Archives For Heather Greene

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. 

First, we update a story reported on last week:

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary has announced its plans to assist all PSG 2015 attendees, who are in need. Several Circle Ministers have volunteered to offer spiritual counseling. Included in this healing work was a special full moon ceremony last night, which was dedicated to “PSG Healing and Renewal.”  In addition, Circle Sanctuary has also announced that it will be “offering a gift to all 2015 PSG paid registrants who request it — a $100 certificate ($50 for minors aged 12-17) that can be used toward any Circle Sanctuary event.”  The announcement explains more about that gift certificate, Circle’s event insurance, and the various struggles faced by the organization itself.  “This year our community was tested and found to be strong, unshakeable and unbreakable.

Now on to the links:

  • We first visit Russia where officials in the city of Nizhnevartovsk have reportedly banned the practice and teaching of yoga in city-owned buildings. The Moscow Times reports that letters to several yoga studios explained that the “move is crucial in order to prevent the spread of new religious cults and movements.” In addition, the Times reported that Nizhnevartovsk city officials claim that yoga is “inextricably linked to religious practices” and has an “occult character.” In 2013, a similar argument was made by parents of an Encinitas, California elementary school. The U.S. courts eventually ruled against the parents, allowing for the practice to continue. More recently, an Austrian elementary school banned yoga for religious reasons and, according to Southern Poverty Law Center, there are a number of American school districts who continue to ban the practice as well. However, it appears today that more American school districts are concerned with the wearing of the pants then the actual physical activity.
  • Another story coming out of the same region tells of the Night Witches. However, they are not who you might expect. According to a story in Vanity Fair, the Night Witches were an “all-female squadron of [Soviet] bomber pilots who ran thousands of daring bombing raids” during World War II. The women, ranging from ages 17-26, flew silently over Nazi soldiers by turning off their engines and gliding. The Nazis reportedly heard only a “whoosh” sound and began calling them the “Nachthexen” or Night Witches. Interestingly, the article claims that the Nazi soldiers had “very real fear of witches.” This statement recalls the 1932 popular German film Blue Light directed by famed filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. In the movie, the townspeople’s fear leads to the labeling of a woman as “witch.” Blue Light was Riefenstahl’s first film and attracted the attention of a young Hitler, who eventually commissioned her to create Nazi propaganda films.
  • Back to 2015, in the United Kingdom, a fear of witches and witchcraft led to an arrest and court hearing. According to the Central Somerset Gazette, “Hilary Joy Osborne took an obsessive dislike to Lynda Brown who was a spiritualist and taught pagan drumming and also practised Druidism, mantra chanting and Buddhist traditions.” This “dislike” led to regular harassment; including threats, the beating on walls and doors, and verbal abuse. Brown called the police and Osborne was charged with harassment to which she pleaded not guilty. However, a magistrate judge slapped Osborne with a 2 year restraining order, fines and other conditions.  Osborne was disappointed with the results, believing that the police “let her down.”
  • Now moving south to a very different climate, witchcraft or the accusation of can lead to far more tragic and distrubing fate. It was reported Tuesday that Daesh, in a first, had beheaded two women for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The terrorist organization killed both the women and their husbands, along with two other women, who were accused of being “agents for the Nusayri regime.” According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Daesh has since seized one couple’s home and property. SOHR has been appealing to the UN for greater assistance in their human rights efforts and is now reporting that the month of June marks the deadliest month in 2015 with a estimated 5247 people killed in Syria alone.
  • In recent months, Americans have faced their own form of home-grown terrorism, including the AME church massacre and the recent church burnings. Religion News Service published an article titled “3 Religions, 3 Approaches to Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Evil.” Through three different voices, the article highlights the concept of forgiveness within the major faith traditions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. For our purposes, this might lead to the question of forgiveness within Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist practices. How and when do we forgive? Are there limits? But the article opens up another concern. None of the three people interviewed represented the American black community – the target of the recent violence. While Charlestonians themselves showed a remarkable unity and Mother Emanuel together with the victims’ families expressed forgiveness, the idea is certainly not universally accepted. A New York Times op-ed piece discusses the other point of view. Writer Roxane Gray writes, “…I do not foresee ever forgiving his crimes, and I am totally at ease with that choice.”
  • On that note, it would be impossible to run a link list without mentioning Bree Newsome, the activist who climbed the South Carolina flag pole to remove the Confederate flag. The photo of her on the flag pole itself is one that will live in the history books alongside famous images, such as the lone activist standing before tanks in Tiannaman square; the coming down of the Berlin Wall; firefighters in the rubble of 9/11; and even the photo of the famous kiss as World War II ended. This iconic image of Newsome will inspire generations to come. According to Jezebel, Newsome said, “We needed that moment to say ‘enough is enough.’ We want an end to the hate.” Newsome was recently interviewed by ABC News. Here is a link that video.
  • Now we travel across the world to Malaysia where a group of teens violated a sacred space – Mount Kinabalu. In this story, however, the only things broken were the rules. “Briton Eleanor Hawkins, Canadians Lindsey and Danielle Peterson, and Dutchman Dylan Snel” climbed Mount Kinabalu and disrobed for an impromptu photo shoot. They were caught, jailed and fined for public indecency. Some reports claimed that the Malaysian people, who consider the mountain sacred, are now blaming the teens for the recent earthquake that killed 18 people. One Malyasian tabloid headline read, “Your boobs have angered mountain gods.” However, some locals are discrediting these sensationalist media accounts, and simply remark that the mountain is a sacred place in Malaysian culture, and that the teens were disrespectful to the local customs, beliefs and rules.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans’ confidence in religion is at an all time low. The survey, which is limited in its observations, suggests that trust in religious institutions has dropped; now putting it 13 percentage points lower than the historical average. 42% of Americans are estimated to have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in religion; the historical average is 55%. However, as noted, the study is limited in its reporting by only breaking the surveyed sample into three sub-groups: Catholics, Protestants and non-Christian/No-Religion. Additionally, Gallup published a study on America’s overall confidence in various institutions. Until recently, religion was top of the list. Now it falls fourth behind the military, small business and the police. However it is still ahead of Congress, Medical institutions, the media and others.
  • Now for something a bit lighter. Robin Hardy, director of The Wicker Man (1973), has launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce his long-awaited third film based on the original cult classic.  Hardy’s second film, titled The Wicker Tree, was released in 2011. Despite its lackluster reviews, the sequel is considered to be better than the 2006 Hollywood remake of the 1973 original. Now Hardy wants to revisit the story one more time with a script that he has titled “Wrath of the Gods.” Hardy told the Guardian that he had always envisioned the story as a trilogy. Through an IndieGoGo campaign, the 85-year old director is hoping to fund the project. With various perks, he is also offering fans a chance to appear in the film and even act as the film’s producer.
  • And, in our last news link for this month, Japan says goodbye to Tama, the stationmaster cat. According to The Huffington Post, “The calico cat has been credited with saving the struggling station, and its railway line, from financial collapse.”  After she was appointed stationmaster in 2007, the financially struggling train station began to earn revenue from tourists and visitors who stopped by just to see the little cat at work. Tama died at the age of 16 on June 22. Nearly 3,000 people attended her funeral. As reported, “During the Shinto-style ceremony, Tama was elevated to the status of goddess.” In addition, she has been given the title, “honorable eternal stationmaster.”
[Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

The Goddess Tama [Photo Credit: Takobou via Wikimedia Commons]

 

mythopoeticPagan author Sarah Avery is a finalist for the 2015 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in the category of adult fiction. Administered by the Mythopoeic Society, this award is given to “the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies ‘the spirit of the Inklings.‘ ” In other words, it honors the spirit of wild imagination as found in the works of such classic fantasy authors as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Other categories include “Children’s Literature,” “Inkling Studies” and “Myth and Fantasy Studies.”

Avery was nominated for her Pagan-inspired book Tales from Rugosa Coven, which she says is a collection of novellas and is published by Dark Quest Books. She added that the award is a “pretty big deal,” pointing out that one of the finalists regularly makes The New York Times Best Seller list and “is one of the most important writers of literary fantasy of the decade.” On her blog, Avery wrote, “My brain is trying so hard to process this list … Somehow I got preferred for something over an unknown number of authors that probably included at least a few major names who were publishing with major presses.”

The winner will be announced at Mythcon46, which will be held at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs, Colorado from July 31 – August 3. The event’s theme is Arthurian Mythos with guests appearances by Jo Walton and John D. Rateliff.

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galina

Last week, a second call has been issued to protest the destruction of antiquities and ancient sacred spaces. Back in April, we noted that Pagan Jack Prewett had called for a Global Day of Mourning as terrorists continued their destruction of ancient cities, including Nimrud and Hatra.

Now, Polytheist Galina Krasskova has issued a call for a “Polytheistic Day of Protest and Remembrance.” Krasskova writes, “This is not a Syrian issue. This is not a Muslim issue. This is a world issue. It is a human issue. Daesh is purposely targeting memory. They’re targeting their history, and their own *physical* connection with their polytheistic ancestors. It is done to demoralize, terrorize, and desecrate.”

On her website, Krasskova encourages everyone to participate in a global silent protest on July 31. She includes a meditation, which she suggests doing 9x that day and then sharing the results with others. She says, “This is a way of holding space for polytheism, ancient and modern, it is a way of drawing a line in the sand and declaring to the world that we stand in solidarity with those whose voices once rang out in praise to a plenitude of Gods and Goddesses. It is a statement that for every stone of every temple destroyed, we will restore that cultus a thousand fold. It is an act of evocation, execration, and magic. We’re still here.”

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paganmarketlogo2small-300x92In response to the recent controversy on Etsy and past conflicts on eBay, a small group of Pagans has announced the development of an online marketplace for “magical supplies.” The Pagan Market, as it is called, will be an online community of shops dedicated to magical supplies, including those banned from other venues.

Blake Greenman Carpenter is spearheading the project and writes, “We all need a break from the outside world sometimes and this site can give us that small clearing in the forest away from the pressures of those who don’t think like we do.” He notes that the site is a big project, and he encourages people to share ideas with him. Carpenter added, “We may start a fundraiser if we feel the funds to build the community site may end up out of our personal budget range, if so there will be extra benefits to helping the cause.

Carpenter also notes that they are currently looking for sponsors and inviting people to volunteer as beta testers. To date, there are already more than 40 responses, most of which are offers to assist, sponsor and beta test. Some of the commenters even specifically mention the closing down of their Etsy shops. Carpenter said that the group hopes to have the Pagan Market up and running around September 21.

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Solar Cross TempleMany Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists are starting to prepare for an October trip to Salt Lake City to attend the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Solar Cross Temple, an intrafaith group based in California, has just announced that they have had two programs accepted by the Council. These programs include: Calling the Ancestors Home: A Ritual of Truth and Healing” and “Healing the Wounds of Violence with Restorative Justice.”

Attending the 2015 Parliament and preparing the programs will be Board members “Crystal Blanton, T. Thorn Coyle. Jonathan Korman, and Elena Rose, along with temple member Annika Mongan.” The Temple Board noted that its “members attended the previous Parliament in Melbourne, 2009 and found it to be a tremendous experience.”

In the coming months, more people will be announcing the the Council’s acceptance of their presentations and programs. We will continue to share that exciting news as it comes in. As for Solar Cross, its members are looking forward to attending and, in order to defer the high costs of travel, have started a GoFundMe campaign called, “Send Solar Cross to the Parliament.”

In Other News

  • Did you notice something different at Polytheist.com? The site was relaunched last week with a brand new design. Director Anomalous Thracian said, “It has been rebuilt…with a new engine under the hood and a more stable hosting environment.” In addition, Thracian announced a “quarterly call for submissions” that will happen each solstice and equinoxThe call is for “articles or essays on subjects, topics, perspectives or challenges related to living and practicing Polytheist religions and spiritual traditions today.” Additionally, Polytheist.com is launching a new multi-author column “showcasing entirely anonymous authors, sharing personal and informal accounts of liminal, ritual, magical and ecstatic experiences within their pursuits as Polytheists.”
  • Across the internet at HumanisticPaganism.com, there is another call for submissions. In a blog announcement, HumanisticPaganism editors write, “July 12 is Malala Day,which honors Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who survived an assassination attempt and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.” They also note that July hosts several “important anniversaries in the Transcendentalist movement.” In honor of Malala and Transcendentalism, HumanisticPaganism.com is looking for essays discussing the themes of “individualism, religious tradition and gender issues.
  • Several members of Idaho’s Pagan community were featured in a local news article called, Potions and Paganism in Boise. The article profiles the metaphysical store, Bella’s Grove and the Tri-Council Academy or the Treasure Valley Pagan community. The reporter writes, “Woventear [owner of Bella’s Grove]…strives to create a space where budding witches and pagans can learn without judgment.” The news article provides a brief look into one of the many thriving, very local Pagan communities nestled in towns throughout the U.S.
  • Filmmaker and artist Antero Alli has announced a “rare screening” of his dark comedy To Dream of Falling Upwards (2011). He writes, “Set in the parallel worlds of an urban magickal order and the rural magic of Castaneda-style desert brujas, a sex magickian accidentally summons a demon who wants to be his best friend.” The screening will take place July 2 at 8 p.m. in Finnish Kaleva Hall in Berkeley, California.
  • A Change.org petition was started to “Legalise Pagan Handfastings in England and Wales.” On Saturday, Melissa Page started the petition asking for 5,000 signatures. In just two days, she has received nearly 3,000 signatures and has already sent one request letter directly to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron MP. Page writes that she is “waiting on a reply,” but more voices are still needed. She encourages people to keep signing.
  • And, one last note, the Celtic Rock Band Dragon’s Head has recently released its very first album called “Songs of the New Old Ways.” Their sound is described as “heavy, melodic, and inspiring …taking their cues from alternative, progressive rock, punk, jazz and Celtic balladry.” You can get a taste of their music and read the inspiration behind making the album at ReverbNation.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a landmark decision, legalized same sex marriage in the United States of America. On Friday, June 26, SCOTUS issued its 5-4 opinion on the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Kennedy delivered the opinion, opening with, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”

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Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 2015 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Through that opinion, SCOTUS reversed the decision of the lower Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which had upheld same sex marriage bans in four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. SCOTUS ruled these bans unconstitutional, saying:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

The Court’s opinion also made it clear that marriages performed legally in one state had to be officially recognized in other states. As SCOTUS ruled:

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

Within the opinion, Justice Kennedy offered an historical perspective, saying that marriage has been central to the “human condition” for “millennia and across civilizations.” While he acknowledged that most of the historical references speak of opposite sex unions, he goes on to say that “The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.”

Justice Kennedy was joined by Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomeyer. Dissenting opinions came from Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Roberts wrote:

This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be … Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.

While there are those who directly oppose same sex marriage on religious or philosophical principles, there are others who, like Roberts, feel that the process should have been left to the states and the vote of the people.

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

As the news flooded the internet, we gathered some reactions from Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists around the country. Here is what they had to say:

Dianne Duggan is a Pagan Priestess who worked for the US government for decades and practiced law. Last year in her in Illinois, she was finally able to legally marry her wife. Duggan said, “Given that marriage is a legal contract, sanctioned by government, I’ve never understood the faith-based arguments against it. Even marriages that take place under religious circumstances must be sanctioned by government through licensing .. Rights are rights. That is that.” Read Duggan’s full comment

Another legal expert, Dana Eilers, author of Pagans and the Law, said that SCOTUS had “affirmed the great American Experiment, which is the separation of church and state.” She went on to say, “Critically, the majority of the Court found that the opponents of gay marriage had failed to provide any foundation for the dire outcomes which gay marriage opponents so often assert. This, to me, is crucial: there was, apparently, no proof offered to support the awful predictions made by the opponents of gender equality in marriage. Proof and evidence are not yet dead in American courts.” Read Eilers full comment.

Heading south, Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren, also known as Rev. Seba O’Kiley, is a Priestess of the Gangani Tribe in Alabama, a marriage equality battle-ground state. Same sex marriage was legalized in February 2015, but state and local officials have been fighting ever since. Privett-Duren said that it “takes the efforts and courage of many to change any inequities in the world.” She added that this impulse to enact change should be a “human one born of the need to set things right.” Privett-Duren added:

I am saddened at the responses of some of my Southern friends and family to the SCOTUS ruling.  However, this is only a small faction of our South and will, inevitably, become only another archaic echo of a culture’s growing pains. ….  My tribe and I hold firm that we can be both Southern and progressive.  And while my neighbors are truly heartbroken at the SCOTUS decision, it is my hope that they will one day see that any oppression to any people oppresses us all. Read Privett-Duren’s full comment

Wizzard Rodney Hall, a transgender and pansexual Pagan from Alabama, said, “It has been a long march from … Stonewall riots to the marriage equality decision by SCOTUS … Though I told my partner after SCOTUS struck down DOMA … that this was a landmark decision and we were on a downward slope toward equal marriage rights, I had no clue that it would move this fast.” Like Privett-Duren, Hall knows that there will be some conflict within the state, saying “In Lee County AL, where I live, our courthouse was closed today until they review the SCOTUS decision. There is also Alabama Senate Bill 377 still pending, which seeks to replace marriage licenses with a contract process … Though we still face obstruction from bigots and the ill-informed religious right, I feel that we are on the upswing.”

From Georgia, two Pagans shared their thoughts. Blogger Sara Amis said, “I think it’s important to emphasize the religious equality angle. Pagans, who by and large are happy to recognize same-sex unions, should not be constrained by the beliefs of other faiths in this matter. And now we won’t be.” Amis went on to say that for bisexuals, like herself, “not being invisible matters. Social recognition matters.” Then she added, “And speaking as a Pagan, symbols matter. Rituals matter.” Read Amis’ full comment.

And, Benratu, a Witch and native Georgian, agreed, saying, “I am thrilled to see our leaders make the right decision!” He lamented that for so long he has been unable to “share the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.” Benratu said “[It]is now possible. I felt a great sigh of relief.” Like Hall and Privett, Benratu also expressed a concern that the ruling may trigger a backlash and increased incidents of homophobic violence. However, he added, “My hope is this will bring our country together and user in more acceptance of different viewpoints.”

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

California-based author and activist T. Thorn Coyle took a more radical position, saying, “I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call ‘gay marriage’ or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger.” She explained, “..allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course. I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.” Read Coyle’s full comment

Also hailing from California, Rev. Patrick McCollum shared his thoughts, saying, “As one who has worked for gay rights for more than thirty years, I am elated that one of the fundamental rights that we’ve all fought for so long has finally come to be.” McCollum tied the ruling’s importance to his beliefs. He wrote, “Just as we speak of the interconnectedness of all things in a spiritual context, we must also realize that the same principles apply in our mundane lives. How we make space for everyone and how we honor the sacredness of diversity speaks directly to who we are as a people.” Read McCollum’s full comment.

Like McCollum, Rev. Selena Fox has been an longtime activist working for LBGQT equality and religious rights. When Friday’s ruling was handed down, Fox called for a celebration, saying, “I am glad that the USA has now joined the 20 other countries in the world that have legalized same sex marriage — and it is my hope that there will be marriage equality in every nation on this planet.” She said that she has been performing same sex handfastings since the 1980s with the first one in 1983, and assisting with the first legal handfasting at Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2014. Read Fox’ full comment.

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Finally, in Washington D.C., we caught up with witch and activist David Salisbury, who works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He said:

This enormous victory really speaks for itself. For years I’ve been involved with fighting state-by-state and we’ve seen many victories and some losses. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, I can’t wait to shift my focus on the other important areas where LGBT people are still not equal. In most states, you can now get married on Sunday and fired on Monday. We now need employment and housing nondiscrimination as soon as possible. But for now, I will celebrate here in DC with the many people involved in this movement, and in spirit with many others around the nation. Love won, and that deserves a celebration.

Agreeing with Salisbury, Circle Sanctuary minister Vic Wright from Kentucky said, “It is a blessed day when the Supreme Court chooses to uphold the law … Now on to the next issues.” In her reaction statement, Fox also looked forward, saying, “We need to be vigilant and take action to counter attempts by bigoted forces that already are planning to undermine this victory under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’ ” Of course, she is referring to the RFRAs, which could potentially be used to counter this ruling. Whether that happens or not is up for debate

California-based Heathen Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir also expressed the need to keep pressing for rights by offering this call-to-action, “The fire is hot, the iron is stoked and burning bright, let’s strike at other issues that affect the lives of the rest of us who live under the “rainbow umbrella … Let’s keep the pressure on our legislators to provide the protections and dignity that we deserve in every facet of our lives; queer, trans, bi, however one chooses to identify.” Read Odinsdottir’s full comment.

The HRC, as an organization, also agrees that there is much work to be done. After issuing its celebratory statement, it turned its focus immediately to remaining problems by sending out a second statement that called for all “state officials to remove obstacles to marriage equality immediately.” These obstacles, for example, include such things as the closed Alabama courthouses noted earlier by Hall, and the public response by Louisiana’s Governor. Just after the SCOTUS ruling, Gov. Jindal issued his own opposing statement, going as far as saying, “Let’s just get rid of the court.” Louisiana is one of the few states that didn’t issue licenses on Friday.

However, not all the remaining 13 states, which prior to Friday’s ruling didn’t issue same sex licenses, were opposed. Georgia reportedly issued the very first same-sex license after the ruling was issued. In Texas, people lined up to get married. Along with the ceremonies, celebrations have happened and will continue throughout the weekend.

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Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Kasha, a Wiccan Priestess from Florida who is currently serving as National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, called for a moment of remembrance. She said, “I … hope we pause during our celebrations to honor those involved in this struggle that did not live to see this day – those that inspired the fight, endured persecution and violence, and lived and died with secrets.” Read Kasha’s full comment.

And, Jesse Hathaway Diaz, proprietor of The Wolf and Goat, shared this advice going forward, “I’m a firm believer in the ladder principle – if you are going to ascend the ladder, you must bring someone up to your current rung, or you backslide. Nature abhors a vacuum. Let the ‘victory’ of today similarly be a tool. Bring others to the current rung – what we envision should be a reality. Do not be complacent. Share the success. Advance others….. Help others understand why it’s worth sharing. Help others be able to share it with us someday.” Read Hathaway’s full comment.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina – Last week the small southern city of Charleston, South Carolina was rocked to its foundation as news spread of a mass murder inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, also called, “Mother Emanuel.” Wednesday night, after services ended, a small number of people remained for an 8 p.m. Bible Study. A stranger entered the old church, and he was invited to join them. One hour later, that stranger opened fire, killing 9 of the 12 people in the Church.

[Photo Credit: Cal Sr from Newport, NC]

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church [Photo Credit: Cal Sr from Newport, NC]

While police worked to locate and arrest suspect Dylann Roof, the city of Charleston was left to deal with the aftermath. According to witnesses and a later confession, the suspect reportedly made his racially-motivated mission very clear. He wanted to start a race war. As news spread across the nation, there was a collective pause, while the country came to grips with this act of home-grown terrorism. What would happen next?

Solitary Pagan Tyanna lives in South Carolina. She said, “When I heard what happened I was at a loss for words. I could not believe what had happened. I thought to myself, ‘With all of the people out there in other countries that hate and want to kill us, we have to worry about people like this at home too.'”

Tyanna grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal church (AME). She had been to Mother Emanuel many times. She recalled, “That church has been home to many quarterly conferences and is full of history. I went there myself as a child and climbed the narrow steps to the balcony to hide from the adults with my friends.” She and her family knew several of the victims. She said, “I can’t believe that they are gone … It is hard to know you won’t see that person again. But we are all praying, and we know they are not in pain anymore.”

Kelly Scott, chairwoman of the Charleston Area Lowcountry Council of Alternative Spiritual Traditions, remarked that she is “struggling to understand the whole tragedy on a personal spiritual level.” Scott explained, “I can’t begin to wrap my mind around the fact that this senseless act of violence happened on sacred ground. It does not matter that my spiritual path is different from those at Mother Emanuel … what matters is the sacredness of where they were when this occurred. The men and women opened their house of worship to a stranger, what we should all strive to do, to share and learn in comfort without judgment, and became victims of a deep-seeded [sic] hatred…”

Charleston is called “The Holy City” because of the number of churches or church steeples visible in its downtown area. Additionally, the history of many of those buildings is remarkable. Mother Emanuel is the oldest AME church in the South and reportedly “houses the oldest black congregation” south of Baltimore. Similarly, Charleston is home to the oldest Jewish Synagogue and the oldest Unitarian Universalist Church in the South.

[Photo Credit: H. Greene] Angel Oak

[Photo Credit: H. Greene] Angel Oak

Charleston breathes history. It cannot be escaped. The stones in the streets hold the secrets of generations. The ivy, which creeps up the historic buildings, have stories to tell. In a similar way to old southern port cities of New Orleans or Savannah, ancestors speak in the wind, tickling the Spanish moss that hangs from the live oaks. If you listen, the history of the land and all of its people can be heard – both the horrors and the joys. Within these grounds is the famous Angel Oak, one of the oldest trees on the East Coast. It has stood witness to all of this history for over 500 years. Like the city’s modern day residents, the Oak is now adding another chapter to Charleston’s story.

As the shock wore off and people began to react, the city surprised the nation. South Carolina resident Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary, said, “The people of Charleston – really all of South Carolina – did the opposite of what the shooter anticipated. We came together, in love, in pride, in humility and compassion.” Like Tyanna, Emore knew one of victims, Senator Clementa Pinckney. She added, “So many parts of the web of connections [are] now broken and tangled, so much sadness.”

But by Sunday, Mother Emanuel reopened for service. Thousands of people arrived to listen. People of all races, ethnicities, and religions. Despite the soaring temperatures, the city was packed, and buses were running to and from the historic area just to help ease traffic. Emore’s husband, Clyde Roberts, works for the American Red Cross. He has been stationed downtown to assist for several days. He recalled seeing the owner of a local events management company set up tents around town in order to help bring shade to the thousands of people at the vigils and services. People brought water and food supplies. The entire city was trying to come together, making new connections and untangling old ones.

On Sunday night, the crowds walked across the iconic Charleston bridge, coming from both sides to meet in the middle. Roberts and Emore speculate that there were 15,000 people in the area that night. Emore said, “Charlestonians are proud that they have come together.”  All of those people that we interviewed expressed the same feeling. Tyanna said that the population is showing “unity and forgiveness” in the face of this violence. She added, “The overall feeling went from shock to one of racial harmony.”

[Courtesy H. Emore] Pagan Prayer Service in Charleston 2015

[Courtesy H. Emore] Pagan Prayer Service in Charleston 2015

Along with the Emanuel opening, there was a city-wide call for all faith groups to hold their own services at the same time. Priestess SIRI of Coven Earthbound decided to take up that call and hosted an open Pagan ritual in Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston. She said, “There were many opportunities to go and pray throughout the Charleston area. There didn’t seem to be anyone stepping up to do a Pagan prayer service so I felt called to do so. I felt it was important for us as Pagans to express our love for the victims, their families and their church.”  It was well-attended and even attracted a few onlookers. She said, “We rang our bells in unison as I spoke the names and ages of each victim one by one … ”

[Courtesy H. Emore] Priestess Siri (in blue) leads Pagan Prayer Service

[Courtesy H. Emore] Priestess Siri (in blue) leads Pagan Prayer Service

Emore attended this event and noted that one of the participants said, “[AME]’s black community is showing us all what should be done. We have so much to learn.” Another women stood up and said, “We didn’t do this. But we’ve all been part of this happening. I want to apologize for my ancestors role in making this happen.” Emore said there were many tears.

These expressions of unity continued as the days progressed. Scott said, “I as a community leader am so very proud of my Pagan community as well as the Charleston community as a whole. We have not let such a malicious act of vile bigotry divide us … Our spirituality is deeply treasured and it will be the rock that we continue to stand on to rise above this tragedy.”

SIRI said, “We are Charleston Strong.”

Charleston’s small size, its living history and its mark as ‘The Holy City’ are all part of the magic that is helping to bind its people together. Tyanna said, “I hear so many things happening it is very hard to keep track, but what’s important is everybody is showing solidarity.”

Like the others interviewed, she used the word “pray” multple times. Tyanna said, “I pray for the victims and their families. I also pray for the family of Mr. Roof. Most people don’t understand why but you must realize that they are victims too. Although they did not pull the trigger to some people they are guilty by association. Not that [they] are all completely without blame …. but there are family members who are. I haven’t been Christian in a very long time, but I do remember that the Bible teaches forgiveness.”

As the city came together in prayer and in compassion, another issue bubbled to the surface in the wake of the discussions on racially-charged violence. There was immediate call to take down the Confederate flag from the State Capitol. Since Friday, there have been numerous “take down the flag” rallies in Columbia, South Carolina. Emore and other local Pagans attended one event saying, “it was beautiful and moving … People were embracing, smiling, weeping.”

Tyanna has joined a newly formed group called “Bring it down.” She said that, in the year 2000, a similar rally would have had 50% or less of its attendees supporting the removal of the flag. Now that number is much higher. Tyanna added that, in recent days, corporations, such as NASCAR, Amazon, eBay, and WalMart, have banned products with the flag or publicly distanced themselves from it.

The Confederate flag is a part of the South’s past, in various incarnations. NPR has published a short, but detailed, look at that timeline. As a native Southerner Scott said, “I for one am a member, as well as the other women in my family, of the Daughters of the Revolution and Daughters of the Confederacy and the flag is part of my history. I cannot change that. I can only learn from it.” Scott believes that the flag does not need to be on “statehouse grounds” but rather in a museum.

Since the “bring it down” call was resurrected, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who is from a Sikh background, has spoken out in support of removing the flag from the State Capitol. And, just yesterday, Alabama’s governor took down the Confederate flag from its State Capitol. A number of other Southern states have reportedly proposed phasing out the symbol on licenses plates.

Despite this growing movement to retire the Confederate flag to the annals of history, there are still many who disagree, either saying that its a piece Southern heritage or saying that its removal will not fix any social problems or stop racism. The conversation is on-going.

[Courtesy Photo] South Carolina Pagan Tyanna

[Courtesy Photo] South Carolina Pagan Tyanna

While there is still real lingering fear, especially among black residents and churches, Charleston and the people of South Carolina seem driven to continue supporting each other in the healing process as the victims are given private and public services. There have been two charities set up to help the families and Mother Emanuel. Around the country, many religious groups have been staging regular services and memorials devoted specifically to the Church and the victims.

Tyanna advised Pagans outside of South Carolina, “Help where you can. Join rallies; attend services. Do what you think is helpful and kind.” She said that a difference of religion shouldn’t stop you. “You aren’t helping another faith. You are just helping people.” And, Tyanna’s words express perfectly what the people of Charleston want the rest of the country to hear and see. They are “Charleston strong” in prayer, in compassion, in love, in respect, and in support of each other for social justice, peace, change, and growth into the future. The city is not perfect but its their city.

In honor of the lives of those killed:

Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr and Myra Thompson.

What is remembered, lives.

 

Alaska Sockeye Wildfire 2015

Alaska Sockeye Wildfire 2015

On Sunday, June 13, a wildfire exploded in Willow, Alaska, about 80 miles north of Anchorage. According to reports, the wildfire went from covering 2 acres to 6,500 acres within a matter of hours. Gov. Bill Walker has declared the region a “disaster area,” with an estimated 1700 people displaced from their now-destroyed homes. Along with residents, firefighters have had to rescue hundreds of sled dogs, as wells as goats, sheep, horses and many other local animals.

Making its home in Willow and now nestled within that devastated region is the Alaska Pagan Community Center (PCC). Fondly called “The Land,” the PCC is a “non-profit Nature Sanctuary and Earth Retreat Center … where people can come out to … celebrate the changing of the seasons and create a relationship with others and the earth that sustains us.” It was purchased just over 5 years ago and has served the local Pagan community ever since.

The property was near the epicenter of the fire. As described in a member’s blog post, the group’s “Fire Tribe” (safety and magic crews) was making final preparations for Solstice celebrations when the fire broke. She noted that those members were lucky to escape because they were “landlocked behind the ignition point.” Officials believe the conflagration was started by fireworks set off by The Land’s neighboring residents.

At this point, Firefighters have contained the blaze to about 53%, saying it has destroyed up to 7,264 acres. Although many residents were allowed to return to the evacuated regions, there have been lightening strikes setting off new fires. PCC director and founder Anthony Bailey believes that most of the PCC property is destroyed, and has started a crowd funding campaign to help the center rebuild. We will have more on this story after the group assesses the full extent of the damage.

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Christopher Blackwell

Christopher Blackwell, editor of Alternative Religion Education Network’s ACTION magazine, has announced his retirement. ACTION has been digitally published on every sabbat for 11 years. We interviewed Blackwell about his work and the history of ACTION in January. At the time, he said, “ACTION will last only as long as I and Bill care keep it going. I had hoped to have more helpers but that never happened. I am coming to the end of my life.” He also emphasized that he was very satisfied with what he had accomplished with the journal.

In the recently released Litha issue, Blackwell wrote, “So there comes a time to bring things to an end while they can be ended well. Bill and I mutually decided to make this the last issue. I thank all the readers, and all those interviewed, for making this possible. It has been quite a learning experience for me. I hope you have all enjoyed your part of it as well … I have a new project to get a started.” What that project is, he suggested “model trains,” but there may be other adventures on the horizon.

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Emanuel African Methodist Church, Charleston, SC

Emanuel African Methodist Church [Credit: S. Means / Wikipedia]

After the tragic murder of 9 people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Charleston, the city has reportedly come together in support not only of the victims families, but also in confronting racism, and enacting real social change. The local Charleston-based Pagan community and other Pagans in the region were not absent from this call-to-action.

Within hours of the news hitting the airwaves, Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary, sent out this statement, “We are concerned by the culture of violence which has shattered the peace of a sacred space. Our prayers for healing go out to the people of Emanuel who have lost a caring pastor, the constituents of District 45 who lost a powerful advocate for justice, and the people of Charleston, who are suffering this violation of their beautiful and peaceful city.” Cherry Hill Seminary is based in South Carolina.

Emore is also an active member of the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and has worked with members of Emanuel AME. That group said, “As people of many faiths who are widely-diverse not only spiritually, but also ethnically, socioeconomically and culturally, we stand in solidarity today with Emanuel AME and its members and community and pray for peace with justice.” And that is the universal feeling held within the city at this point, which has been noted by a number of news reports.

The Wild Hunt is currently working with a group of South Carolina Pagans, including one who grew up in the AME church. With their help, we will share a local perspective on the current situation, the protests, the conversations and the grief. We will have that full story later in the week. Until then, there is a call is to remember the names of victims. We list them here: Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr and Myra Thompson. What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

Other stories coming up this week at The Wild Hunt: Etsy Changes its Sellers Policy and Pagan Spirit Gathering Recovers: the Flooding and the Aftermath.

Other News:

  • Taffy Dugan has published part of her work on children in Pagan practice. In early June, we interviewed Dugan as she prepared for “Gerald Gardner Birthday Bash.” On her site “Magical Kids Blog,” she has shared parts 1-4 of her work. Dugan wrote, “There are many Pagan-type things you can share with your kid without being specifically Pagan – the turning of the seasons, love and respect for Earth, herbal remedies, faeries, dragons, unicorns. The easiest and most discreet way would be to give the kids bread crumbs to follow.” She also included the parenting questionnaire, saying that she welcomes more input.
  • In another follow-up to a past story, Wiccan Priest Erik Walton finished the AIDS race. We brought you Walton’s story in May as he was preparing for the 545 mile bike ride called AIDS Lifecycle: Riding to End AIDS/HIV. In that story, Walton shared both personal tragedies and his triumph against all odds. Once again and this time as a Team Ride Leader, Walton finished the bike race.
  • The Satanic Temple has announced the unveiling ceremony of its completed Baphomet statue. According to the announcement, the statue “weighs one ton and [towers] nearly nine feet tall.” It will be revealed at Berts Warehouse Entertainment in Detroit, Michigan on July 25. However, the statue’s final destination is “next to the Oklahoma State Capitol’s monument of the Ten Commandments.” The Temple said, “The event will serve as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats.” Tickets for the event are now on sale.
  • Over at Polytheist.com, Dagulf Loptson discusses the ways to build strong connections to spirit and deity in an article entitled, “Strengthening Spiritual Communication.” After sharing various methods of going about this devotional practice, Loptson concludes, “The secret to successful spiritual contact is actually very simple, and in many ways self-explanatory. The hardest part about building these relationships is simply just doing the work, consistently and with love. Extend the courtesy and effort that you would give a flesh-and-blood relationship to the Gods and spirits, and everything else will follow.”
  • RealPagan.net: Paganism for the Real World” launched a new e-Zine at Beltane. In part one of that first publication, editor Steve Paine writes, “Beltane being a festival of fire and life it seemed a most appropriate time to try this venture. As is best with all new ventures we are starting small and humble but are hoping that as time goes on, folks will become motivated to be involved and will come and add their own thoughts and ideas to what we are creating.” RealPagan.net is a social media society that began in 2011. This is its first venture into publishing.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

[Photo Credit: L. Dake]

[Photo Credit:Beth Yoder-Balla]

EARLVILLE, Illinois- Shortly after we reported on the extensive flooding at the 35th annual Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), organizers announced that the festival would be shutting down. All attendees and staff personnel must evacuate by tomorrow. According to reports, the grounds have become unsafe, and more rain is on the way.

As reported by local news, Illinois state emergency planners are now closely watching the Illinois River as the waters begin to rise, reaching flood-level in some locations. Due to the record downpours across the region, several cities have already initiated emergency plans.

Circle Magazine editor Florence Edwards-Miller said, “While PSG has endured severe weather before, including a near miss by a tornado at a different campground, this is the largest scale emergency in the festival’s 35-year history.”

During the Tuesday morning meeting, attendees were informed of this decision, and an emergency evacuation plan has been put into place. During stage one, those people camping in the flooded areas, such as Rainbow and Quiet, will be evacuated first. PSG has asked anyone in the drier areas of camp to help assist with the effort.

After the meeting and before the packing began, Rev Selena Fox led a “community ritual of healing and farewell.”

[Courtesy Pagan Spirit Gathering]

Edwards-Miller said:

In the wake of the emergency, the community rallied to support those displaced and the PSG volunteers and Safety team. Offers of spare tents, bedding, and food flowed in and people opened their hearts and campsites to friends and strangers alike. Guest musician Wendy Rule performed for those displaced and waiting.This year’s PSG theme is ‘Celebrating Community’ and the community rose to the challenge.

Evacuating and clean-up won’t be easy. There are about 800 people currently on site at PSG, including the staff.  Many cars still won’t start, and camping gear is underwater. In addition, the sanitation fields are flooded, which brings further safety and clean-up concerns. PSG will be holding a mandatory meeting tonight for those people still around. Edwards-Miller added:

PSG and Circle Sanctuary plan to release further information later in the week, but for now the focus is on helping those affected and on organizing a safe early departure from the site.  Circle Sanctuary thanks the PSG community for a truly awe-inspiring display of strength and mutual support, and asks for continued understanding as we work together to get everyone home safely.

EARLVILLE, Illinois – As the 35th annual Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) got underway June 14, attendees found themselves grappling with unusually wet weather. Earleville, located 70 miles west of Chicago, has seen an above average amount of rainfall since May, with more than double the monthly average falling in the first half of June alone.

Flooded ritual greens at PSG [Photo credit: L. Dake]

Flooded ritual greens at PSG [Photo credit: L. Dake]

The rains began again on Wednesday and continued on and off through the weekend. By Monday, PSG attendees found themselves in the middle of a deluge with rising waters throughout the campgrounds. One of the fields, which is now completely underwater, has joined with a nearby pond that has overflowed its banks. Attendees have jokingly labeled this “Lake PSG.”

Rainbow, the LGBT area, was the first to flood and, as reported,  the waters rose so fast that attendees had to “quickly grab their stuff and run.” The parking area is also completely flooded. On Monday, attendees joined with PSG staff members in a muddy attempt to rescue remaining vehicles. Some cars did sustain water damage, and a few reportedly wouldn’t start. Additionally, there have been limbs down throughout camp, and unconfirmed reports of trees falling on tents and campers.

Many PSG attendees have taken to social media to report on their experiences and on the damages. Blogger Lori Dake has posted a video:


A small number of attendees have left permanently; most are staying. Of those staying, some people have taken refuge temporarily in locals hotels, and others have moved into their cars. Despite these adverse conditions, spirits remain high, and nobody has been hurt. The community is cooperating with the PSG staff, who have reportedly worked efficiently and effectively to make the best of the situation. Praise has been pouring in specifically for the work being done by the PSG security team, known as the Guardians, as well as the medics. Some people are going so far as to call them, “heroes.”

Today’s weather reports call for part sun and only a 10% chance of rain. Although the waters have not yet receded and very little has dried out, today’s prospect for clear weather brings with it the hopes of assessing damages and reorganizing the week’s activities. Unfortunately, the weather reports are also calling for more rain tomorrow through Sunday. As a result, there may be little drying out, more water soaked tents and more rescheduling in PSG’s future.

We are in touch with the Staff. We will share more as reports come in and the story unfolds.

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

On Thursday June 18, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a “teaching letter,” also called an encyclical, on the environment. This highly anticipated document will most likely become big news of the week as the Pope enters the debates on climate change. A recent New York Times article suggested that, through this work, he is “seeking to redefine a typically secular discussion within a religious framework.” Many activists, around the world, stand ready to applaud his efforts to publicly engage in the global Earth Stewardship conversation and, thereby, hopefully increase pressure on communities, businesses, organizations and governments to enact change.

To some Pagans and others, who already position the Earth or a connection to natural systems of place, at the center of their spiritual practice, the need for such a document might seem superfluous. However, the team who created the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment did a very similar thing. They made a public statement that clearly positions environmental protection within a spiritual framework.  Now, many Pagans view the pending encyclical as an opportunity to demonstrate, in a concrete fashion, that people of different religious beliefs can stand together for one cause. Writer John Halstead said:

I wonder if the timing of the publication of ‘A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment‘ and the papal encyclical on the environment might be an opportunity for the beginning of a rapprochement between Pagans and Christians. No doubt this will be difficult for both, as we tend to define ourselves in contrast to each other … It can be difficult to see this when we are immersed in our own distinct paths. But when we suddenly find those paths intersecting, as they are at this moment, perhaps we can reconsider whether we — and all other life on Earth — would be better served by emphasizing our similarities, rather than our differences.

As for the Pagan statement itself, it is now has 6, 272 signatures, coming from people all over the world and many religions.

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10978531_1780791502145011_5268602471913887142_n

In the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, there is a small metaphysical store called Raven and Crone. Although the store has only been around a short time, it has been making headlines in one of the city’s local magazines. In a recent article in Capital at Play, writer Roger McCredie featured the store in an article titled “Raven & Crone: Asheville’s Most Bewitching Retailers: Wiccan Make This Work.”  McCredie writes, “In recent decades a saying has arisen that there are probably more Wiccans in the woods of Southern Appalachia than there are rabbits. The sentiment may be fairly new, but the fact it addresses is as old as human habitation of these mountains.” He refers largely to the traditional magical practices and spiritual beliefs found within the Appalachian region.

The store is owned by Lisa Svencicki and Kim Strobel. In the article, McCredie, who is not Pagan, interviews them both about their backgrounds, the decisions that led to the store’s birth and how they are doing. He writes, “Lisa and Kim saw the runic writing on the wall and decided the time was right to create a retail source that could serve the whole spectrum of Asheville’s growing alternative religion communities and also to cross-market to the general public.” The entire article, originally published in print, is available online. Raven & Crone, which bills itself as “the only only “Old Age” metaphysical supply store,” is located on Merriman Avenue near the University campus.

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Christopher Lee at the Women's World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

Christopher Lee at the Women’s World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

On June 7, actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015) passed way at the age of 93. Lee is remembered for a number of roles, including Dracula in group of Hammer Horror films and the Man with the Golden Gun in the James Bond film franchise (1974).  However, younger movie goers will recognize him as Count Dooku or Darth Tyranus in the Star Wars series (2002-2008), or as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2012-2014). And, many Pagans will also recognize him as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Lee was born in London in 1922; in the early years of the film industry. During WWII, he served as an “intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces.” He returned to London in 1946 and began his illustrious acting career. After sixty-three years of work, Lee was knighted in 2009 for his contribution to the arts.  Known for his deep voice, Lee was also a singer and recorded a number of operas during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, at the age of 88, he recorded a symphonic metal album called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and Cross” and then in 2013 “Charlemagne: the Omens of Death.”

Lee’s career was extensive, full and long-lived. Through his artistic legacy and the characters he brought to life, he will continue to entertain generations to come.  What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

In Other News

  • Twin Cities Pagan Pride has just released details about its Paganicon 2016 conference. The theme for its 6th year will be “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions & Voices” and the guest of honor will be T.Thorn Coyle. Organizers said, “We walk this world together; we have different spiritual ways of interacting with our deities, our ancestors, our families, and our rites, but ultimately we share many similar traditions and techniques of relating to the sacred.” Next year’s event will celebrate and honor this diversity. Submissions for programming will be accepted later this week.  In addition, organizers are currently holding a related T-Shirt design contest. Entry rules are posted on the website. Paganicon 2016 will be held from March 18-20 at the Double Tree Park Place in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Lydia M. Nettles Crabtree’s book Family Coven: Birthing Hereditary Witchcraft has just been released. Crabtree has been researching and writing this book for over ten years. She calls it a “comprehensive guide to developing a family oriented spiritual practice … covering the basics of communication, relationship building, finances and parenting.”
  • Coming in October is Cernnunos Camp, a five day festival devoted to the Horned God. Organizers say, “Come and feel the antlered mysteries and abandon yourselves in a celebration of wild unfettered worship of Him with hand, tooth, claw, hoof and feet. Bring your bodies, your drums and rattles, antlers, masks and other ceremonial tools.” Cernnunos Camp will take place from October 14-18 in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Over at Patheos’ The Agora, Dana Corby recalls the making of the album “Songs for the Old Religion.” As the story begins: “In 1973, a friend of mine returned to Southern California from a visit to a Wiccan gathering in the Bay Area telling me about a musician he had met by the name of Gwydion Pendderwyn who had a songbook full of wonderful music … “  Corby then goes on to describe the process and spirit that led to actual recording of the music.  She writes, “We didn’t know we were pioneering anything, or that there would soon be a booming cottage industry in self-produced Pagan music. We just wanted to “show ‘em how it should be done!” This post, which is marked as part one, provides a nice look into some of the early history of the modern Pagan movement in the United States.

songs of old religion

  • On June 5, a writer for Motherboard published an article called “Pop Culture Pagans Who Draw Power From Tumblr.”  The article discusses the use of Pop Cultural icons within magical and religious practice, as well as the controversies surrounding it.  A number of Pagans were quoted or interviewed for the discussion, including author Christine Hoff Kraemer, lawyer and witch Emily Carlin, and editor Taylor Ellwood, who has published a number of books on Pop Culture Magick. In the Motherboard article, Carlin explains, “For those of us who grew up stewing in pop culture, using those ideas in magick seems only natural.” In addition, Carlin has published the writer’s full interview on her own site.
  • Organizers of the upcoming 2016 Pagan Music Festival have recently announced some changes to the spring event. Originally the festival was to be hosted by Dragon Hills in Bowdon, Georgia. However, those plans fell through. Organizers have successfully relocated the festival to Cherokee Farm in LaFayette, Georgia, which is only 2 hours north of its original location. In addition, the event has been renamed to The Caldera Pagan Music Festival. Organizers did add that programming ha not changed; more than 20 bands are scheduled to perform over the 4 days from May 26-30. More information can be found on their website.
  • Tomorrow, Ardantane Learning Center will begin a new “Teaching intensive with Ina White Owl and Amber K.”  The four week course will instruct students on how to “teach more powerfully and effectively,” including “creating lesson plans, working with psychic energies in classrooms, communicating on multiple levels, evaluating your own strengths as a teacher, and handling various other challenges.” Teacher and author Amber K is the executive director of Ardantane, which is located in the deserts of New Mexico. The teaching intensive will be held Tuesdays at 7 pm from June 16-July 7. Registration is now open.

That’s all for now,  Have a nice day!

For most of the United States, public school is out of session, and children are outside making mudpies, playing ball, climbing trees and building Minecraft fortresses on small electronic gadgets. Nobody is thinking about school.

Well, almost nobody. June is “Public School Religious Freedom Month.” Or, at least it is in Pennsylvania; the state in which the historic 1963 Schempp case began. As we previously reported, Abington School District v. Schempp is considered a landmark case in the on-going struggle for religious freedom and equality within public school environments. Schempp challenged the constitutionality of Bible reading within American public schools.

[Photo Credit:  Joseph Barillari, cc-lic. Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Joseph Barillari, cc-lic. Wikimedia]

In recognition of Pennsylvania’s honorary month, we decided to look at recent school-related court cases and proposed or enacted legislation, which challenge and even flout (e.g., Basevitz v. Fremont RE-2 School District) the U.S. Constitution’s implied “Separation of Church and State.”

Religious equality in public schools is unique within the larger cultural negotiations of religion in the public sphere, chiefly because it involves minors – the very protected, very impressionable, youngest sector of the population. These cases often become a power struggle between the administration or even a single teacher and parents or guardians. In a few cases, the struggle is between a teacher and administrators. The Atheist activist group Freedom From Religion Foundation has said that 40% of its received religious-freedom complaints are school-related.

In some situations, the struggle over control of a child’s education and personal expression calls into question the social lines drawn between educational responsibility and rights. These situations also question the ethical boundaries of exposure and advertising to young people (e.g., Lubbock v. Little Pencil), and the capitalizing on expectations or positions of authority (e.g. Boy Scout in-class recruiting.) These cases can even go so far as to insult a parent’s credibility, marginalize a minority religious practice or culture (e.g., Griffith v Caney Valley Public School), and place a fragile young spirit in awkwardly social positions, ostracizing them from friends during a critical social growth period.

These battles, in many ways, are a wrestling-match over our future – personal, community, and legislative.

IMG_4035

[Photo: H. Greene]

Imagine picking up your child school from school and finding a group of older men in sensible sport jackets, red ties and khakis handing out mini copies of the New Testament. As the last bell rings and children exit the school building, these men stand ready to hand each child a brightly colored book strategically decorated like a school locker for greater appeal.

This very scenario happened in May at a school district in north Georgia. When approached, the men happily said that they were simply “sharing teaching Bibles with the children” and that the school knew they were there. Unconstitutional? The men passing out the Bible made it a point to stand just off school property near the three entrances, and only began distribution after school ended. While this situation remains frustrating for many non-Christians and Christians alike, the group was within legal boundaries.

Situations like this and other school-related religious freedom issues are unfortunately not uncommon. While every case doesn’t directly involve Pagans and Heathens, every situation and decision affects the entire student body, not only the families who take their story to the press, to the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United or, if you are in the Pagan world, to Lady Liberty League.

Let’s look at two recent situations.

Creationism Regularly Taught in Louisiana Schools

Do you have children in Louisiana public schools? If so, you might want to look closely at the science curriculum. According to a recent Slate magazine article, Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education said, “We know that one in eight high school biology teachers advocate for creationism, even though it’s unconstitutional.”

In 2008, Louisiana passed the “Louisiana Science Education Act,” which opened the door for the teaching of creationism within its public school system. This law, commonly referred to as the “Creationism Act,” states that its purpose is to “promote students’ critical thinking skills and open discussion of scientific theories … including “evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.” Although the law also specifically states that it “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine,” a new investigative report has proven the contrary.

Recent investigative work by Slate’s Zack Kopplin demonstrates that creationism is regularly taught in school districts across the state, using Bibles as supplemental teaching texts. He revealed his findings in two separate articles for the online news journal. Not only does his research demonstrate open school support of such teachings, he also suggests that state legislators have been pressuring districts to include creationism in the curriculum.

Kopplin also notes that there have been 10 attempts to repeal the Creationism Act since its enactment, but none have been successful. In his latest report, Kopplin concludes, “All it will take is for one Louisiana parent or student to sue the state for endorsing religion in public school, and teaching creationism will become illegal again. But for the moment, because Louisiana politicians refuse to take action, Louisiana students are reading Genesis in science class.” Americans United (AU), the ACLU, and Freedom From Religion Foundation have all made it clear that they are watching and waiting. AU wrote, “Let’s hope someone will step up soon.”

Prayer in School

In Indiana, the ACLU filed a lawsuit June 1 on behalf of a Jim and Nichole Bellars, whose son attends River Forest Junior / Senior High School. As reported, the complaint reads:

The coach-led prayers, the School Board prayers, and the graduation prayers all violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

According to the Indiannapolis Star, the child was told to “get along better” with the coaches and that he should “just sit there and be quiet but that the prayers would continue and that [he] had to remain huddled with the team.” Since the parents got involved, the child has been subjected to harassment by others at the school.

Interestingly, the case touches on three different observational complaints, implicating the sports program, the graduation exercises and the school board meetings. According to ACLU reference material, the Supreme Court is clear on the unconstitutionality of both coach-led and graduation prayers. “In 1992, the Supreme Court held in Lee v. Weisman, 505 U. S. 577 (1992), that prayer – even nonsectarian or nonproselytizing prayer – at public school graduation ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” Similarly “in Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 68 U.S. 4525 (2000),” the United States Supreme Court ruled against coach-led optional prayers before sporting events. The ACLU explains:

Such system encourages divisiveness along religious lines and threatens the imposition of coercion upon those students not desiring to participate in a religious exercise. Simply by establishing the schoolrelated procedure, which entrusts the inherently nongovernmental subject of religion to a majoritarian vote, a constitutional violation has occurred.

The third issue raised in the Indiana case is the legality of prayer before school board meetings, which is an entirely different challenge. School Board meeting are largely adult forums and do not involve the education of minors. So this raises an important question. Does the 2014 Town of Greece v. Galloway case, allowing for sectarian prayers during government meetings, apply to such school boards?

According to the ACLU documentation, it does not. The document says that “In Coles ex rel. Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 171 F.3d 369 (6th Cir. 1999) …the Court observed that ‘[t]he very fact that school board meetings focus solely on school-related matters provides students with an incentive to attend the meetings that is lacking in other settings.” The organization goes on to suggest that, in many cases, students are required to attend such meetings. Therefore, since there is a potential for coercion of minors, sectarian prayer at school board meetings is definitively unconstitutional. This idea is firmly based on the premise of protecting our youth. Adults can presumably handle hearing opposing views without being coerced, where children can’t.

Americans United agrees with the ACLU. However, without a specific SCOTUS ruling, there is still much debate.

[Photo Credit: Jayhawksean via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Jayhawksean via Wikimedia]

Many other situations and cases are on file and pending. In the Basevitz case, as linked below, a Jewish teacher is currently suing her district for allowing a local church to offer services in the lunchroom during school hours. In the Griffith v. Caney Valley Public Schools case, a student sued the school board for not allowing her to wear a sacred eagle feather during graduation. She lost her case. In Lubbock v. Little Pencil, a school district was sued when it rejected a religious advertisement proposed for its stadium’s jumbo tron. The court ruled in favor of the school. And, in Georgia, a local high school has recently announced that its “back to school activities” will be held in a nearby Baptist megachurch due to building construction. There is no legal challenge to this action yet.

The cultural discussions over religious equality often seem to just spin round and round. The freedom of religious expression (e.g., Griffith v Caney Valley Public School) and the definitive separation of church and state (e.g., Basevitz v. Fremont RE-2 School District) often come into conflict within that struggle, adding nuance to already complicated legal situations and personal sacrifice. In addition, the rules change and situations become more emotional when children are involved; when the future and the, often-considered sacred, right of parents and guardians as religious and cultural guides is challenged.

These are critical and challenging times. But, your leadership blesses us, your passion for justice inspires us, and your determination to make a difference for racial justice and equity in our own day gives us hope. – Reverend Doctor Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary

Dr. Henderson offered these words to the participants at Auburn Theological Seminary’s MountainTop 2015 convention. As reported Wednesday, I was able to sit down live with several attendees to talk about the programming and their experiences. In that article, I highlighted the unique adventure that is MountainTop and how the 3-day program is structured to allow for creative collaboration and safe engagement.

Today, we continue the conversation. The women share how the MountainTop environment has affected their personal growth, and how they plan to take their experience back out into their communities.

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

Andrea Weston, Courtney Weber, Caitlin Breedlove, Luna Pantera, T. Thorn Coyle, Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Photos]

Before arriving in Atlanta for the convention, the six women were all activists, artists and community educators for many years. Caitlin Breedlove is the co-director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG), which “organizes one of the largest LGBTQ memberships in the country into intersectional campaigns and base building across race, class, culture, gender and sexuality.” Breedlove was also involved in the planning of several #blacklivesmatter campaigns and protests in Durham, Charleston and Atlanta.

Andrea Weston is the host of the radio show “Liquid Libations Radio.” As a rootworker, she often presents and shares her practice at various events around the country. In May, for example, she was part of ritual performance that brought “together prayers, songs, and dances from throughout the African diaspora.”

Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani is an artist, poet and performer. Working for Auburn, she is on the “Table to Action Project” team that “explores the intersection between art and social justice.” Like Hayeem-Ladani, Courtney Weber is also an Auburn employee. Weber is known specifically for her work with Pagan Environmental Coalition – New York City, through which she has actively campaigned against Fracking.

Courtney Weber [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Courtney Weber [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Thorn Coyle has been an activist for years, publicly campaigning for racial justice. Her most recent work has been with Martin de Porres House of Hospitality in San Francisco and the Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland. Her recently-released novel Like Water is directly inspired by this social justice work.

Luna Pantera has served on the regional Board of the National Organization of Women and “the American Civil Liberties Union chapter of the LGBTI.” She is currently involved in two new projects. One will provide media training for activists, and the other is a #blacklivesmatter quilt project that will honor the many lives that have been lost.

In discussing her work, Pantera also noted that she has been away from the movement. She was burned-out and had to take a break. As noted yesterday, this convention is helping her to transition back to being active. She said, “In other conventions, all we do is talk, talk, talk. MountainTop ignites all of our senses.” All the women nodded in agreement.

Luna Pantera [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Luna Pantera [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

MountainTop is also challenging each of them to confront some of their own biases, boundaries and assumptions. Breedlove said, “Auburn builds relationships. It brings people together and teaches them how to engage with each other.” She noted that this is an area that often causes organizations to fail. People don’t know how, or aren’t willing, to engage with others of different viewpoints.

Coyle, then, recalled being in one of the working groups, or containers, with a number of people advocating for solutions involving change in government. As an proponent of more radical approaches, she kept quiet for a period of time and, then, finally said, “Does the radical voice need to be heard here?” And, to her surprise, the rest of the group welcomed her opinion. She said, “They made room for that.” She added that this convention experience is helping her to find “her own bridge.” In other words, she is locating the point of connection between the radical voice and those that work within the systems. She added, “All voices are necessary.”

Pantera also relayed a story in which she came up against “another strong black woman with an opposing view.” They were disagreeing over how to construct their group’s presentation. However, after some tension, both she and the other woman “learned how to share power.” She said, “I also learned how to surrender my power, and that was transformative … We both gave up our personal visions for the sake of the group vision.”

The women said that nobody at the conference was there as a representative of their own religion. They were there for who they were personally; for their passion for justice; and for their leadership roles in various areas. Westin said, “The Auburn staff provides a setting where we can all come together in trust. And, if there is an issue, we can safely unpack it, or find help unpacking it.”

Andrea Weston [Courtesy  Auburn Theological Seminary]

Andrea Weston [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

Hayeem-Ladani agreed, saying that part of this process is learning “how are we at being together?” and respecting that everyone comes to the conversation from a different entry point.

Next we discussed how these lessons-learned and the experiences would travel back with them to their communities and inform their lives? They unanimously agreed that MountainTop’s “creative visioning” methodologies could strengthen any activist work. As an example, Breedlove described how “leaders of spiritual homes,” such churches, covens, temples, could employ some of the support methods to prepare people for tense or difficult engagement, and teach activists how to avoid burn-out. On a personal level, she added that this experience will serve to “up her level of commitment.”

Coyle said that she plans to present some of the working processes to the Anti Police-Terror Project. She noted that the group is moving toward being more proactive, rather than only reactive. She said that MountainTop’s methodologies “build muscles of action,” which could helpful in the group’s work.

Pantera added that the unique methods of processing “help us come up with new ways of doing it. Then, we ask, ‘how can we never thought of it before?’ ” As Pantera comes out of her sabbatical, she hopes to work more with her local Pagan Community, where she sees a real need for bonding and community coordination. She said, “We need to get our act together.”

Through creative exploration, the MountatinTop environment demonstrated various ways to build the roads to action, and also demonstrated that bonds can be built across difference in order to strengthen social justice work. Hayeem-Ladani added that there is a sense of hope. “If you believe and I believe…,” we can make a difference.

Sabrina Hayeem-Ladani [Courtesy Auburn Theological Seminary]

At the end of three days, Auburn welcomed its guests to a dinner reception at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, one of the MountainTop’s supporting organizations. At the end of the evening, Reverend Doctor William Barber II stood up to speak. In his Pentecostal style, he invoked the spirit of justice for each and every one of the attendees. Then, he invited singer Yara Allen to lead the group in song.

She began an ohm-like intoning of sound using only the word, “Yes.” As this was happening, people privately reached out spiritually in their own way. At the same, Coyle took the hands of the people next to her and encourage others to do the same. Within minutes, the entire room, filled with people from many different religions and walks of life, had created an enormous linked circle. This moment of sound, voices, spirit and connection lasted for about 10 minutes.

Weber called it a “cauldron of rebirth” and an “immense cone of power that called to the ancestors who suffered due to slavery, violence, Jim Crow and more.” She said they were there “guiding us forward and calling us to keep going with this movement.”

Weber called it an “unbelievable moment.”