appreciates the support of friends and customers, “The support from friends and others on Facebook was incredible, which I really appreciate. Several people posted about it and all were very supportive.”

In a post on Facebook which has since been erased, Burque noted that she would not be going back to The Enchanted Boutique, but was glad to save one of its customers from Satan. Burque wrote, “My mission is complete and did what I set out to do, even though some agreed and others didn’t. I have no need to pursue this agenda any longer. … But, who is to say it was my agenda only, anyway?”

She continued on to say, “I heard a customer leaving from that shop say she is so glad she found herself and now she knows what her purpose is. She found a false god directing her into serving others through Satan. I don’t want anyone being being swayed into the occult world and being distracted from Jesus by practitioners working for Satan and being deceived themselves because Satan is the one talking to you, healing you temporarily, and has you working against God, but you don’t realize it.”

ohio-state-logoCOLUMBUS, Ohio — News broke this morning of “an active shooter” on the campus of Ohio State University. At 9:56 am, the OSU Emergency Management Team tweeted, “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall.19th and College.” The campus was quickly locked down, and some students tweeted images from inside their barricaded classrooms.*

At noon, the campus emergency team announced that everything was secure, but all classes would be cancelled and areas of the campus would be closed for further investigation. At this point, not much more is known. One suspect was allegedly shot dead, and ten people were reportedly sent to the hospital with stab wounds and other injuries.

We spoke with local Druid Rev. Michael J. Dangler who works on staff at OSU. When he read the emergency announcement, he stayed home and called in safe. Dangler is a Senior Priest in Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and a Grove Priest of Three Cranes Grove, ADF. He said, as far as he can tell now, everyone that he knows and works with is also okay. However, he was quick to add that the situation is still not settled.

Rev. Dangler is also the co-owner of the local Columbus metaphysical store The Magical Druid, which serves OSU’s Pagan community. While it is too soon to know what will “need to be done” in terms of healing, Rev. Dangler did say, “We’ll probably do something at the shop. I’m waiting on details.” In the meantime, he noted that his store maintains a community altar, which is always available during regular business hours, and it will be there for anyone who needs it at this time.

UPDATE 11/28 4:38pm: The community altar at The Magical Druid was open today from 3-4 pm. Rev. Jan Avende and Rev. Michael J Dangler of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, “were there to offer prayers.” They recorded in a live-stream for those who can’t make it down to the store. Watch the video here.

UPDATE 11/28 4:38pm: It has been reported that the “active shooter” was not a gunman. The suspect reportedly hit people with his car, and then stabbed several others with a knife.

*     *     *

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CANNONBALL, N.D. — As we reported yesterday, tensions continue to mount at Standing Rock as the Dec. 5 deadline looms. According to Reuters, “U.S. authorities said on Sunday they had no plans to forcibly remove activists.” Any remaining activists will be reportedly subject to citations. At the same time, the protesters have made it clear that they will not be evacuating. Additionally, reports indicate that over 400 veterans are now planning to arrive at Standing Rock Dec. 4 to join the protests and support the Water Protectors.

As we have been reporting, Pagans and Heathens also continue to remain active in this ongoing struggle. Solar Cross Temple announced this weekend that, with funds raised, it sent $1,085 worth of supplies to the medics at one of the protest camps. The remainder of the funds will be used to supply the general camp or another smaller spirit camp. Solar Cross is currently talking with people in the area to assess the needs.

Since first speaking with us in September, Casey McCarthy, a member of Mountain Ancestors Grove, has revisited Standing Rock and reported back that “logistics have improved.” This includes areas such as training (e.g. cultural sensitivity, direct action 101, and more), medical and mental health care, construction, and legal consultation. He said, “All of these fall under a council of elders and work in conjunction with each other.” However, McCarthy added that there is “tons of trauma.” He said, “The struggle is real; people are getting hurt, and witnessing horrifying things. I volunteered with the mental health group and heard a lot of horror stories.”

McCarthy also noted that some people are arriving at the camps thinking it’s just a big party. He said, “There is a lot of tension between the native folks and the white people showing up, and treating the place like a festival. I heard some very racist and privileged stuff. White people must understand that the protest is a sacred space and a battle ground, not Lollapalooza.”

Two other volunteers who hope to return soon to Standing Rock are Aquarian Tabernacle Church leaders Belladonna Laveau and Dusty Dionne. They are not sure when and if they can make the journey yet, but they would like to be there when the veterans arrive to support their effort along with bringing more of the needed supplies.

We will continue to bring you weekly updates on this story direct from Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists involved. 

*     *     *

photo broadlyBRISBANE, Aus. — As noted in yesterday’s edition of Hounds, Broadly published an article on an annual Australia Beltane festival sponsored by the Wildwood Tradition. This article, as we noted, was filled with vivid photographs of members enjoying the popular springtime event. However, that article, which was published Nov. 7, sparked anger in the community itself, due primarily to inaccurate information. While this problem may not be surprising, as it does happen frequently within mainstream reports on modern Witchcraft practice, this time tradition members decided to take matters in their own hands. They didn’t simply let it go.

In an email, member Fio Aengus Santika told The Wild Hunt: “[the] article came out without any member of our Tradition being aware it would come out, and it was entirely images of our biggest Beltaine event which happens to be in Brisbane where our Tradition was born.” He added that the questions all “seemed to hinge on [their] Tradition with a Pagan and a Witch not of our Tradition answering for us.” That is how the original article was received.

Santika reported that they immediately contacted the Broadly writer who was at first “quite hesitant to engage.” But the site eventually made the requested changes. Santika said that they removed “all mention of Wildwood,” and removed all photographs of “individuals who did not consent to their images being used in this way.” He added, “Basically, all the information about the Wildwood Tradition that was originally on there (now changed) was given by a Pagan / Witch not of our Tradition so was all entirely incorrect, but thank the Gods and our own our own actions that it’s all gone now.”

In Other News

  • Pagan Blogger John Halstead announced that a hearing in the “Whiting 41” case has been scheduled for Jan. 13 at the Lake Superior Court in Hammond, Indiana. As we reported last May, Halstead and 40 others were arrested during a climate change protest at the local Whiting Oil Refinery. Earlier this week, he and those arrested put out a call for a peaceful protest to be held at the courthouse during the hearing.The Facebook event page reads, “Join us […] to lend your support to the Whiting 41. […] Bring your singing voices. There will be singing and chanting and some street theater (as well as hot coffee).”
  • The blog Thrillist recently shared a story on Minnesota-based Sidhe Brewery. In May 2015, we talked to the Wiccan owners as the business got off the ground. Our article focused on the magical aspects of the brewery, its launch and operation. The new 2016 article focuses on the business as a safe space for the local LGBTQ community. “We’re not trying to advertise ourselves as ‘the queer bar,’ because we’re not, we’re a queer space,” said head brewer/co-owner Kathleen Culhane. “But we’re making it more in the forefront when we put ourselves out there. This is an LGBTQIA — whatever, alphabet soup — friendly bar. We are committed to diversity in all things.”
  • Blogger Heather Awen has recently put out a call for submissions for a new non-profit project that will result in a book titled Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. The book will include rituals, guided meditations, and deity information rooted in Celtic tradition and creatively tailored for polytheists in prison. Why? Awen feels that many inmates learn about Paganism in prison, but there is very little material on Celtic-based practices. Submissions are due May 15, 2017.
  • Many Gods West has opened registration for the 2017 conference held in Olympia, WA. The event is a “gathering of peers to support the growth and practice of Polytheism. […] Join us for three days of discussion, devotion, ritual, and theology! We are now open for registration and for programming proposals.” The 2017 event will be held Aug. 4-6.

That is it for now. Have a nice day.

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice or artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

"Rocks in Tree" 2016 by photographer Greg Harder, all rights reserved

“Rocks in Tree” 2016 by photographer Greg Harder, all rights reserved


“Ideally speaking, I would like to be one of those people who does worship every day, morning and night. In my mind, in my heart, I view myself as being a ‘mystic.’ ‘Of course I can do this indefinitely!’

However, the reality is that after months of doing that, I crash. I become emotionally burnt out. I get physically ill and then use my sickness as an excuse to take time away from my devotional practice or, often, any sort of religious practice.

This makes me feel awful. I feel like a failed devotee.

What this is telling me is that perhaps I should limit my devotional work to specific time periods. Six or 8-9 weeks, maybe, of daily practice. At the end of that time period, I can decide (or ask a diviner, procuring their services) whether to keep going or not for another set period of time.” — R.M. McGrath, on devotional work.


I like Jerome (something that causes several of my academic friends to raise surprised eyebrows): he’s curmudgeonly; I’m curmudgeonly. He writes in beautiful (for a Christian) Latin, I like Latin and wish I could write like that. He seems to value the spiritual wellbeing of the lay people with whom he corresponded and didn’t condescend to them or truncate his letters, instead he included a substantial and nuanced theology in his responses, even when writing to someone as insignificant in the Roman world as an unmarried teenaged girl. I was very impressed by that, even though I might not agree with the positions he was espousing. –Galina Krasskova, from What Early Christianity Can Teach Us About How To Be Good Polytheists


I’ve seen Christians who understand this experience far better than pagans. One is the author of the blog Beauty Without Bones, her harrowing account of recovering from anorexia and the constant vigilance to stop possible backsliding while at the same time educating others. There’s obviously no doubt in her that the Christian God is truly at the core of everything she does. . . . That somehow someone could narcissistically lose themselves and escape from the problems of the world via devotional polytheism makes no sense especially considering our gods are in this world. How can putting the Gods of the world in the center of your life not force you into real action changing the world? –Heather Awen on serving humanity and the gods.


Dear gods, don’t be complacent. White supremacy is still here. It never left – not during the last eight years, not during the last hundreds of years. Don’t allow your edge to be smoothed away by articles that want you to go back to being silent, ineffective, and a cog in the system.

Please, please – stop reading and sharing those articles. Don’t let relief overtake your new vigor to fight the system. Stoke that flame of resistance! It is tiny, extinguishable by a thimbleful of water — do not allow it! Stoke those flames of change!

It is the time to RISE, not sit. To keep our eyes open, to shout until we can no more, to stand with the disenfranchised and the marginalized. It is time to put our mouths, money, and bodies between the way it has always been and the world we want it to be! RESIST! –Boneweaver, writing on a sense of comfort emerging after the U.S. election.


I’m not – yet – comfortable aligning myself with a specific religious tradition. I was brought up EXTREMELY inside the box, but it has been over a decade since I stepped outside of that particular box. In that time, I’ve been almost exclusively drawn to earth-based spiritual practices. Yes, I feel there’s a difference between being spiritual and being religious, which is yet another reason I have continued to tick the “no preference: box. . . . While I’m not religious, I do believe in a spirit world, in energy, in the earth. . . does that actually make me Pagan? I’ve hesitated to use the term because I don’t feel I have the level of belief necessary to fit into that sphere. –The Wanderer, No Religious Preference.


Where are the gods? Well, it’s not like they’re all-powerful, and even if they were, it’s not necessarily their responsibility to get us out of the dilemmas we make for ourselves. I may have prayed and lit candles for the Goddess, and poured a libation for Loki, but I also voted, and encouraged other people to vote thoughtfully. I probably could have done more, but that’s a lesson learned. . . . If there are gods, they don’t always act. And they don’t always have the power to do so. Sometimes they are silent. And sometimes they speak out of the darkness. –Angharad the Pagan, from Polytheism after Monotheism.


The best creative thinking isn’t worked for, it’s allowed. When we let our dreaming, imagining minds play freely, the awen is most likely to flow. Try to force and direct it and you are more likely to get something that feels pushed and contrived. Mediation can make a space for unconscious thinking to rise gently to the surface. By letting the mind settle, space can be made for gloriously mad connections to be made, essential what-if questions to be asked and so forth. So we may start with some standard techniques for stilling and settling, but once ‘in the zone’ the last thing we want to do is notice and let go of our thoughts. Instead, we need to notice and explore what arrives. A deliberate wool gathering, daydreaming time, where we go with what happens. –Nimue Brown, from Bardic Meditation.


If you thought I was nasty before
You haven’t seen anything yet
Before you called me nasty for standing in the sun
For demanding my share of power
Light
Attention

But now I’m standing in the shadows too
I’m right behind you
Everywhere you go
At the edge of your vision
At the edge of the world
Reminding you that there is more to be seen

Now I am standing in the darkness
And every time the lights go off
A chill runs up your spine
The darkness is vast and powerful
And the sliver of the moon
Only tells you that all things must wane

Of course, I have been here this whole time
But now your gut knows it
The vision haunts you
Until nightmares become a dream
A shimmer of possibilities
Unfolding
We are unfolding
Ceaseless
Unstoppable

–Melissa ra Karit, If You Thought I Was Nasty Before


That’s it for now. Please continue to recommend voices, art or photography you’d like to see featured here!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. Therefore, The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

downloadThis week saw the death of Cuban leader and despot Fidel Castro (1926-2016). His brother Raul made the announcement Friday on Cuban TV, and word spread quickly evoking both cheers and mourning. Raul said:

“I say to the people of Cuba, with profound pain I come here to inform our people, our friends of America and the world, that today, 25 November, 2016, at 10:29 pm, died the chief commander of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz.”

Castro was born in 1926, and led a series of uprisings against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. He was eventually successful, becoming president in 1959. Castro then transformed the small island nation according to his political and social agenda, and held power for nearly 50 years. Then, in 2007, brother Raul took over the presidency, when Castro became too ill to continue the work.

Castro’s revolution and his subsequent rule have left an indelible mark on international political history, and throughout his life, he triggered both disgust and passionate celebration. Cuban author and historian Louis E Perez is quoted as saying that Castro “was a historic figure way out of proportion to the national base in which he operated.”  Will, as Castro once himself said, “history absolve him?” That will seemingly depend on when, where, and who writes that history.

*    *   *

standing rock logoIn a story we’ve been following closely, Standing Rock tensions continue to mount. As has been announced, the Army Corps of Engineers will be shutting down parts of the camp Dec. 5. “This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations […] and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”

In response, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement, “It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving – a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people.”

Visiting Pagans,and those involved in other ways, continue to send in reports to TWH, and we will share those accounts as we can.

Other News

  • According to a Daily Beast article, Satanist Monica Lujan is suing a private prison for violating her religious rights and punishing her for her beliefs. “[New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility] allegedly confiscated nearly all of Lujan’s belongings, leaving her with one pair of underwear, and no bedding for four months.”  The chaplain reportedly also berated her in public and “called her the devil herself.” The ACLU of New Mexico is representing Lujan.
  • A Virginia woman is fighting for her right to maintain a lush front yard garden. Lori Brent’s property is reportedly a certified wildlife habitat, and has been for over 10 years. Recently a neighbor’s complaint prompted a visit from the county inspector, who formally requested that Brent cut back her “overgrown” and “abundant plant life.” Instead of complying, she has decided to fight the county.
  • Broadly posted an article about an Australian-based Pagan community and its Beltane festival. The article, “Overflowing with Joy and Pagan Pride at Australia’s Biggest Witch Party,” interviews Pagan Jae Llewellyn, and provides vivid photographs of the event and its attendees. While the article may appear positive to outsiders, it has, reportedly, provoked frustration from the local community. When asked specifically about the reported outrage, Fio Aengus Santika told The Wild Hunt that the article, which seemed to focus on the Wildwood tradition, was released “without any member of our Tradition being aware it would come out.” We’ll have more from Santika tomorrow in Pagan Community Notes. 
  • In a recent article, Heat Street reported on the growth of Paganism in the Army. The article, titled “Paganism Growing in The U.S. Army: Choose Your Own Gods,” follows the practice of Pagans in South Carolina’s Fort Jackson. There are interviews with several circle attendees, as well as leader Rachel Lichtenberger, “whose husband is a drill sergeant.” The video, which is embedded below, can be found at the top of the article and shares the same information.

  • In Kenya, clerics have recently announced that if any candidate uses “witchcraft” to sway the election, they will be banned from church. According to the article, “Embu clergymen say wizards are set to make a killing in the polls.” A “killing” in this case means “get rich.” The article goes on to report on the financial gains made by alleged “wizards” who help aggressive politicians. While the claims of witchcraft-infused politics may seem familiar to an American population, who just witnessed similar claims in the November presidential election, it is important to remember that references to witchcraft in Kenyan culture and politics are not the same as that referenced in the American culture. Witchcraft-related abuses and violence continue to plague this region and to concern local and world human rights organizations.
  • The Getty Research Institute, based in Los Angeles, is hosting an exhibit called The Art of Alchemy. “The mysterious art of alchemy transformed visual culture from antiquity to the Industrial Age, and its legacy still permeates the world we make today.” The exhibit opened in mid-October and will run through Feb. 12.
  • Interested in the ouija board? Did you have the popular toy as a child? Or do you use a similar type spirit board in your magical practice? Here is a short video on the strange history and use of the board with Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America.