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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!

hydraulic fracturingOn Dec. 17, New York state officials announced that they would not allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the state. According to local news reports, Gov. Cuomo let his experts make the final call on the issue. Based on six years of study, state commissioners from both the Department of Heath and the Department of Environmental Conservation advised against proceeding at this time. DOH commissioner Dr. Zucker said, “I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered … I asked myself, ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

The announcement was a significant win for the newly formed Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York City, whose original mission was to convince officials to ban fracking in the state. Since its inception, PEC-NYC has attended rallies, lobbied at book signings and sent petitions to the Governor. The organization’s work was highlighted in a Wild Hunt article called “Pagans Join the Fight against Fracking.”

When the news was announced, the group celebrated, saying:

It has been an extremely exciting week for PEC-NYC. Between submitting hundreds of Pagan signatures to Governor Cuomo in support of wind power and the announcement of a state-wide ban on fracking, we are ecstatic. Today, we celebrate but tomorrow, we go back to work. There are pipelines to fight, an LNG port to stop, and a wind farm to build. We would like to thank all who signed, marched, rallied, and all who donated money, goods, and time to these causes. We look forward to further solidarity.  We are far from finished.

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Presentation1In Jan. 2015, a new organization will be launching called The Koinon. Its purpose will be to serve the greater Hellenic community, regardless of practice. As noted on its website, whether “you are a reconstructionist who holds rituals in ancient Greek or an Eclectic whose rituals include the Watchtowers, you have a place at our table.”

Organizer Conor Davis told The Wild Hunt that the group would have its 501c3 status by the summer 2015. In the meantime, organizers are building the plan, structure and other specifics. Davis said that anyone interested in joining the group or helping can either watch the website for updated information. or contact the organizers directly at thekoinon@gmail.com. Although not yet published, Davis sent us the group’s mission statement:

We the Koinon exist to serve the Theoi and the Hellenic community by providing Hellenists of all walks of life, worship methods, and personal practices a network of support and a place to belong as a people.

We believe in engaging our local communities through service, interfaith outreach and education, and through charity.

We believe in serving the larger Hellenic community through ongoing education and by providing a place of belonging.

We respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person and therefore reject all forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and any other forms of discrimination.

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pete pathfinderThe Aquariuan Tabernacle Church will be hosting a public memorial for Pete Pathfinder Davis on Dec. 27 in Seattle Washington. The group said that this will be the second of three memorial services. The first was held on the ATC property in the group’s own sacred space on Nov. 8.

The third “will be held at their annual Spring Mysteries Festival over Easter weekend” in Fort Flagler, Washington. This upcoming memorial will be held at Seattle Unity Church, located at 200 Eighth Avenue North in downtown Seattle. All are welcome to attend.

In Other News:

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  • For those who have enjoyed reading Phaedra Bonewits’ blog, she has returned. After a long two-year hiatus, Bonewits has published an entry entited “On Gifts, Friendship and Love.” In this timely and particularly moving story, she recalls her days celebrating the many happy holiday seasons with Isaac and the little touches that made it special. She shares memories from their last Yule together and the friendships that made that difficult season more magical. It is personal story of joy, friendship, loss, darkness and re-emergence.
  • In another entirely different blog post, Tim Titus reacts to news of potential changes in U.S.- Cuban relations. His personal experience with the Cuban culture have given him a deep appreciation for the country, its culture and people, which he pours into this article. Near the end, he writes, “Silence is just as damaging as violence. It tears apart a family it its own quiet, seemingly innocent way. It accomplishes nothing and is counterproductive to any relationship.The U.S. and Cuba have been sitting at the Table of Silence together for far too long.” Titus’ article is an excellent glimpse into a world most Americans have not been able to see.
  • Local Asheville, North Carolina news outlet Mountain Xpress ran a story about resident village witch Byron Ballard. In the article, Ballard talks about her own practice and beliefs, calling herself a “forensic folklorist.” She “excavates folk practices from older generations.” Ballard discusses her beloved mountain culture and laments the loss or “thinning” of the region’s traditions.
  • ACTION Yule 2014 is now available complete with a new array of interviews.

That’s it for now.  Have a great day!

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

At this time of the year, perhaps more than any other, it becomes very apparent that we live in a multi faith world. Whether the shows of diversity are in public displays leading to debates on religious freedom or the variety of holiday wishes and celebratory rituals, December brings a very visible demonstration of the breadth of religious belief in the U.S. and, even, worldwide. With that spirit, we have collected a number of religious news stories that have been making headlines over the past few weeks.

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[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

At a Dec. 11 meeting at the United Way of Greater Cleveland, the Ohio Department of Education hosted an information session on the state’s new Community Connectors program. Established by a legislative vote in the spring and then signed into law by Gov. John Kasich (R), the program aims to bring together community organizations and businesses with school systems in order to assist at-risk children and strengthen districts with high poverty and dropout rates. The underlying belief is that direct community involvement and mentorship will help children succeed in school and in life.

However, directly after the United Way meeting, the program drew criticism because of its alleged new focus on faith-based organizations. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Buddy Harris, a senior policy analyst for the Ohio Department of Education, told the gathering of church and non-profit representatives that each application must include a school district (or charter school) plus a business and a place of worship or faith-based organization in its partnership.

The original legislative bill, HB 483, did not include this requirement. According to the state’s website, the law reads, “Eligible school districts shall partner with members of the business community, civic organizations, or the faith-based community to provide sustainable career advising and mentoring services.”  To date, the program’s promotional material also doesn’t suggest any religious requirement. However, according to news reports and Americans United (AU) the Governor only recently changed this detail.

If the news reports are correct and this new policy is in place, then, as noted by AU, “this is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”  The organization goes on to suggest, ” … if he really wants to improve the lives of Ohio’s students, he can start by respecting their right to an educational environment free of religious coercion. ”

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As reported by The New York Times, the U.S. Senate approved, in a 62-35 vote, the appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein as Ambassador-at-Large, or head of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. When Saperstein was nominated in July, Secretery of State John Kerry said, “Religious Freedom is human freedom. … When it comes to the work of protecting religious freedom, it is safe to say that David Saperstein represents the gold standard.”

Why is this particular appointment significant? Rabbi Saperstein is the first non-Christian to hold that particular office. His initial nomination happened during the buildup of tension and violence in Gaza. This suggests that the choice may have been a calculated political message or move. However, the Senate’s approval, which came Dec. 12, may also demonstrate something more significant about the U.S. cultural landscape. Judaism may be a monotheistic faith; but it is still a minority religion. How will having a member of a minority religion in a prominent position change U.S. religious freedom policy both nationally and internationally? Time will tell.

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Mt. Soledad [Photo Credit: Kathleen Gorby [Public domain], via Wikimedia]

Mt. Soledad [Photo Credit: Kathleen Gorby [Public domain], via Wikimedia]

In another religious freedom battle, U.S. Senate approved a “defense policy bill” that may allow a large cross to remain at the top of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California. According to the L.A. Times, the legal battle over this cross has been on-going since 2006. Proponents claim that the bill will end the conversation because the Senate approved the sale of the property to private investors. Once sold, the cross can no longer be considered a “church-state violation.” However, opponents don’t agree and promise to continue the fight.

For Pagans and Heathens, religious freedom in the Military has always been a major concern. This month, AU released a response document called “Clear and Present Falsehoods: The Real State of Religious Freedom in the Military.” This publication mentions a number of religious freedom cases, including one in which a cross was “placed inside the Wiccan circle used by Wiccan cadets.”

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As this is a holiday season roundup, it would not be complete without a few stories on religious displays in the public square. Each year this particular conversation is reborn, ironically, with the erection of nativity scenes, menorahs, Fesivas poles, gigantic illuminated letter As and the like.

As is typical, Atheist organizations have been sponsoring billboards around the country to counter overt religiosity. For example, in Arkansas, American Atheists sponsored a billboard that reads “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON.”

As we reported last week, The Satanic Temple takes part in this holiday tradition. Along with its Florida display, the organization is preparing one for the Michigan capitol. To be erected on Dec. 21, this particular holiday presentation is called a “Snaketivity Scene” and will contain a snake, a book and sign that reads “The greatest gift is knowledge.”

While most of this activity centers around conflict and debate, the Wisconsin legislature has chosen to take another more positive approach to holiday displays. Since 1998, it hosts a yearly “Interfaith Awareness Week,” during which representatives of organizations can sponsor an informational holiday display in its capitol’s rotunda. Circle Sanctuary has been part of this tradition for 16 years. This year was no exception.

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

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Do dogs go to heaven? After a Dec. 11  New York Times article, many Catholics believed that the long theological debate was finally settled. Dogs do go to heaven. However, The Times and other media outlets have since corrected their original articles saying that the Pope never made any statements about seeing our pets in eternity. In its correction, The Times admitted that it had not verified the quotes with the Vatican before publication.

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Replica of Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando [Photo Credit:  Rstoplabe14 en.wikipedia]

Replica of Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando [Photo Credit: Rstoplabe14 en.wikipedia]

While that particular theological question may still be unanswered, another, far less theological one has been definitely cleared up. There are no Wiccans at Hogwarts. When a Harry Potter fan asked via Twitter if there were Jewish characters in the popular series, author J.K. Rowling tweeted back, “Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.”

Apparently, this set off a discussion on the religious views represented by students at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In response to that debate, Rowling tweeted:

To everyone asking whether their religion/belief/non-belief system is represented at Hogwarts: the only people I never imagined there are Wiccans.*

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Finally, last night was the first night of Hanukah. Many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens with Jewish heritage enjoy celebrating the Festival of Lights or simply spending time with their Jewish families. May those readers enjoy the warmth and light of the holiday.

 

* UPDATE 1:50pm EST: Rowling defended her tweets about Wicca. The Independent quoted her as saying, “It’s a different concept of magic to the one laid out in the books, so I don’t really see how they can co-exist.”

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!

Pagans in WDC March Dec. 13, 2014 [Photo Credit: Jen Huls]

Pagans in WDC March Dec. 13, 2014 [Photo Credit: Jen Huls]

Protesters continue to fill the streets of cities, large and small, across the county. Many Pagans, as collective units, have been joining these efforts in order to lend their own voices or assist those protesting. As noted last week, the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood used very strong words in their public call-to-action. Over the past three days, the group has taken their own words seriously and has been attending the protests in both Berkeley and Oakland. In addition to marching themselves, members of the Priesthood have also brought medical aid and similar services to those in need.

On the other side of the country, a group of east coast Pagans organized themselves into a unit to join the Dec. 13 march on Washington D.C, which is now estimated to have included over 25,000 people. The photo shows several of these marchers. The small group of around 15 Pagans stood with that crowed, holding up signs and chanting for change.

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PEN-logoThe Pagan Educational Network , based in Indiana, continues its preliminary research for a possible new “clergy” conference. Organizers want to create a focused event that will help “teach clergy to become better at their calling.”

The idea was originally announced last summer, when PEN informally asked for feedback on the concept. Now organizers are asking for proposals from potential presenters. They said, “Examples of workshops would be/but not limited to: Life transitions, Hospital visits, grieving, counseling both individual and couples, interfaith,group administration, community relations, just to name a few.”  All proposals should be sent to: Rev. Dave C. Sassman, Pagan Clergy Conference, PO Box 24072, Indianapolis, IN 46224 or RevDavecs@gmail.com

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Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

On Sat. Dec. 13, Circle Sanctuary participated in the national “Wreaths Across America” program that “lays wreaths at grave sites honoring deceased veterans.” Circle Cemetary is listed on the main website among the many other sites that also participate in this yearly interfaith memorial event.

Circle Coordinators said, “At Veterans Ridge of Circle Cemetery, wreaths [were] placed at grave sites of Pagans from across the nation who served in the U.S. military. These Pagan veterans include those who served in national guards of several states and those who did active duty service in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.” The wreaths themselves were blessed inside the temple space before being carried out and placed on the graves.

In Other News:

  • On Nov. 20, the San Francisco Chronicle published an obituary for Louise Muhler born in 1920. The obituary caught the eye of several Pagans, who shared it on blogs and social media. As it turns out, Muhler’s birth name was Astarte Lulu Panthea. She was the daughter of famed occultist Aleister Crowley. According to the obituary, Muhler, a practicing Christian, lived a full and very active life that took her around the world and back. May her family find peace in its loving memories.
  • Over the past month, The Earth Spirit Community, based in Massachusetts, has been holding its annual fundraiser to support events, interfaith outreach and other community-based work. To kick off the drive, the organization published a Samhain newsletter detailing a year’s projects, including those done locally, nationally and internationally. Since that point, it has been sharing photos and testimonies on its Facebook from new and longtime supporters.
  • On Dec. 5, shortly after author Raven Grimassi’s personal page was challenged Facebook, he and his wife, Stephanie, were in a car accident due to ice and snow. According to reports, his car flipped twice after sliding down an embankment. When he was finally able, Grimassi announced that both he and Stephanie were physically fine, aside from a few aches, but their car was totaled. He has since launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help offset the financial burdens caused by the accident.
  • There are many Yule events being planned for the next week. One of the, perhaps, more unusual celebrations is organized by Chalice of the Willow, a CUUPS chapter. The group is holding an overnight event starting at 6 pm on Dec 20 through 8 am Dec. 21. Organizers said, “The popularity and great response from last year’s event has brought on a new tradition. We will be having food, fun, and friendship! There will be workshops and discussions on various topics through out the night.”  Details, admissions costs and a schedule are posted on its Facebook event page.
  • For fans of Pagan Singer/Songwriter Arthur Hinds, his song “Set Your Spirit Free” is available for free on his CDBaby site. He says that he has released this song as a yuletide gift to his fans.
  • On Nov. 26, Sannion at The House of Vines blog announced the release of his latest book Thunderstruck with Wine: the hymns of Sannion. Now, just 18 days later, Sannion has posted that he has only two copies left. But he says, “I plan to order more copies of Thunderstruck as well as my other Nysa Press titles after the new year, so don’t despair if you miss out on this batch”  Thunderstruck with Wine is a collection of “31 poems honoring the god Dionysos in his multitude of forms.”

That is it for now.  Have a nice day.

 

On Dec. 4, Crystal Blanton, a Wild Hunt columnist, author, Priestess and activist, issued a challenge to the Pagan community, as a whole, after noticing “the silence of the Pagan organizations in light of recent unrest.” She said, “This is an opportunity to stand up and support the people of color within the Pagan community … Tonight, I am saying to the Pagan community, I see you. The question is, do you SEE us?”

 

That single Facebook post was a catalyst for an avalanche of response from individuals, small groups and organizations across the nation. Over the past six days nearly 50 public statements and articles have appeared in blogs, websites and Facebook status updates, making this, quite possibly, a historic moment of unprecedented solidarity. Moreover, the responses aren’t limited to the so-called Pagan community. Responses have come from Heathen organizations and Polytheists, as well as a large variety of Pagans from a diversity of traditions.

“The response of many organizations and leaders over the last week has shown something we haven’t really seen before in our community; a willingness to speak up and speak out about the needs of Black people and ethnic minorities,” Crystal said, expressing her surprise.

Due to the number of reactions, it is impossible to share in detail each and every statement or article. It is even more difficult to encapsulate the grief, anger, frustrations, power, hope and even confusion expressed in many of these statements. A full list is included at the bottom. Of course, it is important to also remember that this list is not comprehensive. More statements and discussions are published every day.

Before Blanton issued her call-to-action, several Pagans had already made public statements on the #blacklivesmatter national protest campaign On Nov. 25, T.Thorn Coyle, who wrote an “Open Letter to White America.” In that statement, Coyle called for empathy and compassion, saying, “I pray that we remember: We are responsible for one another’s well-being.” On Nov. 29, Peter Dybing posted a photo of himself holding up sign that read, “White Privliege is real. Stay calm and listen.” Like Thorn, he was speaking to white Americans, asking them to stay silent and listen to those oppressed.

[Courtesy Photo]

Following Dybing’s lead, author Christopher Penczak also posted a photo of himself holding the same sign. He issued a heartfelt statement, saying:

I have tried to take the advice of a friend who said one of the best things we could do, particularly those of us in a place of privilege, is to listen …  I know sometimes I don’t want to, but its so important, particularly at this time. So I thank Peter Dybing for asking me and others to let people know that listening while keeping calm in uncomfortable situations is absolutely necessary at this time. Blessed be.

These statements came shortly after the Ferguson grand jury decision. However, after that announcement was made, other similar incidents made headlines, including the choking death of Eric Garner in New York City and the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Ohio. At that point, the tone of the public conversation changed from simply “stay silent” to “act and acknowledge.” Additionally, the messages, which were originally aimed predominately at white Pagans, also changed direction. This wake-up, so to speak, was expressed by Jenya T. Beachy, who wrote in a blog post, “I’ve fallen prey to the ‘nothing is right to say so say nothing’ theme.”

Crystal2014

Crystal Blanton [Courtesy Photo]

After Blanton’s facebook post, most of the first responses came from the blogging world. Similar to Beachy, the writers opened up discussions of the issues, as each of them personally grappled with the reality of the national crisis. Not all of these posts were specifically in response to Blanton’s challenge, but all deal with the situation head-on. Polytheist blogger Galina Krasskova  discusses her obligation, and that of other white citizens, to speak out. Drawing from her religious practice, she wrote that we have an “ancestral obligation to take a stand against racism.”

Other bloggers and writers who responded include Shauna Aura Knight, Jason Mankey, Anomalous Thracian, Sarah Sadie, John Beckett, Kathy Nance, Rhyd Wildermuth, Peter Dybing and Tim Titus. Patheos Pagan Channel has posted a static link list of all posts that reflect on Ferguson and Police Brutality.

Some of the topics raised within these varied articles include white privliege (e.g., Tim Titus and Anomalous Thracian), how it all relates to Paganism (e.g., Jason Mankey and Shauna Aura Knight), and the need for decisive action (e.g., Peter Dybing). Some bloggers, like Tom Swiss at The Zen Pagan, also incorporate a discussion of spirituality. Swiss wrote, “If you’re not outraged by all this, you’re not paying attention.” He goes on to say, “Buddhism realizes the place of wrath, and assigns significant deities to its proper function — the “wrathful deities.”

In addition to bloggers, there was a flood of solidarity statements from individuals and leaders (e.g., Ivo Dominguez, Patrick McCollum, Starhawk); from small groups (e.g., CAYA coven, Circle of Ancestral Magic, Bone and Briar, Vanic Conspiracy) and from national organizations (e.g., Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, Ár nDraíocht Fein, Aquarian Tabernacle Church, Cherry Hill SeminaryThe Pantheon Foundation and Heathens Against Racism).

Some of these statements were specifically meant as calls-to-action in support of the public protests around the nation. The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood used powerful language saying, in part:

We are angry … We want justice … We who are the priesthood and war band dedicated to the Morrigan stand and take our place in the streets as allies to justice.”

While they used strong language in their call to action, the Priesthood also said, “We have hope.”

Similar to the Priesthood, Free Cascadia Witchcamp organizers used potent language saying, “We will not be complicit through silence.” They added, “We grieve the irretrievable loss of integrity for all those who participate in, and uphold structural opppression, and we grieve the tragedy of those impacted by it.”

Not everyone used forceful words in their calls for action. The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) asked its membership and friends to “act as partners in the work to create more justice in our broader communities.” They added, “None of us can be truly safe or free when some lives have value and others don’t.” Other similar calls to action, both strongly worded or not, came from Bone & Briar in Pennsylvania, Solar Cross in California, CAYA coven, Patrick McCollum, Cherry Hill Seminary, and others.

Some goups focused their words on recognition and awareness. These statements were in direct response to Blanton’s statement “Do you see us?” In these public expressions, organizations and groups acknowledged bearing witness to injustice and are essentially saying, “We see you.”

This was well-expressed on Polytheist.com, where representatives stated, “We see the harm. We see the fear and the hatred. We see the injustice … Together, we stand for something better.” Circle of Ancestral Magic, Blanton’s own coven, wrote, “We say this most of all to the people most affected by these atrocities. We see you. We hear you, and honor your lived experiences.” Other similar treatments were made by groups such as Vanic Conspiracy and Immanion Press.

Rather than make a comment, Circle Santuary chose a different route. It opened up its regular Tuesday night Circle podcast to host a round-table discussion on racial equality. In retrospect, Rev. Selena Fox said:

Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League are committed to working for a world with freedom, equality, liberty and justice for all, and where people can live in harmony with one another and with the greater circle of nature of which we are all a part.  It is our hope that this solution-focused Pagan community conversation can enhance awareness, inspire considerate communications and encourage effective, collaborative actions to help manifest racial equality

In a statement for Ár nDraíocht Fein (ADF), Rev. Kirk Thomas ended on a spiritual note saying, “We must all look deeply inside ourselves to root out prejudices we have been raised with that linger in the dark. Only then can injustice end. Only then may we all live in peace.”

Several organizations, due to internal processes and the distance between its board members, were unable to issue their statements in time for publication, but told The Wild Hunt that they were currently working on words. These organizations included The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, The Officers of Avalon and The Troth.

Lou Florez

Lou Florez

In response to all this activity Lou Florez, a spiritual counselor, rootworker, Orisha priest, told The Wild Hunt,

I wish I could say that these acts of violence, racism, aggression, and brutality on black bodies were rare, but unfortunately, they are not. These experiences are the lived reality for a vast majority of People of Color. While it is very touching to see the outpouring of support, discussion and commitments, I see this as just the beginning of a first step. As witches, Pagans, magicians, conjurers, and clergy we are mandated to transform the world as we transform ourselves. It’s time to awaken to the ramifications and reality of power, privilege and oppression in our circles, and communities.

Turning back to Blanton, we asked what she thought of this flurry of reaction to her Facebook comment, as well as the opening up of conversations and the calls to action. She said, with a hopeful tone, “I am so humbled to see such clear, fast and strong responses and it renews my hope that we might be able to actually do something together with that energy in our community.”

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The following is a list of the public (only) statements, posts and articles that were issued since Dec. 4 and referenced above. This is not an exhaustive list and more statements will undoubtedly surface over the days to come.

Coru Cathubodu

Bone and Briar

Free Cascadia Witch Camp

Immanion Press

The Family of the Forge in the Forest

The Firefly House

Shauna Aura Knight

Hexenfest and Pandemonaeon

Vanic Conspiracy

Heathens United Against Racism

Polytheist.com

The Troth

CAYA Coven

Solar Cross

Anomalous Thracian

Starhawk

Pantheon

ADF

Circle Sanctuary

CUUPS

Peter Dybing

T. Thorn Coyle

Jason Mankey

Courtney Weber

Patrick McCollum

Officers of Avalon

Jenya T. Beachy

The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel

Covenant of the Goddess

Christopher Penczak

Tea & Chanting Sangha/Dharma Pagans

Lykeia

Galina Krasskova

Cherry Hill Seminary

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Tim Titus

Lydia Crabtree

John Beckett

Rhyd Wildermuth

Kathy Nance

Tom Swiss

Circle of Ancestral Magic

Sarah Sadie

Aquarian Tabernacle Church

The Pantheon Foundation

 

[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!]

justice graphicOn Dec. 4, Crystal Blanton, Wild Hunt columnist, Priestess, writer, and long-time activist, issued a challenge to the collective Pagan communities, saying “This is an opportunity to stand up and support the people of color within the Pagan community, and society, by saying… we see you. We are not ignoring you, we are not staying silent.” Over the past four days, a growing number of individuals, groups and organizations have responded by publishing statements of solidarity, open letters and personal blog posts.

The Wild Hunt will be covering this story in detail in the coming week as others organizations and individuals are currently finalizing their own words. Some of statements already published include those by Starhawk, T. Thorn Coyle, Pantheon Foundation, CAYA covenSolar Cross, Ár nDraíocht Féin, and more. Stay tuned for more on this subject.

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The New Alexandrian Library announced that it has received its certificate of occupancy. The statement read, in part, “This means we are now ready to do the final walkthrough with the contractor; to begin the process of moving in shelves, furniture, books and artwork; and to think about a grand opening. We want to thank everyone who worked so hard and so long to make this dream a reality, who believed that the ASW could create such a resource for the Magickal Community.”

Additionally, the library has launched a new fundraising campaign for its 2015 Gala to be held at Sacred Space on Mar. 7 at the Hunt Valley Inn in Maryland.

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The Druid NetworkThe Druid Network announced that it has compiled and recreated the shared liturgy of the now closed Solitary Druid Fellowship (SDF). Shut down in September, SDF was an experimental project for solitary Druids and an extension of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF). As explained on the Druid Network website, “The Fellowship provided free liturgies for each of the Eight High Days of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, each based on ADF’s Core Order of Ritual.”

In the spirit of digital archiving and preserving important work, members of The Druid Network have uploaded all of these liturgies in one location for easy download. Organizers said, “It was such an excellent resource – not only for ADF druids – but for the whole community.” They also added that, if SDF should re-emerge, they will be happy to pass on the files to the new founders.

In Other News:

  • Over the past two weeks, Facebook has shut down several Pagan accounts as part of the enforcement of its “real name policy.” A number of people were targeted in this sweep, including authors Raven Grimassi and Storm Constantine. Speculation continues as to how and why this happens.
  • Cherry Hill Seminary has announced the opening of registration for spring classes. This registration is for both the masters courses toward a degree, as well as they four-week insight classes for non-seminary students.
  • Rootworker and Orisha Priest Lou Florez will be taking a pilgrimage to Nigeria. In an interview with Erick DuPree, Florez said, “…an invitation has been extended to travel to Nigeria in February with an esteemed elder and teacher, and to take the high priesthood initiation in IFA, the root of all Orisha religions. In addition to receiving this once-in-a-lifetime spiritual elevation, I will also train in traditional medicine making, and herbalism from elder priestesses and priests.” Florez has started a fundraising campaign to help fund the trip.
  • The deadline for submission to Paganicon 5 and Twin Cities Pagan Pride annual Third Offering sacred art exhibition is drawing near. As organizers explain, “Inspired to gather and create beauty as our third offering to our Gods and our community, this exhibition welcomes all types of visual media by artists who are capable of expressing a Pagan or polytheistic aesthetic.” The deadline is Jan. 1. The exhibition will be held at Paganicon, Mar.13-15.
  • Tea & Chanting Sangha is “is doing 100,000 recitations of OM MANI PADME HUM to create healing and change regarding police brutality:” The organization “integrates Pagan and Tibetan Buddhist practices.” Throughout the month, organizers will tally the number of recitations, whether recited together or individually. They encourage people to participate or join them on line. As of Dec. 7, they have done 13,075 recitations.

That’s it for now. Have a nice day!

On Nov. 15 at the Witchfest International, the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) launched a new program to capture the history of the “mother of modern Witchcraft in the United Kingdom.” Over time the Foundation’s trustees have been collecting fragments of Doreen Valiente’s legacy, through her possessions and writings. Now they are looking to the public. They have asked people to digitally record their memories and stories to demonstrate “What Doreen Means to Me!”

Doreen Valiente Foundation
“It’s so important that newcomers to Witchcraft and Paganism are aware of their heritage, if we don’t keep talking about Doreen and Gerald and the people who put their life into creating the Pagan community we have today then who will?” said Ashely Mortimer, a trusteee of DVF. He continued to say that DVF organizers felt that “this was a great way for people to express their feelings about one of the founders of our modern traditions and to help new people come to learn about the roots of modern Paganism.”

Currently, DVF has a play list on You Tube Channel with an introduction video starring trustee John-Belham Payne. In his short 1:45 intro, Payne shares one of his own memories, as well as asking others to join him. He says, “all of these little stories will help make a larger picture of Doreen the person, as well as Doreen the witch and poet, and High Priestess.”

DVF began filming these segements themselves at Witchfest, but has received more since. The trustees are currently uploading the new videos as fast as possible. At this time, there are eight available segments, each ranging from 2-4 minutes and each containing a short story about a personal encounter with Valiente.

Included in these videos is one by Janet Farrar, who reveals Valiente’s love of football (soccer). The amusing tale includes the unlikely combination of Ray Buckland, a bouquet of flowers and the World Cup. Through this video, we get a peak into Valiente’s own life through Farrar’s eyes, as well as a look at Farrar’s own personality as a storyteller.

The other seven videos include stories from Gavin Bone, Melissa and Rufus Harrington, Pagan Federation President Mike Stygal and Colin, who drove Valiente to an event and ended up befriending her. The DVF trustees are pleased with the early response to the project and are looking forward to hearing more from the extended community. The Foundation’s website says, “The first way to contribute is to make a short video of yourself telling the world what Doreen Valiente means to you personally.”

Why are they doing this now? Mortimer said, “Simply because we thought it was a great idea and one we’d not had in detail previously. We’re a small team, and we like to think we always deliver beyond our resources. We just hadn’t thought about doing this until now.”

Not only will the acquired information, memories and stories be available online or in a future DVF museum, but they will also be incorporated into a future biography. Author Philip Hesleton has recently taken on the role of Valiente’s official biographer. According to DVF, Heselton “has been researching through the Foundation archives and many other sources.”

The Doreen Valiente Foundation is using is a relatively new technique in archiving and recording history, one that takes full advantage of the proliferation of digital technology and internet connectivity. Such projects, which began popping up ten years ago, use crowdsourcing methodologies to build, update and enhance their catalogs of the human experience.

DC29053LOGOFor example, The National Archives is currently looking for “citizen archivists” who have previously taken digital photos of some their logged material. The website says, “If you have taken scans or photographs of records you can help make them accessible to the public and other researchers by sharing your images with the National Archives Citizen Archivist ResearchGroup on Flickr.” At many archives, museums and libraries, the hired professionals do not have enough time to digitize all the stored materials. To speed up the process, they’ve turned to the public for help.

According to Jan Zastrow, an archivist and librarian in Washington D.C.:

Crowdsourcing in archives and special collections can take the form of transcribing handwritten documents, indexing genealogical records, identifying people and places in photos, correcting optical character recognition (OCR) errors in digitized newspaper collections, tagging or captioning historical images, adding pictorial content to maps, transcribing oral histories, and much more.

Similar to the DVF, the Atlanta History Center has asked the public for personal photos and videos, in order to better tell the city’s rich history. The Center maintains a community database to which people can upload their images of Atlanta. This database is part of an album, which already “contains 16,000 photographs from 84 collections of the Kenan Research Center … The images document people, places, and events in Atlanta, and the state of Georgia from 1863 to 1992.”

downloadThe Atlanta History Center is also part of wider movement to record people’s stories, part of the StoryCorps initiative. Since its inception in 2003, StoryCorps has facilitated, “collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews with over 90,000 participants.” The digitally captured tales are stored at the American Folklore Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps has also partnered with NPR to air many of these tales. According to the website, the organization is one of the “largest oral history projects.”

The Doreen Valiente Foundation’s newly launched video project is another example of an oral history project. This is a uniquely contemporary method of capturing human experience through the everyday person before it gets lost in time. In fact, there is now even a push to create digital archives of one’s own personal history. Columbia University Libraries has a resource guide to personal archiving.

While opponents are quick to point out that one digital error can “can obscure a document from researchers forever,” as noted by Zastrow, digital archiving and oral story projects are becoming more prevalent. The format allows libraries to house more material, offer research over the internet and capture a greater amount of human history with, perhaps, a never before seen level of detail.

For relatively new religious movements with short histories, citizen archiving and digital oral recordings may prove beneficial, even crucial, to preserving the past. At this point, there are only a few places in which someone can perform any archival research specifically on Pagan, Polytheist, or Heathen collective religious practices, traditions, organization, events and groups. Much of that data – that history – is still scattered around the world, in personal homes and in basements, and much of it is not even written down.

Could citizen archival projects and “oral history recordings,” as being used by the Doreen Valiente Foundation, provide a way to capture that history for future generations? Julie Belham Payne, a trustee of the Foundation, believes so. She said, “For me it is an important project and these testimonies must be recorded before they are lost forever.”

The American Academy of Religions held its annual meeting in sunny San Diego, California from Nov. 22-25. The event attracted thousands of professors, students, writers, religious leaders and others from across the globe to participate in workshops, lectures and events related to religious studies and theology. In attendance and presenting were a growing number of Pagans.

{0b895c50-c9a2-db11-a735-000c2903e717}“The AAR annual meeting is a huge intellectual energy infusion, not to mention a social occasion with Pagan Studies scholars from around the world,” said Chas Clifton, co-chair of AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group. “There are literally dozens of sessions happening at any one time-slot, so people are always having to compromise.” He added that the Pagan-focused programming, which began in 2005, attracts an average of 40-50 attendees per session, which he called “respectable for a small sub-field.”

The sessions, which were run in part or in whole by the Pagan Studies Group, included such topics as, “The New Animism: Ritual and Response to the Nonhuman World” (Michael Houseman, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes); “Evolving or Born this Way: Conversion and Identity” (Hannah Hofheinz, Harvard University); “New Paganism(s) around the Globe” (Chas Clifton, Colorado State University); “Animism and Paganism: The Dialog Continues” (Jone Salomonsen, University of Oslo) and “From the Charmed Circle to Sacred Kink: Theorizing Boundaries in Religion and Sexuality.” And those are just a few highlights.

Dr. Wendy Griffin, Professor Emerita and Chair of the Department of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality at California State University and Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary said, “As the founding co-chair of the Pagan Studies group at the AAR years ago, I have seen the attendance grow with real pleasure. The reception has always been positive.”

Chas Clifton

Co-Chair of AAR’s Pagan Studies Group [Courtesy Photo]

Clifton agreed, saying, “The question of “reception” never was cast in religious terms, in other words, some kind of discrimination against Pagans — despite the AAR’s roots in Protestant Christian theology.” He explained that the founders had to prove that their programming didn’t fall under another already established category, such as “New Religious Movements.” AAR rejected the application in 1997, but than accepted the Pagan Studies group in 2005. Its been going strong ever since.

Clifton added, “The academic study of Paganism is not about either explaining Paganism to others or teaching Pagans how to be better Pagans. For the latter, I suppose you go to PantheaCon.” The discussions at AAR fall more into the academic realms of mapping emerging practices, presenting trends or vital discourse.

M. Macha Nightmare has been attending AAR off and on since 1998. She said, “I [went] mainly to support the group that was then formulating the implementation of a Pagan Studies section … Since that time, I’ve joined the Academy and have attended as many meetings as possible. During that time, I’ve seen the proposals and acceptance of the Pagan Studies section flourish. ”

Part of her connection to AAR is through her work with Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS). Nightmare said, “In fact, on my way to the 2009 annual meeting in Atlanta, I encountered Wendy Griffin in the women’s room of the Dallas Airport where we both had a layover on our trips … She asked what I had been up to and I replied that CHS was seeking an Academic Dean.” After several discussions with Director Holli Emore, Griffin was hired. Now, Griffin admits that one of her motivations for going to AAR is to “promote Cherry Hill.” She added, “This year, I believe, we found 2 new international students.”

People attend AAR for a variety of reasons. Amy Hale, Ph.D., Undergraduate Director of Instructional Technology and Teacher Excellence at Golden Gate University, has been “delivering workshops for AAR’s Employment Services on the theme of career transition away from academia.” Hale also sits on the Pagan Studies Steering Group. Of this year’s event, Hale said:

AAR can be huge and overwhelming but the conversation is lively and stimulating. I particularly loved the Esotericism in African American Religion session which included some excellent scholarship that rightfully expands the boundaries of Western Esoteric Studies.

Jeffrey Albaugh attends, in part, to help his own work for the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. He said that attending AAR “helps in how [he] thinks about how the conference is run.” He added, “My work occupies the confluence of psychology and religion, so attending AAR offers me new perspectives to consider.”

Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, only attends on occasion since her “primary professional association is the American Folklore Society (AFS).” Fortunately, this year’s meeting was close to her home and, therefore, she was able to easily attend. Additionally, Magliocco was invited to be a respondent on a panel about folkloristic approaches to the study of religion. She said:

I also had recent research results from my project “Animals and the Spiritual Imagination” that I wanted to present and get feedback on.  AAR fits with my work as a folklorist and anthropologist because of my focus on vernacular religion and expressive culture.  I can network with others who share those specific interests, as well as ones in ritual studies, Pagan studies, and new religious movements.

Australian Professor Douglas Ezzy presenting [Courtesy J. Albaugh]

Australian Professor Douglas Ezzy presenting [Courtesy J. Albaugh]

As Clifton noted, this year’s Pagan Studies presentations included an international element. Clifton presided over a Global Paganisms panel that included scholars from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Israel, Norway and the Netherlands. In addition, Clifton presented a paper by Dmitry Galtsin, a researcher in the Rare Books Department of the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Unfortunately, Galtsin was not able to raise enough funds to make the trip himself.

Israeli Ph.D candidate Shai Feraro said, “It was first time at AAR, after attending several conferences in Europe. I decided to attend the annual meeting due to its status as the largest and most important conference dedicated to the study of religion and spirituality.”

Douglas Ezzy, Ph.D, associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tasmania in Australia, was attending the annual meeting for the 4th time. He said, “The AAR is a very important forum for me as a Pagan Studies scholar. It is one of the few places where I can meeting a large group of other academics who share my interests and have a detailed familiarity with the Pagan Studies literature.” Ezzy’s paper and recent work focus on “Relational Ethics, Ritual and the New Animism.”

Of this year’s AAR meeting, Ezzy said, “I heard some wonderful papers on ritual studies, mysticism, gender and religion and Paganisms. I also renewed some friendships and developed new ones.” That sentiment was echoed by several of the attendees. Feraro noted that a Pagan Studies group dinner was held at a local restaurant, where he was able to finally meet some American Pagan scholars whose books influenced his own research.

Douglas Ezzy, Chas Clifton and Shai Feraro at Pagan Studies group dinner

Douglas Ezzy, Chas Clifton and Shai Feraro at Pagan Studies group dinner

Hale agreed, saying “Another highlight is spending time with my colleagues, who are cherished friends. AAR just creates community.”

Next year’s American Academy of Religions annual meeting will be held in Atlanta Nov. 21-24. Clifton says that, over the next few weeks, the organization will be setting the 2015 themes. The call for papers will be issued in January.

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!

Many Gods West FB Photo

Last week it was announced, via Facebook, that a new Polytheist conference was being planned for the summer of 2015. Today, organizers launched the official website for Many Gods Westwhich will include “three days of presentations, workshops, panels and rituals.” The keynote speaker is Morpheus Ravenna of Coru Cathubodua.

The website details the conference’s goal and purpose. In a statement of inclusion, organizers say, in part, “Many Gods West is intended as a safe, welcoming, and convivial forum for polytheists to share knowledge, practices, rituals, and other learning experiences with each other.”  The event will be held from Jul. 31 to Aug. 2, 2015 at the Governor Hotel in downtown Olympia, Washington.

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[Courtesy Photo]

Last week, Rev. Patrick McCollum co-facilitated a meeting with U.S. state and federal officials to discuss “discrimination against minorities and minority faiths by government.” Held in conjunction with the American Academy of Religions, the meeting was the 11th annual event of its kind, and Rev. McCollum said, “It is unanimously agreed that the meetings and associated training have directly changed governmental policy across the country and have greatly widened the opportunity for the practice of minority faiths in prisons, veterans institutions, and mental health facilities to name a few.”

At this year’s meeting, the U.S. Military approached meeting facilitators about setting up a new chaplain program, to be launched in 2015, based on Rev. McCollum’s work in prison ministry. In response, Rev. McCollum said, “When I first conceived of this idea, it seemed like an impossible task. One which could never come to be. But with a clear objective, committed partners, and a refusal to give up, we have pulled it off.” The Wild Hunt will continue to track this story as the program is put into place.

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T. Thorn Coyle and Gae Sidhe of Brennos of the Coru Cathubodua. Picture courtesy of Gae Sidhe

T. Thorn Coyle and Brennos of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood [Credit: G. Sidhe]

Since last Monday’s Ferguson Grand Jury decision, protests have stretched out across the country, reaching communities of all kinds, including Pagan and Heathen. These protests have manifested in many forms both in real life and in the digital world, and continue on today and, most likely, well beyond.

However, prior to last week’s announcement, there were Pagans and Heathens already involved in supporting the Ferguson community. Several weeks ago, a local organizer sent out a tweet asking if anyone would be willing to donate tents “to be used to keep peaceful protesters warm.” Led by T. Thorn Coyle, a group of Bay Area Pagans took up the call and raised enough funds to purchase and ship two 10 X 20 tents with sidewalls. Coyle said, “Glenn Turner of Ancient Ways and Pantheacon, Ryan Smith of Heathens United Against Racism, Yeshe Rabbit of CAYA Coven, Crystal Blanton, Jonathan Korman of Solar Cross Temple, and Rhett Aultmun all donated to make this happen … I pray that love, equity, and justice will prevail.”

In Other News:

  • Many individual Pagans and Pagan organizations have already indicated that they will be attending next year’s Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. For those that haven’t purchased tickets, the Council just announced an extension of the “super saver” pricing. The discount is extended through Dec. 10.
  • Photographer Richard Mann has posted photos of Reclaiming’s 35th annual Spiral Dance held on Nov. 1, 2014 at the Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco. The organization’s own site has more information about the event, the organization its history, and feedback on this year’s festivities. Please note that all photos published on Mann’s site are under copyright (C) 2014 Richard Man.
  • Israeli Ph.D. candidate Shai Feraro published an article on his blog called “Wicca and the Israel Connection.” In this short essay, he draws connections between Wicca’s beginnings to the sacred lands in the middle east. He says, “…while modern-day Israel occupies virtually no place (or at least none of importance) in the mind of most Contemporary Pagans worldwide, some early British Wiccans and other figures which influenced the Wiccan movement spent considerable periods of time in the region.”
  • Popular band Tuatha Dea announced this week that member Tesea Dawson would be leaving. Lead singer Danny Mullikin wrote, “Since our inception, [Tesea] has been a constant driving and create force but she has admirably decided that it is time to put all her energies into raising her two incredible children.” Dawson will be making her final public appearance with the band Dec. 20, during a Tuatha Dea “musical party at the place it all started -The Fox and Parrot in Gatlinburg Tennessee.”  The band invites its fans to come out and celebrate with them.
  • Over the past week, a number of Pagan and Heathen sites published gift guides, including The Wild Hunt. In response to ours, Of Thespiae posted one specifically geared at Polytheists. Raise the Horns posted one called “Pagan Things Made for Pagans by Pagans,” and here is another one from The Serpent’s Labyrinth. As the season goes on, more of these gift lists will popup to awe and inspire.

That’s it for now. Have a nice day.

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!

Doreen Valiente Foundation

On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) made a statement regarding the local showing of a horror film called The Wicca Man.” The Liverpool Echo described the film, directed by Jacqueline Kirkham, as being “inspired by notorious Blundellsands-born satanist Gerald Gardner” and, as reported, is about a filmmaker who “[infiltrates] a witches’ coven with disastrous consequences.”

After the article was published, the Foundation became inundated with requests to respond to the film and subsequent media coverage. However, DVF opted to issue a statement to its community and supporters instead. The message read, in part, “We don’t encourage public displays of outrage on behalf of Witches or Pagans in relation to this movie specifically. We believe that a low-budget, local movie  for which even the local paper story could only attract 3 comments, mostly criticising the film for being poorly made, doesn’t deserve such attention and is best left to be ignored … That’s NOT to say that we don’t believe in standing up for the rights of Witches and Pagans not to be defamed! We just think that it is a long war to fight and picking the battlefields is the strategic key to success.” To read the full statement and reasoning, go to the Foundation’s site.

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michigan_council_of_covens_solitaires_gift_box-re9f68ce3c3b84d1fabcf66bb8b6f8a0c_aglbn_8byvr_324The Michigan Council of Covens & Solitaires (MCCS) has launched its Yuletide/Christmas “Adopt A Family” program. Organizers explain, “Every year there are children in the U.S. that go without presents for Christmas. There are children right here in Michigan that wonder where their next meal is coming from. DHS doesn’t cover everything, that’s where other organizations like MCCS step in.”

MCCS is holding a food and toy drive through Dec. 13 at The Smokey Crystal in Woodhaven, Michigan. Monetary gifts are also being accepted and will be used to purchase needed items that were not donated directly. The website also contains a link to the form used to nominate a family that may be in need of help this holiday season.

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{0b895c50-c9a2-db11-a735-000c2903e717}Over the past weekend, the American Academy of Religions held its annual meeting in San Diego. There were many Pagans in attendance including Sabina Magliocco Ph.D., M. Macha Nightmare, Jeffrey Albaugh, Chas Clifton, Amy Hale, Wendy Griffin, Rev. Patrick McCollum and others. The organization itself, as well as attendees, live tweeted with the hashtag #sblaar14 and #aar.

This year’s AAR meeting included discussions on climate change. During the event, AAR, in conjunction with the Public Religion Research Institute, released a report titled: “Believers, Sympathizers, and Skeptics: Why Americans are Conflicted about Climate Change, Environmental Policy, and Science.” The report was compiled from the “findings from the PRRI/AAR Religion, Values, and Climate Change Survey.” We will be reporting more on the AAR Pagan experience in the near future.

2014-Climate-Change-cover

In Other News:

  • Yvonne Aburrow announced the release of her book All Acts of Love & Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca. Published by Avalonia Press, the book “is a companion guide to inclusive Wicca, which includes all participants regardless of sexual orientation, disability, age, or other differences, not by erasing or ignoring the distinctions, but by working with them creatively within initiatory Craft.” It is currently available for pre-order.
  • Photographer Daragh McDonagh left his adopted city of New York to return to his Irish homeland and “reconnect with the natural world.” After some time, he turned parts of his experience into a series of photographs that explore Irish Shamanism. The resulting collection is called: Daragh McDonagh: The Modern Pagan. McConagh told The British Journal of Photography that, in the photographs, he attempted to capture “a compelling presence that in some way reflects the inner spirituality of each sitter.” Some of his striking photos can be seen on the magazine’s website.
  • “Lithuania Romuva elected a new guide, Inija Trinkūnienė,” as announced by ECER. Trinkūnienė has the distinction of being the first woman ever elected to this position of Kriva (supreme priestess). According to ECER, her election was part of broader discussions on “looking forward” into the religion’s future.
  • Chas Clifton announced the release of a new anthology called Sexuality and New Religious Movements published by Palgrave Macmillan. According to a blurb on Amazon, “Issues relating to sexuality, eroticism and gender are often connected to religious beliefs and practices, but also to prejudices against and fear of religious groups that adopt alternative approaches to sexuality.” The book explores the subject through a number of different religions. Clifton is one of the essayists, and the co-editor is Henry Bogdan of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies and Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism.
  • On Nov. 20, Mythicworlds announced that “Einar Selvik, founder of the acclaimed Nordic band, WARDRUNA and a composer for the hit series, VIKINGS, on the History Channel will make his premiere appearance at Mythicworlds in Seattle on February 20-22.” He will be doing three workshops and talking about his involvement on Vikings.

That is all for now. Enjoy your day.

Student protests, rallies and sit-ins are a distant memory for much of the population; a nugget from another time. To others they are merely stories out of history books or photographs in magazines. But for a group of Syracuse students, faculty and staff, protests have become a very real and very contemporary reality.

“It is clear now, in instances too numerous to describe … that the administration is turning focus away from values of diversity, and rather toward higher academic ratings and rankings; away from transparency and accountability, and toward secretive, top-heavy models of dominance; away from values of community engagement and towards the Ivory Tower on the Hill model; away from considering itself a university and toward functioning as a corporation,” wrote members of the student group Campaign for an Advocacy Center in an Oct. 29 letter-to-the-editor of The Daily Orange.

cropped-the-general-body-long-logo2
Just a few days later, Nov. 3, the Campaign for an Advocacy Center joined with a newly formed student organization called THE General Body for a rally on the steps of Hendricks Chapel. This united front of students had long list of grievances against the university’s new administration. These grievances included the closing of the Advocacy Center as well as the “defunding of the POSSE program, a lack of diverse student representation in the new FAST FORWARD program, rejection of the University Senate’s proposed tenure and promotion policy,”and unrecognized “pervasive issues concerning privilege and discrimination against individuals with marginalized identities.” The list in its entirety and in full detail is posted on the organization’s website and, after being finalized, was sent directly to new university Chancellor Kent Syverud.

Pagan student Madeleine Slade told The Wild Hunt that she’s involved with the protest because she has “experienced firsthand the insufficiencies of the mental health services at this school.” Slade went on to relay a story in which the allegedly underfunded medical program had no personnel available to handle a crisis situation. She said that she was forced to go off-campus to a city mental health facility. Slade said, “We need sufficient services here so we don’t put students’ lives at risk.”

As Slade and other students explained, the trouble all began in June when the administration shut down the advocacy center, originally called the R.A.P.E center. According to Senior VP and Dean of Student Affairs Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz, the center’s services and staff were to be consolidated with the school’s counseling program, rather than remain a stand-alone facility. The closure was due partly to University-wide budget cuts needed to correct well-publicized debt crisis, which according to Syracuse.com, more than doubled under the former Chancellor. Kantrowitz said that the administration would host “listening meetings for the campus community in June, July, August and into the fall semester” to determine how the new counseling structure could best serve students.

However, there was an immediate outcry. Students began organizing and started an online petition to #BringBacktheAC. In September, a rally was held with students chanting “This is an advocate.”

In response, the administration formed a student work group to help examine the situation. In response, The Campaign for the Advocacy Center said, in a Daily Orange article,” we believe that, in response to the groundswell of community involvement and concern, the university has since improved the new support services.” However they added:

One important component that remains lost, however, is a dedicated center — a safe space and resource center that also serves as a powerful symbol of the university’s solidarity with all who have been impacted by sexual and relationship violence and against rape culture. We will continue to mourn the loss of this space and work to restore it.

While the news continued to circle around the Advocacy Center, other problems surfaced. The school announced changes to the POSSE scholarship program, which is considered an integral part of the university’s commitment to maintaining student diversity and to supporting students who otherwise might not have the personal resources or home support to attend college.

Campus Protest Nov. 19 [Photo Credit: Mark Rupert]

Campus Protest Nov. 19 [Photo Credit: Mark Rupert]

In addition, stories like Slade’s began to surface, which raised concern over the treatment of students across the campus. They began to question whether university services supported a safe environment for minority students, students with physical limitations or with mental health issues and students with marginalized identities, such as those in the school’s LGBTQ community, As these questions were asked, the protests began to refocus on a much broader problem, which eventually led to the formation of THE General Body.

Despite the administration’s inclusion of student work groups in its Fast Forward strategic master plan, student protestors did not feel that the administration was actually listening. THE General Body called for another rally – a Diversity and Transparency Rally (DAT Rally), which quickly evolved into something much bigger. After the scheduled Nov. 3 DAT rally, students flooded the Crouse-Hinds Hall of Languages and staged a sit-in, which would then last for 18 days.

Although the list of grievences doesn’t explicitly focus on religion, it does include issues concerning a student’s safety from harassment. Slade said that, while “Hendricks Chapel has always been pretty accepting,” this is not the case campus-wide. Recently, for example, Slade’s Pagan friend was allegedly harassed over religious beliefs. She says, “I think that this falls under issues that THE General Body has already been discussing, namely the way the school handles hate speech.”

Syracuse Pagan chaplain Rev. Mary Hudson did confirm that several of her students were involved in the protests. She told The Wild Hunt, “Its crazy… Most of us here look at this as the students exercising and practicing everything that they have been taught to cause real change. They are being effective and they are doing it peacefully and respectfully and I must say I’m impressed.”

During the 18 day sit-in, the administration and THE General Body went back and forth with communications, negotiations and press conferences. The students issued demands, which included a meeting with Chancellor Syverud, insistence that their grievances to be acknowledge, and insurances that change would happen.

Meanwhile, as they sat each day, students garnered an ever increasing amount of support from both inside and outside the university community. Protests, vigils and rallies were held on campus each day by those not in the hall. Faculty entered the building to offer teach-ins, and some, such as the department of Women and Gender studies, the English Department, and the Geography Faculty, sent open letters to the administration in support of student concerns.

Support flooded in from off campus as well.  For example, emails, tweets and letters arrived from Colgate University students, United Healthcare Workers East, 601 Tully, members of the city of Syracuse Community and the broader University of California community. Pagan activist T. Thorn Coyle has been watching since the beginning. She told The Wild Hunt:

The situation at Syracuse feels connected to youth and student activism happening all around the country and in other parts of the world … Education reform is clearly needed and young activists aren’t toeing the line any more. From walk outs in middle schools and high schools, to building occupations, lock downs, or carrying a mattress to class to highlight rape on campus, student activism is on the rise for good reasons. Students want more of a say in their educational institutions, in student safety on campus, and in how institutional money is invested and spent …We need to pay better attention to young people right now..

On Nov. 20, the sit-in came to a close. While much happened over those 18 long days of tense negotiations with Chanceller Syveud, there were some concessions made on both sides. In a blog post for THE General Body, student Tessa Brown details what the organization sees as its achievements. In a different post, student Vani Kannan explains “phase 2″ of the campaign. She wrote:

We are leaving with the knowledge that what we are asking the Chancellor to commit to works towards equity, justice, and safety for every person here today and every person not here … This new phase represents a growing body of students, faculty, staff, and community members who refuse to submit to undemocratic administrative policies that hurt this campus and this community. We will continue to fight alongside each other despite the forces that are trying to divide us.

Nov. 20 News Conference THE Student Body [Photo Credit: Mark Rupert]

Nov. 20 News Conference THE Student Body [Photo Credit: Mark Rupert]

Chancellor Syverud told The Chronicle of Higher Education, “I have learned much through this process and appreciate how committed these students are to making our university better. I want the university community to know I remain fully committed to continuing these conversations and working to make Syracuse University the kind of campus where everyone feels welcome and respected.”

After the students left the building, many of the principle organizers held a news conference, which can be heard here, discussing the accomplishments and the future of the movement. Then, as is reported on the blog, the participating students and faculty marched in solidarity to Henricks Chapel where it all began on Nov. 3. One student tweeted: “Anger mobilized is a beautiful thing. THIS MOVEMENT HAS CHANGED MY DAMN LIFE!”  They held up signs that read “#comebackstronger2015.”