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ROSEBURG, Ore — On Thursday Oct. 1, a 26-year old man entered several buildings on the Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon and opened fire killing a total of ten people and injuring 9 others. Among those ten victims was 59-year old Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, a local Pagan woman, who was attending classes with her daughter.


Kim Saltmarsh Dietz

When the shooting happening, family members immediately began to worry. There had been no word from Kim since the shots had been fired. Almost immediately, prayers and blessings were being expressed via Facebook from friends and family. “Kim, please be alive. Please be safe. Please call home!,” read one post.

However, hope turned to sorrow when friends and family learned that she was one of the ten victims. The Douglas County Sheriff’s office sent two officers to each home to inform the family and offer any assistance. After learning the news, Kim’s husband, Eric Dietz, confirmed the worst via Facebook, saying “It is with deep grief in my heart that I must announce that Kim Saltmarsh Dietz was one of the people killed yesterday at UCC.”  Later that day, the Sheriff’s office publicly released the names of all the victims.

Douglas County Sheriff’s office Lt. Rich Chatman told The Wild Hunt that they have a huge number officers currently working on this case because of the immense amount of data involved. When asked if officers were currently pursuing or considering pursuing any of the suggested connections to Paganism or Wicca, as publicized by various media outlets, Lt. Chatman said, “not at the moment.” He was very open about the reality of the investigation’s complexity and, at this point, the office has no idea what direction the case will take. Lt. Chatman added that, at this point, their focus is on the immediate crisis, gathering data, and talking to the victims’ families.

He did confirm that the shooter owned 14 guns, of which 13 have been recovered. Only 6 were found at the college, and the others were found in his home. All of the guns were purchased legally from licensed federal firearms dealers.

While the Sheriff’s department moves forward with its investigative work, the victims’ families must now face the process of mourning. Kim’s husband has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral and memorial expenses. According to one of the donors, Kim was a hero. On the site, Jescah Keene wrote, “She stood in front of a door to block the shooter & unfortunately lost her life.”  And, in a Facebook post, another local resident said that nursing student and friend Sharon Kirkham “was by her side trying to save her until the end.”

Graphic turning up on Facebook after the tragedy.

Since the news became public, there has been an outpouring of support from family, friends and the extended Pagan community. Originally from Mission Viejo California, Kim was closely connected to Covenant of the Goddess, whose members have been reaching out across various platforms to offer support. She was involved with the Society of Creative Anachronism, Shire of Briaroak and she worked as a caretaker at Pyrenees Vineyard and Wine Cellars.

No memorial services are currently scheduled. We are currently in touch with the family and will bring you updates as they come in.

Until that time, we simple say … What is remembered, lives!

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[Manny Tejeda-Moreno is one of our talented monthly columnists. He brings you commentary each month that explores and validates many our most treasured traditions and spiritual practices through scientific studies. If you like his work and that of our other monthly columnists, help us by donating to our fall fund drive. Bringing you articles, like the one below, is what we love to do. It is your continued support that makes it possible for us to continue. Support independent journalism! Donate today.Thank you very much.]

There is a pataki, which is a story of Orisha, about words, slander and stewardship. Obatalá is the king of the Orisha under Heaven. He is the wise Sky Father who designed and created the human body. The Orisha respect him as judge and counsel, because he rules with wisdom and not with power. Obatalá teaches patience and listening.

Changó, on the other hand, is the Orisha of leadership, but he is impatient, splenetic and impetuous. He is also the son of Obatalá, who saw Changó clearly for his limitations, but also recognized his intelligence, industry and commitment to helping others. It was for that reason that when Changó was very young, Obatalá put him in charge of governing people.

Many were concerned about this decision, but no one dared question Obatalá to his face. Instead, they just complained to him about Changó. The stories told ranged from silly to serious. And Changó would hear them whispered. The rumors swirled constantly until Changó confronted Obatalá asking, “Father why did you put me in charge? Everyone tells terrible stories about me and none of them are true! Why do they do this?”

Chango’s Axe- [Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

Obatalá responded by asking Changó to prepare a dinner for him and all his children. He wanted to be served the most enchanting and delicious food that Changó could think of. When the evening came for the meal, Changó presented his father with a stewed beef tongue saying, “It is delicious and magical, full of aché!” Everyone enjoyed the dinner.

A few months passed and Obatalá requested another meal from his son. This time, he asked Changó, “Present me with the most dangerous of meals – the worst food you can bring!” Changó entered and presented him again with beef tongue. Obatalá was impressed and asked why. Changó responded, “A good tongue will save a village and bad tongue will destroy it.” Obatalá was pleased and said “This is why you lead. You now understand the power of your voice and your words for ill and blessing. And you have learned to rise above slander while speaking words of greatness. Worry only when they stop talking about you.”

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This past week, I was truly struck by a story that came out of Northern Nigeria that resonated with the above pataki. A 65-year old Muslim woman in Sokoto State was allegedly tried and publicly flogged with twelve strokes administered by palace guards in the royal courtyard of the area’s traditional leader. The woman’s trial and punishment were reportedly the consequence of a dispute with her daughter-in-law, who alleged that her husband was mistreating her and that he was aided by her mother-in-law’s witchcraft. Subsequent media reports note that residents of the community have requested gubernatorial intervention because, as they claim, this is not the first accusation of witchcraft and that such accusations are on the rise.

To put the story in context, it was shocking not only in terms of what happened, but also in the location of the atrocity. Witchcraft persecution is not uncommon in the Christian south of Nigeria. But for this event to have occurred in the Muslim north represents a departure from the location and group most likely to engage in witch hunts. It is a change that portends more could be on the way.

A belief in the evils of witchcraft is in fact indigenous, but this manner of remedy is not. The African Traditional Religions of Nigeria that were brought to the West, like Ocha and Ifá, approach the issue as an aspect of negative energy. Priests identify the spiritual problem and then properly work with Orisha, and their own aché to restore balance in the afflicted person. The current witch hunt and elimination of witches is chiefly the culmination of colonization and the importation of Scottish and American Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries into the local community. It has produced a truly noxious cultural brew that imperils lives. And now that Northern Nigeria is reporting the identification and hunting of witches suggests a sinister contagion into regions that have traditionally been disinterested in locating and punishing them.

These witch hunts have taken the most disturbing of turns in the south and east of Nigeria through the work of the Pentecostal community and their evangelical “prophets.” Children as young as 24 months of age are branded as witches and then tortured, abandoned and even killed by their parents in order to secure either their own safety or the salvation of the child. Preachers of such communities have even turned to the instruments of the Spanish Inquisition, using anything from whips to boiling water to even lye against toddlers and teens, to ensure their flock is free from “Satanic influence.”

The only instrument, many believe, to remedy such evil is to turn to the power self-proclaimed priests and prophets who purvey both salvation and antidotes. One such prophet is Helen Ukpabio self-declared as The Lady Apostle and founder of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries in Calabar. Ms. Ukpabio produced and starred in a film called The End of the Wicked. While available on YouTube, I strongly recommend you watch it with caution if you intend to work your way through it. The Wild Hunt has previously reported on her activities.

Her proclamations are inconsistent with reason. But the real revulsion of the film is that it implies a basis for the systematic torment of children by demonstrating how witch-children are created, identified and ultimately eliminated through the power of exorcism. That exorcism isn’t free and, of course, no psychologist or other mental health professional is ever consulted. Religion is only part of the oppression: money is the other.

Photo Credit: Manny Tejeda-Moreno Abuja, Nigeria

National Assembly and Aso Rock, Abuja, Nigeria- Photo Credit: Manny Tejeda-Moreno

That is not to say that witches and witch hunts are solely the product of Christian faiths or that they are alien in the Islamic world. Far from it. Belief in Jinn, or the supernatural beings from pre-Islamic Arabian beliefs, is common and their abilities to empower witches are formidable and require suppression. Since 2007, when Egyptian pharmacist Mustafa Ibrahim was beheaded in Riyadh for “practicing magic and sorcery as well as adultery and desecration of the Holy Quran,” dozens of people have been sentenced to penalties that range from death to 1,000 canings and a decade of imprisonment. In many cultures, traditions and faiths, there can be found a real fear of witches. In July of this year,16 men were arrested in India for stripping and beheading a 63 year old woman in Assam State.

While these atrocities must unquestionably cease, it is unlikely they will.  It is not a folk belief within a specific tradition that is driving the hysteria. One mechanism that drives the fear is the terrible power held within the word “witch.” The Spanish word for witch, brujo/a, still conveys a dark identity to the practitioners of magic as do similar words for witch in other languages (strega, 巫婆, wrach, hexe). And while those mentioned in the articles above were likely not Pagan nor Witches by the common standards of our community, many of us would also undoubtedly be the targets of fanatical witch hunters. The persecution of Pagans occurs in all parts of the world: it only varies by degree.

Still, many of us fortunately find ourselves in a space of privilege. We live in societies where religious freedoms have helped us reclaim the word witch and temper its meaning. We do still experience persecution but not to the scale of our history or the reports above. In North America, the Salem Witch Trials are distant memory. Nevertheless, The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (a.k.a the Spanish Inquisition) only ended in 1834. It was part of the living memory of some of our most recent Ancestors, and elsewhere in the world events like it and the trials are unfolding today. The combined fear of the feminine and the supernatural potential to upset the power structure, will kindle fear in witches around the world still.

Paralleling the re-introduction of Halloween in the 19th Century, the concept of “witch” has been tempered by commercialization, urbanization, and the rise of witch-positive over the last century. And, I think, it would be possible to argue that witches are perceived in a more nuanced manner in Great Britain and North America.

But the changes in imagery are not enough to promote lasting and effective change in our world to stop the atrocities against children and the elderly. Many people in West Africa, the Levant and Arabian Peninsula all have access to the same imagery through the internet and even through simple broadcast and books. The same is true for other parts of the world. Language and images are one thing; but there is another mechanism of oppression as well that truly magnifies the fear of witches: economics.

Money is itself a structure of power that attracts wickedness far more effectively than a mere word. Economics can alter power structures as effectively as any magic. And losing power is another matter altogether.

This view is not new. Llorente (1822), an Inquisition historian, suggested that the purpose of the Spanish Inquisition was little more than the extraction of wealth on behalf of the Spanish Crown. He referred to it as little more than an income maximizing enterprise to repress groups that could potentially challenge the power of political and religious institutions.

Recent research has supported some evidence of an economic rationale for the Inquisition. Vidal-Robert (2014) found that while the Spanish Inquisition did not have increases in wealth as Llorente suggested, there were other economic effects from it. The Inquisition repressed opportunity by limiting entrepreneurship incentives and activity. At the same time it quelled the use of new technologies – all stifling economic growth.  Even still. The Inquisition brought censorship and suppression to the powerless and the different: from Jews to Protestants to Moriscos and from homosexuals to Freemasons.

Indeed, wealth and economic inequality may prove to be critical factors in creating fear and hatred toward witches. Though rising economic opportunity and access to education have worked their magic to promote understanding, peace and equality, failures to create opportunity for everyone may also have serious consequences. As Munro (1976) noted the rise of anti-witch sentiment co-occurred with economic instability. There rise in social paranoia toward witches and other supernatural beings paralleled upsurges in unemployment within urbanized immigrant communities.

Most interestingly, though, Konig (2013) examined an anthropological data set termed the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) to question whether fear of witches was related to failing economic prosperity, specifically opportunity from agricultural development. In essence, the findings point to yes: the revitalization of agriculture and overall economic success reduced the fear of witches. This is not unique to the continent of Africa, both Latin America and Southeast Asia have also seen the growth in witch fear co-occurring with political and economic oppression (Hayes 2007). And that connection is not trivial: all three areas have experienced the repressive effects of Colonialism and subsequent economic injustice.

Oster (2004) found a similar pattern by looking at a connections between witch trials and climate changes (specifically temperature). She gathered climate records between 1520 and 1770 and found that the colder periods co-occurred with an increase number of witch trials in Europe. Miguel (2005) found a similar pattern in data from Tanzania. Extremes in rainfall, whether floods or drought, resulted in more accusations of witchcraft and ultimately more murders against “witches,” particularly elderly women. When crops fail, you look for a scapegoat. Witches made good scapegoats: they can control the weather. Elderly women have little power in the patriarchy to resist. The connection with agriculture as a proxy for economic bounty is underscored again. The fear that exists in the culture manifested in the word “witch” is magnified by poverty.

But the science also speaks to an advocacy and magic that we can create and sustain as well. Our traditions have collectively explored how systems of social and economic oppression ultimately fail people and Nature. Our demands for social justice include demands for social stewardship of resources and economic opportunity. They include the demand for fair and rational politicians and political systems that promote human dignity and erase the fears that create oppression. Our traditions also demand responsible stewardship and the sacredness of Earth. Climate change will undoubtedly stretch agricultural systems. But our approach to honor and work with Nature is being heard: we are overcoming a systemic deafness that has lasted decades.

While climate science points us in one direction for sustainability, economic and administrative science points us in a parallel one. Advocating for world-wide economic stability and opportunity will undermine witch-hunters the world over.  Calling out systems of economic oppression and fostering change by promoting fair and just business practices that create prosperity will ultimately subvert the power of witch-hunters to abuse children and the elderly. Economic and political stability will destabilize the fear needed to justify their actions and will end their control over congregants and communities.

As a Pagan community, we have made tremendous strides advocating for social and economic justice as well as the health of the planet. Tiring as it may sometimes be, we barrel headlong in our demands for all forms of equality and hold ourselves accountable for our actions when we fail to meet the expectations of our Ancestors. Those who have suffered or died under the accusation of witchcraft, whether Pagan or not, have exposed the fear and greed of the powerful.

I often think we make our Ancestors wonder, “What did we do to make that happen?” They see a seriously troubled world. But I also believe that within our Pagan community, our Ancestors are proud of our living voice that echoes their whispers demanding equality, claiming opportunity and wishing to live within and not above Nature. In doing so we honor those that brought us to now. We fulfill all their hopes. And as Samhain approaches, they will whisper their pride. The tongue is indeed powerful.

*Note: Ashé refers to spiritual energy. It is the power to make things happen.

*    *    *


Hayes, K.E. (2007). “Black magic and the academy: Macumba and Afro-Brazilian ‘orthodoxies.'” History of Religions, 46. p. 283-315.
Koning, N. (2013). “Witchcraft beliefs and witch hunts.” Human Nature24. p.158-1814.
Llorente, J.A. (1822). “Historia critica de la Inquisición.” Imprenta del Censor.
Munro, J.F. (1976). African and the International economy, 1800-1960: An introduction to the modern economic history of Africa south of the Sahara. London:  Dent.
Oster, E. (2004). “Witchcraft, Weather and Economic Growth in Renaissance Europe.” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 18. p. 215-228.
Vidal-Robert, J. (2014) “Long-run effects of the Spanish inquisition. working paper. Coventry: University of Warwick. Department of Economics. CAGE Online Working Paper Series, Volume 2014 (Number 192). (Unpublished)


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NEW YORK, NY –The World Peace Violin, an instrument that has both given and received blessings as it travels around the world to various sacred places and conflict zones, was blessed on the U.N.’s International Day of Peace by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and primatologist Jane Goodall. “On the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and 75th of the bombing of Hiroshima, those messengers of peace blessed and sanctified it,” said violin creator Patrick McCollum.

jane goodall

Jane Goodall with Patrick McCollum and the Peace Violin [Courtesy Photo 2015]

This may well represent a peak for an item that defied the predictions of expert luthiers, who expected an instrument made of such an amalgamation of woods to never produce a beautiful note, much less become a metaphor for the peace process itself. However, McCollum does not believe the violin’s work has reached anything near its pinnacle. He said:

Throughout the last several days, many of the world’s foremost peacemakers and interfaith leaders have been deeply moved by the violin and its story, and many have shared their personal blessings on it. It was beautifully played by Scarlet [Rivera] at the Roerich Museum, and my speech was very well received. All in all, I did a number of wonderful events for the International Day of Peace including the prayers and flag ceremony for every country at the United Nations Chapel after the main event at the UN.

The story of how McCollum, who had never played a note on a violin, much less built one, came to be the steward of one is rife with mystery, magic, and many, many blessings. It’s a tale he shares often, although not always as thoroughly as he did for The Wild Hunt.

In summary, he said, “Years ago, I’m laying in bed, and a voice speaks to me …It’s the Goddess, and she said, ‘I want you to make a violin, and it’s going to become the symbol of world peace.’ She told me I could not learn how to make one; I had to listen to her voice.”

And, listen he did. The pieces, quite literally, started coming together. Those pieces came from a wide variety of woods, some sacred, others from trees that were witness to conflict or its resolution. A highly-skilled luthier would be hard-pressed to coax music from an instrument fashioned of as many diverse woods as this violin, but those who have played it consider its sound to be world-class. Here’s a sample:

The violin sounded quite poor when it was first built, McCollum said. The first two pieces of wood to go into it came from opposite sides of the world. One was given to him by members of a tribe in the Congo, and came from the type of tree made to use drums sacred in their tradition. The other came from a tree that members of a Native American tribe introduced him to; he was told that it carried the “voice of peace.” McCollum recalled, “I interacted with the tree for many years, until a storm knocked off a big branch.”

He carved into an inlay a piece he took from a sacred tree that had seen the peace accords signed in Ireland, and created a varnish which reinforced the message all the more: dust collected from Hiroshima eight days after the bomb detonated, sand from the reputed site of Jesus’ baptism which was collected during peace talks between Israel and Palestine, and cremains from a sacred white buffalo, whose birth itself was a prophecy of peace.

“When I first played it, it sounded horrible. It sounded terrible, but it looked really nice.”

Despite that beginning, McCollum began asking people to bless the violin, starting with prominent Pagans, such as Starhawk and Selena Fox. He brought it on his travels, obtaining blessings from more Pagans and others, until he brought it to the Maha Kumbh Mela in India. During that festival, which takes place every twelve years, Hindus bathe in the Ganges to wash away the sins of lifetime. As many as one hundred million people participated in 2013 when McCollum was there, and he again heard a voice. “It told me to immerse the violin under the water as they pray,” he said. “Some people nearby told me not to do that,” but submerge it he did. McCollum added, “It took a month and a half to dry, but when it did, it sounded world-class.”

The violin continues to sound as lovely, despite having been dismantled and reassembled with new pieces of wood at least fifteen times. It now contains over a hundred fragments from all over the world. It’s an ugly process, involving breaking and chiseling it apart, “but each time I put it back together, it sounds better,” he said.

He also reports that Rivera, the primary musician, said that it sounds a little different each time it is blessed by someone new. That’s not something he can confirm personally, since he taught himself how to play, and claims he restricts that to his living room.

Built of an impossible diversity of woods that should not sound well together after being broken down and reconstructed time and time again, McCollum sees the violin as a metaphor for the peace process itself. He’s not alone in that, either, as evidenced by the events he has been asked to bring the instrument to, and the people eager to both play and bless it. He said,

To me, it’s important because it’s a Pagan violin. We’re always trying to gain recognition, and be taken seriously. This originated in Paganism, and it was our blessings that laid its foundational energies.

There are stories and hints that the blessings of this violin go both ways. McCollum has heard of people with serious health conditions whose suffering was alleviated after they conferred a blessing upon the violin or heard it play. He is more than willing to allow anyone to bless the instrument; not just faith leaders. Laypersons also have laid hands upon it, and those who see it as a miracle of science and bless it from that perspective.


Jane Goodall blessing the Peace Violin [Courtesy Photo 2015]

This diversity of blessings, which have been laid upon that foundation, are as varied as the diverse materials used to build it in the first place. No one is precluded from participating based on their particular beliefs, or lack thereof; the magic of this violin, in his view, stems from it giving voice to so many different sources.

YouTube videos offer only tantalizing bits to those who have not been fortunate enough to hear the World Peace Violin be played in person. In the works is a CD that might give the curious more of a sense of how this remarkable instrument actually sounds. Perhaps that recording will carry some of its magic and allow its message of peace to be carried further than even its world travels might take it.

Through his Foundation’s Facebook page, you can follow McCollum’s work and, if you’d like to bless or see the violin, the page also offers the most up-to-date information on its future appearances.

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News Update …

bloomfield nmIn March 2014, we reported on a story in which two New Mexico Pagans challenged their local city’s placement of a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds. They won that case, but the city vowed to appeal in federal court.

That case is being heard today in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado. The city of Bloomfield will argue for keeping the monument, stating that “the display is legal because it was privately funded.” Prior to the monument’s installation, members of the Bloomfield community, as well as some elected officials, had raised private funds specifically for this purpose.

The ACLU, on behalf of Felix and Coone, maintain that the monument violates the Constitution. As noted in our original article, the ACLU argued that city officials “accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation.” We will update the story as it continues to progress.

Other Links …. 

  • On Sept 25, a special memorial service was held for Mustang 22, a 5-person unit of soldiers killed in combat exactly ten years ago. A member of that unit was Sergeant Patrick Stewart, whose name later became connected to the Veteran Pentacle Quest. Sergeant Stewart’s wife, Roberta Stewart, was at the memorial service, and spoke to the media in attendance. Here is that news report:

  • In June, we noted the passing of Eron the Wizard, a prominent figure in the UK’s magical community and a practitioner of Alexandrian Wicca. He lost his battle with cancer on May 10 and was given a large memorial service that was well-publicized. Just this past week, Eron’s daughter, Rebecca Spencer, reported that her father’s beloved car has now been stolen. It’s a yellow Subaru Legacy uniquely decorated with black stars and witches. She told reporters that it disappeared on Friday from her home near Gloucester. She said, “I have lost my dad and now this has been stolen.” She added that it was one of the few things from him that she had left.
  • Now we move east to Russia. The Moscow Times has reported that city officials are planning to “release a booklet warning Muscovites against unorthodox religious ‘cults’ operating in Russia.” The booklet will reportedly include ways to handle encounters with such cults and how to countact the authorities. The Times also quoted Moscow officials as saying, “cults do not necessarily take a traditional form, many of them are posing as lectures, personal development courses, or even yoga classes.” What does this mean, if anything, for Pagans in the area? The booklet has not yet been published, and there is no indication of whether or not any Pagan groups will be listed. When more is available, we will update the story.
  • Further southwest, in the ex-Soviet province of Tajikistan, the national government is also taking measures against, what it considers to be, dangerous practices. The Tajik Parliament is expected to introduced new changes to its criminal code, which make the practice of witchcraft, “sorcery” and fortune telling punishable with up to 7 years of prison time. The legislation was first introduced in 2007 as a simple ban. Now officials are looking to add more teeth to the measure in order to allegedly protect against charlatans and “witch doctors.”
  • Over the past two weeks, it seems that everyone is talking about the Pope. The Guardian recently featured an article on his visit to Cuba. However, the piece didn’t focus on the Pope specifically. It examined the relationship between his message and the practice of Santeria, also known as Lukumi. The article reads, “The syncretic religion of Santería has unsurprisingly not been mentioned in the pope’s schedule or sermons, but its powerful influence on the island means that many of those listening to his homilies will be interpreting references to the Catholic saints in a very different way from Vatican orthodoxy.” The Guardian goes on to discuss the relationship between the Church and the deeply-rooted syncretic religion that thrives on the island.
  • Back in the United States, changes have been made to one Montana hospital, which allows for a very specific type of healing. In Helena, Montana, a new “Smudging Room” has opened in Saint Peter’s Hospital. The room is intended to be used by Native Americans for a special sacred healing practice that removes negative energy. Montanta Public Radio reports that “Little Shell Tribal member Daniel Pocha said getting hospitals to allow smudging has always been hit and miss.” The article goes on to celebrate the new addition, saying the hospital is “acknowledging the needs of patients who follow native spiritual traditions.”
  • If you haven’t looked at the calendar lately, it’s almost October. And what does that mean? Pumpkins, corn mazes and interviews with Witches. Starting off before the bell even rings opening the month, Oregon Live has posted an article featuring Anne Newkirk Niven. A local Oregon resident, Niven is the publisher of Witches and Pagans magazine and director of PaganSquare.com. In the article, Niven discusses her practices and beliefs. It ends with her saying, “I love words, I love religion, and I’m pagan … What the heck? I’m in my dream job.”
  • In that same vein, BuzzFeed has joined Octoberfest early, offering a list of “spellbooks for the witch in your life.” The thirteen books listed are a mix bag from the newly published to the classic. BuzzFeed’s criteria may be a bit of a mystery. How does this compare to your top 13?
  • Finally, the Vice Channel Broadly has published photographs from this year’s New York Pagan Pride Day event. In July,Vice.com offered a vivid picture tour of New York City’s Witchfest. Now, its Broadly channel is serving up photos from the annual fall festival. Its cover shot is of Priestess Courtney Weber proudly wearing a shirt that reads, “Where my Witches at?” The article goes on to quote PPD president Beth Mastromarino, saying that their goal is to “Create a space where Pagans can gather and the public can see that we’re just everyday people who happen to have a different sense of spirituality, but share the same values—family, community, caring for the environment and our fellow humans.” The majority of Broadly’s article is simply a dazzling photo album documenting the many people at this year’s event.

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[Cara Schulz is one of our talented weekly staff writers. She brings you the news and issues that most affect the Pagan and Heathen worlds. If you like her work and that of our other weekly reporters, help us by donating to our fall fund drive. Bringing you news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. It is your continued support that makes it possible for us to continue. Support independent journalism! Donate today.Thank you very much.]

SASKATOON, Canada – It was just another night door knocking and campaigning for Robert Rudachyk – no different from the 49 previous nights. After he finished, he headed home and, as he was about to enter his front door, he witnessed an unfamiliar car occupied by two men slam into his neighbor’s car and then try to drive off. Rudachyk didn’t hesitate. He chased the car down on foot as it tried to get away.

Rudachyk, a Heathen living in Saskatoon-Riverdale, Canada, has been campaigning on behalf of the Liberal Party candidates for the upcoming Canadian federal elections scheduled for October. He’s also running to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly himself in April’s regional elections.

Robert Rudachyk

Robert Rudachyk

On the evening of September 23, Rudachyk saw the unfamiliar car hit his neighbor’s car while attempting a three point turn. When the two men sped off into the dark, Rudachyk ran after them. “It was obvious they were trying to get on the main road about a block and a half away. I ran after them hoping I could catch them at the intersection. Luckily, there were pedestrians crossing in front of them and heavy traffic,” said Rudachyk. The vehicle was forced to stop long enough for him to catch up.

His cell phone dead, Rudachyk decided to bluff and yelled at the two men in the car that he had snapped a photo of their plate number. The car turned into a 7-11 parking lot, and that’s when Rudachyk was able to confront them. He told them if they didn’t come back to the scene of the hit-and-run, he would call the police. He also told them that he would physically restrain them from leaving the area. “They agreed to come back and I stayed close until [my neighbor] came out,” said Rudachyk.

The young men and his neighbor exchanged insurance information and, for Rudachyk at least, the matter was over.

Rudachyk said that this isn’t the first time there’s been a hit-and-run in the neighborhood. He said, “It has happened to me and all my neighbours at one time or another, and it has cost us all a lot of money from insurance deductibles.”

That history, combined with the ethics of his religion, Heathenry, spurred him to run after the car. He believes everyone is accountable for their own actions and, “To run from your actions and hide from it is a huge dishonour. It is also dishonourable to stand by and do nothing if you can help.” He added that he’s happy to have been in the right place and time to stop someone from getting away with another hit-and-run.  

As for Rudachyk’s relationship with his neighbors, they have engaged in a bit of humor over the entire situation. “It just happened that the owner of the car is a supporter of the Conservative party and I am a Liberal. It allowed for a little political humour afterwards when his wife was expressing amazement that I was able to run them down. I smiled and said, ‘After almost 50 days of running hard to get our Liberal candidate elected in the riding, it was a piece of cake.’”

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[Pagan Community Notes is a weekly feature that highlights short stories and notes originating from within or affecting our collective communities. If you like seeing this dedicated news every Monday, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. These types of articles take time, research and money to produce. It is you that makes it all possible! Your donations go directly back to getting the important news out there. Donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

lightning2015bannerLightning Across the Plains (LATP), an annual fall Heathen event, was cancelled after 6 successful years. The announcement read, “LATP 2014 was attended by 280 heathens, and we had every indication that LATP 2015 would have been at least as successful as last year, if not more so. But, the potential success of an event is not always the measure of whether it makes sense to go forward with it.”

Lightning Across the Plains, held in Missouri, was first staged in September 2009 by Jotan’s Bane Kindred. It was then held every year at that same time, attracting over 200 people predominantly from around the central United States. Organizers called it the “largest Heathen event in North America.”

In their recent announcement, members of Jotan’s Bane Kindred stated that they have now chosen to redirect their energy into their family life, their friends and their local Heathen communities. They go on to say that the event, while mostly attended by good-spirited people, was often visited by those who proved “dishonorable” adding, “The decision to cancel LATP this year reflects our unwillingness to throw an amazing regional gathering that is enjoyed by some that are false-friends.” 

Jotan’s Bane Kindred did express its regrets, saying that the decision was difficult and that “LATP will have a lasting legacy.” According to the site all registration money has been returned and that the organizers look forward to seeing their LATP friends at other events throughout the year.

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hearthand-150x150As we reported last weekend, Harbin Hot Springs, a retreat center nestled on 5,000 acres of land in California, was destroyed by the Valley Fire. Since our article was published, there have been continued efforts to help the people of Harbin, and the surrounding area, rebuild and recover. The region was declared a disaster area, which has now qualified it for federal disaster relief funds.

On Sept 12, Harbin’s 285 residents and staff had to evacuate quickly, leaving behind personal belongings and, in some cases, animals. Many went to a nearby Red Cross shelter. Now there is a concerted effort by the local community to assist these people get back to their sacred land. A Staff Relief Fund has been set up to help those people as they recover. There is also a Facebook group that is acting as a central donation and aid center for the affected area. The public group contains stories and memories, as well as suggesting ways to help. At this time, the center is still closed until further noticed.

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Thorn at UEAIt was announced last week that Barbara Doyle, more commonly known as Thorn, had crossed over. Doyle was an active and well-known elder in the Texas magical community.

She was born March 28, 1942 in Rye, New York. She raised four children. In the mid 1980s, as a single mother, she moved herself and her two daughters to Texas, where she began her 30 year career as technical writer. At the same time, she began her journey into Wicca. She first studied with an Isian High Priestess, receiving her third degree. Then, she began studying McFarland Dianic Wicca and eventually founded the group Diana’s Retreat.

In 1994, Doyle and her coven helped create the Covenant of the Goddess’ Texas Local Council (TXLC), which is still active today. Over the years she continued to serve that organization on a local and national level. Doyle also served on the Council of Magickal Arts and the McFarland Dianic Council. Friend and fellow TXLC member Faelind remembered, “Under [Thorn’s] mentorship and tutelage, many of us learned to plan, organize, fund, and market National events like United Earth Assembly festivals and Grand Council Merry Meets, gaining extraordinary experience and serving the community. She was a strong force in the Mighty Texas Local Council and was responsible for recruiting many of the member covens…”

Outside of Pagan world, Doyle was a strong advocate for women’s rights. She held a 28-year membership in the American Business Women’s Association and was honored many times. In fact, at the time of her death, Doyle was serving as ABWA’s co-chair VP of Finance. In addition she was also the president of the League of Women Voters of Irving and was recently honored by Irving’s first female mayor at a city council meeting.

Although her death came as a surprise, Doyle died peacefully in her sleep. She will be missed by her local community, her extended spiritual community, and all those who knew her and learned from her. What is remembered, lives!

In Other News:

  • For those readers attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions in October, it was recently announced that the Dalai Lama will not be speaking at the event. According to a CNN report, the Dalai Lama checked into a Minnesota Mayo Clinic for evaluation and cancelled all of his October engagements. The Parliament’s Board released the following, “We have heard from the Office of the Dalai Lama about his present health and remain in heartfelt prayer for his care and comfort.” Organizers are now considering how to honor the Dalai Lama in place of his scheduled appearance. They will share more as they have it.
  • Local UK papers are all a-buzz about the return of Witchfest International to Croydon’s Fairfield Hills. The yearly event is hosted by the Children of Artemis (COA) and attracts, according to the report, close to 3500 people. This year there will be six talks and workshops every hour. There will also be live music, DJs and drumming. The 2015 speakers include, “author Kate West, academic Professor Ronald Hutton, TV medium and astrologer David Wells and former president The Pagan Federation Pete Jennings.” For more information, Witchfest does have its own website filled with details about the Nov festival as well as two other upcoming 2016 COA events.
  • Cherry Hill Seminary is hosting its yearly Fall Scholarship Drive. All contributions help CHS balance its budget and “offer several scholarships for January-April courses, including both Insights short courses and full-semester graduate courses.” Information for donating is on the CHS website.
  • If you liked reading part one of Dr. Karl Seigfried’s interview with Jennifer Snook, he has published the second part. This segment of the their conversation focused on ethnicity, nationality and race and also includes a bonus graphic based on Snook’s own research.
  • Over at Polytheist.com, writer  continues “his series introducing us to the gods of Gaulish polytheist religion.” Widugeni is a “leader in Gaulish Polytheism, having been practicing for almost two decades, and in other related communities for more than 30 years.” He began this specific series back in April with a post containing a long sacred poem and then a second featuring general information. Widugeni has followed that up with regular articles on individual gods. This week he features Grannus. Check back frequently as Widugeni is only half done with the project.

And later this week at The Wild Hunt….

We look at the Pope’s visit to the U.S. We will be featuring reactions and thoughts from Pagan, Heathen and Polytheists living around the world.

That is it for now. Have a great day! And don’t forget to visit the Wild Hunt Fund Drive site! 

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In 1999, artist Lauren Raine was commissioned to create 30 leather masks that each reflected the spirit of a different Goddess from around the world. Earlier that same year, she had a dream during which she saw “a long line of Goddesses in all colors, in beautiful costumes.” Then, as if by magic, Raine was presented with a commission to create the series of masks to be used in Reclaiming’s 20th anniversary Spiral Dance in San Francisco.

On her newly updated blog, Raine wrote, “Masks in traditional societies are viewed as liminal tools, as vessels for the sacred powers. With a mask it is believed the Gods and Goddesses can visit, tell their stories, give their blessings, heal or even give prophecy.”

masks graphic

Oshun, Brigit, Pele [Masks by Lauren Raine]

Although the commission was the beginning of her “Masks of the Goddess” project, Raine’s interest in mask making began years before. She said, “My first Goddess mask was Kali … It was a time in my life when there was just so much I had to get rid of, so much maturation I needed to do, so many old patterns and ways of being I needed to get beyond in order to evolve. In retrospect, I think I made the mask of Kali as my own kind of invocation, my call for help from the One who helps us to slay the demons of the mind, to cut away that which has to go.”

When Reclaiming commissioned the masks, Raine welcomed the challenge, saying “I wanted to create them as contemporary temple masks to be used to invoke and re-claim the feminine faces of God.” In the end, the 1999 Spiral Dance used 20 of Raine’s masks for a 3 minute long Goddess invocation.

One of the mask wearers and supporters of the mask project was Aline O’Brien, more commonly known as M. Macha Nightmare. During the Spiral Dance, she wore the Morrigan mask. In 2007 blog post, O’Brien, remembered, “[This was] the baddest-ass Morrígan you ever hope to encounter. Even my friend Urania who helped me put it on was afraid once it was in place … I reddened my palms and displayed them as the Washer at the Ford in the processions.”

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Amateratsu Omikami

After the Reclaiming event was over, O’Brien felt disappointed with the presentation. Although she was personally “inspired by the masks,” she felt that they were underused and “not appreciated.”

With that in mind, O’Brien set out the design her own theatrical ritual that would emphasize Raine’s art, focus on the masks and embody the spirit of the various Goddesses. With the help of Mary Kay Landon, she wrote a script and an innovative ritual structure that focused solely on the Goddesses and the masks.

Then, in February 2000 at PantheaCon, O’Brien had the first opportunity to present her mask ritual, which she named Goddesses Alive! She found volunteers to assist with the both the staging and the various aspects of the performance, which included song, music, readings and dance. The brochure read:

Goddesses Alive! A processional and experiential ritual of masked, embodied goddesses to bring a re-awareness of the Goddess into current Pagan practices. We encounter the goddess embodied by 13 priestesses wearing stunning leather goddess masks created by Lauren Raine

O’Brien told The Wild Hunt that she chose 13 masks for the project, specifically those that would be the most recognizable to her audience. These included Artemis, Hecate, Bridget, Isis, Spiderwoman, Guadalupe, White Tara, Amateratsu, Inanna, Oshun, Sedna, Pele and Kali. Despite the limited budget and time, the ritual was a success.

Later that year, Goddesses Alive! was staged for a second time. With support from the New College of California and the Lilith Institute, O’Brien produced the ritual in a dance studio the following December. Once again, she had no budget but the performance was a success. Live music and a chorus of 5 people accompanied the words and movements of the Goddessess. It was attended by around 100 people. Looking back, O’Brien said, “I loved it.”

Despite the success of both performances, O’Brien had no idea if she would ever have the opportunity, time, energy or money to ever do the project again. The Goddesses Alive! script was filed away. The experience was left only to memory with no photos or video recordings ever taken.

Although Raine was not actively involved in either of the Goddesses Alive! performances, she said, “[O’Brien] activated the masks. She created a beautiful, and effective, sacred container for a community to use the masks, and ritual theatre, allowing each participant to evolve them in her or his own way. I think she would be happy to know that her vision has kept going.”

After O’Brien’s rituals in 2000, the masks were used again many times over in other theatrical performances throughout the U.S. Raine even expanded her collection, including elemental masks and other Goddesses. On her blog, she wrote, “I’ve been privileged to share my work with dancers, ritualists, playwrights, storytellers, priestesses, activists, and students bringing the Goddesses into the world in many ways. No artist could ask for more.” Raine created a compilation video of some of that theatrical work:

In addition to using the masks in performance, Raine also began selling them as art pieces. When thinking back on all the many masks created over the past 17 years, Raine said, “The affinity with certain masks changes as I change, but … my favorite masks concern Grandmother Spider Woman, my guide. She always seems to be in the background, the hand at the heart of the great Web.”

Over that same period of time, O’Brien never forgot her own dream of re-staging her very unique Goddesses Alive! ritual. Then, in 2014 when the Parliament for the World Religions sent out a call for presentations, Raine and O’Brien both had the same idea: let’s bring back Goddesses Alive! And, to their delight, the presentation was accepted. O’Brien said, “I was blown away.” She never really thought that she’d get a chance to do it all again.



With experience both as a ritualist and as a interfaith representative, O’Brien had the know-how and skill to adapt her otherwise Pagan-focused script for a broader audience. When asked about the adaptation, she admitted that “not much really had changed.” The biggest difference is the actual room size. The original ritual was designed for an inclusive theater-in-the round with only 100 audience members. The new script allows for the same set up but within a large ballroom and for an audience of over 300.

In addition, O’Brien selected new Goddesses based on mask availability and also to better reflect global diversity. She chose the following 13 masks: Hecate, Sedna, Brigit, Isis, Guadalupe, White Tara, Amateratsu Omikami, Inanna, Oshun, Kali, Pele, Pachamama and White Buffalo Calf Woman.

As Raine went to work on prepping the performance masks and, in some cases, creating new ones, O’Brien dusted off the old script and began recruiting performers and a tech crew. By summer 2015, she had her team and planning began. Jeffrey Albaugh signed on as the stage manager. When asked about the upcoming performance he said:

It is difficult and to serve as stage manager for an event like this, where all the performers are coming from so far away, and with no time for rehearsal. It puts an onus on me to make sure the production goes off without a hitch, and is as close as possible to Macha’s vision. However, with this kind of production, focused on movement, sound, voice and using Lauren’s brilliant masks, I think there is a high possibility of real magic occurring during the performance. The numinous will hopefully break through.

As Albaugh notes, the performers and crew herald from all over the world and from many different backgrounds. Cherry Hill Seminary Director Holli Emore will be wearing the Isis mask. She said, “The rich pageantry of Goddesses Alive! is sure to stir people on a level far deeper than cerebral, the emotional place where we become imprinted with life-giving ideas. I feel that years from now we will all look back on this performance as a piece of our collective Pagan history and I’m very proud that I will have a small part in that.”

Emore will be joined by Anna Korn, Jo Carson, Rowan Liles, Áine Anderson, Mana Youngbear, Faelind, Wendy Griffin, Diana Kampert, Maggie Beaumont, Eileen Dev Macholl, Jerrie Hildebrand and myself, Heather Greene.

Rev. HPs. Gypsy Ravish volunteered to be one of the singers. She said, “I am honored to add my voice to this divine Sisterhood.” Other musical performers and script readers include Vivianne Crowley, Celia Farran, Lauren Raine, Rowan Fairgrove, Gypsy Ravish, Robin Miller, Jenn Vallely, Ruth Barrett and Aline O’Brien.



Led by Albaugh, the crew is equally diverse, with everyone coming together to make this single event happen. Mary Kay Landon, who helped O’Brien revise the script, said “Working on this production–and watching it evolve over the years–has given me a unique opportunity to research goddesses from across the world and, as I did so, to enter into relationship with them as we, together, created their evocations. What a privilege!”

When asked what Goddesses Alive! will offer a global religious audience, O’Brien said that she believes Pagans have “a deep appreciation of the art and design of ritual” and that is “one thing that Pagans bring to the interfaith table.” She explained that we have a “freedom of design” that is often lacking in other religious traditions. “We bring a freshness … and willingness to change.” And she hopes that this ritual performance will bring about an appreciation for that creativity and flexibility.

Goddessess Alive! was designed to be participatory ritual theater. The music, the singing, the readings and the Goddesses will move from behind the audience and through the audience. This technique serves to surrounded viewers in the full theatrical experience, and O’Brien hopes it helps to “open their minds to perceiving the divine” in new ways and to respecting “non-traditional, non-Abrahamic religious traditions.”

For Pagans that attend and others who are more familiar with a similar ritual performance, O’Brien hopes the experience will “demonstrate that the we have something to offer [the interfaith community] that maybe was unexpected.”

Ultimately, O’Brien would like Goddesses Alive! to be “consciousness raiser” for all who attend – Pagans and non-Pagans alike, and that everyone “leaves the room with a sense of community.”

The Goddesses Alive! ritual performance, which is being dedicated to the memory of Sparky T. Rabbit and Deborah Ann Light, will be held at the Parliament of the World Religions Sunday, Oct. 18 at 1:45 p.m. in Salt Lake City. Currently, the production team is still looking for volunteers to film and photograph the event.

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“The housing crisis doesn’t exist because the system isn’t working. It exists because that’s the way the system works.” – Herbert Marcuse

Borders and Fortifications

On one side of the post office sits Bud Clark Commons, a Housing First complex that also functions as a day center and a drop-in shelter for the homeless. Extending just eastward from Bud Clark Commons are both Union Station and the Greyhound station, anchoring one of the defining corridors of what little still remains of Portland’s ‘Skid Row’.

Portland's main post office. Photo by Alley Valkyrie

Portland’s main post office. Photo by Alley Valkyrie

On the other side of the post office is the eastern edge of what is now known as the Pearl District, a neighborhood currently at the tail end of a twenty-year redevelopment plan that transformed the area from an industrial district to the most expensive neighborhood in Portland. Trendy shops, bars and restaurants and million-dollar condos now dominate the ten-block radius just west of the Post Office complex; a neighborhood which thirty years earlier was dominated by auto repair shops, warehouse art spaces, and various types of industry.

The post office itself is not only the city’s main post office, but also the main processing facility for all of Oregon and southwest Washington. The complex stretches from Hoyt Street to the tail end of the Broadway Bridge, spanning 14 acres and the equivalent of eight city blocks. The post office predates both Bud Clark Commons and the Pearl District by a generation, having first opened to the public at the height of the Kennedy administration.

Rear view of the post office complex. Photo by Alley Valkyrie.

Rear view of the post office complex. Photo by Alley Valkyrie.

While the physical presence of the post office creates a delineating barrier of sorts in terms of its sheer size alone, there’s more to it than just that. It serves as a significant energetic buffer between two neighborhoods that are on the opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. The post office stands as neutral ground, holding a space understood as commons at an otherwise volatile crossroads where affluent folks often feel uncomfortable two blocks to the east, while poor folks are made to feel uncomfortable only two blocks to the west.

It feels and acts as a fortification as well as a territory of safe passage. But the fortification is seen as an obstacle in the present day, as the eight blocks that the complex rests on is among the most valuable land in Portland. City planners and local developers have been itching to redevelop the land for years and, after many years of negotiations, the plan is finally coming to fruition. The timeline has not been set as of yet, but the complex’s days are all but numbered. 

I actually learned this news as I was standing in front of the post office itself, staring into the newspaper box at the headline. Since I don’t believe in coincidence, I stood there digesting the moment when a older man tapped me on the shoulder – a man who I knew to frequent the area around the train station.

“You live here, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. He continued.

“You know this whole place is done for, right?” he said, gesturing with his hand in an arc towards the complex. “According to the news, its going to be condos or some crap like that. The whole thing, coming down.”

I nodded.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking. I mean, I know what they’re thinking, they’re thinking money. And it may make dollars but it makes no damn sense. Not to me, anyway. They want to take over all of it.” He pointed over towards the Greyhound Station. “All the hotels, all the SROs, straight up to Burnside, they want to take over all of it.”

“Yes, yes they do”, I said to him sadly.

“And where do we go then, huh? Where we all gonna go?”

He walked away without waiting for an answer, which was a small relief only in that I sure didn’t have one. The only thing I could focus on at the moment was that this was at least the third time that month that I had a nearly identical conversation in nearly this exact spot.

Vice, Temperance, and the Vanishing Commons

The term “skid row” originates from the greased skids that made up the roads that loggers would use to transport cut logs from the forest to the river in the Pacific Northwest. To be ‘on the skids” was to have no choice but to live in such an area, as the conditions of the roads were considered not to be fit for dignified habitation.

Portland’s skid row stretches down through Old Town Chinatown, butting up against the borders of downtown proper. It has unwaveringly held that territory since Portland’s early days when it was considered one of the world’s most dangerous port cities. The history of “vice” in Old Town is as old as the history of the city itself, and it is both that history of vice and the resistance against its proliferation that define much of the landscape and the historic nature of the area.

Portland's historic 'Benson Bubblers'. originally installed as temperance fountains in the early 20th century.
Portland’s historic ‘Benson Bubblers’. originally installed as temperance fountains in the early 20th century.

As a result of well over a century’s worth of blue-collar domination, much of the original infrastructure is still intact. Old Town and the northern edge of Downtown are home to an impressive inventory of Victorian-era commercial buildings, many of which are historic landmarks and have been kept up to their original glory. Others, no less lacking in history, have fallen in disrepair over the course of many years, but many still retain landmark status and due to the current real estate boom are newly slated for renovation and preservation.

Unlike the sidewalks outside of busy establishments, which for the most part are regularly controlled and policed, the sidewalks outside the tenant-less, abandoned buildings of Old Town function as a commons, not too differently than the the block which contains the post office. In the absence of anywhere else to carry out such functions, homeless folk of all stripes eat, sleep, commune, fight, bicker, barter, hustle, and otherwise claim territory throughout these uncontrolled sidewalks, which in turn only adds to the desires of developers to gentrify the area and displace such folk.

Long abandoned, the Grove Hotel is slated for renovation and restoration in the near future.

Long abandoned, the Grove Hotel is slated for renovation and restoration in the near future.

Those who displace and renovate also rebrand, and Portland’s rebranding on a national level of being a haven and destination for craft beer is starkly reflected in the newer establishments that have accompanied the recent waves of gentrification throughout Old Town and the surrounding areas. Hipster vice has replaced working-class vice as the area is slowly overtaken by drinking establishments that cater to the young and affluent. Meanwhile, bars that cater to the neighborhood’s historic population have all but disappeared.

Business owners and community members alike credit themselves for “cleaning up” the area, and while I’m sure they’re “cleaning up” economically, it becomes apparent after a while to those who live here that they’ve simply replaced one group of unruly drunks with another. Apparently it was not the presence of “vice” itself that was supposedly “dragging down” the area as much as it was the socioeconomic class of those who were partaking.

Ruins and Reminders

Before Portland had a source and the proper infrastructure for importing natural gas, it manufactured gas from oil in a process known as “coking.” The Portland Gas and Coke (Gasco) plant was built in 1913 on the NW riverfront just across from St. John’s, just north of where the Cathedral Bridge would be built nearly twenty years later. The plant refined gas from 1913 until the city converted to natural gas in 1957, and the plant was shut down a year later. An estimated 30,000 cubic yards of coal tar had accumulated on the site over the years. Fifteen years later, it was covered with landfill when the site was sold, and most of the operational buildings were demolished.

The original administrative building, built in 1913, still stands and has been vacant for nearly sixty years. It is perhaps the most hauntingly beautiful Gothic ruin that I have ever seen with my own eyes. A ghostly reminder of the past, it is one of Portland’s most photographed structures, and over the past several years a fence has been installed and a guard put on duty in order to discourage explorers and adventure-seekers.

In addition to the crumbling condition of the building itself, the land that it sits on is among the most contaminated areas along a stretch of the Willamette River through Portland that has been designated a Superfund site. A DEQ report from the late ‘90s states that contaminated water was detected up to 100 feet below the surface of the west bank of the Willamette. Any significant cleanup of both the Gasco site and the Superfund site has yet to begin.

NWNatural, who still owns the building, announced last year that the building was to be slated for demolition. A community group attempted to raise the funds to buy the building, but they failed in their effort, and NWNatural announced last week that the Gasco building is to be demolished next month. Its reasoning mostly centers around safety. But what is unspoken yet completely understood is that, once the site is cleaned up, the land that the building currently stands on will be quite valuable.

It stands on its own as a sentimental tragedy that such a beautiful structure is to meet the wrecking ball, but there’s something that hits deeper in the timing of the announcement, given that demolition and gentrification have dominated both media headlines and local conversations nonstop for the past several months. The announcement comes in the same wave as the proposed redevelopment of the post office site, further talks of an “urban renewal” plan for the adjacent Old Town neighborhood, and a record number of demolitions and no-cause evictions. While the destruction of the building itself is a significant historical loss, the timing, the symbolism, and the layers of meaning and crossover between the demolition of the Gasco building and the greater overhauling of the city and its denizens — these combined factors speak to a much greater collective tragedy than the loss of any one structure.

Confessions over Coffee

“I mean, there’s a part of me that feels like I did a bad thing, but at that price I just couldn’t say no.”

I looked over at the table next to me and saw two men in suits with portfolio cases at their sides, having what obviously was a heart-to-heart over some sort of business decision. Intrigued, I leaned in slightly in order to properly overhear the conversation.

“Are you crazy?” the other man replied. “You said yourself that you profited nearly a hundred times what your grandfather originally paid for that land. Every other house on the block had already had a date with a wrecking ball. How many hundreds of houses have you bought and flipped over the past five years? This is really no different.”

“It’s a little different. He built that house with his own two hands. That house was a Sears bungalow from the 20s… you know, the kind you bought and put together yourself. Three generations in that house. Mom’s still confused, still thinks we own the house or that she lives there, but we all agreed that she’s better off in a home… but still. It’s the house itself. Its this weird attachment, almost. Knowing they’re going to raze it. I feel like I signed its death warrant.”

1920s era Sears kit house. Public domain.

1920s era Sears kit house. Public domain.

“Its business, Tom,” the other man said after a moment. “You need to remember its just business.”

“I know. I need to stop. It’s just a house. But there’s something that feels nagging.”

I stared at them in disbelief as I realized that this man, obviously a wealthy real-estate developer, had sold his family homestead out from under his ailing mother, not out of economic need but purely for profit. Suddenly I felt sick, and I quickly got up and headed toward the door.

That nagging something that you feel is most likely your ancestors, I muttered under my breath as I walked past them on my way out.

The Yelling Field and the Green Cross

Anywhere I’ve ever moved to, I quickly seek out the abandoned parts, the empty lots and the derelict warehouses. I look for a place, hopefully with features that echo, where I can yell as loud as I need to and nobody’s close enough to hear or investigate or call the police. I call these places my ‘yelling fields’.

When I settled into this neighborhood, I found my closest yelling field a mile or so up the main drag from my building, just north of the Fremont Bridge. A series of abandoned waterfront lots, a few dotted with ‘for sale’ signs but no sign of activity, and nothing else for blocks other than an ancient-looking bar and a run-down strip club a few blocks away across the street.

I thought it to be a consistent landscape that wouldn’t surprise me with any significant changes, but I walked by one day and noticed two things at once. My yelling field was suddenly fenced in, with a sign from a construction company posted in the center of the lot. And across the street, the strip club had closed, and in the window covering the old sign was a new sign that stated “Coming Soon” above a picture of a green cross, which in Portland is the universal symbol for a marijuana dispensary.

I stared at the sign for a minute, thinking back. Fifteen years ago, when I watched New York City undergo a similarly massive gentrification, the “Coming Soon” sign accompanied by a Starbucks logo became known as the telltale symbol that an area was about to gentrify. I realized at that moment that this symbol in front of me was operating on the same pattern, that the green cross held the same symbolic power in this new chapter of gentrification as the ubiquitous coffee goddess did when that first wave hit New York.

And sure enough, I watched over what seemed like only a few months as not only my yelling field, but several consecutive waterfront lots, went from abandoned industrial frontage to high-end condominiums and townhouse apartments. The dispensary opened right around the same time that the first completed development did.

I lost my yelling field while developers created a cash cow. Meanwhile, recent signage indicates that more riverfront construction is to come.

Demolition and Migration

I heard them talking while standing next to the food carts waiting for my lunch.

Food carts in downtown Portland. Photo by Another Believer.

Food carts in downtown Portland. [Photo by Another Believer.]

“We’ve been living in that house for less than six months, and our landlord just sold the house right out from under us. We have less than thirty days, and I have no clue what we’re going to do. I mean, the realtor literally just knocked on the door, asked for the owner, and made an offer right there…”

Her friend nodded in acknowledgement, and she continued.

“Turns out that same developer bought three other houses on the same side of the street. Apparently if they’re approved for a zoning change, all four will be demolished to build condo units.”

“Yeah, that’s happening everywhere,” her friend said awkwardly, obviously not knowing what else to say.

“Yep, and so I’m just following the pattern of migration. I don’t know what else to do, so we’re all looking in way outer SE for a big house out there. But then the folks who already live out there are then pushed farther out once folks like me start moving in. So in following the pattern, I’m complicit in the cycle.”

They paused for a moment. “But my only other option is to go back to Arizona and there is absolutely nothing for me there. I have community here. I need to stay here. But I can’t stand the thought of being the gentrifier. I feel like I’m either I’m screwed or I’m screwing someone no matter what I do…”

I swear, this entire town is having the same conversation, I said to myself.

Remedies and Realities

I stepped out of Powell’s and saw a man with a sign.

“Rent Tripled, Newly Homeless. Need $28 for a Bed, Keeping My Job Depends On It.”

I gave him a dollar and walked down the street, looking up for a moment at a building just long enough to notice a green cross in the window. It didn’t matter where I went, what I read, where I looked, who I talked to. Everything, everywhere, from the people to the signs to the snippets floating through the air, a city in crisis that was broadcasting and reflecting its collective distress through every possible method of expression.

A few blocks later I walked past a man sheltering himself in newspapers. I stopped for a moment and noticed that the headlines that were covering his legs stated that Portland mayor Charlie Hales announced that he wants to declare a housing emergency, while the headlines covering his feet highlighted a proposed “demolition tax.” I’m not sure if the man was aware of the irony and symbolism contained in his presence at that moment, but the universal broadcast was suddenly much louder than I could really handle.

Walking home, mind racing, I realized that I couldn’t recall a day this month where the local headlines haven’t greeted me with displacement-related stories, whether its astronomical rents, multiple mass evictions of both tenants and artists, studies that stress that the national housing crisis is about to worsen, the impending eviction of a longtime homeless camp, ominous comparisons to the market situation in San Francisco, citizen calls for a renters’ state of emergency, and now the potential for a housing emergency actually being declared.

And yet the hope of a remedy provided no real or imagined comfort. It was clear from the level of the broadcasting crisis around me that most others weren’t fooled either.

*    *    *

bell hooks had it right when she described gentrification as “colonization, post-colonial style”.

Her words serve as an important reminder that the term ‘gentrification’ itself fools us into thinking that what is currently occurring in both Portland and in cities all over the world is a 21st century phenomenon and a “sign of the times.” In reality, this is only the latest round in a cycle of colonization and primitive accumulation that has been ongoing for hundreds of years.  And, it is a cycle that will continue its destruction unchecked as long as laws, policies, and sentiments continue to value and prioritize profit and property rights over human need.

In the meantime, I remain in search of and in service to the ever-vanishing waterfront ruins and yelling fields, consistently and helplessly bearing witness as the economic powers allied with the green cross and the wrecking ball seek to displace and devour every last square inch of this city.

And in those searchings and wanderings, my mind keeps going back to the displaced. I keep thinking of the conversation with the man in front of the post office. I wish someone had an answer for him. I wish I knew where he could go.

I’m not sure where I’ll go, either.

*    *    *

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

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Michael Howard (1948-2015)

Heather Greene —  September 25, 2015 — 7 Comments


It was announced yesterday that author, publisher, editor and folklorist Michael Howard had died after battling a difficult illness. The announcement read, “The Craft suffers a great loss at his departure.”

Michael Howard was born in London in 1948, but spent most of his life living in the countryside. In his youth, he worked on several farms. It was through this experience that he first encountered Witchcraft. As Michael explained in an interview with Three Hands Press,”I was studying at an agricultural college in Somerset in the early 1960s. [An agricultural worker] told me about the “old ladies” he called witches and who could cure and curse.”

Life in the countryside profoundly affected his spiritual life, and he eventually began researching Witchcraft through books and other materials. As he said in that recent interview, “My experience is that a symbiotic relationship to the land and its genii loci is essential to any practice of traditional witchcraft.”

While studying his new spiritual path, Michael spent some time working for the British music publishers EMI, Sotheby’s, and was later a civil servant in Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise. Then in the 1970s, he began a new career as a writer and publisher. In 1974, Michael launched Spectrum, an esoteric magazine covering a wide-range of occult topics. Spectrum folded after only ten issues. However, its failure did not deter Michael, and he continued on in his publishing career.

cauldron 007In 1976, Michael launched The Cauldron, a magazine dedicated to Witchcraft. For nearly 40 years, Michael poured his energy into editing this well-respected publication. The Cauldron offered its readers an array of articles focused on modern and traditional Witchcraft, magic and the study of folklore. Not afraid of controversy, he included works from many different types of writers. These included people like Ronald Hutton, Gareth Knight, Robert Cochrane, Evan John Jones, Rae Beth, Philip Heseltton, Caroline Tully, Nigel Pennick, David Rankine, Sorita d’ Este, Geraldine Beskin and more.

Before launching the magazine, Michael also began his own writing career by publishing his first book titled Candle Burning: its occult significance in 1975. He would then follow that up with over 30 more titles over the next four decades. These included The Magic of Runes: their origins and occult power (S. Weiser Inc, 1980), The Book of Fallen Angels (Holmes Pub Group, 2004), Pillars of Tubal Cain (Holmes Pub Group, 2001), Modern Wicca (Llewellyn, 2010), Children of Cain: A Study of Modern Traditional Witchcraft (Xoanon / Three Hands Press, 2011), and more recently The Witches Herbal (Red Thread Books, 2013). The herbal was the maiden publication of Red Thread Press and has been one of the Museum of Witchcraft‘s best sellers.

While Michael spent a good deal of his life in the public eye as an author, editor and publisher, he was also an active witch with a private life and private practice. When Three Hands Press asked about balancing these two aspects of his life, he said:

I think it has probably made my life more difficult! It may have helped me to understand the Craft and its various forms but it would have been much easier to have been just an anonymous member of a covine. Having a public persona and a private magical inner life is a difficult juggling act. In my case however it probably suits my dual Gemini personality!

In terms of his private practice, Michael was a member of Madeleine Montalban’s Order of the Morning Star (OMS), a group devoted to angelic magic and Luciferian Gnosis. He was also a co-mason, and an Elder of the Cultus Sabbati. According to his friends at Xoanan, Michael’s spiritual work drew from a deep understanding of various practices, including “herbalism, freemasonry, ceremonial magic, esoteric Christianity… the folklore of his native British Isles” and Luciferian gnosis.. More recently, he focused specifically on traditional Witchcraft.

Throughout his career, Michael kept much of his private life out of the spotlight. His recent illness was not widely publicized, and it eventually overtook him. He died peacefully in Devonshire from complications due to renal failure. In his final moments, he was surrounded by family and friends.

The announcement of Michael’s death came via The Cauldron and the publisher Xoanon. The latter offered an online memorial tribute to Michael. It reads in part:

We remember him as a man of many virtues, of great humour, insight, and courage, as well as his insistence on standing by his brethren, and defending the Craft. Above all, he exemplified the stance of Light-Bringer, and, in its function as tenebrator, the Opposer of Shadow. In this time of mourning, we appreciate and thank our private community for all the support given to Michael and the Cultus over the years, and pledge continued honour to his memory, within the Circle and without.

Director of Xoanon Daniel Schulke was a close friend. He said, “Having spent the majority of his life in the country and having met innumerable and strange people, Mike was a tremendous reservoir of knowledge and could hold forth on the most obscure folk magical practices of Britain and beyond. He was also a formidable teacher and practitioner, and I am honored to have worked with him in the context of a magical lodge.”

COCAs for The Cauldron, current directors posted, “It is with great sadness that we announce that Michael Howard, author and editor of The Cauldron, died recently after a short illness.” They added that, after 39 years, there will be no more newly published editions of the magazine. Back Issues will be available for purchase. In addition, they said, “Executors of Mr Howard’s estate will endeavour to reimburse new and renewed subscribers who have recently paid a full subscription.”

An era has certainly come to an end.

On its site The Museum of Witchcraft posted a note simply saying, “As well as being a long term supporter of the museum, he was also a friend to staff here past and present and will be missed.”

After learning of the news, author, witch and teacher Christopher Penczak said, “I’m really sad to hear that Michael Howard has passed. Not only do I admire his work, but he was always very kind to me, offering information, hints and sometimes critique. May the ancestors welcome him.”

As is best said in Xoanon’s memorial tribute, “The Craft suffers a great loss at his departure.” With out a doubt, Michael Howard has left a powerful legacy for future generations. That legacy lives in print for the public, in the hearts and minds of his friends and family, and perhaps even in the spirit of the land that he held so dear.

What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

Note: Messages of condolences may be sent to Xoanon, 1511 Sycamore Avenue, PMB 131, Hercules, CA 94547, USA.  

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[We love to capture the local stories that come from our collective communities, like the one below. They reflect the heart and spirit of what we all do every day. This type of writing takes time, research and money. If you enjoy our work and want to help us continue to share these touching stories, donate to our fall fundraiser today and share our link in social media. It is your wonderful and dedicated support that has makes it all possible. Thank you very much.] 

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn – It is all to common to read only about the death of someone well known. The obituary is a write up of their accolades containing quotes about them from other famous Pagans. While it is newsworthy to cover influential Pagans, it’s equally important to note the building of religious rituals emerging from the lives and deaths of the rest of us.

Lola Moffat wasn’t well-known. She wasn’t an author or a speaker. She didn’t start a Tradition. She was, in fact, a private person who shunned the spotlight while still staying actively involved in her religious community. When she was diagnosed with cancer, her community came together to support her. Then, in her final days and hours, several members sat vigil with her in a way that is shaping up to be the norm for Pagan death rites. They chanted. They sang. They told stories. And, after Lola crossed the veil, they washed her body and said goodbye. For PNC Minnesota, Raven Moon wrote:

On the evening of Friday September 18, 2015, Lola Moffat passed away less than a year after being diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. She was only 37, and is survived by her sister, Katie Daly, and a niece and nephew. She was a talented massage therapist, graduating from Centerpoint School of Massage this year. She was an active and beloved member of the Paganistan community. A member of the Wiccan Church of Minnesota, and regular attendee of the Earth House Midsummer Gather, she touched the lives of many Twin Cities and upper Midwest Pagans. Known for being a kind and loving person, the community was able to come to her aid after her diagnosis with an [ongoing] fundraiser

Several friends, who sat with Lola in her final hours, spoke with The Wild Hunt about her and about the ritual that they performed.

Ruth Burke met Lola 8 years ago at a public event. She said that Lola never stopped living life to the fullest. Even after doctors told her that the cancer was terminal, Lola went on a vacation with her sister and spent her last summer attending various Pagan festivals. She also didn’t give up on her dream of becoming a massage therapist, eventually earning her certification.

Board of Sacred paths Center. Lola is second from left [Courtesy Photo]

Board of Sacred Paths Center. Lola is second from left [Courtesy Photo]

Burke said, “Our final vigil for Lola was indeed a mash-up of chants, songs and stories. We had people call in on cell phones to sing for Lola, and of course we all sang and chanted for her as well. Everyone contributed something personal, songs from Spiral Rhythm or from their personal covens, or ethnic chants from their childhoods. I’m not much of a singer and I don’t know many songs, but I’m an avid reader and one of my favorite stories is that of a young boy’s transformation into the wind when he realized that we are all connected and we are all part of the universal spirit. The story is a part of the book The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo. I read the story aloud to everyone in the room, and especially Lola, as a gentle reminder that we are but temporary vessels for energy.”

Nikki Wakal served with Lola on a non-profit board for a Pagan community center. She most remembers Lola’s smile but also how Lola would get giddy when someone did a something nice for her or her overuse of exclamation points in emails and texts. Wakal said, “At one point [during Lola’s passing] there were 7 or 8 of us standing bedside and singing to her. And you could tell it soothed her. It was a magical thing that I will remember forever.”

Wakal explained that the group sang and told stories because even when all the other senses are gone, a person can still hear. “We wanted her to hear our voices and know that she was not alone. We sang We are Light, We all come from the Goddess, I walk with the Goddess … Even her sister came in and sang a song for her. It was a nice way for us to remind her we loved her and were there. If someone wanted to sing or play a song they did.”

Heather Roan Robbins met Lola four years ago during an astrology class at Paganicon and then again at more classes at the Sacred Paths Center and Eye of Horus. Robbins said, “I was always impressed by her big heart, her warmth and enthusiasm, her bright mind and understanding, and her relentlessly positive attitude. She could find the beauty and hope in just about anything and anybody. I encouraged her when she thought about fulfilling her long-term dream of going to massage school, and had the joy of being one of her guinea pigs as she practiced her massage techniques.”

Robbins added that, after Lola received her diagnosis, many of her friends gathered for a special ritual. It was a Blessing Way for a different kind of birth and also a fundraiser to support her and her sister so they could attend to the work of dying. Nearly 70 people attended that ritual.

Recently, when these same friends knew that Lola’s time was near, they asked Robbins to sit with them. “I gather Thursday night was exhausting for Nikki and Ruth, Lola was very restless and they took good care of her. When I got there Friday they needed a nap desperately. Lola was already only slightly responsive, still moving around but less and less during the day. We cleaned the room and cleared the altar. I brought a large feather and with water and a dash of orange oil used it to smudge the room and clear the place without any smoke that would have bothered Lola. We lit a candle, called in the directions, set up the circle, sang when we could and … shared stories.”

Robbins read from Hafiz, a book called Continuum, an exploration of the continuation of consciousness, from Dreaming the Dark, and from some old Druid poetry. During the multiple singing circles, they sang Ojibwa songs and Pagan festival songs, including She Changes, The River Keeps Flowing,and Mother Carry Me Down By The Sea. Robbins said, “At around 7pm we called in the directions again … called in all her guides and guardians. I called in Frigga because I work with her, most of us called in our familiar deities. We also called in the spirits of all the cats Lola had ever had … to escort her over. We sang many rounds and left the circle open … By 9:30 we sang quietly on and off. We were sending her love and support as her breath started to slow down, and finally stopped, at 10:22.”

At the point, as Robbins explained, Lola’s closest family and friends “needed room to just feel their feelings.” Others present called hospice, washed her down, laid her out, cleared away the medical clutter away, and smudged the room with Sage. Robbins added, “By the time the funeral director came at 1 am, we were ready. We stripped the bed, hugged one another one last time and went to get some rest.”

lola moffat

Another close friend Carol Solitary said that everything that was done that night was what they felt would be comforting to Lola. “Heather cast a circle earlier in the day, and as we arrived we all took turns holding space so she was never alone. Once everyone arrived we sang We are Light. Sheila sang a beautiful song over the phone called The Weaver Song

Weaver, Weaver weave her thread,
Whole and strong into your web
Healer, Healer, heal her pain,
In love may she return again

At the end, there were 8 people surrounding Lola with song, with stories, with love emanating the joy that her life brought to them. Wakkal said, “It really was a very beautiful moment and made me so proud of the community I was in. Lola was my best friend. Her smile and warmth will be missed. I will miss her saying ‘love you Nikki girl.’ But she is smiling where she is, that I know. And as a community we will not forget.”

What is remembered, lives.

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