Looking for the perfect Solstice gift for your favorite Pagan, Heathen, or Polytheist? The Wild Hunt’s 2015 Winter Solstice Gift Guide, with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest movies, books, gifts and treats can help. If you find something you like, just click on the photo to find more information or to purchase the product.*


CalendarAstral Calendar – This calendar was designed for people to get more connected to a genuine solar year, even if they know little or nothing about astrology. Each zodiac month features a nude montage by Jean Jacques Andrè, an artist and photographer who has been creating with the female form since the 1950s. It also includes the Celtic holidays, eclipses, and the new & full moons–although the main focus is on the sun’s (earth’s) annual cycle. You don’t need to have any previous knowledge of astrology to use this calendar, and yet seasoned astrologers will also love it. $15 CAD

Adult mug

Cauldron Mug – These mugs are made to order, meaning you can pick the glaze color and choose a left hand or right hand mug. As a lefty, this is a big deal! You can even add a name or different words to the mug for an additional $5. All mugs are are made from red stoneware clay, and are microwave and dishwasher safe. Please note that the artist says turnaround time for custom orders is four to six weeks.So if you want this mug under the tree as a special gift you’ll need to order quickly. $35

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACommunity Supported Witchcraft Share – I love this concept. It’s like Community Supported Agriculture, but for magic. You can purchase a “share” of magical ritual goods and give them as a gift. Each month a different collection of three to six products are offered, whatever the artisan Witch is creating. It is both a fun gift and a way to support the further practice of Witchcraft as an art. $35-50 CAD

adult - medalianRaven Talisman – The etching on this copper medallion combines Norse and Celtic style elements and creates a look that is just a bit different from the typical raven. Ravens are known as messengers and watchers, and they can carry spirits off to the underworld. Ravens can bring you wisdom and magic or they may try to trick you. The talisman is hand etched on copper and is 1.5 inches in diameter. The Talisman comes with a woven leather cord. Not interested in a Raven? There are also many other talismans styles featuring animals or Gods and Goddesses. $29

Many gods

Many Gods, No Masters T-Shirt – A fun t-shirt that any Polytheist on your list would get a kick out. These t-shirts are super soft, and the image is hand-silkscreened. The shirt comes in unisex sizes, and is also available in a women’s cut. Practical Rabbit also has other fun shirts to order for both adults and kids, as well as other hand-made related items. I own the Beet the System, grow your own food shirt, and if anyone wanted to order me a women’s Fuck Bigotry shirt I wouldn’t complain. These shirts have been my go-to tees for the past year. $22


PieThe Raspberry Pi 2 Model B – This is a ridiculously affordable embedded computer that is perfect for teens interested in programming and building electronics. The size of a credit-card, this computer plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games. $35

adult evil eyeEvil Eye Bracelet – Being a teen is hard. This bracelet can help make it a bit easier. This cuff evil eye bracelet turns away curses and the bad intentions of others while looking pretty bad ass. The cuff is made of brown leather and lined with velvet. It’s laces help to ensure a good fit. The evil eye center bead is hand carved wood with a beeswax polish. Along with the powerful bead, there are also turquoise stone beads sewed on, imbuing the wearer with peace, calm, and more protection. There are currently only two of these cuffs left. $38

Tree of Life Key Chain – Got a new driver in the house? A thoughtful gift could be this Tree of Life key chain, a gentle reminder of how they are connected to everyone and everything else. The key chain comes in either black or brown leather and is distressed with paint suitable for leather. The Key of Life medallion is made of brass. Artisan accepts custom orders for other colors and materials. Created in Greece, ships worldwide. $19


admin-ajaxThor’s Hammer Plus Rattle – This is an adorable little rattle for your Viking baby! The charcoal gray fleece ‘hammer’ has a bark brown fleece handle, and is filled with poly-fil and two metal bells. It has white machine stitched embroidered detail on the hammer and black stitched wood grain detail on the handle. And, they even offer the option to have your little Viking’s initials sewn in one side in Norse Runes. $14

Infant - hatWitches Hat – I’m not all that into babies, but even I have to admit this is pretty cute. Not only do you get the hat, but it also comes with a headband, too. Both are handknit from acrylic and is machine washable on gentle cycle. The one pictured is for 0 to 6 months and is ready for immediate sale. If you need something custom made, be aware it can up to 12 weeks. However, if the Witch hat isn’t to your taste, the foxes ears are to die for. $20

Infant - baphBaphomet Plushie – I’ve never thought of Baphomet as adorable, but then again, I’ve never seen a Baphomet plushie. Until now! And really, why can’t a representation of the sum of the entire universe be cute? This plushie is made of soft fleece and is hand stitched felt. The plushie stands about 8 inches high. It might also make a good gift for the little Thelemite in your life. $20


Children BuddhaOriginal Buddha Board – Children live such hectic lives and are always on the go. The Buddha Board not only is a creative outlet,  but it also allows them to live fully in the moment. Think of it as a Zen-like Etch-A-Sketch. Children use the brush and water to paint designs onto the board, no paint needed. As the water evaporates the image fades away, but reveals a new perspective on your creative endeavors, encouraging the Zen idea of living in the moment. Since it can be used over and over with no other supplies needed, it is environmentally friendly, too. $35

Child - tattooAnimal hand tattoos – I want a set of these! Simply apply these temporary tattoos with water, and kids can make their own puppet show. You get two sets of eight different animals in your pack – bird, shark, zebra, giraffe, cow, alligator, tiger and bumblebee. Uncommon goods has some great educational and eco-friendly toys for kids, but they are usually pricey. These tattoos are relatively inexpensive, but they are made in China. Life is full of trade-offs. Retail $12

child chewingMake Your Own Chewing Gum – Part chemistry project, part botany lesson, all fun. Glee gum uses chicle, a tree sap, as its base. With adult supervision, kids can melt the sap and add flavors to make their own gum. Each ingredient comes with information on where and how it is harvested, and the history behind it. This kit makes learning fun. Parents can feel good about the gum because the chicle has been sustainably harvested, which helps preserve rainforests. And, what’s more, the packaging is eco-friendly. The same company also sells a Make Your Own Chocolate and Make Your Own Candy pack. $14

Coloring Books and Tarot

Tarot - GreenGreen Witch Tarot by Ann Moura and Kiri Østergaard Leonard – Ms. Gallo says that this is Llewellyn’s hottest tarot. Very in tune with Pagan sensibilities, the deck features different names for many of the majors, such as the Green Man in place of the Fool and The Lord and Lady for Lovers. Presenting Witchcraft practices and meaningful encounters with plants and animals, The Green Witch Tarot lets you open a channel between the reader and the spiritual beings of nature. It is full of powerful symbols and energetic wisdom that you can use to find the answers you seek. $29

Tarot - RavenRaven’s Prophecy Tarot, by Maggie Stiefvater – If you’re looking for a tarot deck for a teen, this is a good option. The deck was written and illustrated by uber-popular New York Times bestselling YA author Maggie Stiefvater. The iridescent sheen of a raven’s wing reveals a tantalizing glimpse of the future. A tattooed hand, sinews roiling like ley lines, peels back the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next. The Raven’s Prophecy Tarot reveals the wisdom of dreams, helping you harness the opposing forces of intuition and cunning, Moon and Raven, spirit and intellect. $29

games - coloring bookNorse Gods Coloring Book by Grace D. Palmer – Coloring is becoming more and more popular these days – with kids and adults alike. Many of the recently published coloring books are geared more for adults, but this book could be enjoyed by the entire family. It contains images of ten of the Norse Deities: Odin, Frigga, Frey, Freya, Thor, Tyr, Loki, Sigyn, Eir, and the Nornir. $20

owlUnleash the Goddess Coloring Books by Kerri Hirsch – Each book contains thirteen pages of unbound coloring fun. The books themselves are actually made of individual loose cardstock paper and can be colored with markers, watercolors, or acrylics. There are 12 different coloring book themes to choose from, and they range from simple drawings to more complex designs – all created by Hirsch herself. The themes include, for example, mandalas, Goddesses, pentacles, hearts, and Celtic knots. The one shown at the right is from the pack “Wild Whimsy.” $15

Epicureans and Fashionistas 

BeltRune Belt with Celtic Buckle – Have a Druid or Heathen on your gift list? The belt is handcrafted from full grain leather and is tooled, dyed, finished, and assembled by hand. It is affixed with four heavy duty Chicago screws with glued threads. The belt itself features runic script while the buckle has a knotwork design. You can customize either the runes or the buckle. $68

dressPentagram Dress – Buying clothing for your mate can be tricky, but pretty much any person would be ecstatic to receive this pentacle dress. Elegant, but still fun. It is made from soft touch jersey fabric so it has plenty of swing and drape, while still being as comfortable to wear as a pair of PJs. Need something dressier? Or maybe your mate doesn’t do above the knee dresses? No problem.There’s a floor length version with the pentacle in the back for extra drama.$65

GAIA- Goddess on EarthPhoto by Lisa LevartGoddess On Earth Coffee Table Book – This book is so lovely and powerful that I broke my own rule to only include books published in the last year. Goddess on Earth features over 95 lush color portraits and is printed with a rich European cloth cover by Editorial Bortolazzi-Stei in Italy, one of the most renown bookmakers in the world. Introduction by Jean Shinoda and afferword by Starhawk. The photo shown, titled Gaia, is of a mother and her children just days after she had given birth at home, a few inches from where the photo was taken. $56

The Craft dolls

The Craft Nesting Dolls – Are you kidding me? These are nesting dolls of The Craft Witches Nancy, Bonnie, Rochelle, and Sarah. Nancy is the biggest doll (natch!) at 5.5 inches while Sarah is the smallest at 2 inches. But don’t feel bad for Sarah, she has a tiny surprise inside. These dolls are hand painted, signed by the artist, and made to order. They ship worldwide from Australia and can take 4 to 6 weeks to create. Well worth the wait. $140

The Clitoring – There is power in female sexuality. This ring is a stylized anatomical representation of the newly rediscovered internal clitoris. I can definitely see this ring as a perfect receptical for storing energy raised during rituals. Luxurious enough to be worn at black tie events or as an everyday reminder of the Goddess within us all. The artist says the ring can even be set with precious stones. All handmade, choose from solid sterling silver or gold. $122 for sterling silver, $575 for gold.

rune ringSet of 6 Rune Rings – These rings contain power of another sort – the power of runes. There are six rings in this set, each a different rune. Algiz, for protection, on your thumb. Inguz, for love, on your index finger. There are two rings for your middle finger – Mannaz for unity and Kenaz for enlightenment. Teiwaz, for victory, on your ring finger and Othala, signifying your heritage, on your pinky. The rings are made from sterling silver, but have a dark oxidized patina. You can order them in sizes up to a 10 and single rune rings are also available. $320

epi - rugGoddess rug – This handmade crochet rug features Goddesses on top of circles of color. The rug is made from fabric strips that are cut up, tied together, and then crocheted together to make a 27 inches in diameter rug. The Goddesses are slightly padded and made of felt. The artisan can also make similar rugs featuring moon gazing hares,owls,foxes,faeries and badgers and can use wool in place of felt. I’m not sure I’d use this rug in a high traffic area, but it would be eye catching in just the right spot. $47

Epi - combRoman Comb – This is a beautiful gift for a Roman reconstructionist of any gender from a man with a truly glorious beard or a newborn baby. This comb is a handmade replica of a comb from the late Roman Period housed in The British Museum. It is made from ash wood and rubbed with linseed oil. It measures 10.5 centimeters long. There are several other styles to choose from, and many are quite intricate. $15


pebblePebble Smartwatch – One of the very few smartwatches that are compatible with both Andriod and iOS. And, it has excellent battery life, too. Pebble has several different watches available, some of them fall under $200. Like most smartwatches, you can take calls, manage your calendar,your sleep and your exercise. You can even text and email. $180 and up

rokuRoku – Know someone who wants to cut their cable? Roku is a good option for them. Compatible with many different viewing systems and one of the more cost effective and reliable non-cable solutions on the market. It is very user friendly, too. There are several different options to choose from – one device even turns older TVs into smart TVs. $40 to $130

FireAmazon Fire Tablet – This solid tablet is hard not to recommend just based on the bang for the buck ratio. It has consistently high reviews and works as well as tablets several times the cost. This 7 inch tablet has both rear and front facing cameras, and 8 GB of internal storage, which isn’t bad. But what’s really nice is that it comes with free unlimited cloud storage for all Amazon content and photos taken with Fire devices. If that isn’t enough storage, you can add a microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage. Normally $50, it’s on special at Amazon for Black Friday for $35.

Tree Hugger


One of the best gifts you can get someone who craves nature is a pass for a National or State Park in their area. Most parks offer a gift pass purchase as an option. State Park passes cost between $25 to $75.

Passport-program_2National Park Passports – Also available from the National Parks are Passports books. These little treasures are filled with maps, information, data and guides to the many National Parks throughout the U.S. Every time you visit a park, there is a place within the book to earn a stamp, much like a travel passport, and also a spot for a photo. Friendly rangers and shop keepers have the stamps ready to go when you arrive. Available at the parks and online, these little books are a great way to educate, create memories and even set travel goals. The Passports are available in several formats including one geared toward kids and one for adults. $8.95.


Music - songbook

Yule Songs – Miss singalongs while you’re gathered around the tree? This book contains a selection of songs perfect for Yule. Drawing on the Heathen and Pagan traditions of the season, it collects songs for the feast table, songs for rituals, and door-to-door customs still practiced in Britain. Also included are songs in honor of the Northern gods. Combining both original lyrics and music alongside traditional folk songs, this would be a good gift for covenmates, family members, or friends. $5

naked_harp_2015_tThe Naked Harp by Omnia – Just released this fall, The Naked Harp is Omnia’s 17th album. It contains 15 original songs and runs for just over 48 minutes. It is described as a “beautiful and timeless musickal journey into the realms of Dreams and Faery” and is good for meditation, dreaming and inspiration. Omnia is bohemian folk band from Europe. The newest album is available on their site along with many of their other works. 18 EUR

For the Bookworm

Elysia Gallo is the senior acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, based in Minnesota. She’s also active in her local Minneapolis community and blogs for Llewellyn’s Paganism blog, Reflections of the Moon. Llewellyn is offering Black Friday specials, use the code FRIDAY2015 when you check out. Here are her suggestions:

Book - oberonThe Book of Oberon by Daniel Harms, Joseph Peterson, and James R. Clark – A fascinating addition to the magical literature of the Elizabethan era, this lavishly illustrated grimoire is a must-have for magic practitioners, collectors, and historians. The Book of Oberon is the meticulous transcription and translation of a sixteenth-century manuscript acquired by the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library. Unlike the more theoretical magic books of the era, this collection of spells, secrets, and summonings was compiled gradually by unknown authors for working practical magic.This is a significant contribution to the annals of magical history, bringing to light the kind of grimoire that was commonplace in its era but is rarely published today. $65

Books - YuleYule by Susan Pesznecker –  What better Yule gift could you give someone than a book on celebrating Yule? Also known as the Winter Solstice, Yule is celebrated when nighttime has reached its maximum length, and there is a promise of brighter days to come as candles are lit and feasts are enjoyed. This guide shows you how to perform rituals and work magic with the energy of rebirth and renewal that comes with the return of the light. Its 240-pages contain rituals, recipes, spells, prayers, and more. This is the seventh book in Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials series, exploring the old and new ways of celebrating the seasonal rites that are the cornerstones of the Witch’s year. $12

Books - EightCircle of Eight by Jane Meredith – Good for any Witch or Pagan who wants to listen to her immediate surroundings and work local magic with others. The Circle of Eight is an exciting magical system for developing powerful, transformative rituals based on your relationship with the land. Through explorations of mythic work, invocations, inner discovery, and relationships within magical circles, this book provides much-needed insight into the experience of local magic—whether you live in a rainforest, a city, or anywhere in between. With instructions for setting up your own Circle of Eight, Jane Meredith’s unique approach will radically reinvent your relationship with traditional circle magic. Suitable for beginners, advanced ritualists, groups, and solo practitioners, this book helps you step boldly into the powerful magic of place and the great Wheel of the Year. $18

Books - divine magicThe Practical Art of Divine Magic by Patrick Dunn – This is for any Pagan or magician who wants to work more on direct access to the divine, a stronger relationship with deity. Dunn revisits Neoplatonic practices and makes them fully accessible and practical for the modern user. The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, and Rome was home to a set of magical and spiritual technologies, called theurgy, that unite the practice of magic with the aims of religion. Theurgy, or “godwork,” is the art of creating a stronger bond between the theurgist and his or her deities. The results of this stronger bond were imminently practical: stronger magic, more meaningful existence, and a better life. With the fall of Rome, these techniques faded into obscurity, and many of them were lost forever. Whether you practice Witchcraft, ceremonial magic, or chaos magic, you can benefit from the practice of theurgy. $20

The following selection was recommended by Red Wheel/Weiser.

book - brigidBrigid by Courtney Weber – Mother, daughter, healer, bard, warrior, fire goddess, goddess of the oak, animals, and magic. Brigid of the spring, her festival Imbolc, oversees fertility of all kinds. Brigid is many things to many people. In this enticing book, Courtney Weber offers up a wide-ranging exposition and celebration of all things Brigid, who is arguably the most popular figure in Celtic mythology and religion. Meet Brigid in her various incarnations—Celtic Pagan Goddess, Christian Saint, and Voudon Loa. Each chapter ends with guided meditations and exercises that help readers tap into Brigid’s healing powers. Inside you’ll find Brigid-focused spells, blessings, recipes, and rituals for love, harmony, protection, and much more. $13

To Trim the Tree ornament ank

Ankh Tree Topper – The Ankh represents eternal life, a nice sentiment during the longest night. This ankh tree topper is 8″ diameter and uses a beveled glass border. Iridescent clear granite glass surrounds a clear amber Ankh, while the solder lines are silver. The artist notes that the topper is quite heavy and suggest it only be used on trees 6 ft or taller. City Free Glass also makes pentagrams and peace symbol tree toppers. $70

ornament - dryadDryad Resin Ornament – A dryad, otherwise known as a wood nymph, is a perfect ornament for your tree. This ornament is 6 inches tall and is made from a hand painted resin. The artist is a classically trained sculptor with a wide selection of ornaments, candle holders, and statues. If Krampus ornaments are more your thing, Dellamorteco has you covered as well. $20

ornament broomstickBroomstick Ornament – Here’s one for all the Witches on your gift list. This adorable little broomstick ornament is handmade in France by The Witch Chandlery. I’m not a Witch and I want one of these. If red ribbons are not your thing, other colors are available to fit your holiday decor. Ships worldwide. $10

ornament - roosterRooster Ornaments – The rooster is the animal most sacred to the Greek God Helios, greeting the Sun each dawn, which makes him perfect for a Winter Solstice tree. The ornament is laser engraved from Baltic birch and hand painted. I ordered five of them and they are just as cute in person. $8

Children - advent calendarYule Countdown Calendar – Delight children with treats or surprise a special loved one with gifts of appreciation during the holidays with this countdown-until-Yule tree calendar! Each day of December, up until Yule, is marked on a little drawer, perfect for hiding tiny gifts or candies. The drawers measure 1” wide x 1” high x 1” deep. The tree is decorated with wood-burned knot work and stained with sealer. The tree measures 18 inches tall, and 15 3/4” wide at the base. The calendar is supported upright using an easel stand. $85

We hope you’ve enjoyed the gift guide. This is just a small taste of what Pagan or Pagan-friendly artisans and stores have to offer. As always, when possible, support your community by buying local or buying direct from the artists.

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*Disclaimer: This is a wholly independent gift guide. The Wild Hunt was not paid to endorse any of the listed products. All prices were current as of publication date.

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OAKLAND, Calif — Last evening, Pagan spiritual leaders T. Thorn Coyle and Marissa Evans, along with 12 other interfaith leaders, were arrested for trespassing at the Alameda County Court House. The spiritual leaders were part of an interfaith service and a rally, demanding District Attorney Nancy O’Malley drop all charges against a group that has come to be known at the Black Friday 14.

The faith leaders arrested are from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, the Deacon of First Congregation Church of Oakland, Bend the Arc: Jewish Partnership for Justice, United Church of Christ, and the Starr King School of Religion. Also included was T. Thorn Coyle, Pagan author, spiritual leader, and President of Solar Cross Temple, and Marissa Evans, co-founder of Light Hands Healing and a Pagan seminarian at Pacific School of Religion.

Police arrest T. Thorn Coyle (center) and other faith leaders.

Police arrest T. Thorn Coyle (center) and other faith leaders. [Photo Credit: Michelle Puckett]

In a statement to The Wild Hunt after she was released, Ms. Thorn Coyle said:

We are in a state of emergency in the U.S. Something must be done to counter the corrosive effects of white supremacy and racist systems that are killing Black, brown, and trans people on a daily basis. Bearing witness to this, as a reminder that we are all part of the sacred web of connection feels important to me. It is part of my religious and spiritual practice to invoke justice whenever I can, in as many ways as are possible.

The charges the Black Friday 14 are facing must be dropped. They chained themselves together and stopped the wheels of commerce for a few hours in order to tell us: Wake up! Remember what connects us! What connects us does not have to be greed and consumption. What connects us is breath, and life, and all that we call holy.

I was willing to get arrested to stand in solidarity with such a powerful wake up call. It is my job to invoke the sacred and to call on justice. And as I said in my statement [on Facebook]: I must fight for what I love. What I love are these people, struggling for life and freedom.

Being arrested is a small price to pay. And in the scheme of things, I’m a middle class white person who spent only a few hours in jail. That is nothing compared to the suffering of Black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, poor, or trans people who get shuttled through these inequitable systems built to protect the interests of a tiny portion of our society. All of this suffering feeds the .001%. If I can highlight that at all, by placing myself in the hands of that system for a few hours, I consider that community service.

I feel blessed and grateful to the Interfaith 14, the Black Friday 14, the people in the streets of Oakland, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York City, Ferguson, and everywhere that voices are raised for the call of love and justice.

The Black Friday 14 are a group of protesters, affiliated with the Black Lives Matter, who blocked access to the BART trains in West Oakland Black Friday 2014. The West Oakland stop is in the heart of the Bay Area and one of the busiest sections. Four of the system’s five trains pass through that station, and Black Friday is when the trains are running at full capacity. The protestors successfully shut down the station for several hours.

Similar shut downs took place at stations in other parts of California, such as in Los Angeles.

Black Lives Matter activists have alleged that white protesters in other transit shut downs are normally cited and released, while the fourteen black activists in West Oakland were arrested and initially threatened with $70,000 fines. The fines were later dropped, but the Black Friday 14 are still facing misdemeanor charges of interfering with train operation and trespassing. These charges carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Marissa Evans, who identifies as a Witch, agreed that justice appeared to be applied unequally based on race. She said, “Last year [on Black Friday] I joined a group of faith leaders protesting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement: we engaged in a nonviolent direct action of obstructing a freeway. All charges against my mostly white group were dropped. The harsh penalty that the Black Friday 14 are facing for their action reveals systemic racism.”

Those charges are what the interfaith group were protesting last night by staging a sit in at the Alameda County Court House. The sit in, led by a group called the Interfaith Committee In Support of the Black Friday 14, is the latest in a string of actions that began last week when labor leaders also occupied O’Malley’s office, demanding the charges be dropped.

The interfaith service started at 1:30 pm outside the courthouse. Lou Florez, Awo Ifadunsi [Orisha Priest], was asked to attend the interfaith service to bless three of the Black Friday 14, pour libations, and evoke the ancestors in the ritual space. He also helped construct the altar that was used during the service.

Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, a High Priest/ess of Umbanda, decided to attend because Thorn had said that a Pagan presence was requested at the rally. Odinsdottir said, “At this time, more than any other, we need to use as many of our tools as possible to fight the systems that are creating more dead black bodies in our streets.” She also said that as a nonwhite Person of Color she couldn’t stand by when oppression is being masqueraded as law.

Florez and Odinsdottir at the interfaith service outside the courthouse. Altar is in the background. [Photo from Florez]

Florez and Odinsdottir at the interfaith service outside the courthouse. Altar is in the background. [Courtesy Photo]

Lou Florez, invokes the ancestors, during the interfaith service. [photo credit Clark Sullivan]

Lou Florez, invokes the ancestors, during the interfaith service. [Photo Credit: Clark Sullivan]

When asked why he agreed to participate in the protest, Awo Ifadunsi said, “As a man of color, I don’t have the privilege of turning a blind eye to the lived experiences of racial inequity and injustices. As an Orisha priest and practitioner, who works with African deities, how can I say they are sacred and holy if I’m not willing to fight for their people? I was there because Black Lives Matter.”

While the interfaith service was happening outside, the 14 faith leaders were staging their rally inside the courthouse. Beginning around 1:20 pm, they joined hands in a circle, read statements, and sang. When the service was over, several of those outside entered the building to join in solidarity. Then, shortly before 4:30 pm as the courthouse was scheduled to close, police issued their first warning to the protesters. At 4:55 pm, they arrested all fourteen faith leaders including Thorn and Evans.

Thorn describes the experience:

We were handcuffed and led to a holding space in the courthouse and told to face the wall. The whole time we were singing: “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes!” and “Which side are you on, friends?” We were asked a list of questions and had IDs taken. Searched. In custody, I was reminded of the story of Inanna, because, hands cuffed behind me, the arresting officer started stripping my things from me, one by one. Necklace. Earrings. Rings. Belt. Sign around my neck. Shoelaces. Black Lives Matter buttons… and then, still singing, we were taken in a caged elevator down, descending like Inanna. We then walked a long circuitous warren of cement hallways, following a red line, singing all the while.

We were then placed in holding cells. Then moved. Then moved again. Then we had to take shoes and socks off. Then put them back on. Spread our legs and stand against the wall. Get searched a second time. Back in a holding cell. Then another holding cell.

Finally, we were cited and released. As usual, they had trouble taking my fingerprints. This always amuses me.

As I was being searched the second time, I kept thinking of people for whom this is a regular occurrence. People who are not white. Not middle class. Without the stamp that clergy offers. Nine out the 14 of us were white, and several wore clerical collars. It was clear we were religious leaders. What if we hadn’t been? Our experience would have been vastly different.

All fourteen faith leaders peacefully submitted to the arrests, were cited for trespass, and released later that evening.

CORRECTION 11/26 4 p.m.: The original article stated that the interfaith rally and protest happened one after the other. However, the protest inside the building began as the rally was happening outside. We have corrected that timeline.

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –The spate of worldwide attacks attributed to the terrorist group al-Dawlah al-Islamīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām in recent days has sent ripples of shock and fear in their wake: the downing of a Russian passenger plane leaving Egypt, suicide bombings in Beirut, and the Parisian attacks which topped the trifecta with a bloody bow. The fact that these attacks all took place outside of war-torn Syria and neighboring Iraq led to rampant speculation that the terrorists were concealing themselves in the massive crush of refugees fleeing those areas, and reports confirm that one of the Paris attackers did possess a Syrian refugee passport. While US elected officials and presidential candidates reacted with plans to stop accepting refugees or even start labeling Muslims already in this country, one anonymous person took matters into their own hands, tossing a brick through the sign of Isis Books & Gifts.

Dear friends, this happened to us over the weekend. We humbly request that you send protective energy to us, as this is…

Posted by Isis Books & Gifts on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The post clearly resonated with members of the many polytheist and Pagan communities, giving them once again an opportunity to express their frustration over the most widespread acronym used for this hate group, a shortening of “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” Karen Harrison, one of the store’s owners, carefully spells out the name when she uses it:  “I-S-I-S.”  She takes pains to avoid any of the confusion that has become commonplace for her and her husband, Jeff. She said:

Since [events] in Middle East, people who don’t know their history or mythology have apparently gotten confused, and think that we may be a terrorist gift shop — but, we’re not.

Just what to call this jihadist group is complicated by issues of translation, religion, and politics. Founded in 1999 as Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (“The Organization of Monotheism and Jihad”), the group’s founder swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.  And, in 2004, he changed the name to Tanẓīm Qāʻidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn (“The Organization of Jihad’s Base in Mesopotamia”), which became more commonly known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

The group changed its name to I-S-I-S, or ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī-l-ʻIrāq wa-sh-Shām, on April 8, 2013, which is alternately translated as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Then, on June 29, 2014 came the announcement that the group’s leaders were renaming it ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah, or the Islamic State, and declaring a worldwide caliphate. Referring to these terrorists as a “state” is seen in some quarters as lending it legitimacy. It is particularly problematic for other devotees of Islam, because the name implies a religious authority that is a direct successor to the prophet Muhammad. Neither mainstream Muslim groups nor the United Nations accept that designation and, since the Paris attacks in particular, several national governments (including those of France and the United States) have shifted to using the name “Daesh” for this group.

That name “Daesh” is a translated acronym that has been used by Arabic speakers for some time. It is also an entendre that can be taken to mean “one who sows discord” or “one who crushes something underfoot.” The name is apparently so disliked by members of the group itself that they have cut out the tongues of some who have used it in territory the group controls. It has not, however, gained widespread acceptance in mainstream media. Representatives have largely ignored concerns over acknowledging the group as a state as well as any pleas made for such a wording change, such as the one put out by the Fellowship of Isis last year.

We contacted the NPR Ombudsman with concerns about the use of the term, and were referred to an updated policy reinforcing that outlet’s official position:

. . . we believe the audience is familiar enough with that group to allow us to say ‘ISIS’ on first reference.

Until recently, NPR referred to that group as the “self-declared Islamic State” on first reference. Now, the practice has morphed into preceding any quote which uses “ISIL” or “Daesh” with an explanation that these are alternative names for the group, not the preferred one.

Neither official government designations, nor the desires of devotees of the goddess, seem to be able to budge media outlets, of which NPR is but one example. The Wild Hunt reached out to members of the Fellowship of Isis to find out how the use of this term has impacted their lives.

The only real confusion I experienced was in a dubious email, asking for more information about FOI in a way that made me wonder about the writer’s intent. I simply replied that we are a spiritual group following the path of the divine feminine in all Her forms and directed the person to the main FOI website.

I . . . am very troubled that ISIL/Daesh is named as it is in the press. Daesh is a new term to me, and I hope it moves into general use. The horrifying, psychopathic practices of that group could not be farther from our principles of honoring life, the law of three (much like karma) and the overarching principle of harming none. — name withheld

Denise Wong, Iseum of Green Fire, Florida said:

The only thing I can report is my emotional pain and worry from that terrorist organization being referred to by the name ISIS. I think the word has come to be associated with cruelty and evil, which is certainly not what the goddess Isis is about. I have posted information a couple of times to try to point out and correct the error. Honestly, I doubt my efforts and the efforts of others in that respect will do much good; I think the harm is already done.

Isidora Forrest, author of Isis Magic and Offering to Isis, and blogger at Isiopolis said:

While you may be aware that the Goddess’ Egyptian name is Iset (you’ll also see Aset and Auset), I most often use the Hellenized/Anglicized version simply because that’s the name by which most people in the world would know Her. This is, of course, the version of Her name that is being so abused right now. Isiopolis has had a huge upswing in visitors who came to the blog when they searched for “what does Isis mean?” That has been ongoing since “ISIS” came into the news. I do see large spikes in visitors to the blog whenever one of Daesh’s many atrocities makes the news. The recent Paris murders sent thousands of people to the blog each day for several days because I had a post called “Isis & the French Connection.” Unfortunately, a lot of those visitors were coming from a network of conspiracy sites that include Jews, Jesuits, and racial groups—along with various politicians and corporations—among the evil world conspirators. To stop any new linking and break existing links, I took that post down, but intend to retitle and repost it later. I have also been proselytized by a well-meaning Muslim or three.

I must admit that when we first began hearing about Daesh by the ISIS acronym, it made me almost literally sick to my stomach every time it was mentioned. I have since become hardened against it, but oh would I welcome the switch to Daesh.

For her part, Harrison is glad that the recent damage to her bookstore has gained so much attention, but she and her husband are generally taking the vandalism in stride. She said that they have experienced some anti-Pagan sentiment since opening in 1980 — most notably, someone tried to burn the place down in 1989 or ’90, not long after Connie Chung covered their shop in a not-so-flattering interview during the Satanic Panics of that time.

However, for the most part, actual vandalism has only been in the past couple of years. “We’ve had paint thrown on our sign, someone bashed in the glass front door, and the signs in our parking lot were torn up,” Harrison said, prior to the brick-throwing incident which went viral. Because these events were all under cover of darkness, she said, there’s no way to be certain that they are related to the terrorist group. But it seems a reasonable conjecture to her. “I’ll call the police only if we feel like we’re in danger, or if the damage is enough that the insurance company will actually kick something in,” she said.

As their damaged sign has been covered by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, the Harrisons have been trying to raise awareness about the naming problem, as well as channel the groundswell of support toward charitable giving.

So many of our friends have offered their financial support to help us fix our broken sign, or to help us pay for…

Posted by Isis Books & Gifts on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Harrison said that she has spoken with several people who have opted to change the name of their business in the wake of this issue, but that there are no plans to change the name of Isis Books & Gifts. Also, not everyone affected can so easily solve the problem; thousands of women the world over are named Isis as well. “Should they change their name?” Harrison asked. “Just a couple of years ago it was the name of a sacred goddess, and for 3500 years before that.”

The recent push to view the acronym I-S-I-S as offensive to Muslims may eventually bring the change that a small number of Isis worshippers have unsuccessfully lobbied for, but it’s likely that such change will still happen as quickly as any of those people might hope.

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downloadReview: The Book of the Great Queen: The Many Faces of the Morrigan, from Ancient Legends to Modern Devotions Written by Morpheus Ravenna. (Concrescent Press, pp 506)

I’ll be honest. I have never been drawn to deities associated with war or battle. I appreciate them as I see their strength, honor, and courage. But my draw to Paganism and the gods has always been along more of a tree-hugger sort of route. Non-violence in acts, words, and thoughts is a goal of my spiritual path, leaving me feeling distant from deities like Odin, Ares, Sekhmet, and The Morrigan. When Morepheus Ravenna’s The Book of the Great Queen came around, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get to know The Morrigan better and see if I could finally connect on some level with this Goddess who is so foreign to me.

In her introduction, Ravenna asserts that there can be no comprehensive text on The Morrigan. She writes:

Her roots reach deep into the Indo-European past and connect her, and her cults of worship, to a great constellation of divinities and cultures. Her nature is so complex and so changeable that even if someone could capture her history in a volume, the lived experiences of practitioners engaging with her bring constantly new revelations about her relationships with the forces of history, of culture, and with her devotees themselves.

While this is all true, Ravenna has created the most thorough volume I could possibly expect on this Goddess.

The book begins with a section about who The Morrigan is according to mythology, history, and literature. Several chapters within this section also consider the stories of Babd, Macha, Anu, Nemain, and Fea and their relationships with The Morrigan. The final chapter in the section is the poetry of The Morrigan, allowing for further understanding of not only Her, but also the culture that surrounds her.

The second part of the book focuses on the worship of The Morrigan, with each chapter looking first at historical practices followed by suggestions for creating new traditions within our modern contexts.

One of the discussions that I particularly enjoyed concerned the triple Goddess, a concept that I had learned about as a shiny new Pagan. When Eriu called to me early in my path, I researched Her as well as I could. Unfortunately, there was and is still no book even remotely like Ravenna’s dedicated to Eriu. Regardless, I did learn that she was also one of three aspects of the Triple Goddess. But which one? Maiden, Mother, or Crone? Eriu and her sisters do not fit into this model, just as The Morrigan fills none of these roles, which Ravenna defines as modern constructions focusing solely on the reproductive status of females. She writes:

The triple Goddess archetype is too tidy to contain our fighting queens and wild war furies, our pregnant sorceresses and lascivious hags. Most importantly, the identities and roles of the Morrigan Goddesses are never primarily defined by reproductive status. Motherhood tends to be incidental to their function; we are told the names of sons borne to The Morrigan and Macha, but these acts of motherhood are peripheral to their narratives. Even when sexuality takes center stage in their narratives, it is in the context of granting sovereignty, victory, or another form of Otherworld favor, rather than a socially defined reproductive status.

I have known several female Witches over the years who have said they did not find themselves fitting into the concept of Maiden, Mother, Crone either because they never had children or because even with having children, their identities were more tied to other aspects of themselves and their work. Though they made due with the idea that the stage of womanhood we call “Mother” could mean a lot of things, it’s always been obvious that there was still something missing. The next time this comes up, I’ll remember to point people in the direction of the Sovereigns and celebrate the wider diversity of Goddesses.

In the second part of the book, Ravenna focuses on the cults of The Morrigan, both ancient and modern. Topics covered include, for example, temples, land veneration, iconography, prayers, divination, and the functions of priesthood. Each chapter is divided into two distinct sections. History and ancient practices are covered first, followed by a focus on “Living Practice” and the development one’s own practice. Rather than a cookbook-style approach, the Living Practice sections offer questions, thoughts, and ideas to consider while developing your work.

For the most part, these chapters are full of great information and ideas. But she throws a serious curveball: sacrificeI dislike that Pagan religions are equated with sacrifice. I dislike even more that mainstream folks have no concept of the context within which sacrifice was performed by Ancient cultures. I dislike the whole thing so much I’d rather not see it mentioned in any of my books except to say it is wrong. But again, non-violence in thought, act, and speech is something I strive toward.

But here it is, Chapter 12, in big bold letters: Sacrifice. Ravenna begins by writing:

… to understand the sacrificial practices of the ancients, we must reserve judgment in the present chapter, laying aside modern moral positions about the perceived brutality or savagery of the practice in order to first understand, as best we can, what it meant to people of the period.

I took a deep breath and read through some of the historical information on the Druid belief that sacrifice was an act of creation versus destruction; that it was devotional and honorary. I understood what Ravenna is saying, but I was anxious to get the part about how we don’t do this anymore. Despite what I wanted, she writes, “Instead of reacting from fear and horror to dismiss sacrificial practice, I think we need to re-examine it intelligently with respect to our values and the way we practice today.”

I cautiously continued onto a subsection called “The Ethics of Animal Sacrifice.” Here, Ravenna presents two primary ethical dilemmas, which she encounters where sacrifice is concerned. The first is about the idea of the animal suffering, that the act of sacrifice is cruel. She correctly reminds us how cruel industrial animal farming is. She compares this to modern priests who make a great effort to ensure that sacrificial animals have a high standard of living and that the sacrifice itself is a “gentle, pain-free, and dignified death.” The, the sacrificed animal is utilized as sanctified food. Aside from a priest performing a ritualistic slaughter, I suppose I don’t see this as different from buying your meat from a local humane farmer.

The other dilemma Ravenna brings up is how ethical it is to kill “a sentient being who presumably, if given a choice, would want to continue living.” This is likely the stance of most vegetarians and vegans, and it is a stance I do respect even though I am a dedicated omnivore. At the same time, I heard my own thoughts echo in Ravenna’s closing paragraph:

What is now dawning to our understanding is a truth that the ancients always knew: participation in life is participation in death. As living beings who need to eat other living in order to survive, we cannot opt out of participation in the ecology of life and death. We are part of a deeply interwoven system of beings who live through consumption of other life. The best ethical position available to us is to participate in this ecology of life and death compassionately, intelligently, and unapologetically, in an active commitment to respecting other beings.

Though she may not get many fans by offering a supportive stance on sacrifice, Morpheus does present valid points that are worth considering when making decisions about an ethical position on the topic.

Overall, this is a book loaded with information. Most of what is in these pages will not be new to someone who has studied The Morrigan extensively. However, as far as I have seen, this is the first book to contain so much information about The Great Queen in one place. There are even many gems for developing a practice that are not specific to The Morrigan, so people who, like myself, have not been called by Her can still find useful ideas within its pages.

A spiritual worker, artist, and teacher, Morpheus Ravenna has created a valuable resource for both those called to The Morrigan and for those interested in simply exploring Her through history, lore and modern devotion. Signed copies of the book are now available through Banshee Arts, and it is also available through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. 

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admin-ajaxThe case against musician Kenny Klein, who is accused of having child pornography on his computer, has been dragging on in New Orleans since March, 2014. One snag, which may hold up the wheels of justice, is the fact that Klein is now suing his ex-wife Tzipora Katz, for defamation of character.

The basis of Klein’s complaint is a 1997 consent order in the pair’s custody case, under which Katz “agrees she will not discuss any issues relating to any allegations of sexual abuse by Kenneth Klein with any parties other than her immediate family and mental health professionals who are treating members of her immediate family.” In return, Klein withdrew his “application for custody and visitation” of their child. That order had no listed expiration date.

Katz declined comment, saying that she was unable to speak about the current situation. The case against Katz has been adjourned while her attorney works on additional papers to support her motion to dismiss; her daughter is asking for help with legal fees to pay that attorney. Klein’s case in New Orleans is on the docket again for December 4.

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Cherry Hill Seminary

This week, Cherry Hill Seminary released a statement about its position and practices in response to a petition request to end their ties with certain instructors, who have been publicly accused of transphobia. The Change.org petition, created by Melissa Murry, is called “A Transphobic Elder is No Elder of Mine.” It was born out of and directly addresses recent online debates and tension over specific statements and actions made concerning the acceptance of transgender Pagans.

Cherry Hill Seminary responded the same day with the statement “Cherry Hill Seminary Calls For Academic Freedom, Respect and Civility.” In it, CHS responds directly saying, “Recently, one of our faculty members signed a petition that some people found hurtful and offensive.  Cherry Hill Seminary has been pressured to terminate this faculty member.” And then it goes on to remark that the community does not understand its role in high education, but welcomes open dialog on the “issues which might otherwise divide us.”

The response to CHS’ statement has been mixed with some people supporting its stance, and others withdrawing their support. The debate is on going and may continue to punctuate online conversations into the near future.

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In 2014, at the People’s Climate March, a project was born called “The Climate Ribbon” project. It is “an arts ritual to grieve what we each stand to lose to Climate Chaos, and affirm our solidarity as we unite to fight against it.” People selects a ribbon and, on it, write what they most value in life; what propels them  to protect our ecosystem and our future livelihood? After doing so, the ribbon is tied on a community board or a frame.

Climate Ribbon Project organizers were at the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions. Since that time, Circle Sanctuary members have partnered with the organization. Rev Selena Fox said, “[We] are among the partners with this global project and are among those contributing ribbons to this EcoArt project that will be part of the international Climate March taking place in Paris on November 29, 2015 at the start of the UN COP21 Climate Conference.”

Unfortunately, after the Paris attacks, the French government cancelled the 2015 Climate March due to safety concerns. The event would have brought an estimated 200,000 people into the city and out into the streets. While the cancellation may be disappointing, climate march organizers have said that there still are over 100 local events around the world scheduled for Nov. 29. And, one of those events is the Paris EcoArt installation by the Climate Ribbon Project. Organizers wrote, “The Climate Ribbon will be there to create ritual space to grieve and mourn what we have lost and are losing to climate change, and commit to courageous action, together.” The installations will be placed all over the city.

Rev. Fox said, “Ribbons we have sent to the project were created by Pagans at events at Circle Sanctuary land, including our Samhain Full Moon Circle, and at Hallowed Homecoming Samhain Retreat in Virginia the first weekend in November.” Anyone is able to participate and partner with the Climate Ribbon Project. You can send in ribbons through the mail or digitally.

In Other News

  • Druid Thaum Gordon has won his bid for re-election as Supervisor for Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District in Maine. As we reported earlier this month, Gordon has been serving in the position since 2011, and many people know that he is Pagan. Gordon believes that Conservation District positions are a great first step to getting involved in public office. He added, “Likewise, there are thousands of water utility districts, sewer districts, parks commissions, and other special-purpose units of government that need board members. These can be stepping stones to more competitive county or municipal elections.”
  • The Legacy of Tyr, a Virginia based Asatru group for military and veteran Heathens, is pushing a hashtag campaign #IAmAsatru and #IAmHeathen. The group came up with this social media campaign after the recent arrest of three white supremacists claiming to be Asatruar. Founder Carrie L. Pierce explains, “We are encouraging people to include these hashtags when posting about their everyday lives with photos and statuses on social media platforms. We do things like serve in the military, coach little league, and do volunteer work just like regular every day people. If the public sees that we are regular people with careers, families, hobbies, etc.the image that has been painted about us might change in some aspect.
  • For those following the Save Deirdre and Lily battle in New York state, Druid Cindy McGinley recently announced that the court ruled in favor of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The judge dismissed her petition. As we reported in July, the DEC had demanded that McGinley’s two deer be put death. McGinley, a trained wildlife rehabilitator, refused, taking her story to the courts. This week, she lost the legal battle. However, she has since said that the two deer will not die and that she will find a way to save them.
  • A new documentary is available titled Heksen in Holland (or Witches in Holland.).The film explores Wicca in the Netherlands through the group Silver Circle, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The documentary and corresponding book include interviews with Silver Circle members Morgana Sythgrove, Lady Bara, Joke and Ko Lankester, and Jana. Filmmakers also interviewed Rufus and Melissa Harrington, and Geraldine Beskin from the Atlantis Bookshop in London.  There is a memorial chapter to Merlin Sythgove, including .”an old audio fragment from the Charge of the Goddess in Dutch, spoken by Merlin and Jana.” The 90 minute documentary is currently only available in Dutch through Silver Circle’s site, but they soon will be releasing a copy with English subtitles.

  • For fans of Mark Ryan,  the actor and author is holding an online launch party for the U.S. edition of his biography Hold Fast. Ryan is known for his role as Nasir in the television series Robin of Sherwood, for his work in the Transformers franchise, and most recently for his role as Mr. Gates in the Starz series Black Sails. Ryan also is the creator of the popular Greenwood Tarot and The Wildwood Tarot. The online launch party process, which includes prizes, is explained on the event Facebook page. He will be there live answering questions about the book and its content. The event begins at 3 p.m EST/2 p.m. CST.

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  • Lastly, a note from The Wild Hunt editor’s desk: The delivery of all fall funding campaign perks is underway. It takes some time to coordinate and reconcile the large amount data. All online changes to links and listings will begin in December. Thank you again to everyone who came out to support our work. If you have any questions, contact us directly.


UPDATE: The original report on Kenny Klein included some speculative information that was found to be problematic with regards to the legal case. The Wild Hunt did not intend any harm, has removed this data, and has apologized to the parties concerned. 

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On Sunday, Nov 15, it was announced that Marc Pourner, who had been missing since Nov 12, had been found in the woods the previous night. His body was laying not far from what remained of his burned-out GMC Sonoma truck. When news was reported, family and friends had to face their worst fears.

“No parent should have to experience the death of their child, but the way that he went was more a blow than his actual death. Who would want to hurt the man who had never intentionally hurt someone in his life?” questioned Jasmine Tempest Moon, a longtime close friend.

Marc was born in North Carolina on Aug. 2 1987 to parents Mark and Jolena Pourner. During a memorial tribute, his father described Marc as a “wonderful kid,” “a force of nature,” and “unrestrainable.” Marc had ADHD, which was partly responsible for his vivacious and lively spirit. Another close friend, Patrick, said, “All he did was laugh. Since day one, all he did was laugh.”

Jasmine first met Marc in high school where they became quick friends. And, it was through her that Marc was first introduced to Wicca. She herself was exploring her spirituality and said, “Marc was enthralled.” Jasmine remembered, “We did a lot together learning about the different paths, dabbling as one shouldn’t at times, getting into trouble with those who did not approve of our alternative beliefs.”

At the same time, Marc was also discovering himself in other ways. Shortly after high school, he came out as gay to his several close friends. Jasmine said that, at first, he faced some rejection, but eventually received the needed support from those that loved him. As time progressed, Marc came into his own, seemingly unafraid to be who he was and to express himself to the fullest.

In 2011, Marc began actively engaging with the internet-based Pagan community. He became involved with the now defunct Wicca World Social Network, a forum exclusively for people following Pagan paths. After the original owners left in 2012, Marc took over as site President with the help of good friends Steve Pugh and Bryn. He paid for the site’s operation out of his own pocket, helped seekers find their way around, and created a number of corresponding online videos. In this world, he became known as Axel the Pagan.

3021a8cd-ddf8-42f0-ab3e-f20c58cdd13dAfter about a year, Wicca World’s membership began to decline and the site ran into some problems with unruly visitors. The three moderators shut it down, and moved the forum to Facebook, opening “The Cauldron – A Mixing Place for Witches, Druids, and Pagans.” Pugh said that, originally, they had imagined this space as a new home for their 2.5k members. But it didn’t take long for that number to “swell to a massive 36.5k members.” Marc remained an active participant for quite sometime before moving on to other ventures. But that was enough time for him to develop friendships and become known to many people in the worldwide, online Pagan community.

As his father noted in the memorial tribute, Marc was a “creature of social media.” He posted as Axel the Pagan on many other sites, which included You Tube, Vine, MySpace, Instagram and more.

But Marc also had life off the internet. He was solitary Wiccan practitioner and a Trekkie. He loved to sing and described himself as a outgoing, hopeless romantic. Jasmine also added that Marc loved to dress in drag. She said, “We all attended the local Pride festivities and he often went to drag shows, even showing up in drag himself.” Marc was proud of who he was and, as noted by friends over and over again, he inspired that strength in others.

So what exactly happened to Marc? According to his roommates, he received a phone call late Thurs night. After a tense conversation, he abruptly left his apartment and never came back. On Friday, Marc’s family contacted Randall’s, his place of work, and found that he had never reported for his shift. This was highly out of character. Marc’s father also noticed that his son was not posting to social media, which was also out of character.

Over the next day, through local outreach, the Pourners received a tip on where Marc’s truck might be and called the Sheriff’s department. The tip proved accurate. And, deep in some thick woods, officers found not only the vehicle, but also Marc’s body.

Within 24 hours, the sheriff’s department had a suspect and, in coordination with Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana, the suspect was arrested. According to Lieutenant Brady Fitzgerald of Montgomery County, their investigators are still in Indiana working with that local office to complete the extradition. He did not know how long that would take.

What is missing from this story is a motive? Why would anyone kill such a dynamic and well-liked person? Currently, there is much public speculation, but the sheriff’s department has not released any details to date. Although the suspect was arrested with the charge of capital murder, it has not yet been ruled a hate crime.

When asked to specifically speak to some of the rumors, Lt. Fitzgerald said that he had no further information. He wasn’t aware of a second person of interest and could not confirm the relationship between Marc and the suspect. He also said that, as far as he knows, Marc’s religion has not been discussed. Lt. Fitzgerald added that, in time, details will be released.

Similarly, Jasmine, who is in touch with Marc’s parents, said that she was also unable to talk specifically about the case. So, as for Marc’s full story, most of us will have to wait.

1_thumbAs that official investigation continues, the focus has turned on Marc’s life lived, rather than on his deeply tragic death. Due to his own love of social media, many people, hailing from around the world, are now getting a better look at Axel the Pagan, a man they only knew and loved through The Cauldron and other online networks.

Steve Pugh wrote:

Marc was a truly great guy, always a word to cheer you up if sad, even if his own life wasn’t too great at times he would always be there … He was a great supporter of Paganism, and proud both of that and of his sexuality.

Jasmine, who is now the keeper of her dear friend’s pentacle pendant, wrote:

Words can not fully do the man justice. He was a wonderful person, a light in this world snuffed out too soon. He wanted to help people and he did. He saved more people than I think he knew. I know he saved us a few times, saved a few friends from dark roads, some from deaths door. He loved people with a capacity that most people can’t fathom. Thats who he was. He was love. I’ll miss my dorky soul brother, and will carry his memory always.

Marc, Axel, it was a blast, my friend. May your soul find peace and when we meet again, it’ll be one hell of a party. Goodnight and goodbye for now, my friend.

A memorial vigil was held on Wed, Nov. 18 and recorded for others to watch. Near the end of the video, Marc’s mother leads the group in singing the song, You Are My sunshine. Alone her voice rings out through her tears, “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms, When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, So I hung my head, and I cried…”

A public Facebook group has been set up to honor his memory and share stories. Many tributes and photos have been posted. Family and friends gathered for memorial services on Sat, Nov. 21, in Spring, Texas. A GoFundMe campaign was created to help Marc’s parents with all funeral costs. However, as his mother noted, those expenses are fully covered so all money raised will be used “to establish an annual memorial scholarship in Marc’s name for LGBT teens.”

Marc Pourner’s life was cut short. But that brief life was energized and filled with laughter. He was cherished for his boldness, his caring and his generosity. He helped friends through hard times and fully embraced the good times. Marc was proud to be Pagan, to be gay, and to be himself. He clearly lived a life out loud. And, in his death, he left that seed of inspiration in everyone he touched – from his home state of Texas and beyond.

What is remembered, lives.

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Restorative and Transformative Justice are concepts we have heard more about recently in justice and criminal work, institutions, and inside of schools. Oakland, Denver, Portland, Chicago and many other cities have implemented Restorative Justice practices in their schools to deal with issues of violence, trauma, and in the building of community. Trained facilitators in restorative work have become increasingly common, and the need for such skills have become more apparent.

Yet we live in a culture that often supports response instead of contemplation, and the popularity of social media has compounded this culture of reactivity. The nature of social media and tools of expression at our fingertips promote instant responses any time of the day.

[Public Domain / Pixabay]

[Public Domain / Pixabay]

We see the harmful side effects of such things happening daily; flame wars, Facebook threads of miscommunication, and what develops into mob mentality all over the internet. What we don’t see as much is people taking the opportunity to dialog, to restore harmed relationships, and to extend the benefit of the doubt to those with whom we share social media space.

Restorative Justice (RJ) philosophies and practices are based largely on various indigenous practices of community, communication and conflict. A recent RJ report, published by the University of California – Berkeley’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice, states:

The philosophy of restorative justice is partially derived from the ways some indigenous cultures, such as the Maori, respond to conflict and harm. Rather than requiring retribution for wrongdoing, restorative justice seeks to encourage accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. As a set of practices, it is best known for its use of a circle. The circle brings together the harmed, those who caused harm, and the community in which the harm occurred to respectfully share their perspectives, feelings, and concerns.

Developed from this foundational place, RJ extends a belief that all people are important and valuable within a community. RJ practices are often recognized for the ability to equalize voices within the circle, giving everyone the chance to be heard with the same about of capital. The philosophy of the RJ process is further defined in UC – Berkeley’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice report on school-based RJ intervention in West Oakland.

The philosophy of restorative justice is partially derived from the ways some indigenous cultures, such as the Maori, respond to conflict and harm. Rather than requiring retribution for wrongdoing, restorative justice seeks to encourage accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. As a set of practices, it is best known for its use of a circle. The circle brings together the harmed, those who caused harm, and the community in which the harm occurred to respectfully share their perspectives, feelings, and concerns.

Catherine Bargen adapted the Restorative Justice Principles originally created by Susan Sharpe’s in Restorative Justice: A Vision for Healing and Change. These principles state that RJ is to invite full participation and consensus, heal what has been broken, seek full and direct accountability, reunite what has been divided, strengthen the community to prevent future harms. All of these elements are key to the purpose of restorative justice and restorative approaches to community.

As a trained Restorative Justice facilitator, I often look at approaches to community within the interconnected modern Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities and wonder how changing our culture of engagement could change the landscape of our conflicts and collective relationships. Communities that have consistent methods and practices to engage relationships, differences and conflict often change the culture around responding to challenges.

In exploring the need for more tools within the interconnected dynamics of our communities, I reached out to others who have varying levels of experience with restorative practices, and asked for their take on what impact RJ could have.

I have been reading about restorative justice from different religious perspectives, so I was interested in seeing it in action at a session at the Parliament of World Religions. The session was led by Crystal Blanton and Thorn Coyle. We sat in a huge circle and we—one by one—spoke. There was only listening, not comments, not even signs of support for each other.

I did not expect to feel the way I did afterwards: as if my perspective had stretched, grown. We did not talk, we did not process. It was weirdly powerful. I still do not know what to make of it.
Restorative justice works. I do not understand how it works; but, I see it. The Pagan community has its share of conflict and I would have been grateful to sit in a restorative justice circle with other Pagans this past week and a half, as questions we thought were answered blew up around us. Being there would help. Hearing would help. Keeping our reactions to ourselves would help.

There is a power in a safe place to hear, share and – sorry, but –sit quietly until our own perspective stretches and grows. There were many voices that I did not hear over the last week, and I wanted to hear them.  Trying to keep my own knee-jerk reactions to a minimum, trying to be fair and make space for others on Facebook is dicey at best. I failed. I would have been truly and deeply grateful to be in that restorative justice circle with other Pagans last week. – Sandy Foo

I really want to say that restorative justice practices can have a positive impact in our community. I’ve seen it work very well, situations where the process helped mature and deepen the character of the wrongdoer/individual(s) of concern. I’ve also experienced situations in which the resolution left no one happy.

So much depends on context, in particular the structure of the community. It seems to me that RJ works best when there are community bonds that create a structure and help hold people accountable. There need to be tangible incentives for remaining within the community, and respect for the worth of everyone involved (at least an openness to developing respect), if not their actions or opinions about what has transpired.

This is where it gets difficult for me to say more about whether or not I think the tools and practices of RJ can shift the culture of conflict within the Pagan community. In our online and geographically dispersed world, it is too easy to enter and exit various aspects of the community without accountability for harm/wrongdoing. If I can walk away from conversations that make me uncomfortable, change my screen names, and find different groups to attend, what’s to stop me from doing so and repeating the pattern again?

Elders and other community leaders certainly can and do help guard against this, but I think we need more folks with both the gravitas and resources to do this well – people embedded within our physical and online spaces in ways the “big name Pagans” aren’t always. This is small part of why I think professional Pagan clergy could be a big boon for our community as a whole. – David Christy

[Public Domain / Wikipedia]

[Public Domain / Wikipedia]

Yes. I do believe that RJ can offer a positive impact in our communities. I think this works on several important levels.  It emphasizes the importance of understanding the impact we have on each other and on our communities.  It asks us to look at our selves and notice where we have impact, both positive and negative.  Encouraging this deeper self awareness we can open a door to self discovery, growth and to the potential to make choices that bring more positive impacts to our community.  Understanding ourselves and our is the initial challenge and step.

RJ also introduces a time and space for deep listening. A practice and opportunity that we need more of in every community. Why is listening so important? Especially listening in a psychologically safe place?  To help us get along better, to heal wounds from conflict, we really need to develop the capacity to imagine ourselves in the others shoes and skin, to see through their eyes and feel with their hearts.  Placing value on deep listening and safety in an RJ circle can promote more intense and effective listening which can greatly increase our ability to understand the perspective of others.  This is of vital importance.  Our journey to restore trust and health in our communities requires understanding our own impact and listing offers information that is uniquely personal and important in this process.  

RJ also offers a time and a space for voices.  Voices speaking in pain or anger but being profoundly witnessed can offer healing in ways that other exchanges cannot.  Being heard and witnessing another’s deep sharing of hurts, pains or joys can be transformational experiences.  RJ brings this to communities which may not have any models for such authentic and personal sharing and witnessing.  Further, we learn more about each other in this process and discover more and more common ground. That is a way toward healing for all. – River Higginbotham

Our communities experience with RJ was after a significant loss of trust with community leadership. It wasn’t tangible physical harm needing to be stitched up. RJ did not make some of the major sources of conflict; differences in class, income, education, gender, race, and even levels of self centered-ness disappear. What the process did do was help us to realize how undefined our sense of group values were, and motivated us to do the work to define them. With this work now behind us, when conflict arises we can rely on our shared values to see us through to resolution without being destructive to ourselves in the process.

In the RJ process we learned to recognize and acknowledge our own emotions, and the sense of having been harmed.

We learned to empathize with and support the feelings of others without judgement. Most people came into the process thinking we would all speak, sort it all out objectively and someone would then render “justice” to affirm our feelings. The “justice” we discovered was that each of us had emerged from the conflict with different “scars”, and when we validated them together for each other, we could begin to heal together as a community. – Nels Linde

As our community diversifies in numbers, ideals, values and practices, it is important to look at ways that other communities are utilizing tools of engagement to create healthy dynamics despite differences, challenges and social media. Success within communities in Oakland has had success with RJ practices within places where rival gangs share space, creating a feeling of togetherness among those who would otherwise resort to violent interactions that lead to death and trauma. Surely, if schools are using restorative practices in the most violent, challenging and dangerous subsets of society to help decrease problematic conflicts and build community, then modern Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists might be able to pick up some useful tools and practices as well.

This brings the discussion back to contemplating the skills and tools that leaders and clergy members can be trained with in order to better navigate the shifting dynamics of our ever growing communities. In light of what appears to be ongoing conflict and infighting, it seems obvious that the tools we currently have are no longer effective for what we need.

Are restorative practices the answer? Are there other tools that can open up the ideals of dialog and help to define boundaries of healthy community for those who fall under the Pagan umbrella? There are plenty of traditional conflict mediation methodologies that are being phased out for more community-based models of practice, yet not all of them have the same commitments to relationships, self reflection and accountability. The more that our greater society grapples with ways to build healthy cultures around relationships, conflicts, and differences, the more important this will become to our small microcosm. The impact of harm felt within our relatively small subset of society is magnified by the imbalance of mismanaged attempts to cope with the process of community.

In addition, the unique time and physical space constraints of our geographically diverse spaces require more than impulsive and reactionary methods of navigating challenges that come up. We may not be able to physically sit in Restorative Justice circles all the time, but we can engage in community building practices, participate in circles in our local and larger communities, and engage in restorative practices as a part of our normal operations.

Howard Zehr, a leading expert and trainer of RJ, wrote an article titled 10 Ways to Live Restoratively. In this piece he frames easy ways that we can engage in restorative practices, ones that will support healthy space despite distance. These tips are important ideas to cultivate self reflection, creating normative values, expressing empathy, and what I call “holding one another lovingly accountable”.

  1. Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions and the environment.
  2. Try to be aware of the impact – potential as well as actual – of your actions on others and the environment.
  3. When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm – even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.
  4. Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.
  5. Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.
  6. View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.
  7. Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)
  8. Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.
  9. Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.
  10. Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism and classism.

Whether on cyberspace, or in our local religious communities, we are all responsible for finding ways to support healthy options for sustainability. Creating cultural norms and values based on lifting up social capital, equalizing privilege and power, and giving everyone a voice in our interconnected relationships might just be worth evaluating.

There are many complex and justified questions about the conflict culture of our community. What are we willing to do collectively to change that?



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Today marks the 16th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. People across the world will be holding various events and vigils, remembering those people who have been lost due to transgender violence. It is a powerful day that is a part of a larger month long awareness campaign.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every November, marking the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered in her Boston apartment in 1998. A year after that death, which still remains unsolved, writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil in San Francisco to honor Hester’s life and bring awareness to the issues faced by Transgender people. The 1999 vigil became the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, which also launched the website “Remembering Our Dead” and several other awareness campaigns and movements.

Now, every November, a growing number of activities are held during the month, culminating in the Day of Remembrance. The main site for the campaign lists activities across the globe.

[From Allies&Angels; used for a vigil being held in Syracuse, NY]

[From Allies&Angels; used for a vigil being held in Syracuse, NY]

We reached out to several Transgender Pagans for their thoughts. Asking only a very few questions, we allowed them to have the stage, so to speak, and tell us more about living transgender and what this specific day means to them. Our interviewees included, Luke Babb, Elain Corrine Moria and Rev. Katharine A. Jones. Babb is a transmasculine Pagan living in Chicago with an English degree from Truman State University. Pagan Elain Corrine Moria is a transgender woman living in Washtington State. Rev. Katharine A. Jones is a transgender woman of mixed racial heritage living in Florida. She is a Neo-Hellenic Priestess, minster of Fire Dance Church of Wicca and transgender activist.

We welcome our speakers.

The first question asked was whether they have seen or felt any noticeable change in awareness in the mainstream public’s understanding of transgender struggles or issues. Last June saw the very publicized “Caitlyn Jenner” story, which brought very mixed reviews from the transgender community. Has there been a growth in awareness and, if so, has it been positive?

Babb: I haven’t really been out in the community long enough to see any real societal shifts. Right now, people have access to information about trans issues. They’re able to see trans folks- real live people- living and talking and being regular folks. I was lucky enough to come out at a time and in a place where many of the people I know had already been exposed to the idea of trans identity. I’m profoundly grateful for that, and the relative comfort I live in because of it.

But I know that a lot of my experience is a byproduct of my privilege. I work in a large, fairly progressive city, and I surround myself with educated people who both have access to all of this information and the impetus to go and find it. The fact that at least sixteen trans people have been murdered in the US this year means that we cannot make any sort of claim about our society as a whole having a trend toward trans acceptance. Trans Day of Remembrance is not a time for us to talk about how far we’ve come-  if anything, that’s the Trans Day of Visibility, on March 31st. Today is about recognizing how far we have to go, how many people we have lost along the way, and how hard we must work to fight against losing any more of our brothers and sisters to hatred and bigotry.

Morria: In just the last few months I have seen a change within certain areas of society. Some good, and some not so good. Within society in general there has been a marked improvement in tolerance, acceptance and understanding for and toward transgender people. However, in some other segments of society, the hatred for us has grown and become more rabid. They use lies and demonstrable falsehoods to defeat LGBT protections, in particular, to defeat protections for transgender people. Their hatred, malice and rage all too frequently gives some of them an excuse to murder us simply for trying to be true to ourselves.

Jones: Particularly in the last year, there has been an increase in transgender visibility. This has made it easier to educate those who are willing to learn. Many who once regarded trans people with confusion and discomfort now understand who we are, and that being transgender is perfectly normal. Our number of supporters has increased, but so has the hatred we face. Some of the people who once paid us no attention now seek to attack us. This year sets the record for homicide and hate crimes against the transgender community. This year we have seen a number of attempts by bigoted politicians to pass legislation specifically against us.

In 2013, Jones organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Pensacola. The following year, she setup the transgender advocacy group STRIVE of which she is currently the Vice President. This year, along with Debra Dubose of Safe Port Counseling Center, she is hosting a two day remembrance event, during which they expect over 50 people. 

11947460_634898819947050_4134799355407870099_nFor the next discussion, we wondered what the biggest threat to the community’s safety was. This is a difficult question, but we asked our interviewees, if they could wave a wand to change one thing that would make the biggest impact, what would that one thing be?

Babb: I strongly believe that the single biggest threat to acceptance is ignorance – and I don’t know how to explain that in a way that doesn’t sound cliched. I have a lot of conflicted feelings about Harvey Milk’s call to come out of the closet.  I don’t like the way it can be used to vilify people for keeping themselves safe in often dangerous environments. But I think the idea behind it is solid. Society will only really change when people realize that their loved ones, friends, and coworkers are trans.

If I could wave a hand and change one thing, I would make everyone realize that trans issues are not an academic interest – they affect the people you know and love. And it’s true – the current best guess is that 0.3% of the population is transgender, and the data is so hard to get that the real number is probably much higher. The odds are excellent that someone you know identifies on the trans spectrum. It’s easy to vilify a population if you think they are different from you- we see this all the time. But I have seen such change, and such love, from people who educate themselves because they know someone who is trans.The only thing I can think to wish is that more people start down that road.

Morria: I believe the single greatest threat to acceptance is conservative religious ideology, regardless of the religion it is from. We suffer from it within the Pagan community as well. A community formed on and growing around the idea of acceptance and inclusiveness. Sadly, this hatred seems to be growing and too many people who should know better, have fallen under the spell of conservative hatred.

Jones:  It is very difficult to say specifically what is the single greatest obstacle we face. I find myself struggling with this question in large part because I’m sure if you asked a hundred trans people this question you would get a hundred different answers. … In a general sense ignorance is the root of all our problems. If accurate, well-articulated information was made available to the general public, and became common knowledge, most of our problems would be solved. 

More specifically, the lack of knowledge in the medical community is a problem. If I had a magic wand that could change just one aspect of the world, I’d probably make a complete education on transgender healthcare (provided by a transgender teacher) a prerequisite for a medical degree. Too often I talk to doctors and mental health specialists who won’t take transgender patients because they don’t know how to treat us. I feel like if the medical community was educated, their influence would also effect politicians and employers.  Conversely, it is my personal opinion (though some disagree with me) that employment discrimination is the biggest problem we face. Many trans people can’t get to a doctor (or even find a place to live) to begin with because they have no job and therefore no money.

With that in mind, the third question asked was how can non-trans people can be the best allies? What should cisgender people do or not do to help raise awareness, support their friends and eliminate the barriers discussed above? 

Babb:  Educate yourself. I can’t emphasize this enough. Educate yourself. Struggle with your internalized transphobia- seek it out, own up to it, struggle to overcome it. Speak up when your privilege gives you an opportunity to defend trans lives, but let trans people speak for themselves, with their own voices, whenever possible. There are a million articles on the internet that answer this question in depth, with examples. Read them.

And accept the responsibility for your own allyship. Trans people do not owe you anything. They do not owe you their thanks for being a decent person. They do not owe you the time or effort that it would take to educate you. Trans people are incredibly busy trying to exist  in a society that tells them that they can’t, or shouldn’t. If you are going to help them, it is going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to be work. But it’s not going to approach the level of discomfort and work they go through, every day.

This is what I tell myself in my efforts to be an ally. It’s a hard thing to accept, a harder thing to internalize, and I have to keep reminding myself that the times I feel classist, ageist, racist- those are the times when I’m challenging my comfort zones, and growing. It is not up to my friends to make me a better person, or reward me for becoming one. It is up to me to make their lives better, any way I can.

Morria: Cisgender people can be awesome allies if they do three things … 1. Educate themselves about what being transgender IS … 2. Be polite, but firm in not allowing [other] people to misgender us, paint us as child molesters or deviants. Refuse to allow [the] mistreatment of us stand without a (legal) fight. 3. Promote and support legislation that protects our rights. Fight legislation that tries to deny us basic human dignity and rights (bathroom laws come to mind, we after all, #OnlyWantToPee).

Jones: Without a doubt the best thing you can do as an ally to the transgender community, is listen. If there is someone in your life who is transgender, whether they are family, friend, co-worker, or anything else, ask them what you can do to make their life easier, and do that. What each person needs will be different, so I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer.

As to how you can make a real difference on the larger scale, give trans people the stage. People don’t listen to us. Whether it’s because they think we’re mentally or spiritually ill, or just make them uncomfortable, most people want us to be quiet. The ones who do want to help often try to speak for us, which is almost as bad. If you have a microphone in your hand, pass it to someone who’s transgender. If you have an audience for a TV show, a blog, a newspaper, or an event, ask them to listen and let them hear a transgender voice. We are here, we are just like you, and we are already speaking, but many don’t hear us.

Transgender people are speaking out. This is a 2013 video by Pagan activist, author and artist Elena Rose. The video is from Girl Talk, “a critically acclaimed multi-media performance show promoting dialogue about relationships of all kinds between queer transgender women, queer cisgender women, and genderqueer people.”

Elena Rose [Still from Girl Talk Video]

Elena Rose [Still from Girl Talk Video.]

For our fourth question, we asked for words of hope. Often when talking about marginalized, oppressed, and silenced populations, we focus on the struggle, violence and pain. So, we asked them to take a moment to share something beautiful about the transgender community or about being transgender: a story or even a moment?

Babb: The problem with talking about the joy of oppressed peoples is that you’re talking about the joy of living, for a group of people who have that basic level of existence threatened every day. The stories of joy that I have are the quiet moments of being myself, and being seen as myself, being surrounded by people who love me. They don’t lend themselves well to my method of storytelling – there’s nothing exciting about them, no build up to a climax of realization. They’re the moments when I look in the mirror and recognize the person looking back. When my partner puts her arm around me and calls me by my name, holding me in myself on a level so basic that most people don’t question it. When I meet someone, and we talk together, and what we say is Yes, and Me too, and it feels vanishingly rare and extraordinarily valuable.

Then I talk to  other trans people, we share stories that are painful – moments when we were threatened, moments when we were scared, moments when someone threatened the truth of who and what we are. We share those stories and we laugh, because for a moment we are in a place where everyone knows the truth, and anyone who would argue with it is wrong to the point of being absurd. The best thing I can compare it to is the joy of ritual – being surrounded by people who are joined with you on sending out positive energy against a negative world. That sort of community, wherever it is found, is beautiful. I’m very lucky to have found other gender rebels to share it with.

The joy of being trans is the joy of being yourself, and valued, and happy. It’s no more unusual or special than the joy of being anyone else. What makes it hard to talk about, what makes it seem so strange, is that it is a joy we are told we aren’t qualified to have, and don’t deserve. When we dare to have it anyway, it is a joy that is taken from us by force.

Morria: On May 5 of this year, I felt terribly alone, terribly isolated and felt myself to be a pariah. I attempted and very nearly succeeded in commiting suicide … Three communities stood by my side. The Pagan community, who threw out a lot of energy to help me stay here. The Transgender community, who were terrified that they had lost yet another sister. And the Christian community who also prayed very hard for me and did everything they could to help me through it. All three communities, disparate as they are, rallied around one goal. Making sure I felt loved and accepted, and making sure there was a lifeline for me to find my way back.

To me this is beautiful because it shows that when we want to, we can ALL get along and work for a mutual goal. Since those 10 days I was in the hospital, all my friends, be they Pagan, Christian, Transgender, etc have shown me an amazing amount of love and support. I don’t feel nearly as alone and isolated as I did, and though I still feel somewhat like a pariah … I find that I care more about being who I am, as best I can, than the opinions or thoughts of people who have never walked a fraction of my journey …

Jones: Mostly, the pain, violence, and struggle is what needs to be talked about, but there is beauty too, and there is love. I like to say, family is the people who love the real you and are there when you need them, everything else is relatives. Most trans people have, to varying degrees, lost family because of who they are. I come from a big family. My childhood memories are punctuated by the presence of twenty to a hundred people who I saw two to three times a year on special occasions. Out of all those people, I only talk to five now. Some of us have no one at all, so we make new families– families of the heart, people who know us and love us as we are.

My transgender family is closer, more loving, and more devoted than I think any other could be, because we picked each other. When one of us needs something, we all pitch in to make it happen. When one of us couldn’t afford a medical bill a few months ago, the rest of us raised the money in less than a day. When some of us had nowhere to go for the holidays, several different people opened their homes and held potluck parties for ANYONE who wanted to come. We throw parties just because every couple of months, so we’ll have an excuse to gather and enjoy each other’s company.

Living with my blood family, I could go a day and a half without seeing people who lived in the same house with me. Now, I rarely go that long without an impromptu visit from someone who “just happened to be in the area”. I call them my people, because we are like a tribe. We take care of each other, because no one else is doing so.

cropped-tdor1_zpsd6602842As Babb mentioned earlier, Transgender Day of Remebrance (TDOR) “is not a time for us to talk about how far we’ve come” … It is “about recognizing how far we have to go.” Every year, the TDOR website includes a list of names of those people known “to have died because of anti-transgender violence.”  To end our interviews, we asked our interviewees what the day means to them.

Babb: Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because it’s our opportunity to mourn the ones we’ve lost. So many trans people are cast out of their birth families- we say their names so that someone will, because they are valuable, because they are our family and we have to mourn them

Morria: Trans Remembrance day is exceedingly important for me because it reminds me of all my transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were ended for no other reason than they were trying to live true to themselves. It reminds me that to some groups of people, my life is utterly worthless and killing me in their minds, is a service to whatever it is they believe in. It also reminds me that, while we have managed to come a long way quickly where Transgender rights and equality is concerned, we have a long way to go, and each life it costs, is a price too great and too painful to have to pay.

It makes me ask the question every time I am out. “Will I be the next statistic? The next victim? The next one whose loss is mourned by my family, loved ones and transgender brothers and sisters?” It also reminds me that our murderers are rarely ever apprehended, because our lives don’t seem to matter to investigators, and our murderers when caught, are rarely ever given sentences that match the crime. We are maligned. Hated. Lied about and treated as fifth class humans unworthy of the same protections others have and take as a given. It reminds me that society, while imroving, still sees my life as less valuable because I am Transgender … It reminds me that the fight MUST continue.

Jones: Since 1998, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has honored the victims of transphobic violence. We light candles, and we say their names, to show that they have not been forgotten or ignored. The vigil is usually followed by advocacy and activism discussions geared toward reducing violence against the trans community and moving media and law enforcement toward handling the murders correctly. They often go unreported, and law enforcement fails to investigate fully more often than not. 

The Day of Remembrance gives trans people a chance to express the heavy emotions which come from living our lives in this kind of danger and oppression, and it reminds us of what we are fighting to change. It also increases our visibility and encourages others to educate themselves, or even join our fight for equality. Last year, one of the names we read was an eight year old girl named Alex Medeiros beaten to death by her own father, for refusing to cut her hair, liking women’s clothes, and dancing. The moment I read that aloud was the last time there was a dry eye in the gathering until we came to the end.

This year it’s more important than ever, because we’ve had more violence than ever. There are approximately 27 victims right now, but different sources give different numbers because the deaths are not correctly reported and because there are no government statistics. The average homicide rate of trans people is about 1 in 12, as opposed to roughly 4.7 in 100,000 for the general population. That’s higher than any other demographic except sufferers of certain life threatening illnesses. I am currently running a petition to have the TDoR declared a national holiday … We need this event to raise awareness of these terrifying statistics. I’m more likely to die going to the grocery store than you are in a plane crash. I want this to be the last year that my identity is life threatening.

  *   *   *

For those people who are attending organized vigils today or would like to participate in their own way privately or with their own groups, we have attached here the TDoR list of 2015 victims of anti-transgender violence. There are many resources on the issues discussed above, as well as resources for both trans people and allies. GLAAD provides a short list of legal resources and other support. Now celebrating its first anniversary, the Trans Lifeline is available nationally. It helps “empower Trans people to help other Trans people in the darkest moments of their lives.” 

The Wild Hunt thanks all three of our interviewees for their time and willingness to share their thoughts.

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Missing Texas Man Found Dead

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas — On Nov 14, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office discovered a burned GMC Sonoma in a wooded area near Firetower Road. The partial plates revealed that the truck belonged to 28 year old Marc Pourner, who had been reported missing since Nov. 12. During a search of the area, Pourner’s body was eventually discovered only a short distance away from the vehicle.


[Online Profile Photo]

Pourner, also known as Axel in Wiccan circles, was a resident of Spring, Texas. He was a very active member in several online Wiccan groups and had helped administer the popular Facebook group The Cauldron – A Mixing Place for Witches, Druids and Pagans. He was very open and proud about his religious beliefs, and about being gay. Pourner did not hide who he was and what he believed.

On Wed, the Montgomery Sheriff’s office told The Wild Hunt that they had not yet determined a motive and could not comment on possible suspects. However, since that conversation, the department did issue a warrant for the arrest of David James Brown, a reported acquaintance and Facebook friend of Pourner.

The accused was eventually found in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where his girlfriend lives, and was booked at 10:30 pm Wed. night. The arrest warrant charges Brown with capital murder. Brown is currently being held without bond and waiting extradition to Montgomery County, Texas.

For Pourner’s family and friends, the news has been overwhelming. A Prayer Vigil was held Wed, Nov 18 at Caney Creek Apostolic Tabernacle on FM 1485, Montgomery County, Texas.  And, there is also a GoFundMe campaign to help his father pay for some funeral expenses.

We will bring you the full story on Pourner’s life and all updates on Sunday.

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Isis Bookstore Vandalized

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Over the past weekend, Isis Books and Gifts was vandalized for the fourth time in the past year. In this recent incident, a brick was thrown through the lower portion of the sign.

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

The book store owner, Karen Charboneau-Harrison, doesn’t know who did this. However, the reason itself is not a mystery. The vandalism happened one day after the Beirut and Paris terrorist attacks. She told a local reporter for CNN, “I don’t know if somebody walking down the street just saw our name on the sign and kind of lost it for a moment and threw a rock through it … or if it was an ignorant person who actually thought this was a bookstore for terrorists, I don’t know.”

Although confusion between the store’s name and the terrorist group is causing problems, Charboneau-Harrison has no intention of changing the name. On Facebook, Isis Books posted, “The name Isis is that of the Egyptian Goddess of women, marriage, magick, healing and more. However, with our media and politicians constantly using the word to name those in the Middle East who are the source of such horror, some people seem to get confused. Please help us to educate the media and your family and friends to call the terrorists by a more correct name – Daesh – not Islamic State, not ISIS, not ISIL.”

We will have the full story next week, including more on the ongoing controversy over the terrorist group’s name.

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UNITED STATES –Analysts at the Pew Research Center have released a second report parsing data collected during the 2014 Religious Landscape Survey. Where the initial report “described the changing size and demographic characteristics of the nation’s major religious groups,” this second one instead “focuses on Americans’ religious beliefs and practices and assesses how they have changed in recent years.”

While the activities of those who belong to religious minorities, including those who fall under or near the Pagan umbrella, can at best be inferred from the data — out of 35,071 survey participants, only 605 are listed in the “other faiths” category, which was separate from the 92 identified under “other world religions” — the overall trends in the United States suggest a slow, generational shift away from any religious activity. However, among those who hold religious beliefs, the frequency and variety of religious activities has not appreciably changed since the first survey, conducted in 2007. Those interested in digging into the data have, for the first time this year, an interactive tool for combing through the results as well as the full report in PDF format.


While 70.6% of the survey respondents indicating that they are some type of Christian, some of the questions suggest that the survey itself was written by people who are largely unfamiliar that other perspectives exist. That includes the finding that a “growing share of religiously affiliated say they regularly read scripture, participate in prayer or scripture study groups, share faith with others” – all activities strongly associated with Christian faiths in particular.

Another section of the report notes that a “declining share of Americans express absolutely certain belief in God.” The report further indicates that six-in-ten respondents “believe the Bible or other holy scripture is the word of God.” It’s not clear if or how the wording of questions impacted responses from, for example, the 456 Hindus or responded. Additionally, while the results are parsed by gender in several sections of the report, no allowances are made for non-binary respondents.


One thing made clear by the new survey is that the number of “nones” — those who do not identify as affiliated with a particular religion, including atheists — continues to rise. This population went from 16% in 2007 to 23% in the 2014 survey. That progression has not been homogeneous: younger people are more likely not to identify as religiously affiliated than older Americans, and is more widespread among respondents who listed themselves as Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

PF_15.10.27_SecondRLS_overview_peaceWonder310pxOne pair of findings which might suggest a Christian bias to the survey is the the “nones” are less likely to believe in God than they did seven years ago. At the same time, feelings of spiritual peace and wonder at the universe increased among the religious and non-religious alike. By separating “spiritual” from “religious” activities, Pew researchers may have created a distinction that only represents a difference in certain faith communities, albeit the majority ones in the United States today. Given that unspoken definition, it appears that those with a religious affiliation are loathe to give it up, but members of the millennial generation are more likely not to have picked one up in the first place. While no one appears to be abandoning religion, the percentage of people who practice one is still on the decline.

Among those who adhere to a specific religion, the survey found that the distribution from highly religious to those who are less so hasn’t significantly changed from one survey to the next. Similar percentages of respondents attend worship services, pray, and express belief in their deity as did in 2007. The bulk (57%) of those identifying as having a religion conceive of “God” as a person rather than an impersonal force, including 70% of Christians. C

uriously, 2% of atheists said that the believe in a personal deity. There’s been no appreciable change in conception of deity — among the religious — from one survey to the next.

Two highly political issues were also called out in the survey, with questions on topics such as homosexuality and abortion. Across the board, the percentage of people who accept homosexuality is on the rise, with increases shown in every faith group, including Mormons, whose church recently ruled that members in same-sex marriages are to be considered apostate, and their children denied baptism until they reach adulthood. (It’s not clear if the mass resignations spurred by that decision will change the overall attitude of Mormons in future surveys, however.)

Belief that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, however, hasn’t really changed overall since the 2007 survey was performed. What’s interesting about the abortion data is which groups trended in what direction: the nones are more supportive of the right to choose an abortion, while there was a slight downtick among non-Christian faiths, of which most of the respondents belong to another Abrahamic group. While generational trends drift toward more liberal views on issues other than homosexuality, namely the environment, immigration policy, and the proper size and scope of government. Abortion, however, has its opponents strewn throughout all age groups.



Given the relatively small number of people who practice any sort of Heathen, Pagan, or Polytheist religion, trends in these communities are impossible to track in such a large survey. It’s entirely possible that trends toward less religious involvement in younger people do impact the growth of these religions, but as they are generally adopted in adulthood, and without attempts at conversion. It’s also possible that those in the shadow of the Pagan umbrella are bucking these trends completely. Unless and until this amalgam of faith groups and solitary practitioners grows to the point of making a statistically significant blip on the national stage, focused surveys such as the Heathen census will serve to provide more meaningful data about who we are and what we do.

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