Archives For Heather Greene

[Here are this week’s Pagan Community Notes!  Each Monday we feature events, book releases, and important news stories coming out of our collective Pagan and Heathen communities. If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. We are now at 42% with 12 days left. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a platform for our communities’ important news. Donate today.]


SUMTERVILLE, Fla. – Oberon Zell announced Oct. 19 that his son Bryan David Zell had died after a long battle with multiple health problems, including pancreatitis, diabetes, and liver failure. Bryan was born Sept. 19, 1953,, and grew up in and around his father and eventually his stepmother’s work , just as the Pagan community was beginning to grow. Zell described his son as a “Pagan and a Pirate.”  He said,”Bryan was a magickal child, and he always maintained an altar. He would find interesting-looking rocks and identify them as having magickal functions, such as making rain, snow, or other things he determined from their markings.”

At 18, Bryan joined the Army, after which he traveled and worked with his family. In 2001, he graduated from Mendocino Community College located in Ukiah, California with a degree in geriatric nursing. Shortly after, he moved to Florida and got a job working with the TSA in Orlando, a job that Zell called “miserable.” He believes it contributed to his son’s worsening condition.

By 2015, Bryan’s various illnesses had overtaken him and, in December of that year, he was hospitalized.  As time passed, the situation only worsened.  Bryan was eventually placed in hospice care.  The morning of Oct. 19, Zell posted on Facebook, “We discovered that the consecrated blue ‘Dreamwalker’ candle we had burning for Bryan on the ancestor altar had gone out. I tried to relight it, but the wick wouldn’t ignite. I said to Anne, ‘I can’t seem to relight it.’ She replied, ‘Perhaps you don’t need to.’ And we knew.”

Bryan died peacefully the night of Oct. 18. Zell said that he felt the passing and that Bryan’s “beloved stepmother had come to carry him home.” Zell also recounted that an owl had visited Bryan’s room at the time of his death. Zell believes this to be a family familiar that had lived with them when his son was young. Zell added, “Let these memories lessen grief.”

Pagan priestess Doreen Lavista was able to give him his last rites. Zell said that Bryan will be cremated and his ashes will be present at the Nov. 4-6 Samhain retreat at Annwfn. The retreat will include a memorial service and a telling of stories. Bryan is known among his friends as a kind and loving soul. What is remembered, lives.

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WASHINGTON – The Firefly House has been invited to appear as a guest on the ABC affiliate talk and news program Good Morning Washington Oct. 31. Author David Salisbury, co-coordinator of the Firefly House, will be joined by member Caroline Gould. Salisbury said, “The main focus is on modern Witchcraft as practiced in Washington D.C. and also a little bit on how Witches celebrate Halloween religiously, and also perform some type of ritual.” The goal, Salisbury said, is to “educate the masses.”

But that is not the only public relations effort that members of the Firefly House will be making this Halloween season. The group’s annual dumb supper will be attended by local news website the DCist. The organization’s sixth annual dumb supper will be held later that same evening of Oct. 31.

If you want to watch Salisbury and Gould on morning show, the ABC broadcast will be live-streamed through the affiliate’s website, and for those who can’t watch live, clips should be available later in the day.  We will update this story in our next edition of Pagan Community Notes.

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Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

WISCONSIN –  There are now more Pagans on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Religious Advisory Committee. This is big step forward for Pagan chaplains working in prison ministry in the state.  According to Rev. Selena Fox, who has been involved in this type work for decades, “[This committee] advises the Wisconsin Department of Corrections on religious accommodation issues involving state prison operations.”  The more Pagans, Heathens, and people of minority religions serving on such committees, the better understood the practice of such religions is, and the more likely accommodations will be considered and appropriately granted.

According to the report, the committee now has three members who follow a Pagan tradition. The members include Fox, Dianne Duggan (Minerva) and Wade Mueller.  Rev. Fox has been serving on the committee since 2001, while the other two were just appointed. While Duggan is a Circle Sanctuary member, Mueller is not; he is a member of the group Deeply Rooted.

Duggan and Mueller have already attended their first meeting, and Rev. Fox said that she is glad to have them on board.

In Other News

  • After the first round of formal decisions went out for PantheaCon’s 2017 presentation selections, there was brief outcry as many regular presenters were not given a space. Speculation as to why was rampant. TWH spoke directly with both PantheaCon founder and director Glenn Turner. When asked about any changes in the decision process, she confirmed that nothing had indeed changed, and that the organization is simply ensuring fresh programming and providing space to new presenters. Turner said, “We have always welcomed new presenters; many published authors have started as PantheaCon speakers. In order to make room for new faces, as we have grown, we’ve needed to rotate out some excellent presenters and welcome them back in future years.” This year PantheaCon will be held Feb. 17-20.
  • The Druid College UK will be opening its application process Oct. 31 for the next set of year one classes, to begin in October 2017. Co-founder, tutor and author Joanna van der Hoeven explained, “We are opening for applications a full year in advance to allow for more flexible payment arrangements.” Now in its second year, the college “provides a three year non-accredited course in studying the tenets of the earth-based spirituality known as Druidry.” It is the sister school of the U.S.-based Druid College in Maine. The college has also announced that it has a new location: classes will be held at Messing Village Hall in the Essex countryside.
  • Blogger, lawyer and tarot reader Benebell Wen has released a new book titled The Tao of  the Craft. According to her website, the book “reveals the rich history and theoretical principles underlying the ancient practice of crafting Fu talismans, or magical sigils, in the Chinese Taoist tradition.” This is Wen’s second book.
  • In other book news, Red Wheel/Weiser has begun its third annual Wicked Wonders Giveaway. The winner receives a “tote bag filled with books by Weiser authors Judika Illes, John L. Steadman, Courtney Weber, Crystal Judy Hall and others. The winner will also receive a galley copy of Love Magic written by author and blogger Lilith Dorsey.” Entries are being accepted through Oct. 31.
  • TWH journalist and filmmaker Dodie Graham McKay was involved in project that resulted in a film titled Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees. As explained on the website, the film is a “documentary featuring scientist and acclaimed author Diana Beresford-Kroeger. [It] follows Diana as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests. Her global journey explores the science, folklore, and restoration challenges of this essential eco-system.” Currently the film is only being screened in Winnipeg and Sarnia. It will be released on a wider scale in the months to come.  Here is the trailer:

Call of the Forest – Theatrical Trailer from Treespeak Films

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UPDATE 10/24 4:06pm: This article was updated with additional information about Bryan Zell as provided directly by his father Oberon Zell. 

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 13th annual Nashville Pagan Pride Day (NPPD) event was visited by three Christian street preachers who call themselves Nashville Saints. The men arrived at the Two Rivers Park with bibles, signs, and a bullhorn. They proceed to shout at the attendees for several hours before they finally left.

Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016 [Courtesy NPPD]

Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016 [Courtesy NPPD]

According to organizers, this was the first time that Nashville Pagan Pride Day had attracted this type of attention. “There were three of them,” said Rev. Mary Hawk, is the local co-coordinator for the event as well as the president and secretary for NPPD Inc. “I had a part in main ritual, and they showed up while I was busy with that.”

Rev. Hawk is a longtime volunteer and attendee at NPPD. She has been part of the event since its early days in 2003 when it was still at one of two local Unitarian churches. In 2015, the organization moved the event to Two Rivers Park, because they had outgrown the indoor church space.

Rev. Hawk said that this year they saw their biggest crowd yet, topping at 739 guests.

This fairly recent change in location and the event’s growth may explain why it had yet to see any type of protesters. Rev. Hawk said, “My daughter who was present tells me that she has seen this group on Second Ave. (a major Nashville tourist destination) yelling out the same sort of stuff to everyone passing by.”

That is true. The three men make up a local street preaching group that labels itself the Nashville Saints. They are regulars in the area and travel around the Southeast with their bullhorn and signs.

Quentin Deckard is one of the two main speakers. He calls himself Saint Quentin and says that he is “Disciple of Jesus Christ.” As he explains on his Facebook page: “Who I was before this point in my life is irrelevant.” He was joined by two other men identified as Marvin Heiman and Tim Baptist.

As reported by Rev. Hawk and others, the park police escorted the three men through the event one time. “After that tour up and down the length of vendor row, they remained at the front of the event, between our welcome table and the line for the food vendor,” notes Rev. Hawk. Yelling the entire time, the men walked slowly through the space, carrying their backpacks, a sign, bibles, several cameras, and a unused bullhorn.

Their entire walk can be seen in the above 40-minute video taken by the men themselves, as well as in a Facebook live video shot by Deckard. Many Pagan onlookers also recorded videos. Ariel Marie Barnes and Carria Woodburn posted their videos on the Nashville PPD event page.

Attendees reacted to the street preachers in different ways. Some tried to reason with them, and even tried to shake their hands. Rev. Hawk said, “I approached them to ask if they would care to donate to Second Harvest Food Bank (one of our designated charities) but they totally ignored me and continued ranting.”

One woman circled them with a smudge stick and, as can be seen in the longer video, another appears to have circled them with salt. As the men walked by, Rev. Hawk and others joined their voices in a chant of “We all come from the Goddess.”

Rev. Hawk said said that a few people were very upset by the presence of the street preachers. However, most thought “it was hilarious.” She said that there were people surrounding them at all times. “At one point, the protesters yelled, ‘You are all going to die.’ Several people yelled back, “Well, so are you!'”

Lucia Jameson, one of the other event coordinators and the vice president of NPPD Inc. agreed, saying, “Most of [our attendees] treated the religious bullies as free entertainment and took the opportunity to mock them a bit.

“One attendee wearing a jester’s cap, black and red pants, and black-and-red arm bracers decided to mimic every move of the main yeller. […]  A young lady and her girlfriend shared a kiss in front of them and them skipped past them, holding hands and shouting ‘We’re Pagan and we’re gay!'”

Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016 [Courtesy NPPD]

Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016. The man in the jester’s cap can also be seen in Carria Woodburn’s video. [Courtesy NPPD]

Jameson added that there was no way to fully shield attendees or keep people away from the street preachers. The crowd was too large. She added, “Primarily I tried to make sure that our attendees knew not to physically touch them no matter what they said. [The protesters] weren’t leaving until they got enough video to post and our folks were not going to ignore them while they were screaming.”

However the coordinators did get help from the park police. Rev. Hawk said, “Metro Parks requires that anyone holding an event in a park pay for Metro Park Police to provide security.”

“[Officers] did closely monitor the situation,” continued Rev. Hawk. “[They] explained what we had to allow legally and saw to that that protesters stayed with in those bounds. I cannot speak highly enough of their work at NPPD, especially Lt. Houston Taylor.”

TWH reached out to the Metro Park Police, but they did not respond in time for publication.

Nashville PPD [Courtesy NPPD]

Metro Police talking to street preachers at Nashville Pagan Pride Day 2016 [Courtesy NPPD]

Jameson said, “The police were there the for the entire event. I spoke when them several times throughout the day. They were very helpful, keeping an eye on the incident as it unfolded. They were ready to intervene as necessary.”

In the end, the street preachers only stayed for a reported two hours, after which, Jameson said, the street preachers began to get hoarse. She explained that they could not use their bullhorn. “That may have contributed to their departure.”

Rev. Hawk speculated that a dwindling audience also contributed to their short stay. She said, “Our main entertainment, a concert by Rowena of the Glen, started. Most of those watching [the protesters] left to hear the concert.”

Despite the disruption and the shouting, NPPD saw its most successful year yet. As Rev. Hawk and Jameson both reported, the organization raised collected 369 pounds of food and $148 in cash for Second Harvest Food Bank, and 267 pounds of dog and cat food, plus treats, miscellaneous items and $230 in cash for the Middle Tennessee Pet Food Bank. The organization also raised $230 in cash for the school at the NoDAPL camp in North Dakota.

Jameson said, “Both our vendors and attendees were pleased overall with the event and let us know that they are looking forward to next year.” With that said, she added that the NPPD committee will be discussing what happened. “Based on the events this year we are looking at what we can do to have better control if a similar incident occurs next year.”

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“For anyone trying to carve out space in this world while creating the world we want to come…sometimes it is overwhelming. It feels like the floodwaters are rising, sweeping away supports, tugging the mind and body downward, until a person drowns.” – T. Thorn Coyle, from On Suicide in the New Belle Époque

ATLANTA, Ga. – Suicide. It lingers around in the shadows affecting people from all walks of life in all parts of the world. A 2016 report from Centers for Disease Control show that suicide is on the rise and considered the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2000, the U.S. rate was 10.4 and in 2014 the suicide rate was 13.1 per 100,000 individuals. Demographically speaking, the biggest shift was in the age group 45-65, which increased by nearly seven percentage points over the same time period.

According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. number is higher than the global rate, which is 11.4. Putting that into perspective, the republic of Korea has the highest rate at 36.8, and Saudi Arabia has the lowest at 0.3. The U.K. is recorded at 7.0; Australia 11.6; Canada 11.4; South Africa 2.7; and Brazil 6.0. No country or region is immune.

There are currently no statistics on suicide attempts. However, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  reports that for every suicide there are 25 attempts. Additionally, there is much variation, even just in the U.S., in how assisted suicides affect the above statistics.


[public domain]

Beyond the numbers and outside of physician-assisted suicides or those cases in which a fatal illness provokes the choice, the many factors leading to suicidal thoughts can be crippling. It is often overwhelming and unstoppable. When an attempt is successful, loved ones are left asking why. What could we have done better? What could we have said? Often the death or the attempt is kept quiet, and brushed under the rug.

In the past several years, we’ve reported on a number of situations in which suicide affected Pagan communities. In 2001, Tempest Smith, a Pagan child from Michigan, died by suicide after experiencing years of bullying. Last year, Elain Morria spoke to us about her suicide attempt:

“I knew coming out as transgender was going to cause me pain thanks to the small fearful minds of people who have never walked in my shoes […] I took enough medication to kill me several times over. Posted my goodbye figuring nobody would even see it until at least a couple of hours after I was already dead and then went and laid down in my bed. I closed my eyes and curled up…”

Then, just last week, it was discovered that Seb Barnett, a beloved member of the Seattle Pagan and art communities, had died by suicide. Friends have since launched a funding campaign to honor Seb’s final wishes.

Now one Pagan woman in Georgia has decided that she doesn’t want to be a statistic, and is hoping that her own experiences with depression and suicide will help others.

“It is OK to talk about this,” explained Tara Denison, a 41-year old eclectic Witch from Atlanta, Georgia. “There is already so much judgment out there. Suicide knows no race, gender or age. It affects all of us.”

Denison is originally from Vancouver, Canada, and has fought depression as long as she can remember. “The first time I can remember feeling suicidal was pre teen. […] I went to multiple psychologists, therapists, doctors; nothing fully made me feel OK. Some times were better than others, and [the depression] just continued to grow as I did.”

Her first suicide attempt was as a teen. She consumed a “bottle of booze and a bottle of Tylenol,” after which she woke up very sick. “Being a teen was a hard time for me. I self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. I never felt like I fit in; I was always the weird kid and lashed out by fighting.”

Denison added, “As long as I stayed high or drunk the [suicidal] thoughts mostly stayed away until I was coming down off the drugs, then I would tell myself how stupid and worthless I was. Then, I got into a very unhealthy abusive relationship in my late teens which just fed my demons of my self-worth. ‘I was a piece of crap.’ Now not only was I saying it, I had someone else telling me too.”


Tara Denison [Courtesy Photo]

Denison said that she can’t pinpoint when it all started or what specifically led her down this road. It is just always there, she said. When asked how her depression felt, she called it a “place where you don’t want to live, no matter what.”

“You feel so alone and lost,” she explained. “I feel so out of control and really the best I can say is that it is almost a out of body experience. You can’t think logically. You are thinking about how you will affect others or how you are affecting others; you are in this bubble of personal hell that you can’t escape from.”

Over the years, Denison has reached out for professional help. She’s been on medication and through therapy, both of which helped “stop the suicidal thoughts.” However, these methods never prevented the “major bouts of depression.”

She said, “The pills would work for a while then stop working, so I felt like I was on so many pills in a short amount of time. I started to feel hopeless. I didn’t want to tell anyone, I didn’t want to live anymore because I was ashamed I felt like that. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my friends or family.”

At that point, Denison got pregnant with her daughter, which saved her for a while. But, as she said, the depression eventually “made its way back.” In fact, just last year, she wound up in the hospital, after yet another suicide attempt.

She had been crying for days and hadn’t showered in a week. She shared: “I had got the bottle of medication ready to take. […] I felt so out of control. I am a self-harmer in the sense that I scratch and pick my skin ’til it bleeds, I had scratched my neck so it was bleeding. […] I just wanted it to go away. I wanted to go to sleep to stop the hurt, the thoughts, the pain. I wanted to hit myself to stop the thoughts in my head telling me how worthless I am, why no one loves me, why I have no friends, why my family would be better off without me.”

Fortunately, a good friend saw what was coming and immediately called Denison’s husband, who came home and took her to hospital.

But even so, this was not the last time. Just two months ago, Denison overmedicated once again. She said, “I was in that moment, I was sick of crying; I was sick of feeling this. I was sick of my kids and husband seeing me like this. I just wanted to go to sleep. I do have a crisis plan in place but I chose to ignore it that night. I took about 6 prescription pills that help me sleep but I woke up.”

However, when she woke up this time something had changed in her. She decided it was time to speak out.

“When I came out of the hospital I decided to post about it because people asked where I had been since I am a pretty active poster online. I got a ton of messages from people saying they suffer as well but didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. I also had people saying they didn’t understand depression or couldn’t relate to how I was feeling, why couldn’t I just snap out of it. From then on I decided to be as vocal as possible.”

Denison added that she has now seen too many people suffering. As a result, she has will devote her time to making a difference. “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to live like this,” Denison explained.

“To think that there are so many people suffering like me out there makes me fight. So many people don’t know how to go about getting help. I want to be there to help them through it and help be their voice.”

Team Denison

Team Denison [Courtesy Photo]

Denison and her family have recently joined the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the American Foundation for the Suicide Prevention (AFSP). According to the AFSP website, “The community walks created a movement. Held in hundreds of cities across the country, they give people the courage to open up about their own struggle or loss, and the platform to change our culture’s approach to mental health.” These community and campus walks also serve as a fundraiser for the organization, supporting its many educational and advocacy programs.

Denison admits that, at first, this “coming out” of sorts was difficult. “I was very embarrassed about it  […] ‘Oh yeah she is crazy; she tried to kill herself.’ I know people will think like that but that is why I think this needs to be talked about so much more. Mental health in itself needs to be talked about.”

When asked what the biggest misconception about suicide and depression was, she said, “That people do it for attention or that they are weak. No one who says they are going to kill themselves is doing it for fun. […] They are screaming for someone to grab their hand and help them.

“Suicide is a terrible thing. Anytime someone is successful it breaks my heart, not only for that person because I know the hopelessness they felt at that moment, but now the family and friends are left to pick up the pieces. ”

As for Denison’s own struggle, she has increasingly been relying on her spiritual practice for growth and support. She said that “going into circle and meditating is very comforting. I feel safe and protected.” She also said that she asks Athena for strength every morning.

“Sometimes I have a full on conversation with her and ask for signs to let me know that she is with me. ”

Denison also finds support with a close friend who, like herself, suffers from mental illness. “She understands and she is my go-to when I am in a whirlwind,” Denison explained. She also said that, in the end, her family has always saved her, but added, “I would like to say I save [myself].”

When asked how people can help the movement, Denison suggested donating money for education and research through organizations like AFSP. Other ways to help, she offered, would be through spreading the word about the many causes of and issues surrounding suicide,through supporting families who have lost someone to suicide, and by getting trained, where possible, in prevention and care.*out_of_the_darkness

Her advice for those currently struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts: “You are not alone. If you are headed that way, please reach out to someone. Add me on Facebook if need be. Call the suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255. Talk to a friend, a family member. There are plenty of Facebook support groups, go and join.”

And, as for her advice to friends and family, she said, “If you have lost a loved one, do not blame yourself. If your loved one is living and struggling be pro active and get them help; go with them to the doctors; get them in therapy […] Find an out of the darkness walk in your area and walk, get people involved! Be the voice!”

Denison added that “If anyone in Atlanta would like to join me for the walk, it is Nov. 6 in the Piedmont Park picnic area. We are team Denison!”

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[Editor’s Note: In 2015, we published an article titled “Treating Depression in a Pagan Context,” which discussed support methods and Pagan resources.]

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SEATTLE — Over the weekend, the Pagan community in the pacific northwest learned that one of its beloved members, a fellow teacher, talented artist, and close friend, had committed suicide. Since then, shock has rolled through the community, turning into expressions of deep sadness.

Writer Rhyd Wildermuth posted, “The last time I saw you, you gave me a huge hug and called me ‘big brother’ like you always did, and then said, ‘I feel like I’ll never see you again.’ I smiled and laughed it off. Of course we‘d see each other again […] I was fucking wrong.”

[Courtesy S. Barnett / Linked In]

[Courtesy S. Barnett / Linked In]

“Hi. I’m Seb.”

Seb Barnett was born on a farm nestled at the edge of the Pacific Northwest’s Olympic National Forest with its temperate rain forests and majestic mountain peaks. Seb’s childhood was spent in the woods climbing trees, tracking animals, building forts, fishing, and exploring.

In addition, Seb’s world was filled with creating and making art. “I have been making things with my hands since I could hold a pencil. And the more things I create… the more I want to create,” wrote Seb in their Patreon account overview.

And create Seb did. However, as noted in a 2016 Miroir interview, Seb did not define themselves as an artist until 2005. “Before 2005, art was just about me. The mentality that made it more occurred when I started thinking about the impact my art could have on others.”

In 2006, Seb earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the Cornish College of the Arts in 2006. While attending, they were awarded both the Kreielsheimer and President’s scholarships.

It wasn’t long before Seb was showing in exhibitions. Their first solo show was at the Seattle Georgetown Arts and Cultural Center in 2008, only two years after graduation. From that point forward, Seb continued to exhibit work annually, including shows in New York City and Vancouver.

Seb’s work found its way into print. In 2012, their work appeared in a book titled, “Ink on Paper: The Mary Alice Cooley Print Collection.” More recently, Seb was the featured artist for Hello Horror‘s 2015 Spring issue. Then, in early 2016, Seb’s work was published in the February issue of Miroir magazine, including a brief interview. Seb’s piece, titled “Butterflies,” graces the magazine’s cover.


Regardless of all the success and notoriety, Seb was still working to make ends meet as a professional artist. To assist, Seb opened a Patreon account through which their art could be showcased, sponsored, and shared. On the overview page, Seb explained, “One of the best things about this Patreon is that I’ll let you into my world. My world is full of magical ideas, philosophies, and lots and lots of techniques! Not only will I tell you why I make what I make, I will also tell you how.”

Along with being a prolific artist, Seb was also a practicing shaman and spiritual teacher, who “was always able to see spirits” despite a general Christian upbringing. On their website Green Stag Spiritwork, Seb explains their practice: “I do not follow the shamanic traditions of any one culture or people, as I was not mentored by another shaman or indigenous community. I feel that for me to do so would be a disingenuous impersonation. I am an American born of the temperate rainforests of western Washington.”

Seb held workshops and classes on various topics from meditation to divination. Through the Green Stag site, they sold prints depicting various gods, as well as handcrafted jewelry, medicine bags, and other items.

Seb’s upbringing and childhood experiences reflect not only their spiritual work and journey, but also in their creative work. Seb wrote, “The natural world became a great source of fascination” and it’s “tightly woven into [my] art.”

Many works feature plants growing out of the human body, or resting on it and around it. In these cases, the natural is literally penetrating humanity and engulfing it. While these images can be disturbing to view, they are peaceful and invigorating at the same time. And that is the very line that Seb’s work walked, and walked proudly: the strange and the lovely; the unknowable and the knowable.

In a blog post, Seb wrote: “What is often perceived as different, strange, unknowable or unexplainable is easy to be terrified of. However, when we have the chance to know these beings, (or people) we may find that what we thought was malice, was only them being curious. What we perceive as offensive, may just be scared of us. Act first with peace in mind, and be ready for friendship.”

Seb Barnett - The Now 8x10

“The Now” [All Rights Reserved. Copyright S. Barnett]

Seb’s success and vibrancy had no sign of stopping. In fact, Seb was hosting a nine-week S\shamanism class for beginners at the Sacred Garden Healing Center in Seattle. On October 14, Urban Light Studios was to exhibit Seb’s solo show titled De Trop. The studio advertised the event, explaining, “Seb examines what it means to be considered ‘de trop’ (in French, this translates to ‘too much’) in a vast, ever-changing emotional spectrum of day-to-day life.” And, Seb’s last post on Facebook, dated Oct. 5, demonstrates a real excitement for that exhibition.

However, something changed.

News of the suicide came on Oct. 8, shocking both the local art and Pagan communities alike. In a Facebook tribute, Brennos Agrocunos wrote that having Seb as a friend was a “fabulous prize.” Agrocunos wrote, “This world is hard and getting harder. We need more beauty, more art, more love, more wild. We need to hold each other close and make the world safer for people that don’t fit a mold. My heart aches.”

In another public tributeEric Angus Jeffords wrote, “Goodbye, Seb Barnett. My Big Queer Sibling. My Awkward Artist. My Beautiful Tree Person. My Urban Shaman with the Green Hair. You have returned to your grove, and I will sit under your branches and listen to your voice murmuring through the pines. I will read your words in the insects that crawl along the ground. I will smell you in the winds, and in the flowers. I will feel you in the bark and the stones. You have returned to where you were birthed. The leaves never looked so green.”

The sadness has come in waves, being expressed over social media and well beyond as people come to grips with this loss. Seb Barnett was a deeply loved person, a friend, a teacher, an artist, and a “modern shaman practicing old school shamanism.” Seb’s spirit will live on in the natural world of their birth, in their visual art, and in their words:

I want to honor pain, grief, ‘monsters,’ the strange, and the outsiders by portraying them in a beautiful, but also honest way. […] ‘Come here, this is beautiful… but wait, it’s also painful.’

There are some people who are so magical that we break reality. Rules don’t apply to us in the same way, and the laws of the universe warp like mirages in the heat of the intensity of us.  Do not wish to be like us. We break harder, love harder, die repeatedly to only continue living, and are alien in a world that won’t believe in us. We are mythic.”

What is remembered, lives.

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A memorial fund has been set up to help cover funeral expenses. No date has yet been published for any public services, rituals or memorials

Black moon, what?

Heather Greene —  October 2, 2016 — 4 Comments

[Heather Greene is our managing editor and weekly news writer. If you like her work and enjoy our daily news service, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, both news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it all happen, and every dollar counts. This is your community; TWH is your community news source. Donate today and share our link! Thank you.]

TWH – On Sept. 30 at 8:11 pm ET, the rare “black moon” appeared in the sky, only two days before the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah. In some communities, warnings went out about an apocalypse and a second coming. In other places, event facilities set up special viewings. “Don’t miss this amazing celestial event.” Others were left wondering, “Black moon, what?”

[Photo Credit: Kabir Bakie via Wikimedia Commons]

No. That’s a full moon. [Photo Credit: Kabir Bakie via Wikimedia Commons]

The question remains: who is this mysterious celestial interloper? What is the black moon?

Aside from being a 1975 Louis Malle film, the black moon is a term that has come be used for the second new moon that occurs in a calendar month. It is not unlike the term blue moon that is used for the second full moon in a month. However, the term blue moon has become a regular and accepted part of contemporary vernacular. While the meaning of blue moon has shifted from its original 19th century connotation of “never” to mean “once in awhile,” the language is hardly unknown.

The phrase’s association with the second full moon of a calendar month is attributed to poor interpretations of old almanac definitions. According to Hayden Planetarium lecturer Joe Rao, “This moniker came about because a writer for Sky & Telescope Magazine misinterpreted an arcane definition given by a now-defunct New England Almanac for when a full moon is branded “blue,” and instead incorrectly reasoned that in a month with two full moons, the second is called a blue moon.”

This fact is corroborated by NASA, who notes, “The term blue moon is believed to have originated in 1883 after the eruption of Krakatoa. The volcano put so much dust in the atmosphere that the moon actually looked blue in color.” However, it was in that 1943 Sky & Telescope “Star Quiz,” which was “followed by an article in March 1946” that changed the term’s meaning.

Based on his own research, Rao goes on to say that “the ‘blue moon’ brand quietly went unnoticed for some 40 years, until a syndicated radio show promoted the term in the 1980s and it then went viral.”

But the new moon, which has been equally as giving with its double-month appearances, has not had as an effective publicity manager. Considering that the new moon doesn’t quite offer as flashy a performance as the full moon, this is not at all surprising. However, even among seasoned magical practitioners who honor new moon rites regularly, the term is unfamiliar or unused.

Where and when did the name originate?

The term black moon, used in this way, is relatively new. In fact, it is so new that it is not mentioned at all on NASA’s moon pages, like the blue moon. In an article on Universe Today, writer Fraser Cain writes,”You might not have heard the term before…” And he’s right, many haven’t. Cain’s article, which is currently dated 2015, was originally published in 2008.

According to one older random astronomy website, the second new moon in a month actually has had multiple names, although sources are not provided. Along with black moon, the site also claims that the second new moon in a month has been called the secret moon, the finder’s moon and the spinner moon. The website, which dates its materials with the year 1995, was published online in 1999.

Black Moon. There it is. [Public Domain / Pixabay]

Black moon. There it is. [Public Domain / Pixabay]

In 1997, there was a second full moon on Halloween, which created some local media buzz. “Beware, this Halloween … The black moon will reign,” writes The Santa Cruz Sentinel  “For astrologers, witches, goddesses, and others who place significance in the lunar month’s timing, its a very hallowed time indeed.” (27 Oct. 1997 pp.1)  According to the Salina Journal in Kansas, the black moon is a good thing, because its unique effects leave zombies, witches, and the dead powerless until the following Halloween. (26 Oct 1997, pp 3.)

Prior to 1997, there appears to be little mainstream fanfare around the phenomenon. This explains why the sudden widespread usage has left some magical practitioners bewildered and betwixt.

Diotima Mantineia of Urania’s Well told The Wild Hunt, “Both the so-called ‘black moon’ (second of two new moons in a calendar month) and ‘blue moon’ (second of two full moons in a calendar month) are determined by a human calendar, not the position of moon in its relationship to sun and earth. Therefore, they have no meaning from an astrological perspective, or from a magical perspective. It’s just an accident of the calendar.”

Frustrated at the sweeping media hype, Mantineia went on to note, “In fact, this ‘black moon’ of September actually occurred in October in the UK and points east due to the time differential.The phases of our moon (new moon, full moon, etc.) are based on the relationship between moon and sun as viewed from Earth, and this relationship is what counts astronomically, astrologically, and magically.” (Read Mantineia’s full analysis here)

Like Mantineia, Pagan elder Ed Hubbard has also been frustrated with the hype surrounding this particular moon, but for an entirely different reason. He told The Wild Hunt, “It’s a media creation It’s branding of news … Nothing ancient, no old practices.”

Hubbard was invited to be a special guest on Friday’s Pagans Tonight Radio Network show The Correllian Family Hour. In that show, he said, “This whole thing was created by me.” According to the interview, Hubbard crafted a black moon ritual in 1993, and had been working with the idea of this special dark moon for years. Through Witch School press releases and other writings, the idea went viral, as it were. He told The Wild Hunt, “Dark moon is our own practices. Black moon is my ritual theater.” He explained the story in detail on Friday’s show.

While frustrated for different reasons, Mantineia and Hubbard are not alone in their reactions to the “branding” efforts and media hype. And what did that look like?

There’s a black moon on the horizon” – CNN
A rare ‘black moon‘ will rise tonight” – WTAE Pittsburgh
“Spooky: Rare ‘black moon’ to rise Friday night” – CTV News (Canada)
Check out the rareblack moon‘ on Friday night” – CBS Norfolk, Virginia

Leaving alone the more sensationalized headlines and the articles encouraging people to “check out” the nearly invisible rare celestial occurrence, most media outlets did note that the phenomenon was not at all catastrophic.”Black moon‘ rising: No, it’s not the apocalypse,” informed The Washington Post. Denver’s local CBS affiliate reported, “Keep Calm, Tonight’s ‘Black Moon‘ Is Harmless.” But perhaps the award for the biggest buzz-kill goes to Stockton, California’s ABC affiliate, who informed its viewers, “A black moon will rise Friday night, but you aren’t going to see it.”

At the same time, there were news sources, bloggers, and niche markets that enjoyed the fervor, even speculating on the meaning of the black moon for Pagans. For example, World Wide Religious News reported that the phenomenon was “creating excitement among Christians and followers of pagan religions alike.” informs its visitors, “Black moons hold special significance to people who practice certain forms of Pagan religions and who believe certain actions become more potent when performed on the night of a black moon.”  And, the CBS Norfolk affiliate mentioned earlier told its readers that Pagans “believe the rare event provides extra spiritual power for rituals.”

The blog went further and interviewed a Wiccan. In an article titled, “A witch explains why you can’t miss tonight’s black moon,” with the subtitle “spooktacular,” Milo, the interviewed witch, said, “In Wicca, the black moon is considered a time when there is extra power for spells and ritual. The idea of blue moons and black moons is only about two centuries old, so there are no ancient pagan traditions to draw on.”

Outside of media hype, any Pagan references to black moons, ancient or modern, are very rare, occurring, if you will, only once in a blue moon. However, we did find one in a 2003 book titled Everyday Moon Magic. Author and Witch Dorothy Morrison writes, “When the repeated phase happens to be the dark or new moon, we call the second occurrence the black moon.” She continued on to say that the repetition increases its power. “The black moon provides an excellent time for soul searching and inner journey work, divination, and the eradication of self-deception.” (Morrison, pg. 43)

When asked where she found the term, Morrison said that she couldn’t remember exactly, but speculated it was an almanac or journal. However, in the Correllian radio interview, Hubbard claimed that he had spoken at length with Morrison prior to her writing the book, and that he was indebted to her for helping to develop his black moon magic. He also praised her book for its accuracy.

Although the term black moon is used prior to 1993 in secular works of art (e.g., Hussain’s painting Black Moon, 1960; Malle’s film Black Moon, 1975; Carpenter’s film Black Moon Rising, 1986), it does appear that Morrison’s book includes the earliest written information about magical usage. And, Hubbard’s ritual theater is the earliest reported Pagan usage of the term. In both cases, that timing corresponds roughly to the dates on secular websites, as noted earlier.

Does it any of it matter now? As Mantineia suggested, the new moon will rise and set on schedule regardless of our human calendar. Some Pagans have fully embraced the term in their regular new or dark moon practices, regardless of whether there are or aren’t any magical differences. The most common associations apply, and for some that includes the new moon’s relationship to Lilith, the dark goddess, and inner cleansing work.

Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox said, “I celebrated this year’s black moon with personal reflection and transformation, and by facilitating community observances face to face and in cyberspace. As with other lunar transition points, the black moon can be an opportunity to strengthen our awareness of and attunement with nature’s rhythms.” Rev. Fox incorporates the name without a problem.

Similarly, author and village Witch Byron Ballard said, “I always prefer the strength of the energies before new moon. That place of complete surrender before the cycling up begins again. As a teacher, I encourage people to test that energy and find what it’s best for.”  She added, “This particular dark moon felt particular fizzy, energetically. But all of them are powerful tools to be used by those who can.”

[Courtesy NASA]

Dark moon.  [Courtesy NASA]

While the moniker black moon, or even blue moon, may not be centuries old, the terms have worked their way, to varying degrees, into contemporary language as markers of our modern celestial experience. Whether or not they have any extra significant spiritual or magical power, outside of their expected nature as full and new moons, is clearly up for grabs. Almanacs the world-over have been naming and renaming moons for centuries. Does the nomenclature alter their power or significance? Or is it all just media hype and moon branding, as suggested by Hubbard and Joe Rao at

On Monday, will be streaming a show focused on the black moon and will include a talk by the site’s spiritual consultant Helen Avery. She will discuss “the various definitions for the black moon and the way it has been adopted by Pagan practitioners.” The website adds that this moon has “deep spiritual meaning and can affect how and when they practice their craft. For others, the black moon means very little. She will discuss both sides.”

While the magical significance is varied with regard to a moon phase doubling up in a month, there is one thing that is clear. The black moon is simply a dark moon or a new moon; no matter what name you call it, and how you honor it.

And finally there is one last important note that needs to be made. The 2016 media hype may not yet be over. While the Western Hemisphere saw this “somewhat rare” phenomenon that “won’t happen again for years” on Sept. 30, the Eastern Hemisphere will see the same phenomenon on Oct 31.


Donate to the 2016 Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive

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From Managing Editor Heather Greene:

The Wild Hunt is now in its twelfth year. What began as an experiment in 2004 by an enthusiastic novice, has slowly developed into one of the most widely-read news journals serving the modern Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities worldwide.Thousands of people visit our site to read the work of a talented and diverse group of writers, all of whom are dedicated to The Wild Hunt’s vision. As editor and as a member of this collective community experience, I am compelled to do this work. For me, it is both an education and an adventure. And even after all this time, I am humbled to read the daily positive feedback, and to learn of the place that this news service has in people’s lives.

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Review: Blair Witch (2016)

Heather Greene —  September 18, 2016 — 3 Comments

TWH – In 1994, three student filmmakers walked off into the dense woods near Burkettsville, Maryland in hopes of a discovering the truth behind a local legend. They were never heard from again. One year later, their equipment was found, and the footage became the film The Blair Witch Project (1999). This weekend, the story continues in a new film, with the brother of one of the lost filmmakers traveling to the mysterious Black Hills of Maryland in hopes of learning exactly what happened 22 years ago.

Or so the story goes.


While the Blair Witch project did begin in earnest 1994, the entire film venture is manufactured, including the plot, the legend, the town, the footage, and even the made-for-television, promotional mockumentary, titled Curse of the Blair Witch (1999). Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, The Blair Witch Project was an indie success, a technical novelty, and a marker of its time. According to a Fortune magazine article, the film cost $60,000 to make, and earned $1.5 million at the box office on the first weekend, while only in 27 theaters. [i]

Outside of the early buzz created by the SyFy Channel’s pre-release of the mockumentry, The Blair Witch Project captured the imagination of a viewership already engrossed with supernatural or paranormal entertainment vehicles (e.g., X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, So Weird, Ancient Mysteries). In addition, new technology was quickly eliminating barriers to indie filmmaking, making the film’s concept very possible.

This new digital medium, far more than its analog counterpart, also increasingly allowed for the construction and the reconstruction of recorded reality, leaving much room for the manipulation of our nonfictional storytelling. What is real and what has been falsified? Can we trust what we see in photos and film? In that way, The Blair Witch Project at its very essence captured not only its own time, but also what was to come. It seemed to be a doorway into the new millennium of how we tell our stories.

The breakout success of the original Blair Witch Project led to a 2000 sequel, titled Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, which was directed by Joe Berlinger. However, the sequel, costing $10 million, was unsuccessful, failing to capture the original’s grit or poignancy. Hard-core fans and reviewers often remark that they would simply like to forget that the second film even happened. In 2000, New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden had some kinder words for the film, but added, “For all its clever notions, ‘Book of Shadows’ often seems more like a montage of pasted-together images than a coherent horror story.” [ii]

With the end of the witch film cycle at hand and the poor showing of the second film, this seemed to be the end for The Blair Witch Project. However, in 2016, as witch films have made a return to the screen, so has the Blair Witch.

Before going forward, this review will discuss some, not all, details of the new film. If you haven’t seen it, you can stop here. However, with that said, neither The Blair Witch Project nor Blair Witch are heavily dependent on plot elements for enjoyment. In other words, even if you know what is going to happen, your viewing experience won’t necessarily be spoiled. Both films operate as journeys, and the tension is created in the process and not the story itself. It is analogous to riding a roller coaster. No matter how many times, or in what detail, a friend tells you about roller coaster, the experience of riding can never be spoiled. That is how both The Blair Witch Project and Blair Witch work.

In this new film, Jason, the brother of lost filmmaker Heather, seeks to find the truth of what happened in 1994. He is accompanied by a friend and indie filmmaker Lisa, his best friend Peter and Peter’s girlfriend, Ashley. When arriving in Burkettsville, Maryland, the group meets up with locals Lane and Talia, who accompany them into the woods. From there the search begins.

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, Blair Witch (2016) is structured identically to the original. It is more of the same, from character introductions, through equipment gathering and travel, to the trek into the woods. Once in the Black Hills, like its predecessor, the film progresses through a slow buildup of a tension, making use of the film’s medium and documentary approach (e.g., extreme close-ups, quick cuts, movement, and point of view).

In many ways, it’s a repeat with new characters and contemporary technology. And like the original, we are trapped in the cameras, which for this film have been increased in number. This visual claustrophobia mirrors the characters’ mounting fears. You might find yourself frustrated and tense, asking, “What is going on?” While it serves the purpose well for most of the film, there are points where it becomes a detriment.

But as much as Blair Witch mirrors its parent, the two are not the same. The new film spends less time focused on the investigation, or legend-tripping, and more time enjoying the horror. The original film worked through a slow buildup to its end. The new film jumps quickly into its terror points, moving ever faster from one to other and slowing down only to enjoy itself once there. For example, the narrative stops fully to indulge in the removal of a wound’s bandage, emphasizing the experience of disgust with the heightened sound of what seems to be wound and ooze.

Additionally, Blair Witch makes a few interesting attempts at layered characterizations, moreso than the original. For example, when the four friends enter Lane and Talia’s living room, they find a confederate flag hangs on the wall. From presumably Jason’s camera view, we watch Peter, who is black, look at the flag and then turn back to the camera. His disgusted expression is poignant and unmistakable. Minutes later the four are outside and Jason asks whether they should take Lane and Talia on the trek. Without a pause, Peter says emphatically, “No,” and his facial expression once again says it all. Unfortunately, the film abandons these clever indulgences in characterization as soon as it takes up its horror role.


Lionsgate “Blair Witch” (2016)

But what about the Blair Witch herself? This is another point where the film deviates from its parent. As noted earlier, the original narrative was presented as a legend-tripping experience, with the object of fear being only an archetype that lives within our collective culture consciousness. She is the Baba Yaga figure, the monster in the woods. But is she real? The first film leaves that answer to the imagination.

Blair Witch moves in a different direction, offering viewers an answer to that very question. There is in fact an object. There is a monster. Although it is not visually made clear, this thing in the woods is called the Blair Witch and gendered as female. “Don’t look at her directly and she won’t hurt you,” says Lisa. With that definition, the monster becomes, in earnest, the old woman in the woods, a symbol of primal fear and that which is unattainable and wild. The new film leaves no question as to the existence of the monster.

This age-old archetype of Baba Yaga or the wild woman in the woods pervades American witch films across the decades. Woman’s power is equated to that which is naturally wild and uncontrollably dangerous. In Orson Welles’ Macbeth (1948), the influence of the weird sisters and that Lady Macbeth are visually juxtaposed to leafless trees, storms, rocks and night sky. In the 1987 film, The Witches of Eastwick (1987), the devil, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, angrily asks a congregation if God made a mistake when creating woman. Then he says, “When we make a mistake, it’s called evil. When God makes a mistake it’s called nature.” But even more recently, Roger Eggers’ The Witch uses the very Baba Yaga archetype found in Blair Witch as a counter to the severity of social control present in early Puritan America. In these examples, woman is nature, and nature is magic, and it is all uncontrollable.

While the story is pervasive in western society, it doesn’t always sit well with modern Witchcraft practitioners due chiefly to the religious implications placed on it by Christian theology. In fact, Berlinger’s Book of Shadows included Erica, a Wiccan character who was unhappy with the first film’s portrayal of the witch.

In reality, modern Witches have had a mixed response to the Blair Witch films, as often is the case. In 1999, blogger Peg Aloi spoke with directors Myrick and Sánchez about the archetype. Myrick said, “We never meant to say anything bad about Witches in general.” The use of the witch was just a reason to “get the kids out there.” It was a plot device or what Myrick called “a triggering mechanism.” The original film was essentially mimicking the popular teenage legend-tripping experience, which can be horrifying in and of itself. As Sanchez remarks, “It has nothing to do with witches.”[iii]

The original directors were, in fact, very conscious of modern Paganism. They included a bit on Wicca in their promotional mockumentary. Among the other “footage,” they inter-spliced segments from a fake 1971 film called “Mystic Experiences.” Aside from its use of the term Wiccanism as a name for the religion, this segment, which allegedly featured a real Witch, is as authentic feeling as any other piece of the mockumentary.


Still From: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

However, as noted earlier, the new Blair Witch takes the archetype into a different place, well beyond the surreal experience of legends, ghost stories, and the imagination. Here, although mostly visually obscured, “the witch” is a real object of some kind. This monster is not derived simply in the mind, from centuries of legends and a collective fear of the woods. It is there. It is real, and it is described to us, through the characters and their collective cultural understanding, as being female.

While the film’s many embedded traditional horror elements, like this manifested monster, may bother some fans, the new film could not have functioned in the same way as the original. Part of its success was in the confusion as to what aspects of the story were real, and what were constructed. The suggestion of reality added to the original’s terror.

Now we know the story.

For a successful 2016 reboot, Blair Witch needed to find a new terror device to take the place of that tension. It chose classic visual and audible horror tropes, like jump-moments, gore, bodies, intense sounds, thunderstorms, tight shots, obscured imagery, and a very classic manifested horror monster.

The new story is about the witch, and it will continue to be so if there is another journey. The franchise has no choice…for better or worse.

While the many classic horror details are not, in and of themselves, disappointing or distracting, they do give Blair Witch a different feel and speed than the original film. Hard core fans, as noted earlier, might be disappointed with that shift. For others, it may be a plus.

No, Blair Witch does not (and could not) have the technological ingenuity of the original, and it will not hold the same cultural significance. However, despite any flaws and differences, it is a well-structured horror film that moves through its thin story and delivers on entertainment. Many viewers will enjoy going back to the Black Hills again in search for the truth, which in the end is apparently out there.

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[i] Carvell, Tim. “How The Blair Witch Project Built Up So Much Buzz Movie Moguldom on a Shoestring.” Fortune Magazine. (Aug. 16, 1999)
[ii] Holden, Stephen. “Burkittsville Revisited, With More Mind Games.” Rev. of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. Dir. Joe Berlinger. New York Times (Oct 27, 2000)
[iii] Aloi, Peg. “Blair Witch Project: an interview with directors.” Witchvox, (July 11, 1999)

Gavin Frost, 1930 – 2016

Heather Greene —  September 13, 2016 — 187 Comments

In the early morning hours Sunday, Wiccan priest, teacher, and author Gavin Frost died after enduring significant pain from numerous internal physical problems. Gavin had surgery scheduled for late September, but his physical condition worsened making the operation impossible. As early as July, he told his daughter Jo that “he was ready — if he got really sick again to let him go.”


“Blessed Be those who seek” – Gavin Frost

Gavin Frost was born in Aldridge, Staffordshire, England, Nov. 20, 1930. According to Raymond Buckland, Gavin was “raised in a tight-knit family group ruled by his hard-working, hard-drinking Welshman grandfather.”  But in 1936 after his grandfather died, Gavin’s family moved way from the area to the southwestern coast of England. His daughter Jo said that, as a little boy, he was fond of watching the busy planes and trains moving about the region.

Earlier than most, Gavin was enrolled in boarding school and, after completion, he began his studies at the University of London, King’s College. There, Gavin developed an interest in math and physics, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor’s of Science in math. He eventually went on to earn a doctorate in physics and mathematics, finishing his dissertation work with the Department of Atomic Energy in Cumbria, England.

In the meantime, Gavin also was developing an interest in the occult. Along with the sciences, Gavin studied the history and mythology of the U.K. and the people that had lived there. In 1948, he was initiated into the coven of Boskednan, based in Cornwall. In a blog post, he wrote, “At that time the young people in college and returning from World War II were all into new lifestyles and religions.” Just as he was finishing college himself, the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed and Gardner and other occult figures were becoming more public in the country.

During the following decade, Gavin pursued a successful career with the aerospace industry, married his first wife Dorothy and moved and traveled around the world. He lived in Canada, England, the U.S. and Germany, eventually settling in Southern California. In 1966, he met Yvonne Wilson, who was also working in the aerospace industry. She would eventually become his second wife and partner in religious work.

In 1968, Gavin and Yvonne moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and formed their first coven using the correspondence course method. This became the Church and School of Wicca, which still exists today. The couple married in 1970, and obtained tax-exempt status for their church in 1972, making it the second U.S. Pagan church, behind the Church of All Worlds, to receive that coveted status. Additionally, Gavin and Yvonne were members of the first American Council of Witches, which met in 1974 at Witchmoot in Minneapolis.

At the same time, Gavin and Yvonne began writing books and attending events. Their very first book proved to be their most controversial: The Witch’s Bible: How to Practice the Oldest Religion was published in 1972. It was followed by The Magic Power of Witchcraft in 1976 and many more over the next forty years.

In addition, their work, specifically their writing, was instrumental in helping the Craft increase public legal recognition in the 1980s. Their teachings were cited in the Dettmer v. Landon case in Virginia, in which the judge eventually ruled that Wicca was indeed a true religion. This was one of the many such cases being heard over that decade.

In May 2016, Gavin told The Wild Hunt*, “To be clear on that topic: The prisoners in Virginia who started the case which got the ruling should be credited with having a great intestinal fortitude and causing the judge to rule in our favor. Yes, we wrote the letters; yes, we published a book.  But we did not actually bring the case before the court.”

Through the 1990s and 2000s, Gavin, along with Yvonne, continued to teach on the festival circuit, to write, and to act as clergy through their church. They took a vow of poverty, and eventually moved from Missouri to New Bern, North Carolina and then to Charleston, West Virginia. They also appeared on radio and television and, despite their disinterest in using email, they eventually began hosting a blog called “The Dancing Wiccans.”

Jo recalls, “[Gavin] was a loving, if not always present parent, putting the Church of Wicca as his first priority — a journey he and Yvonne shared […] Part of the joy of the Church of Wicca for him was challenging people to see if they lived up to their aspirations for themselves, something he also struggled to do. He searched his whole life for wisdom, sharing what he knew along the way.”

But Gavin’s life was not without controversy. Speaking on a personal level, Jo said, “Most of what people do not like about Gavin had to do with how he challenged them […] They would leave a conversation angry and then try to make that fit their paradigm, but he challenged himself as much as, or more than, he challenged others around him. I think that is an inherent part of who he was — are you facing your demons? What do you see there? […] He was not an easy person to know.”

Beyond the personal, Gavin, along with Yvonne, were continually at the center of public controversy surrounding their 1972 book The Witch’s Bible: How to Practice the Oldest religion. It was considered highly controversial from the day it was released, as noted by Gavin himself, and has been openly rejected by many ever since. According to several accounts, the book allegedly almost led to a court case in 1974, only two years after its publication. By Gavin’s account, the problem was over its title, not its content. However, others remember differently.

Regardless, as time went by, it was not the title that continued to ignite outrage; it was, in fact, the book’s contents, specifically those pages describing the sexual initiation of children. Protests over that content have erupted as recently as this past spring. When the book was re-released in 1993, it reportedly was altered, including a note that addresses the offending sections. It was also renamed the Good Witch’s Bible. Gavin said that the book was edited again for a 2014 reissue. He said that this later edit was done in the wake of that year’s protests and at the “urging of other Wiccans.”

[Courtesy Chas Clifton]

[Courtesy Chas Clifton]

Over the past several years, Gavin began making fewer and fewer appearances at festivals. Part of that was directly due to the enduring controversy with fewer venues wanting the couple to present. When asked about his decreased attendance, Gavin told The Wild Hunt that, in addition to the community backlash, “We’re not sure that we have anything new to say to festival attendees.”

He also added, “We are getting older; travel is becoming more and more stressful.” Jo agreed, saying that her father had been slowing down over the past four years. During the 2016 FPG event, Gavin had to be taken to the hospital.

Doctors eventually discovered a tear in Gavin’s intestine, which was causing significant discomfort. Surgery was scheduled for late September. However the tear worsened, causing more damage, internal infection, and severe pain. He was rushed to the hospital Sept. 5, and admitted to the ICU. Jo said, “There are no words for his experience. His nurses would cry because they felt so sorry for him and there was so little they could do besides manage his pain and try to rebuild his strength. His body released him early [Sunday] morning allowing him to cross over and to be free of the pain.”

Gavin Frost was one and will remain one of the most controversial figures in the modern American Witchcraft movement. With that said, there are still many people who continue to be devoted to the Frosts, the Church and School of Wicca, and its teachings. There are also just as many who will continue to speak out against that work and writings.

A memorial is being held Sept. 25, at 2 p.m. at the New River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Beckley, West Virginia. During the service, there will be an opportunity for those that wish to speak in remembrance. Jo said, “We wish for this to be a celebration. We are all so very grateful for everyone’s kind words and thoughts.”

What is remembered, lives.

 *     *     *

[Editor’s Note: After the most recent controversy, The Wild Hunt reached out to the Frosts for an interview on the book and the issues. Due to Gavin’s illness and their use of snail mail, the response was not immediate. However, they did eventually respond, answering all the questions. The quoted conversations made to the Wild Hunt in this article are taken from that letter.]


UPDATE 9-15-16: This article was updated to correct the year of the Frosts marriage from 1968 to 1970.

“TV can be art. TV can be revolutionary. TV can be popular entertainment AND incite critical dialogue. Audiences are hungry and intelligent enough for challenging work. This describes the philosophy behind BRUJOS…” – from BRUJOS

CHICAGO — There is no doubt that the power held by visual narrative media, from film to television to fine art, is unmatched and only increasing in our contemporary digitally-infected world. Going back in time, American filmmakers alone have been entertaining, guiding, and challenging the opinions of viewers for nearly 120 years. From mainstream blockbusters to art house projects, visual narrative media has a natural way of digging into our psyche and holding on. It can give us what we want and soothe us to complacency, or it can give us what we perceptibly need and provoke us into action.

While most of us are familiar with the mainstream servings of visual narrative media, there are many artists who consciously reject the conventional modes of film or television operations, including technical methodologies, themes, visual language, and canned plots. These artists seek new ways of using their medium to capture and express ideas without the seemingly inherent presence of showmanship or the expectations of normative society. They want to use the medium’s incredible power to break traditional story telling barriers, challenge audiences, and perhaps make people a bit uncomfortable through a confrontation with a new reality.

Ricardo Gamboa, a Chicago-based artist, performer and filmmaker, is attempting to do just that. He is currently the driving force behind an upcoming web series called BRUJOS. As stated on the website, “BRUJOS is a queer-of-color web series that follows four gay Latino grad students that are also witches as they try and survive the school semester and a witch hunt led by the wealthy, white, male and heteronormative descendants of the first New World colonizers.”

Gamboa has a masters degree in Arts Politics from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is currently finishing up his doctorate in American Studies at NYU, where he is also a Critical Collaborations Fellow. Gamboa was also a fellow of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and has a long list of art credits and awards to his name. He was a finalist for Sundance Film Festival Latino Film Fellowship, and his short film The Southside Has Many Beauty Queens was winner of the Best Short at Chicago Latino Film Festival, to name only two.

The Wild Hunt had the opportunity to speak with Gamboa about his background, his motivation, the practice of Witchcraft, and the upcoming series itself.

The Wild Hunt: When did you become interest in art, and more specifically filmmaking?

Ricardo Gamboa: I’ve always made art as a kid: made construction paper sculptures, wrote puppet shows with my sister, memorized and acted out cartoons and comic books, etc. I also have always been invested in the world around me and sociopolitical issues. These two interests have always been braided together. I’ve been doing “art activism” since before the term existed.

TWH: Will you share your personal experience and background that led to you to becoming an activist artist and how or when the two merged?

RG: It was a way to talk back to power without getting killed. The reality is we live in a world of discipline and punish and control. My personal biography is dotted with an assassinated activist, gang members, and people who have resigned to quiet existences. I don’t want to go quietly. I don’t want to die. Art and art-making can provide a wormhole in time-space and from oppressive systems to experience or imagine new things and ways of being.

I started acting and was unable to find work that was in line with my politics or what I thought performance could and should be doing. So, I started writing my own work.


Ricardo Gamboa as Panfilo in BRUJOS [Video Still]

TWH: On the website, you wrote, “Grassroots filmmaking that focuses on community building further underline that Brujos is not just about artistic conceit, but also social mission.” Can you define “grassroots” filmmaking and how it functions within a social mission?

RG: There’s this fantasy of filmmaking as some democratic medium, but it’s not. It’s actually a very inaccessible medium because of how much it costs to make films and how the culture/film industry marginalizes people of color, women, etc. So, with my work, I try to create work that bypasses all that and articulates an alternative to big budget filmmaking. It relies on thinking about filmmaking more like community organizing and rather than making a product for the arts or culture economy, thinking about how process can condition a cultural ecology.

So, my filmmaking process sows community into the process at various points: the writing and development, as actors, etc. So, amending the filmmaking process can model alternative forms of being, relating, etc. as well.

TWH: Are any of the BRUJOS characters or depicted events directly reflective of things that happened to you personally or to people you knew?

RG: A lot of BRUJOS draws from my personal experience and people I know. But, what I think is more important is how many viewers will say, “Me too.” That’s what matters to me. And the overarching premise of the show, of racialized gendered subjects living in a world of Western domination or white supremacist, heteropatriarchy is a fact of existence for all of us. So, maybe BRUJOS isn’t fantasy or autobiographically-inspired, just a documentary.

TWHYou also discuss how many groups of marginalized people are “absent in media representation.” Would you say this representation has been getting worse, better or the same? 

RG: I don’t know if it’s getting “worse.” There is more “diverse representation” in media than ever before. But I don’t know what it is doing. There’s a difference between representational achievements and revolutionary achievements. “Looking” is a representational achievement, not a revolutionary one.

I’m not interested in creating work that just “portrays” marginalized subjects (queer people, people of color, etc.). I’m interested in making work that gives marginalized subjects the tools to diagnose our media representation and social realities and that invites them to begin thinking of another world. BRUJOS isn’t about people of color or queer people succeeding or finding love in the normative world. It’s about them taking that world down and living their lives effectively in the anti-matter of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, etc.

TWH: As a child or teen watching movies and television were you acutely aware of the lack of brown and black bodies in film, and then eventually the limited representation of LGBTQ? If so, will you talk about how any of that felt?

RG: I was very aware of it, and it is violence. That’s all we need to know. It is an attempt to deprive people of affirmative images so that they cannot visualize themselves as actors in their own biography and society. Media representation is about giving people a referent. A dream to pursue, a way to be, things to want. But depriving people of affirmative images or an array of desires, lifestyles, etc. is a way to make them negate themselves and limit their horizons of conceptualization.


From BRUJOS [Video Still]

TWH: Now let’s talk about the series itself. Let’s talk witches. These “non-normative characters” practice magic. As far as we can tell from the trailer, the movie’s coven of witches is all men and all queer. Is that correct? And, do you conceive of these four witches as being humans with supernatural powers (e.g. The Craft, 1996) or non-human (e.g. Bewitched, 1964-)?

RG: Yes, they are queer men. I guess. But, I don’t know. “Human” itself is a contract, and the notion of the “human” as we understand it has a very specific genealogy that is tied to colonization, western ideation, etc. Human and non-human isn’t so much of how I think about it. What I’ll say is that the characters in BRUJOS are alive; they’re struggling to be alive.

TWH: Can you clarify this point?

RG: I would say the BRUJOS are people, they are also racialized and gendered subjects. Their humanity is always in question. That is a reality for people like the characters in BRUJOS–on and off the screen. When Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown, he referred to him as “demon.” This country calls undocumented Mexican (and other Latin American) immigrants “aliens.” Gay sex is constantly referred to as “unnatural.”

To be honest, I don’t know what human is; I don’t know what constitutes humanity; I just know we haven’t really seen it. What is fantasy and fiction and what is real, especially when it comes to defining or outlining what or who is “human” is really fuzzy territory. I’m not saying this to be philosophically pretentious. I really mean this. So, it’s hard for me to answer this question. So, I could say, “yes, they’re human” but I’m not really sure.

TWH: Getting back to the film’s witchcraft, are you or any of your crew familiar with or practitioners of modern Witchcraft, conjure, hoodoo, magic, or something similar? If not, do you have a consultant that is working with you on that aspect of the show?

RG: Yes, I’m familiar with it. Certain aspects of brujeria have always been a part of my life. There are ways in which brujeria is part of quotidian culture for Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, and other Latin American peoples. It was something that I grew up around. But, I would say that I was going through some hard times that caused me to seek answers, help from alternative forms of knowledge and that opened me up more to magic, witchcraft, etc. My own connection to brujeria and psychic abilities deepened.

For the show, I have and still do talk to people about magic, ritual … We are careful how it’s all represented in the show. In various moments, BRUJOS draws from brujeria, Santeria, hoodoo, witchcraft, etc. But, I’m not interested in providing an ethnographic or voyeuristic window into those practices. Instead, I obscure the actual practices or spells. It’s not my place to represent “factually” any of that. I’m not trying to expose or give people a how-to manual. Many of those practices have survived and thrived (and had to do so) in secret and I’ve always been good at keeping secrets. Power can’t touch what it can’t see.

And, again, I don’t want BRUJOS to boil down to a representative project; it’s a political project, and one that is invested in political imagination and thinking of different ways to imagine politics and power. Magic, superpowers, etc. are a conduit for that.

TWH: You write that supernatural has two meanings: the actual practice of magic and the going beyond what is considered socially normative. Can you explain this concept?

RG: Supernatural also refers to our characters –queers of color, women of color, etc– where supernatural also refers to their ability to survive oppressive systems and find ways to love and understand their selves and other.

TWH:The visuals in the short trailer are striking and rich. At the same time, the trailer has moments that are unsettling and startling. Is this what we can expect to see more of in the show?

RG: Yes.

TWH: Can the show be classified as fantasy, drama, horror, crime? What would you say?

RG: I am deeply invested in defying genre boundaries and conventions. Genre is about leading the viewer, contextualizing their experience, providing them expectations. It is part of a larger project of normalizing sensation. BRUJOS mixes genres: telenovela, sitcom, fantasy, drama, noir, horror, etc. We live lives that are mixed genres; BRUJOS mirrors that.


From BRUJOS [Video Still]

TWH: Can you site your inspirations that led you to this point of artistic discovery and process? 

RG: I really want to live. I really want people around me, people from the communities to which I belong, to be able to live. I am so exhausted from seeing people die and being devalued. I would say the people I love, the people I see struggling to stay alive, to be alive are my inspiration.

I can cite comics, supernatural film, queer directors or pulp magazines, talk about Fanon or Mignolo–but that’s just grammar, syllables, etc. What makes me speak and what motivated BRUJOS and what is the impetus of BRUJOS isn’t other art or ideas, but social realities and personal biographies. The politics is the art.

TWH: You say “get involved.” If people want to help or support this effort, what can they do?

RG: Visit our website and contact us. Share the site and trailer. We’re definitely looking for more financial support and will be launching a crowd-funding campaign. But, beyond that, I’ve been thinking about ways to make the series more “interactive” and including our audience more thoroughly.

TWH: Beyond BRUJOS, where else can we find your own work?

RG: I don’t have a website. I’m not commodifying myself. I hope that my web presence is created for me because people engage my work. I have films and performance art pieces littered over the internet. But, a lot of my work is theater, mostly in Chicago in the communities to which I belong.

The thing that I’m most proud of is my work with The Young Fugitives at Free Street Theater. The Fugitives are a radically politicized youth of color ensemble that creates really provocative plays. I’ve been working with the members of that group since they were graduating middle school and now they’re well into college. Another project of mine that’s really important to me is The Southside Ignoramus Quartet (SIQ). SIQ is a brown comedic ensemble that performs in a tent in a backyard to deliver affordable and politicized comedy for the hood in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood that our members grew up in. We also have a web series coming out this winter.


BRUJOS will debut on Jan. 20, 2017 on OpenTV (Beta), “a platform for television by queer, trans, cis-women or artists of color” founded by Northwestern professor Aymar Jean Christian. Gamboa, who wrote the script, will be joined by co-director Reshmi Hazra Rustebakke, producer Stephanie Jeter, graphic designer May Cat, and director of photography Ben. The preview can be found on Vimeo, OpenTV(beta) and Brujos TV.

ATLANTA, Ga. – Over the past 30 years during Labor Day weekend, fans from around the world descend on Atlanta for the pop culture convention DragonCon. The sprawling event, which began in 1987, offers its thousands of enthusiastic attendees four days of programming exploring a wide-range of pop culture fandom. From lectures and workshops to cosplay, gaming, and the famous parade, Dragon Con has become one of the largest fan-based conventions of its kind. This year, Dragon Con reported a record 77,000 attendees over a four-day period, and its parade was broadcast for the first time on local television.

DragonCon 2016 [Photo Credit: Deosil Photography ©]

DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Since its inception DragonCon has been regularly attended by celebrities, artists, writers, gamers, cosplay experts, and an incredible diversity of pop culture fans from all over the world. Within that crowd, at any given point, one can easily find a group of Pagans, Heathens or polytheists. Although there are no official statistics on just how many such people attend, it is safe to assume from casual observation that the percent population of Pagans, Heathens and polytheists attending DragonCon is higher than the same measure in the general population.

In an attempt to roughly gauge that number, The Wild Hunt queried groups of random people throughout the weekend at various points. From that highly non-scientific method, we have extrapolated that the percent population of Pagans, Heathens, polytheists and the like stands at 9% of the total population of attendees at DragonCon.

Regardless of any data, the DragonCon fandom world does seem to intersect comfortably with Pagan, Heathen and polytheist cultures. In fact, DragonCon featured three openly Pagan musicians and groups, including Tuatha Dea, S.J. Tucker and Emerald Rose. In addition, author Kathryn Hinds, occultist Michelle Belanger, and artist Laura Tempest Zakroff offered presentations in their fields of expertise. Beyond that, in the extensive vendor spaces, it was easy to find jewelry and other products decorated with pentacles, Thor’s hammers, and other common symbols found within Pagan, Heathen and polytheist practices.

“There is a large overlap between Pagandom and geekdom,” explains singer and song writer Arthur Hinds. “It has to do with the power of imagination, the building of thought forms.”

Emerald Rose in daytime performance, DragonCon 2016 [Photo Credit: Deosil Photography © ]

Emerald Rose in daytime performance, DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography ]

Hinds has been attending DragonCon for years, performing with the band Emerald Rose. The oddness commonly associated with what he called “geekdom” doesn’t matter as much to Pagans because, as he explained, “There is a willingness to accept that you are already on the fringe of normal society.”

This particular DragonCon was bittersweet for Hinds and the other members of the Atlanta-based band. This year marks their final appearance at the con as a group. Band member Logan said, “We’ve had a blast. This is one of the most significant [crowds] we have ever played for, because there is such a wealth of creativity and camaraderie.”

Logan added that performing at DragonCon has been a “great ride” and one of the “most fun things [he’s] done in [his] life.”

Members of Tennessee-based band Tuatha Dea agreed with Hinds and Logan, saying that there wasn’t much difference in playing to DragonCon or Pagan crowds. Contrary to Emerald Rose, Tuatha Dea was making its debut appearance at the con, and their excitement was infectious. Not only did the group perform several shows, one of which was on the main stage, but they also offered a “Facilitated Rhythm Event,” and could be found sharing their drumming energy with the dense crowds passing by their table in Marriott hotel.

Members of Tuatha Dea, DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Members of Tuatha Dea, DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Another Pagan musician found at DragonCon was singer/songwriter S.J. Tucker. She said, “My first crowd is the Pagan crowd obviously, so I’m use to people being able to groove to whatever you bring to the table. The Pagan crowd is extremely good at that. They know how to listen. They know how to respond … I am spoiled.”

Tucker equated that comfort level to performing within the filk community, which is represented at DragonCon with its very own track. She said, “It is the only other thing that comes close” to what she experiences with performing for Pagans.

“[The filk programing] is where you can bring your song, no matter what it’s about, if it’s your song that you wrote, or someone else’s song that you really want to sing, everyone will listen and everyone will applaud when you are finished, no matter what happens.”

S.J. Tucker between DragonCon workshops, 2016 [© Desosil Photography]

S.J. Tucker, DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Tucker is a regular at Pagan and non-Pagan conferences, including big festivals like Burning Man. This was not her first time at DragonCon and, along with her performances, she offered a singing workshop where she told the small group of singers to be themselves. “There is only one you. Don’t worry about sounding like someone else,” she encouraged.

It is this very spirit that Tucker finds expressed at DragonCon as a whole. She said there “is call to come and be welcome. No matter who you are.”

Tucker added that the only real difference in performing at DragonCon and Pagan events is the size of the convention itself and the competition for the attendee attention. She stressed that this point is not necessarily a negative, just a reality.  However, over time, she has learned to keeps things in perspective, focusing on the people that do make the effort to show up at her classes or shows, and not on those seats left empty by people who decided to attend something different.

Outside of the music world, artist and performer Laura Tempest Zakroff traveled from Seattle to present and display her work in the Dragon Con art show. She has been attending the con since 2012, first performing with her partner Nathaniel and the Nathaniel Johnstone Band, or performing with other friends’ bands (e.g. Ego Likeness, Frenchy and The Punk, The Cog Is Dead, Voltaire, The Ghosts Project). Then, in 2014, she began showing in the con’s extensive art gallery.

Zakroff said, “The fandom crowd tends to be more free-thinking, and open to new ideas than most people, which makes sense when you think about what the sci-fi/fantasy genres represent in terms of imagination and society. So much of science fiction and fantasy is about re-imagining our culture and challenging ideas, couched in a veil of fiction. Some of the most popular films and books are about overcoming the issues that plague our society, and envisioning a future/world that is more respectful, healthy, balanced, fair, and communicative.” She believe that the overlap between “Pagandom” and fandom makes perfect sense.

Laura Tempest Zakroff at DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Laura Tempest Zakroff, DragonCon 2016 [© Deosil Photography]

Along with showcasing her art and performing, Tempest offered two classes that touched on occult topics, including “The Power of Line and Symbol: The Art of Sigil Magick” and “Visual Alchemy: Where Art & Magick Meet.”

When asked about the difference in presenting or teaching to the Pagan crowd versus the DragonCon crowd, Zakroff said, “At Pagan events, I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of the attendees have a basic understanding in metaphysics and P-word paths, but I never really know what to expect when I present at other kinds of events. I tend to brace myself for getting some static, but (knock on wood), it hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps it’s self-selection; that if you’re interested or intrigued by the topic, then you’re probably going to be somewhat familiar with it, or at least respectful in finding out more.”

Zakroff said the feedback is mostly positive, and people are often “pleasantly surprised, comforted, and excited” about her workshop topics. She added, “They’re finding out that ideas they’ve had [or] thought aren’t crazy, and that there are more avenues for them to explore in terms of art, religion, and spirituality.”

While some attendees engage, perform, or present openly as Pagan or Heathen, such as Zakroff or Tucker, others are there strictly for learning, fun, and for the “epic” fandom experience provided by the highly creative, secular DragonCon environment.

Author, poet and English professor Kathryn Hinds enjoys the many aspects of the con, and presents on various non-Pagan specific writing topics on various tracks. She said, “Both of [the Pagan and geekdom] realms allow people to explore parts of themselves that they cannot explore very often or actualize in their everyday lives, which is why people will spend a year planning their costumes for DragonCon. Like they spend all year looking forward to [Pagan Spirit Gathering].”

This year, Hinds participated on two panels, “Gender Roles in Young Adult Literature” and “Author Roundtable: Avoiding Historical Mistakes.” One was on the Young Adult Fiction track, and the other on the Alternative History track.

One her favorite aspects of the con is the cosplay, and she is not alone. People-watching is an activity in and of itself, and it is what fuels the popularity of its famous parade.

Kathryn Hinds and Meghan Harker, DragonCon 2016 [© H. Greene]

Kathryn Hinds and Meghan Harker, DragonCon 2016 [© H. Greene]

In consideration of the overlap of religious practice and fandom, Hinds said that for those people working in a “tradition where you invoke deity, draw down the Goddess or the God, [you are] opening yourself up to other identities.”

“I think in cosplay people do that a lot that,” she continued, adding that she often likes to speculate why someone chose a particular costume: was it just fun, or does it draw out a part of their spirit that is otherwise unexpressed in their daily lives?

When asked how comfortable she is as a Pagan at DragonCon, she said very comfortable, adding, “You have so many flavors of geek here […] and Pagan is just one more. You are not singling yourself out.” Hinds said that there are very few public, secular conventions where she feels open about being Pagan. DragonCon is one of them.

Meghan Harker, a Victorian spiritualist, agreed, saying “People are more open-minded here. I have never been accosted for being a spiritualist or dressing like this.” Harker enjoys the Victorian Gothic aesthetic. However, Harker did add that she would like to see a better representation of this niche genre in panel discussions at the con.

For those of any particular religion, Pagan or not, the interest in fandom might speak directly to their religious beliefs, and even support them. Yet, for those people without religious affiliations, such as atheists, secularists, or “nones,” fandom and the mythologies resident in their worlds might provide a place to connect to deeper meanings, philosophy, and one’s own spirit. In that way, the con itself becomes an important personal pilgrimage, bringing together people of like minds and allowing for the expression of spirit in a safe space.

Stormtroopers, Mario, Jake mix with attendees as they move around the hotel [Photo Credit: Deosil Photography © ]

Stormtroopers, Mario, Jake mix with attendees as they move around the hotel [© Deosil Photography ]

DragonCon is certainly not the only pop culture convention of its kind. But not all “geek conventions” are multi-genre-based, like DragonCon. Some focus on a particular medium, such as comics, manga or gaming (e.g. ComicCon or MomoCon). Others are devoted to a particular pop culture product, such as Star Trek or BronyCon. Others still are focused on the demographics of the attendees, such as Seattle’s GeekGirlCon or the new BlerDCon.

As for Atlanta’s DragonCon, the convention remains one of the biggest in the U.S. and continues to grow each year. In 1987, it was held in one hotel and attracted 1,200 fans. Today, it needs five hotels and three of Atlanta’s AmericasMart buildings in order to contain its vast programming. Aside from this year’s record crowds, DragonCon also reportedly had to enlarge its gaming space by 60% just to accommodate demand. In addition, over the four days, most of the convention hotels are completely off-limits to non-DragonCon attendees, and the downtown Atlanta area is completely transformed.

Whether the experience provided is secular or spiritual, DragonCon appears to be successfully feeding a deeper need in its attendees, and that alone keeps them coming back year after year.

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Looking up, DragonCon Hotel [© Deosil Photography]