TWH — Chaplains tend to work in places where religious needs are felt strongly: military bases, prisons, hospitals. In the past, The Wild Hunt has spotlighted some of the work of Pagan prison and military chaplains, but it is the hospital chaplains that most people are likely to encounter at some point in their lives. As the need for Pagan Chaplains grow, more people are doing this very specialized work. Cherry Hill Seminary, a Pagan-specific learning institution, and other interfaith-based seminaries have well-established programs and classes that train people in this area.

We reached out to a number of Pagans who work are working as chaplains in the health care field, and we received responses from four members of Circle Sanctuary. Rev. Selena Fox aired a podcast focusing on hospital chaplains just a few weeks ago, which includes in-depth discussions with several such chaplains affiliated with Circle Sanctuary. Michelle Castle and Tiffany Andes are both studying health care chaplaincy at Iliff School of Theology, and will soon hold Masters of Divinity degrees. Fox’s own experience as a public Pagan minister predates Pagans serving in official capacities, and she’s had to develop a wide variety of ministerial skills as a consequence of being a pioneer. Additionally, we spoke with Cernowain Greenman (Rev. Tim Staker), who is reportedly the only full-time Pagan hospital chaplain who is board certified.

[Photo Credit: youtube]

[Photo Credit: rolensfx / youtube]

The Wild Hunt: Prison and military chaplains have experience in working with specific populations. What is unique about the hospital population, and the needs you’re asked to serve there?

Rev. Selena Fox: I have done ministry service in prisons, at military installations, on campuses, at hospices, and in a variety of healthcare settings as part of my work through Circle Sanctuary. . . . In addition to providing direct spiritual care to those in need in various institutions, part of my work today involves doing diversity education and Pagan religious accommodation training with chaplains and administrative staff in various types of institutions.

Each category of institutional setting has its own types of protocols and considerations. It is essential in doing spiritual care in an institutional setting that you learn about the system and its regulations and that you abide by them.

In doing work in a hospital setting, in addition to providing support to a patient and interfacing with staff, it is common to also connect with the patient’s support network of family & friends. Both the patient and her/his loved ones are usually impacted by the hospitalization and in need of spiritual care. When I do ministry in a prison or military installation, rarely do I connect with loved ones of those there.

Tiffany Andes: Hospital populations are unique in that their needs can vary greatly, but are also almost always directly related to health concerns. Either they are in an inpatient situation of some sort, or they may be receiving long-term treatment for cancer or other similar cases. The questions and concerns that come up around these criteria generally have to do with managing illness, family connections, trauma, and in some cases, moving into hospice and end of life situations. As a chaplain you have to be open to holding space for those discussions and being a companion to patients and their families without judgement during some of the most stressful times in their lives.

Michelle Castle: Hospital chaplaincy is unique in that we are able to be present for individuals, families, and staff during times of physical crisis. Care is variable depending on whether the crisis is acute and emergent, or if they have been dealing with long-term illness. We also are in the midst of all stages of life, being present when life comes into the world and at the end of life.

Cernowain Greenman: By definition, chaplains are clergy to people who have been displaced from their home, whether because of military deployment, illness, prison, education at university, government service, etc.

Hospital chaplains serve the spiritual needs of people who find themselves in medical institutions because of a serious illness or injury. Patients can be lonely, afraid, anxious, frustrated, angry, etc., and often without emotional support. They are sometimes disconnected from their spiritual family as well, missing ritual gatherings and in need of spiritual support. Chaplains are specially trained spiritual leaders who help facilitate the meeting of these needs.

TWH: Given how important it is for a chaplain to be able to serve someone of any religion, how important is it to have Pagan hospital chaplains specifically?

SF: Those serving as a chaplain in institutional settings, regardless of their religious orientation and religious organization endorsement, need to be skilled in communicating with and providing support to those of different religions as well as those who consider themselves spiritual and not religious and those who are humanist, atheist, agnostic and/or freethinkers.

However, it is important to have Pagans in chaplaincy work for several reasons: (1) to be available to share information as needed about Pagan religions/spirituality to other chaplains and staff in an institution that may providing support to Pagan patients and/or Pagan family and friends of a patient and may be interacting with Pagan ministers visiting patient and loved ones, (2) to help Pagans not in the hospital understand effective ways of working with hospital systems as a whole and chaplains and spiritual care staff in particular in getting needs met for themselves and loved ones when the need arises, (3) to diversity and educate the profession of chaplaincy in an increasingly pluralistic world, and (4) to help Paganism achieve equal rights and respect in society as a whole.

TA: Having Pagan hospital chaplains speaks to the higher goal of true interfaith representation within institutionalized ministry. While it can be argued that chaplains of any faith should be able to serve patients regardless of faith orientation, the fact remains that as a minority faith Pagans still feel stigmatized in many common societal settings. Having chaplain representation in such an important location emphasizes equality among faith traditions.

MC: I think that Tiffany answered this question beautifully.

CG: While many chaplains are willing and able to provide emotional support to Pagan patients, if the chaplain is Christian or of another faith, they usually are unable to meet the spiritual needs of a Pagan, since they lack the understanding of Pagan spirituality and ritual. A Pagan chaplain can understand and help meet the spiritual needs of other Pagans much better than non-Pagan chaplains.

The Pagan community has grown to a point where many find themselves hospitalized, sometimes far from home, and in need of spiritual support. Pagan hospital chaplains are needed now, especially for Pagan patients.

TWH: What do you do if you’re completely unfamiliar with the religion of a new patient? Is it different if the unfamiliar religion is a Pagan one?

SF: When I worked as a psychotherapist in a hospital and in an outpatient mental health clinic and had a new patient, I invited the patient to share religious, spiritual, and/or philosophical perspectives and orientation as part of intake. I used the same approach whether the patient was Pagan or not.

TA: In the majority of cases, if a patient has a specific religious request (communion, priestly sacraments, etc) the requests will go directly to the representative of that denomination. In general settings, you may come across a religion that isn’t common, but one that we have received education on and we are familiar with. If I need clarification I always ask the patient how I can best serve them–is it through prayer, reflective meditation, chanting, etc? Would they prefer I put them in contact with a community representative of their own faith? I have yet to come across a Pagan patient that I could not connect with or assist in some way to meet their spiritual needs.

MC: I consider this to be an opportunity to learn, and that even when we are familiar with a specific religion or tradition, that each person has their own unique beliefs and values within the traditions. I love to learn more about how others experience their faith and as a chaplain, I am able to be present to listen to how one processes a crisis and how that intersects with their faith. For me being able to be present to one and meeting them where they are is important and I can find points of connection with any tradition.

CG: When I meet new patients, as I am talking with them, I do what is called a spiritual assessment to determine the patient’s sources of inner strength, how they make meaning of their illness, and what resources they have to help them through this difficult time in their lives. I help them get in touch with whatever it is that strengthens their spirit—which may or may not be religious.

I keep a number of apps on my phone of different religious traditions to help me—from rosary prayers to recitations of the Qur’an to Buddhist meditation timers. For Pagans I have apps that utilize Tarot, Runes, bird songs and Nature sounds, and even one for candle lighting (since most hospitals do not allow real candles to be lit). But I also have battery candles, as well as a collection of healing stones. In addition, I have created printable booklets with words of encouragement for a dozen different faiths, including one for followers of Earth-based religions. If I am unable to meet specific religious needs, I will invite a religious leader from the community to come in to help, with the patient’s permission.

Most importantly, I also offer to be a supportive companion with patients in their healing journey, no matter what spiritual path they are on.

[Photo Credit: Ahs856 / Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Ahs856 / Wikimedia]

TWH: Are you prepared in case you are yourself unexpectedly hospitalized?

SF: My hospital ministry work has helped me prepare for hospitalizations, anticipated as well as unexpected for me and for loved ones. I have been able to take my understanding of healthcare systems to get my needs as a Pagan accommodated, such having a small healing altar in my hospital room & having soothing Pagan Celtic harp recording played during an operation. I also have been able to interface with the spiritual care department at the hospital to make certain that ritual with friends could happen in my room.

TA: I was in fact unexpectedly hospitalized in July of last year for a week. I refused any visits from the chaplain’s office.

MC: I have a great support group, from family and close friends that I can reach out to if I am in need. I feel that being in the healthcare field for many years, that I am uniquely prepared from the medical aspects of care, having a living will and directives. I know how to navigate the healthcare system as well as how to incorporate my specific spiritual needs.

CG: I have an altar at home that can be taken in to the hospital with relative ease, if I were to be hospitalized for a lengthy period. And I have in my contacts phone numbers of local Pagan friends, some who are clergy, for my support. When I have been registered as a patient, I let the hospital clerk know my spiritual preference is Wiccan and ask that my beliefs be respected since my spirituality is my main resource for getting well.

TWH: Could you describe what you’ve done to prepare for your own spiritual wellbeing?

SF: For those of us involved in ministering to others, it is essential that we also do spiritual care for ourselves. For me this includes beginning each day with a series of spiritual practices. I reflect on dreams and I do a Greet the Day Sacred Circle, Sacred Sphere ceremony. I also endeavor to spend time outside each day, usually in the form of a meditative nature walk. And, I take time away from mobile devices, screens, and other technology each day to commune with nature.

TA: Knowing how chaplaincy can take a lot out of you emotionally and physically, it is essential to have a self-care regimen for when you are not seeing patients. I try to rest as much as possible and get plenty of sunshine. I also do reflective meditation, spend time with my family, and exercise. I find it is absolutely true that we cannot be there for others if we have not first taken care of ourselves–and there is no shame in admitting that is a necessary component of the caregiving process.

MC: I think that having core spiritual practices that occur daily is important. My morning prayers and meditation help to keep me grounded and centered. The daily practices keep me connected with the Divine within me as well as without. The importance of self-care and creating space to take care of myself is highly needed. I have developed techniques that build in the time to breathe and to check in with myself throughout the day. This includes taking the time to reground and center before entering a room and after leaving a care conversation. This helps me to discern my own emotions and thoughts that are kept separate from the care-seekers. This also creates space for me to energetically clear and take only what is mine and to release what energy isn’t mine.

CG: In order to be a support to others I’ve found I have to keep a daily ritual time, usually in the morning. I make sure my chakras are in balance before I meet with any patient. I also find reading prepares my spirit, and lately I’ve been reading ancient Gnostic texts and the new biography of Doreen Valiente for inspiration.

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TWH – Most Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists were once something else, and then converted to whatever flavor of Pagan they currently enjoy. Many of us have to unlearn, study, and translate the religious beliefs tucked within our brains, almost as if we were speaking a second language. While this eventually may become natural for some, it is never the same for people raised within Pagan homes. In those cases, Paganism is the norm, and they are totally unself-conscious about their religion. This shows in ways both large and small.

What if you were not only raised as a Pagan, but you were raised in a household where some of the most famous Pagan authors often dropped by? Where you could learn, through casual interaction and observation, from the founders of major traditions?

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Avens O’Brien had just such an upbringing. Her mother, Domi O’Brien, was friends with some of the most well known Pagans of the era as well as some of the top intellectual luminaries of the budding libertarian movement. Magic and monetary policy, a person’s Will and the right to self-agency were part of O’Brien’s home life and festival vacations.

I met up with Avens O’Brien while looking for younger libertarian voices, who were also second generation libertarians, to fill a keynote slot for the Libertarian Party of Minnesota State Convention. A fellow Pagan suggested Avens. This piqued my curiosity. Then I looked at Avens Facebook friends list which reads like a Who’s Who of both the Pagan and libertarian communities. A video of her dancing with Jeffrey Tucker? Childhood friends with Arthur Lipp-Bonewitts?

I booked her for the convention, but I was also intensely curious about her childhood and how growing up Pagan is different from converting. She agreed to talk with me. 

Avens O'Brien and Domi O'Brien [Courtesy Photo]

Avens O’Brien and Domi O’Brien [Courtesy Photo]

The Wild Hunt: When you spoke in front of the Libertarian Party of Minnesota as their keynote, you talked about how your childhood, although normal to you was a bit different. You related how your mother made dinner for Murray Rothbard, which drew some envy from the crowd. You also mentioned during your keynote your mother was a Pagan High Priestess, also not mainstream. Can you tell me a bit about what religion, or religions, you were raised in?

Avens O’Brien: My mother’s a Druid High Priestess, former Preceptor for ADF, who honors a fairly reconstructionist path of Celtic & Norse pantheons & rituals. She started her own grove in New Hampshire and her own group called the Druidic Association of North America. My father is Pagan clergy as well, more eclectic Wiccan, I believe. I’m less familiar with his variation of the faith because my parents divorced when I was fairly young, and I rarely spent religious holidays with him, but he leads rituals even now in a fairly eclectic Pagan circle called Hands of Change in New Jersey.

I grew up with Pagan Yule Carols, and going to festivals where my parents would often speak on Pagan rituals or traditions, and going to events centered around usually Druidic practice. One of my mother’s long time friends was the late Isaac Bonewits, and he was at times a bit of a mentor to me. His son is like family to me.

Mum really likes ritual and trying to incorporate what we know historically about the cultures we draw from. Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain were celebrations with feasts, offerings, and rituals and stories pulled from what we imagine or speculate our ancestors did. For equinoxes and solstices we followed a more Norse set of rituals, with an Oath, Toast & Boast. We gave blood to the fire on Imbolc to put ourselves under the goddess Brigid’s protection; we raised a Maypole during Beltaine; we played funeral games in honor of Lugh’s mortal foster mother at Lughnasadh and built a great fire and honored our ancestors at Samhain. Yule, we stayed up through the night with the fire, to make sure the sun would return on the other side of the longest night

TWH: At what point did you realize that not everyone raised a Maypole or celebrated Imbolc?

AO: I was probably 6 or so. We had some Christian neighbors, and their kids found it simultaneously interesting and mock-worthy. Mum let them come to ritual with their parents’ permission (or with their parents). I was interested in their beliefs, so they promptly told me about the devil and Hell and not believing in Jesus would send me there.

Mum explained that there are many Gods out there and the Christian one is a bit jealous and can be cruel to his followers, and she had no interested in worshipping that God. We were protected by our own.

I had Jewish friends and Catholic relatives, so I actually got heavily exposed to their faiths. I didn’t ever believe in them, but I thought some traditions were kind of neat. I always wanted to know what Communion bread tasted like. I went to Catholic Mass with my friend and almost pretended to be Catholic just to try it.

TWH: How do you think being raised in Druidry affected your world view?

AO: Sometimes I am not sure if my religious faith or my political chances that I was raised in had more of an impact or if they simply worked very well together. I’ve always felt Paganism and libertarianism were natural bedfellows.

Because my mother was polytheistic I embraced the idea that there were many gods and many different ways to worship them, and there was no one true way to believe in something sacred or divine. The gods that I believed in were gods of my ancestors, and it didn’t make sense for everyone to worship them so I never thought to convert anyone. I have taken a similar stance in my life in my respect for other people’s beliefs and choices. My moral codes have always surrounded respect for an individual’s agency in making their own choices and the idea that consequences for those choices should simply be whatever the natural consequence of that happens to be and not some arbitrary rules in a book.

I was raised that honesty was honor, word is bond. My mother has a saying, that “Work as worship, service as sacrament, and hearth as altar.” I’m sure there are many ways to interpret what she means, but even as an adult, [now] as an agnostic atheist, I think of my service to others and my ability to help others as an expression of my faith in community and other human beings, I think of the work that I invest myself in as honoring that which I value, and I think of my home and my dinner table as the place to offer food, drink, rest and shelter to those I respect.

I find that many of the lessons I was raised in, and traditions we had, have an interpretation I can still utilize without theology.

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

TWH: You had many well known and well respected people in Libertarianism and Austrian economics in and out of your home as guests. Was the same true for well-known Pagans? And did the two groups ever mix?

AO: One of the weird factors of childhood immersion into this stuff is sometimes people come into your life when you’re a child and you don’t actually realize how significant they are to the outside world.

When we were attending events like Rites of Spring and Starwood and other large Pagan gatherings, we knew most of the people there, including well-known authors and speakers. Every once in awhile, I forget that not everybody is Facebook friends with individuals who literally wrote the book on modern Paganism, or run the largest Pagan organizations in the country. The late Margot Adler heard me sing Isaac Bonewits’ song the “Hymn to Brighid” and loved it. She actually used a recording of it on NPR when he passed away.

Our religious community was mixed in terms of their political beliefs – mostly liberals and libertarians. But we had a significant enough group of libertarians I always assumed the two worlds came together more than they actually do.

I don’t remember anybody “famous” within the two groups intersecting, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t, especially in the 70s before I came along.

TWH: What anecdote best shows what it was like to be raised as a Druid?

AO: I have so many random stories. I was side by side with my mother through much of my childhood. She didn’t shield me from realities of the world; she just made sure she was there to explain the sad and the weird and the hardships. She raised me as a bit of a priestess-in-training. To this day, I can draw tarot, tell you about your sign, walk you through a tree meditation, or even lead a proper Druidic ritual if I was so inclined. She brought me with her during prison ministries, visiting local schools with Druidic groups, and going to Costco to purchase bulk food supplies to give to people who had less than we did. 

When my dearest fellow-Pagan friend got her first period, I was maybe 10, she was 13 or so. Our Grove (the term for a group of Druids) incorporated a womanhood ceremony into our normal ritual, and she was presented with a dagger, which she was told could be used to protect her. The symbolism of the dagger was cloaked in euphemism (some dirty jokes and some very tactful statements) during the ritual but it was effectively “you’re now an attractive young woman, and if someone tries to rape you, cutting him is entirely acceptable.”

That young woman is actually one of the most vocal advocates for consent and for rape victims I know to this day. I didn’t like the ceremony though. As I mentioned, there were plenty of bawdy jokes, and I found it uncomfortable with a Grove of mixed gender, to commentate on a woman’s budding sexuality and fertility. I asked my mother not to do the ritual for me when it was my turn, and she respected my wishes, which I was very glad of. My mother felt, beyond religious preference, that my agency and comfort were important, and she wouldn’t force me to participate in a ritual I didn’t desire.

I knew a number of other Pagan children – I’d say I probably had 4 or 5 kids I spent a lot of time with who were also Pagan (besides my two older brothers). I knew a lot more though. There’s a Pagan group out in Western MA that does a lot of events and rituals, and there were more kids there; some I was close to at different times in my childhood, depending on how well our parents were getting along. When other kids attended the rituals, we were always given jobs to do to help with the ritual and the feast and the gathering in general. It was a lot of fun.

TWH: How do you think it’s different, to be raised as a Pagan, rather than converting?

AO: I think much like my political affiliation, I feel much less compelled to “defend” it or prove myself. I know a lot of young Pagans who convert and go through a very anti-Christian stage or “persecuted Pagan complex.” I never really had that stage. I have always known my rights, and I never looked at Paganism as a rebellion. It was just standard.

To be fair, there are many people who do not fall into that “anti” stage at any point, and I hate mass generalizations. I think it just comes down to a natural comfort with the “weird” Pagan stuff. I always said things like “oh my gods” and sang Yule carols, which were practically Christmas songs with Pagan lyrics. I realized recently I don’t even know the lyrics to the Christmas carols.

I think the main difference is simply just what one is most familiar with. My childhood memories, in retrospect, seem filled with magic. Maybe everybody’s do, mine was just more literal about it.

[Courtesy Photo]

Speaking at LPMN Convention [Courtesy Photo]

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bcaa26b7f8aca9110e5f183331315fcb_400x400FLORIDA – While putting the final touches on its upcoming festival, Temple of Earth Gatherings (TEG) has found itself, once again, at the center of community controversy. TEG’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG) is a popular festival and has been one of the most well-attended Pagan events in that state since its inception in 1995. But, in 2014, the TEG board hit a snag, when it invited Yvonne and Gavin Frost, two teachers considered controversial, to present at that year’s spring event.

Since that point, FPG has be staged biannually without incident until recent months. In January, the Frosts announced that they would be returning to the festival circuit and attending FPG 2016, but the couple made no mention of offering any workshops. Their blog post went largely unnoticed. Then, two weeks ago, an anonymous person emailed an unpublished FPG 2016 festival booklet to a large group of people. The booklet listed the Frosts as workshop presenters, which immediately launched a public conversation, raising old concerns. Rumors and stories began quickly circulating.

When TEG became aware that the booklet was out, it announced that this circulating booklet had not been approved, nor was it official. Within one week, TEG published a new one that did not list the Frosts as presenters. The TEG Board would not confirm or deny any of the rumors and declined any further comment.

Sage. a former FPG staff member, told The Wild Hunt that he and several others resigned over this very issue. Until recently, Sage was the FPG workshop coordinator and he said, “I resigned largely because I was instructed that it was my job to keep secret certain workshops that the Board of Directors was aware would upset some portion of the community. This deceit came in direct conflict with my moral and ethical codes of conduct.” There are also reportedly some copyright issues involving the printing and publication of the two versions of the festival booklets, which have nothing directly to do with the workshop issue itself. Sage did add that he personally will not be attending the event.

At this point, FPG is still moving forward. Several of the scheduled presenters have confirmed that they will be attending after speaking privately with the board about raised concerns, and no protests against TEG are currently in the works. As for the Frosts, they typically communicate via “snail mail” and could not respond for comment in time for publication. But we will update this story as needed.

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AdflogoTUCSON, Ariz. – Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) announced the election of its new Archdruid Rev. Jean Pagano. Effective May 1, Rev. Pagano will “take the reins” from Rev. Kirk Thomas, who has been serving as ADF’s spiritual and administrative leader since 2010. Pagano said, “I am touched and honoured that people have chosen me to be their Arch Druid – it is not a challenge that I take lightly and I promise to be Archdruid to all members.”

This past Saturday, Rev. Thomas led his final ritual as Archdruid at Trillium. He said, “I think that it’s been a good six years, and it has always been my intent to serve ADF well, but it’s time for me to move on. I shall, of course, remain highly involved in ADF, and perhaps even hold some minor leadership roles in the future, but I shall also be taking more time for myself. I want to thank everyone in ADF who has supported me in my journey as ADF Archdruid, and I know that ADF shall continue to grow and thrive in the future.”

Rev. Pagano will served as Archdruid for the next three years. He was thankful to be chosen and said, “He added, I want to thank the Earth Mother, the Kindreds, and all of the people who have made ADF what it is today. May the Gods always provide.”

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Priestess Miriam with Aiyda [Courtesy Photo]

Priestess Miriam with Aiyda [Courtesy Photo]

NEW ORLEANS – Priestess Miriam of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple has announced the new location for her famous New Orleans temple. As we previously reported, on Feb 1, the historic building, which had been the temple’s home for twenty-four years, was destroyed by an electrical fire. At first Priestess Miriam had hoped that renovations would allow her to move back into the classic Creole cottage. However, that was not the case. Damage was too severe.

She began searching for a new location, which was reportedly “not an easy task in one of America’s most fastly gentrifying and expensive cities.” However, she was finally able to locate a space at 1428 North Rampart near its intersection with Esplanade. Witchdoctor Utu reports, “The New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple will begin a brand new era.” He also said that the temple is “not out of the woods yet.” Most of the renovations and moving tasks are complete but the setup and “sense of normalcy” has yet to return.

On behalf of Priestess Miriam, Utu added, “We cannot thank everyone enough who have contributed to the still existing GoFundMe campaign, this would simply not have been possible with out the beautiful people who continue to support, promote and contribute to the various fund raising efforts, much of it from around the entire North American Continent. Lots of work ahead but we continue to count our blessings and gratitude abounds. Soon enough we will be able to share some photos of the new building as it begins to settle into its new home.”

In Other News

  • Earth Day is coming up Friday, Apr. 22 and people around the world are planning their events. In dedication to that day, several Pagans in London are reviving a yearly tradition formerly run by Wiccan High Priestess Jean Willams (1928-2015). On Apr. 23, organizers and attendees will gather at 1 pm at the Highgate Tube Station, Priory Gardens exit. They will then walk from the “tube to the wood.” The group will collect “rubbish in Queens Wood till about 3:30 pm.”  After that, the group will picnic and a have an “attunement in the clearing.” Organizers look forward to seeing everyone come out for this London Earth Day tradition.
  • Similarly, Tuesday Apr. 19, Starhawk will join Rev. Selena Fox on her weekly podcast to discuss current environmental issues, climate change and ways to incorporate eco-activism in daily life. Additionally, Starhawk will talk about her “Earth Activist trainings, her permaculture work, and her visionary novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing and its long-awaited sequel, City of Refuge.” The podcast, titled “EcoPagan EcoMagic,” will air Tuesday night at 7 pm CT. 
  • The Troth is preparing to host its annual event called Trothmoot. This year’s four day camping festival will be held in Port Townsend, Washington at Ft. Flagler State Park. The organization writes, “Heathens from all over the world are invited to gather in the Pacific Northwest for a celebration of Heathen diversity and spirituality. Hosted by Hrafnar and Heathen Freehold Troth KAP Kindreds, and our Washinton and Pacific Northwest Troth members, come for fellowship, ritual, workshop, skaldship, and of course Northwest hospitality.” Trothmoot begins June 9 and runs through June 12. Registration is open on the Troth’s site.
  • On May 1, Heathens United Against Racism will be hosting Light the Beaconsa worldwide action calling “on all Heathens around the world who stand for inclusive, tolerant, and diverse practice to light a beacon in solidarity with all other Heathens who stand for these values in our spirituality.” HUAR asks participating individuals to light a candle, or some other form of light, at any point during that day. They also ask for photos of that light to be posted on the event Facebook event site. Organizers write, “Together we will ignite a fire in our hearts and homes that will push back the shadows of fear & ignorance, shine light on our honor, and rally the hopes of Heathens everywhere.
  • Athena: Sharing Current Research is still looking for presenters for its June conference in London. The site explains, “This conference will share current research on a deity that has been a topic of interest since the dawn of classical scholarship and through its various ‘turns.’ The event will appraise various ways to approach the goddess by drawing together current researchers from the UK, France, Italy, and, we hope, elsewhere.” Submissions are due by Apr. 30. The conference will take place on June 3 at the “Adam Room, Grove House, University of Roehampton, London.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

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A Spectrum of Beauty

Heather Greene —  April 17, 2016 — 21 Comments

TWHOne average hot summer day, a 30-something woman and her 5-year-old boy entered a suburban public pool space. Brimming with youthful excitement, the child, who was unusually large for his age, awkwardly bounced around his mother’s legs in anticipation of a good swim. As the woman unloaded her bags, filled with toys, snacks, towels and other pool needs, onto an unoccupied reclining chair, the child approached a sunbathing adult and introduced himself.

[Photo Credit: Drink Hoist / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Drink Hoist / Flickr]

“Hi. My name is Matt. I’m going to go swimming,” he said with a cheerful smile. Then, he proceeded to look through the stranger’s bag for pool toys. The mother quickly came over, redirected her son and apologized. Fear, desperation and helplessness were written into her face and underscored her apology.

“I’m sorry. He has autism,” she said and led him away. She had done this many times before. It was a common happening, and she was clearly exhausted. While that seemingly benign moment may have been a daily occurrence, it was not this particular type of interaction that had etched the many stress lines into her face and justified her daily caution. But her underlying fear and nervousness were justified only a few short hours later. 

On that hot Saturday afternoon, the small community pool had become increasingly crowded. Adults and children were everywhere, eating, talking, playing and listening to music stations. The stereo, from where the music came, sat high on a shelf in an open pool house and could be heard throughout the space. In the past, it was not uncommon for the stereo to be a source of tension as adults argued over station and volume. But on this particular day, the stereo became the catalyst for a much bigger and more difficult community battle.

The music had been upsetting Matt, the autistic child. Throughout the day, he repeatedly climbed onto a dangerously high counter top to shut the stereo off. In response, the mother had to retrieve him, expressing apologies, offering explanations and making repeated requests that the stereo be left silent. Many of the pool-goers had personal iPods or were reading books, so to her this seemed like a reasonable request. And, at first no one cared, but eventually, as more people arrived, that changed.

“You need to control your child,” said one newly arrived older man.

The rising tensions between the crowd and the family only worsened when a woman left the pool’s front gate open, while she went to smoke. The autistic child saw the opening and excitedly ran out into the parking lot. Once again, the exhausted mother quickly retrieved him, and then shut the gate. This angered the woman outside, who promptly returned, yelling at both the mother and her newly-arrived husband.

“You don’t belong here,” she screamed. “We are not going to change our rules for one child. You need to control him.”

By this point the father had had enough. He was yelling uncontrollably at this woman and her husband as well as the group wanting to control the radio; his pain and frustration seethed through his pores as he shouted profanities into the crowd. The mother was left cowering in a corner crying, and the entire pool deck was held hostage by a volatile situation, which only ended when the police arrived and escorted the family from the public space.

That is a true story. It is an extreme story, and one that didn’t need to end that way.* 

April is autism awareness month. It’s an opportunity to focus on the realities of living with an autism spectrum disorder, either as a parent or as an affected person. During this month, advocacy groups and individuals hope that communities will not only take a moment to become more educated about the limitations and needs of those with autism, but also recognize the unique beauty that emanates from these lives.

Autism-Awareness-2014

[Courtesy of BrightSong Pediatrics]

Vicky Bailey, a Pagan, Reiki master and poet, was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. She said:

This diagnosis came as a blessing. It helped me to begin to make sense of my life experiences, and to appreciate who I am. As I teenager I was seldom interested in meeting up with friends and going shopping. I much preferred my own company, and that of my books. This withdrawal from social interactions allowed me to pursue my childhood fascination with ancient mythology and ancient cultural practices. […]I later learned that autistic children will often have an extremely obsessive fixation with a particular interest, and display a deep fascination and in-depth knowledge of the interest that appears beyond their years.

What exactly is autism or the autism spectrum disorders? The Center for Disease Control defines it as “a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.” The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines it as “a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.”

These are simplistic clinical definitions, which define the conditions as “disorders.” But autism is far more than that. When you are part of a world affected by autism, you are forced to make difficult life adjustments, anticipate problems, find creative solutions, and equally appreciate the unique and brilliant qualities that can emerge.

We spoke to two Pagan parents who are raising children “on the spectrum,” as it is termed. Allyson Szabo is a White Winds Wiccan living in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. She is a licensed minister and is self-employed. Szabo is the “step-mum” of four children on the spectrum, as well as living with a husband on the spectrum. Pauline Kennedy, better known as Potia, is a Polytheist Druid, and member of the Druid Network living in Glasgow, Scotland. She is part-time university administrator and the mother of two children on the spectrum.

Szabo talked specifically about her two sons Dale (22) and Mike (10), who both have formal diagnoses. Because the family had already been through the process with Dale prior to Mike being diagnosed, they were somewhat prepared. Szabo said, “It was stressful, as any ‘deviation from the norm’ is stressful. You want your children to be ‘like everyone else’ because it just makes things easier. But it didn’t phase [sic] us, and we all worked to make sure that Mike got everything he needed to be successful at whatever he tried.”

Kennedy’s two children, Rose (8) and Rowan (14), were both diagnosed at age six. She said, “My initial reaction on having the diagnosis confirmed in both cases was complex.” She first gathered all the data and information that she could. But emotionally she said that she “felt a combination of relief and a form of grief.” The relief was in the confirmation of her suspicions and her ability to move forward in helping her children. The grief was in the letting go of the many “dreams and aspirations” that she had for them. She added, “Being a Polytheist was helpful in reminding me that there are many ways and many paths.”

"The Autistic way to play" [Photo Credit: By Kevinfruet via Wikimedia]

“Autistic way to play” [Photo Credit: By Kevinfruet via Wikimedia]

Parents of children on the spectrum must learn an entirely new language, so to speak, to help their children interpret a world that was not made for them. And vice versa, they also have to help the world understand their child. Bailey explained:

For me, as is for most autistic people, human beings are an enigma. At times speaking to another person is like having a conversation in two separate languages. I cannot recognize certain types of humor, and often have trouble detecting sarcasm. I also take terms and phrases literally. For example if someone said to me ‘If we don’t finish this in time we’re done for.’ I would panic. Feeling as if the whole world would end.

Most autistic people must learn how to communicate and cope with the world through non-autistic parents and educators. Szabo’s son Mike had an advantage. She explained, “[Mike] learned how to deal with the world by watching [an autistic] parent.” She said that he doesn’t feel “set apart” from his family, and added, “The worst thing he’s had to deal with is sometimes we have to say, ‘Hey, let’s go talk to Daddy, ’cause I’m not getting what you’re saying and Daddy translates from autism to norm pretty well.” Now, her son will often go directly to his father for communication help.

The personal and family challenges abound as adjustments are made to living with an autism spectrum disorder. Kennedy said, “This is my life; this is our life as a family. You grow, you change, you adapt. I can’t really compare it to anything else as this is what it is for us.”

One of these adjustments, common to any family, is the decision when and how to introduce spiritual traditions and religious teachings to the child. That is no different for autistic children. Both Szabo and Kennedy have exposed and included their children in many aspects of their personal practice. As an interfaith minister, Szabo celebrates many religious holy days in her own home and also runs a small coven. She said that Mike has “grown up knowing a great tolerance for all religions and rituals.” However, she said the only thing that “has stuck that is even remotely Pagan” is meditation. And Szabo believes these technique, which Mike now uses on his own, have helped him better cope with the world.

Like Szabo, Kennedy is also open about her practice and emphasizes religious tolerance. She said, “My son has never shown much interest in spiritual matters. My daughter has chosen to join me in some of my home based devotions, in particular she enjoys taking part in devotions to Brigantia and Maponos […] She helps me arrange libations and offerings and usually dances around me while I sing songs of love and praise.”

But neither Szabo or Kennedy feels comfortable taking their autistic children to public Pagan events. Although they both feel their Pagan communities are compassionate and tolerant, they don’t feel these crowded forums are healthy for the children. Kennedy said, “My son has problems meeting new people […] My daughter loves meeting new people but it would currently still be very difficult to manage the level of disruption that would result in her running around, aggressively hugging everyone and her need for a high level of attention.”

It is common for autistic children to have difficulty understanding personal boundaries, making public situations all the more trying. Bailey has experienced this as a adult. She said:

While many pagans attend social gatherings or are part of a coven. I have never been able to do these things because of my lack of social understanding. I would not know where to begin For this reason,  I walked my path without human company for many years, and for a while that was OK. I have never craved social interaction, yet I could not shake feeling of loneliness.

While Szabo hasn’t taken her son Mike to big events, he has been around her small coven. She said, “I think that there is a lot more acceptance of spectrum people in the Pagan community, at least around me. I’ve never had complaints from anyone, and I’m always told Mike’s a joy to be around.” She added that her coven mates are also “understanding of her husband.”

But Szabo did have one recommendation for event organizers. She said that it would be beneficial to have a “low sensory input” area. These places ideally would not be filled with the typical drumming, talking, incense, color, music and fire. She said, “Knowing there’s a place quiet and less overwhelming can be a real help to people on the spectrum, and we parents as well.”

Edinburgh's Beltane Fire Festival. Photo by Paul R Seftel.

Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Festival. [Photo by P. Seftel]

Despite the limitations and the hurdles, the three women with whom we spoke, continually remarked on the beauty, intelligence and love that emanates from the people affected by what the medical community has called a “disorder.” Bailey spoke of how her own condition has led to a unique ability to spiritually engage with the faery realm. She said:

I have an inherited gift for communicating with other realms. I am a natural medium, and am fortunate enough to have been made aware of the Faeries that exist in a realm parallel to our own. When I speak with them I have no difficulty understanding their meanings at all. Unlike humans, they seem to get right to the point, and if they cannot make themselves understood with words they are able to use mental images, and the transference of ’feelings’ and sensations to make themselves understood.

Bailey attributes this gift of communication directly to her autism, and also thanks her partner, who also is affected by Asperger’s syndrome, for helping her “discover and appreciate” her gifts.

Szabo and Kennedy speak of their children’s compassion, intelligence and fascination with various difficult and complex subject matters. Kennedy said, “Autism is an integral part of them both but it does not define them.” Szabo said, “Our children have grown up knowing that autism is a super power, and that one has to use it for good or evil, just like any other super power.”

All three women also stressed that the biggest hurdle for them, going forward, is simply awareness. That includes awareness within Pagan communities as well as within society in general. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.5 percent of the American population (1 percent of the entire world) is affected with the condition, and they do not know at this time whether that rate is still increasing or if it has leveled off.

Szabo said, “I think tolerance is the greatest thing we offer our children.” She believes that her own religious journey has helped her become more tolerant, and has made it easier to adapt to and appreciate the unique worldviews of her autistic family members. “In Paganism, we should find it technically easier, because we’re wanting tolerance for ourselves and therefore should be practicing it at home.”

She added, “Please understand that when my kid walks away while you’re talking to him, it’s not because he wants to be rude.” He is just overwhelmed. She added that autistic children need more time, respect and understanding. She also stressed that, when they do want to talk, “it’s just as important to let [them] get their ideas out. Often times, you’ll learn more from them by listening, than normal children will learn by your teaching.”

Similarly Kennedy emphasized the need to educate ourselves. She said, “How do we improve things? By asking what we can do to help and more importantly listening to those in our communities who are autistic themselves, willing and able to explain their challenges and to those who care for an autistic friend or family member.” And she added that we need to “accept and value our differences.”

There are many organizations out there working to foster awareness and breed tolerance. In the U.K., Kennedy recommends the National Autistic Society and Autism Triage Scotland. And, she added, “as a self-diagnosed adult autistic woman, I’m also a member of the Scottish Women’s Autism Network (SWAN).” In the U.S., there are organizations such as the National Autism Association and many more. But Szabo’s family steers clear from big organizations. She feels that they are more interested in a “fix” than growing acceptance. Instead, Szabo recommends becoming involved in local play groups and small, community-based organizations that are run by people affected by autism and that provide concrete family support and safe spaces for education.

Bailey, who has since become a published poet and embraced her condition, concluded by saying, “I feel that [autism] has had a distinctive impact on my journey as a Witch, be it for better and or worse, although overwhelmingly I believe that it the impact has been positive. It is a part of me, my strength and my weakness. Everyone has both inside them – strength and weakness, light and darkness. We are after all only human, and the trials we face both as Witches and as people help to make us who, and what, we are today.”

* This incident took place July 2015. Names have been changed or omitted for privacy sake. 

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[We welcome guest writer Kenya Coviak, also known as Mistress Belladonna. Coviak has been a practicing Pagan and student of metaphysics and magick for over 30 years. Practictioner, Teacher, Coach, and Counselor, she has shared her knowledge and skills with many in the southeastern Michigan community. Additionally, Coviak has served as past Children’s Coordinator, Presenter, and Public Relations for Pagan Pride Day Detroit, is an editor at PBN News, was a member of FOCASMI, Third Degree Oak Moon Coven, and a founder of the Great Lakes Witches’ Council.]

It seems that all over the magickal worlds in the United States, that Hoodoo is the thing to do right now. People make claims to “Aunties” and “friend’s Grandma’s” with abandon when referring to their expertise and prowess in this practice. But for me, I grew up with it not being a separate thing to be studied, but something that one simply does.

Spell working, folklore and magickal traditions were the rhythm of life. Along with listening to the Blues and to Rock and Roll, I grew up thinking that everyone’s Daddy let them play with their extra lodestones. Everyone kept their brooms turned upside down, and the root store was always in the address book, along with the “street numbers” policy dream books and two dollar bills.

[Photo Credit: K. Coviak]

[Photo Credit: K. Coviak]

My early years were filled with stories of haints, dream books, and psalms. The latter being curious, as neither of my fictive kin’s parents attended church. As for me, Sunday’s began with church, until I got too mouthy, and were followed by floor wash and incense on Sunday evenings.That was a regular routine. My “god family” attempted valiantly to put God in me through ordeal-length services. But my invitation to these sermons eventually ended when I made a wisecrack questioning why the same women who were hit with the Holy Ghost every weekend were not holy enough to get hit with it at Farmer Jack’s supermarket. My preteen years ended with me being cut loose from the family of the Black Church.

It was 1986, and I was in my early teens. The wind played with my mess of hair as I happily walked toward the bus stop with my “blood sister.” We lived on opposite sides of town, so I had already arrived at her house, also by bus, and was ready to hit the free festivals of downtown Detroit.

Back in those days we took the buses everywhere. I lived on the North End, and she lived on the West Side. It was necessary to ride these bus lines back and forth when we wanted to hang out. And if we were going downtown, we had to take the Dexter bus. That monster was an adventure of experience with every type of character you could have imagined. I can still smell the mix of cigarette smoke from the passengers, and the Pink Oil and Ultra Sheen in my hair.

But this particular time, we had barely left her porch steps when her mom told us that she needed to make a quick trip.  And, we, of course, had to go along. Where did we go? Straight to Goodwill Candle near Grand Blvd. While her mother picked up “a few things” from the clerks, we busied ourselves looking at the genuine goat parchments and pre-made cursing dolls. My favorite was always the red and green greeting cards that came with a curse inside. A recipient was informed that if they had received such a card  they were already crossed. The severity varied. I got a real kick, and a chill, out of those cards.

After leaving the shop with my hands covered in a fine residue of Three Kings powder and charcoal, we were off to my friend’s house again. We waited while music played, tapping our feet on the blue carpeted floor. No shoes, of course. My friend’s mother did her works, and then finally we were given a brown paper bag to take with us on our way to the festival.

“Throw this in the river,” her mother said. The bag was heavy and a little damp. We were told not to look inside.

So of course, we did. We were teens after all, and in the bag was a small paper cup, an apple with the top cut out in a wedge, and some fish hooks. The apple was filled with honey and other things that will not be discussed here. This whole affair was to be thrown into the river. We were not to look back.

There we were, two teen girls headed to a summer festival for fun and excitement with a side trip of spell work. This was not a strange event to us. This was simply what one did. My friend’s mother was trying to keep a gentleman who was very angry. He was a real piece of undesirable work. My sister found the man vexing so she really did not want to do this. But there was no getting rid of her mom’s decision to keep him around. Therefore, we threw our parcel into the Detroit River, just like thousands of Detroiters have done for years and continue to do today. The water takes the spells for good or for bad.

Detroit River [Photo Credit: Gary Muehlenhardt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain]

Detroit River [Photo Credit: Gary Muehlenhardt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain]

While in high school, my book bags continually smelled of orange blossom oil and success oil. I blended these often for other girls in band class to help them. We never spoke of it, but they never stopped coming to me for it. No questions were ever asked, except by the sanctified girls who judged everyone. They always inquired after the state of my soul, but I ignored them.  

Friends, school, church, all these magickal parts of my life intersected and found a central point in my home and with my family. One time, my Daddy asked me to help him put in a concrete path leading from our back gate. In order to make a smooth foundation, he gave me what seemed to be a mundane task with a sledgehammer and a pile of red bricks. He had me crush those bricks into the dirt. The dust completely covered the soil; which he then covered with concrete.

The foundation that I was spreading was actually to keep burglars away from our property until two years after he died. They could not pass the gate post. We needed no alarm system. We were safe. At the time, I never thought about it as protection work. To me, it was just what you do when you lay concrete at your fences. But later, I would find out what it really was.  

I always looked forward to helping my father with his soil balls each year. They would be kept in the milk chute. He would go out to the yard and “test the soil” with the balls. But the balls always had something else in them, and it was sometimes sparkly. They were kept by the house and in the chute, except on occasions when they were in his room as he “doctored”  them. This also never seemed strange to me.

When I was at the beauty shop getting my hair relaxed, I would listen to the church ladies enjoying the gospel station. They would laugh and talk of rinsing their sheets in lavender to keep their men faithful. These women would also discuss which Psalms and seals to use on their husbands or on other women who were interested in their husbands.

Keeping the Bible open to the 91st Psalm and using holy water with people’s names in the bottles was common. Throwing a Psalm on someone to harm them was not strange. And, the minister giving you something to bind another was not unheard of. In fact, some even pronounced death to parishioners if they did not mend their ways in a set time.  

While at the beauty shop, my Mama would get a lovely silver rinse in her hair and smile. Then, back at home, as the pins came out, hair would inevitably come out as well. Our strands would get caught in the wires of the rollers. The only way to dispose of this hair was to burn it. You never threw away hair, it must always be burned so no one could get it. You didn’t want to go crazy like “such and such” person. This was “fact” just like the Law of Gravity; it was just truth.

Little mysteries filled my life in that house. The brass bottle that was painted blue was said to contain a djinn. Yes, that was the exact word. It had a dark wax seal, and I was told to never touch it or open it. The tiny jar with my Mama’s fingertip, which she kept in the basement dresser, was also something odd but normal as well. It had been severed at her workplace, but it was re-purposed for “works” that happened in the dark of the night. She used it for different things that were secret, but protective.

But that is another story

Then there were the times that things went very badly. All actions did not lead to desired outcomes. Damage control was another key skill to have. When I accidentally burned the wrong candle in my room and conjured up something I could not put down, a mom from our band boosters club came to my rescue. She had used her “eye,” which was in her hand, to look at me. She saw something was not right. 

This mother, then, went with me to the candle shop and fixed a set of herbs and had me take home seven candles to solve the problem. The appropriate verse was opened at the new testament, and my room was a sauna for a week as they burned.

[Photo Credit: K. Coviak]

Inside a Candle Shop [Photo Credit: K. Coviak]

My own Mama was annoyed, because another woman had come into the business of her house. She did not like active practice and only used prevention. I was grounded for two weeks. Not just for the candles, but because I had conjured without talking to her first. Although we never spoke of it again, she flustered when I would try to bring it up and spoke of haints overrunning the house if I wouldn’t listen. This is probably why she painted the bathroom blue.  

As a teen and into early adulthood, Anna Riva books were scattered across my floor next to those of Scott Cunningham. My practices “eventually” expanded.  A friendly Sikh taught me even more about the powers of oils and showed me how to use them to control. Eventually, Tarot cards and herbalism from different traditions were as much a part of my daily life as Faygo, Park’s Barbeque, and Stroh’s ice cream.

When I learned to drive, I was a mobile menace. Every month, I traveled to the banks of the river. Sometimes it was to toss in bottles filled with Four Thieves Vinegar and an unfortunate name on a parchment. Other times I stood on its banks and made fires. After these rites, the ashes were thrown in or buried on the banks. Again, none of these acts were thought of as exotic or strange, just something one does here in the “D”.

But to be clear, it was also not uncommon to go to church the “very” next morning and sing just as loud as everyone else with a smile on the lips and a swing in the hips. However, for me, church was a conflicted issue, because I have always been a witch. I did not reconcile my realities until my thirties, after the requisite excursion into the world of Black Consciousness-based liberation cults of various flavors.

Growing up like this, in a world of magicians, was something I took for granted. We never made a big issue out of it. We understood that there were certain things you either knew or did not know. And most of us knew them.

This common local lore of magick continues to be passed from generation to generation, even today. The Hoodoo stores stay busy with new customers of every age and background. Like clockwork, auto plant workers and civil servants visit twice a month to buy cases of candles, roots, and oils at the local shops. The traditions practiced in my childhood are the same ones that are practiced today.

For example, Belle Isle is the literal graveyard of spells, tricks, hexes, and personal concerns. Each and every willow tree on that island has probably been used by at least one person to remove and “take a cross” (also known as giving it to the tree). Visitors may notice that certain tree groves are avoided by native Detroiters. This is, because after you “remove or take a cross,” you are not to revisit that tree … ever.  

Another practice that reminds me of our unique magical culture is the midnight wanderings that many new Detroit “carpetbagging gentrifiers” sometimes find threatening. It is the Hoodoo tradition of walking around in the middle of the night with no clear destination. We seem to be hanging about sidewalks and corners aimlessly and furtively, which makes many “newcomers” suspicious and assume that we are engaged in criminal activity.

However, in actuality, we are often looking for a suitable crossroads. We do magic in these places. We dump items in these places. We make petitions. We leave offerings. We do all sorts of things that have not even been written, and will not be written … here or anywhere.

But one of the main requirements is that we be secretive. It is important to not be seen. Therefore, we become masters of the blink of the eye action.I credit many of the things that have saved my life in my motorcycle club days to having performed quick getaways from spell work in my teens.

Interestingly, a woman in that very “motorcycle club” once made a doll baby of me. It was a beautiful porcelain doll that contained some of my personal concerns. Unfortunately, this was done without my consent, and I only found out after the woman had a falling out with the inner group. One of the other sisters exposed her and offered to destroy the doll. After its destruction, my life picked back up to a better pace, and I eventually drifted away from that life. But before that, the compulsion had been strong enough that I could not escape.

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None of this was strange to me or to any of us. This is what life was. This is how it is. This is what one does. We do workings. Even the most holy of rollers may have a Seal of Moses in their purse from Discount Candle near Eastern Market. Even the most steadfast Moor has been known to carry High John root in their pockets in my circle.

The smells of sulfur, oils, powders, and novena candles take me to my childhood home. There is no stronger core for me than this “reality”. There is no taking the this out of me, any more than one can take that cup back out of the river.

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The land has its own magic. The whispers of the rolling hills of Northern California speak in a different tongue than that of the long flat lands of lower Alabama. The spirit of place can greatly contribute to the culture, presence and practice of magic in any one regional area.

Northern California [Photo Credit: Nigelpepper / Wikimedia]

Northern California [Photo Credit: Nigelpepper / Wikimedia]

There are different terms, traditions and beliefs that encompass concepts of regional magic or spirit of place. Different cultures relate to it in unique ways; yet there is continued historical significance to the practices of cultures and of people who have a reverence for the specific magic of local lands and regional areas. The spirit of place often refers to physical characteristics of a location, and can also reference attributes that have to do with myths, history, ancestors, spirits, art, stories, communities, superstitions or even collective memories. The energy and associations changes from one regional area to another.

Today, many modern magic practitioners work with regional magic as a part of their normal practice.

The pulse of the land tells many stories. People of many different Pagan, Polytheist, Heathen and earth worshiping traditions tap into the mysteries of place, looking for the soul of the space in which they work. The regional stories of particular areas can be a significant link between spirituality, home, worship, and belonging. These regional differences often contribute to rituals, observances, practices, and cultures all of which, as a result, are very personal to the specific area or a specific group of people.

I became increasingly fascinated with what I refer to as “regional magic” after my own trip down south to the birthplace of my mother. The magic I felt there was unlike anything I experienced at home in California; the magic of the land in Alabama was vastly different. when I touched and worked with the soil in my mother’s hometown, I was able to connect to such a sense of survival, history, culture and intense historical significance. The magic in the land moved me immensely, and I made a point to touch and collect a piece of it throughout the city while I was there. This brought up a lot of questions about my relationship to the land, the way that regional connections impact practice, and how the spirit of a place can connect to us in ways that we cannot always anticipate.

Photo by Crystal Blanton

[Photo Credit: C. Blanton]

How does the spirit of place influence magical practice? I reached out to a few others who have varied traditions and are from different places in order to see what they thought.

Many polytheists of revived religions honor spirits, gods, and other divine beings tied to particular places. I, and many other polytheists, worship Old Man Mississippi, the nymph of Cold Water Springs, and the good spirits of our particular neighborhood. – Cara Schulz

I’m blessed to live in Michigan, home of the Great Lakes. These are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, containing more than a fifth of the world’s surface fresh water. The inland of Michigan contains about 11,000 lakes, 300 rivers and more than 12,000 miles if fresh water trout streams. Michigan is water, and water is a primary sacred medicine in my magical path.

Protecting water is an essential part of the magic I do. There are many threats to Michigan’s fresh water. This sacred resource is threatened by agricultural runoff, large scale factory farming, hydraulic fracturing (fracking)/injection wells and privatized water companies to name a few. I chant songs about the water, offer up prayers with a Pipe, offer my thirst and sweat in the Lodge and put my boots on the ground when it’s time to stand up and be heard. I do all this practical and esoteric magic in the name of water.

I am also blessed to live on the Chippewa River, where the sounds of water and the life it sustains are abundant. Next to the river, a large patch of sweetgrass grows each summer.  Sweetgrass is another sacred medicine to me and it is heavily dependent upon water. Harvesting it to give-away and sell at spiritual gatherings is a yearly ritual that ties me to the people, land and water. Michigan’s bountiful waters have guided my path much like the banks of the river guide the flow of sacred water to the sea. Water connects us all! – Jim Esralian

Chippewa River [Public Domain]

Chippewa River [Public Domain]

We celebrate the Pachamama in Argentina and we do offerings to her such as fruits, grains etc. I think this is one of the reasons why I love connecting with Mother Nature and a great part of my practice has that orientation. For me is important because it connects me with my roots and my ancestors by continuing connecting with the land. When I go back, I usually bring back soil and water to use in my magical work here in USA. The Spirit of the place is very powerful and very different from the spirit of the place I live here. My magic does not seem impacted but the support and the vibrations are different. There is more than one way to lead you to rome so the destination may be the same but the way you get there is different. – Carolina A. Amor

Outside of First Nation’s Spirituality there is not really any kind of regional based magick in my local area, although Canada is quite vast and depending on where one lives, experiences can be quite diverse. Seeing as Manitoba is located in the bible belt of Canada and Winnipeg is primarily land locked (Minneapolis is the closest major centre), magickal practices are slow moving in coming to the area, which is one of the major reasons why serious local magickal practitioners tend to travel.

In my local community you have two choices for regional based magic: First Nation’s Spirituality or the surrounding land itself becomes the source of magick and spiritual inspiration. Being acutely conscious of not wanting to contribute to colonization and mis-appropriation of First Nation’s Spirituality, the land becomes hugely important in my personal practice and in the practice of my working group. Last year, I spent the entire summer building an outdoor temple space with a cairn that acts as a permanent altar and shrine for the local land spirits. While I do have an indoor temple space, the outdoor space allows for a connection to the land and spirits while still being located in a heavily populated core area of Winnipeg. It truly becomes a world between worlds.

Photo of a cairn by Dominique Smith

Photo of a cairn by Dominique Smith

Winnipeg is located where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River (called The Forks) and for centuries was a major trade centre and Aboriginal meeting place. The land has seen much; is rich with history and energetic presence, in the end, most of the magickal practices here are imports that are superimposed or assimilated into the landscape that creates a patchwork quilt of experiences for the individual practitioner.

The influences of the land  and the events that have occurred in the area have affected everything about my personal magickal practice. It has created a strong need for environmental and anti-racist activism. It has also allowed room for much healing work, which extends to myself personally, to others and to the land. The Winnipeg magickal community is still quite young and still trying to find itself. This unfortunately means that my explanation on regional magick doesn’t come in a nice neat bow. – Dominique Smith

For lack of a better explanation, I am a city priestess. I connect to the energies of land, human history, and geologic/meterological history in densely populated places and use it to weave connective tissue between city and citizens. To me magic happens in several different spheres. But to truly prosper you must do your best to become symbiotic to your environs. This can take a long time and is an imperfect process.

As the connection to a city deepens, it reveals more of its secrets and mysteries. San Francisco is bombastic – wants to show you everything all at once. Minneapolis has trust issues and offers a little bit more at every gesture of curiosity. It isn’t quite the same as land magic as we usually know it because to some degree you accept the environmental damage and try to make it into a greater good rather than trying to heal it into its original form. A little more repurpose and recycle, though reduce still has its place. It also involves seeing all politics as a system of illusions – even my own. To part the veil of the city is to see through its history, to understand its fights, and thus to see its heart. – Diana Rajchel

As an activist, my regional magic is focused on creating societal change. As a nexus point of change for this country, working magic like that allows me to tap right into the core of decision-making in this country. Most witches in DC take our role as stewards of positive change, activism, and healing very seriously because of that.

DC’s spirit of place is very complex and working with it is challenging. Historically, there is much misery connected with this place. All around me I see land that for so long was poisoned with slavery, systemic economic depression, and unfair labor conditions. But it also holds a spirit of hope, opportunity, and democracy. This requires magic-workers here to both hold space for the injustices that continue to occur here while also doing what we can to push the needle towards fairness. This land requires an acknowledgement of history if one is to work with it with any success. – David Salisbury

Photo of Alabama land by Crystal Blanton

Lands of Alabama [Photo Credit: Crystal Blanton]

People all over the world have different associations with the land, and the interpretations of the spirit of place is vast. The spiritual implications of a particular place, how it contributes to practice, and people’s association with regional spirituality is complex and often layered. Working within the elements and needs tied to a region can bring forth a myriad of specific magic and connection that only make sense within the context of its location. Working with the magic of the land to heal from the drought makes a lot of sense in California, where it does not make sense in Minnesota.

Whether in the politics of Washington D.C., the dry lands of California, or the waters of the Great Lakes, the land talks and has many stories to tell. Our connections to where we are planted will help to dictate our response to our communities and how we see our responsibility to local needs. It also helps us to shape who we are, and where we are in our spiritual practice and our personal sense of self.

How does your physical location impact or influence your magic or practice? Thinking about our relationship to regional magic and the spirit of place within our own regional communities can give us critical information about culture, spirits and what influences mold our personal practices.

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GLASTONBURY, England  – The Glastonbury Goddess Temple has opened the doors on its latest offering to the public: The Goddess House. This facility is a spiritual and educational place of healing, dedicated to promoting Goddess awareness.The Goddess Temple organization and its affiliated ventures support the vision of Motherworld, a society that places Mother Earth, mothers and the values of mothering – love, care and support for each other – at society’s centre rather than at its periphery.

The Goddess House (courtesy photoO

The Goddess House [Courtesy Photo]

The Goddess House is located in the market town of Glastonbury, Somerset, England on Magdalene Street, directly across from the historic ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. The house itself is a large and impressive Georgian building complete with treatment rooms, workshop space and other group-use rooms. The Goddess House offers a large menu of natural healing options, provided by therapists and other professionals, including several types of massage, spiritual consults, counseling, yoga, tarot and meditation training.

The original Goddess Temple space, located in the Glastonbury Experience Courtyard, at 2-4 High Street, was opened on Imbolc 2002. The following year, the space was recognized officially as a Place of Worship, and is believed to be the first such place to receive official recognition like this in the UK for 1500 years.

Then, in 2008, The Goddess Hall, located on nearby Benedict Street, was opened. It offers more space for larger gatherings and educational offerings. Additionally, the organization runs Goddess Temple Gifts, also located in the Glastonbury Experience. The store provides financial support to the Temple and features a range of Goddess themed items for sale.

The newly opened Goddess House, with its many opportunities for healing of the body, mind and spirit, will expand the outreach of the Goddess Temple organization to the immediate community and even beyond. Kathy Jones, teacher, Priestess and co-founder of the Goddess Temple, described the community effort to make the Goddess House a reality. She said:

Over the last few weeks we have been painting and decorating this lovely house. Lots of people are helping, each person offering their skills and creativity to this Motherworld venture. Something very beautiful happens when people come together to put their love and energy towards a good cause, in this case the creation of a Healing Temple, which will offer healing therapies of many different kinds to people in need. Lots of people have helped to clear out wires left by the previous tenants, filled holes, sanded down and painted the many walls of the building. We have also received generous gifts of chairs, tables, carpets, kitchen equipment, cups, plates, pots and pans, as well as images and statues of Goddess. This is a big venture and we are very blessed.

On March 28, the Goddess House hosted an open day, featuring mini-workshops, tours and opportunities to sample some of the services available. Free talks on a range of topics were given, such as Soul Healing, Ecstatic Pregnancy, Goddess Yoga and Herbal Medicine. These talks ran every 30 minutes from 11:00 until 4:00 pm. In effort to remain accessible to the community, a fundraiser was held  Apr. 12. An outreach stall was set up, and donations were collected for the Anam Cara Counseling fund, which provides free counseling to people in need.

Goddess House Kerredwin Room [Courtesy Photo]

Glastonbury is a town with a population of just under 9,000 residents, and its economy is strongly affected by religious and spiritual tourism. Seekers come from around the world to explore the unique landscape that includes the dramatic Glastonbury Tor, Chalice Well Gardens and the White Spring. The High Street is an occult/new age/metaphysical shopping mecca offering specialty bookstores, occult paraphernalia, crystals, herbs, incense and magical supplies, not to mention interesting restaurants and historic pubs.

This reality makes it an ideal location to successfully support the four busy Goddess Temple establishments and related events. This success is also thanks to the dedicated Priestesses and Priests of the Temple, as well as the Melissae, or volunteers, who attend to the two temples and the Madrons, who support Temple work through financial donations.

The Goddess Hall, on Benedict Street (courtesy photo)

The Goddess Hall, on Benedict Street [Courtesy Photo]

The need for healing in the world and a place to focus such healing work brought Kathy Jones and Angie Twydall together to launch the Goddess House. Twydall said:

Priestess Healer Kathy Jones and (I) got to know each other as (we) worked together with others on the special Ceremonial Healing days held by Glastonbury’s Goddess Temple. On these healing days healers and melissae create a dynamic healing space, in which several healers work with one patient, in ways that have benefited many people. We recognised each other as priestess healers of old who had worked together before in different times and places. Healing is so needed in the world and we decided to create a new holistic Goddess Healing and Educational Centre, which can be open to the public everyday. We began to look for suitable buildings and it quickly became clear that the vision of a Goddess Healing Centre was going to manifest! After viewing several buildings on the High Street, we found our new venue. It felt right as soon as we walked in the door. It is called Goddess House and is set over 4 floors combining healing and treatments rooms with educational and workshop spaces.

We asked both Twydall and Jones what it meant to be a part of something as meaningful as the Goddess House. Twydall said, “I feel it is part of my soul’s path to put my energy and passion into co-creating something of beauty, something for everyone, where we come for renewal, re-birth of our physical and spiritual selves.  It is an opportunity in this lifetime to serve, to heal, to love and share sacred space of Goddess with others.”  

Jones responded, “As a priestess it is part of my soul’s calling to bring healing to as many people as I can. I am a Soul Healer and a teacher of healers. I believe in the power of healing to help us become whole.”

In the few short weeks the Goddess House has been open, it has already provided comfort, healing and awareness to visitors. Twydall added, “Everyone who enters Goddess House loves it. There are tears of joy, smiles, gratitude. People sense it is a Temple space and they begin to relax and feel safe. In a short time we have welcomed many new visitors to Glastonbury, who may not have been to anything relating to Goddess before. Goddess House is opening new doorways to Goddess and to Motherworld.”

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[Editor’s NoteThe Wild Hunt welcomes writer and filmmmaker Dodie Graham McKay to its weekly news team. For nearly two years, Dodie has been providing commentary from a Canadian Pagan perspective for our monthly Around the World column, and her hard work has been a welcome addition to the team. Now, she will be joining us more regularly as a dedicated news correspondent and journalist, reporting on both Canadian and world news.]

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SOUTH AFRICA — Members of the South African Pagan Council are celebrating the organization’s decennial this year with a variety of festivities. It is also an opportunity for Pagans worldwide to learn about the efforts of this one organization, and to gain a greater understanding of the nature of modern Paganism in South Africa. Leaders of the SAPC opted to answer questions from The Wild Hunt as a group because of their organizational structure, which they explain in their responses.

Rainbow_BlackThe Wild Hunt:  How does SAPC fund its activities?

South African Pagan Council:  Currently it is done through contributions and payments by individuals, regional events that fund successive events, and the SAPC 10 year Commemoration T-Shirt, the sales of which will go towards funding bigger things.

TWH:  What benefits does someone gain by becoming a member?

SAPC: The members of the SAPC have at their disposal expert advice, trauma councillors who regularly assist members of the community, lessons, intervention on part of the organisation in cases of religious discrimination at school and in the work place, committees and subcommittees that take care of the spiritual needs of the community, spiritual and moral support, discussion groups, lessons from the high priestess, Pagan Freedom Day celebrations as well as the opportunity to take part in the advancement and upliftment of the Pagan banner through personal involvement in the various committees and subcommittees, becoming RMOs [registered marriage officers] for an officially recognised and registered religious organisation, having officially designated clergy to solemnise legally binding marriages and civil unions and affiliated groups to choose from when networking. The SAPC is run on the Arthurian round table principle. We advocate power with, rather than power over. Community building, bridge building, education, academic research and the presentation thereof in summits and conferences presented by the authorities, involvement with the media, are amongst some of the benefits the members of the SAPC enjoy.

TWH:  Has the face of Paganism in South Africa changed in the past ten years? If so, how?

SAPC: The key role players are still there, but there are a myriad of people out there, solitaries and independents that have met on forums/cyber and which have banded together as small covens and those who have maintained their solitary status but exchange ideas and request for assistance over the internet.

TWH: Is the membership of SAPC racially diverse? If it isn’t, is that something that you’d like to see change? Why or why not?

SAPC: Yes, we have several African, Indian and Coloured members but would (without proselytizing) see more folk from various backgrounds, identify as Pagan and join our organisation. We are not Eurocentric or neo-colonialist as many have intimated. The statistics are what they are because we’re still in a phase of education and introduction, but it is already clear that more and more folk find that they find themselves at home under the Pagan banner irrespective of their cultural or racial background. They find that the possibility of eclectically marrying their ways to the celebration of the days in the wheel of seasons and rites of passage, opens up new horizons.

It is for all of us (the Rainbow Nation) a matter of “coming home.”

TWH:  Do you have any information on the number of Pagans in South Africa, and whether that number is growing or declining? How does that compare to the number of members in SAPC?

SAPC: No proper census has ever been done by the authorities as this alternative option is not present in census forms. Any census done on line, between the various groups, is therefore only a marginal indication and cannot be considered to be accurate. Not all Pagans are cyber active. What we have noticed is that there are more and more applications and more and more online members, in our and in other groups. It is evident, therefore, that the movement is growing by leaps and bounds, but we cannot provide exact figures. I would be comfortable in saying, however that the numbers have trebled in the last ten years.

TWH:  Where in South Africa is Paganism most highly concentrated, to your understanding?

SAPC: We would say in the big cities, because there are more people in the cities, but we have members even in the remotest little towns in the countryside. Paganism is said to be the fastest growing religion in our campuses, but once again, we have no figures. Just some sporadic reports in newspapers at University Cities.

TWH:  As for the Pagan Freedom Day Movement events, how many people do you expect to attend these?

SAPC: This depends on many things from weather, the political climate within the Pagan community, funds available (our country is currently in a bit of pinch) and where people decide to attend the event. Some folk have taken to travelling to far-away events in order to meet friends for the first time, to see how it is done in that part of the country, etc. Some travel because they are curious about the activities advertised and decide that because these appeal to them, that they will support those regional organisers on a particular year. Johannesburg is by far our best attended event, every year. Ryan Fallon Young and his wife Nicki Lunawolf Young are absolute gems and the true experts at event organising.

TWH:  What kinds of activities will be involved? Is there included some kind of education component, such as what might be found in Pagan Pride Day events in the USA?

SAPC: The activities include stalls, meditation, competitions, sword fighting, musical entertainment, dancing and drumming around the bonfire, ending off with a circle and spiritual gathering. Talks on Paganism open the event and continue, in the form of demonstrations and lectures during the course of the day.

The events take place in open and public areas so the public at large joins the crowds, participate and of course learn from the talks and from making acquaintances with the Pagans at the event.

TWH:  For those of us unfamiliar with South African geography, would it be possible for an individual to hit all six event sites in one day?

SAPC: No, not unless he has mastered instant teleportation.

South Africa is a medium-sized country, with a total land area of 1 219 090 square kilometres, or roughly equivalent in size to Niger, Angola, Mali or Colombia. It is one-eighth the size of the US, about a third the size of the European Union, twice the size of France and over three times the size of Germany. [Ref: www.southafrica.info/about/facts.htm]

TWH:  What would you say the major SAPC accomplishments have been in its first ten years?

SAPC: SAPRA were the first officially registered organisation in Africa and the SAPC second. We were the first officially registered Pagan Religious Organisation to have a designated Marriage Officer. Clients of the LHRC and key interested party and role players in the field of equal religious rights along with SAPRA, CRL and SALRC. We have taken on schools and corporate companies on the matter of religious equality and succeeded. Our membership has loyally supported our endeavours, such as the exhibition of Art for Human Rights in 2013, part of our support for SAPRA’s 30 Days Advocacy Against Witch Hunts campaign, which we have supported since its very start. We have alongside SAPRA, also been instrumental in stopping the Mpumalanga Witchcraft Bill in 2007 and in working towards the CRL’s proposal this year, for the scrapping of the 1957 WSA. We have published several volumes of Pagan Literature, ipods and mini videos.

We can proudly say that we have spent the last ten years educating people in matters Pagan and occult, participating in symposiums and publishing papers with University Departments of Missiology and Religion countrywide, fighting against human rights abuses, standing up against misinformation in the media, fighting off the waves of Satanic panic, addressing with SAPRA smearing campaigns by religious extremist and the statal bodies which support them and within which they operate, as well as the cancer of exclusivity within our own community, in order to function as the intended umbrella, and operate as per our motto of “Unity Through Diversity,” a reality in which every affiliated group has autonomy and manages itself independently.

TWH:  What would you like to achieve during the next ten years?

SAPC: We would like to continue striving to outdo what we have so far delivered but most of all, of having a central place where we can run a community garden, a soup kitchen and offer low cost accommodation for Pagans and their families who have been hard struck by unemployment and homelessness.

The Convener has also gathered a library of over 5000 Pagan and Esoteric books which would be housed in a library at this centre.

A Pagan temple is also our oldest yet not forgotten dream.

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ANADARKO, Okla. – Two months ago Pagan practitioner Angel Hawks moved with her two children from Texas to the small town of Anadarko, Oklahoma. She was looking for an opportunity to start over after a break-up with her long-term girlfriend and a storm left her home heavily damaged. However, within weeks of moving into her new apartment in Anadarko, Hawks began experiencing repeated vandalism and the hostility of neighbors and teachers. She said that people are targeting her due to her religion.

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

“We don’t deny our faith nor blast it either,” said Ms. Hawks, adding that she lives a normal life. She works at a local store and her children, ages 12 and 14, attend the local public middle school.

Although she doesn’t “blast her faith,” Hawks does perform some practices that are very common in Pagan religions. She meditates.

Hawks said that she and her children meditate under a tree most every day: “My upstairs neighbors yelled from the window ‘devil worshippers’ and said they are calling [Child Welfare].”

Those same neighbors now believe Hawks’ son put a curse on their son and caused him to become ill.

Both of Hawks’ children attend Anadarko Middle School, and she claims that, on Mar. 31, her children were offered Bibles during school hours by agriculture teacher Mr. Edmund. It was reportedly part of a community religious observance called Revival Week. When her children refused the Bibles, Hawks said that she was called into the school.

“It was horrible I was called to school because my son and daughter refused them. My daughter being very proud said she does not need words made up of man. She trusts in what she feels. She didn’t deny god, just the hate [and] the spew,” explained Hawks.

[Courtesy Anadarko Middle School]

[Courtesy Anadarko Middle School]

When contacted, Cindy Hackney, Superintendent of Anadarko Public Schools said, “I have been unable to confirm that Bibles were distributed at Anadarko Middle School by any school employee nor have I received any complaints from any parents or employees about any such activity. I am unsure of the reference to Revival Week activities as there were no school activities related to any form of revival.”

Hawks said the vandalism started soon after that incident. On Apr. 5, she noticed the porch light was broken, leaving her walkway leading to her apartment door in the dark. On the following morning, she saw that someone had spray painted “witch” with a cross on the wall facing her front door. Then, on Saturday, Apr. 9, her apartment was egged.

She called police to report the vandalism, but didn’t feel that they had taken her seriously. “They don’t care,” she said. “Oh no not at all. [It was] more like I bothered them. Told me: ‘Darn kids.’ ” Ms. Hawks added that she doesn’t believe the police took down a formal report.

Hawks also described other ways in which the townspeople are letting her family know that they aren’t welcome due to their religion. Her son is unable to join boys scouts, and the family was told that they could no longer volunteer at the local food bank.

“I was helping out until someone told the Pastor I was a witch,” said Hawks. It was at that point that the pastor of Grace Church said her help was no longer needed.  

The family plans to leave Anadarko as soon as they can save the money to move. Hawks said that most of her extended family is gone; it’s just her and her children. Although she’s on an extremely tight budget, she hopes to save enough money to move within a few months. Until then, they are stuck in a community in which they are feeling increasingly concerned for their safety.

Hawks added, “If I had money and means I would be gone today. I would almost rather be homeless living in a tent then all this hate.” The family is asking for blessings from the Pagan community.

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Update and Additional Information 4/12 4:00 pm ET: The Wild Hunt has attempted to contact both the Police and the Agriculture Teacher. Neither has responded to our calls. Additionally, Ms. Hawks has stated that she only wants community blessings and is not accepting money.

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logo1Over the week, there have been online rumblings that the American Council of Witches is trying, once again, to form. A Facebook page was opened on Sept. 11 and has remained fairly quiet until the past two months. And, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that the page began to receive significant attention, both for and against the council.

The American Council of Witches (ACOW) was originally created in 1973 by an eclectic group of practitioners, many of whom are no longer living. However, as we reported last year, that group, which “convened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, disbanded shortly after, allegedly due to internal divisions.” Then in 2011, a group of people tried to resurrect ACOW but, once again, it folded after “questions were raised about [its] goals, structure, and secrecy.” Then again, in early 2015, a new group of people tried unsuccessfully to launch the council. It ultimately folded due to similar concerns to those posed in 2011.

Since late March, there has been increased traffic to the new ACOW page, which “council members” claim is all that exists at this point. While there are many people who do appear to be eager to join, there are just as many asking the same questions as before, such as, “Who are you?” and, “What are your goals?” In addition, concerns have been raised regarding the thirteen beliefs, originally listed in September. Many of the recent complaints and questions have since been deleted from the page. However, new concerns continue to appear daily, including some people suggesting that this new launch is simply an internet ruse or what has been called “a trolling.”

The Wild Hunt did receive an email from a reported member of the new group. He said, “I have tried to help this new Council and they did not want to take any of my ideas.” He continued on saying that he’d like to clarify the situation before “mistakes are made.”  We have not yet received a second response to our questions and will update the story as needed.

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downloadBBC Radio 4: The World Tonight will be featuring a talk with Doreen Valiente Foundation trustee Ashley Mortimer about the new “Where Witchcraft Lives” exhibition currently open at Preston Manor in Brighton. According to Mortimer, “[The BBC] visited the exhibition yesterday, praised it highly and asked some excellent questions about it – just the sort of thoughts and questions we hoped it would stimulate for people with no knowledge of Paganism when they visit.”

The radio broadcast will also reportedly feature some of Doreen Valiente’s own words as well as an interview with venue officer Paula Rightson. Preston Manor is considered one of “Britain’s spookiest historic houses.” Rightson explained, “Preston Manor has been chosen to display this collection because it’s so compatible with the interests of the last private owner […] [They] were fascinated by Sussex history, archaeology and folklore.” That included the supernatural and the occult. According to Rightson, Valiente herself was very well aware of the owners’ interests and referred to it within her own research and writing.

The BBC Radio 4 will air the interview at 22:00 GMT, after which it will be available for streaming. In addition, Mortimer will be interviewed by by a BBC World program. The air date has not yet been announced.

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Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

With Earth Day only eleven days away, the organizers behind A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment have launched a new effort to increase the number of signatures on the online document.”Help us get 10,000 signatures by Earth Day 2016!”

The site reads, “Pagans can aid in the repair of our environment by teaching how we are part of life on Earth, sharing rituals and ceremonies that foster bonds between ourselves and the rest of the web of life, and instilling a sense of responsibility for how we interact with the ecosystem — all this creating cultures that can sustain our human society today and for generations to come.”

The idea for this community statement was born in the summer 2014, after Covenant of the Goddess released its own environmental statement. That summer, blogger John Halstead began bringing interested people together to craft this statement to reflect a diversity of Pagan thought. The large groups of participants worked together through the following months to write and finalize the document. Then, on Earth Day 2015, it was launched for signatures.

Since that time, the statement has garnered 7,983 signatures from individual people heralding from 80 different countries and has been translated into 16 different languages. In addition, twenty-four Pagan and Heathen organizations from around the world have officially signed the document. Organizers wrote, “As signatories, we commit to use our abilities and resources to promote policies and practices that foster the changes that our world so urgently needs.” They are now looking for increased support in order to reach the goal of 10,000 signatures. They write, “Add your voice to our call to protect all life in this historic moment by signing the statement.” 

In Other News

    • Denton CUUPS announced that it has donated $260 to the creation of the First Pagan Temple in Texas. As we previously reported, Chris Godwin and the local HearthStone Grove ADF launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the land needed to create a physical space for Pagans in their area. HearthStone’s vision and history are detailed on the fundraiser page. Denton CUUPS, which is also located in Texas, understands the importance of a dedicated gathering space. The organization ran into arson problems at its own ritual space in December 2015. Regarding HearthStone’s efforts, Denton CUUPS said, “We encourage others to contribute as they’re able.”
    • Artist Helga Hedgewalker’s work was chose as April’s Artist of the Month at Blick’s in Roseville, Minnesota. Hedgewalker is a Gardnerian high priestess and Witch “with decades of professional experience in print design, illustration, book design, package design, web graphics and advertising.” She calls all of her creative work “offerings of Beauty to the Gods.” On display at Blick’s are five of these “offerings” each of which depicts a representation of a deity or divine spirit. These include Star Goddess of the East, Green God of the South, Horned God of the West, Earth Goddess of the North, and Yemayá, Our Lady of the Oceans, Mother of All Life.
    • The Nathaniel Johnstone Band has announced the release of their fifth full-length album. The new album is called Mother Matrix and features eleven new songs that are an “exploration of that thought process.” The Nathaniel Johnstone Band’s sound is described as “crossing boundaries” as a “blend of European, Middle Eastern, and South American music with Jazz, Rock, Surf, Folk, Gothic, and Steampunk influences – all the while exploring the realms of myth, folklore, and magick.”

  • Authors John Matthews and Caroline Wise have a newly released book called The Secret Lore of London. As described by publisher Hodder and Stoughton, “London is an ancient city, whose foundation dates back literally thousands of years into the legendary prehistory of these islands. Not surprisingly it has accumulated a large number of stories, both historic and mythical, many of which, though faithfully recorded at the time, have lain almost forgotten in dusty libraries throughout the city.” The new anthology explores these mysteries with the help of “key figures in contemporary paganism and earth mysteries.”  
  • From the blogosphere, John Beckett of Under the Ancient Oaks shares a review of the Gordon White’s new book The Chaos Protocols published by Llewellyn. Beckett writes, “This is not a book that tells you how to become one of the financially elite. It is not a book that tells you how to blow it all up or how to live off the grid. This is a book that shows you how to live and work within our current system and maintain your integrity.”
  • Lastly, members of the Pagan Federation International will be gathering in the Netherlands this weekend for its 16th annual conference. The guest speaker is Julian Vayne, who will be giving two talks – one on ‘Chaos Magic and Witchcraft’ and the other on ‘The Medicine Path – psychedelics and spirituality.’ The conference will take place at “Lunteren in the beautiful woods of the National Park ‘de Hoge Veluwe.’ Door open at 9 a.m.
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