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

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna van der Hoeven

Joanna van der Hoeven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Druid College UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Pagan Community Notes is a weekly feature that highlights short stories and notes originating from within and affecting our collective communities. If you like reading this dedicated news every Monday, please donate to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. We are now 30% funded. Help us raise that number! All of our articles take time, research and money to produce. It is you that makes it all possible! Share our IndieGoGo link. Donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

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

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

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

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

  *    *    *

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

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

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[When you support The Wild Hunt, you are supporting independent, reader-funded journalism. If you enjoy reading our work each day, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. 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. And share our link with others. Thank You.]

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

Pope in Philadelphia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

Pope in Philadelphia [Photo Credit: E. Dupree]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[เพแกนควรที่จะให้ความใส่ใจในองค์พระสันตะปาปา ไม่ใช่ในฐานะโจทก์เก่า แต่ในฐานะผู้นำทางจิตวิญญาณหนทางหนึ่งที่ต่างจากเรา พวกเขามีปรีชาญาณของเขา และเราก็มีปรีชาญาณในแบบของเรา ถ้าหากเราสามารถแบ่งปันให้แก่กันได้ จะไม่ดีกว่าหรือ]

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

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

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

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

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

Costa Rica: Esteban Sevilla Quiros, goði for Kindred Irminsul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[Columnist Rhyd Wildermuth is one of our talented monthly columnist. If you enjoy reading his work, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. 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.]

We’re screwed and all anyone seems to care about is their spiritual journey and their artesian chocolate bar made by a fedora-wearing bearded 20 year old living in #Bushwick. Only the hippest can help us. Only the rich can afford authenticity. Only those that can ignore the violence that privilege inflicts will have the most Instagram followers.

We’ve somehow forgotten that we are inherently interesting because we are human. We’ve ended up in this weird hipster hell where everything is an ironic nod to the past, to someone else’s identity or to fractions of an imitation of ours.

We need to occupy authentic.

Of course, artisanal chocolate isn’t the problem, it just points to it. It points to the lack of care of how we effect each other’s space, cultures, histories and displacements. Because when we have no sense of self it’s far too easy to colonize unconsciously. When we are able to disown what we don’t like about ourselves and buy what we do like it’s far too easy to escape doing the necessary work needed to heal our deeper wounds around our identity. Chani Nicholas

Let me tell you a story. It’s your story and mine. It’s the story of a deep trauma, a tale of sorrow and violence, and also one, potentially with a happy ending.

It’s the story of a people who lost their colours, who became blank.

It is not an easy story to tell. It’s one you may already think you know. You may already think you know what I am going to say, or fear what I might say. Maybe you’re already angry, already upset, eager to tell me what you think or to tell me off. That’s okay, really. But you won’t really know until I’ve finished my tale, and the tale is not in the end or in the beginning, but in the telling.

So I will tell you this tale.

I woke up one day and found out I was white. All my color and difference, all the connection and meaning of being human had bleached out of my existence, and I became blank.

Others already knew I was white, but like learning there’s no magic in the world or there’s no such thing as fairies or ghosts, someone had to tell me ‘the truth.’ I was not what I wanted to be, or what I could to be. I was emptiness, colourless, plain, normal.

Abnormal, fullness, authenticity, color — all those things belonged to others, not to me, nor to the people who were like me. Instead of having culture and magic and wonder, I had privilege and power and authority, malls and Empire and business suits and Christianity. I had oatmeal and turkey; mashed potatoes,untextured bread and bland pasta; blue jeans,  the Bible and Lipton tea. I had football and baseball and skyscrapers; FOX news and watered-down beer; trimmed lawns and Disneyworld

Thing is, I don’t like any of those things. But that’s what I get for being bleached of colour, bleached of meaning.

There are other things I get which are a lot better, though. Things that are supposed to make up for my loss. I’m less likely to be shot. I’m more likely to be picked for a job. I’m less likely to go to prison for a petty crime. I’m more likely to go to college. I’m less likely to get strip-searched in an airport. I’m more likely to be listened to by others.

All those things I ‘get’ for being white, though? There’s another story there. Getting more things than others and being less likely to be hurt means I was born into world where some people get hurt more often and also get less stuff.

I don’t want to live in that sort of world, but I also don’t want to off myself because it’s the only sort of world that’s around at the moment. So what I can do?

I didn’t decide to be white. It was decided for me, and not just at the moment when I learned I was white. It was decided only a few hundred years before by a really complicated series of actions, theories and wars that I had nothing to do with. My story’s gonna get a little longer, because I need to tell you about how some people lost their colour.

How The Whites Lost Their Colour

Christoph Meiners, who first used the term 'Caucasian' in 1785

Christoph Meiners, who first used the term ‘Caucasian’ in 1785 [Public Domain]

Whiteness didn’t really exist 325 years ago.

Sit with that for a moment, if you don’t mind. And if you’ve read my writing before, you maybe also remember a few other things that didn’t really exist 300 years ago. Like Capitalism. And the steam engine. And the United States of America.

What were ‘white people’ before? All kinds of things. English and French and Spanish and Scandanavian and Irish. Protestant and Catholic and Orthodox. Peasants and farmers and nobles and kings and merchants—but not really ‘white.’ There was no such thing as a ‘white race.’ In fact, ‘Causasians’ didn’t exist until a scientist who liked to measure skulls came up with the word in 1785 and divided people into races.

Science had a lot to do with the creation of white people. The Enlightenment and “Age of Reason” turned loose an orgy of men measuring and theorising and writing and advising on the inner scientific truths of nature and the human body and our origins. Capitalism and factories and lots of other awful modern things were created from their ideas. Some of these ideas we keep around because they make sense (Darwin’s ideas, for instance) and others we’ve mostly gotten rid of, like lobotomies or removing women’s ovaries to calm them down.

But whiteness didn’t get widely accepted until it got written into law and became ‘truth.’

Scientific theories are meant to explain a process, but when they become politically useful, they take on a life of their own. Race, especially whiteness, was a really useful political theory. During the colonial period of America, governors needed a way to make sure property was distributed only among certain people, and they were also having trouble keeping the lower classes in line.

Traditionally, the laws defined people by their wealth and their Christianity as opposed to ‘others.’ But because indigenous peoples and African slaves also converted to Christianity, extra definitions of what the laws meant by ‘Christian’ (that is, people who got rights and wealth) were required. As pointed out in a really good essay by Quinn Norton:

…a growing American peasantry was proving as difficult to govern as the European peasantry back home, periodically rising up in riot and rebellion, light skinned and dark skinned together. The political leaders of the Virginia colony struck upon an answer to all these problems, an answer which plagues us to this day.

The Virginians legislated a new class of people into existence: the whites. They gave the whites certain rights, and took other rights from blacks. White, as a language of race, appears in Virginia around the 1680s, and seems to first appear in Virginia law in 1691. And thus whiteness, and to a degree as well blackness, was born in the mind of America.

The ‘whites’ appeared during the colonial period, during the same period of the birth of Capitalism, and in response to the difficulty of ruling over people. It was a political tool, later strengthened by irresponsible scientists, and was a way to divide the poor against each other.

I don’t have space to tell you the rest of the story about the creation of whiteness (and as I’ve suggested, others have done it very well). What’s important here, especially for Pagans, is what came before whiteness, and what can come after whiteness.

The story we hear about America was that it was founded by people fleeing religious persecution and filled by immigrants looking for opportunity. The first part of that story’s really silly. The pilgrims were Puritans who were fleeing backlash from their horrible attempts to regulate society according to their ideas of what the Christian God wanted (no dancing, no drinking, church like, all the time).

The second part, though… Ever stop to wonder why there was no opportunity in the places those immigrants came from?

The answer is the one no one likes to talk about. Capitalism was re-arranging European society. The Enclosures, the Highland Clearances, the Irish Famines, industrialisation, the closing-off of forests in what is now Germany, and wars for resources during that time all destroyed the ability of the lower classes to survive. So, they went where they might have a better chance to find a way to eat (and even, possibly, have some land to farm on). An ethical decision most of us might make, even if we didn’t want to help make life miserable for the people who were already living on that land. Hungry people will do some awful things for food.

Irish famine monument, Dublin (photo by author)

Irish famine monument, Dublin [Photo Credit: R. Wildermuth]

Those people who left weren’t really ‘white’ yet, not until they became integrated into the American political and economic system. And there was an order in which that happened: people from the same lands as those in power became white first. Later, other people became white, too — Germans, Irish, Italians, and eventually Hispanics and Eastern Europeans.

The thing to remember, though, is that white was a new kind of person, a new label. By becoming white, all the other cultural identities of that white person were mostly erased. Also, remember that creating a legal category of person called ‘white’ was done to prevent poor people of European descent from mixing, intermarrying, and allying with slaves (freed or otherwise) from Africa or with First Nations people.

White basically meant not Black, or Indian, or Chinese, or anyone else we were supposed to not trust or share stuff with. For awhile, it didn’t mean Irish or German or Italian, and then eventually it did.

White also became a symbol. A symbol of power (because those in power were white). A symbol of authority. A symbol of normality. A blankness, empty, a void waiting to be filled with profit and privilege.

And whiteness became a way to get the a large group of the poor to identify with and fight for the rich, instead of identifying with people in similar economic statuses, or people suffering from similar ancestral trauma.

Ancestral trauma is an important bit, actually, and one only Animists and psychoanalysts can really quite allow. The secularism of Western society can only talk of material processes that would affect the children of people who became white, not the spiritual or cultural traumas.

The Victim Becomes The Abuser

White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed –James Baldwin

There isn’t really a white culture. We’ll certainly laugh when we hear jokes about ‘what white people eat,’ but “white culture” is whatever people without ethnic and cultural ties to their origins have cobbled together and created in this new state of blankness. Humans without culture create culture, because culture is part of what makes us human.

So whites came up with a patchwork of cultural forms, pasted together from what was around. Some of it was surviving bits from Europe. Some of it was technically stolen. Some call it borrowing, but whites don’t actually give it back. Some call it ‘copying’ or ‘exchange,’ but the only thing whites ever exchange in return is money, or Coca Cola, or expensive plastic bits made by people who aren’t white.

The important thing here is that culture went from something humans create to something that can only be bought or sold. That’s Capitalism’s trick, taking away our meaning and selling it back to us for profit. Worse, Capitalism often sells us stolen goods, the spoils of colonization.

That’s the whole ‘cultural appropriation’ bit. But let’s be clear  — most people don’t do a good job of talking about appropriation because they don’t mention Capitalism and Empire and power. It’s not easy to explain those things in a heated conversation, and not so easy on the internet, either.

Whiteness is a theft of color, a theft of history of the people who become white, a theft of all the ancestral cultural and spiritual forms of a people. They all become whitewashed, and become a people who don’t know who they are, don’t know how to have spirituality and culture without stealing it from others.

Whiteness can be—and maybe should be—looked at as a trauma. Fleeing European lands because of famine, enclosure, capitalist displacement and war, many of the people, who would later become white, were not just immigrants, but refugees. This is less traumatic, certainly, than being hauled in the bottom of slave ships, or being forced-marched across America so other people could have your land. But, loss of land, culture, language, and identity is a trauma nevertheless.

Traumatized people can be compelled to do horrible things. People who have lost everything often steal. People who live in abject poverty can often be bribed into performing heinous acts. And most horrible of all, people who suffer trauma often re-enact that trauma in others, perpetuating abuse in even worse forms than the original trauma.

Whiteness is, itself, a trauma treated not with healing, but with bribes and rewards to shut you up. Accept the abuse of whiteness and your kids don’t get shot, your bandages will be closer to your skin-tone, and the rich will let a few more scraps fall on the floor in front of you and maybe, just maybe, let you one day sit with them too.

The answer to curing the trauma of whiteness isn’t to deny it never happened, and that trauma doesn’t excuse any of the things whites have done because of it. We don’t help victims by denying they were never victimised, nor do we forgive people who sexually abuse children if they were abused as children, too. Both are forms of denial.

The End of Whiteness and the Beginning of Everything Else

We must look directly at the trauma that caused and causes whiteness, heal the wounds it causes (inside the white and outside), overthrow the Capitalist system that needs whiteness to survive, and then abolish whiteness altogether. And that’s where Paganism is very important.

Paganism can be seen as an attempt to create a culture and a system of meaning from the ruins of Capitalism even as Capitalism isn’t over yet. In fact, by creating a culture than can withstand the assault of the market and all its voracious greed, by insisting on the right of individuals to choose their own identities and worship their own gods in their own ways, Paganism could actually help cause the end of Capitalism and whiteness.

But there are two very large dangers here.

There are those who want to make Pagan a white religion. They make the mistake of accepting capitalist racial distinctions as natural or gods-ordained, and are often led by demogogues eager to exploit the trauma of whiteness into more virulent forms of hatred. They confuse European heritage and European gods with whiteness, even though there were no whites when European gods were worshiped.

In creating or reclaiming new identities, whiteness sometimes carries over as the blueprint for these constructions. Heathenism and Celtic Reconstruction often falls victim to this danger, sometimes pasting ‘Germanic’ or ‘Celtic’ over whiteness. Instead of salvaging what can be Celtic from the ruins of whiteness, they sometimes just dress up whiteness in Celtic garb.

The other danger is that we dress up our Paganism in salvage from the ruins of other still-living cultures, cultures in the process of being destroyed by Capitalism. That’s always been what Cultural Appropriation actually means, and why it’s important to talk about.  By taking cultural forms from other exploited peoples we are not borrowing or exchanging–we are continuing the abuse done to our ancestors.

But we can avoid both of these dangers by questioning whiteness, healing its trauma, and then destroying it completely. Paganism can’t be a white religion if we get rid of whiteness, nor can it be a white religion if we stop excluding people who have color from Paganism. And to destroy whiteness, there will have to be a culture to replace it—what better culture, then, than one reforged from what existed before Capitalism?

And this is yet another way that Paganism is also important—like soul retrieval, restoring what was lost to those traumatized by the nightmare of whiteness will make them whole again, end the cycles of abuse, and return the colors to their world.

Perhaps as we finally begin to know ourselves, face and heal the trauma of whiteness, our own and especially that of others whiteness was weaponized to hurt, perhaps we can reclaim what could have been and what has been along with all the other peoples of the world.

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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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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 happened, 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 simply 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.”

  *    *    *

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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[Unleash the Hounds is a monthly feature that highlights media stories of interest originating predominantly outside of our collective communities. If you like seeing this roundup every month, 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.]

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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