shawnus2We were recently informed that Lord Shawnus, High Priest of Pennsylvania’s Coven of the Catta has passed away. Born in 1951, Lord Shawnus, also known as Gary Lee Hoke, was an initiate of Lady Phoebe Athene Nimue. He met her in 1981 and, through her teachings, pursued his degrees within that tradition. After seven years, he earned his third and stayed on with Lady Phoebe. He eventually took over the role of High Priest.

In 2011, Lord Shawnus appeared on Animal Planet’s original show “The Haunted.” The show features a couple who moved into the house previously owned by Coven of the Catta founder Dr. Santee. In his interviews, Lord Shawnus attempts to “set the record straight” about his coven’s founder and the practice of Witchcraft.

In 2012, Lord Shawnus began blogging regularly at both of his own site and the coven’s. He also created two pdf documents detailing the long history of his coven. In early 2014, Lord Shawnus also recorded his own struggle to clarify Pennsylvania’s marriage laws, in terms of a Wiccan clergy’s right to officiate. After contacting several Pagan organizations for advice, including Covenant of the Goddess and Lady Liberty League, Lord Shawnus found a lawyer who helped work through the definitions and restrictions. His effort not only clarified the laws for his own coven and practice, but also for the local county courthouse who had been unclear as well.

Lord Shawnus was a dedicated Wiccan practitioner and Priest of the Craft. He will be missed by his students and fellow clergy. What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

Bell Book Candle

Another metaphysical store, Bell, Book and Candle, announced that it would be closing its doors. The owners explain, “We have been losing money for quite some time and cannot afford to stay open.”

Located in Dover Delaware, Bell, Book and Candle was first opened in 2001, and was imagined as “an old-style general store in that [they] carry a bit of everything and are willing to order or to track down unusual items.” As the owners note, the store is owned by witches who “know what they are doing.”

However, times have changed, and the store will be closing permanently on June 24. Starting today, the store is offering deep discounts, and after July 11, it will accept only cash purchases. In addition, the owners will be selling the building itself.

However, they were quick to note that the popular Delmarva Pagan Festival will happen as planned. And, the book signing with author Courtney Weber, scheduled for July 25, will also be held, but at a new location.

*   *   *

Macha

Aline “Macha” O’Brien

Over the weekend, it was reported that Aline ‘Macha’ O’Brien had a stroke and had been rushed to Marin General Hospital. The stroke occurred Friday night, while O’Brien was home. She was quickly transported to the closest hospital, where she was treated. O’Brien has since been moved to Kaiser Terra Linda in San Rafael for further treatment and therapy.

O’Brien is a longtime witch, Priestess, ritualist and member of the Bay Area Pagan community. She is one of the original members of the Reclaiming Tradition, founded in the 1970s. Currently,O’Brien is an active member of Covenant of the Goddess, a regular presenter at PantheaCon, a representative of Cherry Hill Seminary, and a participant in the Marin Interfaith Council. And, that just scratches the surface of her work. O’Brien is also a speaker and writer. She blogs regularly about her journeys at The Broomstrick Chronicles.

O’Brien’s family is reporting that she is doing well and that the stroke was minor. She is now in recovery and in good spirits. She is thankful for all the healing prayers and has plans to return to her work as soon as possible.

In Other News

  • Another Parliament announcement occurred this week. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus had one of three proposals accepted by the Council and will be presenting “Religion, Youth, and Gender/Sexuality: Towards Collaborative Solutions to a Simple Problem.” In a blog post, Lupus explains, “This program is primarily concerned with one aspect of the “Wars, terrorism, and hate speech” subtheme, since hate speech–often of a religious nature–is frequently employed against people of LGBTQIA+ identities, and is a mainstay of the language used to bully and harass young people.” In addition, e has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help offset the cost of travel to the global October event.
  • On Patheos’ Sermons from the Mound, Yvonne Aburrow offers an overview of the recent debates that have hit or meandered through the collective Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities over the past few years. In a post called “Paganism for Beginners: Controversies,” Aburrow writes, “These controversies and discussions raise important questions of who we are, how we relate to each other as a community and individually, what we hold sacred, and how we relate to deities and the world around us.”
  • In a rare event, a group of the Patheos Pagan Channel writers came together to talk about deity on June 17. The long conversation was then edited and published in an article titled, “Atheism, Polytheism and Pagans: A Discussion.” The bloggers included Niki Whiting, Jason Mankey, Molly Khan, John Halstead, Rua Lupa, Shauna Aura Knight, Dana Corby, and Lilith Dorsey. As explained by Mankey, the channel’s managing editor, “In the blogosphere we often talk at each other and never seem to talk with each other enough. This discussion was an attempt to rectify that.

Lifting the Veil

  • Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s latest book, Lifting the Veil: a Witches Guide to Trance-Prophesy, Drawing Down the Moon, and Ecstatic Ritual, was originally slated to be published in May. However, that date was pushed back. In a Facebook post, the authors explained, “There has been a lot of tweeking done on it to get it perfect.” They are currently working on “sorting out illustrations and endorsements.” At this time, the book’s Amazon listing displays an August 17 availability date, but Farrar and Bone are saying September. Either way, for those eagerly awaiting the new book, it should be available by early fall.
  • The 12th Conference on Current Pagan Studies has announced its 2016 theme and call for papers. Next year’s subject is “Social Justice.” Organizers say, “We face issues of social justice everywhere we look, from something as overwhelming as #blacklivesmatter to the seeming trivial Wiccanate privilege. Like the innumerable heads of the Lernaean Hydra, it seems that every time we manage to quell an issue involving racism, sexism, or privilege, two more such issues appear.” The 2016 conference will focus on this topic, “encompassing issues concerning racism, feminism, womanism, eco-justice, food security, gender justice, classism, neo-colonialism, etc. seen through the eyes of our scholars/activists.” Abstracts are due by September 20. The Conference itself will be held January 23-24 2016, in Claremont, California.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

Send to Kindle

sacred heart

“Sacred Heart” by Shaun Ratcliff (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I’m crazy, you think I’m crazy

–Monsters, Eminem (featuring Rihanna)


The gods are madness, and so is love.

I couldn’t sleep for the noise; her wails clawing deep into my brain more fiercely when I’d close my eyes. In waking distraction, I could shut her out a little — loud music, pointless conversation, anything to drown out her pain. But in bed next to my lover, her pain was intolerable, becoming pain so loud it became my pain, and I couldn’t make her shut up.

I tried drinking. It doesn’t take much to get me drunk, a beer, maybe two. And I could pass out a bit, let the world spin behind my eyelids, except then, even there in that membranous darkness, she was there. Worse — she wasn’t alone.

My lover said that he couldn’t hear her, but he’d wake from dreams shaking. I saw something in the room last night, he said. Fleshy, like a small man, but not human.

“In a dream?” I asked.

“Uh…sort of. I mean, I think I was awake. I was gonna wake you, but then I went back to sleep.”

I showered, dressed, went to work, said nothing else. At least at work, I couldn’t hear her. At least at work, I wasn’t the ‘crazy’ one. I had a client tell me a bedbug climbed into her vagina and impregnated her with a Pleiadian ascended master. She was crazy. I? I was just going mad.

The difference? My clients can’t stop the voices from coming.
I can.
I can make them stop, but that’s worse than death.

 

Love is madness, and so is the Other.

You can shut those voices off, close them off.

I remember it well, the day I closed them out.

Close my eyes, and it’s there: the white tower, the ravens flying about them, a pillar of light from a twinned moon. She looks at herself from above into below; she looks back. And there’s the tower, and there are the ravens. And I can’t take it any longer.

Besides, I was in love, and how could he understand? How could any understand? How could anyone?

I wrote in my journal, “I don’t want to see these anymore.” No more tower; no more bones behind the tower; no more whispers; no more trembling power.

And it stopped.

Nothing. Silence, like the grave. I’d go to work; listen to tales of ancient lizard men and psychotronic silver disks, about the machine under the university which, like St. Anthony, helped homeless people find lost things and also urinate themselves.

And I was safe. Safe from them, safe from the Other, safe in an other.

You can hide there for a little while, just like you can hide in work, or hide in drugs. You can even hide in madness, at least for a little while.

Until they come back.

 

We do not have time for the Other, we do not have time for Love

A few years later, I’m trying to sleep, fearing again the dreams peopled by characters I know too well — and fear.

The woman with the dark iron vat won’t let me pass, but I can’t go back through the town whose streets were so full of those with power, those with power-over, those I must flee.

But the Other does not let you pass until you answer the unasked question.

You cannot hide from the Other. The Other chases you, hunts you. You can flee the dreams of sleeping; flee into waking for a little while.  But then they chase you there.

And so you flee into sleep. You flee in waking, and like that chase of Ceridwen, after the awen-thief. You cannot stop until you are consumed and, too, become The Other.

The Other is all that is without you, and all that is within.

 

Love is the madness of the Other, the Other is the madness of love

The voices continue, but you can shut them out.  And I remember how a friend shut them out.

She’d been joking one day, a decade ago, flirting, and touched my finger. “I’m giving you a wart,” she says, fingernail touching index above the knuckle.

“Why would you say that?” I’d asked, appalled.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, looking confused herself.

And I showed her the hand a month later, benign annoying growth, rough, ugly. Then her face pale, her voice cold, she shook her head. “What the? I didn’t?”

“You said,” I said, feeling her terror.

“That’s—that’s just weird. I didn’t really make that happen, did I?”

And I didn’t know how to reassure her, and she didn’t know how to take it back. She became angry. Wouldn’t talk about it. It didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, stop pretending, you’re making this up, I didn’t do it.

“But you said…” I said, worried, upset.

And finally. “Okay, I did. I don’t want to talk about it, okay? I’m sure there’s some explanation. I don’t want to talk about it.

We hadn’t talked for a decade. A decade later I see her, after seeing standing stones and gods, after druid mountains and visions. She’d never spoken of it again. In a cafe, she and I. Would she believe what I’d seen, or deride all I’d been? I’d tell her anyway, though the tale would be touch.

But she spoke first, fearful. “I hear voices, Rhyd. Not like I’m crazy … but more—I cry. I can hear all the sorrow of people sleeping, and I can hear their voices, and I turn up music to make it stop.”

Her magic radiating like silver, tinged with fear, and I laugh, tell her my tale.

So you understand? She said, only half asking.

“I think I do,” answering, and then “remember that wart,” showing her where it’d once been.

And she shrugged, smiling. “That was weird, huh?”

 

Love is the Other.  The Other is Love.

I’d shut them out, like she’d shut out that power.

You can shut them out, the terrors, all the illuminating fears. The Other whispers, but you can talk over this. The Other speaks, but you can shout them out. Sometimes, even the Other shouts but, by then, you can’t silence them without drugs.

Or you can, because there’s always an other to which you can run, someplace safe, someone in which to hide, and the Other will eventually fall silent. But when you do this you have not won, but have very much lost.

 

The Other is like love, and just as terrifying.

What are we afraid of?

The Other is not myself; the other is not me.

And suddenly, you are not all there is; you are not one; you are not complete. You are you, and there is an other. And no longer are you complete, no longer are you one.  You are broken, divided between self and World, sundered ground broken open to make room for something both self and Other.

Meet him and you are terrified, and you call this desire, you call this love. Hear her voice, and you are missing, empty; though you thought you’d been full.

And suddenly every song reminds you of them. On the street, a woman shakes her head, hair cascading for a moment in sunlight like the way you saw her hair once do. And that woman is her, but that woman is not her, and you are broken, and you are happy. You were everything before her, now you are nothing until she is near you again.

Meet him and you cannot breathe except when he is there holding you, though your lungs have never once failed. You are strong, but suddenly weak unless you see his smile, and also weak when you see his grin, and nothing is ever the same.

 

Love and the Other are indivisible by one.

Love of an other, or others, reminds you are sundered, infinity no longer divisible by one.

And just the same, the Other.

See a crow feather at your feet and hear a god, an angle of sunlight and see another. Hear winds through branches; there’s a third, embers in a hearth and yet another Other.

The moon is no longer just the moon, but also every goddess of her face.  But the moon is also just the moon, but no longer alone, no longer just itself, just as you are no longer just yourself in love.

 

And to see the Other, to fall in love, you need only surrender to the endlessness of being.

I remember when I saw the tower again, because I no longer wanted to unsee the tower.

I remember when I saw the moon again, because the moon would not stop being seen.

I work with the mentally-ill, those who hear the voices and cannot shut them out like us. And they are told that they are sick; they are told that they are unwell, and they are given what we can give to help quell that sundered pain.

And I try not to admit what I see when they are staring, shouting at a corner at a voice inside their head. I try not to look there, where there they are looking, because I do not want to admit, I do not want to say, I do not want to allow that I see their Other too.

A client shouts at a ‘demon’ in a corner, and I see the lingering spirit and shrug, unable to help.

A client predicts the birth of my friend’s twins, and we shake our heads, pretending what we didn’t hear.

A client medicalized for talking to rocks and trees, and I try not to think on him as I lay under Alder by granite, hearing them talk back.

 

The Other’s all that is without us, and all that is within,

And what are we doing, shutting them out?

We’re being good workers, we’re being good slaves.

Stand in ritual; call a god; wipe them off and tuck them away when you’re done, when it’s time to go home to the television and kids because the weekend’s over and you’ve got to make a living.

Fall in love and call in sick, but love can only be love ’till the rent and cable’s due.

It’s easier to be alone, cut off, shut down. Close them out, the other and The Other, and though without meaning, everything is safe.

The gods linger, the other waits, the madness beckons.

The Other is madness, and so is love.

And we are never alone.

 

 

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

 

Send to Kindle

Happy July 4th

Heather Greene —  July 4, 2015 — Leave a comment

“Neither Pagan nor Mahamedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.” Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke

“…the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” – Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, 1796. (signed by John Adams)

"Washington as a Freemason," The George Washington Masonic Memorial.

“Washington as a Freemason,” The George Washington Masonic Memorial.

In 2010, Jason Pitzl wrote:

Hail to the pen and muse of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence! Hail to those who’ve honored the true spirit of our founding documents, who defended us with arms, who challenged us with nonviolence, and reminded us of our true nature through art and rebellion.

The United States of America that we know today was built and shaped by an incredible diversity of lives, experiences, religions and cultures; every person that has walked on its soil and stood beneath its skies. Over this past year, we as a nation have faced difficult challenges, witnessed profound changes, and looked into the face of unthinkable violence. We are not a country of perfect. But we continue to try, to rebel, to speak out, and to evolve. As said by Frederick Douglas in his 1857 speech, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Today, we are also reminded of the pre-Christian “pagan” roots of our republic.

Every president, every politician, who takes the oath to uphold our Constitution, are taking an oath that the founders knew would allow for men and women of every faith (or even no faith) to someday take their place among our leadership.They are taking an oath on a document crafted by men who are products of the Enlightenment, whose thinkers looked to ancient pagan thinkers, politicians, and philosophers for wisdom and guidance, unencumbered by the filter of the Christian church.The religious pluralism of the United States of America is a pluralism that had its first breaths in ancient Greece, and later ancient Rome, where a variety of gods, goddesses, cults, sects, and traditions had to live together in a civil society.To return to Professor Majid’s essay, “one can’t imagine the American Republic without the Founding Fathers’ knowledge of Greece and Rome.”Democracy, republicanism, are core pagan inventions, and no matter how Christian the hand who steers the ship of State, those ideals remain lest our institutions crumble.”

As Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, we can use this day to be thankful that the American founders understood completely that religious freedom meant all religions or none. As said by James Iredell, one of our first Supreme Court Justices:

But it is objected that the people of America may, perhaps, choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans may be admitted into offices. But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom which we ourselves so warmly contend for? This is the foundation on which persecution has been raised in every part of the world. The people in power were always right, and every body else wrong. If you admit the least difference, the door to persecution is opened.

Happy Independence Day!  And, for our friends to the north, Happy Canada Day!

Send to Kindle

Let’s try something.  Here’s a simple task developed by psychologist Nancy Napier (2014).

  1. Take a sheet of paper and draw two horizontal lines a couple of inches apart.
  2. Now start a timer and write “I am a great multitasker” in the first line and the numbers 1-20 sequentially on the second line.

How long did it take? 20 seconds?

Ok, now flip the paper over and draw two horizontal lines a couple of inches apart. This time, multi-task through the same work.  Write a letter on one line and a number on the other: I/1/a/2/m/3 … etc … How’d that go? Did it take longer? Did it take more energy? It very likely did because we cannot multi-task (Applebaum, Marchionni & Fernandez, 2008).  We can switch tasks, and we do it very quickly.  But two tasks at once. Nope.

We work best when we are mindful, letting our brains do what they do best: be in the moment. Mutli-tasking creates stress and so do all sorts of other things we’re trained to do from creating unmanageable agendas to impossible to do lists. To create the benefits of being in the moment, we must break the cycle of creating constant work. And, one of the best ways to succeed at doing that is simply to play. Something we did as kids, might be really good for us as adults.

Photo Credit:  M. Tejeda-Moreno

[Photo Credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno]

I remember decades ago when I invited a date to a Litha celebration that my local group had organized. My date was interested in Paganism in the context, I think, of having a future ex-boyfriend who happened to be Pagan. He had some interest in the occult that he had cultivated as a teenager, but had let go when beginning a career in science. He held tightly to his faith of origin; or rather his faith of origin was an important aspect of his identity.

It was clear from the start that the ritual was never going to match his expectations. His idea of ceremony had been inculcated by his organized religion. So with observances like Yom Kippur as the counterpoint for comparison, – that being his favorite holiday – I had some real doubts about how the day would go. But beyond the ritual itself, I was surprised to learn that the behavior of the participants also failed to meet his expectations of what adult behavior should be at a religious ceremony. After the Litha ritual, his remarks were an attempt to dismiss its importance. Yet in doing so, he exposed a powerful message that he was unable to appreciate. He found the celebration “a childish waste of time, nothing like a real service.  [You guys] are just playing”.

Well, that relationship ended that week. But he was right about one thing: play was involved. And summer is also a call to play that many of us celebrate in rituals that range from circles to road trips. The festivals that we attend mix structured reverence and unstructured play in magical ways. The journey of summer is an enchanted experience – for those like us who notice – that strengthens our relationship with Nature and one another. In summer, the Earth does her work of fulfilling the promise of harvest set out in spring. It is a season of luxury, relaxation and vacations. The remains of the day last well after the workday’s end giving us more opportunity to share daylight with each other. Summer offers us time for play.

Defining play is in fact a pretty hard task for social scientists. It’s not so much an activity as it is a process. It is a state of being where the act of doing the activity is more important than the outcome of the activity. It’s supposed be an intentional activity of no outcome. It is physical and mental, social, spontaneous and imaginative. It is purposeless recreation with no apparent adaptive function. It is doing nothing and something at the same time. Some of the first Italian words I learned from my Italian husband were Dolce far niente: it is so sweet to do nothing. That’s a good place to start to understand play.

Nature also offers us some interesting lessons on play.  Animals love to play when they are young but, unlike humans, they continue to play into adulthood. And let’s be clear: animals have a rougher life. They have to find food, shelter, and water every day. They have to guard from predation and essentially fight for survival during their entire lives. Yet, they play. They still find time to enjoy doing “nothing.” Animals even engage in play activity across species, and YouTube is replete with examples. Ravens enjoy snowboarding; elephants romp about in mud; dogs love to play catch; cats like to … well, let’s skip cats … and bears enjoy just frolicking about.

We, on the other hand, reserve play only for our young, and even then we have confounded the act of play with the act of playing games. But play is not solely about gaming. It’s about being, not winning. Through gaming, we have redefined play in a manner that gives it a purpose; in a way that has winners and losers. We built a value system that devalues purposeless play in favor of activities that promote competition over collaboration. As White (2000) cleverly observed our society only honors competitive play.

But playing isn’t gaming. It is about being. As we demand that our play have outcomes, we slowly lose our childhood. Worse yet, in my opinion, we teach that to our children and help them slowly loose theirs. And to all our detriments, because play has important benefits.

Photo Credit: Stefano Ciotti

Photo Credit: Stefano Ciotti

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown reviewed some 6000 play histories of individuals and found that playing together had a range of benefits. He found that play was related to emotional intimacy between individuals and appeared to even help couples regenerate their relationships. He also found that play between strangers speeds up the bonding process that individuals experience by fostering empathy. He also found that  a lack of play appeared related to deviant behavior including becoming involved with the criminal justice system.

In research conducted at University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Pellis and his colleagues examined the brains of female rats that were assigned to non-play and play conditions to determine if neurological effects could be observed with play deprivation. Like other mammals, rats are born with an overabundance of a certain type of brain cell for building connections. Based on environmental experiences, these cells create connections with one another while culling off unnecessary ones. The result is a perfectly balanced brain that has maximized its experience from its environment. Pellis hypothesized that play was an important determinant of how health brains grow. And, the findings supported the hypothesis. Play-deprived rats appeared to have damaged brains when compared to their play-available counterparts.

Additionally, there is evidence in to back a claim that there are similar beneficial effects for us as well. We have a physiological system called the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA). This system regulates many different process in the body and serves as an interface point between the nervous and hormonal systems of our bodies. When we experience challenges – something requiring our attention that is difficult and that we may not want to do all the time- the HPA pathway kicks in with different hormones to biochemically represent psychological stress to our bodies. Constantly activating the HPA with all the concerns of adulthood from money to the economy to lines at the gas station result in the chronic activation of the HPA. That unpleasant stress slowly builds up and produces negative effects. A messy HPA system is implicated in a huge number of disorders including depression, attention deficit, burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia and even alcoholism. Perhaps the scariest of all, prenatal and early childhood stress can cause the system to misalign with implications for a lifetime.

Medical models have focused on using anti-depressants to get the HPA system back in balance. But psychological models take a different tack. They focus on how we process stress and how we relax. Behavioral approaches to stress reduction impact the key stress hormone we have: cortisol. And through relaxation, the impact of stressors that result in imbalances of the HPA can be lessened.

There are many techniques to relaxation including visualization, repetitive prayer, and physical activity. Social support is also important. Activity with others, from friends to partners, are also part of stress management. But, the beauty of play is that it combines the mental, physical and social to create a simple mindful remedy.

In fact, play is a remedy we should not only consider, but also a remedy we should teach. As a social justice issue, poverty robs many of us, especially children, of play. And for adults, the constant demand for productivity and work, makes many of us assign priorities to playtime in a manner that is counterproductive to our physical and emotional health. Surrounding ourselves with playful people brings us into the moment doing nothing, having a good time,re-balancing ourselves and letting our own nature offer health. Spending time doing nothing is amazingly beneficial.

Dolce far Niente. 

But it is also so very syntonic with a Pagan path. Play is a deeply transgressive act. It is a violation of societal expectations of adulthood. It is a subversion of productivity and responsibility. It is a desecration of industry. It is the rejection of structure and forced outcome. And, it’s actually pretty good for you. Play releases us from the worries created by our society. So will play improve your health? Well, there’s evidence that it can. And more importantly, like many Pagan activities, we’ll have fun trying.

Citations

Appelbaum, S.H.; Marchionni, A., & Fernandez, A. (2008). The multi-tasking paradox: perceptions, problems and strategies. Management Decision, 46(9): 1313–1325. DOI:10.1108/00251740810911966

Brown, S. L. (2009). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin.

Bell, H. C., Pellis, S. M., & Kolb, B. (2010). Juvenile peer play experience and the development of the orbitofrontal and medial prefrontal cortices. Behavioural brain research207(1), 7-13.

Napier, N.  (2014). The Myth of Multiasking.  www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creativity-without-borders/201405/the-myth-multitasking

Smith, L. K., Forgie, M. L., & Pellis, S. M. (1998). Mechanisms underlying the absence of the pubertal shift in the playful defense of female rats.Developmental Psychobiology33(2), 147-156.

White, B.  (2000). Why Normal Isn’t Healthy: How to Find Heart, Meaning, Passion, and Humor on the Road Most Traveled.  Hazelden Publishing & Educational Services. Center City: MN.

Send to Kindle

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. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

First, we update a story reported on last week:

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary has announced its plans to assist all PSG 2015 attendees, who are in need. Several Circle Ministers have volunteered to offer spiritual counseling. Included in this healing work was a special full moon ceremony last night, which was dedicated to “PSG Healing and Renewal.”  In addition, Circle Sanctuary has also announced that it will be “offering a gift to all 2015 PSG paid registrants who request it — a $100 certificate ($50 for minors aged 12-17) that can be used toward any Circle Sanctuary event.”  The announcement explains more about that gift certificate, Circle’s event insurance, and the various struggles faced by the organization itself.  “This year our community was tested and found to be strong, unshakeable and unbreakable.

Now on to the links:

  • We first visit Russia where officials in the city of Nizhnevartovsk have reportedly banned the practice and teaching of yoga in city-owned buildings. The Moscow Times reports that letters to several yoga studios explained that the “move is crucial in order to prevent the spread of new religious cults and movements.” In addition, the Times reported that Nizhnevartovsk city officials claim that yoga is “inextricably linked to religious practices” and has an “occult character.” In 2013, a similar argument was made by parents of an Encinitas, California elementary school. The U.S. courts eventually ruled against the parents, allowing for the practice to continue. More recently, an Austrian elementary school banned yoga for religious reasons and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center, there are a number of American school districts who continue to ban the practice as well. However, it appears today that more American school districts are concerned with the wearing of the pants then the actual physical activity.
  • Another story coming out of the same region tells of the Night Witches. However, they are not who you might expect. According to a story in Vanity Fair, the Night Witches were an “all-female squadron of [Soviet] bomber pilots who ran thousands of daring bombing raids” during World War II. The women, ranging from ages 17-26, flew silently over Nazi soldiers by turning off their engines and gliding. The Nazis reportedly heard only a “whoosh” sound and began calling them the “Nachthexen” or Night Witches. Interestingly, the article claims that the Nazi soldiers had “very real fear of witches.” This statement recalls the 1932 popular German film Blue Light directed by famed filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. In the movie, the townspeople’s fear leads to the labeling of a woman as “witch.” Blue Light was Riefenstahl’s first film and attracted the attention of a young Hitler, who eventually commissioned her to create Nazi propaganda films.
  • Back to 2015, in the United Kingdom, a fear of witches and witchcraft led to an arrest and court hearing. According to the Central Somerset Gazette, “Hilary Joy Osborne took an obsessive dislike to Lynda Brown who was a spiritualist and taught pagan drumming and also practised Druidism, mantra chanting and Buddhist traditions.” This “dislike” led to regular harassment; including threats, the beating on walls and doors, and verbal abuse. Brown called the police and Osborne was charged with harassment to which she pleaded not guilty. However, a magistrate judge slapped Osborne with a 2 year restraining order, fines and other conditions.  Osborne was disappointed with the results, believing that the police “let her down.”
  • Now moving south to a very different climate, witchcraft or the accusation of can lead to far more tragic and distrubing fate. It was reported Tuesday that Daesh, in a first, had beheaded two women for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The terrorist organization killed both the women and their husbands, along with two other women, who were accused of being “agents for the Nusayri regime.” According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Daesh has since seized one couple’s home and property. SOHR has been appealing to the UN for greater assistance in their human rights efforts and is now reporting that the month of June marks the deadliest month in 2015 with a estimated 5247 people killed in Syria alone.
  • In recent months, Americans have faced their own form of home-grown terrorism, including the AME church massacre and the recent church burnings. Religion News Service published an article titled “3 Religions, 3 Approaches to Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Evil.” Through three different voices, the article highlights the concept of forgiveness within the major faith traditions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For our purposes, this might lead to the question of forgiveness within Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist practices. How and when do we forgive? Are there limits? But the article opens up another concern. None of the three people interviewed represented the American black community – the target of the recent violence. While Charlestonians themselves showed a remarkable unity and Mother Emanuel together with the victims’ families expressed forgiveness, the idea is certainly not universally accepted. A New York Times op-ed piece discusses the other point of view. Writer Roxane Gray writes, “…I do not foresee ever forgiving his crimes, and I am totally at ease with that choice.”
  • On that note, it would be impossible to run a link list without mentioning Bree Newsome, the activist who climbed the South Carolina flag pole to remove the Confederate flag. The photo of her on the flag pole itself is one that will live in the history books alongside famous images, such as the lone activist standing before tanks in Tiannaman square; the coming down of the Berlin Wall; firefighters in the rubble of 9/11; and even the photo of the famous kiss as World War II ended. This iconic image of Newsome will inspire generations to come. According to Jezebel, Newsome said, “We needed that moment to say ‘enough is enough.’ We want an end to the hate.” Newsome was recently interviewed by ABC News. Here is a link that video.
  • Now we travel across the world to Malaysia where a group of teens violated a sacred space – Mount Kinabalu. In this story, however, the only things broken were the rules. “Briton Eleanor Hawkins, Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, and Dutchman Dylan Snel” climbed Mount Kinabalu and disrobed for an impromptu photo shoot. They were caught, jailed and fined for public indecency. Some reports claimed that the Malaysian people, who consider the mountain sacred, are now blaming the teens for the recent earthquake that killed 18 people. One Malyasian tabloid headline read, “Your boobs have angered mountain gods.” However, some locals are discrediting these sensationalist media accounts, and simply remark that the mountain is a sacred place in Malaysian culture, and that the teens were disrespectful to the local customs, beliefs and rules.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in religion is at an all time low. The survey, which is limited in its observations, suggests that trust in religious institutions has dropped; now putting it 13 percentage points lower than the historical average. 42% of Americans are estimated to have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in religion; the historical average is 55%. However, as noted, the study is limited in its reporting by only breaking the surveyed sample into three sub-groups: Catholics, Protestants and non-Christian/No-Religion. Additionally, Gallup published a study on America’s overall confidence in various institutions. Until recently, religion was top of the list. Now it falls fourth behind the military, small business and the police. However it is still ahead of Congress, Medical institutions, the media and others.
  • Now for something a bit lighter. Robin Hardy, director of The Wicker Man (1973), has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce his long-awaited third film based on the original cult classic.  Hardy’s second film, titled The Wicker Tree, was released in 2011. Despite its lackluster reviews, the sequel is considered to be better than the 2006 Hollywood remake of the 1973 original. Now Hardy wants to revisit the story one more time with a script that he has titled “Wrath of the Gods.” Hardy told the Guardian that he had always envisioned the story as a trilogy. Through an IndieGoGo campaign, the 85-year old director is hoping to fund the project. With various perks, he is also offering fans a chance to appear in the film and even act as the film’s producer.
  • And, in our last news link for this month, Japan says goodbye to Tama, the stationmaster cat. According to The Huffington Post, “The calico cat has been credited with saving the struggling station, and its railway line, from financial collapse.”  After she was appointed stationmaster in 2007, the financially struggling train station began to earn revenue from tourists and visitors who stopped by just to see the little cat at work. Tama died at the age of 16 on June 22. Nearly 3,000 people attended her funeral. As reported, “During the Shinto-style ceremony, Tama was elevated to the status of goddess.” In addition, she has been given the title, “honorable eternal stationmaster.”
[Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

The Goddess Tama [Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

 

Send to Kindle

LINCOLNTON, North Carolina — Prayer at public meetings is often a battleground with members of minority faiths seeking to have their viewpoints represented, while others argue that such religious ceremony doesn’t belong in a governmental setting. Since the Supreme Court’s 2014 Town of Greece v Galloway decision that allowed such prayers provided minority faiths are included, Pagans and others have sought to test those boundaries. For example, the pantheist David Suhor sang an invocation of the quarters at a county commission meeting in Florida.  More recently, when the issue of inclusiveness sprang up in the foothills region of North Carolina, it led to a new level of interfaith dialog in the form of the Foothills Interfaith Assembly.

Lincolnton Historic Main Street [Photo Credit: Roxyloveshistory / Wikimedia]

Lincolnton Historic Main Street [Photo Credit: Roxyloveshistory / Wikimedia]

The commissioners of Lincoln County in North Carolina open their meetings with a prayer, and it’s always been a Christian one. When another county in the state was forced by a federal judge to cease pre-meeting prayers altogether, a reporter asked Caroll Mitchem, chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, if any changes would be made to their meetings. Mitchem’s response was to the point. She said that prayers — and only Christian ones — would continue. He was quoted in The Lincoln Times-News.

“A Muslim? He comes in here to say a prayer, I’m going to tell him to leave,” Mitchem said. “I have no use for (those) people. They don’t need to be here praying to Allah or whoever the hell they pray to. I’m not going to listen to (a) Muslim pray.”

Mitchem’s comments caught the attention of local Muslim community as well as others practicing minority faiths in the county, and two of them showed up at the next meeting to speak to the issue. They were Reverend Tony Brown of the North Carolina Piedmont Church of Wicca, and Duston Barto, a Muslim who doesn’t yet belong to a specific spiritual community. During that meeting, commissioners softened Mitchem’s comments into a policy that said that “the religious leaders or chosen leaders of any assembly that periodically and regularly meets in Lincoln County for the purpose of worshiping or discussing their religious perspectives are invited to offer an invocation before a meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.”

In those words, the two men saw an opportunity to have their faiths included, but the idea quickly grew well beyond a mechanism to promote religious freedom. “The policy said any faith could give a prayer, if it was sponsored by something that met in county,” Brown said. “I don’t know if it was designed to be restrictive, but the thought might have been to put up barriers that ensure only established faiths qualify.”

foothills logoBarto and Brown created the Foothills Interfaith Assembly —  named not for the county, but the more inclusive region of the state — as a way to allow people of different religions to engage with one another around their beliefs. Qualifying to offer prayers was the impetus, but Brown said that from the get-go the deeper idea was to “take advantage of everything else that interfaith can do.”

The first meeting had much better attendance than Brown had expected, and was spent hashing out some of the formative of the assembly. “A dozen people were there, and we went around introducing ourselves and explaining what brought us here, and our personal goals for the group. We hashed those around into group goals, and from that we came up with a list of five guiding principles.”

Those principles were given to a subcommittee which was tasked with writing a mission statement, which Brown expected to be voted upon at the June 30 meeting. That sort of administrivia is expected to become less prominent as the group finds its rhythm.

Based on who attended that first meeting, Brown expects the future get-togethers to offer robust opportunities to learn about different traditions. Besides himself and Barto, the group includes members of the Baha’i faith, a Baptist minister from an intentional Christian community, a Celtic Pagan, and a non-denominational Christian. “The diversity of people was a surprise, especially in Lincoln County, North Carolina,” he said. Interfaith work “always will appeal more to minority faiths, but we can band together, lift each other up, [and have a] better chance of being heard than whispering alone.”

The group’s structure will likely settle into a pattern of education, discussion, and socialization. “Ultimately I hope that people will come together, and in the first part of the meeting a person presents or there is a panel,” Brown explained, for example, “the basics of Baha’i, followed by questions and answers, or a panel on reciprocity with members of different faiths to explain its role in their tradition. It will be dialogue, and meeting as equals.”

Send to Kindle

WILLOW, Alaska – A Pagan community center in the Sockeye region of Alaska has completely burned down in a wildfire. The community center consisted of over nine acres of woods with four cabins, and is now considered a total loss. Center Director Anthony Bailey said clean up efforts are underway, and he is asking for financial assistance to help rebuild the center.

The Alaska Pagan Community Center, more commonly known as The Land, is located near Willow.  It opened about five years ago as a non-profit nature sanctuary and Pagan retreat. Volunteers cleared areas for camping, built the cabins, created a pump and well house, and built shaded areas for workshops and classes.

Because community members had to evacuate so quickly, they were unable to take tools and equipment, such as generators, with them. The entire nine acres of trees were also burned in the blaze.

Cabins at the community center and retreat 2 weeks prior to the fire. [courtesy photo]

Cabins at the Pagan Community Center and Retreat 2 weeks prior to the fire. [Courtesy Photo]

Cabins and trees after the fire. [courtesy photo]

Cabins and trees after the fire. [Courtesy Photo]

Bailey said that the rebuilding has already begun. “Today we were able to return to the land and begin our cleanup and recovery efforts. We spent a long, tiring day salvaging what we could and trying to clear out anything that was unsalvageable.” Bailey shared this video:

 

Bailey noted that, while the local Pagan community has been turning out to physically help, they need funds to help rebuild, “It’s difficult to express the pain I feel at the loss of so much financial investment but also the loss of hard won progress our community had labored together to gain these last five years.” He said that any donations made to the GoFundMe account will be directly used to make community center and retreat capable of meeting the needs of the Pagan community again. Donations for the Alaska Pagan Community Center can be made here.

The wildfire near Willow is just one of roughly 300 fires still burning in Alaska. A particularly fierce blaze. it is called the Sockeye Fire, and has destroyed 55 homes and damaged many more in addition to the community center.

The total area affected by the over 300 fires is roughly 624,000 acres.

Blogger Peter Dybing, a Pagan first responder, was recently sent to Alaska as part of his mundane job to help fight the fires. He is assisting with the wildfires in the Fairbanks area. Dybing said that Alaska has more firefighters responding now than at any time in its history. “Firefighters from the lower 48 are struggling with extreme fire behavior, sleep disruption due to 24 hour daylight and rapidly changing fire conditions.”

Dybing said that the Alaska fires are unique. “With tundra duff up to 18 inches deep, rain can make a fire appear to be out, yet just a few hours of sun and the fire roars back to life. Much of this is complicated by the disappearance of permafrost that normally is at about the 10 inch level. Global climate change has taken a toll on the fire environment in Alaska.”

Volunteers begin the cleanup effort at the Pagan Community Center site. [courtesy photo]

Volunteers begin the cleanup effort at the Pagan Community Center site. [Courtesy Photo]

While there has been speculation that the Sockeye fire was started by neighbors of The Land, authorities still haven’t said conclusively if the fire was set deliberately or accidentally.

Send to Kindle

mythopoeticPagan author Sarah Avery is a finalist for the 2015 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in the category of adult fiction. Administered by the Mythopoeic Society, this award is given to “the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies ‘the spirit of the Inklings.‘ ” In other words, it honors the spirit of wild imagination as found in the works of such classic fantasy authors as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Other categories include “Children’s Literature,” “Inkling Studies” and “Myth and Fantasy Studies.”

Avery was nominated for her Pagan-inspired book Tales from Rugosa Coven, which she says is a collection of novellas and is published by Dark Quest Books. She added that the award is a “pretty big deal,” pointing out that one of the finalists regularly makes The New York Times Best Seller list and “is one of the most important writers of literary fantasy of the decade.” On her blog, Avery wrote, “My brain is trying so hard to process this list … Somehow I got preferred for something over an unknown number of authors that probably included at least a few major names who were publishing with major presses.”

The winner will be announced at Mythcon46, which will be held at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs, Colorado from July 31 – August 3. The event’s theme is Arthurian Mythos with guests appearances by Jo Walton and John D. Rateliff.

*   *   *

galina

Last week, a second call has been issued to protest the destruction of antiquities and ancient sacred spaces. Back in April, we noted that Pagan Jack Prewett had called for a Global Day of Mourning as terrorists continued their destruction of ancient cities, including Nimrud and Hatra.

Now, Polytheist Galina Krasskova has issued a call for a “Polytheistic Day of Protest and Remembrance.” Krasskova writes, “This is not a Syrian issue. This is not a Muslim issue. This is a world issue. It is a human issue. Daesh is purposely targeting memory. They’re targeting their history, and their own *physical* connection with their polytheistic ancestors. It is done to demoralize, terrorize, and desecrate.”

On her website, Krasskova encourages everyone to participate in a global silent protest on July 31. She includes a meditation, which she suggests doing 9x that day and then sharing the results with others. She says, “This is a way of holding space for polytheism, ancient and modern, it is a way of drawing a line in the sand and declaring to the world that we stand in solidarity with those whose voices once rang out in praise to a plenitude of Gods and Goddesses. It is a statement that for every stone of every temple destroyed, we will restore that cultus a thousand fold. It is an act of evocation, execration, and magic. We’re still here.”

*   *   *

paganmarketlogo2small-300x92In response to the recent controversy on Etsy and past conflicts on eBay, a small group of Pagans has announced the development of an online marketplace for “magical supplies.” The Pagan Market, as it is called, will be an online community of shops dedicated to magical supplies, including those banned from other venues.

Blake Greenman Carpenter is spearheading the project and writes, “We all need a break from the outside world sometimes and this site can give us that small clearing in the forest away from the pressures of those who don’t think like we do.” He notes that the site is a big project, and he encourages people to share ideas with him. Carpenter added, “We may start a fundraiser if we feel the funds to build the community site may end up out of our personal budget range, if so there will be extra benefits to helping the cause.

Carpenter also notes that they are currently looking for sponsors and inviting people to volunteer as beta testers. To date, there are already more than 40 responses, most of which are offers to assist, sponsor and beta test. Some of the commenters even specifically mention the closing down of their Etsy shops. Carpenter said that the group hopes to have the Pagan Market up and running around September 21.

*   *   *

Solar Cross TempleMany Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists are starting to prepare for an October trip to Salt Lake City to attend the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Solar Cross Temple, an intrafaith group based in California, has just announced that they have had two programs accepted by the Council. These programs include: Calling the Ancestors Home: A Ritual of Truth and Healing” and “Healing the Wounds of Violence with Restorative Justice.”

Attending the 2015 Parliament and preparing the programs will be Board members “Crystal Blanton, T. Thorn Coyle. Jonathan Korman, and Elena Rose, along with temple member Annika Mongan.” The Temple Board noted that its “members attended the previous Parliament in Melbourne, 2009 and found it to be a tremendous experience.”

In the coming months, more people will be announcing the the Council’s acceptance of their presentations and programs. We will continue to share that exciting news as it comes in. As for Solar Cross, its members are looking forward to attending and, in order to defer the high costs of travel, have started a GoFundMe campaign called, “Send Solar Cross to the Parliament.”

In Other News

  • Did you notice something different at Polytheist.com? The site was relaunched last week with a brand new design. Director Anomalous Thracian said, “It has been rebuilt…with a new engine under the hood and a more stable hosting environment.” In addition, Thracian announced a “quarterly call for submissions” that will happen each solstice and equinoxThe call is for “articles or essays on subjects, topics, perspectives or challenges related to living and practicing Polytheist religions and spiritual traditions today.” Additionally, Polytheist.com is launching a new multi-author column “showcasing entirely anonymous authors, sharing personal and informal accounts of liminal, ritual, magical and ecstatic experiences within their pursuits as Polytheists.”
  • Across the internet at HumanisticPaganism.com, there is another call for submissions. In a blog announcement, HumanisticPaganism editors write, “July 12 is Malala Day,which honors Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who survived an assassination attempt and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.” They also note that July hosts several “important anniversaries in the Transcendentalist movement.” In honor of Malala and Transcendentalism, HumanisticPaganism.com is looking for essays discussing the themes of “individualism, religious tradition and gender issues.
  • Several members of Idaho’s Pagan community were featured in a local news article called, Potions and Paganism in Boise. The article profiles the metaphysical store, Bella’s Grove and the Tri-Council Academy or the Treasure Valley Pagan community. The reporter writes, “Woventear [owner of Bella’s Grove]…strives to create a space where budding witches and pagans can learn without judgment.” The news article provides a brief look into one of the many thriving, very local Pagan communities nestled in towns throughout the U.S.
  • Filmmaker and artist Antero Alli has announced a “rare screening” of his dark comedy To Dream of Falling Upwards (2011). He writes, “Set in the parallel worlds of an urban magickal order and the rural magic of Castaneda-style desert brujas, a sex magickian accidentally summons a demon who wants to be his best friend.” The screening will take place July 2 at 8 p.m. in Finnish Kaleva Hall in Berkeley, California.
  • A Change.org petition was started to “Legalise Pagan Handfastings in England and Wales.” On Saturday, Melissa Page started the petition asking for 5,000 signatures. In just two days, she has received nearly 3,000 signatures and has already sent one request letter directly to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron MP. Page writes that she is “waiting on a reply,” but more voices are still needed. She encourages people to keep signing.
  • And, one last note, the Celtic Rock Band Dragon’s Head has recently released its very first album called “Songs of the New Old Ways.” Their sound is described as “heavy, melodic, and inspiring …taking their cues from alternative, progressive rock, punk, jazz and Celtic balladry.” You can get a taste of their music and read the inspiration behind making the album at ReverbNation.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

Send to Kindle

On May 1, Courtney Weber’s new book Brigid: History Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess was released by Weiser Books. This is Weber’s first venture in publishing. While reading the book, I found myself most intrigued by the journey that led to the writing this book and by Weber’s personal relationship to the Goddess,Brigid. I decided to contacted her. And, through an interview, I had the opportunity to further explore this aspect of the book and more.

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

The Wild Hunt: I can see that a great deal of work was put into this book, not only through your own journey to learn more about Brigid, but also through the practical wisdom in the questions that you pose and the workings you present. Despite all of that effort and research, what really stands out to me is the story of how this book came to be; the story of the promise you made as a young witch to create this book in exchange for Brigid’s assistance. When I read about that promise I thought of some of the promises that I had made as a young witch and shudder at my foolishness. How do you now look back on your promise?

Courtney Weber: I look back and laugh. I truly underestimated the nature of Witchcraft and the Goddess, Herself. It’s been a blessed, although winding, journey. There were a lot of sacrifices I made along the way and many of them were painful, but now I’d much rather have this book out in the world than have any of the other things I had to give up in order for it to happen. I don’t think anyone could have explained to me the nature of honoring your word in Witchcraft back then. I think the nature of Gods coming to claim their debts is something that needs to be fully experienced, independently.

TWH: At the time you vowed to write this book, is this the end product that you had envisioned it would be? Is there anything you wished you would have, or could have, done differently?

CW: I originally thought I would write a book of poems for Brigid. I think I thought I would fill it up with poems put it on my altar and that would be enough. I bought a blank notebook, wrote two crappy poems, and then an apology note for not finishing it. I guess I thought the apology would be enough. The rest of the book is blank (I still have it). I’m not a great poet—or even a good poet—so I suspect Brigid is happier with my non-fiction. I really wish I had included my footnotes. Someone who proofread it for me suggested I omit them for practical reasons. As it was my first book, I didn’t argue as this person had far more experience in publishing than I. In retrospect, I really regret it. I also would have had my Irish friend who is extremely well-versed in indigenous Irish language and culture give the whole thing a once over as there are a couple of spelling and factual things that could have used tweaking.

IMG_0068

Courtney Weber at a book reading and workshop 2015 [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

TWH: In the book, you speak about how blocked you were between the time that you made the promise and the actual writing of the book. How have things changed for you since you’ve upheld your vow?

CW: I now write constantly. I can’t keep up with the ideas I have and opportunities I once fantasized about are absolute realities. This is a far cry from sitting over a blank notebook in a West Village coffee shop with absolutely nothing to put to paper, and conversations with potential literary agents that ended in “No” before I could finish my pitch. Maybe that’s just the journey to being a writer, period. I want to go back and comfort 24 year old me who so frustrated and angry by wanting to write and having nothing to write about. If I’d known, I’d probably have more hair as I wouldn’t have pulled so much out.

TWH: Much of your book is spent delving into the many aspects of Brigid – Brigid as Healer, as Warrior, as Bard, as Earth Goddess. Is there a particular aspect of Brigid that you find yourself most drawn to?

CW: It changes. Recently, with the events of the shooting in Charleston and the #blacklivesmatter movement plus the creation of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York, I’m feeling far more of Brigid the Warrior. Today, I came home from a weekend in New Hampshire and found my Brigid the Warrior effigy knocked off the wall. I’m not sure exactly what that means (other than naughty cats), but I suspect it means I have more Brigid-influenced warrior work to do. Five-seven years ago, I was far more in tune with Brigid the healer. I also flow into Brigid the Mother when I’m with my nephew and niece or my Godchildren. I feel like Brigid has a vested interest in the needs of our world and tweaks her Devotees for the work as necessary.

TWH: The chapter that I enjoyed most was about the Healer. There was a certain part that rang so very true that I read it a few times to let it sink in. In in your wrote, “The task of emotional healing frequently brings up deep wounds from the darkest wells of our souls. When this happens, it’s easy to want to pull back, preferring to exist in familiar illness than take the path of unknown and often uncomfortable healing.” I’m curious, how do you, as a teacher, support your students in diving in to the important and scary places they need to go to find the healing they need?

CW: I want them to know that they have a lifeline—they won’t sink. They also, if they are working with Brigid, need to know that the painful healing is part of the process. When She chips away at that which is holding us back, it doesn’t feel good. Knowing this and knowing it’s part of the process keeps them going so they don’t quit. The pain is temporary. The healing can be permanent if we let it.

TWH: In your writing, you talk about the importance of putting practice and effort into learning a craft and mention that this is “one of the tougher lessons for contemporary practitioners.” How do you think this impacts some Pagans in their spiritual and magickal practices? What role do you think the elders and teachers of our community have in addressing this issue?

CW: I’m a child of the 80’s. Like many of my peers, my schools had “Talented and Gifted” programs. I was never a “TAG” kid. Whether it was math, art, music, or something else, there seemed to be a great deal of emphasis at pulling children’s natural gifts out of them as opposed to teaching them to develop skills and strengths. I’m in my 30s now and I see this among a lot of my peers: if we’re not naturally good at something, we often don’t try and instead we look for something else to do that we are naturally adept at doing.

I do see a lot of students skip the process of honing Magickal abilities or write off aspect of spiritual development because “they’re not good at it.” As a teacher, I am very open about my journey and my mistakes. I want people to know the work that has gone into my talents and abilities. If I make the mistake of letting people believe I’m gifted when in truth, I’m a stubbornly hard worker, I’m not only being dishonest, I’m setting a poor example.

TWH: If there was one thing you would want people to take away from your book, what would it be?

CW: There are several things I hope make an impression. One, that spiritual practice with Brigid is accessible and feasible for the average person. Connection with her doesn’t require elaborate rituals or steep practices. Second, it’s important to me that readers know St. Brigid as not a denigration of the Goddess Brigid and in fact, the incarnation of Brigid as a saint adds to her rich history and lore. Finally, I hope people walk away deeply in love with her history and mythology.

TWH: Where can our readers find you and your book?

CW: I live on the internet. My website is www.thecocowitch.com and my [Facebook] page can be found at this link. I encourage people to ask for the book at their local New Age or occult bookstores, but I also carry it on my website, where I can sign it for people upon request

Send to Kindle

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a landmark decision, legalized same sex marriage in the United States of America. On Friday, June 26, SCOTUS issued its 5-4 opinion on the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Kennedy delivered the opinion, opening with, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”

10996762_10153465784993281_5945380181211759427_n

Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 2015 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Through that opinion, SCOTUS reversed the decision of the lower Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which had upheld same sex marriage bans in four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. SCOTUS ruled these bans unconstitutional, saying:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

The Court’s opinion also made it clear that marriages performed legally in one state had to be officially recognized in other states. As SCOTUS ruled:

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

Within the opinion, Justice Kennedy offered an historical perspective, saying that marriage has been central to the “human condition” for “millennia and across civilizations.” While he acknowledged that most of the historical references speak of opposite sex unions, he goes on to say that “The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.”

Justice Kennedy was joined by Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomeyer. Dissenting opinions came from Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Roberts wrote:

This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be … Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.

While there are those who directly oppose same sex marriage on religious or philosophical principles, there are others who, like Roberts, feel that the process should have been left to the states and the vote of the people.

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

As the news flooded the internet, we gathered some reactions from Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists around the country. Here is what they had to say:

Dianne Duggan is a Pagan Priestess who worked for the US government for decades and practiced law. Last year in her in Illinois, she was finally able to legally marry her wife. Duggan said, “Given that marriage is a legal contract, sanctioned by government, I’ve never understood the faith-based arguments against it. Even marriages that take place under religious circumstances must be sanctioned by government through licensing .. Rights are rights. That is that.” Read Duggan’s full comment

Another legal expert, Dana Eilers, author of Pagans and the Law, said that SCOTUS had “affirmed the great American Experiment, which is the separation of church and state.” She went on to say, “Critically, the majority of the Court found that the opponents of gay marriage had failed to provide any foundation for the dire outcomes which gay marriage opponents so often assert. This, to me, is crucial: there was, apparently, no proof offered to support the awful predictions made by the opponents of gender equality in marriage. Proof and evidence are not yet dead in American courts.” Read Eilers full comment.

Heading south, Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren, also known as Rev. Seba O’Kiley, is a Priestess of the Gangani Tribe in Alabama, a marriage equality battle-ground state. Same sex marriage was legalized in February 2015, but state and local officials have been fighting ever since. Privett-Duren said that it “takes the efforts and courage of many to change any inequities in the world.” She added that this impulse to enact change should be a “human one born of the need to set things right.” Privett-Duren added:

I am saddened at the responses of some of my Southern friends and family to the SCOTUS ruling.  However, this is only a small faction of our South and will, inevitably, become only another archaic echo of a culture’s growing pains. ….  My tribe and I hold firm that we can be both Southern and progressive.  And while my neighbors are truly heartbroken at the SCOTUS decision, it is my hope that they will one day see that any oppression to any people oppresses us all. Read Privett-Duren’s full comment

Wizzard Rodney Hall, a transgender and pansexual Pagan from Alabama, said, “It has been a long march from … Stonewall riots to the marriage equality decision by SCOTUS … Though I told my partner after SCOTUS struck down DOMA … that this was a landmark decision and we were on a downward slope toward equal marriage rights, I had no clue that it would move this fast.” Like Privett-Duren, Hall knows that there will be some conflict within the state, saying “In Lee County AL, where I live, our courthouse was closed today until they review the SCOTUS decision. There is also Alabama Senate Bill 377 still pending, which seeks to replace marriage licenses with a contract process … Though we still face obstruction from bigots and the ill-informed religious right, I feel that we are on the upswing.”

From Georgia, two Pagans shared their thoughts. Blogger Sara Amis said, “I think it’s important to emphasize the religious equality angle. Pagans, who by and large are happy to recognize same-sex unions, should not be constrained by the beliefs of other faiths in this matter. And now we won’t be.” Amis went on to say that for bisexuals, like herself, “not being invisible matters. Social recognition matters.” Then she added, “And speaking as a Pagan, symbols matter. Rituals matter.” Read Amis’ full comment.

And, Benratu, a Witch and native Georgian, agreed, saying, “I am thrilled to see our leaders make the right decision!” He lamented that for so long he has been unable to “share the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.” Benratu said “[It]is now possible. I felt a great sigh of relief.” Like Hall and Privett, Benratu also expressed a concern that the ruling may trigger a backlash and increased incidents of homophobic violence. However, he added, “My hope is this will bring our country together and user in more acceptance of different viewpoints.”

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

California-based author and activist T. Thorn Coyle took a more radical position, saying, “I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call ‘gay marriage’ or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger.” She explained, “..allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course. I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.” Read Coyle’s full comment

Also hailing from California, Rev. Patrick McCollum shared his thoughts, saying, “As one who has worked for gay rights for more than thirty years, I am elated that one of the fundamental rights that we’ve all fought for so long has finally come to be.” McCollum tied the ruling’s importance to his beliefs. He wrote, “Just as we speak of the interconnectedness of all things in a spiritual context, we must also realize that the same principles apply in our mundane lives. How we make space for everyone and how we honor the sacredness of diversity speaks directly to who we are as a people.” Read McCollum’s full comment.

Like McCollum, Rev. Selena Fox has been an longtime activist working for LBGQT equality and religious rights. When Friday’s ruling was handed down, Fox called for a celebration, saying, “I am glad that the USA has now joined the 20 other countries in the world that have legalized same sex marriage — and it is my hope that there will be marriage equality in every nation on this planet.” She said that she has been performing same sex handfastings since the 1980s with the first one in 1983, and assisting with the first legal handfasting at Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2014. Read Fox’ full comment.

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Finally, in Washington D.C., we caught up with witch and activist David Salisbury, who works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He said:

This enormous victory really speaks for itself. For years I’ve been involved with fighting state-by-state and we’ve seen many victories and some losses. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, I can’t wait to shift my focus on the other important areas where LGBT people are still not equal. In most states, you can now get married on Sunday and fired on Monday. We now need employment and housing nondiscrimination as soon as possible. But for now, I will celebrate here in DC with the many people involved in this movement, and in spirit with many others around the nation. Love won, and that deserves a celebration.

Agreeing with Salisbury, Circle Sanctuary minister Vic Wright from Kentucky said, “It is a blessed day when the Supreme Court chooses to uphold the law … Now on to the next issues.” In her reaction statement, Fox also looked forward, saying, “We need to be vigilant and take action to counter attempts by bigoted forces that already are planning to undermine this victory under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’ ” Of course, she is referring to the RFRAs, which could potentially be used to counter this ruling. Whether that happens or not is up for debate

California-based Heathen Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir also expressed the need to keep pressing for rights by offering this call-to-action, “The fire is hot, the iron is stoked and burning bright, let’s strike at other issues that affect the lives of the rest of us who live under the “rainbow umbrella … Let’s keep the pressure on our legislators to provide the protections and dignity that we deserve in every facet of our lives; queer, trans, bi, however one chooses to identify.” Read Odinsdottir’s full comment.

The HRC, as an organization, also agrees that there is much work to be done. After issuing its celebratory statement, it turned its focus immediately to remaining problems by sending out a second statement that called for all “state officials to remove obstacles to marriage equality immediately.” These obstacles, for example, include such things as the closed Alabama courthouses noted earlier by Hall, and the public response by Louisiana’s Governor. Just after the SCOTUS ruling, Gov. Jindal issued his own opposing statement, going as far as saying, “Let’s just get rid of the court.” Louisiana is one of the few states that didn’t issue licenses on Friday.

However, not all the remaining 13 states, which prior to Friday’s ruling didn’t issue same sex licenses, were opposed. Georgia reportedly issued the very first same-sex license after the ruling was issued. In Texas, people lined up to get married. Along with the ceremonies, celebrations have happened and will continue throughout the weekend.

11265266_10153465789638281_6655521690623930719_n

Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Kasha, a Wiccan Priestess from Florida who is currently serving as National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, called for a moment of remembrance. She said, “I … hope we pause during our celebrations to honor those involved in this struggle that did not live to see this day – those that inspired the fight, endured persecution and violence, and lived and died with secrets.” Read Kasha’s full comment.

And, Jesse Hathaway Diaz, proprietor of The Wolf and Goat, shared this advice going forward, “I’m a firm believer in the ladder principle – if you are going to ascend the ladder, you must bring someone up to your current rung, or you backslide. Nature abhors a vacuum. Let the ‘victory’ of today similarly be a tool. Bring others to the current rung – what we envision should be a reality. Do not be complacent. Share the success. Advance others….. Help others understand why it’s worth sharing. Help others be able to share it with us someday.” Read Hathaway’s full comment.

Send to Kindle