Pagan Community Notes: Patheos, PantheaCon, the awen and more.

The Wild Hunt —  February 13, 2017 — 9 Comments

PatheosLogoDarkBG_bioTWH – The tensions between bloggers and the Patheos company continued this week as former Patheos writer John Halstead announced that he and others would be demanding that their material be taken off the site.

Their joint letter begins: “We the undersigned former and current Patheos Pagan contributors hereby request that you remove our names, likenesses, and our intellectual property, including our writing, art, and images, from your site. We previously gave Patheos license to publish our writing, but Patheos is no longer the company that we contracted with.”

The letter continues on to list the writers’ grievances and detail why the group feels that Patheos is no longer the company that it once was. In its conclusion, the letter says, “We should not be forced to affiliate with or be seen to support, through our work, organizations which are inimical to our values and which, in many cases, are hostile to our existence…” 

Currently eighteen bloggers have signed the document. Halstead says the letter will be sent to Patheos Monday after a few more people confirm their support.

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PantheaConSAN JOSE, Calif. – The annual Pagan conference PantheaCon begins this week. Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists from all over the country are preparing to descend on the Double Tree Hotel in San Jose, California for this annual indoor event. It is the largest conference of its kind, boasting “more than 200 presentations that range from rituals to workshops and from classes to concerts.” The event attracts everyone from newcomers and children to seasoned veterans and tradition elders. For those who can attend each year, the journey to San Jose is consider almost a religious pilgrimage.

As we reported in 2015, PantheaCon began as a small, local event, but quickly expanded under skilled, experienced management and teamwork. Today, the conference fills nearly the entire hotel, including 48,000 square feet of “function space,” guest rooms and hospitality suites. There are only a few people roaming around the hotel, outside of the staff and personnel, who are not with the conference.

The 2017 event theme is Pagans of All Ages and Kinds. The programming book is available online as a schedule maker. PantheaCon begins on Friday, Feb. 17 and wraps up Monday, Feb. 20.

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AwenSymbol-File-for-VA-2BARNVELD, Wis. — As we previously reported, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has accepted the awen for use on headstones and other memorial markers. The Druidic symbol, now #65 on the official VA list, has a variety of meanings for those Druids who use it, such as the triple aspect of deity or body, mind, and spirit.

This weekend, the first stone displaying the awen was installed in Dallas-Fort Worth National Veterans Cemetery located in Texas. It marks the grave of Air Force Captain Wayne Laliberte. As noted by Circle Sanctuary, Wayne was “not a member of any Druid organization, but he was a Bard, and the Awen, the flowing spirit of inspiration, was central to Wayne’s spirituality and life.”

His wife Dr. Rita Louise said, “When Wayne died [in 2013], none of the symbols that were options for VA gravestones at that time were suitable. So I decided to let the place for the symbol on his stone remain blank.” Now that the awen is approved, she had the headstone changed. “I am glad that my husband will have the Awen on his gravestone as a symbol of his spiritual beliefs.”  She was able to visit the grave for the first time on their anniversary day.

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[Photo Courtesy Dr. Rita Louise]

In other news:

  • The North Carolina court case involving Daniel Scott Holbrook has been postponed again. The new date is set for Mar. 3. In fall 2016, Holbrook was arrested on one count of the “dissemination of obscenities.” He had allegedly sent pornographic photography to an undercover officer. Now Holbrook is awaiting his trial date. We will continue to follow the case.
  • In Australia, it was announced that a judge has revoked the supervision mandate on Robin Fletcher, a man who was convicted of sexual assault in the 1990s. At the time of his arrest, Fletcher told the courts that his actions were part of Pagan religious beliefs. We will have more on this story and a reaction from the local Pagan community in the coming week.
  • The Academy of Arcana organizers have renewed their request for funding help. Oberon Zell and colleagues opened the Academy of Arcana in 2015. Located in Santa Cruz, it is the physical campus of the Grey School of Wizardry, a magickal education center founded by Zell in 2004. The location also includes the Museum of Magick and Mysterie, a library and reading room, and a gift shop offering magickal items, ritual supplies, books and jewelry.
  • In November 2015 we reported on a story out of Nederland Colorado concerning a local reverend who had started a religious literacy program in his church. He had invited Wiccans to participate in the unique children’s education program. Since that point, despite a few minor bumps in the road and a few complaints, Rev. Hansen Wendlandt has continued to sponsor the program. On Mar. 21, Wiccan priestesses Kim Culver and Kimba Stefane will be welcomed back to offer a spring equinox class with food, crafts, and information. Rather than being at the church, the program is being held at the Blue Owl Boutique.
  • While PantheaCon may be on the minds of many people this week, there is another conference that follows right on the heals of its larger sibling. ConVocation, held in the Detroit area, begins Thursday, Feb. 23 and wraps up on Sunday, Feb 26. The event always occurs the weekend after PantheaCon and many people attend both. ConVocation was first held in 1995 and has been ongoing since.

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  • kenofken

    I wish Halstead and the other former Patheos writers the best of luck in getting their previous work back. I suppose it will hinge on the terms of the contract under which they produced that work. If they signed away total or broad rights to the retention and use of the work they did for the site, they’re probably screwed. That should serve as a lesson for Pagan artists and writers going forward, though I doubt it will.

    If it were just a matter of different personal interpretation of risks versus benefits of remaining on Patheos, I could respect those who came up with different answers. Where I’ve lost all respect for the bulk of the remaining Patheos Pagan team is their flippant dismissal and attempts to de-legitimize the very real concerns about editorial control and corporate leadership. One after another, they’ve been tripping over themselves to parrot the company line that this was much ado about nothing. They’re telling us it was absurd to even raise the specter of censorship because they had verbal assurance that it would never happen and they would never allow it to happen, even though they happily assented contract language which allowed Patheos to exercise such power at its sole discretion.

    They have been even more dismissive of concerns about the deep and multi-layered connections of Patheos new owners to Religious Right culture war causes and organizations. Those connections mean nothing, they insist. “Tangential”, “super loose” and “distant” are some of the terms they’ve flung about. These “tangential” actors we’re talking about are in fact the chief corporate officers and controlling stakeholders. They are also men who, through their own personal auspices and many professional connections, helped to leverage hundreds of millions of dollars to oppress women and LGBT persons here and abroad and to try to privilege Christian fundamentalism legally and politically.

    Anyone who thinks the executive leadership of an organization is too distant to translate into the front line day to day culture and management of that organization has never logged any time in corporate America. Worse, they have never paid any serious attention to how the world works. Pick any example you want – the subprime mortgage meltdown, Fukishima, Vokswagen’s massive emissions cheating, the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal. All of them were driven by leadership decisions and cultures which began and ended in the executive offices, despite the efforts of lawyers and spin doctors to portray upper management as innocent blindsided bystanders. In Paganistan perhaps, nothing matters beyond one’s immediate circumstances, but in the real world, “distant” leadership counts.

    After a couple of weeks of this naivete, what really drove it home for me was the words of one of the Patheos bloggers who outlined the dimensions of the issue and then said flat out “I don’t care. I don’t bloody care.”

    THAT is why I will no longer engage with Patheos for the foreseeable future. It’s not about any animosity or anger. It’s a realization that these writers Don’t Get It at a really profound and fundamental level which is not going to get better with time or new information. There’s no fixing apathy and willful ignorance, and I simply can’t afford to dedicate even minutes of my time and energy to those things. Not in these times. We are hip deep in social and political upheaval which may well determine whether religious and personal freedom and functional democracy even exists a generation from now and whether our environmental systems will be damaged beyond the capacity to sustain a decent civilization.

    As a movement and collection of religious paths, we have some powerful ideas and potential solutions. We are supposed to be metaphysical workers who grasp the powerful interconnection of things and the linkage between (sometimes) apparently disparate thoughts and actions and consequences. I am forced to the sad conclusion that those who cannot see or refuse to see the obvious connections between mundane phenomenon in the matter of Patheos are simply not going to produce the sorts of thought leaders we need going forward. Einstein was right when he said we can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

    • With the contract I signed, I have no legal standing to ask them to remove my blog posts. If they do so, I fully understand it’s a courtesy on their part. It’s why I wanted it phrased as a request, not a demand. I hope that Patheos/Beliefnet does consider it, but I don’t expect it. I signed a contract and I knew what I was getting into. Sort of, at least; I really should have looked closer at that part where the content can be used by any org that buys Patheos. In future contracts, that will be something that either gets negotiated, or I’m not going to sign. I do retain the rights to publish my writing elsewhere, it’s just that Patheos legally can display it in perpetuity if they choose to. I’m pulling most of my Seeking the Grail blog posts that I did on Patheos Pagan, and a number of other articles and essays, into a book that I’ll be releasing as soon as I’m back from Pantheacon.

    • Patheos writers own their work, it’s theirs, and they can post it wherever they wish. The Wild Hunt was at Patheos for a short while and all the articles they posted while they were there are back on this site. The articles they posted while they were at Patheos also continue to exist on Patheos.

      Patheos generally continues to host content once a writer leaves, but there’s nothing saying a writer can’t take that work with them. When a writer quits the Wall Street Journal all of their work isn’t suddenly deleted from the WSJ website.

      • Jason, can you explain why Pat Mosley’s blog has been removed then?

      • Also, can you explain why have you ignored my requests to be provided a backup of my posts (published and unpublished drafts). Since you have blocked my access to my site, I cannot backup my posts like the other other writers who have left.

        • Verity

          I’d be interested to hear the answers to these queries. I imagine they will include the phrase “at Patheos’s sole discretion.”

          • Indeed. Though the real question is how and why Jason is choosing to exercise his discretion in this way. (And I have it on good authority that this is within Jason’s discretion.) We have a concept in the legal field called “abuse of discretion”. The idea is that discretionary power is not without limits.

            But perhaps, rather than answering these questions, Jason will simply demonstrate the respect and care he has for all of his writers, and remove our writing (and provide us with backups) as requested.

          • I did ask that Pat’s blog be removed (upon his request), because of the series of interviews he did with trans-folk. He made it sound as if he was worried for their safety and I thought that was a reasonable concern given the current political climate.

            It was not a decision made lightly, but I thought his concern had merit.

          • That’s a very good reason. But you didn’t just take down the interviews. You took down the whole blog. And the reason you gave was that you made a special case for Pat because you so deeply respect him. I don’t want to diminish the respect that Pat deserves (and I get why you would want to make an example out of me), but I’m surprised that you don’t show the same respect to the other 17 Patheos writers who have appealed to you.