Archives For Heather Greene

For many people, Nigeria is a country only known through stories and news reports. Most recently, the country has taken center stage as Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, continues its violent campaign in the North Eastern portion of the country. In 2014, Nigeria faced a health crisis during one of the worst Ebola outbreaks ever recorded. The country is also home to the famous Pentecostal preacher Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio, and others like her, who regular speak out against Witchcraft.

Lou Florez

Lou Florez

But there is another side to the West African nation – a vibrant, indigenous spirituality and history that calls out to many Americans. Next month, Lou Florez, an American witch, rootworker, priest and Olorisha, is headed to Nigeria to experience that side firsthand.

As a student of IFA, the religion of the Yoruba culture, Florez told The Wild Hunt that he’s looking forward to “to encountering the Orisha in their homeland.”  He said:

“Earth-centered traditions engage and conceptualize the divine in unique ways, for us divinity is not exterior to our environment but emerges from and is encountered as the physical landscape itself.  In Orisha traditions there is divinity named Oshun who is known as the mother of the sweet waters, and specifically of the Oshun River in Osogbo, Nigeria. … To go to her river is to meet her face to face and be changed by the encounter. Imagine the ability to meet and engage several of these Orisha and teachings all in one journey.”

Florez was chosen to take this trip by the communities of practitioners involved. He described the experience as a “whirlwind.” Through friend and fellow student Shantell Herndon (Iyanifa OyaDara), Florez met a community of people with whom he now studies. Both the U.S.- based group and its sister group in Nigeria had been discussing sponsoring a pilgrimage for some of their American students. The planning itself took three years, and names were finally selected in the fall 2014.

Florez said, “During the last round of divinations my name came up and I was extended the invitation. I think that part of why this is so important for me at this time is that these types of opportunities aren’t give often or repeatedly.”

Like his friend and fellow traveler Herndon, Florez has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the costs of the trip. The majority of the money paid goes directly back to the Nigerian host community. He sees this as an integral part of the journey. He said, “It is about honoring, supporting, and giving back through my labor, service, and capital to communities who have continued this liberation work despite the oppressions and genocides that continue to happen. The money I am raising goes directly to these communities and makes a difference in their lives.” Most of the funds will be given to the host temple, which will then be distributed to the local people.

After leaving the U.S., Florez will arrive in Lagos where he will remain in the hotel for one night. The following morning he will be taken to the initiation site and, as he said, “be in Igbodu (initiation grove) for 10 to 14 days depending on divination.” He added, “The ritual part of this journey is to solidify the connection between the feminine divine and myself through specific ceremonies and initiations which are meant to seed this wisdom within me. I will also undergo the initiation rites of the high priesthood and study with priestesses in medicinal and magical herbalism.”

Florez and another celebrant making offerings and prayers [Courtesy Photo]

Florez and another celebrant making offerings and prayers [Courtesy Photo]

Making such a journey to Nigeria is not entirely unusual. In Florez’ case, the emphais is on religious learning. However, religious instruction is not the only reason Americans, in particular, have made the pilgrimage to Nigeria. In an article for Grio.com, Nigerian journalist Chika Oduah describes a journey in which African-Americans find solace in reconnecting to their ancestral heritage. In such cases, she writes that the travelers “underwent a ritual cleansing from what they call the stigma of slavery.”

This process, which Oduah describes as spiritual as well as cultural, is something Florez, himself, also touched upon. He said, “I was called to these [religious] paths for my own spiritual healing and upliftment and to bring light to all the transgenerational trauma and oppression held within my body. The vestiges and scars of colonialism, racism, and oppression are not only experienced individually but transmitted in our DNA to the next generation. Part of indigenous practice has been to identify and release those narratives in order to move toward liberation.”

While Nigeria may hold the key to spiritual tradition and transformation, travelers must also remain mindful that it is still a modern land with modern problems and a modern culture – one that might not fully embrace their spiritual undertaking. For example, Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions in the region. While many Americans may be turning to the African Tradition Religions, Nigerians are holding tight to these monotheistic worldviews. Only a small percentage of the population practices IFA, or similar traditions. In many cases, those that do are considered “backward” by modern Nigerian standards.

Additionally, there is the very public and strong national anti-gay sentiment in the country. In 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan signed an anti-same-sex marriage bill into law. The bill was backed unanimously by the legislature and by popular sentiment. In a March 2014 article, Oduah explained that, on this subject, Nigerians are “united under a banner of patriotism and what many perceive as a fight against Western imperialism.”

Florez with friend Yeshe Rabbit pouring libation and honoring the sweet waters at Lake Merritt [Courtesy Photo]

Florez with friend Yeshe Rabbit pouring libation and honoring the sweet waters at Lake Merritt [Courtesy Photo]

Florez isn’t worried, saying that he “implicitly trusts the teachers and communities that I will be staying with.” He added that he has “been very clear, transparent, genuine, and honest that I am a gay man.”

However, in preparation, he has been taking the necessary medical precautions. He said, “I’m in the process of getting all my immunizations in order such as Typhoid, Hep A & B, Yellow Fever, Rabies, to name a few. In terms of Ebola, Nigeria was deemed free of new cases … I will also be staying in pocketed communities and not in general public in terms of transmission. Other than these precautions and usual travel items such as a water purifier, I have no idea what I am walking into.”

Despite any obstacles, Florez is determined to make this trip, one that he knows will benefit his own spiritual journey as well as his community of practitioners and students. He said, “the biggest thing that I’m expecting is having to surrender control both physically and spiritual to the process and to these communities.”

Outside of the initiations and education, Florez hopes to have a bit of leisure time for “personal projects such as reading, writing, listening to music, or watching fuzzy Nigerian soap operas.” He plans to visit the local market, meet artisans and others in the community. He hopes to bring back some “Orisha statues, herbs and sacred tools.” He said, “My curiosity is peaked and I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of things that we don’t have access to here in the states.”

While in Nigeria, Florez will be tweeting and updating his public social media for anyone curious about his experiences. His Twitter handle is @louflorez and he has a public Facebook page and blog.

When he returns, he is planning to share what he has learned and his experiences through readings, workshops, conversations, teachings and lectures. He said, “This trip enables me to help open the door a little bit further for future generations to touch into the history, magic, and birth place of the Orishas.”

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – On Jan. 18, the U.K. saw its first legal same-sex Pagan marriage ceremony. Tom Lanting and Iain Robertson, both hedge witches, were married in the 16th century vaulted cellars of historic Marlin’s Wynd. The ceremony was performed by Louise Park of the Pagan Federation Scotland.

[Courtesy Photo. Taken by Cherrie Coutts]

Tom Lanting and Iain Robertson [Courtesy Photo. Taken by Cherrie Coutts of cherriecouttsphotography.com]

“We felt as practicing Pagans we wanted to create a day for not only ourselves but for everyone who attended our ceremony and as Scotland recognizes love within All beliefs we were able to start our lives together bonded in the eyes of the God and Goddess and FINALLY the law,” told The Wild Hunt in a brief interview.

To date, Scotland is the only country in the U.K. that allows for legally-binding Pagan marriage ceremonies. In 2004, the General Registrar Office for Scotland accepted the Pagan Federation as “an appropriate body for the nomination of Celebrants under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977.”  According to various reports, Pagan Federation celebrants have conducted hundreds of legal Pagan mix-sex marriages since that time.

Author and Wiccan High Priestess Vivane Crowley said, “The Pagan Federation (Scotland) has fought long and hard for equal rights for Pagans in Scotland. It has succeeded in establishing Paganism as part of the spectrum of a thriving multi-cultural country that honors the traditions of the past, while building a society of the future.”

Although Pagan marriages were legally recognized in Scotland in 2004, same-sex marriages were not. In 2013, Scotland’s neighbors, England and Wales, voted to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the two countries still did not recognize Pagan marriage ceremonies. Then, in early 2014, Scotland followed suit by passing its new Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Same-sex marriage became legal as of Dec. 16, 2014 with the first ceremonies being performed that day. As a result, Scotland has become the first country in the U.K to legally recognize both Pagan ceremonies and same-sex marriage.

Crowley added, “The Pagan Federation joined other religious organizations in a wonderful campaigning for recognition of Gay marriage in Scotland. It is wonderful that the media, including traditional conservative newspaper ‘The Daily Telegraph’, have received the change so warmly and gave such positive coverage of Iain and Tom’s wedding.”

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

Lanting and Roberson’s wedding has indeed become the recent focus of mainstream media, as well as being a landmark moment in history – both Pagan and otherwise. Attending their ceremony was Tom French, the Policy and Public Affairs Coordinator for The Equality Network, a charity organization serving Scotland’s LGBTI community. French told the BBC:

We were delighted to be able to attend the UK’s first pagan same-sex marriage … Religious and belief groups played an important role in the campaign for equal marriage and this ceremony is a mark of equality and freedom of belief in Scotland.

Recognizing this attention, the couple said, “We are both delighted the world has taken this moment to the heart.”

While the significance of Scotland’s first Pagan same-sex marriage ceremony is certainly far reaching, its impact was felt all the more by the two men themselves. After twelve years of being together, Robertson and Lanting were finally able to pledge their love and commitment to each other in the religious and spiritual manner of their choosing and have it all be legally binding. They said, “We hope in time this possibility will spread worldwide to allow those of all sexualities and beliefs to be seen as equal in legal circles…Thank you to everyone who joined us on the day and to the wider world and our Pagan brothers and sisters globally.”

The Pagan Federation Scotland was unavailable for additional comments. However, celebrant Louise Parks told the BBC, “We feel that, if any couple wish to, they should be able to make their marriage vows before their own personal Gods, friends and family, in a religious ceremony tailored to suit their own beliefs.” She added, “I am absolutely over the moon to have been able to conduct Scotland’s – and the U.K.’s – first pagan same-sex marriage for Tom and Iain, who hold a special place in the hearts of Scotland’s Pagan community.”

In her comments, Crowley agreed, offer her own good wishes. She said, “Congratulations Iain and Tom, creators of the well-known ‘Gemini Wands’ company who will be known to Pagans throughout Britain from their frequent appearances at festivals. ”

The Doreen Valiente Foundation also offered its own words of congratulations saying:

Tom Lanting, one of the couple who were married in Britain’s first same-sex pagan wedding has supported the Doreen Valiente Foundation at various conferences over the years. We see this as a further historic step towards the equality of religion that Doreen and many others have struggled for for many years. That it also reflects the equality struggle of another minority group only makes all the more satisfying to see. Congratulations and blessings to the happy couple from all of us at the Doreen Valiente Foundation.

Fortunately, with all this unexpected publicity, Lanting and Robertson have not received backlash in any form. They continue to be very thankful for the outpouring of support and interest in their story. To other Pagan LGBTQ couples around the world, they offered this positive note, “Congratulations to our brothers and sisters who have received recognition and the rest WILL follow.”

[Courtesy Photo. Taken by Cherrie Coutts of .cherriecouttsphotography.com)

[Courtesy Photo. Taken by Cherrie Coutts of cherriecouttsphotography.com)

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started! 

HUAR Banner [Courtesy Photo]

HUAR Banner [Courtesy Photo]

For Americans, today is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday during which the country acknowledges and celebrates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Due to the current social and political climate, this year’s events have been or will be bigger, and far more poignant than in the past. Several Pagan and Heathen activists have indicated that they are participating in and even organizing public demonstrations, marches and vigils.

For example, on Friday morning, Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR), Solar Cross and Pagans United Against Racism together dropped a banner over the University Avenue footbridge in Berkeley. The banner contained Dr. King’s quote “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.” and included the hashtag #MLKalsosaid.

Today, HUAR, Solar Cross, Coru Cathubodua and other area Pagans will be joining a march in Oakland, California to “celebrate the radical legacy of Dr. King.” One of their banners reads “Pagans United for Justice” and “Will we be extremists for hate, or extremists for love? – MLK.” The march begins 10:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

According to the PNC Minnesota Bureau, Minnesota Pagans are joining a big #ReclaimMLK march being held in St. Paul at 1:00 pm CST today. Although the article doesn’t indicate any specific names, the groups attending will be marching together and holding signs. The article reads, “Words are wind and many Pagans hope to change that with action.”

[public domain]

[public domain]

In Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Pagan shop owner, Kristin West, is using her monthly “Witch’s Night” to honor King with a discussion on freedom. According to a news report, the popular themed meeting, which usually focuses on religious practice and the Craft, can draw up to 30 people from around the state. This month she changed directions, deciding to connect King’s work to her freedom to practice Witchcraft.  West said “If we didn’t have freedom of religion, we wouldn’t be here.

Others have been discussing or honoring King through their writing. For example, T. Thorn Coyle, who has been actively involved in the above California-based events, published a blog post titled “Disturbing the Peace.” The Humanistic Paganism blog offered a dedicated meditation in its post, “Beloved Community.VooDoo Universe writer Lilith Dorsey considers the complexities of historical remembrances and the honoring of Dr. King. The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel has published its official statement on the #blacklivesmatter movement. HUAR released a solidarity statement for “the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend actions.”

While King’s message and his life had a very specific purpose during a very tumultuous period in U.S. history, over time his message has been distilled down and come to permeate U.S. culture with a meaning that far exceeds the focused goals of that particular decade. In the wake of Ferguson, that message has returned with force, in many ways, to its origins, regaining a new vitality and forward momentum.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. – Dr. Martin Luther King, a Letter from Birmingham Jail

In Other News:

Alane Brown in Peru [Courtesy Photo]

Alane Brown in Peru [Courtesy Photo]

  • The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, located in Iowa, has begun a new earth-based traditions program. According to reports, organizers kicked off the new program with a Yule Sabbat last month, and will continue with monthly meetings and eight yearly sabbat celebrations. Organizer Lana Long told reporters, “We are an umbrella for a little bit of everything — Pagan, Shamanism, Wiccan, etc. One of our goals is to offer a place for people like that to be able to meet in a community.”
  • Pagan Todd Bernston has launched a new “Relationship Survey that “explores and compares relational dimensions such as emotional bonding, anxiety, caregiving, and sexuality, between monogamous and consensual non-monogamous couples.” Bernston is a couple’s therapist who “does a lot of work with couples in non-traditional relationships, such as polyamory and consensual non-monogamy.”  He said that many past studies have not adequately looked at the bonds in non-traditional relationships.  He hopes that “the results [will] help shape our cultural and therapeutic understanding of the growing number of couples who are involved in non-traditional relationship styles.”  The survey is online at Relationship Study.

That is it for now.  Have a nice day!

The U.S. Army has finally added Asatru and Heathen to its religious preference list after a five year effort led by the Open Halls Project. The Army is now the second branch of the U.S Military to include these two religious options. The Air Force led the way in July 2014. With these changes made, Heathen soldiers serving, or having served, in either of these two branches can accurately communicate their religious preference and, by doing so, earn a host of benefits and protections.

[Photo Credit: Ian Britton/FreePhoto.com]

[Photo Credit: Ian Britton/FreePhoto.com]

“This is a first step into showing how deeply integrated with serving our country Heathens are. We represent a significant minority of the world, but the large majority of Heathens have served their countries in some form or another. Taking care of our community is a Heathen worldview trait, serving in the military is one way to serve those communities. I hope that this recognition helps to encourage more Heathens to serve their communities in all ways,” said Josh Heath, co-founder of the Open Halls Project in an interview with The Wild Hunt.

It is currently estimated that there are around 500 Heathens serving in the U.S. Army alone. That number is purely speculative based on Open Hall Project registrations. Heath said, “I’m hoping that getting the religious preference added will allow us to eventually ask the military to do an official census.”

Heath’s quest began in 2009 after he and his wife Cat joined The Troth. At that time, Heath was on Active Duty with U.S. Army, and wanted to see both Heathen and Asatru added to the religious preference list. Since that application required the backing of a 501c3 organization, he asked the Troth for help, which they gave. Unfortunately, the Army made an error and put The Troth on the list, rather than Heathen or Asatru.

As a result, Heath had to begin the process all over again. This time, however, he looked for support from a group whose name contained the word Asatru, as advised by Army officials. With the help of Vince Enland of the Asatru Alliance and Patricia Lafayllve of The Troth, he submitted a second application in 2010.  This was also the year that he and Cat formally established the Open Halls Project.

Open Halls Project
A year went by with little to no response. In 2011, the team decided to submit a third application. This one contained a petition with the signatures of over 30 soldiers. But, once again, they were simply told that the application was being reviewed.

After two years of waiting, the Army had still made no decisions, and the team was faced with two new challenges. Heath said, “In 2012, we were told by the Chaplains Corp that a new system to request Rel Prefs was being developed and would take some time to get anything new approved.” Additionally, Heath himself was no longer on Active Duty. Therefore, they “would need to get someone [else] who [could] reprocess the whole request.”

Over the next two years, they put the project on “the back burner.” They periodically checked in with Chaplain Bryan Walker, personnel director of the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains. They also worked to garner more support and allies for the mission.

By 2013, momentum began to build in the form of both interest and corresponding actions. In terms of earning increased support, Josh Heath credits a 2013 interview with Dr. Karl Seigfried, published on the Norse Mythology blog.  While the article is predominantly about the couple’s personal history and religion, it does mention the Open Halls Project and its deep involvement “in American Heathenry and … the struggle for its recognition as a religion in the U.S. military.” In fact, that very interview is what inspired Msgt. Matt Walters, the Air Force NCO, to seek out the Open Halls Project for help in getting Asatru and Heathen added to the Air Force religious preference list.

While support increased, other serendipitous events began to happen. In spring 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added the Mjöllnir, (the Hammer) to its list of symbols available for gravestones and markers. Then, in early 2014, the Army added Humanism to its religious preference list, and the Air Force added Heathen and Asatru.

Thor's Hammer Emblem.

Thor’s Hammer Emblem.

In a recent interview with Dr. Karl Seigfried, Heath admitted that the adding of Humanism, “riled him up!” He said, “I’d been working on this issue for Heathens for five years, and they still hadn’t approved us! I threatened a lawsuit, politely, and even contacted the ACLU and the humanists that won their campaign to ask for some guidance on how to proceed.”

Due the increase in support from the Heathen community, Heath was able to find four new Active Duty soldiers willing to work on the project. The team consisted of Christopher Gibat, Omar Bailey, Andrew Turner and Daniel Head, who would became the new principle point of contact. In a recent interview, Head told Dr. Seigfried that after some “back and forth” and questioning the chaplains signed off. Asatru and Heathen were added to the list.

While this designation is purely administrative, the benefits can be far reaching in the experiences of a Heathen soldier, and in the education of military officials. Heath said:

Some Heathens will still have a hard time getting the right to worship, but having their religious preference added will mean the Chaplains Corp, MUST, assist them within the regulation requirements. That is a huge advocacy pool, even a chaplain that doesn’t really want to help will have to or face disciplinary action for failing to uphold their oath. I think this will help, when good soldiers, are seen as good soldiers, and then someone finds out they are a Heathen, this will hopefully show that we are good for our units, good for the Army and good for our country.

He also noted that Heathen Veterans can apply to make a change to their religious preference. Doing so will help with any official census taken, as well as supporting Heathen specific needs for funerals and other religious-based services.

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

After the announcement was made, Open Halls members were asked for reactions and thoughts. Heath shared some of those responses:

I have [had] to choose ‘other’ as my religious preference, that makes me and many others feel excluded. I will no longer have to worry, “Will there be someone who understands what I believe, and to speak for me, if the worse were to happen.” – Daron Regan

It is a great feeling not to be marginalized as “that weird guy that believes in comic book characters.” – Andrew Turner

I am thankful for those that have stayed the course, it seems to have paid off and brought honor to us all.- Omar Bailey

This is the seed from which something great may grow. Whether it be something as simple as full recognition or a full chaplain representation. Our deed will feed the well that feeds the seed.- Joshua Spencer

A few members were skeptical on how much this will really affect their day-to-day experience, but most reactions were celebratory and focused on the next chapter of the project. Heath said, “We are planning on pursuing the Navy and Marines next, as they use the same system for Chaplains, a win there will affect both branches at the same time. I seriously doubt they would add the preferences themselves without prodding, but I do not think it would be hard for personnel to make those requests now.”

For more extensive detail on the entire process and experience, turn to the recent interview with Daniel Head and Josh and Cat Heath at the Norse Mythology Blog

10921931_10153238861619523_1430451858_n

Maureen Wheeler

On Jan. 8, Maureen Wheeler, fondly known as Aunty Bunty, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Maureen was a Witch, High Priestess and Elder member of the U.K.’s Pagan community. She trained and was initiated by Gavin Bone in the early 1990s. By 2001, she had birthed a legacy of more than a dozen covens around the country. As noted by Bone in his personal tribute, “Magically [Maureen] was a witch, not a Wiccan, not any particular tradition, she was a witch. She was a witch before I met her and she died a witch above all else.”

In a video titled Witchways 1, Maureen describes her first experience with Witchcraft. In 1955, at the age of 17, she was introduced to a man wearing an inverted pentacle and, out of curiosity, accompanied him to an event. But it wasn’t what she wanted, and many years passed before she once again encountered anyone practicing Witchcraft.

That year was 1990. Maureen discovered that her daughter-in-law was studying Witchcraft. Once again, Maureen’s curiosity was piqued, and so she attended a meeting. This is where she met Gavin Bone, who would become her initiator and good friend. Bone said, “I still remember the first time I saw her; she was in battle dress! Dressed in leather jacket, dark glasses read to wrestle her daughter in law from us evil satanists! The reverse happened in stead she stayed.”

Soon after, Maureen became an initiated Witch, studying with Bone and eventually with others, including The Fellowship of Isis. As time passed, she formed her own coven and became a High Priestess, a respected teacher, a skilled Tarot reader, and an active member of UK’s Pagan community.

Maureen Wheeler [Still from Witchways 1}

Maureen Wheeler [Still from Witchways 1}

Maureen never hid her practice, and was willing to be filmed and interviewed. Along with the two short Witchways videos, Maureen participated in several BBC programs. In 2001, she was featured on a show titled ‘Rush,” which includes a dramatically-filmed bit on modern Witchcraft. In 2005, she consented to be part of an episode of the BBC TV show called “Inside Out.” Focused on the magic in Kingsley Vale, the segment shows Maureen with her coven performing a ritual in a Yew grove and ends with a brief interview.

In 2011, Vogue UK did an editorial, titled “Merrie England,” exploring the folk revival in the region. Included in the twenty photographs taken by renowned photographer Tim Walker is the striking image of Maureen in ritual dress. The article’s subtitle appropriately reads, “Tim Walker captures its practitioners at their most magical.”

Unfortunately, this past October, cancer caught back up with Maureen after being in remission for nine years. The treatments were difficult and eventually took their toll on her body. Maureen passed into the Summer lands in the presence of her daughter at 8:50 a.m. on January 8.

Maureen’s daughter, Louise Hilborne, was initiated by her mother and said, “From a very early age she told me I was a witch as she was but it would be many years later that I was woken to this. It terrified me.”  She added, “I will do my best to carry on her good work in the way I know how. ”

Maureen’s son, Dave Hilborne wrote this tribute:

My dear mum was the most remarkable woman,it didn’t matter if you were 16 or 66 she could and would make a connection with people. My greatest pride was that she took enormous joy from watching me perform and even more so I would love to make her laugh until the tears rolled down her cheeks. My mum saved me from almost intolerable hardship as a child,she taught me the value of saving and being grateful for all that I have. She taught me to be tolerant. She taught me life. (reprinted with permission)

Simon Costin, director of The Museum of Witchcraft, said:

10881339_10153238862409523_31314659_nShe had a remarkable life and a very unique take on the craft that was very much her own. I learnt more from Maureen over a cup of tea than from any number of books. Hers was a meaty, no nonsense kind of magic and all the better for it….I will miss her dearly.

At the end of his tribute, Gavin Bone said:

She was my friend as well as my initiate. Alex Sander’s said (stolen of course from someone else): ‘If the initiate does not surpass the initiator, the initiator has failed!’ I did not fail, she surpassed me and I am proud of it. But I will not take any credit for this as Maureen was a witch from the day she was born, I learnt as much from her as she did from me; we initiated each other. I will miss her but know we will ‘…meet again’!

Maureen was a dedicated and passionate Witch, Priestess, teacher and guide. She was deeply respected and loved. She will be missed by her family, her friends and her students. Her legacy will live on through her work, her teachings, and the impact that she had on the modern practice of Witchcraft.

What is remembered, lives.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

open_halls_square

Last week, it became official that the U.S. Army has added Heathen and Asatru to its religious preference list. The efforts to get this added were spearhead by members of the The Open Halls Project. Josh Heath, co-founder of the organization, told The Wild Hunt, “I think this is a first step into showing how deeply integrated with serving our country heathens are. We represent a significant minority of the world, but the large majority of heathens have served their countries in some form or another. Taking care of our community is a heathen worldview trait, serving in the military is one way to serve those communities.”

The Norse Mythology Blog published an interview with Heath and co-founder Cat Heath, as well as Daniel Head, an active duty soldier who was part of the effort. We will have a full report later this week.

*    *    *

iceland

In Iceland, it has been announced that a new Pagan temple will be constructed in Reykjavik. According to the Iceland Magazine, “This will be the first pagan temple to be built in the Nordic countries in nearly a thousand years.”  The project began in 2006, when the application for the land plot was filed. Nine years later, construction is finally ready to begin.

According to the report, the structure will be 350 square meters and will hold 250 people. It will serve the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélag organization and its community. Columnist Eric O. Scott is currently researching the project and will have more on this story later in the month.

*   *   *

coph niaAs registration opens for Coph Nia, the organization announced two more of its guest presenters for 2015. Joining author and activist Michael Lloyd, will be guest presenters Devin Hunter and Storm Faerywolf. The guest musical performer will be Brandyn Metzko. There year’s theme is “Chrysalis.”

Coph Nia is a “mystical gathering for gay and bisexual men.” Held in Artemas, Pennsylvania, the event is held over five days and includes rituals, concerts, vendors, workshops, bonfires, drumming and more. This year it takes place from Aug. 5-9.

In Other News:

  • A Georgia-based Pagan group has recently started a website called the “Pagan Business Network.” Its goal is to “bring Pagan business owners together to share knowledge and help promote each others businesses together.” The website and companion Facebook page offer basic business tips and promotional advice.
  • Amanda Morris is looking for participants for her Pagan Health Survey. She writes, “The responses will be used for my lecture at Duke University Hospital.” As she explains, she was asked by the hospital’s director of pastoral services to help provide a Pagan perspective on various topics. She wrote, “this fabulous opportunity to help educate doctors, nurses, social workers, staff members, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals about Pagans, Paganism, their health and their religion.”
  • Megalithic Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, is seeking submissions for its upcoming anthology The Pop Culture Grimoire 2.0. According to the website, “This anthology explores pop culture magic and Paganism in the 21st Century.” The deadline for rough drafts is Mar. 15.
  • On Jan 30, the Manx National Heritage Museum will hosting a lecture by historian Dr. John Callow titled, “Gerald Gardener, Witchcraft and the Isle of Man”
  • Patheos Pagan writers contributed to a Patheos’ series called The Best Practices for Peace 2015. The introduction to the project says, “Instead of reflecting on personal goals, Patheos has invited contributors to consider some ‘resolutions’ around faith-based practices that could lead to greater peace in 2015.” Contributing writers include Holli Emore, Cat Chapin Bishop, Rev. Selena Fox, and Sable Aradia.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

Since 2004, the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN) has produced a regular seasonal newsletter called ACTION. For 6 of those years, the pages of the newsletter have been filled with interviews with Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists from around the world. To date, the newsletter has published around 560 interviews that catalog, record and share the memories, practices and work of a huge diversity of people.

Since the beginning, one man has been behind the newsletter from the writing of articles in the early days to producing the detailed interviews that we see today. That man is Christopher Blackwell.

Christopher Blackwell

Christopher Blackwell

Blackwell has been a solitary Wiccan for thirty years, and currently lives in New Mexico. He began following AREN around 2000, shortly after it changed names from the Witches Anti-Discrimination League (WADL) to the Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN). The organization was formed in the 1970s by Leo Martello and, for many years, worked for the protection of religious rights. However, the organization had to be dissolved after the Anti-Defamation League threatened a lawsuit over use of the name. Shortly after, AREN was born.

In those early days, Blackwell spent his time interacting on the organization’s internet forums from his home in New Mexico. Then, in 2004 his life changed. He was asked to create and grow an AREN newsletter. The rest is history…

Today we turn the tables, so to speak, on the man who interviews the Pagan world. This is Christopher Blackwell.

The Wild Hunt: Most people know you as the guy behind ACTION. Tell us what you did before AREN.

Christopher Blackwell: Being that I had been traveling for years mining agate, my first contact [with the Pagan world] was through letters by snail mail to people writing in to Circle Network News newsletter back in the 80s … I had five post offices in three different states that I would have mail forwarded to as I moved with the wheel of the year mining from Eastern Oregon to Southern New Mexico, and back to Oregon again…

It was also through Circle Network that I took part in my first letter protest when a certain Jessie Helms tried to attach a rider to a the Post Office appropriation bill that would deny any non-profit group, tied to either Witchcraft or Satanism, the bulk rate postal rates allowed to all other non-profits groups. As this was before the Internet, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary sent, I believe, post cards to every one on Circle Sanctuary’s mailing list and then it was up to us to flood congress with letters against the rider. Primitive as that would seem today, the rider was dropped before before the Post Office appropriation bill left committee.

TWH: You are Wiccan? When and how did you find this path?

CB: In 1985 I literally got trapped selling at  a flea market in Tucson Arizona and never could earn enough to move on with my partner. So when I had time off I started looking for a teacher. There was a sort of New Age book store and in it a bulletin board. I found a notice about a high priestess, called the phone number and she wanted to meet me first in a public coffee shop. We talked, I was asked why I wanted training and  I passed and started training. I was initiated [into the Alexandria Tradtion] on Yule of 1985.

[Shortly after his initiation, sales picked up and he returned to mining. Then in 1993, his “mining days ended” after a severe illness. He settled returned to New Mexico, where he has lived ever since. After four years of medical care, he began writing. His only connection to Paganism was through Circle Magazine, Green Egg, Pagan Africa and a few other international newsletters. He submitted articles and letters as well as interacted with the community from his home. This is how he found AREN]

TWH: How did you get involved with AREN and what led to you becoming its newsletter editor?

CB: It was not until the late 90s that our local library got its first public used computer. It was slow, hooked to our phone system. Learning as I went, I usually crashed the computer once or twice a day. The librarians took pity on me and did not throw me out. I started exploring. I found a few online bulletin boards and Witches’ Voice.

I am not sure exactly when I connected with AREN … I just started posting on their forum taking part in various subjects. I became a regular … It was at this time the idea of an in house newsletter was suggested and I was asked to take it on. Now I did not like newsletters, first for being boring and second for being quarterly. I set out to create one. Bill Kilborn, who still acts as web guy, tried to find me free editing programs.  [The first two didn’t] even have page numbers, with often many mistakes and only about ten pages long.

AREN_ACTIONTWH: How has the newsletter changed over the last ten years?

CB: I have often said it is fortunate that I never realized what I was getting into for I might not have never done it. Anyone, that has run one, knows how hard it is to get enough to post, to keep it going.

It was a busy time for AREN with the whole Bush Administration. So I began looking for stories on the internet about Wiccans, or about things that might effect Pagans. When I found something, I checked out the story in a variety of newspapers … until I had enough for a much longer and more detailed article. Sometimes  these articles of mine would run up to a page or two.

But there were two problems, even by 59, I had had a case of Pancreatitis and been diabetic for about a decade. I was already losing energy yearly and the newsletter was not succeeding … I doubt we had reached even 75 people reading it. Bill decided we should  open ACTION to the public and I decided that I could not do researched articles and that I would shift to interview format.

This started on Samhain of 2008. The change was noticeable and we soon topped two hundred readers, then three hundred readers, then eight hundred and a thousand readers. Not only did I interview people in the different communities, but in different countries and continents. Now there was new problem, where to find people to interview?

[Blackwell added that today readership runs as high as 3500 per issue. His first interviewees were friends and readers. Then he turned to the forums. Eventually, he expanded outward. Blackwell said that every issue starts with who he is going interview, will they accept and “how much longer can [he] keep this going.” He said, “I ask my gods to either give me inspiration or a kick in the butt, whichever is most effective. So far they have not let me down.”]

TWH: What was your most memorable interview?

CB: Goddess that is hard because they are many. One of my first real enjoyable interviews with a well-known Pagan was Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. He was an original. He has been in so much of our American Pagan history, and is a born story teller. I think his interview was something like eight pages long.

Now, probably, the youngest and most controversial interview was with a boy who published an essay in Witches Voice years ago …He got more reads than any other essay, even those by adults, which meant even the adults were reading him. The controversy came from the fact he wrote an essay on introductory Wicca in simple straight forward words and did it well. He turned out to be thirteen years old. He wanted to be a Wiccan author someday …

But a 13 year boy is vulnerable and there are people in our society who would hurt him, and I didn’t want him to get in any trouble. I only knew his first name, Mike, and never even asked what part of the country he was from. Otherwise, it was just an ordinary interview and damn I hope he does become that writer.

TWH: Through your interviews, what changes or significant trends have you noticed over the past ten years?

CB: Wicca was the big community here in the United States, the best known, and the most recognized with the most books … [Now] there has been more research published books showing up. The Polytheists have got very good at researching not only the Gods, variations of each god’s sacred story and practice depending where it was being done, and by which people. … The Heathens are again publishing more books and creating more groups and a lot of them are fighting against racist ideas successfully… I have seen Druids in charities and civic actions in England. They are showing up in remarkable places.

In Wicca, more of us do interact with other communities and definitely are developing all sorts of things, including charities, continuing civic action the environmental action. But we are also fighting against sexual exploitation of women and children in society and in our own community. So all of our communities are growing and filling  more of the gaps. More of us are becoming openly active in our society.

TWH: The Pagan media world has changed significantly since 2004. What role do you see yourself and the AREN newsletter playing in today’s digital media world?

CB: The world has changed greatly since the days that Witches’ Voice first start posting links to newspaper paper articles of interest to Pagans. They inspired Jason to create The Wild Hunt, and I to create ACTION and many other people. The Pagan media has grown a lot since, each filling different niches.

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. I have already out lived most of the men in my family… Ironically I think I am happier being an old geezer than at any other part of my life. How amazing that is. Meanwhile my role is to remember each stage of my life and be gentle on the younger folk.

I have accomplished two goals with ACTION. One to eventually open more connections between the different communities and prove I can give a fair interview to anyone with their own words and none of my opinion. No spin from me … Somewhere down the line, my reader will hit a “Ah Ha moment, I could do something like that.” I have played my part, an old disabled Marine Vietnam Veteran, a Wiccan solitary who rarely leaves his home in the desert.

The mountains near Blackwell's home in New Mexico [Courtesy Photo]

The mountains near Blackwell’s home in New Mexico [Courtesy Photo]

TWH: Sometimes we see your interviews on Penton Independent Alternative Media. Are these different or are they republished from ACTION? Where else can we find your work?

CB: My job is to find the story, write the questions to help the person tell it, and to get it out. One of the things that encourages people is their story will get out around the world, at least as far as I have readers. Afterward they are free to repost it anywhere as often as they want.

Penton asked to reprint older articles. And when they find one that  they think will interest their readers, I gave the the permission to do so.  I, so far, have had a couple of other Pagan organization in other parts of the world do the same, and I give the the same permission. I have had some Russian Pagan friends translate a few of them into several Eastern European languages. I have been told that some of those much newer Pagans consider my interviews as a window onto the rest of the Pagan World.

No one makes any money out of this, and more readers get to read the stories. One, Greek Gods -worshiping Pagan Group in Russia, was having a bit of  harassment by local officials. They showed them my interview of them and said it was published in the outside world. The harassment stopped. My tiny bit of the Pagan media, dinky by world media standards, actually had a tiny bit of political clout.

Can you imagine what that felt like for a person never trained in the media, who only learned by the endless mistakes I made and sometimes still make. It is magic and a gift of the gods. So I have had a chance to affect the Pagan communities. One old man in the middle of nowhere. What more could I want?

TWH: You talk about retiring from ACTION. Do you have any other plans or projects?

CB: A model railroad. I have wanted to build one for over fifty years. But I had no space, no money, and none of the skills. Railroad history has been my great love since high school. My second library in my sanctuary is railroad and model railroad [books]. I have many of the kits needed and a fair amount of material for its construction, but that is as far as it has gone…

As I often say, I am in good shape for 79, unfortunately I am only 69. So I make no predictions about anything any more, and live very much in the present. I try to avoid worrying, as worry stops nothing but uses up much limited energy that I have … Life is still interesting, often fun, and I get by.

[The unedited interview is one of the hallmarks of ACTION’s pubication. It is a standard that Blackwell set back when he changed to that format in 2008. He did not want his opinions, his spin, to overtake the words of the interviewee. Unfortunately, our space here is limited, and the above interview is only a taste of our conversation with Blackwell. However, in the spirit of ACTION, we will be posting the full unedited version in the next few days. Please check back for a direct link to that document.]

This past Wednesday, three Islamic extremists carried out a deadly attack on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead. A national hunt for the terrorists came to a violent end when French police caught the two remaining suspects, and simultaneously ended a connected hostage situation in Paris.

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Within hours of the initial attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French government, its people, and much of the world demonstrated outrage, denouncing the act as an assault on freedom of expression. Cartoonists around the world flooded Twitter with their own work in support; international media outlets reprinted or retweeted the drawings of Charlie Hebdo‘ artists. Others spoke out in solidarity with the murdered journalists. Even one of France’s most famous cartoonists, Albert Udezo, came out of retirement to join the movement.

The French government announced that it would give the magazine almost 1 million euros to continue operations. A Google-backed Press Fund is donating $300,000 to Charlie Hebdo. The Guardian Media Group has also pledged £100,000.

Je suis Charlie” quickly became the words of solidarity.

Mais nous ne sommes pas tous Charlie. We are not all Charlie. The 45- year old satirical magazine has built its reputation through the regular mocking of national and international figures and institutions, including religion. Their most publicized target was, of course, Islam. While the magazine’s cartoons were, at times, politically poignant, others were just simply offensive, or provocative at best.

je_suis_charlie_fist_and_pencilBabette Petiot, a French Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside, said, “Je n’aimais pas particulièrement “Charlie Hebdo,” je ne l’ai jamais acheté, parce que je trouve que c’est vraiment de mauvais gout…” [I did not specially like Charlie Hebdo, didn’t buy it even once, because I thought it was really of bad taste.]

Slate‘s Jordan Weissman, as well as others, have gone as far as labeling the magazine “racist.” Weissman writes, “This, in a country where Muslims are a poor and harassed minority, maligned by growing nationalist movement that has used liberal values like secularism and free speech to cloak garden-variety xenophobia.”

This complication provokes a necessary recalibration of the expressions of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Can we stand in silent vigil for the victims, but not necessarily endorse their work? Can we create an allegiance with the movement “Je suis Charlie,” speak out against the violence wrought by religious extremism, while ignoring the fact that Charlie Hebdo is what could be considered journalistic extremism?

Satirical writing and cartoons, like those produced by Charlie Hebdo, are meant to provoke, to challenge and often to incite. Satire raps on the door of decency and often just knocks it completely down. Satirists cross cultural lines of acceptable rhetoric with the intent of creating discomfort and provoking reaction. It is what’s expected of that genre and, within a free press, it is allowed.

With that said, quoting the famous American broadcast journalist, Walter Cronkite, “Freedom is a package deal – with it comes responsibilities and consequences.” As demonstrated in a recent New York Times article, Charlie Hebdo’s writers were willing to shoulder the responsibility for crossing lines and knocking down doors, and fully exercising their freedom to express.

In the Times article, the Charlie Hebdo staff is depicted not as radicals, militants or doctrinaires; rather they are described as fierce defenders of and believers in the freedom of expression. The article quotes Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker as saying, “They weren’t hiding behind their drawings. They knew the dangers. There had been firebombs and threats. They were actually defying a gag order given to them by extremists.”

She added that the publisher, Stephane Chardonnier, had once equally defended the rights of local Muslims to protest his paper. At the time, Chardonnier said, “We have a right to express ourselves. They have a right to express themselves, too.”

Charlie Hebdo's Editor talks to media after 2011 fire bombing [Photo Credit: Coyau / Wikimedia]

Charlie Hebdo’s Editor talks to media after 2011 fire bombing [Photo Credit: Coyau / Wikimedia]

The editor’s fierce defense of free speech is admirable. In our pages here, we write about topics and share points of view that are considered provocative outside of our collective communities. I am grossly aware that, in some countries and communities, and in many past eras, The Wild Hunt would never have been permitted to thrive. Our ability to publish, without fear of arrest or worse, is founded on the very same freedom of expression.

Regardless of the Charlie Hebdo’s content, the deadly attack was still unthinkable. No act of journalism warrants an act of extreme terror. No act of journalism warrants bloodshed.

Petiot said “Je ne vais certainement pas supporter que des fous qui furieux attaquent et tuent des journalistes et des dessinateurs pour leurs idées! Pour quelques dessins idiots?! C’est totalement et proprement inacceptable! Oui, je suis avec le mouvement “Je suis Charlie” parce que c’est une attaque contre la liberté d’expression.” [“I will not stand for some crazy people attacking and killing journalists and cartoonists for their opinions! For their silly cartoons! This is totally and utterly not acceptable! Yes I stand with “Je suis Charlie” because it was an attack on liberty of expression.]

Siannon, a Wiccan living Paris, expressed a similar thought, “Je suis bien sûr choquée que l’on tue des dessinateurs, que certains s’attaquent avec une telle violence à la liberté d’expression.” [“I am absolutely shocked that someone would kill cartoonists that people would attack freedom of expression with such violence.“]

Over the past few days, French Pagans have been attending the spontaneous vigils in public squares and lighting candles for the victims. Cogann Moran is collecting signatures on a statement from members of the French Pagan community.

Although she supports the movement, Siannon has not felt compelled to pray, saying, “Une païenne a fait une remarque qui a attiré mon attention: elle rappelait que les principales victimes étaient athées, défenseurs de l’État laïque, et n’auraient peut être pas aimé qu’on leur fasse des prières.” [“One Pagan made a remark that really got my attention. She remembered that the main victims were atheists, defenders of a secular state, and would never have liked anyone praying for them.”]

[Photo Credit: Valentina Calà/Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Valentina Calà/Flickr]

I also spoke with a third Parisian, who is vehemently opposed to the “Je suis Charlie” campaign, but not because of the magazine’s content. Mariane, an Asatruar living in Paris, said:

Les deux frères ont eu davantage de couverture médiatique qu’un homme politique français ne pourrait rêver d’obtenir. Les chaines d’infos ont littéralement parlé d’eux 24/24. D’autres chaînes leur ont consacré tous les bulletins d’infos, comme si rien d’autre ne s’était passé entre-temps dans le monde entier. Même Obama parle d’eux! Il est allé à l’ambassade française avec les meilleures intentions, j’en suis sure, mais j’ai peur qu’il n’envoie un message indésirable à quelques tarés qui rêvent de devenir des héros… Personnellement, je ne me joindrai pas à la mouvance “Je suis Charlie,” parce je pense que, moins nous parlons de ces gars-là, moins nous risquons d’inspirer d’éventuels imitateurs.

[“The two brothers are getting more news coverage than any French politician could ever dream of. News channels literally talked about them round the clock. Other channels devoted all the newscasts to them, as if nothing else had happened meanwhile in the whole world. Even Obama is talking about them! He went to the French Embassy with the best intentions, I’m sure, but I’m afraid he is sending the wrong message to some crazy bastards dreaming of becoming heroes… I’m personally not joining “Je suis Charlie” because I think the less we talk about these guys, the less we risk inspiring copycats.”]

Both Siannon and Petiot noted the presence of real fear in the country as well as a notable surge in Islamphobia. Siannon said, “Les plus sages soulignent l’importance de ne pas nourrir la haine.” [The wisest and most important point to stress is to not nourish hate.”]

With that, we are reminded of the original question. If we stand in solidarity with a magazine noted for mocking religion, are we nourishing hatred or, at the very least, supporting an indifferent tolerance of it? Or is it possible to surgically separate Charlie Hebdo’s satirical work from Charlie Hebdo’s philosophy on free expression? Can we separate the content from the belief?

This brings us to the Ahmed Merabet, the French police officer who was murdered defending Charlie HebdoAccording to reports, Merabet was a French Muslim, who was guarding Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters, while those inside mocked his beliefs. When news of this spread, a second solidarity campaign was born. Je Suis Ahmed. While there is still speculation on whether he is actually Muslim, the new solidarity statement has gathered its own power, meaning and momentem. It says, “I don’t agree with what you say. But I defend your right to say it.”*

While Charlie Hebdo‘s approach to journalism is not one that I, personally, would endorse. As a writer and editor, I can’t help but approve of its fierce support of freedom of expression and of the press. Non, je ne suis pas Charlie. Peut-être, je suis Ahmed. Mais, je suis certainement la liberté.

 

* This is statement is inspired by a sentence out of a Voltaire biography written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall in 1906.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Priestess and activist T. Thorn Coyle and over 100 others made local news when they showed up at the inauguration of Oakland’s 50th Mayor, Libby Schaaf. The peaceful protest, organized by a coalition of area groups and individuals, is another example of the ongoing #blacklivesmatter grass roots campaign and actions demanding social reform.

[Photo Credit: Kim Beavers]

[Photo Credit: Kim Beavers]

“There is … a long history of corruption and misconduct in the [Oakland Police Department,] so much so that they’ve been threatened with federal receivership. Oakland has also played host to Urban Shield, a convention and training event that is a large part of the militarization of police in the U.S. By protesting at the inauguration, we wanted people to remember that as long as Black lives in our county are treated as if they aren’t sacred … there will be no business as usual,” explained Coyle.

In recent months, she has become actively involved in an organization called Anti Police-Terrorism Project (APTP). This organization is part of a larger group called the O.N.Y.X. Organizing Committee, which is “committed to raising the consciousness of Black people to facilitate the healing of our bodies’ minds and spirits in order to create sustainable, just, equitable and thriving Black communities.”

Coyle told The Wild Hunt, “I’ve been active in justice movements for most of my life, trying to find ways to best support building communities of love, equity, and justice. After my first APTP meeting, I felt lit up inside rather than drained. I thought, ‘Here is a group that has potential to actually do effective action!’ It is diverse coalition under Black leadership, which I really appreciate.”

Molly Costello being interviewed.  [Photo Credit: Alan Blueford Center for Justice]

Mollie Costello being interviewed. [Photo Credit: Alan Blueford Center for Justice]

In a Monday press release, APTP spokespersons Cat Brooks and Mollie Costello explained that their goal was to send a message to Mayor Libby Schaaf, reminding her that she will “be held accountable by communities demanding justice for victims of police violence.” During an interview, Costello explained the local context behind the protest. For those outside of Oakland, Brooks summarized the problem by simply stating, “Schaaf does not have the best record in dealing with police relations with the community.”

The scheduled protest was divided into two distinct parts. The initial event was a silent gathering outside the Paramount Theater. Protesters were asked to wear black and signs were passed out. Coyle was there along with a number of other Bay Area Pagan and Heathen activists, including Solar Cross Temple member Rhiannon Laakso; Coru Cathubodua members Patrick Garretson and Brennos Agrocunos, as well as Kim Beavers, who was documenting the entire event. Coyle said also she saw many others from the local Pagan community.

They all stood in solidarity with APTP and with the other organizations involved. At one point, a protester tweeted that there were in fact more protesters outside the theater than guests waiting to attend the inauguration.

When the theater doors opened, some of the protesters went inside for the second part of the scheduled action. During the silent presentation of the colors, Coyle began singing an old union song, “Which side are you on?” As she explained, “The song was adapted by a group in St. Louis who did this action that we modeled ours after.” APTP changed the words from “justice for Mike Brown” to “justice for Black lives.” There actions were video documented and posted on You Tube.

Coyle said, “The MC panicked and quickly called the national anthem singer onto the stage with his mic. So we ended up singing and doing a banner drop through the anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance, which seemed fitting.” The banner, which was dropped from the mezzanine read, “End Police Terror.”

After the event, the APTP spokespersons called the event “beautiful,” saying that they welcomed the new mayor in “true Oakland style.” Mayor Schaaf had little reaction to the protesters except to tell an ABC reporter,”I embrace protest. Protest is part of Oakland’s DNA.”

After a few rounds of the song inside the theater, Coyle led the protesters outside still singing. In retrospect, she said that recent national and local events have changed her, adding “I had to find more ways to speak out and work against government harassment, profiling, imprisonment, and killings of Black and brown people. My writing is one way. Interfaith work is another. Organizing with APTP is rapidly becoming another.” She added, “We are in the midst of a new civil rights movement. The chance to say, loudly, that Black Lives Matter, is one that I, who preaches that all life is sacred, and that the Gods and Goddesses are reflected in our eyes, cannot pass up.”

 

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. Our hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

harmoney tribe

On Jan. 2, Harmony Tribe announced that it has found a new location for its popular Sacred Harvest Festival. As we reported last August, the festival was forced to move from Harmony Park, which it had called home for 17 years, due to zoning restrictions. At the time, organizers still hadn’t found a new location for the beloved festival.

While Friday’s announcement did not give the name of the new location, it did say, “Plans are being finalized for the upper Midwest’s largest Pagan festival to land at a developing site about 90 minutes North of the Twin Cities Metro area.” Harmony Tribe is calling this year’s event a “rebirth” and promises that there will be plenty of camping and no noise restrictions at the new site. The dates are set for Aug. 3-9, 2015.

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Author and artist Lupa Greenwolf has announced the production of a new divination set titled “Tarot of Bones.” Greenwolf writes on her newly launched website, “Divination with cast or fire-cracked bones is an ancient art, stretching back thousands of years into our history; its younger cousin, the tarot, enjoys greater popularity than ever.The Tarot of Bones is an ambitious project combining the nature-inspired symbolism of animal bones with the tarot’s well-loved archetypes to create an unparalleled divination set for the 21st century”

Greenwolf has just begun creating the concept art for the new deck and will be updating her progress on her new blog. She believes that the deck will be finished by spring. When it is, Greenwolf has promised the The Wild Hunt an exclusive interview to discuss the nature and spirit behind the deck, as well as the journey of creating it.

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Rev. Dave Sassman was recently selected to be a board member of Indy Vet House, Inc. This charitable organization raises funds for the Indianapolis-based Veterans House, “a home away from home for veterans receiving extended medical care.” Although Sassman said that the decision “had been in the works for while,” it has just become official.

In his own announcement, Sassman enthusiastically proclaimed, “a Pagan on the Board of Directors.” When asked about the position, Sassman told The Wild Hunt,It is important for Pagans to get involved in their local (mundane) communities to shine a positive light on our faith and help to change the negative impression we as a community have experienced in the past.” Sassman is an openly Pagan, Air Force Veteran and a member of Circle Sanctuary’s Military Ministry.

In Other News:

Noot Seear at The Bartzebel Working.

Noot Seear at The Bartzebel Working

  • On the Earth Spirit Voices blog, Andras Corban-Arthen has published a report and commentary on his experiences being involved with the 2014 People’s Climate March and the “Religions for the Earth Conference, held at Union Theological Seminary.” Both events occurred in New York during the fall equinox weekend, and both had similar goals of raising the volume on climate change conversations.
  • Finally, January 4 marked Doreen Valiente’s birthday.

That is it for now! Have a great day.