Pagan Community Notes: Heather Freysdottir, PFI-Ireland, Lifting the Veil, Pagan Coming Out Day, and more

The Wild Hunt —  May 2, 2016 — 11 Comments

51eUScE78yL._UX250_LAKE WALES, Fla. — In an update to a story that we previously reported, Heather Freysdottir has come forward to say that she has backed out as a headliner for this coming week’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG). Freysdottir explained to The Wild Hunt, “I heard the rumor about the Frosts appearing recently, and when I inquired FPG management, I was told that there were no covert workshops and that the Frosts were attending, that’s all. [Then] I was presented with a handbook for this years’ FPG Beltaine that includes the Frosts as presenters and teachers. […] They have since retracted this and released a new handbook, but the fact that this was changed due to public outcry tells me that the Frosts were originally planned as presenters. I would not have consented to headlining with them on the bill anywhere.”

Freysdottir went on to say that she does not “bear FPG any ill will; there are many wonderful people who contribute to it every year, but the fact that the Frosts keep getting invited back disturbs” her. She also wrote on her blog that she is concerned over the “subterfuge about their attendance and amount of participation.”

The Wild Hunt has since learned that this lack of transparency has become its own issue, outside of any questions surrounding the Frosts attendance at the popular Florida event. A former volunteer, who has asked that his name be left out of this report, has not only issued a cease-and-desist letter to stop FPG’s organizing board (TEG) from using his software and other intellectual property without proper authorization, he has also contacted the Florida State Prosecutor’s office, alerting them to what he called “black-letter extortion.” He expects this “criminal case” to take a long time. But he did say that the board has since admitted to using his work without permission, and he hopes that this part of the conflict can now be put to rest.

As of publication time, Freysdottir is still listed as a headliner on the FPG website, but she did confirm, “I will not be headlining and I am sorry for anyone who was hoping to meet me there.” Her full response and explanation is posted on her blog. As we reported previously, FPG’s organizing board (TEG) has declined to comment on the situation.

Florida Pagan Gathering will be held this coming weekend in Lake Wales, Florida.

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PF-Ireland-Logo_d800

NAAS, Ireland — The Pagan Federation of Ireland recently made social media waves when its response to a marriage inquiry went viral. The original April 23 email, written by a person named Sarah, stated that she and her finance were a newly engaged American couple looking for clergy to marry them while they were in Ireland. Sarah stated that they were practicing “odinists” and that they wanted a clergyperson who only “performs heterosexual ceremonies” and “refrains from marrying those of mixed races.”

The next morning, PF-Ireland responded with “We are most happy to report that none of our clergy subscribe to your views on mixed race or gay marriage, and so we cannot assist you in your upcoming visit to Ireland. Fuck Off. Yours very sincerely, Everyone at the Pagan Federation of Ireland.”

The response was posted publicly as an image, and it quickly began to make the digital rounds. While the group reportedly received some backlash and concerns about PF-Ireland’s openness toward Heathens. The group responded simply by saying, “Pagan Federation Ireland operates a zero tolerance approach to racism and homophobia, both of which were abundantly clear in the initial communication.” And showing off more of its dry wit, the group offered to send to the querent a laminated and even framed copy of its policy statement in exchange for a small donation to any Irish Pagan organization.

The original “viral” image can be found in a number of places in social media, including this original Facebook post.

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Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

TWH – Wiccan Authors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone‘s long awaited book Lifting the Veil is now published and will be available by the end of this month. On their newly designed website, Farrar and Bone wrote, “Written to fill an existing gap in the current available knowledge on trance, prophesy, deity-possession, and mediumship within the neo-Pagan and Wiccan communities, Lifting the Veil was developed from [our] personal work and public workshops on trance-prophesy and ecstatic ritual over the last 20 years.”

They are both currently on a speaking and workshop tour in the U.S. They recently attended Brid’s Closet’s annual Beltane festival held at Palaia Winery in Hghland Mills, New York. Next, they will be making their way  to Florida. After that, they will stop in Atlanta, Georgia and Englewood, Colorado. Wild Hunt Journalist Terence Ward met up with them this weekend to talk about their work, their practice and the new book. We will be sharing that interview later in the week.

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pagancomingoutday

TWH – Today marks the 5th year of International Pagan Coming Out Day. It was first recognized in 2011 and encouraged by a non-profit organization called International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD). Events are being held locally around the world, some of which are noted on the Pagan Coming Out Day Facebook group and across social media.

The purpose of the organization and the day is to encourage “Pagans who are ready to come on out.” The website reads, “Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”  IPCOD provides a number of different resources to help in the decision and the process.

In Other News

  • The article that prompted the Global Conference for University Chaplains to invite Mary Hudson to its event in Australia in now available online. It is called “The Voice of the Other” and can be found in the digital version of The Journal of Tertiary Campus Ministry Association. Hudson is now only $1400 away from her funding goal. Due to the success of the online campaign plus a few local fundraisers, she said it looks as if she’ll be headed to Australia. Hudson added, “Trust is a beautiful thing when it comes to stuff like this and honestly magic really does happen.”
  • The Pagan Federation’s Pagans with Disabilities group has launched a week-long online Beltane celebration. On the event page, organizers explain, “Here at the Pagan Federation we’re trying to combat the loneliness and isolation that the disabled in our community feel. Too large a number of our brothers and sisters are finding it increasingly difficult to make it to moots and events. So, we’ve decided that if we can’t take them to the gatherings, we’ll bring the gatherings to them.” The online Beltane began on May 1 and will run through May 8. Photos and videos are being shared, along with stories and other community details. PF encourages anyone feeling left out to contact them. They want this event to be accessible to all and are listening.
  • Pagans in Oregon made the local paper this weekend. Oregon Live interviewed Jonathan Levy about the founding and community value of the Columbia Protogrove ADF. Writer Melissa Binder attended the group’s Beltane festival, and interviewed two of its members. Binder quoted Amber Reed as saying, “Coming here is like coming home.”
  • Touchstone Advocacy and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has re-launched its 2015 campaign to encourage people to remember the victims of what it calls “wiccaphobia” or witchcraft-related violence.

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  • Festival season is now underway. Many Pagans are preparing to attend to two Southern-based festivals that will conveniently run on back-to-back weekends. First, the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) kicks off its 2016 event in the mountains of Tennessee. Held at Montgomery Bell State Park in the city of Burns, PUF is a four-day family-friendly camping event that will begin on May 19. Each year PUF has a playful theme, and this year, it is Star Wars. Next year, PUF will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the organizers have chosen a Harry Potter theme. PUF includes rituals, music, food, workshops and vendors.
  • One week later, over Memorial Day weekend, the new musical festival Caldera will open at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, Georgia. It is also a four day event with 30 Pagan acts, plus vendors and workshops. Caldera is currently running a “Beltane” special, noting that no tickets will be sold at the festival gate. And for those interested in both? Caldera and PUF are only a short four-hour drive from each other through the Appalachian region of the Southeast.
  • The group Nemuer has announced the release of its first music video. The song is called “Caves of Damnation” and comes from their 2015 album Chapter V: Labyrinth of Druids. The group said that the new video, directed by Jakub Řehoř, and the track’s vocals were all recorded “in the darkest caves of the Czech Republic.” Nemuer is described as an “instrumental dark-folk music project, oriented on ancient civilizations and mystical atmosphere.”

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  • Macha NightMare

    So glad to see Lifting the Veil in print. I wrote the foreword. 🙂

  • Laurie Ruggles

    I’m thrilled “Lifting the Veil” is published. I’ve had my order in since last June and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it.

  • International Pagan Coming Out Day has a long prehistory. Part of its origins may be discerned at http://www.skeptictank.org/files/mys3/let.htm

    • kenofken

      The entire “out” vs “closet” issue in the Pagan world can be understood through the arc of the LGBT experience over the past 50 years, roughly the same time frame as modern Paganism has had a significant presence in America. In that time, LGBT Americans have gone from being perhaps the most persecuted caste in society to something near full acceptance and legal rights, all of it fought uphill through a culture of hate which was virtually instilled at birth in the majority society. A lot of factors, a lot of tactics and strategies went into that, but NONE of those gains would have been possible without the decisions and community ethic of “coming out.” The same is true in some way in every civil rights gain in this country. Closeting can be justified in a thousand different ways as a personal tactic, but it is a losing strategy.

  • kenofken

    The Florida Pagan Gathering may be a fine event, but it’s leadership is seriously adrift, and that will do in the festival sooner or later if it’s not addressed. It’s clear they have learned nothing at all from the controversy surrounding the Frosts and by extension have no appreciation of the underlying issues of underage sex abuse. Their whole takeaway is “don’t talk to outsiders and don’t get caught.” They are heading down the exact same road of leadership thinking as the Roman Catholic Church. Ask them how that worked out for them, or go watch “Spotlight” if you haven’t followed the news for the past 15 years.

    In the case of the Frosts of course, we’re not talking about actual abuse, but about an obstinate stance on, shall we say, an unenlightened view of abuse. But the festival board’s utterly dismissive and contemptuous treatment of the issue leave me with very little confidence that they would handle direct abuse allegations properly. People who don’t grasp the nature of a problem are unable to address it. The festival board seems to blow off the underlying concern of abuse culture as political correctness run amuck and an issue trumped up by outside agitators. Exactly as the bishops did and still do in some quarters. The board’s top priorities are defending an adolescent construction of freedom of speech and making sure no one tells them how to run “their” business. In the short term, that attitude is eroding the festival’s reputation. Pagan presenters are coming to see it as toxic. (When Pagan authors decline gigs, it’s not usually because they’re too rich to do road work anymore).

    If it should happen that abuse or harassment does happen at FPG, and it get handled with anything less than the perfect standard of care, you can bet the same attorneys who carved $4 billion off of the RCC’s carcass will come calling. Pagan events of course won’t amount to nearly as big a feast for them, but they’ll pick the bones clean of the festival entity, the organizers personally, the hosting venue, and anyone else connected to the thing. I would feel no pity form them, but I fear there would be a much wider fallout and a chilling effect on major festivals in general. No venue would risk hosting us, or else we would be facing event fees of a $1,000 per head to cover liability insurance. To the extent we follow FPG’s thinking beyond the festival circuit, we can expect to see any dreams of Pagan infrastructure go up in smoke. If we do manage to pull off Pagan universities and temples, they will go on the auction block for victim settlements.

    This may seem a lot to project from one controversy at one festival, but sexual abuse is one of those problems that has decades of lead time. The stories in the news today arose from the attitudes and decisions of 20 and 30 years ago. The Pagan movement is at a critical crossroads on a defining issue, and the Florida Pagan Gathering’s leadership is badly misreading the signs.

    • Deborah Bender

      Yes, I do think this is a lot to project from one controversy at one festival, not on account of scale but because the governing structures of the organizations are not remotely comparable. Lawyers for victims of pedophile priests could go after the assets of an entire diocese because the same diocese that owns those properties also oversees the priests and assigns them their duties.

      “they’ll pick the bones clean of the festival entity, the organizers
      personally, the hosting venue, and anyone else connected to the thing.” Very likely, that’s how those lawyers earn their fees. If the organization or individual which puts on the festival owns other assets, they’ll go after those, and rightly so. Other pagan organizations are not going to “go on the auction block for victim settlements” if they have no legal or organizational connection to the entity being sued. No connection, no responsibility, no liability.

      If one lawsuit of this kind succeeds, certainly insurance companies will take notice. They are in the business of assessing risk. Any recurring gathering that is open to the public needs to get ahead of this by creating appropriate policies and effective systems of oversight.

      However, the assumption that insurance companies are going to jack up the rates because of one successful lawsuit makes me wonder, how often does this happen? Have New Age retreats given up holding sweat lodges? Are science fiction conventions finding it impossible to obtain liability insurance? How about Renaissance Faires?

  • Jonathan Levy

    Woot! Thank you WH for mentioning our Grove….Which as of today, became a grove from protogrove!

  • Mitchell

    That’s really funny considering that the reason she gave the gathering organizers was that she was afraid of Sheriff Grady Judd. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard her use this excuse. Shameful. I hope they never invite her back. Buyer beware with this author. Other festivals should be made aware of this kind of drama mongering.

  • I have seen the Irish Pagan Federation mail a few days back. This answer was quite sassy to say the least ! I felt like the following after reading the whole thing:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMdoGqcnBoo

  • Thanks to Heather Freysdottir for standing up and leaving FPG as a presenter. I have huge respect for her for doing this. I have an issue with anyone who supports the Frosts (and if you want an overview of why, I have a blog post I wrote a long while back about them https://paganactivist.com/2014/08/25/the-frosts-and-consent-culture/ ). I have further issue with the various festivals and organizers (like FPG) that have gone out of their way to lie about having the Frosts as presenters. I’m sure FPG is a great festival, but I hope their leadership learns from this. The issue goes beyond just inviting the Frosts and into that territory of lack of transparency and stubborn Pagan leadership that is one of the biggest problems in Pagan community. Yes–it takes a certain temerity, a certain stubbornness, to pull off a Pagan festival or lead a group. And yet, when that stubbornness gets to the point where people (organizers, attendees, and presenters) are walking away from an event because of ethical concerns, that’s a pretty solid red flag.

    Though, I’ve found that with supporters of the Frosts, there seems to be no gray area. There are those who are adamantly opposed to them (like myself) because of what they wrote (and continue to support). Those who support the Frosts seem unable to see how horrific the suggested ritual in Chapter 4 is. I don’t get it. I’ve lost friendships over the Frosts, I’ve had people who were otherwise amazing Pagans doing good leadership work suddenly think I was horrible and bad because I spoke out about the Frosts. I wish I could wrap my brain around it to find a better communication bridge.

    • kenofken

      I think you have found the best bridge that can probably be built across this issue, and that is the concept of consent culture. There is nothing more sex positive than a healthy and functional consent culture. As I see it, anything within the bounds of consent (including age of consent), is all good. That’s all this is really about. If consent is at play, that leaves us plenty of room to get our Beltaine on, have transgressive celebrations or initiations or whatever. We gotta leave the kids out of that mix for reasons of law and ethics that just aren’t gray areas today, even if they ever were 40 years ago.

      Of course you can build a damn fine bridge and someone will still insist on twisting their ankle stumbling over the rocks and currents below….