Archives For Heather Greene

On Sunday, Nov 15, it was announced that Marc Pourner, who had been missing since Nov 12, had been found in the woods the previous night. His body was laying not far from what remained of his burned-out GMC Sonoma truck. When news was reported, family and friends had to face their worst fears.

“No parent should have to experience the death of their child, but the way that he went was more a blow than his actual death. Who would want to hurt the man who had never intentionally hurt someone in his life?” questioned Jasmine Tempest Moon, a longtime close friend.

Marc was born in North Carolina on Aug. 2 1987 to parents Mark and Jolena Pourner. During a memorial tribute, his father described Marc as a “wonderful kid,” “a force of nature,” and “unrestrainable.” Marc had ADHD, which was partly responsible for his vivacious and lively spirit. Another close friend, Patrick, said, “All he did was laugh. Since day one, all he did was laugh.”

Jasmine first met Marc in high school where they became quick friends. And, it was through her that Marc was first introduced to Wicca. She herself was exploring her spirituality and said, “Marc was enthralled.” Jasmine remembered, “We did a lot together learning about the different paths, dabbling as one shouldn’t at times, getting into trouble with those who did not approve of our alternative beliefs.”

At the same time, Marc was also discovering himself in other ways. Shortly after high school, he came out as gay to his several close friends. Jasmine said that, at first, he faced some rejection, but eventually received the needed support from those that loved him. As time progressed, Marc came into his own, seemingly unafraid to be who he was and to express himself to the fullest.

In 2011, Marc began actively engaging with the internet-based Pagan community. He became involved with the now defunct Wicca World Social Network, a forum exclusively for people following Pagan paths. After the original owners left in 2012, Marc took over as site President with the help of good friends Steve Pugh and Bryn. He paid for the site’s operation out of his own pocket, helped seekers find their way around, and created a number of corresponding online videos. In this world, he became known as Axel the Pagan.

3021a8cd-ddf8-42f0-ab3e-f20c58cdd13dAfter about a year, Wicca World’s membership began to decline and the site ran into some problems with unruly visitors. The three moderators shut it down, and moved the forum to Facebook, opening “The Cauldron – A Mixing Place for Witches, Druids, and Pagans.” Pugh said that, originally, they had imagined this space as a new home for their 2.5k members. But it didn’t take long for that number to “swell to a massive 36.5k members.” Marc remained an active participant for quite sometime before moving on to other ventures. But that was enough time for him to develop friendships and become known to many people in the worldwide, online Pagan community.

As his father noted in the memorial tribute, Marc was a “creature of social media.” He posted as Axel the Pagan on many other sites, which included You Tube, Vine, MySpace, Instagram and more.

But Marc also had life off the internet. He was solitary Wiccan practitioner and a Trekkie. He loved to sing and described himself as a outgoing, hopeless romantic. Jasmine also added that Marc loved to dress in drag. She said, “We all attended the local Pride festivities and he often went to drag shows, even showing up in drag himself.” Marc was proud of who he was and, as noted by friends over and over again, he inspired that strength in others.

So what exactly happened to Marc? According to his roommates, he received a phone call late Thurs night. After a tense conversation, he abruptly left his apartment and never came back. On Friday, Marc’s family contacted Randall’s, his place of work, and found that he had never reported for his shift. This was highly out of character. Marc’s father also noticed that his son was not posting to social media, which was also out of character.

Over the next day, through local outreach, the Pourners received a tip on where Marc’s truck might be and called the Sheriff’s department. The tip proved accurate. And, deep in some thick woods, officers found not only the vehicle, but also Marc’s body.

Within 24 hours, the sheriff’s department had a suspect and, in coordination with Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana, the suspect was arrested. According to Lieutenant Brady Fitzgerald of Montgomery County, their investigators are still in Indiana working with that local office to complete the extradition. He did not know how long that would take.

What is missing from this story is a motive? Why would anyone kill such a dynamic and well-liked person? Currently, there is much public speculation, but the sheriff’s department has not released any details to date. Although the suspect was arrested with the charge of capital murder, it has not yet been ruled a hate crime.

When asked to specifically speak to some of the rumors, Lt. Fitzgerald said that he had no further information. He wasn’t aware of a second person of interest and could not confirm the relationship between Marc and the suspect. He also said that, as far as he knows, Marc’s religion has not been discussed. Lt. Fitzgerald added that, in time, details will be released.

Similarly, Jasmine, who is in touch with Marc’s parents, said that she was also unable to talk specifically about the case. So, as for Marc’s full story, most of us will have to wait.

1_thumbAs that official investigation continues, the focus has turned on Marc’s life lived, rather than on his deeply tragic death. Due to his own love of social media, many people, hailing from around the world, are now getting a better look at Axel the Pagan, a man they only knew and loved through The Cauldron and other online networks.

Steve Pugh wrote:

Marc was a truly great guy, always a word to cheer you up if sad, even if his own life wasn’t too great at times he would always be there … He was a great supporter of Paganism, and proud both of that and of his sexuality.

Jasmine, who is now the keeper of her dear friend’s pentacle pendant, wrote:

Words can not fully do the man justice. He was a wonderful person, a light in this world snuffed out too soon. He wanted to help people and he did. He saved more people than I think he knew. I know he saved us a few times, saved a few friends from dark roads, some from deaths door. He loved people with a capacity that most people can’t fathom. Thats who he was. He was love. I’ll miss my dorky soul brother, and will carry his memory always.

Marc, Axel, it was a blast, my friend. May your soul find peace and when we meet again, it’ll be one hell of a party. Goodnight and goodbye for now, my friend.

A memorial vigil was held on Wed, Nov. 18 and recorded for others to watch. Near the end of the video, Marc’s mother leads the group in singing the song, You Are My sunshine. Alone her voice rings out through her tears, “The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamt I held you in my arms, When I awoke, dear, I was mistaken, So I hung my head, and I cried…”

A public Facebook group has been set up to honor his memory and share stories. Many tributes and photos have been posted. Family and friends gathered for memorial services on Sat, Nov. 21, in Spring, Texas. A GoFundMe campaign was created to help Marc’s parents with all funeral costs. However, as his mother noted, those expenses are fully covered so all money raised will be used “to establish an annual memorial scholarship in Marc’s name for LGBT teens.”

Marc Pourner’s life was cut short. But that brief life was energized and filled with laughter. He was cherished for his boldness, his caring and his generosity. He helped friends through hard times and fully embraced the good times. Marc was proud to be Pagan, to be gay, and to be himself. He clearly lived a life out loud. And, in his death, he left that seed of inspiration in everyone he touched – from his home state of Texas and beyond.

What is remembered, lives.

Today marks the 16th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. People across the world will be holding various events and vigils, remembering those people who have been lost due to transgender violence. It is a powerful day that is a part of a larger month long awareness campaign.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held every November, marking the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered in her Boston apartment in 1998. A year after that death, which still remains unsolved, writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil in San Francisco to honor Hester’s life and bring awareness to the issues faced by Transgender people. The 1999 vigil became the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, which also launched the website “Remembering Our Dead” and several other awareness campaigns and movements.

Now, every November, a growing number of activities are held during the month, culminating in the Day of Remembrance. The main site for the campaign lists activities across the globe.

[From Allies&Angels; used for a vigil being held in Syracuse, NY]

[From Allies&Angels; used for a vigil being held in Syracuse, NY]

We reached out to several Transgender Pagans for their thoughts. Asking only a very few questions, we allowed them to have the stage, so to speak, and tell us more about living transgender and what this specific day means to them. Our interviewees included, Luke Babb, Elain Corrine Moria and Rev. Katharine A. Jones. Babb is a transmasculine Pagan living in Chicago with an English degree from Truman State University. Pagan Elain Corrine Moria is a transgender woman living in Washtington State. Rev. Katharine A. Jones is a transgender woman of mixed racial heritage living in Florida. She is a Neo-Hellenic Priestess, minster of Fire Dance Church of Wicca and transgender activist.

We welcome our speakers.

The first question asked was whether they have seen or felt any noticeable change in awareness in the mainstream public’s understanding of transgender struggles or issues. Last June saw the very publicized “Caitlyn Jenner” story, which brought very mixed reviews from the transgender community. Has there been a growth in awareness and, if so, has it been positive?

Babb: I haven’t really been out in the community long enough to see any real societal shifts. Right now, people have access to information about trans issues. They’re able to see trans folks- real live people- living and talking and being regular folks. I was lucky enough to come out at a time and in a place where many of the people I know had already been exposed to the idea of trans identity. I’m profoundly grateful for that, and the relative comfort I live in because of it.

But I know that a lot of my experience is a byproduct of my privilege. I work in a large, fairly progressive city, and I surround myself with educated people who both have access to all of this information and the impetus to go and find it. The fact that at least sixteen trans people have been murdered in the US this year means that we cannot make any sort of claim about our society as a whole having a trend toward trans acceptance. Trans Day of Remembrance is not a time for us to talk about how far we’ve come-  if anything, that’s the Trans Day of Visibility, on March 31st. Today is about recognizing how far we have to go, how many people we have lost along the way, and how hard we must work to fight against losing any more of our brothers and sisters to hatred and bigotry.

Morria: In just the last few months I have seen a change within certain areas of society. Some good, and some not so good. Within society in general there has been a marked improvement in tolerance, acceptance and understanding for and toward transgender people. However, in some other segments of society, the hatred for us has grown and become more rabid. They use lies and demonstrable falsehoods to defeat LGBT protections, in particular, to defeat protections for transgender people. Their hatred, malice and rage all too frequently gives some of them an excuse to murder us simply for trying to be true to ourselves.

Jones: Particularly in the last year, there has been an increase in transgender visibility. This has made it easier to educate those who are willing to learn. Many who once regarded trans people with confusion and discomfort now understand who we are, and that being transgender is perfectly normal. Our number of supporters has increased, but so has the hatred we face. Some of the people who once paid us no attention now seek to attack us. This year sets the record for homicide and hate crimes against the transgender community. This year we have seen a number of attempts by bigoted politicians to pass legislation specifically against us.

In 2013, Jones organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Pensacola. The following year, she setup the transgender advocacy group STRIVE of which she is currently the Vice President. This year, along with Debra Dubose of Safe Port Counseling Center, she is hosting a two day remembrance event, during which they expect over 50 people. 

11947460_634898819947050_4134799355407870099_nFor the next discussion, we wondered what the biggest threat to the community’s safety was. This is a difficult question, but we asked our interviewees, if they could wave a wand to change one thing that would make the biggest impact, what would that one thing be?

Babb: I strongly believe that the single biggest threat to acceptance is ignorance – and I don’t know how to explain that in a way that doesn’t sound cliched. I have a lot of conflicted feelings about Harvey Milk’s call to come out of the closet.  I don’t like the way it can be used to vilify people for keeping themselves safe in often dangerous environments. But I think the idea behind it is solid. Society will only really change when people realize that their loved ones, friends, and coworkers are trans.

If I could wave a hand and change one thing, I would make everyone realize that trans issues are not an academic interest – they affect the people you know and love. And it’s true – the current best guess is that 0.3% of the population is transgender, and the data is so hard to get that the real number is probably much higher. The odds are excellent that someone you know identifies on the trans spectrum. It’s easy to vilify a population if you think they are different from you- we see this all the time. But I have seen such change, and such love, from people who educate themselves because they know someone who is trans.The only thing I can think to wish is that more people start down that road.

Morria: I believe the single greatest threat to acceptance is conservative religious ideology, regardless of the religion it is from. We suffer from it within the Pagan community as well. A community formed on and growing around the idea of acceptance and inclusiveness. Sadly, this hatred seems to be growing and too many people who should know better, have fallen under the spell of conservative hatred.

Jones:  It is very difficult to say specifically what is the single greatest obstacle we face. I find myself struggling with this question in large part because I’m sure if you asked a hundred trans people this question you would get a hundred different answers. … In a general sense ignorance is the root of all our problems. If accurate, well-articulated information was made available to the general public, and became common knowledge, most of our problems would be solved. 

More specifically, the lack of knowledge in the medical community is a problem. If I had a magic wand that could change just one aspect of the world, I’d probably make a complete education on transgender healthcare (provided by a transgender teacher) a prerequisite for a medical degree. Too often I talk to doctors and mental health specialists who won’t take transgender patients because they don’t know how to treat us. I feel like if the medical community was educated, their influence would also effect politicians and employers.  Conversely, it is my personal opinion (though some disagree with me) that employment discrimination is the biggest problem we face. Many trans people can’t get to a doctor (or even find a place to live) to begin with because they have no job and therefore no money.

With that in mind, the third question asked was how can non-trans people can be the best allies? What should cisgender people do or not do to help raise awareness, support their friends and eliminate the barriers discussed above? 

Babb:  Educate yourself. I can’t emphasize this enough. Educate yourself. Struggle with your internalized transphobia- seek it out, own up to it, struggle to overcome it. Speak up when your privilege gives you an opportunity to defend trans lives, but let trans people speak for themselves, with their own voices, whenever possible. There are a million articles on the internet that answer this question in depth, with examples. Read them.

And accept the responsibility for your own allyship. Trans people do not owe you anything. They do not owe you their thanks for being a decent person. They do not owe you the time or effort that it would take to educate you. Trans people are incredibly busy trying to exist  in a society that tells them that they can’t, or shouldn’t. If you are going to help them, it is going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to be work. But it’s not going to approach the level of discomfort and work they go through, every day.

This is what I tell myself in my efforts to be an ally. It’s a hard thing to accept, a harder thing to internalize, and I have to keep reminding myself that the times I feel classist, ageist, racist- those are the times when I’m challenging my comfort zones, and growing. It is not up to my friends to make me a better person, or reward me for becoming one. It is up to me to make their lives better, any way I can.

Morria: Cisgender people can be awesome allies if they do three things … 1. Educate themselves about what being transgender IS … 2. Be polite, but firm in not allowing [other] people to misgender us, paint us as child molesters or deviants. Refuse to allow [the] mistreatment of us stand without a (legal) fight. 3. Promote and support legislation that protects our rights. Fight legislation that tries to deny us basic human dignity and rights (bathroom laws come to mind, we after all, #OnlyWantToPee).

Jones: Without a doubt the best thing you can do as an ally to the transgender community, is listen. If there is someone in your life who is transgender, whether they are family, friend, co-worker, or anything else, ask them what you can do to make their life easier, and do that. What each person needs will be different, so I can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer.

As to how you can make a real difference on the larger scale, give trans people the stage. People don’t listen to us. Whether it’s because they think we’re mentally or spiritually ill, or just make them uncomfortable, most people want us to be quiet. The ones who do want to help often try to speak for us, which is almost as bad. If you have a microphone in your hand, pass it to someone who’s transgender. If you have an audience for a TV show, a blog, a newspaper, or an event, ask them to listen and let them hear a transgender voice. We are here, we are just like you, and we are already speaking, but many don’t hear us.

Transgender people are speaking out. This is a 2013 video by Pagan activist, author and artist Elena Rose. The video is from Girl Talk, “a critically acclaimed multi-media performance show promoting dialogue about relationships of all kinds between queer transgender women, queer cisgender women, and genderqueer people.”

Elena Rose [Still from Girl Talk Video]

Elena Rose [Still from Girl Talk Video.]

For our fourth question, we asked for words of hope. Often when talking about marginalized, oppressed, and silenced populations, we focus on the struggle, violence and pain. So, we asked them to take a moment to share something beautiful about the transgender community or about being transgender: a story or even a moment?

Babb: The problem with talking about the joy of oppressed peoples is that you’re talking about the joy of living, for a group of people who have that basic level of existence threatened every day. The stories of joy that I have are the quiet moments of being myself, and being seen as myself, being surrounded by people who love me. They don’t lend themselves well to my method of storytelling – there’s nothing exciting about them, no build up to a climax of realization. They’re the moments when I look in the mirror and recognize the person looking back. When my partner puts her arm around me and calls me by my name, holding me in myself on a level so basic that most people don’t question it. When I meet someone, and we talk together, and what we say is Yes, and Me too, and it feels vanishingly rare and extraordinarily valuable.

Then I talk to  other trans people, we share stories that are painful – moments when we were threatened, moments when we were scared, moments when someone threatened the truth of who and what we are. We share those stories and we laugh, because for a moment we are in a place where everyone knows the truth, and anyone who would argue with it is wrong to the point of being absurd. The best thing I can compare it to is the joy of ritual – being surrounded by people who are joined with you on sending out positive energy against a negative world. That sort of community, wherever it is found, is beautiful. I’m very lucky to have found other gender rebels to share it with.

The joy of being trans is the joy of being yourself, and valued, and happy. It’s no more unusual or special than the joy of being anyone else. What makes it hard to talk about, what makes it seem so strange, is that it is a joy we are told we aren’t qualified to have, and don’t deserve. When we dare to have it anyway, it is a joy that is taken from us by force.

Morria: On May 5 of this year, I felt terribly alone, terribly isolated and felt myself to be a pariah. I attempted and very nearly succeeded in commiting suicide … Three communities stood by my side. The Pagan community, who threw out a lot of energy to help me stay here. The Transgender community, who were terrified that they had lost yet another sister. And the Christian community who also prayed very hard for me and did everything they could to help me through it. All three communities, disparate as they are, rallied around one goal. Making sure I felt loved and accepted, and making sure there was a lifeline for me to find my way back.

To me this is beautiful because it shows that when we want to, we can ALL get along and work for a mutual goal. Since those 10 days I was in the hospital, all my friends, be they Pagan, Christian, Transgender, etc have shown me an amazing amount of love and support. I don’t feel nearly as alone and isolated as I did, and though I still feel somewhat like a pariah … I find that I care more about being who I am, as best I can, than the opinions or thoughts of people who have never walked a fraction of my journey …

Jones: Mostly, the pain, violence, and struggle is what needs to be talked about, but there is beauty too, and there is love. I like to say, family is the people who love the real you and are there when you need them, everything else is relatives. Most trans people have, to varying degrees, lost family because of who they are. I come from a big family. My childhood memories are punctuated by the presence of twenty to a hundred people who I saw two to three times a year on special occasions. Out of all those people, I only talk to five now. Some of us have no one at all, so we make new families– families of the heart, people who know us and love us as we are.

My transgender family is closer, more loving, and more devoted than I think any other could be, because we picked each other. When one of us needs something, we all pitch in to make it happen. When one of us couldn’t afford a medical bill a few months ago, the rest of us raised the money in less than a day. When some of us had nowhere to go for the holidays, several different people opened their homes and held potluck parties for ANYONE who wanted to come. We throw parties just because every couple of months, so we’ll have an excuse to gather and enjoy each other’s company.

Living with my blood family, I could go a day and a half without seeing people who lived in the same house with me. Now, I rarely go that long without an impromptu visit from someone who “just happened to be in the area”. I call them my people, because we are like a tribe. We take care of each other, because no one else is doing so.

cropped-tdor1_zpsd6602842As Babb mentioned earlier, Transgender Day of Remebrance (TDOR) “is not a time for us to talk about how far we’ve come” … It is “about recognizing how far we have to go.” Every year, the TDOR website includes a list of names of those people known “to have died because of anti-transgender violence.”  To end our interviews, we asked our interviewees what the day means to them.

Babb: Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because it’s our opportunity to mourn the ones we’ve lost. So many trans people are cast out of their birth families- we say their names so that someone will, because they are valuable, because they are our family and we have to mourn them

Morria: Trans Remembrance day is exceedingly important for me because it reminds me of all my transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were ended for no other reason than they were trying to live true to themselves. It reminds me that to some groups of people, my life is utterly worthless and killing me in their minds, is a service to whatever it is they believe in. It also reminds me that, while we have managed to come a long way quickly where Transgender rights and equality is concerned, we have a long way to go, and each life it costs, is a price too great and too painful to have to pay.

It makes me ask the question every time I am out. “Will I be the next statistic? The next victim? The next one whose loss is mourned by my family, loved ones and transgender brothers and sisters?” It also reminds me that our murderers are rarely ever apprehended, because our lives don’t seem to matter to investigators, and our murderers when caught, are rarely ever given sentences that match the crime. We are maligned. Hated. Lied about and treated as fifth class humans unworthy of the same protections others have and take as a given. It reminds me that society, while imroving, still sees my life as less valuable because I am Transgender … It reminds me that the fight MUST continue.

Jones: Since 1998, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has honored the victims of transphobic violence. We light candles, and we say their names, to show that they have not been forgotten or ignored. The vigil is usually followed by advocacy and activism discussions geared toward reducing violence against the trans community and moving media and law enforcement toward handling the murders correctly. They often go unreported, and law enforcement fails to investigate fully more often than not. 

The Day of Remembrance gives trans people a chance to express the heavy emotions which come from living our lives in this kind of danger and oppression, and it reminds us of what we are fighting to change. It also increases our visibility and encourages others to educate themselves, or even join our fight for equality. Last year, one of the names we read was an eight year old girl named Alex Medeiros beaten to death by her own father, for refusing to cut her hair, liking women’s clothes, and dancing. The moment I read that aloud was the last time there was a dry eye in the gathering until we came to the end.

This year it’s more important than ever, because we’ve had more violence than ever. There are approximately 27 victims right now, but different sources give different numbers because the deaths are not correctly reported and because there are no government statistics. The average homicide rate of trans people is about 1 in 12, as opposed to roughly 4.7 in 100,000 for the general population. That’s higher than any other demographic except sufferers of certain life threatening illnesses. I am currently running a petition to have the TDoR declared a national holiday … We need this event to raise awareness of these terrifying statistics. I’m more likely to die going to the grocery store than you are in a plane crash. I want this to be the last year that my identity is life threatening.

  *   *   *

For those people who are attending organized vigils today or would like to participate in their own way privately or with their own groups, we have attached here the TDoR list of 2015 victims of anti-transgender violence. There are many resources on the issues discussed above, as well as resources for both trans people and allies. GLAAD provides a short list of legal resources and other support. Now celebrating its first anniversary, the Trans Lifeline is available nationally. It helps “empower Trans people to help other Trans people in the darkest moments of their lives.” 

The Wild Hunt thanks all three of our interviewees for their time and willingness to share their thoughts.

Missing Texas Man Found Dead

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas — On Nov 14, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office discovered a burned GMC Sonoma in a wooded area near Firetower Road. The partial plates revealed that the truck belonged to 28 year old Marc Pourner, who had been reported missing since Nov. 12. During a search of the area, Pourner’s body was eventually discovered only a short distance away from the vehicle.


[Online Profile Photo]

Pourner, also known as Axel in Wiccan circles, was a resident of Spring, Texas. He was a very active member in several online Wiccan groups and had helped administer the popular Facebook group The Cauldron – A Mixing Place for Witches, Druids and Pagans. He was very open and proud about his religious beliefs, and about being gay. Pourner did not hide who he was and what he believed.

On Wed, the Montgomery Sheriff’s office told The Wild Hunt that they had not yet determined a motive and could not comment on possible suspects. However, since that conversation, the department did issue a warrant for the arrest of David James Brown, a reported acquaintance and Facebook friend of Pourner.

The accused was eventually found in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, where his girlfriend lives, and was booked at 10:30 pm Wed. night. The arrest warrant charges Brown with capital murder. Brown is currently being held without bond and waiting extradition to Montgomery County, Texas.

For Pourner’s family and friends, the news has been overwhelming. A Prayer Vigil was held Wed, Nov 18 at Caney Creek Apostolic Tabernacle on FM 1485, Montgomery County, Texas.  And, there is also a GoFundMe campaign to help his father pay for some funeral expenses.

We will bring you the full story on Pourner’s life and all updates on Sunday.

  *   *   *

Isis Bookstore Vandalized

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Over the past weekend, Isis Books and Gifts was vandalized for the fourth time in the past year. In this recent incident, a brick was thrown through the lower portion of the sign.

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

The book store owner, Karen Charboneau-Harrison, doesn’t know who did this. However, the reason itself is not a mystery. The vandalism happened one day after the Beirut and Paris terrorist attacks. She told a local reporter for CNN, “I don’t know if somebody walking down the street just saw our name on the sign and kind of lost it for a moment and threw a rock through it … or if it was an ignorant person who actually thought this was a bookstore for terrorists, I don’t know.”

Although confusion between the store’s name and the terrorist group is causing problems, Charboneau-Harrison has no intention of changing the name. On Facebook, Isis Books posted, “The name Isis is that of the Egyptian Goddess of women, marriage, magick, healing and more. However, with our media and politicians constantly using the word to name those in the Middle East who are the source of such horror, some people seem to get confused. Please help us to educate the media and your family and friends to call the terrorists by a more correct name – Daesh – not Islamic State, not ISIS, not ISIL.”

We will have the full story next week, including more on the ongoing controversy over the terrorist group’s name.

CHESTERFIELD, Va — On Monday, two men were charged with “conspiracy to possess firearms after having been convicted of felonies,” and a third man was charged with the “conspiracy to commit robbery.” Through an undercover FBI operation, a detailed plan was uncovered to burn and bomb Black churches, Jewish synagogues and their occupants, to rob a jewelry store, stock pile weapons and more. After foiling the plot, the FBI filed an affidavit, which included a note that the men, to some unknown degree, were connected with the religion Asatru.

As written in the FBI report by Special Agent James Rudisill, “Doyle and Chaney … ascribe to a white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru faith.”

After news broke, the Asatru angle quickly went from a footnote in a long FBI report to a news maker and, in some cases, even a headline. A Richmond Times-Dispatch article, one of the first, clarified to its readers, “Asatru is a pagan religion.” And, the media cycle moved from there.

Some news agencies, such as CNN and ABC, did not ever mention the men’s religious affiliation, choosing to focus on the foiled crime. Others offered varying degrees of explanation from simply quoting the FBI document verbatim to inserting some limited facts about the religion. The Washington Post, for example, simply added “neo-pagan” into the FBI quote. Then, others went further exploring the white supremacy connection to Asatru. The Daily Beast went so far as to interview such a group with the added commentary, “Because pagans gonna pagan.”

Get Religion writer Jim Davis questioned the media’s reaction, asking whether journalists even care about implications surrounding the religious aspects of the case. The writer felt the media “missed the boat” by not better investigating the Asatru angle. He wrote:

Now, I’m not calling for some witch hunt, or Norse hunt in this case. If bigotry is not basic for most Asaturars and/or Odinists, fine. But so many media ask so little about a central question in this case. Here we have a story about members of a religion who are charged with wanting to shoot and blow up members of two other religions (and of another race). And journalists aren’t curious about that?

One Virginia-based NBC affiliate did reach out to a practicing Heathen family to talk about Asatru, rather than simply focusing on white supremacy. In that article, Asatruar Bryan Wilson told the reporter, “We’re not about destroying other religions or hurting people … Especially not because of the color of their skin. This is kind of ridiculous. It is very ridiculous.” He was later quoted as saying, “You can blame the religion all you want, but the religion doesn’t tell people to do things like that … That’s someone’s decision that they made on their own, and they just happen to be Asatru.”

As this was all happening, members of the national and even international Heathen communities watched in horror as the story fell like dominoes through the mainstream media. And, collectively, their immediate response was one of frustration and anger.


Heathens Against Hate came out with this statement:

This is an all too familiar song and dance, so it is important for the Heathen community to be proactive in our response to it. These men are criminals with a violent history. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Chaney, he and Doyle each are convicted felons. Some of the circumstances of this case are reminiscent of virulent forms of prison Odinism that bring stigma to the rest of Heathenry. What we see in these cases is Heathenry being co-opted to advance a political and social agenda that, at the core, has nothing to do with the religion. This perversion of our faith operates against the advancement of Heathenry. This is not a way to honor or to bring bright fame to our gods and goddesses.

HUAR LogoAnd, Heathens United Against Racism wrote, in part:

Such an atmosphere of fear, distrust, and cowardice is the total opposite of everything Heathenry stands for. The would-be race warriors apprehended by the FBI, distinguished by their fearful mentalities and established histories of violence, are not alone in promoting and adhering to doctrines of ethnic violence coated in a veneer of piety. Robert Doyle and Ronald Chaney are two of the worst examples of a much larger problem.

In denouncing these two individuals we further denounce the mental atmosphere giving fuel to their ideas. We denounce those who promote ideologies of fear and terror. We denounce all those who claim Asatru and Heathenry justify a life of bigotry, violence, and prejudice.

Canadian Heathen Robert Rudachyk didn’t mince words. He told The Wild Hunt, “I am personally disgusted that these pathetic nithlings would deign to even call themselves Heathens. They tar all of us with their filth when they act in a manner like this, and I hope the justice system shows them no mercy. They are not warriors, but mindless half-witted savages who want nothing more than to blame people of other faiths for their shortcomings in life rather than taking responsibility for the bad choices they have made in their lives. May Nidhogg gnaw their bones for eternity.”

trothThese Heathen groups and individuals do not deny that these men could possibly have identified or even formally practiced some form of the Asatru religion. Steven T. Abell, Steersman of The Troth, said, “The Troth cannot prevent idiots and creeps from saying they are Heathens, but we can say that idiots and creeps are idiots and creeps. These persons are idiots and creeps, and they are not welcome in our community.”

Two of the men’s online profiles do suggest that they had an interest in or a connection to Heathenry. For example, one of the men recently lost a friend to substance abuse and, in mourning wrote, “[He had the] strength of the Old Gods. Battle and struggle is our way of life. If we lose you Valholl with will improve its ranks.”  At the same time, one of the men showed an interest in some Christian-based groups.

But these are all speculative details coming from social media. What does remain clear is that, regardless of spiritual interest, there are very clear signs of white supremacist beliefs. As pointed out in one news article, one of the men is reportedly a member of the KKK, a claim that is supported by his online profile, and he is also allegedly connected to the Aryan Brotherhood.

Writer Dr. Karl E. Seigfried of the Norse Mythology Blog told The Wild Hunt, “Something about Ásatrú seems to keep attracting this personality type. Maybe it’s incessant social media memes about defending the Folk and dying gloriously in battle. Maybe it’s endless essays proclaiming white victimhood and forwarding conspiracy theories about people of color. Maybe it’s organizations that constantly declare they’re not racist while actively promoting racist ideologies. Maybe it’s Heathens who support racist individuals and organizations in the name of neutrality. It’s probably all of these things. Together, they create a welcoming environment for the worst elements of society, and those elements are gleefully taking advantage.”

Frustration showed in his reaction to the recent incident. Seigfried went on to say, “If Heathens of positive intent are tired of their traditions being connected to racist extremists, they need to actively shut down all this nonsense and lock their doors against those who promote these ideologies.”

Rudachyk strongly agreed, saying, “It is long past time that we as a community stop coddling the racist factions of our faith and cut them out like the cancer they are before they kill our faith with their poisonous beliefs.”

While the media and cultural problems faced by Heathens are not entirely unlike the problems faced by Witches and Wiccans, the struggle appears to be more similar to that faced by Muslims. There are real factions of society who are claiming to be “true” practitioners of the religion, and who commit atrocities in the name of that religion. Overall, these factions are minorities, but they are loud, and they are aggressive, and they are violent. Like many in the Muslim community, Heathens are looking for ways to solve this problem, and protect their religious practice from the inevitable backlash, trauma and bad press.

Heathens Against Hate wrote:

The people in the churches and synagogues are not our enemies. The enemies are those who bring shame to our communities through reprehensible actions. Heathens Against Hate is thankful that the FBI thwarted the efforts of these men and that no one was injured. Issues such as this underscore the importance of In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.

Along with education and In-Reach prison services, Heathens have also been looking to become more active in the interfaith world. The Troth and the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry had their own booth at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. There were Heathen-specific workshops, and one group, the Urglaawe, maintained a healing altar.

Heathenry at the Parliament of the World's Religions [Courtesy Photo]

Heathenry at the Parliament of the World’s Religions [Courtesy Photo]

In its statement, Heathens United Against Racism wrote:

We call on all Heathens who feel as we do to join us in solidarity. We must all stand together for a truly hospitable, courageous, and honorable community against those who would twist the beliefs and ideas we hold dear into a hateful mockery of everything we, as Heathens, stand for.

Back in Virginia, two of the arrested men had their preliminary hearing Thursday, Nov. 12. As reported by the Roanoke Times, the men are being held without bond due to “their ties to a white supremacist group and potential danger to the community.” According to the report, the judge felt there was very “strong evidence” in the case and would not grant the defense any special conditions. The third man is schedule for a hearing today.


It was announced yesterday that Carl Llewellyn Weschcke had passed away on Nov. 7 at the age of 85. Carl was the Chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd, the “the oldest and largest publishers of New Age, Metaphysical, Self-Help, and Spirituality books in the world.” He was a pioneer in the publishing world, a student of metaphysics and an author, himself.

Carl was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota into a Roman Catholic family. However, his parents did not object to spiritual and metaphysical exploration. According to the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Wicca, his grandfather was the vice-president of the Theosophical society and gave him an astrological chart on his 12th birthday. His parents were vegetarian naturalists who believed in reincarnation. This early exposure led Carl to a life long interest in exploring the many concepts found in metaphysical, spiritual. occult and New Age practices.

In 1948, Carl graduated from the St. Paul Academy and went on to study business administration at Babson College. After graduating in 1951 and a brief time working in the family business, Carl went on to study law at LaSalle University and pursue a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota. At the same time, he also volunteered with the local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP.

Then, in 1961, life would present a new opportunity. Welsh astrologer Llewellyn George wanted out of his small mail-order publishing business. He sold it to Carl, who then moved it from its base in Los Angeles to a mansion home on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. According to sources, being a publisher was always his dream. Therefore, with that one business transaction, a new life journey was about to begin.

As owner of Llewellyn, Carl quickly channeled his energy into turning visions into reality. Not only did he increase the company’s output, but he also added audio and video recordings, as well as magazines. According to Rev. Selena Fox, Carl was one of the first to ever produce Pagan music recordings on the brand new “cassette tape technology.” He was a true pioneer during the infancy of a movement.

By the early 1970s, Carl became very public in his promotion and support of the growing Pagan community. Aside from his work at Llewellyn, Carl opened the Minneapolis-based Gnostica bookstore and Gnostica School, which sponsored its own newspaper. In 1971, he helped organize a local festival, which was initially called the “First American Aquarian Festival of Astrology and the Occult Sciences.” Later it was renamed “Gnosticon.”

In 1972, he was initiated into the American Celtic Tradition Witchcraft, through which he met his wife Sandra. In 1973, he helped organize the American Council of Witches and became its chairperson. Rev. Selena Fox added, “After the American Council of Witches disbanded, He referred Pentagon staff to me in crafting the updated version of the Witchcraft and Wicca section of the US Army Chaplain’s handbook in 1983.”

By the mid to late 1970s, Carl began to pull back from from public life. He closed the stores and stopped running festivals. Carl sold the mansion and moved his family to the country. He also relocated Llewellyn to its own dedicated facility in St. Paul. From that point forward, Carl kept himself in the background, devoting his energy to two things: his family life and Llewellyn. Through the 1980s and beyond, he managed to grow the publishing house into what it is today.

At the age of 85, surrounded by family, Carl passed away in peace. But he did not say goodbye before leaving behind a legacy of work and spirit that is unparalleled in scope.

Elysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor at Llewellyn said:

It’s a very somber day at Llewellyn Worldwide. Carl touched so many lives in so many ways, we will all keenly feel his loss. He was a visionary, the hardest worker I know, indefatigable, inspired, and inspiring. He had so much enthusiasm for all our books and authors, and more importantly, for the movement itself – raising people’s consciousness in the New Age that he believed in with all his heart. We are all deeply saddened.

Rev. Selena Fox met him first at Gnosticon in 1976. She said, “Carl’s legacy is immense. He was an pioneering leader in the quest for Pagan civil rights in the USA and beyond.” She added that he was an “innovating force,” adding, “I am thankful for his friendship and many contributions to consciousness studies, metaphysics, and Paganism.”

Rev. Fox and others will be sharing their memories of Carl on a special tribute program to air Wednesday night on the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. The show will be hosted by Rev Donald Lewis and Pamela Kelly. To date, the guests include Jason Mankey, Oberon Zell, and Ed Hubbard. More guests will be added to that list over the next day. The show will run for 3 hours from 7 pm – 10 pm CST.

Additionally, Carl’s family asks that any tributes be sent directly to Llewellyn at 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury MN, 55125. Or, guests can post messages on the Llewellyn blog. All of these tributes together will be placed on display at a private Gathering of Friends service to be held next week, as well as at a future public memorial service, which has yet to be scheduled.


Many generations of students and seekers have come along since those very early days when Carl first began his work. Even today, people peruse bookstores seeing the little crescent moon on book spines and devouring the many titles that have been published by Llewellyn over the years. Most of these readers are unfamiliar with Carl’s story and the tremendous impact that he made during the infancy of “New Age” publishing and Pagan culture.

In many ways, his life and his times are obscured by the endless book shelves standing in front of him. But ultimately that may be exactly what he wanted.

What is remembered, lives.

NEDERLAND, Col. – Nestled in the Rocky Mountains and resting at an elevation of 8,230 feet lies the small town of Nederland, Colorado. It was founded in 1874 by settlers who were attracted to the lowland valleys as a outpost for their trapping work. Eventually mining became the town’s sustaining business and, when that disappeared, tourism and farming took its place. But since the 1960s, the town has slowly attracted new types of residents, including artists, musicians, and those specifically interested in the great outdoors. Being only 17 miles southwest of Boulder, the town has thrived, while still retaining its unique small town feel.

[Courtesy H. Wendlhandt]

Rev. H. Wendlandt [Courtesy Photo]

Within this little town, there is a congregation called the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church (NCPC) led by Reverand Hansen Wendlandt. The congregation, like the town, has a long history beginning the with mining boom. The church building itself was erected in 1912 and is still being used today. Rev. Wendlandt, originally from Arkansas, describes how his religious beliefs are unmistakably merged with his love of the outdoors and the mountains of Colorado. In a bio, he writes, “Mountains have always made me feel small, but grand in the responsibility God gives us to steward all this creation. Whether it is through nature, or music, or arts, or gardening, or however you feel the Spirit alive …”

Rev. Wendlandt has served the NCPC community for only 2 and half years, but he is making quite an impact. Included in his personal devotion to service is a passion to help the community, both his congregation and the entire town of Nederland. With that in mind, he recently initiated a new program hosted by NCPC. He announced his concept in an article published in the Mountain-Ear, a local newspaper, Titled “Religiously Literate Citizens,” the article discusses the importance of religious literacy in an increasingly diverse world. He writes:

Religious illiteracy hurts our communities by creating distance; it hurts our political system when ignorance breeds fear; it hurts individuals who could otherwise explore on their own any spiritual ideas and practices for well-being. And to make matters worse, all of this has been magnified with each successive generation over the last century or so.

In that article, Rev. Wendlandt goes on to discuss the need to expose children to the religious beliefs of their neighbors, saying, “I believe it is time to do more for our young people, so that they can do more for our world.” He notes that there is remarkable religious diversity just in the small town of Nederland and added that, as children make their way into the bigger world, they will face even more difference. “We can help prepare them,” he writes.

Nederland Community Presbyterian Church

Nederland Community Presbyterian Church. [Courtesy Photo]

In an interview with The Wild Hunt, Rev. Wendlandt further explained that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for kids to learn about different religions – to become religiously literate. He said that he himself comes from a background of pluralism, and sees this type of education as essential for life.

So Rev. Wendlandt set out to create his own religious literacy program with lessons to be held each month. The program is aimed primarily at teens and pre-teens, and is open to anyone in the surrounding communities, not just his congregation. One Sunday each month, a period of time is set aside to teach and learn about a different belief system. Rev. Wendlandt wrote:

The plan is to have food associated with each religion, make the learning interactive and fun, look at sacred objects and texts, and have plenty of room for questions and conversation. There will be no persuasion or argument, just a chance for young people to grow.

For the first session, held Oct. 18, the Community Church welcomed Naveen, a follower of Hinduism. He brought food to share from Kathmandu, a local Nepalese restaurant. Rev. Wendlandt explained that he chose to begin with this particular religion due to the October festival of Navarati. He believes that the lessons are all the more richer if they coincide with a specific holiday.

For the second installment, held Nov. 1, the Church welcomed Kim Culver and Kimba Stefane, two local Pagans, to talk about Wiccan traditions. As with the Oct session, Wicca was chosen for this date so that the lesson coincided with the festival of Samhain.

Kim Culver and Kimba Stefane are part of a Nederland-based Wiccan group called The Five Weird Sisters. Culver is a local chef and herbalist. She has been practicing Wicca since 1976, when she lived in the Bay Area of California. She remembers the early days when Covenant of the Goddess was still forming. Stefane is the owner of the Blue Owl Bookstore, which sells a mix of items from books, jewelry, local art and music and some metaphysical supplies. It also serves as the local ice cream parlor. Both women are well-known in Nederland.

Joining Culver and Stefane in the Five Weird Sisters are Janette Taylor, Nancy Moon and Gail Eddy, all locals. In an interview, Culver explained that they each were practicing solitaries.Then, five years ago, the women began to meet for social outings and discussions, which eventually led to the formation of a group practice. In the past, the Five Weird Sisters have sponsored a public, annual Witch’s Ball, hosted open rituals and even orchestrated an spiral dance.Their next ball will be in October 2016.

Five Weird Sisters

Five Weird Sisters: (left to right) Janette Taylor, Kim Culver, Nancy Moon, Gail Eddy, and Kimba Stefane. [Courtesy Photo]

Rev. Wendlandt knew both Culver and Stepfane, and contacted them about participating in his religious literacy program. The two women agreed. Culver said that they saw this as a fun community opportunity and a great way of fulfilling the “service aspect of Wicca.”

The Nov. 1 session was held at 11 a.m. at NCPC. The women set up a table containing a number of religious items, which are typically used in Wicca. Culver said, “We touched on history, tools, magic, and beliefs..nothing too in-depth.” The lesson also included some traditional harvest foods and a hands-on project. The group made Fire Cider.

Since the program is directed at children, there were very few adults in the room. Culver said that Rev. Wendlandt wanted “to create a safe space for the children to learn” without adult interruption. And, he agreed saying that children are “less likely to ask questions” when adults are in the room. He wanted them to have the comfort of freedom to engage.

Culver described the participating children as being both surprised and fascinated. Laughing, she recalled that their first surprise came when she and Stefane arrived not wearing pointed hats and long robes. The children didn’t expect the visiting witches to be dressed in “normal” clothing. Rev. Wendlandt also noted how intrigued and enthusiastic the children were. He said that one nine-year old boy asked, “When did you know you were a witch?”

Of all of the presented topics, Culver believes that the history lesson provoked the most curiosity. This was particularly true when the women touched on the oppression of folk healers, in general, as well as the practitioners of old religions by the Roman Catholic Church. After it was over, Culver said that an adult women, who happened to be a Deacon at the local Catholic Church, approached her saying that she was shocked and had no idea about witchcraft persecutions. She said, “I’m so sorry. Please don’t hold that against us.”

Additionally, Culver noticed that “the young girls and even the women” were particularly surprised by the presence and even dominance of a Priestess. Culver said, “They were surprised that they could be in charge.” Rev. Wenderlandt used this moment to open a dialog about a woman’s role in other faith traditions. He asked the children, “Why do you think some religions don’t treat women this way?” He noted that a similar discussion had come up during the Hindu presentation, saying that these sessions are creating opportunities for extended discussions, and it’s the kids asking the questions.

Table with Wiccan religious items at the NCPC Church religious literacy lesson [Courtesy K. Culver]

The entire Wiccan lesson lasted for about an hour and a half. Culver said that the event was beneficial to the community, but also to herself and Stefane. She said, “The event reaffirmed my personal beliefs and made me think about who I am and who I project out into the community … It also made me realize that there are people out there who want to know, even if they don’t want to follow.”

She added that being in that church to share her religious beliefs with people, who she had thought would be closed-minded, “opened her heart.” Culver said that, after class, she and Stefane immediately went into the forest for an impromptu ritual, during which they “dug into their roots.” .

When asked if they have received any backlash or complaints, Culver said, “nothing really.” Rev. Wendlandt said the same. He has received nothing but support. In fact, next month, a local alternative high school will be sending its World Cultures Class to the Sunday session. And, he has even been asked to run a similar program for adults, to which he currently answers maybe.

Going forward, Rev. Wendlandt has scheduled a Jewish speaker for December in conjunction with Chanukah, and a Buddhist speaker for January. Beyond that, he is working on scheduling the rest of the year through May. He said that there are already plans to feature Islam, Humanism, possibly Catholicism and Mormonism, Eastern traditions and various Native American religions. Rev. Wendlandt added that he prefers to welcome local residents as speakers, which has its limits. Why locals? He said, “I want the kids to see their neighbors as diverse, not just the religions.” He wants the children to see these practices and people as normal, real and in their lives; rather than just concepts floating in space.

As for Culver and Stefane, they have decided to continue this outreach work. After witnessing the need for and interest in Rev. Wendlandt’s program, the two are now planning an independent interfaith potluck women’s group, during which people can share their religious beliefs. Culver also said that they might be doing another session at NCPC around Imbolc. She added, “This is a really good thing. There is a quest for this kind knowledge.”

Rev. Wendlandt said that his “religious literacy” program is really not very unique and that many small churches across the U.S. are doing the same thing. And, while it may not be well publicized, the trend is growing and this delights him. As he expressed in both the article and in conversation, “We’re in this life thing together. I hope these events can help our young people be a little more ready to make their lives and their world a bit more connected, peaceful and meaningful.”

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PENSACOLA, Fla – It was announced Tuesday that the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office (ECSO) had made progress in the July triple homicide dubbed the ‘Blue Moon’ murders. Donald Wayne Hartung Sr, age 58, was arrested the morning of Oct 27 for the murder of his mother Voncile ‘Bonnie’ Smith (age 76) and his two half brothers Richard Thomas Smith (age 49) and John William Smith (age 47). Hartung is being held in the Escambia County jail without bond.

pensacolaThe case, as originally reported, was labeled the ‘Blue Moon’ murders after Sheriff David Morgan linked the case to that week’s blue moon. He called the murder “ritualistic” and the scene “odd at best.” Additionally, during the Aug. 4 news conference, Morgan reported that the case was connected to Witchcraft, which set off a week-long international media frenzy.

Over the past three months, there has been no public updates on the investigation. Then, on Tuesday, ECSO announced Hartung’s arrest and, subsequently, held a press conference. According to the Sheriff Morgan, the crime scene was confusing with “significant forensic evidence.” This was corroborated by State Attorney Bill Eddins, who said that it was one of the “most complicated he’d seen in his career.” They both cited this factor as the reason for the delays in making an arrest and updating the public.

When asked more specifically about the motive, Sheriff Morgan said, “I don’t concern myself as much with motive, you know because again … from my area of this in law enforcement we don’t really care so much as to why they did it, as the fact that it did occur.”

Then, he was asked specifically about the ‘witchcraft’ motive, to which he said, “Yes, it is still in play.”  Although in this press conference, he himself did not use the term ‘witchcraft’ or any related words. Sheriff Morgan did, however, clearly note that there was evidence in the home that Hartung practiced Witchcraft, and that the suspect made statements supporting that evidence. ECSO would not release any more information, saying that the details will come out in court.

Later that same day, Sheriff Morgan gave an exclusive interview to the local ABC affiliate. In that video, Sheriff Morgan did use the word ‘witchcraft,’ saying “it is still an element of the case.” He elaborated, saying that investigators found “photos, items, physical evidence” suggesting the practice of Witchcraft. Those details along with the July 31 blue moon and the reported “self-admissions” are keeping the Witchcraft theory in play. This interview can be seen in full below.

Despite the arrest and news update, the alleged ‘Witchcraft’ connection still remains mystery to the public. As noted by Sheriff Morgan, there were two other possible theories being pursued as well. One involved R.T. Williams’ connection to the Department of Homeland Security, but that has since been dropped. The third is monetary, or “financial gains.”

Additionally, it is now being reported that the crime scene, originally called ‘ritualistic,’ was not at all staged suspiciously. According News 5, “investigators are now [saying] that the bodies were not found laid out in a ritual pattern. All three bodies were discovered in separate rooms of the house.”

Despite the changing details and downplaying of the ‘Witchcraft’ angle, the media is still working the ‘Occult’ angle, which may be partially due to the upcoming holiday. News reports are now calling the case “the Witchcraft murders.”

Regardless of motivation, it is entirely possible that the suspect did dabble in the Craft in some form. Books and online information are easily accessible to anyone. In fact, local News 5 is now reporting that the victims’ family members state that “Hartung ‘loosely’ practiced some form of witchcraft or Wiccan religion, and kept at least one Wiccan book in his office.” This may be what ECSO found.

We reached out to local Wiccan Priest Rev. Edward Livingston, who said, “[Hartung] is not part of the Pagan community to anyone’s knowledge…. I’ve never heard of him.” Livingston is the founder of the Fire Dance Church of Wicca, the only 501(c)3, Wiccan church in the area. He has lived there for 50 years and been active in the Pagan community for over 20.

Livingston described the Pensacola religious climate as very conservative. He said that it is dominated by the Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, and Pentecostal Churches. He added that there are two Jewish synagogues, a few Catholic churches, one Unity Church and one UU congregation. Due to this atmosphere, most Pagans remain “in the broom closet” and practice in small covens or alone. Livingston said, “We all know solitary practitioners that have never had any training. If it turns out to be this [is] the case maybe its once again a good reason for proper education within our community.”

1917403_177645989062_5187128_nWhen asked if there had been any backlash due to the very public ‘Witchcraft’ accusations, Livingston emphatically said “no.” As he explained, this is partly due to the solitary nature of most Pagans in the area. Additionally, he added  “[Most locals] saw this as our silly sheriff over speaking  He has a history for histrionics and over reaction.”

Livingston himself was outraged by the entire fiasco in August, both with ECSO and in the media. He also said that, to date, no one from ECSO has contacted him, or any other Pagan known to him, to assist with the case or clarify the details about Witchcraft or Wicca.

As announced Tuesday, the so-called ‘Blue Moon’ murder case has now been handed over the the State Attorney’s office, who will be seeking the death penalty due to the number of victims and the situation. Hartung is due in court for a Grand Jury hearing on Nov 18 at 8:30am.

Until the court case makes more details public, there are still questions remaining. Is there really any tangible connection to Witchcraft or Wicca? And, if so, is that Witchcraft connection truly the motivation behind the gruesome act? Or is it simply the religious practice of the suspect – an irrelevant, but very distracting, detail?

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As the days march closer to Oct 31, many of our communities are readying themselves for Samhain rituals and Halloween parties. But there are also some lesser known holidays being observed at this time. These holidays are equally as integral to the religious traditions of members of the Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist worlds. One of these is Allelieweziel – a twelve day festival celebrated by the Urglaawe community.

As Germanic lore passed down to us through Braucherei relates, Holle relinquishes her hold on the Year-Wheel and turns it over to [Wudan] and upon the doorstep of Allelieweziel/Halloween we recognize the Death of the Spiritual Year and the birth  of a certain darkness….of both the physical world and the spiritual world.” – Daniel Riegel, 2010 

Distelfink Kindred gathers for Allelweil / 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

Distelfink Kindred gathers for Allelieweziel 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

Urglaawe is a Heathen tradition that honors the “Teutonic pantheon in the context of the Deitsch (Pennsylvania German) culture.” In modern American society, this is often mistakenly described as the Pennsylvania Dutch, due partly to the English pronunciation of the word Deitsch. However, the region’s cultural development, and subsequently the Urglaawe tradition, find its roots in Germanic traditions. Over time, this unique community of people evolved its own distinct culture, language, and religious practice.

Part of this tradition was the magical and healing practices of Braucherei and Hexerei. The practitioners of which maintained an oral tradition that was handed-down through subsequent generations and has become the very heart of the modern Urglaawe tradition.

Allelieweziel is a fall harvest celebration on the Urglaawe spiritual calendar. Similar to Samhain, it marks the end of the year and beginning of the dark times. The holiday is based on both on the oral folklore traditions and continued cultural research. In the Urglaawe religion, festivals begin at sundown. As such, Allelieweziel begins the evening of Oct 30 and continues for 12 days. The final day, called Ewicher Yeeger Sege, is Nov 11.

Die Urglaawisch Sippschaft vum Distelfink, a Urglaawe Kindred based in Pennsylvania, brings its members together around this time to celebrate and observe this traditional festival. And, this year was no different. For practical reasons, Distelfink kindred met on Oct 25 in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania to begin their seasonal celebration. Robert L. Schreiwer said, “We had a lively discussion about the reality of death, the appreciation for the life we have, recognition of the uniqueness of each individual, and the advancement of human consciousness from lifetime to lifetime.”

Allelieweziel altar 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

Allelieweziel Hearth altar 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

Schreiwer is a trained practitioner of the Pennsylvania German healing tradition of Braucherei. He is one of the founders of the Heathen denomination of Urglaawe, the Ziewer (godsman) of Distelfink Sippschaft, assistant Steer for the Troth and manager of Heathens Against Hate. Schreiwer said, “We also talked about Gemietlichkeet that reflects a soul-satisfying joy emerging from a sense of belonging, and the honoring of those who have gone before.”

On the first day of Allelieweziel the transition begins from light to dark, with the twelve day festival occurring within a liminal space. According to the lore, as explained in numerous Urglawee publications, this is the time that the Goddess Holle takes her leave on The Wild Hunt. And, after she is gone, the figure of Ewicher Yeeger, sometimes associated with Holler or Herne the Hunter, protects the people and holds back King Frost.

But that’s a very condensed version of the rich and detailed mythology that has given way to s deep, modern spiritual practice. One of the features of Sunday’s Allelieweziel observance was the “Butzemann,” which is translated as “scarecrow.” Schreiwer explained that the Butzemann, ritually created in February, “is  stuffed with the remnants of the previous years crop, and is “born” to be the father of the coming year’s crop.” Through the year, the Butzemann stands guard over the land and protects the harvest. Then, during Allelieweziel, he is released from all duties and transforms into the embodiment of sacrifice for both family and land.

Schreiwer said, “The Butzemann also becomes a messenger. He is told (or is given papers upon which is written) the things we want or need to banish from our lives. We then show him the seeds that will create the coming year’s crops.” During the Allelieweziel ritual, the Butzemann is burned; his ashes are spread on the land and his spirit is free to “depart on the Wild Hunt.” Schreiwer added that the old lore also suggests that there are serious spiritual punishments for not burning the Butzemann or for stealing his clothes.

Examples of Butzemann 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

Examples of Butzemann 2015 [Photo Credit: Jennifer Milby]

The unique mythology of this region runs deep, and the Distelfink kindred, which became a 501c3 in 2011, is keeping the spirit of these old ways alive. There are now Urlgawe kindreds across the U.S. and two in Canada. There are also Facebook groups devoted to specific traditional practices once found in the old Pennsylvania Deitsch culture. As noted by Schreiwer, this includes the “Fiber Arts, Artisans, Culinary Arts, Herbalism, Musicians, Language, and Customs.”

During this year’s celebration and observance, the Distelfink kindred honored both Wudan and Holle. The ritual, which was partly spoken in the Pennsylvania Deitsch language, began with an “Intonation of the Runes” and then proceeded through “The Hallowing,” a statement of purpose, offerings, oaths, blessings and, finally, the burning of the Butzemann. Schreiwer noted that the “heart hex sign [above the altar] reflects the ‘goal of all love’ … in the context of the holiday.” But laughing Schreiwer added that this heart was only used because their customary hex sign got lost by FedEx on its way back from the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Utah.

Although many Pagans and Heathens must schedule group holiday celebrations around modern schedules, the actual marked calendar days may still bring private observances for individual practitioners. With that in mind, there is still time to burn a Butzemann and make the appropriate offerings. Like Samhain, Allelieweziel arrives this weekend and, for the followers of Urglawe, it marks the end of one year and beginning of another.

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fc2015Although it may be difficult for many to look past the upcoming holiday weekend, there are other exciting events occurring in early November. One of these is FaerieCon East 2015. As is advertised, “For nine years, FaerieCon has been a global destination for three days of workshops, panels and presentations and the Mythic Marketplace, called ‘the finest fantasy lifestyle shopping experience on the East Coast.”  The event is packed with fantasy and mythic arts, crafts & costumes, ancient wisdom teachings, best-selling authors, and tribal music.

Some of the presenters are well-known to many Pagan and Heathen communities, including David Salisbury, Raven and Stephanie Grimassi, Byron Ballard, Michael Smith, Chris Orapello, and others. Ballard said, “It’s a treat to travel up the Shenandoah Valley in the autumn and then arrive at FaerieCon. Last year was my first time there and I was warmly received and had a great time with old friends and new ones. After the intensity of the Samhain season, it feels like a real getaway to the forest and the wild. Now, if I can only score an 18th century wig for my Good Faery costume...”

This year’s musical guests include composer Einar Selvik of Wardruna, Faun, Martine Kraft, Adam Hurst and more. FaerieCon will be held from Nov. 6-8 at the Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore, Maryland.

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12047146_937974169611247_4627421155008959104_nLast week, Religion News Service (RNS) reported on the opening of a new hof in California. Located in the “foothills of the Sierra mountains,” the land and structure were purchased by the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) for the organization’s personal religious use. AFA reportedly raised $50,000 over a 3 year time span to fund the enormous project. The grounds include both indoor and outdoor ritual space. As noted by RNS, the hof “was inaugurated in early October with a blot … that included candles and prayers, fires and blessings, banners and sacred mead. About 80 people attended, some from as far away as Florida.” The RNS article quotes various AFA members about their Asatru traditions, the use of hof and other various aspects of modern Heathenry.

Since its publication, the RNS article has been picked up by a large number of news sites across the country. While it may be exciting to see Asatru and similar minority religions featured in mainstream news articles, not everyone was thrilled with this recent press. Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried, whose 2013 survey is cited in the article, described the RNS article an “ethically problematical piece.”

In response, Dr. Seigfried published his own very detailed article, in which he describes his interactions with the RNS writer before and after the article was published. With the help of a number of voices from the Heathen community, he challenges many of the writer’s claims including, for example, that this building is the first hof on American soil. Additionally, Dr. Seigfried demonstrates that, through the writer’s own admission, she did little research into both the backgrounds of modern Asatru and the AFA, showing a flippant disregard for any of the controversies surrounding its leadership.

Dr. Seigfried writes, “Editors of mainstream media outlets continue to assign articles on Heathenry to writers with no prior knowledge of the tradition or contacts in the various communities. This usually leads to questionable stories with some variation on “religion of Thor” in the title.” Dr. Seigfried is a vocal proponent of independent Pagan and Heathen journalism, and regularly watches mainstream media for its treatment of Heathenry and other minority religious practices.

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Jeanine De Oya, Selena Fox, Don Lewis, Linda Isles [Courtesy Photo]

Directly after the Parliament of the World’s Religions was over, the Correllians held their Lustration of the Living ritual in Salt Lake City, Utah. As noted by Chancellor and First Priest Rev. Donald Lewis, “This had been envisioned as a small private ritual for the Correllians at the Parliament, but we ended up being joined by many friends!”

During the ritual, the Correllians presented a number of awards. The Order of Tchalv was given to Rev. Selena Fox for her devotion and life’s work. Rev. Lewis writes, “What words can you use to honor someone who has done so much to benefit the spiritual community and the world at large?” The Order of the Round Table was presented to Rev. Jeanine DeOya with the African American Wiccan Society, and to Arch Priestess Linda Isles with the Isian Triad Union. Both women were honored for the work that they do within their traditions, organizations and communities.

Rev. Lewis also said that more Correllian announcements are to come with the upcoming publication of his full report. Congratulations to Fox, DeOya and Isles!

In Other News:

  • The American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting will be held in Atlanta, Georgia from Nov. 21-24. As noted on AAR’s website, the meeting brings together “thousands of professors and students, authors and publishers, religious leaders and interested laypersons… the Annual Meetings are the largest events of the year in the fields of religious studies and theology.” According to AAR, 10,000 people attended last year’s meeting, which hosted over 900 sessions. Many Pagans attend the AAR meeting. Read past articles for details on that experience. For those interested in attending, all registration information is currently the AAR website.
  • While Samhain is still in the air, some Pagans are already preparing for Solstice. A Canadian group has just launched the “Solstice Dispatch Service.” Organizers say, “Write a letter to the Oak King and tell him of your hopes and dreams for the coming year!” The group has a Facebook page as well as a website. Children (and adults) can send their letters to the Oak King and have them answered. This is similar to the traditional Christmas Dear Santa services.
  • In the most recent issue of Pagan Dawn, there is an article reviewing a new book that will be available in 2016. This unique book is titled Of Shadows: 100 objects from the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Written and produced by Simon Costin and Sara Hannant, the book provides a vivid overview of the contents of the famous Boscastle museum. Its introduction was written by scholar and author Ronald Hutton. According to the Museum, the book with run for “£20 paperback and £30 hardback.” Want to read the review and see a preview? Pagan Dawn is the official magazine of the Pagan Federation and can be ordered online through the PF’s website.
  • As noted on the Bad Witch’s Blog, the speakers for the “Seriously Bewitched” symposium have been officially announced. As noted previously, this one-day symposium is sponsored by the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP). It seeks to “examine the subject of witchcraft, both ancient and modern, from a range of perspectives.” The newly announced speakers include: Dr. Helen Cornish, Mark Norman, Bekie Bird, Charmaine Sonnex, Ethan Doyle White, and Deborah Hyde. Seriously Bewitched will be held at Goldsmith’s College, in New Cross, South London, on 28 November. More details are available on the event’s website.
  • Blogger Sannion of The House of Vines has just announced the upcoming publication of a brand new book of Dionysian poetry titled End to End. Sannion writes, “If you’ve enjoyed the poems I’ve been sharing here at the House of Vines I hope you’ll check out my forthcoming book … of which they are a selection.” The book’s description reads: “In this collection of inspired Dionysian poetry, H. Jeremiah Lewis blurs the boundaries of the mythic and mundane, the personal and the divine, the familiar and the unheimlich. Narratively flowing in and out of time, and roaming from dark urban alleys to the ancient shores of Greece and Italy, End to End explores the ever-changing concepts of memory and identity, serving as a guide to those who might seek this strangest of gods, Dionysos, and how he walks among us.”  End to End will be released through Sannion’s Nysa Press, and will join his growing list of published works. However, at this point, no release date has been provided. Stay tuned to his blog for further updates.

That is it for now. Have a great day!

Only 7 days left! Support The Wild Hunt. Donate to the Fall Fund Drive.

[Only 8 days left in the Fall Fund Drive! Be part of the team who keeps The Wild Hunt going for the next year. We are a completely reader-funded, nonprofit independent news journal. We are your source of commentary and news. Share our link and donate today! Thanks.]

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions is now over. As you have heard both here and in other places, the event, which began on Thursday, Oct 15, ended this past Monday, Oct 19. The official numbers have been released. The Parliament was attended by 9,806 people representing 30 religions with 548 sub-traditions. The following article contains a series of news notes and links, ending with a short editorial, to help wrap-up and provide a taste of what exactly happened.

Opening Fire Ceremony at 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

The early morning opening fire ceremony conducted by local Indigenous groups. The fires were tended and kept lit for the entire conference / 2015 Parliament. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]


Following the 2015 Parliament, the Board of Trustees elects and names the next Board. This year, it was announced that the new Vice Chair-elect would be EarthSpirit’s co-founder, Andras Corban-Arthen. He said, “I’m very honored, of course, at being elected Vice-Chair, particularly because of the trust it implies on the part of my fellow trustees. I think we have an excellent new governance team, led by Chair-elect Dr. Robert Sellers, whom I greatly respect.” Sellars, as we previously reported, is a Baptist minister from Texas, who has shown great interfaith leadership and, specifically, positive support for Paganism and other minority religions.

Corban-Arthen, who has attended every Parliament since 1993, added, “There are some interfaith organizations that cater only to mainstream religions. The Parliament, from the beginning, has not only encouraged participation by members of minority religions, but also has included some of us in leadership positions — Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and I have all served as trustees and officers of the Parliament.”

For the 2015 Parliament, Curott took lead on producing the inaugural Woman’s Assembly held on Thursday, Oct 18. The all-day event included workshops and large panels focusing on global issues facing women today, from education and violence; to leadership and building support structures. Curott spoke during the first assembly session saying, “The world’s religions cannot continue to allow the denigration of half of humanity.”

The Women’s Assembly not only provided a full day of focus on women’s issues, but it also inadvertently caused what some would term a “teachable moment” for the Parliament as a whole. On Thursday evening, after the final assembly sessions were over, the Parliament opened in earnest with its very first plenary. After a stately and impressive processional and drumming session led by local Utah indigenous groups, the audience became quiet as eight men, all wearing dark suits, took the stage to open the event. It was reported that, at some point early on in the plenary, a number of audience members stood up and yelled, “Where are the women?”

Four of the eight male presenters at the opening ceremony. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Four of the eight male presenters on stage at the opening ceremony / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

That message got through to the Board of Trustees and conference organizers. In fact, the Parliament posted and tweeted out the following Atlantic article titled, “The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical.” In it, mathematician Greg Martin explains how it is “statistically impossible” for conferences to have a speaking panel of all men, and that the under-representation of women on such panels can only be accomplished through calculated choice.

In other news, the local Sikh community, who organized and served Langar each day, announced that they had donated a total of 3,800 pounds of uneaten food, equal to 3,166 meals. The logistics of this size donation were difficult, but the community was aided by the Utah Food Bank. The donation, together with the daily Langar meals, are two ways in which the Sikh community gives service.

Where does the Parliament go from here? Corban-Arthen is chair of the site selection committee and said, “Now that Salt Lake City is over, we have a lot of work immediately ahead of us to choose the host city for the next Parliament.” While he can’t offer anymore than that, the event will not be held in the United States. So Americans need to get their passports in order. Typically, the model has been to host the event every five years putting the next Parliament in 2020. However, there reportedly was an announcement that the Board is shifting to a new model that will allow the Parliament to be hosted every 2 years. However, no site or plans have been announced. Stay tuned and ready your passport.

Notes and Links

During the Pagans at the Parliament gathering, Angie Buchanan stood up to thank everyone for attending. Buchanan is former trustee and member of the site selection committee. Buchanan was instrumental is coordinating efforts for Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, acting as both a welcoming face and advocate for their presence. In retrospective, she said, “The most important part in determining the success of an event resides in the seed planted in the hearts of those who participate, and in what they will nurture that seed to become. It may be too soon to tell but it feels as though the seeds of a forest have been planted by the Parliament in Salt Lake City.”

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Since the Parliament ended, a number of videos, photographs and writings have surfaced, which suggest that Buchanan was correct. Seeds have been planted.

More highlights, photos, videos and discussions will emerge over the next month, including the video recording of The Goddesses Alive! performance that was featured in a previous article. To keep up with the growing number of reflections, readers can visit the Pagans at Parliament 2015 Facebook group, which has been made public.

Along with the opening plenary, as linked in the news section above, a number of other recordings have been posted either on the PWR website and in various social media locations. The official videography team recorded and has made available all the plenaries, which covered the following topics: WomenIndigenous Peoples; Climate ChangeWar Violence and Hate Speech; Income Inequality and Emerging Leaders. Please be aware that the links provided above may only be to the first half of the recorded plenary. Look through the list to ensure that there is not a second part available.

Within several of these plenaries, readers may notice familiar faces. Notably, in the emerging leaders category, EarthSpirit’s Donovan Arthen addressed the crowd. Around minute mark 39:45, Arthen takes the stage. He describes how he grew up attending Parliaments with his parents, and how that experience planted the seeds for his own understanding about interfaith work. After a brief talk, Arthen then leads the entire room in ritual sound experience.

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

The Pagan and Heathen presence at the Parliament was very notable. One anonymous attendee said, “Pagans rocked the Parliament.” Another attendee, Audrey Galex, who is content director for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting, said “I am so happy to see such a large Pagan representation in both attendance and presentations.” And, Circle Sanctuary member Casey Burke Pope reported that the teachers of the Religions 101: Islam class mentioned Paganism multiple times. In one instance, a speaker said, “Pagans need to be heard,” adding “we may not agree with them, but they need to be heard.” Pope recalled, “It was surprising and nice to be recognized.”

Pagans and Heathens participated in a number of activities and presentations, including the first ever Parliament chorus. The group sang “Songs for the Earth: A Cantata in Praise of this Earth.” Look closely in the sea of faces for friends.

This list of contributions and interactions is endless. The takeaways for Pagans and Heathens, and from Pagans and Heathens, are seeds as Buchanan suggested. In retrospect, Corban-Arthen said:

I am delighted that the Parliament was such a great success, and that so many more pagans attended than ever before. When we come right down to it, what the Parliament does – by bringing together so many people from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives – is to provide the opportunity for meaningful, important experiences, be they spiritual, cultural, artistic, political, or just plain social. Those experiences, in turn, can induce profound changes in people, and motivate us to work together for the common good, despite whatever differences we may have. That, above all, is what I hope those pagans who attended will take home.

And, Buchanan added, “I look forward to seeing the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions prosper and grow the interfaith movement into something that changes the world for the better. If ever there was more important work for Pagans to be involved in, I don’t know what it would be.”

Editorial, from Wild Hunt editor Heather Greene

I could not conclude any write-up about the Parliament without sharing a little bit of my own experience. Walking around the Salt Palace, I was passed by so many people representing so many different backgrounds; speaking so many different languages and having so many different beliefs. The doors of opportunity to learn were blown wide-open and the interior spaces were thoroughly inviting. While I have never lived in a fully closeted way, I did note the feeling of freedom to be openly Pagan without any reservation in speaking authentically to anyone, including my own community members.

The five days were filled with both learning, listening, hearing and teaching. Outside of reporting for The Wild Hunt, I also participated in the Goddesses Alive! performance; sat on an excellent panel about the Pope’s encyclical with John Halstead, Sylvia Linton and Andras Corban-Arthen; assisted Circle Sanctuary with a beautiful healing ritual, and attended a delightful dinner bringing together Evangelical Christians and Pagans. The days were busy, to say the least. Other personal highlights included visiting the United Religions Initiative space; listening to the entirety of the Women’s Assembly; seeing the famous Mormon Tabernacle buildings; meeting a host of amazing new people and talking to old friends; sitting quietly in the Hindu religious space and Sunday night’s rousing spontaneous sacred singing session.

Circle Sanctuary’s healing altar. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

When I returned home, I reflected on all that had happened over those five days. At times the tears fell and, at other times, I couldn’t help but smile. Then, I realized what was so unique about the Parliament; what had touched me in such a profound way. I had felt very comfortable in the extreme diversity of human experience and belief. I not only felt safe, but I also felt invigorated. And, it reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the urban outskirts of New York City. The building in which I lived contained the same level of extreme cultural diversity. We even held a yearly party, which could have been mistaken for a purposeful multicultural celebration. So, at the Parliament, I felt at home.

What The Parliament of the World’s Religions offers us directly is education by providing the safe space to share, discuss, debate and learn. At the same time, the Parliament offers something indirectly that is just as valuable, if not more; something that I received growing up in that building and something that Donovon Arthen mentioned in his plenary talk. It is exposure. Through the Parliament we are exposed to the basic humanity that lies beneath all of the differences holding us apart. And, simultaneously, our own humanity is exposed. We eat together; we laugh; we walk; we clap, smile and sing. And, then, we all go to sleep and start again the next day. Through participating in this level of true human interaction, we find a way to stop thinking of our differences as obstacles, and start seeing them as a beautiful, curious details inviting us to the dance.

This is how the Parliament of the World’s Religions can save the world. Like the Olympics, the Parliament is a global stage. However unlike the Olympics, which is centered around competition, commerce and plagued by political controversy, the Parliament just aims to be a safe space of interaction and exposure. Whether you sit and simply watch people come and go, or attend a full day worth of sessions, you are exposed to a world of color. And, that alone is worth the price of admission.

The only unfortunate part is that the Parliament speakers are, to coin a phrase, “preaching to the choir” in many instances. The attendees aren’t necessarily the ones that need to hear the messages spoken and witness that humanity. However, the experience is still invaluable, inspiring and life changing. And, going back to Buchanan’s quote, perhaps the seeds that we all took away, and those that we planted, will germinate, grow and expand outward into our extended communities. And, with each passing Parliament, the messages will thrive and eventually cover the world over.

“May the roots grow deep and the branches spread wide. May it provide shelter and strength, wisdom and sustenance. May it remain a peaceful sanctuary, a cathedral of healing, an institution of learning, and the voice that encourages and reminds us to do better, to be better, every single day.” – Angie Buchanan

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