Pagan Community Notes: Patrick McCollum at the UN, Vikingdom Controversy, Maetreum of Cybele Attacked, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 25, 2013 — 26 Comments

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

September 21st marked the United Nations International Day of Peace, and Pagan activist Patrick McCollum was there. McCollum, who is a board member of the NGO Children of the Earth, escorted a group of refugee youth to participate in the UN’s ceremony and held meetings with UN officials and prominent activists like Jane Goodall. In an update sent to The Wild Hunt, McCollum described some of the interactions and experiences he’s had. Quote: “I got to shake hands with the Secretary General of the United Nations, and to have casual conversations with numerous other movers and shakers on the world stage. In particular I was moved to meet Monica Coleman who has been designated as the UN’s Ambassador for women’s and girls rights. Having given one of the two Keynote addresses on empowering women at the largest gathering of women in the world last February in India, I feel powerfully called to work together with Monica to change the status of women worldwide. As I have said in the past, until women have equality worldwide, we can never achieve world peace or planetary sustainability.” Of the refugee children he worked with, McCollum said that he “was quite proud of both their presence and their projects toward peace. They are the future, and to have a part in sharing the path with them and helping to mentor them, is wonderful to say the least.” You can read further updates at the Patrick McCollum Foundation website, or the Patrick McCollum Foundation Facebook page. This an important and historic moment of inclusion for modern Pagans on the world stage, one that has come about through Patrick’s tireless service on behalf of modern Pagans, and a pluralistic, peaceful, world.

vikingdomOn September 16th, Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried of the Norse Mythology Blog published an open letter to the makers of Vikingdom, a low-budget Malaysian production with Norse themes. In it, critiques the production for “wholeheartedly accepting the darkest propaganda of the Christian missionaries and their allies who violently persecuted followers of the Old Way.” Quote: “I hope that you have not set out to insult the memory of the many, many followers of the Old Way who were tortured & murdered for their refusal to abandon their ancient faith. I hope that you have not set out to insult the international community of followers of Ásatrú, the living religion that venerates the Norse gods & takes Thor’s hammer as its holy symbol. I understand that this is simply “a fantasy, action adventure” aimed at a mass market. However, pop culture can make a serious statement, as well. What statement are you making with this movie?” This open letter ended up getting nearly 25,000 likes, over 60,000 views, and the attention of Malaysian news media. This prompted director Yusry Abdul Halim to respond in Malaysian media, insinuating that Dr. Seigfried may not be qualified to criticize, that the jury is still out on the existence of vikings, and that the film is ‘just fantasy’ (despite the film trumpeting their research). You can read Dr. Seigfried’s reactions to Yusry Abdul Halim’s response, here. He’s inviting people to respectfully give feedback to the production company, and suggests that the filmmakers donate “all profits to interfaith charities that build bridges between religions, for that is the truly righteous path.”

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

Pagan teacher and activist Shauna Aura Knight reports that The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater in Catskill, New York, was attacked by a young man throwing rocks and epithets at the order’s house. Quote: “Last night while I was enjoying talking to Cathryn Platine at the Maetreum of Cybele, a teenager/young man started throwing rocks at the house. At first we thought it was just branches falling, but then the window in the kitchen broke from two rocks that were thrown through the window. It was just Cathy and I downstairs so I followed her outside. The young man ran from the bushes near the road across the road, and then began taunting us […] Cathy called the police, who responded a few moments later, but the police didn’t catch the guy. Cathy filed a report and they took a cursory look at the rocks and the window, but they wouldn’t file this as a hate crime.” Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum added that “unlike the past, the police response time was fairly fast but they didn’t even take a proper report and ignored my telling them it was a hate crime as evidenced by one of the little bastards hiding in the bushes screaming anti LGBT slurs, swearing and taunting us [with] anti Pagan slurs.” The added expense of the broken window is one the order can scarcely afford, as they are still locked in an expensive ongoing legal battle with Catskill over their tax exempt status. A “stop the hate” rally is planned at the Maetreum on September 28th.

The Warrior's CallThe Warrior’s Call, a public Pagan ritual to protect Britain from fracking, to be held at the Glastonbury Tor, is coming up on September 28th. Here’s a description from a recent press release sent to me: “We, as Pagans, believe that the natural world is profoundly sacred. In particular though, sites such as Chalice Well are our holy places. To have them desecrated is a direct attack upon our ways and upon us. Fracking will not alleviate fuel poverty, nor will it provide us with greater fuel security. Its long lasting destruction to land and water is neither needed nor wanted. There are many practical alternatives, yet they are being ignored (with catastrophic consequences) because of corruption and ideological extremism within the government. Corporations should not dictate state policy. Around the world on the 28th of September, rituals (both large and small) will be held to protect these sacred islands from harm. Although we all come from many different pagan paths, on that day we will speak with one voice. The Warrior’s Call is that unified voice. And it sings with the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses.” One prominent supporter of this action is Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm who has posted a suggested ritual/meditation for those who want to join in, but cannot come to Glastonbury on that day. Quote: “If you would like to protect the Earth from the invasive and toxic process of fracking, you might like to join in spirit with thousands of people around the world who will be holding rituals and meditations at 12 noon GMT on Saturday 28th September 2013.” You can read my previous reporting on this upcoming event, here. I’m hoping to bring you more insights before the action begins, and reporting after the fact as well, so stay tuned!

In Other Pagan Community News:

Abraxas #4 Launch Party. Autumn equinox 2013 Speeches

Abraxas #4 Launch Party. Autumn equinox 2013.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Franklin Evans

    Any criminal act perpetrated against a house of worship, sacred space or other identity-based property is wrong. That’s why we can qualify such a statement with the term “criminal”.
    I’ve donated money to repair church windows. I’ve helped scrub graffiti from synagogue walls. I’ve picked up human waste from public spaces. I’ve physically confronted protestors trying to disrupt public rituals. In the end, our society works or doesn’t work on the basis of one thing: The laws apply equally to all, or they fail for all.
    I have personal experience with that failure. I also have open eyes and ears and I know for a fact that those failures are exceptions. I rationally reject attempts to argue against the general case by using exceptions, and I remind all that the U.S. justice system, however short of the perfect ideal it is, has defining characteristics with one that I personally put at the top: It gives neither weight nor credence to the feelings of people involved with the processes.
    Hate crimes by definition is based on emotions, or so I assert. The act of vandalism is a crime regardless of how offended or angry the people on the receiving end feel. While I will offer respect for the reaction that the Catskill police showing nonchalance was inappropriate, so too was the immediate demand to label the vandalism a hate crime. Every Pagan should be sensitive to the fallacy that the words or actions of one person can be projected to everyone with whom that person identifies.

    • Cathryn Platine

      In our case, the person yelled he was going to shoot us up with an AK-47, issued a stream of racial, anti-LGBT slurs and anti-Pagan slurs while staying about 75 yards from us. This was a hate crime by the legal definition of one.

      • Franklin Evans

        Your situation is bad enough without someone like me pushing an abstract argument at you. Please post or ask Jason to post the necessary information if you establish a way for people to donate for your repairs.

      • gary p golden jr

        § 490.20 Making a terroristic threat.
        1. A person is guilty of making a terroristic threat when with intent
        to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a
        unit of government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of
        a unit of government by murder, assassination or kidnapping, he or she
        threatens to commit or cause to be committed a specified offense and
        thereby causes a reasonable expectation or fear of the imminent
        commission of such offense.
        2. It shall be no defense to a prosecution pursuant to this section
        that the defendant did not have the intent or capability of committing
        the specified offense or that the threat was not made to a person who
        was a subject thereof.
        Making a terroristic threat is a class D felony.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Franklin, I salute your efforts to bind up the wounds of hate and hope you can find a way to help repair the Maetreum’s windows.On the hate crime mater, I’m with Cathryn. Had something comparable been done to a Jewish or Muslim establishment the cops would have had no difficulty tagging it a hate crime, because those are “recognized” minorities in America. Pagans are not, thus the cops’ lack of focus (setting aside any sympathy with subjects of the Maetreum’s lawsuit).Hate crimes are not based on mere emotions but on intent, which is a long-established category in law. Intent is the difference between premeditated murder and negligent manslaughter. It’s not a recent PC invention.The point of hate crime law is that there are real boundaries in society, and criminally violating such boundaries tends to reverberate socially to the detriment of law and order. It is a legitimate added count, like carrying a weapon in commission of a felony. The cops were negligent in service of a prejudice.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        PS: Terrorizing someone is also a crime, even though terror is an emotion, too.

      • Franklin Evans

        Thank you for the acknowledgment. My attitudes are due to my upbringing, and my actions are shared within the company of like-minded folks.
        My admittedly harsh position is based on the use of intent, not its legal arguability. Prior to the legislation of “hate crime” as a chargeable offense, intent was embedded in the legal proceedings after the crime had been established, not as a prior (and speculative in the absence of court oversight of evidence) decision. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a well-read layperson with direct experience as a defendant, plaintiff and member of juries. I encourage anyone to find and read the literature at least. My opinions are just that, however assertive my tone. 🙂
        A crime is the material outcome of an action. My objection to hate crime legislation is that it elevates intent itself as the primary definition of a crime. It establishes non-physical actions (in the present context, words) as probable cause, bypassing existing laws concerning actual injury from non-physical causes (libel, fraud).
        I always object to slippery-slope arguments, but I can’t avoid implying one here: By my estimation, hate crime legislation is even more likely to be abused and used corruptly than any prior statutes I can name, and I have professional experience with a few that most people are not aware of but do hear about (taxation, labor). I am a staunch advocate and supporter of Affirmative Action; I include that to point out how conflicted I am with this topic. With all due respect, I can’t find a rational justification for legalized hate crimes beyond that they cover social offensiveness and the resulting hurt feelings. If the bare crime itself isn’t bad enough, if the resulting injuries not sufficient justification for prosecution and punishment, I really have to wonder about our society’s values. I just don’t know.

        • kenofken

          Hate crime laws recognize that intent, in some circumstances, converts what would otherwise be a relatively petty property crime, into a calculated act of terrorism.

          The broken window or spray paint is no longer the primary crime. They in fact are just vehicles, the media for a message of hate and a threat of personal violence to come. “Petty vandalism” has been the opening salvo to every pogrom and genocide ever visited by one group against another. It’s not about “hurt feeling” but a threat of terror and a threat to the civil rights of entire classes of people.

          When they bust your windows for what you are versus a personal dispute or random idiocy, they’re not there for the broken glass. They’re there to tell you, in action if not word that “Hey witch/Muslim/faggot (fill in the blank). This is our space. We can find you, and we can get you anytime we want.”

          That threat may or may not be serious in any given case, but historically is is made good enough of the time that the victim has to watch their step, and the perpetrator knows that, and depends on that.

          The entire system of Jim Crow oppression in the United States functioned on this very basis. The Klan didn’t kill or torch the homes of everyone they threatened with a burning cross in the yard. They didn’t have to. They did so just often enough that nobody wanted to play the numbers, and so resigned themselves to sub-human conditions just to survive.

          Hate crimes are about a hell of a lot more than hurt feelings. They may or may not be the best mechanism for addressing a problem which, left unanswered, will simply strangle civil rights and democracy.

          • Franklin Evans

            I must respectfully object thus: How many pogroms and genocides actually took place in the U.S.? Comparison to other countries is disingenuous, and my personal bias on that includes my mother’s immediate family, Jews amongst the few to be spared the death camps (long story).
            The U.S. has had plenty of institutionalized discrimination that included violence. Its response has always been criminalizing the acts per se, or in the case of Jim Crow requiring repeal and following up with generalized legislation like the Civil Rights Act.
            I cannot accept your use of “unanswered”. That laws can go unenforced is a perennial problem — very much so in smaller communities, like Catskill — but passing new laws is not the answer and usually results in just a longer list of unenforced laws.
            From my personal experience, the most effective response must come from the community. Racial and ethnic enclaves are the exception any more — again, small towns top that list — and if local law enforcement is lax or biased, there is no such thing as a quick remedy. Neighbors coming forward to publicly denounce and help with repairs, etc. speaks louder and stronger than protracted court affairs that can result in nothing substantial for the victims.
            You can’t legislate morality. Attempts to do so will, in my opinion, only accelerate the path to tyranny.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Franklin, some of us think that the reduction of lynchings, racist attacks and homophobic attacks in the US is due in part to tightening of legal constraints, not in spite of them.”Enforce laws already on the books” fails to take into account the hidden economy of law enforcement. Crimes with stiffer penalties get more police and prosecutor attention; it makes them look good in a box-score fashion. When we have a problem of populist intimidation by criminal actions that do not rise above the lowest level of felony, the law is ineffectual in deterring it. Adding specifications like “hate crime” gets law enforcement attention.The Civil Rights movement was advised in the Sixties that you can’t legislate morality. Happily, we ignored that advice, and prevailed.

          • Franklin Evans

            Baruch, I happily concede and agree with your point, but I retain hope that the “hidden economy of law enforcement” is a solvable problem. It’s the largest stain on the U.S. ideal of justice. It doesn’t paint all places.
            My hope is based on a personal anecdote, offered to explain my attitude and not as a rebuttal to the main point. I’ll keep it brief by excluding most of the details.
            I helped to catch a purse snatcher. I went to the police station to give a statement. What I couldn’t tell them was that I didn’t actually capture the kid (he was 18), someone else did and left him with me when the police arrived.
            This was Philadelphia, a glaring example of selective enforcement and prosecution. When I got out of the patrol car at the station the officer stopped me briefly and insisted on shaking my hand. “If more citizens did even a little of what you did, we’d see less crime all across the board,” he said to me.
            At the preliminary hearing, the victim truthfully told the judge that she couldn’t identify the defendant. The ADA was about to accept a dismissal when I grabbed her attention and told her I was an excellent witness: I could describe the kid exactly, and could testify to his possession of the lady’s purse.
            The kid plead guilty and served 13 months in prison.
            Again, I’m no paragon. The kid would have gotten away without that other guy’s help. My point is that he and I stepped up to the implied social obligation of helping our neighbors in distress… something I hope the Maetreum will see from their neighbors at some point.

          • Franklin Evans

            I have a nearly life-long contempt for the “I don’t want to get involved/it’s not my business” mindset, so it’s with proprotionate cynicism that I observe: According to the stories and experiences related to me by my LGBT friends, the vast majority of increase in arrest and conviction for violence against them is due to at least one private citizen stepping forward to testify as a witness. Purely anecdotal, of course, but not one of my friends who has been a victim of anti-LGBT violence had a just outcome lacking that one person. 🙁

          • AndrasArthen

            “How many pogroms and genocides actually took place in the U.S.?”
            The U.S. government’s policies toward indigenous peoples in this country
            meet every single one of the five criteria used by the U.N. to define
            genocide in 1948 — a genocide far greater in scope, and of far longer
            duration, that the genocide of Jews by the Nazis. And, unlike other
            genocides and pogroms, it remains largely unacknowledged as such because there
            is a huge cultural, political and economic investment in preserving the pleasant fantasy that Americans are “the good guys.”

          • Franklin Evans

            I was thinking about our history with the Nations as I posted and I continue to think about it with much conflict. I completely agree with you in the general case — though I wouldn’t use the term “pogrom” there, so if you can forgive me a semantic rebuttal: I intended my post to address the comparison with Europe’s pogroms and genocides, not North America’s.
            I didn’t state it outright, but Ken’s citation is valid in this argument using Europe because the present targets of the violence are already members of the larger society. My objection is for other aspects, not that. We — I’m a first-gen American, but I don’t hesitate including myself in that pronoun — were conquering invaders of an existing group of societies. Our genocide was one against outsiders, not scapegoats already in our midst.

          • “Our genocide was one against outsiders, not scapegoats already in our midst.”

            And that is different how exactly?

          • Franklin Evans

            Respectfully, the contextual scope of the discussion answers that question. I believe I qualified my statement within the body of the post from which you quoted it.
            I will answer one implication of your brief question: If I was silent about a thing, the only valid conclusion that you can draw from that is that I was silent about that thing. I’m already longwinded in online forums, and I make an effort to avoid doubling or tripling my word count to express every aspect and nuance that might be involved.

  • cernowain greenman

    Thank you to Patrick for representing women, children and especially PAGANS at the United Nations. What a historical event!

  • g75401

    Found this little tidbit on the AntiDefamation League’s website……it discusses the issues with hate crime, property crimes, enforcement, and prosecution. I have no idea what the laws are in the NY state but the police may have to be bound by the definition of “property crime” when it comes to this vandalism, as in, breaking a window may not be enough.

  • Malaysia is one of those supposedly “moderate” Muslim countries. If someone were to make a film in Malaysia that portrayed Muslims the way “Vikingdom” portrays Heathens, they would be stoned to death.

    In fact, if anyone anywhere on the planet earth portrays Muslims in any way that even remotely resembles the way that Heathens are portrayed in “Vikingdom” then they will live the rest of their lives under a death sentence that might be carried out at any moment.

    • gary p golden jr

      we need to send Zoolander in to kill the Clamation dude…

    • TadhgMor

      This is blatantly Islamophobic.

      If you can’t distinguish between fundamentalist radicals and the majority of Muslims, well, you need to do more research.

  • Franklin Evans

    There’s an aspect to this that rarely, if ever gets mentioned. I post it here both to acknowledge that my stated position is at best easily taken as unsympathetic to the Maetreum of Cybele, and that the full context of my thoughts are not so harsh as they may seem.
    During one long stretch of my childhood, we lived in a community where nearly every family was Irish or Italian Catholic. We stood out easily for my parents’ Slavic accents, though our membership at a Unitarian church raised little extra notice.
    There were a few families of racists. The adults and children all could be heard to say very nasty things about blacks in general and their alleged reasons for “fearing” them. One summer evening — during the mid-60s — an eight-foot tall cross was burned against the fence behind our all-wood garage, which very luckily did not catch fire from it.
    Long story short, during the next week we welcomed a steady stream of adults, often with their children, knocking on our door to personally apologize and assure us that they would not tolerate what the act represented. The short list of families who didin’t do that matched closely to those few racists.
    Was it a hate crime? Very possibly. It might have been the acting out of a fantasy by some kids reacting to the events of the time, and they had no intention of singling us out in any way; they were just egregiously stupid in their choice of placement.
    I firmly believe that the mark of an effective and strong community is as much shown by its reaction to the rare event as it is by its daily, mundane interactions and relationships. In adult hindsight I can say without hesitation that none of us should have been surprised by their reaction to our rare incident. We were consoled and reassured by their response, very much more than if the perpetrators had been caught, named and punished (they were not).
    I know very and painfully well that 45 years later such communities may be rare and difficult to find, and no comparison to Catskill is intended. Our societal and cultural mindsets are also very much changed since then. Maybe hate crime legislation is the better way, despite what I know in my own heart. It would grieve me beyond words if that were true.

  • Lokabrenna

    Just to play the devil’s advocate for a second here, yes, I think it’s very noble that Karl Seigfried is defending the honor of the norse gods. However, I also saw the episode of Ancient Aliens that he was on recently. So… it’s not OK to misappropriate Norse spirituality by calling the gods evil, but it’s ok to support people who want to tell us that they were actually intergalactic aliens (as long as Dr. Seigfried, who has his Dr. in Bass studies by the way, is getting paid by the history channel in the process)? As if that isn’t cultural misrepresentation? Sorry, I just think this crusade of his is very attention grabbing, but quite hypocritical.

    • I saw nothing in Dr. Seigfried’s appearance on Ancient Aliens that led me to believe that he agreed with the idea that the Norse gods were aliens. By his own admission, he was only a part of it to make sure that some accurate information about Norse religion was provided in what would otherwise be a load of nonsense by the Ancient Alien advocates.

      • Lokabrenna

        Just the fact that he agreed to appear on it seems suspect to me. Why didn’t he just write an article for his blog calling it out as nonsense if he felt that strongly about it?

        • TadhgMor

          Because it’s fairly likely the people likely to be fooled by that trashy show aren’t likely to read his blog?

          It’s all about audience. I don’t see anything suspect about the decision. I’d willingly go on that show to try and limit some of the frequent nonsense if I had the chance.