Catskill Appeals in Maetreum Ruling and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 8, 2011 — 19 Comments

Top Story: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, who recently scored a major judicial win in their ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, is seeing the fight extended further as Catskill appeals the decision to let the case go forward.

As we reported in February, Judge Pulver’s decision was a big victory for the self-described witches of the Maetreum, who argue that the town treated them differently from other religious groups when it placed their Palenville property on the tax rolls […] Despite the appeal, Judge Pulver, who held a preliminary conference in the case yesterday, has set a date for a bench trial. Pulver will hear evidence in the case and rule on it himself on July 20.”

Here’s a statement from the Maetreum of Cybele on the town’s appeal.

“We learned this past weekend that the Town of Catskill appealed the Judge’s decision to the New York Appellate Court. We believe this is their last ditch effort to avoid having to legally grant our exemption for 2011 as the deadline for them to decide on that is fast approaching and the decision left no grounds for denial since the Board of Assessment Review refused the invitation to tour our property last year meaning they have no direct knowledge of how we use our property, literally the only wiggle room they had.”

This is an issue that Catskill is going to fight to the bitter end, and is breaking their budget in the process. While they continue to fight for pennies from the Maetreum, mega-retailer Wal-Mart seems to have no trouble getting a big tax break. I guess it’s about priorities.

Heathens Gather Near Paganistan: PNC-Minnesota interviews Brody Derks of  Volkshof  Kindred about Heathenry and the upcoming Northern Folk Gathering near the Twin Cities in June.

“June 10-12, we have this event, the Northern Folk Gathering, it used to be called the Midwest Thing, but we have changed the name. Registration includes three days and two nights of cabin camping. We have open activities, and a Saturday night feast. It is at St Croix State Park at the boot camp. This is just outside the Twin Cities. We having folk coming in from Kansas, Michigan, and other parts of the country.

It has a few different aspects. It is a gathering of tribes. The Chieftains do gather and and have meetings. We are part of an alliance of people, tribes, of the Midwest. We come together and make decisions that influence the road that Heathenry takes in the Midwest. There is also a lot of workshops, information about Anglo-Saxon cultureKari Tauring will be presenting song and Stav. There will also be events for the children. We have plenty of children centered events, and we very much welcome children.”

Derks also talks about why they don’t use the term “Pagan,” and his time as president of the University of Minnesota Pagan Society.

Analyzing Satanism’s (Alleged) Rise: TheoFantastique interviews Jesper Aagaard Peterson, a Research Fellow at the Dept. of Archaeology and Religious Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who studies modern Satanism, about the recent rise in exorcisms and claims of explosive growth among Satanic groups.

“Regarding the rise of Satanism, that depends on how you define it. The article you mention calls it a “surge” and a “revival”. It is true that the 1990s and early 2000s saw an increase of interest in Satanism alongside Witchcraft, Neopaganism, and other religious currents with roots in esotericism and occultism. This has to do with the general re-enchantment of the West in the past 50 years (an enchantment that never really went away, actually, but that is another story), which has developed in dialogue with popular media. It is also true that Satanism is more visible and more accessible because of the Internet, and that it flourishes on the de-regulated arenas the Internet provides. On the other hand, membership figures are hard to come by, and should be seen in relation to degrees of affiliation – a majority of witches or Satanists are tourists or dabblers, and only a small minority affiliate with a group and/or develop a long-term engagement. It is likely that more people are attracted to Satanism than before, and they are more visible today, but actual members still amount to thousands and not millions. In any case, where I differ from the article’s conclusion is in the effect of mediated religion on susceptible youth. Watching a movie, accessing a website or participating in a discussion forum does not automatically make you a Satanist, and it certainly does not make you possessed.”

The conversation here was sparked by a Daily Telegraph article about a six-day conference being held at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome. According to organizers and exorcists there’s been a “revival” of Satanism and that “the rise of Satanism has been dangerously underestimated in recent years.” For all my exorcism-revival coverage, click here.

The Shrine That Survived: CNN reports on Buddhist/Shinto shrine at Otsuchi that survived the tsunami and a fire.

Stories about indigenous faith traditions from Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami have been somewhat rare, so I’m glad to see this story emerge. Strangely, this story was posted to CNN’s Belief Blog for a short time, but was then removed. I’m not saying there were any nefarious motives, but I do wonder why that happened. Internal turf battle? Editorial decision? As for whether this was divine intervention, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Reconstructed and Engaged: Over at, the PNC’s own Cara Schulz writes about Hellenismos and why a reconstructed ancient religion makes the most sense to her.

“But this is how we see it – why reinvent the wheel when you can put some air in the one you’re given and get back on the spiritual path? There were reasons why our ancestors interacted with deities in the way that they did. Because it worked. It’s spiritually fulfilling. It makes sense. It allows for a deeper connection with deities and the world around you. It has meaning and depth and beauty. It is timeless. It vibrates in our very souls. But the key is to regularly engage in rituals, observances and practices. To adhere as close to what the ancients did, in order to learn from their wisdom and experience, and then to translate that into a slightly more modern form that is still ‘true’ to its origins.”

Cara also links to a video of a wedding ceremony conducted by Hellenic Pagans in Greece. Showing how ancient traditions give a depth of meaning to these important milestones of life.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • I can't figure out where the town of Catskill is spending it's money on this case. The linked articles indicate that the work is being done by a town attorney. Admittedly, when that attorney is working on this nonsense, other stuff isn't getting done, but in-house legal fees are generally sunk costs. Even granting some court fees, court reporter costs, travel, etc., the numbers don't add up. Is the town attorney hiring private legal firms to help? I do wonder why taxpayers all over the country are willing to see fire fighting, police, and school services cut while states and towns pursue these cases designed to do nothing more than violate the First Amendment, but I'm just trying to understand the cash flow issues in this case.

    • catkisser

      Like us, the Town of Catskill hires attorneys…….in this case a particular law firm. That law firm gets to charge all billable hours to the Town. My guestimate at this point, given the figures the town has released on their budget for these cases, is that they have now spent somewhere in excess of 100 thousand at this point just to discriminate against us.
      Rev. Cathryn Platine

      • Dear Rev. Platine,

        Thanks for the info. That explains the fees. What a waste of taxpayer dollars! Good luck on the appeal.

      • Thanks. I would be interested to know if that work was competitively tendered. $100K is a lot of taxpayer money to be given out by a municipality on a sole-source basis. On the other hand, I'm not a US resident; and for all that I know, this sort of thing might be the norm in your part of the world.

        And, yes, good luck on the appeal.

      • Crystal7431

        Rev. Platine, have you heard from other Catskill residents? Are they upset over the amount of money being thrown away by the town?

  • From the linked articles: ". . .self-described witches of the Maetreum. . . ." Really? Is Pope Benedict XVI a "self-described" Roman Catholic? Is Archbishop Rowan Williams a "self-described" Anglican? What purpose is served by including this characterization here?

    • ipcod

      You know – I asked a (current) journalist friend if they would write it that way, self-described, and she said yes. I asked her way and she said that witch is still considered a pejorative and she would want to make clear that it wasn't the paper calling them a name, it was the term the person was using. But she said she wouldn't use 'self-described' for Wiccan, but does use it for any clergy titles that people claim that aren't licensed or register by the state. But that was just her take on it.

      • Makarios: I'm one of the editors at the Watershed Post, and ipcod's comment is pretty much spot on.

        For what it's worth: I'm queer, and I don't mind describing myself that way, but if we were to put that word in the paper, it would undoubtedly be preceded by "self-described." It sounds a little prudish, but the alternative is readers thinking we're tossing around loaded words purposely to shock or offend.

    • Crystal7431

      I don't know, but it never fails. Nearly every article I've ever seen written about witches has always applied the "self-described" marker. It's like they (news journalists, reporters, etc.) all take notes from each other.

      • At least it's better than "admitted".

      • Fire

        Never assume malice when covering your ass can be considered a more realistic reason.

  • fyreflye

    The “Buddhist priest” in the blue robe chanting and ringing the bell to calm spirits is obviously Shinto. In fact I don’t see anything particularly Buddhist in the CNN clip. Of course the Japanese themselves wouldn’t differentiate the two as readily as would a Buddhist scholar.

  • Fire

    Why reinvent the wheel?

    Well the greatest reason for doing so is the inescapable fact that ancient Paganism of all stripes didn't fare well against the Christian and Muslim onslaught.

    We need to sit down and identify our mistakes and attempt to learn lessons from them. Then focus on trying to create a new paradigm that will allow us to exploit the gains we've made in the last sixty years and build on them until we've achieved the liberation of this planet.

    Rebuilding the same flawed structure again will just result in the same result as last time, near annihilation.

    • Fire: "Well the greatest reason for doing so is the inescapable fact that ancient Paganism of all stripes didn't fare well against the Christian and Muslim onslaught . . . ."

      At the same time, we also need to better understand this "onslaught". In particular we need to realize that the process of Christianization has to a great extent been quite superficial and incomplete, and that it is definitely reversible.

      • Fire

        Thank the gods for that. We Pagans just need to find the will to put in the work and effort to reverse it.

        We need to be doing a lot more to let people know they have a real traditional indigenous religion that was stolen from them and that the Gods of their forefathers are waiting for them to find their way back to them.

        Apuleius wrote:

        "At the same time, we also need to better understand this "onslaught". In particular we need to realize that the process of Christianization has to a great extent been quite superficial and incomplete, and that it is definitely reversible."

    • I can tell you the mistake. We were tolerant. It is the greatest strength of Paganism, and it's greatest weakness. Had the Roman Empire not tolerated the religions of those they took over, neither Christianity nor Islam would have come about. Had those in power not traded their Gods for one that promised them a way for greater control over their people, had they had the honor to stand firm, rather than kneel, we would not be where we are. Had they crushed the Christians with even more ruthlessness than they did, we would not be at this point.

      Our ways are tolerant, and this is normally a good thing. This may be a flaw, I don't know. I do know, however, that our ancestors did have limits to their tolerance. Look at the European crusades, from Scandinavia, the British Isles, the Slaves and the Baltics. In Scandinavia, for over Two Hundred Years we fought the Christians and would have won, if not for the traitorous kings and chiefs that were bought by Christian gold given, rather than grow rich on Christian gold taken.

      Do not assume it was weakness of the Old Ways that let the Christians in. It was the weakness of men, and the rewriting of history by Christians scribes to cover up just how much our Pagan and Heathen ancestors fought them.

  • Chris

    I see that the folkish have finally gotten their claws in to the midwest thing. Its a shame that Heathens will be marred by what they end up doing and saying there. I can't seem to find any sane and non folkish heathen groups anymore, it concerns me quite a bit.

    • Nick_Ritter

      You may not know Brody personally, but I do. He's a decent guy, and quite sane.

  • On the CNN story – both the article and the video still appear in search results at, but the story itself is not found when the link is clicked.

    The video, however, is still there: