Missing Texas Man Found Dead

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


[Online Profile Photo]

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

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

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

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

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

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Isis Bookstore Vandalized

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

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

[Facebook Photo / Isis Books & Gifts]

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

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

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

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UNITED STATES –Analysts at the Pew Research Center have released a second report parsing data collected during the 2014 Religious Landscape Survey. Where the initial report “described the changing size and demographic characteristics of the nation’s major religious groups,” this second one instead “focuses on Americans’ religious beliefs and practices and assesses how they have changed in recent years.”

While the activities of those who belong to religious minorities, including those who fall under or near the Pagan umbrella, can at best be inferred from the data — out of 35,071 survey participants, only 605 are listed in the “other faiths” category, which was separate from the 92 identified under “other world religions” — the overall trends in the United States suggest a slow, generational shift away from any religious activity. However, among those who hold religious beliefs, the frequency and variety of religious activities has not appreciably changed since the first survey, conducted in 2007. Those interested in digging into the data have, for the first time this year, an interactive tool for combing through the results as well as the full report in PDF format.


While 70.6% of the survey respondents indicating that they are some type of Christian, some of the questions suggest that the survey itself was written by people who are largely unfamiliar that other perspectives exist. That includes the finding that a “growing share of religiously affiliated say they regularly read scripture, participate in prayer or scripture study groups, share faith with others” – all activities strongly associated with Christian faiths in particular.

Another section of the report notes that a “declining share of Americans express absolutely certain belief in God.” The report further indicates that six-in-ten respondents “believe the Bible or other holy scripture is the word of God.” It’s not clear if or how the wording of questions impacted responses from, for example, the 456 Hindus or responded. Additionally, while the results are parsed by gender in several sections of the report, no allowances are made for non-binary respondents.


One thing made clear by the new survey is that the number of “nones” — those who do not identify as affiliated with a particular religion, including atheists — continues to rise. This population went from 16% in 2007 to 23% in the 2014 survey. That progression has not been homogeneous: younger people are more likely not to identify as religiously affiliated than older Americans, and is more widespread among respondents who listed themselves as Democrats or Democrat-leaning.

PF_15.10.27_SecondRLS_overview_peaceWonder310pxOne pair of findings which might suggest a Christian bias to the survey is the the “nones” are less likely to believe in God than they did seven years ago. At the same time, feelings of spiritual peace and wonder at the universe increased among the religious and non-religious alike. By separating “spiritual” from “religious” activities, Pew researchers may have created a distinction that only represents a difference in certain faith communities, albeit the majority ones in the United States today. Given that unspoken definition, it appears that those with a religious affiliation are loathe to give it up, but members of the millennial generation are more likely not to have picked one up in the first place. While no one appears to be abandoning religion, the percentage of people who practice one is still on the decline.

Among those who adhere to a specific religion, the survey found that the distribution from highly religious to those who are less so hasn’t significantly changed from one survey to the next. Similar percentages of respondents attend worship services, pray, and express belief in their deity as did in 2007. The bulk (57%) of those identifying as having a religion conceive of “God” as a person rather than an impersonal force, including 70% of Christians. C

uriously, 2% of atheists said that the believe in a personal deity. There’s been no appreciable change in conception of deity — among the religious — from one survey to the next.

Two highly political issues were also called out in the survey, with questions on topics such as homosexuality and abortion. Across the board, the percentage of people who accept homosexuality is on the rise, with increases shown in every faith group, including Mormons, whose church recently ruled that members in same-sex marriages are to be considered apostate, and their children denied baptism until they reach adulthood. (It’s not clear if the mass resignations spurred by that decision will change the overall attitude of Mormons in future surveys, however.)

Belief that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, however, hasn’t really changed overall since the 2007 survey was performed. What’s interesting about the abortion data is which groups trended in what direction: the nones are more supportive of the right to choose an abortion, while there was a slight downtick among non-Christian faiths, of which most of the respondents belong to another Abrahamic group. While generational trends drift toward more liberal views on issues other than homosexuality, namely the environment, immigration policy, and the proper size and scope of government. Abortion, however, has its opponents strewn throughout all age groups.



Given the relatively small number of people who practice any sort of Heathen, Pagan, or Polytheist religion, trends in these communities are impossible to track in such a large survey. It’s entirely possible that trends toward less religious involvement in younger people do impact the growth of these religions, but as they are generally adopted in adulthood, and without attempts at conversion. It’s also possible that those in the shadow of the Pagan umbrella are bucking these trends completely. Unless and until this amalgam of faith groups and solitary practitioners grows to the point of making a statistically significant blip on the national stage, focused surveys such as the Heathen census will serve to provide more meaningful data about who we are and what we do.

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The recent terror attacks in Lebanon and France have sent shockwaves through Europe and the United States. On Nov 12, Beirut suffered a double suicide bombing killed 43 and wounded more than 200 people. That was quickly overshadowed by events the next day in France, where 129 people have died and over 100 were wounded. Daesh has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

In response, France has initiated a military campaign against suspected terrorist targets in Syria and has arrested over 100 suspects. Anti-immigration protests are taking place nationwide, and theits President has proposed changes to the French constitution that would expand his powers. Belgian officials are considering shutting down what what they call “certain radical mosques” in Molenbeek, an area that has been linked to a major terrorist attack five times in the past 18 months.  And, the Governors of 26 U.S. states have now said they will not accept Syrian refugees unless there is a stringent screening in place.

As this international crisis continues to evolve on a macro scale, these brutal attacks and their aftermath, have affected people on the micro level, including many Pagans who live in both France and Lebanon.

In Beirut, two suicide bombers struck at rush hour in a busy shopping district. Daesh said that they chose the neighborhood because it is home to Shiite and Palestinians, both of whom it views as apostates. Although Beirut has endured such attacks in the past, it had been relatively calm and peaceful for many months.

downloadLeyla, a polytheist living in a suburb of Beirut said that the city isn’t as a dangerous a place as many Americans may think. She said, “[It] has been calm for months. Then the bombing happened. The bombing was shocking. We are shocked. We have been enjoying cafes and visiting friend, now we stay at home.”

She added that the bombing by Daesh has also increased tensions between Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees living in Beirut. She explained that many homes are filled to overflowing with extended relatives who had to flee Syria. “I pray to Ashtarte to bring peace to our country and to the whole of our place. We have so many refugees from Syria, but now they are suspicioned. Yes, you trust your family from Syria, but others? Are they refugees or men with bomb belts? We do not know.”

Leyla said that she is also worried about France’s military actions, but even more so she worries that Daesh will take over Lebanon. “The attacks on Daesh by France are good and bad. Daesh must be stopped. After they swallow Syria, they swallow Lebanon.” Leyla added that she especially fears what will happen to Pagans like herself and to her family. “[Daesh] will kill all pagans, all Christians, all those not them. It is known they kidnap and keep for raping women who aren’t Islam. But bombs from France will not stop them, only kill innocents. Bombs spread sadness.”

The suicide bombings in Beirut were barely making onto the world’s radar when the Paris attacks happened. Attention was immediately diverted. Leyla said that she’s hurt, but understands, “We, too, were more shocked [of the] attack in Paris than attack here. Paris is thought so safe and Lebanese have special ties to France. If such acts happen there, how is anyone safe?”

In France, the attacks took the form of several suicide bombings and shootings. The first explosion occurred outside the Stade de France, located just outside of Paris. The attacker attempted to gain entry to the facility, but was stopped from entering. Another suicide attacker blew himself up at a fast food restaurant near the stadium. Meanwhile in the heart of Paris, gunmen attacked patrons at the Le Carillon bar, and then crossed the street to attack diners at the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant. Then came yet another attack on diners a few streets away at the Le Café Bonne Bière and La Casa Nostra pizzeria. The next reports of shootings were at the La Belle Equipe bar, further south. The final attacks happened at the restaurant Le Comptoir Voltaire and in the 1500 seat Bataclan concert venue.

download (1)French officials have said that it appeared there were “three coordinated teams” responsible for the attack. While most of the terrorists have been identified as native French citizens, one of them may have slipped into France by pretending to be a Syrian refugee.  

French Pagans, like their co-religionists in Beirut, responded to the attacks with shock.

Babette Petiot, a French Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside, said, “Everyone is shocked, but how not to be, it is the biggest attack on France since WWII. From what I have seen, the reactions were prayer, the Ligue Wiccane Eclectique organised Saturday night a Facebook event for people to pray or have a small personal ritual. And on French blogs, it was mostly about sharing love and sending love.”

The Facebook prayer event was created for “Wiccans and pagans who want to unite to pray for the victims of the shooting in Paris of 13.11 and their families, we offer a ritual convergence tonight at 21h Paris time.” Organizers asked people to “direct [their] thoughts, comfort and peace to the souls of those shot and their relatives, and the injured of Paris.”  According to the event page, 42 people participated.

The prayer event included the following chant:

Paix en nous, paix en eux,
Paix autour de nous et paix autour d’eux,
Paix ici, paix là-bas,
Paix à [Paris] et et paix dans le monde,
Apaisons les tensions, accueillons la …

Xavier Mondon, spokesperson for La Ligue Wiccane Eclectique, said that he hasn’t sensed any fear or anger in the city. He said the mood was more one of sadness, “And, also, a willingness to be united, all together against this craziness. That will not last: French people like to argue, and are not always in agreement with each other. But for this moment, there is a willingness to unite and be present.”

Ms. Petiot said that tensions have risen in France, and that there have been some retaliation directed at Muslim communities. She said that this sentiment could affect the upcoming December elections and tilt them in favor of the far right and its anti-immigration platform. She also added that this political calculation may be affecting how the current French government responds.

Petiot explained, “France was already engaged in Syrian conflict beforehand alongside our US allies. François Hollande, our president, has a nickname: ‘Flamby’ [a very soft flan au caramel dessert]. As you can imagine, it is associated with weakness, spineless, softness … Like doormat if you see what I mean. After the refugees crisis in Europe, that is still carrying on, he mostly followed Germany’s and Angela Merkel’s opinions. Friday night, he was in the Stade de France, at the soccer match France-Germany. It is believed he was one of the targets in those terrorists attacks. Because of this, he had to react ‘strong’ and ‘hard.’ “

Mondon, who lives in Paris, said that he himself hasn’t heard much criticism of the president. “I have not heard anyone criticizing Hollande about the raids. Truthfully, there is little talk of politics. It is now a time for contemplation and for solidarity. Politics will come later.”

In a previous interview with The Wild Hunt, Petiot describes France as a very secular country, one in which religious people are somewhat looked down upon. In that article, Petiot explained that the French have a very different relationship with religion, “There has always been this vision of [religiosity] as something for the poor, non-educated, or for women. [This] explains partly why secularism is such a big deal. I’m almost sure a French person will far more easily talk you about sex than religion.”

The existing cultural divide between a small minority, who are described as overtly religious, and the over 80% of French people who do not describe themselves as religious. This may be partly what Daesh wished to exploit. The Wild Hunt asked Petiot and Mondon for some insight into how France’s cultural views of religion affect the current situation.

Mondon explained that French secularism is not an anti-religious sentiment. “On the contrary, it permits all religions to co-exist. Muslims, just like Christians, Pagans, Atheists and even followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, have a right to express their beliefs. It is absolutely permissible, except for in public schools or public administration. As far as I can see, this passive coexistence and respect for differences has not been threatened [by recent events.] On the contrary, the current feeling of national unity is moving us closer to this ideal.”

Going into more detail, Petiot had this to say:

France was a colonial power. Most Muslims [here] are second or third generation in France. They are Muslims by tradition, like most french Christians, who go to church only on Christmas and weddings and such, so do Muslims in mosques. They spend Eid with family, try to do the Ramadan but drink alcohol and live mostly like everybody else. We have 7% of the French population who declare themselves Muslim. But only a very small part of this is really openly religious, with hijab or abaya worn by women and djellabas bearded men …

This small group is [seen as] the real problem. French motto is “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” By their attitudes and outfits they negate the motto, because of religious beliefs, ‘I will not dress like you, we are not equals, we are not brothers.’ They do not realise, but it is very aggressive, especially to those born during WWII and the flower power generation. You know, something lost in translation … 

She explained how most French people feel that if you have a religion, “we are very happy and proud of you. [But] the problem begins when you show it off … I find it gross and rude, and certainly not acceptable!” Petiot further added,

As for the refugees, it is a completely different problem. Those people were living lives very similar to our own, most of those are educated and fled for their lives, they had enough money to attempt the daring trip. Unfortunately, and because of a very small proportion of visible devout Muslims, those refugees are perceived like a threat. And frankly, it is stupid …

I believe most French people don’t really recall their own history. Because of our geographic [location], we are at the center of population flows: celts, gauls, franks, romans, goths, hiberians, vikings, sarrasins … And we have been also great invaders … and not only in Europe! I believe mixing is a formidable chance. I believe in humanity.

Some Pagans events in Paris were cancelled after the President declared a State of Emergency, but outside of Paris, events are still happening. Petiot said, “As for me, this weekend, I will share an art exhibition with a few of my fellow artists. I am completely changing the layout and I will present calligraphic artwork on freedom theme. And we will share art, culture, music and obviously food! And we will drink wine, in honor of the innocents who were killed, in honor of those who survived, in honor of all our [First Responders] and for the conviviality. Because it is our way of life since the dawn of time.”

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12241655_1193971017288508_5910561519292085530_nOn Saturday, Nov 14, La Ligue Wiccane Ecletique, based in Paris, held a vigil and ritual for its city, country and for the many victims of Friday’s terrorist attack. The ritual was organized through the Facebook event service and was to be held within the homes of each of the participants, or “chez vous.” At exactly 9 p.m. participants were told to follow the prescribed ritual outline and recite a specially written prayer for peace. The results and other words of prayer are now posted on the site.

The Wild Hunt is currently in touch with Ligue organizers in Paris and also has reached out to others affected by the recent worldwide terrorist attacks. We will be following up with more on this story as the events unfold over the next day.

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Doreen Valiente FoundationIt was just announced at Witchfest 2015 that the Doreen Valiente Foundation in association with the Centre for Pagan Studies would be sponsoring two special exhibitions of their Doreen Valiente collection and other related works. The first event, titled Mystery, Magic, Folklore and Witchcraft in the British Isles, will be presented in Preston Manor, Brighton. It will run for several months, approximately April to September. The second exhibition, titled Where Witchcraft Lives, will run later in the year at a dedicated site in the same city.

It isn’t surprising that these two events are being held in Brighton. This is the same city in which Valiente was honored with a Blue Heritage Plaque in June 2013. She became the first witch to earn such an prestigious historical honor. A year later, Gerald Gardner earned the second such recognition. The fundraising and sponsorship for the two commemorative plaques were coordinated by the Foundation and Centre. The upcoming Witchcraft exhibitions will also be sponsored by both organizations in association with the local Royal Pavilion and Museusm of Brighton and Hove.

In addition, the two organizations announced an upcoming February book launch for Valiente’s new biography, which is being written by historian Philip Hesleton. The book launch is scheduled to be held at Treadwell’s Bookshop in London, Feb. 21. For updates on the exhibition, there is a dedicated website with a digital newsletter. Updates about the book will be posted to the Foundation and Centre’s main websites.

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PECNYOver the past year, the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York City has been petitioning New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the Port Ambrose LNG project. As explained by PEC organizers, “This would have built a liquefied natural gas station off the coast of Long Island. While billing itself as an import station, it likely would have flipped to become an export station, sending fracked gas to a mirror station in the UK.”

The project’s construction and operation would have disturbed an already very busy port region. In addition, spokesperson Courtney Weber said that the project could create “a terrorist target, prevent the construction of an off-shore wind farm, and become a potential catastrophe had we another storm like Sandy.”

PEC maintained its aggressive letter writing campaign for the past year, “gathering several hundred signatures from Witches in New York State.” And just this week, the state announced that Cuomo had vetoed the Ambrose LNG project. Weber said, “Another exciting victory for Gaia. Thank you to the New York State Pagan community who has supported the effort to stop the construction of this monstrosity.  Let’s keep the momentum going! There is more work to be done!”

In Other News

  • The Adocentyn Research Library held its first ever “Friends of the Adocentyn Research Library” meeting. Organizers posted that it was successful with its small turnout of dedicated people. The library is located in the Bay Area of California, and holds a “collection [covering] Wiccan, Pagan, Reconstructionist, Afro-Diasporic, metaphysical and esoteric content.” The intent of the friends group is to help facilitate the library’s purpose and objectives, in all forms of its development. They will be hosting another meeting on Jan 10 and plan to be at PantheaCon in Feb.
  • For those readers living in the Rockies, the 2016 Colorado Celtic Weekly Planner Desk Calendar is out. Available through Denver-based Isis Books, the weekly calendar is a unique publication that maintains its focus on the local area. The description reads, “The New Moons, Full Moons, Equinoxes and Solstices are correct for Mountain Time, even for MST and MDT! It contains a treasure trove of information on following the Celtic tree path, including information on each tree for this particular region.”
  • Michigan Pagan Fest 2016 is now calling for submissions for workshops and presentations.The headlines for next year’s event include Orion Foxwood, Judika Illes, M.R. Sellars, and Lady Bona Dea. The musical guest is Lord Wrayven. The event will be held in Belleville, Michigan from June 23-26 and includes camping, drumming, workshops, vendors and more. The workshop submission deadline is Feb. 1.
  • Artist and author Kari Tauring has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish her two latest albums. As she explains, “Ljos (Light) and Svart (Black), named after Snorri Sturluson’s above ground and below ground elves, the beings of Summer frolic and Winter’s almost complete blackness in the far North.”  Money raised will be used the complete the two albums, which were started in 2014.  Tauring expects the albums to be released by late Spring 2016.

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A Place in Tarot History

Terence P Ward —  November 15, 2015 — 3 Comments

SAUGERTIES, NY — Robert Place didn’t set out to be a tarot artist and scholar. Once upon a time, he made jewelry, including the wedding ring worn by Margot Adler. Through a series of messages and signs he received from his patron deity Hermes, Place set aside that work and turned his artistic abilities to the creation of cards for divination, including tarot. Along the way, he became an expert in the history of how cards have been used for oracular purposes.

Place’s best-selling work thus far has been the Alchemical Tarot, but he has created several other decks in that style, as well as writing a treatise on the subject, called The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination. He’s also explored other divinatory card traditions, such as Lenormand; his newest project, the Hermes Playing Card Oracle, is named for his card-publishing company, as well as the two activities its creator designed the deck to be used for.

Over lunch one autumn day in the Hudson Valley, Place spoke to The Wild Hunt about his work and scholarship, which have become his life’s journey.

Robert Place

Robert Place [Courtesy Photo]

Place’s calling to the tarot began, as he tells it, with a dream, one that was “vivid, near-lucid” in its clarity. In it, he received a person-to-person call from a secretary at a London law firm. In the 1980s, when this tale begins, these type calls were used to avoid expensive long-distance charges; the caller did not have to pay if the individual they wished to speak with wasn’t available.

In his dream, Place accepted the call, and was advised that he had an inheritance from an ancestor coming. “They asked me if I would accept it, but warned me that there was certain karmic debt associated with it, but it had a lot of power. I remember thinking, ‘How can I resist this?'” he recalled. “They wouldn’t tell me what it was, only that it was going to come in a box from England, and is referred to as, ‘the key.’ It was so vivid that I woke up the next morning expecting the box at the foot of the bed.”

The box actually arrived with a friend, someone who wanted to show him a tarot deck he’d just purchased, the Smith-Waite deck.  Although this deck is more commonly called the Rider-Waite, Place names it Smith-Waite, which comes from long years of research into tarot. First published in England in 1909 (by the Rider Company) and first introduced into the United States, the deck was conceived by the mystic and academic A. E. Waite, but drawn by Pamela Colman Smith, who followed Waite’s instructions. Smith’s illustrations, by which the deck is instantly recognizable to so many, were given no credit in the name settled upon by U.S. Games when it acquired the stateside rights in the 1960s. “Scholars call it the Smith-Waite deck, because Pamela Colman Smith designed it,” Place explained.

Nevertheless, his friend arrived with this English-born treasure, and Place felt a compulsion on him. “I remembered the deck from college,” he said. “I realized that the trumps were called ‘keys,’ and that even the instruction book was called, ‘The Key to the Tarot.’ I decided I had to buy one of these decks.”

1909 original (left) and 1971 revisions (right) of the Rider-Waite tarot.

1909 original (left) and 1971 revisions (right) of the Rider-Waite tarot.

Buying tarot decks today is as easy as an internet search can be, but this was before Amazon was a glimmer in Jeff Bezos’ eye. There was no internet, and the closest metaphysical shop to Place’s home on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border was in Manhattan, close to a hundred miles one way. However, that’s exactly where he went and what he did.

Not long afte,r he was contacted by another of his friends, an astrologist named Ed. “He told me he had a deck [that] he had a feeling I was supposed to have,” Place said, a Tarot de Marseille, the traditional French deck that popularized tarot throughout the world. “I was never a writer, but I started making notebooks,” as he learned about the decks. Books, too, began piling high in his studio: volumes on Gnosticism and alchemy in particular.

From those, he started to see connections. The World card, in particular, struck a chord: “It opened a door in my mind, and images were flying out. Alchemical images, and how they related to tarot cards. I got out my psychology and alchemy books by Jung, to look at the images. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I was taking notes, and I would tell anyone about it who I could corner. Then it dawned on me to write it down, rather than accost people at parties with what I’d learned. Eventually, my friends asked me why I didn’t just design this deck already. ‘After all, you’re an artist,’ they said.'”

Place continued to have weird moments of synchronicity. He found a magazine called Gnosis, which he read cover to cover. He recalled, “Then, in the back of my mind, I got the idea to send in the Star card I’d already done since they were doing an issue on tarot.” When he did so, the editor called him. They had no plans for a tarot issue, despite the idea planted in his head, but could use the drawing as an illustration for an article on Sophia in an upcoming issue on the goddess. That led to a request to illustrate a tarot book by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and further work as a ghost writer for her on alchemy, all while continuing to work full-time as a jeweler.

Finally, Guiley asked about his tarot deck. “I told her it was going slow, and she said that I needed a contract, with an advance,” and opened doors for him. That led to the Alchemical Tarot, which is still Place’s best-selling deck, in part because problems with the publisher led people to believe it was out of print long before it actually was, and the demand grew. “When I saw that thirty-dollar deck sell for $2,017 on Ebay, I decided to get the rights back, and publish it myself,” he said.

Priestess from the Alchemical Tarot

Priestess from the Alchemical Tarot

This also allowed him to correct problems he’d had with some of the creative decisions, like having to replace the original Lovers card — which showed the act quite clearly — with a chaste version depicting the couple simply kissing. Later editions have both cards, representing different aspects of love energy. He’s put out three editions himself, in runs of 1,500 or 2,000, as well as art copies which are printed on rag paper, signed by the artist, and packaged in a decorative box.

While he hadn’t set out to create a tarot deck, much less several, Place had always had a deep appreciation for art history and used that in his research. To his surprise, “All of the books on tarot were nonsense. They said things like it came from ancient Egypt, but they didn’t have paper. Some people said that things were in the primary sources that, when I finally got translations, just weren’t there.” Scholars like Michael Dummett have since raised the quality of the literature, but Place’s early research eventually led him to lecture about tarot at the NY Open Center, where he taught about its real history.

In short, the earliest known decks, Mamluk cards, found their way to Spain from Islamic sources in the 1300s. Even those first examples often included Arabic calligraphy that included divinatory meanings, suggesting that cards were used for games and divination from the get-go. Once they reached the Italian city-states, some artists added a fifth suit, the carte de triomphe, or “triumphant march” in the tradition of the Caesars returning victorious. Such parades would be organized from the least important captured soldiers all the way up to the winning army’s leaders; likewise, these cards would be ordered so that each one trumped the card preceding it.

Originally they had neither names nor numbers; the order of the trumps varied based on local preference, and all the users knew each card by sight. Once these five-suit decks made it as far as France, users unfamiliar with the images needed names for identification, and numbers so as to order them correctly. The carte de triomphe become tarocchi, and “tarot” in French.

The Smith-Waite deck was based on the Tarot de Marseille, and its wide distribution gave the sense that, not only was tarot the only type of card deck used for divination, but that the suits and trumps were standardized, which they never had been. In fact, that deck switched the order of Strength and Justice, to fit with a belief that astrological symbolism was secreted in the original tarot. Place has seen much older decks, such as one of 40 trumps that was made in Florence, which discredits that theory. He said, “It’s got astrological symbols all through it. That wasn’t considered esoteric knowledge. If they’d wanted to use astrology, they would have; the artists at the time were just more familiar with mysticism.”

Place also knows that tarot was also not intended as an alchemical tool either, despite how well the system fits. Creating a Buddha tarot was surprisingly easy once Place saw that the three groupings of seven cards each within the major arcana (not counting the Fool) paralleled the periods of Gautama’s development.

Some decks were created simply because he was hired to do so. “They were using angels to sell shoes in the 1990s,” Place joked about why he did the Angel deck in six short months. But other decks were works of love, such as the Sevenfold Mysteries, which he developed over ten years.

His research also made him realize that tarot was almost nonexistent through much of the history of cards, while the four-suit Lenormand decks were commonplace for divination. In addition to painstakingly recreating one of those decks in what he imagined was the original, vibrant color, Place collaborated with reader Rachel Pollack to create an entirely new one, the Serpent Oracle deck.

Hermes oracle cards

Hermes oracle cards

With Lenormand, an image was added to each of the 36 cards, and the deck could be used for games or the telling of fortunes. There were no two, threes, fours, or fives, hence the small number of cards. With Place’s most recent project, he took that idea and expanded it for the modern 52-card deck, by adding other traditional imagery to fill in where the Lenormand decks didn’t have cards. He’d already had experience with such adaptations in the Serpent Oracle deck, which included dimensions not contemplated in the original Lenormand. For example, as Place explained, in many versions of Lenormand, “The aces of hearts and spades were significators, a woman and a man, and you’d do the reading in relation to the appropriate one. We added a second man and woman, so the relationships could be more dynamic, as well as a god and goddess to represent a higher level.”

He’d originally planned on calling this latest project the “Playing Card Oracle Deck,” but that wasn’t very descriptive, so he went back to the beginning, and named it after Hermes. That’s the name of the publishing company that he created to keep his cards and books in print. And that is the name he came in time to realize, of the voice which had nudged him onto this path in the first place. “He almost always talks to me in dreams, and he’ll lie to get me to do the right thing,” Place said. “I go to Pagan events, but I don’t really fit in with other covens or groups. I’m just a spokesperson for Hermes.”

The Hermes playing card oracle is currently being funded on Indiegogo.

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Graduate students protest at the University of Missouri. Photo courtesy of Carrie Miranda.

Graduate students protest at the University of Missouri. [Photo Courtesy of Carrie Miranda.]

Our circle clusters around an altar in a south St. Louis back yard, framed by the red brick walls of buildings in the alley and painted in the orange glow of sodium lights from the street. I am eating my piece of communion along the circle’s western edge – I always call the spirits of the west, if given the chance – and listening to the opening notes of The Doors’ song The End, playing over wireless speakers from the altar. I don’t care for recorded music in ritual, as a rule, but it works for me tonight. It’s Samhain, after all; this is the end, indeed.

An hour later, while standing in the kitchen eating a toasted cheese ravioli, I check my phone. The headline: Mizzou football players go on strike.

I may have uttered an expletive.

Let me back up. I go to school at the University of Missouri. I’m a PhD student in the English department there and, over the course of this semester, there have been large protests and demonstrations put on by a variety of student groups. I am part of the Steering Committee for one, the Forum on Graduate Rights, which has called for better conditions for graduate students.

Many of the protests have centered on racism at Mizzou, and one of the activists involved in those anti-racism protests, Jonathan Butler, began a hunger strike on Nov 2 with the aim of removing University System President Tim Wolfe from office. The football players’ announcement came six days into the hunger strike[1], a week during which there were mass demonstrations and other actions on campus. The story and the timeline are much more complicated than I have room for here; I suggest this piece by the student newspaper, The Maneater, as a good starting point.

Within 18 hours of the announcement, my organization had called for a walk-out in solidarity with the anti-racist protesters; within 48 hours, both Wolfe and University Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin had resigned their positions. The media narrative had largely shifted from the protests and their aims in general to an interrogation of the relationship between the protesters and the media.

The day after the resignations, the Forum on Graduate Rights held a rally for social justice across the street from Jesse Hall, the campus’ main administration building. I served as the emcee. We had speakers from the faculty, the graduate students, and from the group of anti-racist protesters at the core of the story, Concerned Student 1950, followed by a silent march through the administration building to the omphalos of the University of Missouri, the historic columns that stand at the center of our quadrangle. We ended our action with a chant: Mizzou, united, will never be defeated. And then we dispersed, off into interviews with newspapers and radio stations; off into figuring out how to salvage our course syllabi; off into a night of anonymous threats and wildfire rumors – off into a world we knew would be different in ways we could not fully predict.

I’m not really an activist by temperament – indeed, before August, I don’t think I had ever participated in any protests at all. Many of the people I work with now have been doing these things for years, some since they were teenagers; in that respect, I’ve had to catch up on a lot. The debates within activist circles about the best ways to organize and mobilize, the best ways to achieve our goals, and the best ways to deal with internal conflicts as well as external ones all came fresh to me. But in other ways the whole process felt quite familiar.

I know I’m not the first person to draw the connection between protest and magick – I read Gods and Radicals too – but I am struck by the correspondence. Magick seems like a sudden thing, I think, to those who do not work it: burn some incense, draw some diagrams, light a candle, and poof, watch it happen. To the outside world, what happened on my campus over the past two weeks might seem the same way – Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor, claimed that “in a period of 72 hours, a small group of angry black protesters managed to force the resignation of the two highest-ranking officials at the school,” for example. And if all one knew about the story was that one person had gone on hunger strike and eventually a group of football players joined in solidarity with that individual, it would look that way. Work the spell, wait three days, and watch the world change.

But when I think of the actual magick I have worked in my life – the way I meditated on the bindrune that would become my wife’s wedding ring for months, or the pact I made with Óðinn for my academic studies, or the most apt comparison of all, my family coven’s ongoing ritual of maintaining itself for the past three decades – it becomes clear to me that few forces are as subtle or deliberate as magick. Magick takes time, and preparation, and most of all, patience. As it is with activism too: the “72 hours” narrative neglects months of work by thousands of students and staff members, not to mention neglect that stretches back far beyond the tenure of those two administrators. Dramatic moments of change happen only because the will of the actor – the magician, the activist, the one-and-the-same – prepared for those moments long in advance.

Thinking back now to our Samhain ritual, I remember what my friend Tom, one of the officiants, said: that although we think of Samhain as a time to remember the dead, it is also a time to begin working through the burden of the past. A time not only to remember our ghosts, but to start moving past them. I look back on these two weeks, and everything that led up to them – at all those ghosts we’ve carried – and I hope that my friend’s words prove to be right.

[1] We celebrated Samhain a week late this year.

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Australia does not have festivals like Pagan Spirit Gathering or PantheaCon, which draw hundreds, thousands even, of Pagans from all over the U.S. That’s not a criticism; it’s simply a difference, one that largely reflects numbers and processes. However, Australia does have important and meaningful festivals that continue to shape Pagan culture Down Under.

Australia is about the size of the U.S. with a population slightly less than that of Texas. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the U.S. is the third most populated country in the world. Australia comes in at 52. A benefit of this is space. It’s not difficult to go to a park, to the beach, or to the bush, and discover you’re the only one there. Pagans can find private ritual spaces outdoors without much difficulty. The drawback is the small number of Pagans with whom to gather.

According to a survey by the Pew Forum on religion, there are over one million Pagans in the U.S. In the 2011 Australian census, 32,083 respondents identified as Pagan. In Australia, the population is small and the Pagan pool is even smaller.

[From aifs.gov]

[From aifs.gov]

Most Aussies, about 63%, live in Australia’s major cities along the coast, with nearly 40% of them in Sydney and Melbourne. That leaves a lot of people living in towns and regional areas. The more regional and remote you get, the worse the infrastructure. This can make it challenging for Aussie Pagans to travel to festivals, which are often held near major cities.

A major obstacle to the development of festivals, as well as other small events, is the “nanny state” – federal and state government policies that are viewed as over-regulating, overprotective, and unduly interfering. Small groups struggle to afford, for example, the $1200 needed for the insurance required to hold a gathering that is unlikely to attract more than 80 people. Earlier this year, administration changes at Parks Victoria threatened Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering, the state’s longest running Pagan festival. Organisers called the amount of bureaucracy and red tape “simply astonishing”.

Despite the odds against them, Aussie Pagans have organised festivals that have secured themselves a place in the history of contemporary Paganism in Australia.

Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering, Victoria

In 1981, Linda and Michel Marold founded Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering, and they’ve been running it ever since with the assistance of volunteers. Over 34 years, hundreds of Pagans have traveled to this mountain, which was created by a volcanic eruption about 470,000 years ago. The free weekend camping event is held at Beltaine. This year’s program included workshops, a swap/barter market, drumming, a main ritual, and, of course, a maypole.

Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering 2015 [Photo Credit: Kylie Moroney]

Mount Franklin Pagan Gathering 2015 [Photo Credit: Kylie Moroney]

Shaz Lizzy has been attending Mount Franklin for over 10 years. “When I first started going it was one of few opportunities to attend a public ritual without the need of belonging to any particular group,” said Lizzy. “At the time, being a solitary Druid, it was the only place to be amongst like-minded folk. It was very satisfying as Senior Druid of Silver Birch Gove ADF, that we were able to offer the ritual this year. It was a wonderful experience and very satisfying to be able to give back to the community.”

Australian Wiccan Conference, various locations

The Australian Wiccan Conference (AWC) began in 1984 as the Annual Gathering for the Pagan Alliance of Australia, which was incorporated in New South Wales. One of the AWC’s unique characteristics is that it moves every year and a different group of volunteers organises it. Last year, it was in Victoria. This year, it was in South Australia. Next year, Australia’s capital city, Canberra, will host the event. As of 2008, the AWC has been held in every state and territory in Australia.

The AWC is traditionally held on a weekend around the Spring Equinox, and it is more eclectic and less formal than its name suggests. Past workshops have included introductions to various Pagan traditions, advanced ritual techniques, teaching methods, divination, historical examinations, and approaches in the Southern Hemisphere. Presenters and panelists have included local teachers, well-known practitioners such as Tim Hartridge, founding figures such as Julia Phillips, and scholars such as Caroline Tully.

Eostre, New South Wales

The annual Eostre gathering took place between 1985 and 1997 and was a largely driven by the well-known Sydney-based Witch Tim Hartridge. The camping event held over a long weekend in April was designed to be a small gathering for Witches and magickal practitioners that included beginners as well as Hartridge’s students and coven members. Attendees could expect to learn some of the coven’s core ritual practices as well as other techniques, and then put it all together during rituals that included a wicker man and bone-fires.

Pagan Summer Gathering, Queensland

Since 1998, the Church of All Worlds (CAW) Australia has been holding Pagan Summer Gathering (PSG). CAW’s annual general meeting takes place during PSG, and that is for members only, but the general festival is open to non-members. Held in January, the weekend program includes workshops, rituals, and stalls. Previous workshop topics have included conflict resolution, ethics, shamanic approaches, environmental workshops, Vodou, and various kinds of rituals.

In her book Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia, academic Lynne Hume describes her experience at PSG.

An entire sensory repertoire is used to convey dramatic messages: breathing, dance movements, body posture and decoration, masks and paint, olfactory stimulation, the use of light and shadow, the mystery of foreign words, tone, inflection and even silence, all of which are fully employed to heighten activity and emotional response.

In play, there is a freedom from normative constraints; one steps out of one time into another and enters an enclave within which is seems anything may happen. Paganism is not only about play, but this is the spirit of Paganism, its quintessence, and I began to look at it more along those lines rather than taking a rational, logical approach.

Euphoria, Victoria

Since the first one in 2000, Euphoria has been Victoria’s, and possibly Australia’s, most controversial Pagan festival.

Taking place over four days in bushland near Melbourne, Euphoria has offered numerous workshops on topics such as body image and body magic, ritual techniques, sacred sexuality, and trance. Rituals have included a rite that recalls the Eleusinian Mysteries where participants come face to face with their mortality, a Dark Goddess ritual of trance, shapeshifting, and ecstatic magick, and the NOX ritual, described as a trance-dance ritual of initiation with a Thelemic and Middle Eastern feel. These workshops and rituals were meant to prepare participants for the main event, that which lies at the heart of Euphoria – the Baphomet rite.

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

The Baphomet rite is inspired by European records of the Witches’ Sabbats from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, down to the infamous Kiss of Shame. And, it plays with Margaret Murray’s witch-cult hypothesis. The rite deliberately draws on symbols and practices that are unsettling. Described as erotic and ecstatic, as well as liberating, it was designed to be challenging and transformative.

Melbourne Pagan Gavin Andrews attended Euphoria and was twice an invoking priest during the Baphomet rite. He said it generated a lot of discussion in the Australian Pagan community. The nudity, sexual activity, and shadow work were seen as too risky for a public festival, and there were concerns about what kind of support participants had once they went home.

“Much of the controversy centred around whether it was appropriate to present dark ecstatic rituals, with the potential to facilitate deep personal transformations, within a festival format,” said Andrews. “Others found Euphoria’s presiding deity, Baphomet, problematic – not least due to the genderqueer associations of this deity, openly contrasting with the heteronormative – I hesitate to use the term ‘orthodoxy’ – accepted within the Pagan scene at the time. Personally I found the event mind-bending, occasionally frustrating, usually rewarding, and always fascinating. It worked as well as it did because a community quickly coalesced around the ritual and the event. Magick ensued.”

The last Euphoria took place in 2009. In 2013, the Baphomet rite made a brief return. At this point, it is unknown if we’ll see it again. Sociologist Douglas Ezzy immortalised Euphoria in his book Sex, Death and Witchcraft: A Contemporary Pagan Festival, in which he anonymised it as Faunalia.

Other Festivals of Interest

There are other festivals that are not specifically Pagan, but friendly enough. One of them is ConFest, an alternative bush camping festival in New South Wales. Another is Seven Sisters, a three-day women’s festival in Victoria.

Big festivals are only one of many ways to create and shape Pagan culture. In fact, most Pagans don’t go to big festivals at all. They connect at small, local events such as the WildWood Faery Parade and Beltane Ritual in Brisbane, Pagan Pride Days, and Reclaiming WitchCamps. And Pagans work really hard to put these events on. They struggle to keep expenses down and draw enough people to make events viable.

Tasmanian Pagan Alliance Beltaine 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

Tasmanian Pagan Alliance Beltaine 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

With such a small and scattered Pagan population, if Aussie Pagans want community, they have to be flexible around traditions and practices. Inga Leonora Westerberg, an animist and polytheistic Witch from Hobart, Tasmania, recently facilitated the Tasmanian Pagan Alliance’s inaugural Beltaine event attended by about 22 people.

“Some struggled with the ritual format,” Westerberg said. “For others, it totally vibed with them, and they found the sweet spot having a much deeper experience. I work a lot with Indigenous myth and story and native flora and fauna, and for some that was something entirely new. Others said how they’d often thought about it, but never knew where to start. Others confessed this was not a path they had any interest at all in. And yet, there was not a single negative moment. What a sublime creature the Pagan community can be when it is at its best! I realised that regardless of what any single person brought to the event, and how they might influence themes and rituals and talking points, which they must in such a small group, it was not possible to cater to ever path and every tradition represented there. And one didn’t need to, because all were prepared to let go and try and experience, to openly discuss their thoughts without judgement.”

It’s an approach that Combined Covens Social Club takes as well. Formed in 1996, Combined Covens is made up of covens and other groups as well as solitary Pagans and Witches. The highlight of its calendar is Spring Camp, a weekend of workshops, rituals, music, and a market. This year, it also included the first Pagan Pride Day in Western Australia.

“I really do think that festivals offer the best opportunity for people to get a better understanding of what being Pagan may mean to them in a supportive and non-threatening environment. Even better when workshops are offered so that people can learn and talk about their own experiences,” said Shaz Lizzy. “Having attended some bigger festivals, Wellspring in the U.S. and ConFest here in Australia, it would be great to have other festivals offered. Social media is helping us to communicate between groups more readily and I hope to see more Pagan festivals and Pagan Pride days in the future.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Heathens Against Hate came out with this statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heathens Against Hate wrote:

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

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

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

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

In its statement, Heathens United Against Racism wrote:

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

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

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ELORA, Ont — After a recent move by corporate giant Nestle to extract and bottle the water from an aquifer supplying the idyllic small town of Elora, Pagan writer Dr. Brendan Myers has been prompted to put his money where his mouth is. Elora is both Myers hometown and the inspiration for Fellwater, the setting in his fantasy novel series “The Hidden Houses.” Myers has pledged to donate the profits from the November sales of these books to a community group called Save Our Water. The money will be used to help cover the costs involved in fighting Nestle’s extraction plan.

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Nestlé Waters Canada, a subsidiary of the transnational Nestlé Company, has conditionally purchased a well, which is located on the Grand River across from the Elora Gorge Park. To begin operations, the company needs approval from the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment.

In a recent interview, The Wild Hunt spoke to Dr. Myers about his pledge to donate to Save Our Water and about his hometown of Elora:

The Wild Hunt: What is the most beautiful thing about the town of Elora?

Dr. Brendan Myers: The gorge. It’s a two-kilometer, 20-meter deep riverbed of limestone, topped with a cedar forest. There are always trees and cliffs to climb, little holes and blind caves to explore, and stories to tell. In the spring the oil from the cedar trees was thick in the air, so much that after a few hours you would feel like you bathed in it. In my novels I described it as “a place you could go wandering, and never care if you became lost.”

In a recent blog post, Myers wrote:

Elora’s rich, diverse, delightful, and bountiful watershed, the very flowing heart of the real-world fairyland that I still love, is clearly threatened by industrial water extraction. The company plans to take 1.6 million litres of water every day. That’s almost as much water from the aquifer as the village itself takes; effectively doubling the demand on the ecosystem. Yet where Elora residents pay $2140 per million litres, Nestlé will pay only $3.71 for the same volume.

Local residents are concerned that the aquifer will not be able to sustain the drain on the water supply, or the increased traffic on the roads that the water trucks will create, as they haul water as much as 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The water will be moved to the neighbouring town of Aberfoyle, where it will be bottled in plastic bottles and sold to the Canadian market.

The residents of Elora have banded together as the group Save Our Water and have made three demands:

  1. Require Nestle to monitor local wells for two weeks prior to the Middlebrook pumping test in order to provide better groundwater baseline data, plus a commitment from Nestle to assure transparent data collection and independent, third party assessment of the test results.
  1. Impose a three-year moratorium on consumptive water-taking permits for commercial bottling in the Grand River Watershed.
  1. Provide municipalities in the Grand River Watershed time to complete their Water Supply Master Plans and Tier Three Risk Assessments as required.
The Hidden Houses series, by Brendan Myers

The Hidden Houses series by Brendan Myers

As a writer and high profile member of the Canadian Pagan community, Myers has decided to use his influence to help spread the word and publicize Save Our Water’s work. In his most recent blog post, he expressed his own rage and despair at what he perceives as an injustice and offers his books as a way for others to experience the magic Elora has to offer. By pledging his November book profits to the campaign, Myers is also offering an incentive for book buyers to help the cause.

TWH: What message are you trying to send out to other Pagans by making this pledge?

BM: I suppose I’m saying that each of us can do more than think we can do, and perhaps more than we presently do, to protect the earth. Modern paganism is not only about spells and rituals and honouring the gods. It’s also about social and political justice. This has been the case since the 1700’s, when the first modern pantheists published tracts against mercantilism and monarchy. It remains true today with the activism work of Reclaiming, The Pagan Federation, and so on. Squabbles about which lineage of British Wicca is “authentic”, or about the relative merits of hard versus soft theism, are in my view red-herring distractions. More important than what you believe, is what you do.  So this month I’m donating my royalties to a noble cause. So let’s all drop the hair-splitting and fight the real enemy.

TWH: What has the response to your pledge so far?

BM: The response in social media has been excellent. My blog post has been “liked” and “shared” by hundreds of people; it’s my second-best social media response since I wrote Clear and Present Thinking. My blog post was retweeted by no less a luminary than Neil Gaiman— I’m especially proud and thankful for that! In terms of book sales, however, I’ve sold no more than usual this month. Publishing is certainly not a path to wealth and fame (unless you have a million-dollar budget for marketing, which I don’t). But there’s still more month to go.

Dr. Brendan Myers (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Brendan Myers [Courtesy photo]

TWH: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

BM: Yes, I do. I’m convinced that climate change and global warming is the most important problem of our age— socially, politically, economically, philosophically, and spiritually. I wrote my doctorate on environmental ethics and future generations; I regularly discuss it with my students; I vote with my money and my feet for economic change; in fact I sometimes lobby my government.

TWH: Are there any other causes that you are particularly concerned about?

BM: I’m deeply concerned about income inequality, the “dumbing down” of culture, the apparent rise of “men’s rights activists” (translation: anti-feminist activists), whether my books will be still be read after I die, and when Bethesda will release the next Skyrim game. (Although I’d rather create my own such game.) But mostly I want to live a good life, as a writer, as a friend to those I care about, and as a human being on this good earth and at this interesting historical time. To paraphrase Cornell West: I’m not promoting any particular political ideology, I’m just trying to live a life of integrity.

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This decision from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment is expected by mid-November.

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Honoring Our Veterans

Cara Schulz —  November 11, 2015 — 10 Comments

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It is a time set aside in the United States to honor those who serve in the five branches of the Armed Forces. On that date in 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany during the First World War. After that, the day became known as Armistice Day and was unofficially observed. Then in 1938, it was declared a federal holiday specifically set aside to honor WWI veterans. Shortly after the Korean War, the name was changed to Veterans Day and included all American veterans of all wars.

While in the past there was resistance by some prominent Pagan leaders to the idea that a person could serve in the military and be a Pagan, that sentiment has changed. Now, instead of Pagan groups barring entry to active duty military Pagans, they are honoring military Pagans during community rituals.

Warrior Blessing Remembrances HH

Warrior Blessing ritual at Hallowed Homecoming. Participants wrote down the names those who have served & are serving in the US Military. [Photo Courtesy Circle Sanctuary]

Circle Sanctuary has hosted a full schedule of events honoring Pagan veterans. Tuesday evening, Circle Sanctuary hosted two special live podcasts. One focused on Circle’s Military Ministries work, while the second podcast featured a ceremony awarding Pagan Military Service Ribbons.

Today, the group is hosting a visiting day for guests to pay their respects at Circle Cemetery located in Veterans Ridge. This is followed by a 3 pm Veterans Day ceremony during which group will award Pagans who have served, or are currently serving in the military, a Pagan Military Service Ribbon.

Circle Sanctuary Military Ministries team at Hallowed Homecoming, left to right: David Ewing, Jeanet Ewing, Selena Fox, Tiffany Andes, and Tristan. [photo Circle Sanctuary]

Circle Sanctuary Military Ministries team at Hallowed Homecoming, left to right: David Ewing, Jeanet Ewing, Selena Fox, Tiffany Andes, and Tristan. [Photo Courtesy Circle Sanctuary]

A Pagan Warrior Blessing Ritual was also hosted on Sunday at Hallowed Homecoming at Prince William Forest in northern Virginia as part of their Veterans Day activities. Several Circle Sanctuary ministers took part, including Revs. David & Jeanet Ewing of Virginia, Rev. Tristan of Maryland, and Rev. Selena Fox. During the blessing, Circle Sanctuary Minister in Training Tiffany Andes was singled out for her role in working for equal rights for Pagans serving in the US Military.  

The Wild Hunt asked several Pagan, Heathen, and Polythiest veterans and family members of veterans to share what Veterans Day means to them.

Josh Heath is the co-director of The Open Halls Project, an Army Veteran, and a graduate student at American University in its International Peace and Conflict Resolution program.

There is a sense of separation from civilian society that happens when you join the military. Veteran’s Day is one day for us to specifically acknowledge the commitment and oaths our military service members swore. It should also be a day for our service members to be welcomed back fully into their communities, for their worth to be acknowledged, and to begin to peel back that sense of separation. It is a day to acknowledge that oath has been completed by the veteran and to acknowledge their service and empower them to make an impact in the civilian world.

Rev. Dave Sassman is is an openly Pagan Air Force Veteran, member of Circle Sanctuary’s Military Ministry, and board member of Indy Vet House, Inc.

As a minority faith it is important to honor those who choose to serve in the uniformed services. Many of those who have served have become or will become community leaders who bring a wealth of experience that will guide the Earth Based Faith Community into the future.

Chuck Hudson is a Heathen, former host of Raven Radio, and a Former Combat Medic in the U.S. Army.

We are the ones that signed a blank check for the total sum of our lives and handed the check to this country. We were the ones that were lucky enough to get the check back and were able to tear it up. Some of us bear the wounds of combat, some the struggles of keeping a unit going. Being a vet isn’t about how many drops you made. Nor how many pallets you loaded. Or privates you trained, trays served or papers filed. It’s about setting aside your life and putting the country’s life ahead of yours. Being Heathen makes the task even more satisfying. Some call us a “warrior religion”  No not really. We have the gods and goddesses that teach us HOW to use violence and where and when. So we are for the most part not opposed to using violence to protect our family friends and country. Maybe that is one of the reasons so many of us serve.

Veterans Day is a day of mixed emotions for me. I am glad I made it home nor more screwed up than I am. And I am also melancholy thinking about those that didn’t come home. And furious that 22 of my brothers and sister end their lives by their own hands each day.

But Veterans Day is for us that made it back to the world. And still stand ready to rally to our nation’s side. To raise the horn to with our brothers and sisters. To have the privilege to call our brothers and sisters of the different armed forces by their nicknames. Flyboy, Dog Face, Jarhead. Puddle Pirate and Squid. We earned the right to call each other those names and their right to stomp a mudhole in someone’s chest who didn’t earn that right.

Hagl berjast menn okkar og konur. Þeir sem þjóna landið okkar og þjóð. Hagl til vopnahlésdagurinn okkar. Hail our fighting men and women. Those that serve our country and people. Hail to our veterans.


Like Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess issues service medals to its members who are or have served in the military.

Galina Krasskova is a Northern Tradition shaman, author, and vitki [wise woman].

Every year, I give the entire month of November over to honoring our Veterans. For me, this day is about remembrance and not just of those men and women who fought in our wars.

Veterans day is about remembering all the wars  that have defined and devastated us as a people. Keeping this day is a way of saying to the veterans (and all warriors living and dead):  You are remembered. Your sacrifices mean something. You are part of something so much bigger than yourselves. I wish that as a nation, as a species, we could look to you and question the devastation of war before we throw ourselves gaily forward into another one. I wish that we could see the price that our Veterans pay and allow that to inform our decisions of how much life we’re willing to expend for our nation’s dubious glory. In the meantime to every man and woman serving: respect.

Julia Ergane is a Hellenic Reconstructionist and served in the United States Air Force.

As a veteran and the daughter and niece of veterans it is an important day to me. I feel pride in completing a duty I feel that I owe to my country. Even though the mid-1970s was fairly peaceful, I was still stationed in South Korea when we very nearly did lose our cessation of hostilities. During this time, I did feel the strength of Athena and Ares come to my aid. Both of my uncles received the Purple Heart during WWII, one at the Anzio Beach head in Italy. This was an invasion like the invasion at D-Day in France. When I was twenty I visited the site. My Father attended the USCGA during WWII and was active duty during the Korean War as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I have special relationships with Poseidon, the Nereids, Ares, and Athena all in regard to military matters.

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Author’s Note: As a military veteran myself, who proudly served in the United States Air Force, I’d like to thank all my fellow veterans for their service.

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