SALEM, Mass. — Wiccan Priest and Salem resident Richard Watson was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for the “possession of heroin with intent to distribute.” Watson was arrested Aug. 7, 2015, after a sting operation led police to his home where they found, reportedly, a total of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of heroin and “indications that the drugs were being distributed, including packaging materials, cash and cell phones.” Watson cooperated with police, and eventually pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking.
When news of his arrest broke, Watson’s religious community was divided in its reactions. Some people offered support and other didn’t. Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church, the Wiccan organization in which he was involved, immediately revoked his clergy credentials. High priestess Lori Bruno said, “I still hope that may be there is no truth in this, but as it stands right now, to protect our people, I have to remove him from clergy status. I hope that he is innocent of this, but should he not be, this revocation will stand.”
As noted by the Salem News, Watson’s attorney and prosecutor Christina Ronan reached a “plea agreement” which resulted in the lower charge of “possession with intent to distribute.” He then pleaded guilty to that charge and, on May 31, was sentenced to serve 2 1/2 years in jail; “two of which he must serve, with the balance suspended for three years, during which he will be on supervised probation.”
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BALTIMORE — In April, the birth of a new day-long convention was announced. The event, titled Dawtas of the Moon: Black Witch Convention will be hosted in Baltimore, Maryland in October 29, 2016. In a Facebook post, organizer Omitola Y. Ogunsina writes, “This will be a gathering of sisterhood, opportunities to expand knowledge through the many workshop and to enjoy the company of like minds and spirit.”
According to the Eventbrite page, this unique convention will tentatively run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET and host speakers, workshops, rituals and vendors. Ogunsina wrote, “We are calling all Shamans, Healers, Priestess, Witches, of color […] The time has come to make sure our voices are heard. The time has come to step out of the back room. The time has come for us to connect, grow, learn, heal, and share our knowledge and sisterhood energy. Sisters across the globe are reconnecting to nature and indigenous healing and are looking to reach out to other sisters of like minds and like energy.”
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DENVER — As we previously reported, Circle Sanctuary members Michelle Castle and Tiffany Andes have previously dedicated themselves and their careers to working with patients as hospital chaplains. When we spoke to them in April, both women were also finishing up their work toward a Masters of Divinity degree (MDiv) from the Iliff School of Theology. And, this past weekend, they graduated. We were able to reach them to ask how it all went.
Andes said, “There is a tremendous sense of completion you get from setting a goal and achieving it. When I started the MDiv program at Iliff four years ago I had so many reasons why it was important. Those reasons haven’t changed, but now I also realize how I have grown from the experience. In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity degree is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is important for me now to carry on the work of spiritual care, but also educating and being in dialogue with others about what Paganism means as a faith system and how we as Pagans integrate into the professional field.”
Castle said, “I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had over the last three years at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. I completed the Master of Divinity degree in a space that was welcoming and open to my path and challenged me to bring my most authentic self. I thank those individuals who have supported me on this journey and to
Circle Sanctuary for the continued support as I continue on my path as a hospital chaplain.”
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Wild Hunt Journalist Cara Schulz has announced that she will be running for office again in Burnsville, Minnesota. In 2014, Schulz ran for city council and lost to the incumbent by a small margin. During the 2014 campaign, she did not hide that her religion is Hellenismos. In a follow-up opinion piece for The Wild Hunt, Schulz said that, even though she lost the election, “our religious community won in many ways.” She went on to encourage other Pagans and Heathens to run for local political office.
Now, Schulz is taking her own advice and running again. On May 31, she announced that she would again be running for a position on Burnsville’s city council. In a Facebook post, she said, “Eight candidates are running for 2 open seats (no incumbent) which means there will be a primary on August 9th.” She is optimistic about her chances.
In Other News
- Can’t find a copy of the new Witches Almanac Coloring book? Publisher and distributor Red Wheel/Weiser sold out of the book faster than expected. On May 29, it was announced that they were already in the second printing after three short months. The new book takes images from the popular and long-lived Witches Almanac and re-fashions them as coloring pages aimed at adults, who are enjoying this new popular and therapeutic hobby. In light of the book’s popularity, author Theitic asked fans to share “their favorite page to color.” He said that his vote was for the first woodcut because it “brings back memories of the old Almanac.”
- In March 2017, the Pagan Educational Network, Inc. will present the Earth-Centered Clergy Conference. Dave Sassman writes, “Join us in strengthening your skills to minister to your communities.” The conference is focused on clergy training and related topics, but is open to anyone. As an example of the event’s mission, Sassman explained, “Part of the focus […] will be to teach those in the Pagan/Earth Based Faith Community who are ordained or on a path to ordination or are in the role of High Priest/ess, to serve their ageing community members at life’s transition and assisting those left behind.” The event is scheduled to be held at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Indianapolis, Indiana from March 9-12, 2017. Additional information can be found on its Facebook page.
- Another new event has just been announced. The first annual Mystic South conference is scheduled for July 2017 and will be held at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta, Georgia. Lead organizer Star Bustamonte explained, “Last spring, a few of us Southern Pagans were gathered at a local festival discussing the various conferences and festival goings-on. During that discussion, it became very clear that we all wished for a Southern-based conference. Since there is no such event to meet that need, we decided to create it.” According to the site, the event will include rituals, music, workshops, lectures, vendors and will also host the Pagan and Polytheist Educational Research Symposium (PAPERS), an academic-focused lecture tract. More information will be available on the website as it is made public.
- Rev. Elena Rose isn’t letting grass grow under her feet after graduating and being ordained. She is now preparing to hit the road this fall for the “Queer & Trans Artists of Color Launch Party & Tour.” She and Nia King are working on volume 2 of a book series that “documents and shares the important artistic and cultural work being done by living queer and trans artists of color.” They have opened a GoFundMe campaign to help sponsor the project and the book tour.
- The opening of Pagan Spirit Gathering 2016 is drawing closer every day. Organizers have extended the registration deadline to June 10 for anyone who may have missed the opportunity to buy their passes.