Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!
Healing in the Bible Belt: Holli S. Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, shares a remarkable story of how interfaith involvement can change minds and break barriers. After serving quietly at a local interfaith council in South Carolina, Emore protested at her religion, and only her religion, being listed as “other.” This led to a surprising show of support from Rev. Ed Kosak, Minister at Unity Church of Charleston.
“In the interest of understanding each other…of seeing the good in each other…of Interfaith, I wish to make an amend to the adherents of the Pagan faith. I speak strictly for myself. For years now, I, IN MY HEAD, have understood that Pagans are good people, moral people…that they are a legitimate spirituality. IN MY EMOTIONS, though, I have felt that they are satanists, that they sacrifice animals and people, etc. Also, in my head, I knew they never do such things. But in my emotions, I felt uncomfortable with them. For this judgment and fear, I make amends. After recently having worked this through cognitively and emotionally, I can unequivocally support our Pagan brothers and sisters. My hope is that others with my experience can cut through their issues around paganism after reading this. Or perhaps this can provide the intellectual framework to help people to do so.”
I recommend reading the entire letter, here. It is moments like these that reinforce the importance of Pagan involvement in the interfaith movement, both locally and on a global scale with groups like the Parliament of the World’s Religions and URI. Congratulations to Holli on being a catalyst for this breakthrough. For my part, I am currently making plans that will hopefully expose more non-Pagans to Pagan media, and help build bridges while making sure important dialog on issues that affect us happens.
Singing the Praises of Paganistan: Over at PNC-Minnesota, JRob Zetelumen writes an editorial ode to his local community, the Twin Cities of Minnesota, colloquially known by many as “Paganistan” due to its large and vibrant Pagan population.
“When Ken Ra had kidney failure, the community came together with a fund raiser to help in a difficult time, and a community member donated a kidney. When the local Pagan community center had financial problems, the community came together to raise money, and supplied the volunteers and leadership to keep the center going. Yes, a local Pagan community center; let’s not gloss over that. Paganistan has its own community center. It’s not a back room of a metaphysical shop, or part of someone’s home, or a Pagan-friendly organization which allows local Pagans to also meet there, but a space dedicated full time as a non-profit community center for the Pagan community. At this point, no other Pagan community in the United States (and possibly the world) can make such a claim. Other communities talk about it, and plan for it, but the Twin Cities has it. Paganistanis are the innovators.
The Twin Cities Pagan community has a name; Paganistan. Its residents are therefore Paganistanis. This name actually originated at Pagan Spirit Gathering. A group of Twin Cities Pagans was camped on top of a hill and local linguist Steven Posch referred to it as Paganistan. He then took the name home and used it as a reference to the area around Powderhorn Park, where many Pagans live. In time, it came to mean the city of Minneapolis, then the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Today it is used to refer to the entire metropolitan area. There are even people well outside the metropolitan area who identify as Paganistanis.”
This editorial comes in the wake of an effort to save the “Paganistan” listing in Wikipedia, an initiative that was recently editorialized at PNC-Minnesota. Whatever the context, this is a well-written paean to one’s local community, an exercise that might be healthy to repeat in other areas with large or thriving Pagan populations.
Witches Education League: A Salem correspondent for the Boston Globe spotlights a press release announcing the formation of a new Witch-oriented organization, the Witches Education League (WEL).
“The new league comes as two active organizations, the Witches Education Bureau and Pagan Witches Protection, merge, [Teri] Kalgren [W.E.L.'s vice president] said. ”There are many untruths about Witches and the craft, born out of hate, fear, or other issues causing these untruths to flourish and grow through the centuries,” the W.E.L. release said. “W.E.L. encourages all to ask their questions and to learn about one of Earth’s oldest religions.” The organization, which recently received nonprofit status, intends to continue with community services such as the annual W.E.B.-founded ”ask a witch, make a wand,” where children are invited to make magic wands with area witches near Halloween, Kalgren said.”
The organization does not yet have a web site, though they do have a Facebook page. It is unclear what initiatives they plan to take regarding outreach and education, but I wish them well in this new venture.
An Interview with Thorn: Speaking of Paganistan, author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle will be there this weekend for a book signing and intensive. PNC-Minnesota has an interview up with Thorn about her visit.
“Workshops are always a mixture of experience and theory. I try to get people singing, dancing, and moving when possible, mostly because I find that I learn best if my body is engaged, and most other people do as well. But intellectual engagement offers context for the work at hand, so there is always time for questions, writing, and sometimes I end up expounding a bit, particularly when I feel that there is a question several layers beneath the one that actually got asked! Guided meditation, energy work, and some kick-ass ritual are usually also involved.”
Unsung Pagans: In a final note, I’d like to point to Star Foster’s post reminding us which Pagans keep our communities thriving and surviving.
What keeps Paganism thriving is not authors. It’s not bloggers, or journalists. It’s not those giving workshops or appearing in television specials or writing academic papers. It’s teachers and community organizers. People who don’t publish, or receive much recognition from the larger community. These are the people who organize your Pagan Pride days, who show up to meet and greets rain or shine. These are people who patiently teach meditation 101 and basic protocol over and over, year in and year out, to seekers without compensation. People who open their homes so that Pagans have places to celebrate their rites, or who run shops catering to all Pagans while staying out of all the politics and drama. Clergy who say “Call me anytime, that’s what I’m here for.”
Why not take the time to thank the unsung Pagan heroes/heras in your community?
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!