CANADA — The presence of a chaplain is not an extraordinary thing on a Canadian university campus, in a prison, or at a hospital. In recent years, it has become more common across the country to see minority religions being represented. At the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Wiccan chaplain Samuel Wagar volunteers his time to serve the Pagan and Wiccan campus population. He also participates in any interfaith opportunities that arise to create understanding and spiritual growth opportunities for the greater Pagan community.

University of Alberta Wiccan Chaplin Samuel Wagar [Photo Credit: Ed Kaiser]

In recent weeks, that work is keeping Wagar very busy. He and the team of chaplains at the University of Alberta were on call to provide services for the more than 1,000 evacuees from the Fort McMurray fires, who found shelter on the university campus. This past Sunday, Wagar and members of his temple attended Edmonton Pride Day festivities. The celebration included an interfaith service.

In a Skype interview with The Wild Hunt, Wagar described his participation in this service as well as the valuable collaborations that are often born out of events just like this. Wager said:

Last Sunday I was part of the interfaith service for Pride Day, and that is something that our church has done for the past three years. I get these opportunities because I am a chaplain; I get introduced to people and I get opportunities to collaborate with them. There were seven of my temple members there at this event, to engage with other religious communities, that is very valuable for all of us.

The issues of the world are too big and dirty for any one approach. We really have to find a way to pool our approaches to learn from each other. From my perspective as a Wiccan Priest, it indicates to what extent we are now considered a normal part of the conversation, and that is a change from a number of years ago. It was the suggestion of the United Church minister involved in coordinating the service that we should do a Wiccan web weaving as the central ritual element in the ceremony. So I ended up leading this central element.

We were talking about connections and intersections and the way people have different identities and that these different identities lead to different connections with people. So it was an obvious and very good symbol for that kind of connection. But, it wasn’t a suggestion that came from me, it came from this Christian guy! It is because they recognize the particular expertise and particular ways of approaching things that Wicca has, as being a valuable part of the conversation in a way that didn’t happen, even ten years ago. It wasn’t tokenism, it was obvious that this was a very good metaphor for what we were trying to talk about in the larger ceremony.

Across the country in Toronto, the presence of Pagan chaplains on campus dates back to the 1980s. Brian Walsh has been one of two active chaplains at the University of Toronto since 2002. He has also served as a spiritual care worker at a hospital for the last ten years.

Pagan Chaplain, Brian Walsh (photo by Rebecca Weber)

He clarified these two designations in a recent email exchange with The Wild Hunt. Walsh explained:

While the two words are often used interchangeably, especially in the US and in faith-based environments, the two roles are quite distinct and here in Canada they are being separated more and more. So, while it is certainly the role of clergy and chaplains to stand as tradition-bearers, to form a bridge between the tradition behind them and the person in front of them; the role of a spiritual care provider is to bracket the tradition behind them, and maybe even their own opinions about the divine, in order to facilitate the meaning-making of the person in front of them, irrespective of how that relates to their own or anyone else’s tradition.

Given that religion can be not only a resource, but also a source of problems; having a person whose scope of practice is focused on the individual rather than their cultus of origin can be vital to enhancing a person’s spirituality, agency, and wellness.

The process of becoming a chaplain in Canada varies by region and also by where the chaplain will be working. Walsh said:

The process in universities and private institutions is highly variable, but hospitals usually require training through and membership in CASC, the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care.

Prisons and some other institutions make choices that may be strongly influenced by multi-faith organizations, whose members might be primarily interested in insuring their particular group has representation, and only secondarily interested in inter-faith dialogue; though recently organizations like Kairos (an ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights), are trying to insure quality of care while still maintaining a faith-based structure (22% of prison chaplains today are hired through Kairos, including a pagan or two).

In most instances, becoming a pagan chaplain, or a spiritual care provider who happens to be pagan, requires training beyond what is normally offered within this or that tradition as well as community support. I have occasionally received inquiries by people less interested in the work and more interested in seeing if it a short cut to status in the community… it’s not.

What comes after chaplaincy? For Wagar, the next stage of evolution will be the launch of his new venture: The Edmonton Wiccan Seminary. This institution will train Wiccan clergy to lead and establish public temples, provide Wiccan religious education for the general public, and also publish resources for religious education on the Wicca. The seminary will be an independent body in agreement with the Congregationalist Witchcraft Association of Canada, a federal organization founded by Wagar and his coven in 1991. This organization has provincial offshoots in British Columbia, Alberta (CWAA) and Saskatchewan. Membership into any of these groups will not be a prerequisite to enrollment in the Seminary, but ordination into CWAA will be available to successful graduates.

Wagar explained his rationale for creating the seminary, saying:

For many years I have realized that well-meaning bibliophiles don’t necessarily have the formal or systematic theological training and understanding or training and understanding in things like group dynamics, bylaws, organizational stuff, all things that if we are serious, we need to do. I’m a part of a minority tendency in the Wiccan movement that wants this stuff, most of us don’t. It’s institutionalization for lack of a better word and hopefully in a way that doesn’t exclude those people who aren’t interested in the institutions, but provides supplements to them.

The seminary is not about training coven leaders, but temple leaders. I really don’t like projects that are the project of only one person and that live and die with their enthusiasm. It will initially be my project and I will stay the dominant person for the first five or six years. Hopefully by that point there will be other people to take it over. I’ll be 60 later this year, so I figure this will be a nice retirement project and then I can go off an cultivate my roses or something….not likely given my history.

The papers for the seminary are about to be submitted and, once processed, The Edmonton Wiccan Seminary will be an incorporated not-for-profit entity. Registration for students will open in September, with classes starting January 2017. The real-time experience will be based in Edmonton, but there is potential for online classes. Mentorship opportunities are also being negotiated with the affiliated CWA groups in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Times have changed in Canada and the number of Pagan chaplains is growing. Wagar looks back and candidly remembers his first thoughts about his calling to serve his community this way:

When I started this chaplain stuff, I was actually a little nervous, and a bit defensive I thought I may have to defend myself, and our beliefs. It has been extremely positive, almost without exception. What seems to have happened, is that we have crossed a watershed. Wicca and Paganism is now a respectable, small, religious current.

CLEAR LAKE, Wis. — Judy Olson-Linde and Nels Linde are longtime members of the Pagan community in the Midwest U.S., and one of the things this married couple is known for are large community rituals, which they often organize at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering and Sacred Harvest Festival. After 20 years of facilitating large public rituals, the couple has written a book, Taking Sacred Back, so that others may benefit from their practical experience in this area and run rituals of their own.

Taking Sacred BackWe caught up with Nels Linde as they were packing for Wic-Can Fest, where they will be putting their skills to use. Perhaps the most important takeaway from that conversation was that any ritual organizer needs to know the audience.

“Judy and I have worked doing community ritual, mainly at festivals and in public, for 20 years,” Linde explained. “The book is based on our experience, and documents what worked, and what didn’t work. Anyone who has been to a public or open ritual has experienced something powerfully transformative, but also has had that moment of feeling, ‘I want that hour back.’ We’re trying to provide a resource to avoid attempts that fall flat.”

One of the points that they learned the hard way, Linde said, is that rituals need a clearly defined end point. “We designed one ritual that was very powerful,” he recalled. “Everything flowed smoothly, everyone was energized, but no one knew it had ended and no one wanted to leave. It’s a good problem to have,” he said, at least in the grand scheme of things, but after watching some 200 people milling about they retooled that particular ritual. When they held it again at PSG in 2012, the roughly 800 participants didn’t have any trouble understanding when it was done.

Taking Sacred Back turns that experience of trial and error into a manual of best practices. The book breaks ritual down into its component parts and provides both examples and exercises to give the reader the opportunity to understand the principles and practice the skills. That includes discussions on the importance of rehearsing ahead of time, which for complex rituals should include some model participants so the organizers will find out if they’re going to act as predicted. Rehearsals also allow for blocking, which is the arrangement of where participants will stand and move during the ritual just as it’s done in theatrical productions.

[Courtesy Nels Linde]

[Courtesy Nels Linde]

Creativity can be spurred by the restrictions imposed by the space, the purpose, or the expectations of the participants, according to Linde. “One large ritual we’ve done at our home for Samhain involves burning a large effigy,” he said by way of example. “Each year we’ve worked on that same theme, but did it differently.” The limits created by a specific tradition, the physical ability of the participants, or even the time allotted are challenges that actually drive creativity, he said.

Scaling a ritual up and down for different numbers of participants is another area of focus. “Certain activities and processes only work well with small groups of people,” Linde said, or must be adapted for larger numbers. He gave the example of pathworking, which in a small group may be done individually, but at a bigger scale might only be practical if several people undergo it simultaneously. That’s closely related to another principle they espouse, which is to eliminate idle time during ritual. “No one wants to wait around,” he said. “Always have something happening the keeps people engaged.”

These are interrelated issues in the ritual structure. An activity that’s not adapted to the scale can easily lead to the entire experience dragging, and lots of bored people waiting around for their turn. Rehearsals can expose such problems before they happen on the big night.

While the included rituals come from the couple’s own experience, Linde said that they strove to avoid shackling the book to any particular tradition, because they want it to be accessible to Pagans and polytheists of all stripes. Regardless of the gods (or lack thereof) and practices involved, the mechanics of moving people through space and time while engaging their attention are relatively stable. Linde and Olson-Linde describe themselves as eclectic Wiccans and recognize the challenge of trying to write something that would be helpful to anyone under the Pagan umbrella, or simply in its shadow.

“Even references to directions, genders, and deities can be offensive to some,” Linde said. Just as with designing a ritual, they had to keep the scope of their book’s audience in mind throughout. Due to the many rituals in which they’ve participated during their years on the Pagan festival circuit, they were able make this point clear.

How-to illustration [Mickie Mueller]

How-to illustration [Courtesy Mickie Mueller]

Linde said that he and his wife have backgrounds and skills that are complementary for ritual creation. “Judy is more the inspiration and the words, and I’m the organization and prop person.”

Props — how to use them, and how to make them without breaking the bank — are important enough a subject that an entire chapter is devoted to them. Having a team makes it possible to draw on diverse skills and perspectives, shoring up one another and strengthening the final product. Not everyone needs to be a chant writer, a carpenter, or a choreographer. “We’ve been lucky to have each other as a team,” he said.

This particular team tries to be accessible online, as well. In addition to posting book tour dates on their own web site, they maintain a Facebook group called “Ritualista Roundtable.

Taking Sacred Back was published by Llewellyn in April, and received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. According to senior acquisitions editor Elysia Gallo, that’s a big deal.

[I]t’s always been hard to get our witchcraft or Pagan books reviewed in the first place, as the religion category includes books on all types of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and of course general spirituality, New Age spirituality, Eastern religions, and much more. Recently reviewed book topics range from spiritual decluttering to healing shame, from queerness to the Charleston church shooting; it’s a broad category. I think there is a tendency by the mainstream press to view Wicca and Paganism as secondary in status.

Gallo went on to say, “I’m always really excited to get any review in PW, but to get a starred review is outstanding for us.” While there’s no easy way to search for that particular distinction, Gallo is only aware of two other metaphysical books which made the same cut, Wicca for Beginners, Faith and Magick in the Armed Forces, and Doreen Valiente, Witch.

What captured the reviewer’s imagination is impossible to say, but it begins by referencing an evocative quote from the introduction, one which Linde provided in full.

After you have been naked in front of 150 people you no longer worry about making mistakes. Besides cementing our relationship as a ritual team, it verified an oft spoken piece of Pagan folk wisdom about ritual. If you want a powerful ritual either include a nude person or burn something. Do both and you are guaranteed success. In this one we did both.

The truth that is espoused in Taking Sacred Back is that, while that axiom may have some validity, it’s still all about the audience.

PALO ALTO, Calif. — A six-month jail sentence for a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has sparked widespread outrage. Critics are saying his sentence, which deviated from sentencing guidelines of two to fourteen years, is far too lenient. While that sentence has generated protests, recall efforts, and conversations about bias in the legal system, it has generated something else within the Pagan community – a call to hex the perpetrator, his father, and the judge who granted the sentence.

Brock Allen Turner, 20, was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault including sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. Turner was arrested on the Palo Alto campus in January 2015 after two graduate students found him thrusting against an unconscious, partially clothed woman behind a dumpster outside of a fraternity party.

The lighter than normal sentence will be served in a county jail rather than the state prison, which is also a deviation from standard sentencing. Judge Aaron Persky said the defendant had “less moral culpability” because he was drunk, and that a light sentence was appropriate since Turner had already suffered from “anxiety” from the intense media attention on the case. There have also been allegations that the judge gave a lighter sentence than the minimum because Persky, like the defendant, is a Stanford alumnus and student athlete.

Adding to the controversy, Dan Turner, father of the Brock Turner, said in a letter to the court that his son is paying a “steep price” for “20 minutes of action.”

The judge, who gave Turner the light sentence, is now facing a recall campaign by a fellow Stanford law professor and a petition supporting a recall has gathered close to 350,000 signatures as of press time.

At the same time, some in the Pagan community have chosen to take a different approach to action.

Melanie Hexen is inviting others to join her June 7 at 10 pm CT to place a hex on Brock Turner, Dan Turner, Judge Persky, while sending love and support to the victim of the attack. The Facebook event says participants can perform the hex in their own home and need only a black candle, a black string, and photos of those to be hexed.

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

Ms. Hexen says the idea came from discussions that she had with her coven sisters about the injustice of the sentencing, the unrepentant nature of Brock Turner, and the comments from Dan Turner equating raping someone with an object to “20 minutes of action.”

Hexen said, “I think it will raise awareness of not only this particular case but of this rape culture we live in.”

She said that the her action is akin to Christians taking action through prayer, and it is a way to bring women together by doing something powerful. “And witches will stand together against injustice.”

The group hopes the hex results in Brock Turner becoming impotent, his father suffering from nightmares, and for the judge to lose his job.

The event, which was created less than 24 hours ago, is now gaining momentum. Over 100 people have said they will participate with many more interested.

Lasara Firefox Allen, author of Jailbreaking the Goddess, said that she’s participating because justice for women is rarely served from within the patriarchy. Allen said, “This gut-wrenching violation that keeps being compounded is an injustice to one woman, and at the same time an injustice to all women. We need to fight for justice with all we have. Magick is a tool we can, and must, wield to bring down the patriarchy. Brick by brick.”

J Setkheni-itw says the action is important even if a person doesn’t believe in magick or prayer:

I see Witches and Pagans whenever this subject comes up talk about how we need to just be patient and let the threefold law or karma take over, that eventually the perpetrator will somehow see the results of their actions and all will be right in the universe.  I really don’t want to be judgmental of other peoples’ beliefs, but I feel like anybody with even a minute grasp of history can see that this is not true, that people in power who harm and oppress people are more often than not validated in that behavior and allowed to continue harming and oppressing people.Thousands of rapists have gone on to live lives where they received more sympathy than retribution, including high-profile repeat offenders who live and die rich and famous; am I to believe that all of these people are experiencing some deep internal turmoil that constitutes a watered down karmic response?  I absolutely do not.

Pamela Jones says she’s participating because she’s part of the Social Justice Warrior Witchcraft collective of witches, who do periodic workings for social justice. Others, like Nevada Hardy, are joining because they were themselves the victim of a sexual assault and “…know what it feels like to be a victim without a voice.”

There are Pagans critical of hexing or who feel caution is the better course. Jeanine Hazelwood posted on the event. Hazelwood said, “Politely declining, and respectfully pointing out a differing view on the issue. If I am going to put precious energy into a working, it’s going to be to help change the culture that creates asses like these men and helps empower the women they damage. Hexing these idiots may ‘feel good’ but in the end it doesn’t help the victims or prevent this from happening again to someone else.”

While Meagan Angus, who says she’s a Hedge Witch and Urban Shaman, was more ambivalent, “Not sure if I will hex or send white light. Ultimately, even he has to reach enlightenment at some point. But he also needs to be stopped. Same goes for the dad and the defense lawyer.”

Hexen says she isn’t worried about a negative consequence rebounding on her for this working and feels confident of the morality of her actions, “I’m an experienced witch. I fear no rebound in this working. And if I’m to receive some sort of new age karma, I’ll take it for the greater good. I have strong shoulders. And stronger magick.”

When asked why she’s leading this action, Hexen simply said, “Witches do the work that needs to be done.”

SALEM, Mass. — Wiccan Priest and Salem resident Richard Watson was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail for the “possession of heroin with intent to distribute.” Watson was arrested Aug. 7, 2015, after a sting operation led police to his home where they found, reportedly, a total of 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of heroin and “indications that the drugs were being distributed, including packaging materials, cash and cell phones.” Watson cooperated with police, and eventually pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking.

When news of his arrest broke, Watson’s religious community was divided in its reactions. Some people offered support and other didn’t. Our Lord and Lady of the Trinacrian Rose Church, the Wiccan organization in which he was involved, immediately revoked his clergy credentials. High priestess Lori Bruno said, “I still hope that may be there is no truth in this, but as it stands right now, to protect our people, I have to remove him from clergy status. I hope that he is innocent of this, but should he not be, this revocation will stand.”

As noted by the Salem News, Watson’s attorney and prosecutor Christina Ronan reached a “plea agreement” which resulted in the lower charge of “possession with intent to distribute.” He then pleaded guilty to that charge and, on May 31, was sentenced to serve 2 1/2 years in jail; “two of which he must serve, with the balance suspended for three years, during which he will be on supervised probation.”

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13102776_1590795894545776_7938724097986206565_nBALTIMORE — In April, the birth of a new day-long convention was announced. The event, titled Dawtas of the Moon: Black Witch Convention will be hosted in Baltimore, Maryland in October 29, 2016. In a Facebook post, organizer Omitola Y. Ogunsina writes, “This will be a gathering of sisterhood, opportunities to expand knowledge through the many workshop and to enjoy the company of like minds and spirit.”

According to the Eventbrite page, this unique convention will tentatively run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET and host speakers, workshops, rituals and vendors. Ogunsina wrote, “We are calling all Shamans, Healers, Priestess, Witches, of color […] The time has come to make sure our voices are heard. The time has come to step out of the back room. The time has come for us to connect, grow, learn, heal, and share our knowledge and sisterhood energy. Sisters across the globe are reconnecting to nature and indigenous healing and are looking to reach out to other sisters of like minds and like energy.”

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20160602_120947_1464891060787DENVER — As we previously reported, Circle Sanctuary members Michelle Castle and Tiffany Andes have previously dedicated themselves and their careers to working with patients as hospital chaplains. When we spoke to them in April, both women were also finishing up their work toward a Masters of Divinity degree (MDiv) from the Iliff School of Theology. And, this past weekend, they graduated. We were able to reach them to ask how it all went.

Andes said, “There is a tremendous sense of completion you get from setting a goal and achieving it. When I started the MDiv program at Iliff four years ago I had so many reasons why it was important. Those reasons haven’t changed, but now I also realize how I have grown from the experience. In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity degree is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America. It is important for me now to carry on the work of spiritual care, but also educating and being in dialogue with others about what Paganism means as a faith system and how we as Pagans integrate into the professional field.”

Castle said, “I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had over the last three years at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. I completed the Master of Divinity degree in a space that was welcoming and open to my path and challenged me to bring my most authentic self. I thank those individuals who have supported me on this journey and to
Circle Sanctuary for the continued support as I continue on my path as a hospital chaplain.”

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Cara Schulz, during a day or door knocking

Wild Hunt Journalist Cara Schulz has announced that she will be running for office again in Burnsville, Minnesota. In 2014, Schulz ran for city council and lost to the incumbent by a small margin. During the 2014 campaign, she did not hide that her religion is Hellenismos. In a follow-up opinion piece for The Wild Hunt, Schulz said that, even though she lost the election, “our religious community won in many ways.”  She went on to encourage other Pagans and Heathens to run for local political office.

Now, Schulz is taking her own advice and running again. On May 31, she announced that she would again be running for a position on Burnsville’s city council. In a Facebook post, she said, “Eight candidates are running for 2 open seats (no incumbent) which means there will be a primary on August 9th.” She is optimistic about her chances.

In Other News

  • Can’t find a copy of the new Witches Almanac Coloring book? Publisher and distributor Red Wheel/Weiser sold out of the book faster than expected. On May 29, it was announced that they were already in the second printing after three short months. The new book takes images from the popular and long-lived Witches Almanac and re-fashions them as coloring pages aimed at adults, who are enjoying this new popular and therapeutic hobby. In light of the book’s popularity, author Theitic asked fans to share “their favorite page to color.” He said that his vote was for the first woodcut because it “brings back memories of the old Almanac.”
  • In March 2017, the Pagan Educational Network, Inc. will present the Earth-Centered Clergy ConferenceDave Sassman writes, “Join us in strengthening your skills to minister to your communities.” The conference is focused on clergy training and related topics, but is open to anyone. As an example of the event’s mission, Sassman explained, “Part of the focus […] will be to teach those in the Pagan/Earth Based Faith Community who are ordained or on a path to ordination or are in the role of High Priest/ess, to serve their ageing community members at life’s transition and assisting those left behind.” The event is scheduled to be held at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center in Indianapolis, Indiana from March 9-12, 2017. Additional information can be found on its Facebook page
  • Another new event has just been announced. The first annual Mystic South conference is scheduled for July 2017 and will be held at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta, Georgia. Lead organizer Star Bustamonte explained, “Last spring, a few of us Southern Pagans were gathered at a local festival discussing the various conferences and festival goings-on. During that discussion, it became very clear that we all wished for a Southern-based conference. Since there is no such event to meet that need, we decided to create it.”  According to the site, the event will include rituals, music, workshops, lectures, vendors and will also host the Pagan and Polytheist Educational Research Symposium (PAPERS), an academic-focused lecture tract. More information will be available on the website as it is made public.
  • Rev. Elena Rose isn’t letting grass grow under her feet after graduating and being ordained. She is now preparing to hit the road this fall for the “Queer & Trans Artists of Color Launch Party & Tour.” She and Nia King are working on volume 2 of a book series that “documents and shares the important artistic and cultural work being done by living queer and trans artists of color.” They have opened a GoFundMe campaign to help sponsor the project and the book tour.
  • The opening of Pagan Spirit Gathering 2016 is drawing closer every day. Organizers have extended the registration deadline to June 10 for anyone who may have missed the opportunity to buy their passes.

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

va-largeseal RICHMOND, Va. — In an update to a previous story, Virginia resident Robert C. Doyle was sentenced to 17.5 years for “for robbery, conspiracy, and possessing firearms as a felon.” Doyle was originally charged in November 2015 along with Ronald Beasley Chaney and Charles Halderman, both of whom will be sentenced this month.

During the investigation and initial hearings, the FBI reported that the three men were involved with a white supremacist organization and also practicing Ásatrú. At that time, local and national Heathens immediately responded to those media reports in order to combat negative publicity.

According to the more recent news, the FBI actually used this particular case detail to help the investigation. As was reported, “[Doyle] was contacted in October by a member of the Ásatrú religion who said he was coming to the Richmond area for a job and needed a place to stay. Doyle helped him out, not knowing he was an informant.” Those conversations were recorded and helped lead to the arrest.


  • Need a reading? There’s an app for that. In an article titled “Covens versus Coders” Broadly discusses the frustrations that some modern Witches have with the new generation of digital fortune tellers. Journalist Kari Paul writes, “With thousands of reviews on some of the top occult apps, it’s clear many of these programs have amassed a large user base. However, some seasoned witches are skeptical that their spiritual traditions can be successfully converted into code.”
  • The Satanic Temple Los Angeles is planning to  “announce its presence in the city of Lancaster California with an introductory Satanic Ritual” on 6-6-16. The organization goes on to explain that they will be using GPS to place a pentagram around the entire city of Lancaster for both its protection and as a “solemn promise” that the temple stands with the city.
  • According to the Abilene-Reporter News, local Brainbridge Island craftswoman Sally Noedel has become overwhelmed with orders for Trump “VooDoo” dolls. Noedel has been making a variety of political figures but, in recent months, the orders for Trump dolls have become so high that she had to stop all other crafts work and has contracted with a screen printing company. The “Trumpy” dolls are packaged with book of “VooDoo” spells. In the article, she talks about the unexpected sales growth and added “They don’t have to stick it with pins. They could just cuddle it. Maybe cast happy spells on it.” Noedel predicts that the high sales will continue well into the fall.


  • In the BBC Travel edition, writer Inka Piegsa-Quischotte shared her trip to a small “cursed village” in Spain. In the article, Piegsa-Quischotte details her experience in Trasmoz, a city with a long Witchcraft history. To share that history as well as the modern manifestations of magic in Trasmoz, Piegsa-Quischotte spoke with a local modern Witch, Lola Ruiz Diaz, who said, “To be a Witch today is a badge of honour.”
  • Early this year at Ankara University in Turkey, a group of women formed a group known as “The Campus Witches.” They are reportedly “a network of female university students who urge women to stand up against male violence and sexual harassment.” As shown in a YouTube video, the women often “take matters into their own hands” and confront accused attackers. According to the news report, the group’s slogan is “Never rely on a prince! When you need a miracle, pin your hopes on a Witch.” Like many other women before them, the Campus Witches are using the icon of the witch to empower their progressive movement.
  • The Huffington Post shared an article about Haitian Vodou Priestess Manbo Katy, who is the subject of recent documentary by Broadly. Katy works locally as a respected healer, both for spiritual and physical ailments. She says, “I’m always there for everyone. Even when their problems seem overwhelming, I always let them know that one day things will change.”

  • Are the Estonians a nation of Neo-Pagans? Writer Anna-Maria Zarembok describes how the pre-Christian traditions and beliefs have survived in the country through the coming of Christian influence, war and Soviet occupation. She writes, “Estonians maintained a traditional culture of neo-Paganism that has continued to affect Estonian culture, beliefs and traditions to this day.”
  • Traditional and folk healers are now being asked to join Christian pastors and the medical community to help heal or assist those with mental illness in rural parts of Kenya. Many of these illnesses have long been attributed to the practice of Witchcraft, curses or demons. As a result, the afflicted are ignored and do not get assistance of any kind. The program is brand new and sponsored by the Africa Mental Health Foundation, a Nairobi-based nongovernmental organization, the Makueni County government, U.S.-based Columbia University, and a grant from the Canadian government.

Art, Music, Culture

  • In April, The New York Times reported on a European Music Archaeology Project that is recreating ancient instruments. Among those instruments are the Scandinavian war horn, the carnyx, vulture bone flutes, ancient bag pipes, and replica of a instrument found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. “If you reconstruct a sword, no one apart from a homicidal maniac could use it for the purposes intended. But reconstruct an instrument, and anyone can experience it,” said trombonist John Kenny.
  • Ghanaian Artist Azizaa is using her talent and creativity to challenge the religious status quo in her country.  Ghana is considered one of the most religious nations in the world. Back in September, she was interviewed by Fader journalist Benjamin Lebrave about her work and her mission. She said, “How can anyone of African descent be worshiping the same tool used to uselessly murder their ancestors?”  The article shares her video “Black Magic Woman,” which directly addresses this topic.
  • As reported by a number of news sources, The Wheel of Time is finally going to make it to television. A pilot aired with little fanfare in 2015, after which a legal battle began over the television rights. In April, Robert Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal announced that these legal issues are now resolved and the project is back on.
  • Lastly, for your enjoyment, we share the following video starring violinist Lindsey Stirling, who surprised a crowd of people on the street with a dazzling performance.

[The Wild Hunt welcomes back guest journalist Zora Burden, who conducted an in-depth interview with artist, author and hypnotherapist Iona Miller. Burden spoke with Miller specifically on the subject of sacred sexuality and the reclaiming of the body and sexual self  – a topic that is rarely addressed publicly within a positive framework and is more likely to be found at the center of controversy. Is there room in our culture for the understanding and acceptance of ritual, sacred and religious sexual practice? If so, how? We present part one of two.]

Iona Miller photo 1

Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

Iona Miller is a clinical hypnotherapist and multimedia artist whose interest in esoterics began in Ojai with Krishnamurti and the Theosophists, and continued with American pioneers of magick and specializes in extraordinary human potential. Her work and studies fuse esoterics, quantum physics and depth psychology. Miller’s writing includes essays and manifestos for many academic journals and the popular press. Her award winning, prolific work has been recognized as pioneering and innovative in the fields of religious doctrine, science, psychology, and the arts.

Miller serves on several Advisory Boards for science journals and established CAM medical programs. She is published in Pagan and pop magazines, like Green Egg, Nexus, and Paranoia. She has worked in intelligence, parapsychology, and media ecology with many experts, bridging the cultural gap between the arts and life-sciences. Her books include: The Modern Alchemist: A Guide To Personal Transformation (1994), The Magical and Ritual Use of Perfume (1990), Shamanism, Ancestors and Transgenerational Integration (2016). She currently enjoys retirement in Southern Oregon on the Rogue River.

Zora Burden:  How would you best describe ‘healthy sex’?

Iona Miller: The symbolic meaning of sex changes over time. Our models of sexuality are in flux. For example, the sexual revolution is now viewed critically in retrospect, having failed to produce the freedom, happiness, and ecstasy it once promised. Instead it made other issues more conscious, including new forms of inhibition, sexual abuse and violence, gender differences, and disease potential.

Conflicts are associated with power and control, subordination, desire, arousal, and love. Everyone has their own love style. We are fundamentally psychophysical beings, and the mind is the biggest sexual organ. Sacred sex is just part of a more integral worldview and a joyous expression of nature in the language of gesture, action, and communication. It is the feeling of eros, the relational function, and the harmony of drama. Eros is the passionate joy not only for another or a sexual lover, but even for things and animals. The essential archetype of woman and her autonomy remains intact, in a self-contained, multi-faceted femininity, despite our patriarchal culture. Orgasm is both practical and eternal, earthy and divine.

ZB: How do we readdress the stereotyped and distorted concepts of sexuality in the Western world?

IM: Language is a lens and we can increase our sexual vocabulary and repertoire to include the symbolic language of the unconscious, which Jung linked to the “royal marriage,” — a union of opposites. Such polarity in sex is not a gender issue, because we all have male and female elements in our psychophysical being. Some methods require both parties to share the psychophysical process while others can be done quietly on the inner planes. We need to be in rapport and resonance with ourselves, the known or unknown partner, and the cosmos. Each method has its own symbolism, practices, and goals. We can awaken and free the potential genius for love that lies within us all.

We should bear in mind that no sex is really “casual.” Science has shown that the cells of others can colonize our bodies, eggs, and mind, permanently injecting us with the genetic material of both random and relationally intimate partners. Babies of current partners have been found with the germ plasm from former partners. Male children ‘colonize’ our minds with their DNA during gestation and never ‘move out.’ That can be so even if the baby doesn’t come to term. Cells also migrate to the mother’s muscle, thyroid, liver, heart, kidney and skin. The theosophists used to talk of the effects of ‘sharing auras,’ but acquiring such cells is more permanent than etheric connection, as long as 40 years.

ZB: What is your opinion of those who seek healing through professional sex workers?

IM: Healing is good to find wherever one can get it. Sometimes even partnered individuals seek a sex therapist to work through psychosexual issues. They help retrain the mindbody to feel safe and employ new self-regulation techniques. ‘The Holy Whore’ or sacred prostitute notion was popularized late last century in transpersonal psychologies. It spread into pop culture. But now the idea is being revisioned again in psychology. The whole labeling thing is probably a hangover from more religious times that we have failed to shake off. We are a culture in transition. It is just one image among many in which to find one’s ‘power,’ –an animating principle.

ZB: How can we reclaim our bodies from abuse, objectification, or dissociation using spiritual or esoteric techniques?

IM: Techniques for reclaiming the body include sacred sex, hypnosis, embedded tissue memory work, and kinesthetic arts. Sex can also be enhanced by a variety of aesthetic and therapeutic means, including the 64 sexual arts, described in ancient literature. As ever, sex can be a double-edged sword, hurting, healing, or initiating, and that choice remains ours. It remains a challenge throughout our life-span. Such issues, including inequality and aggression, have become a greater concern than sex as a metaphor for happiness. The key dynamics are dissociation and association. New cultural forms are emerging. Fear of transgression is widespread.

As a therapist, I would suggest that the interaction is much clearer in practice if a person has done their own personal work on the related issues, rather than playing them out unconsciously in relationships. Naturally, to a greater or lesser extent we continue to project and let others ‘carry’ parts of our own potential. Desire is programmed, and the ‘object’ is merely a (changing) means to an end, and sometimes self-deception. Sex has a shadow that goes by many names including sex and relationship addictions. There is no shortage of ‘intimacy coaches’ or workshop instruction in the erotic and relational arts. Like all rites of passage, it is a matter of crossing the threshold from one state of consciousness to another by encountering the life force and unconscious. Like the French ‘petit mort,’ it involves the death of the old self and symbolic birth or rebirth of the new self-possessed identity.  From robbing rituals to disrobing, we are preceded by eons of human sexual practice of presentation, and gifting or offering.

We should also not lose sight of the fact that a big part of our sexuality takes place in our dreams, from which we can draw inspiration and self-knowledge otherwise hidden. We may even dream of ourselves as ‘prey’ when we are not victims in life. There are many facets of femininity but we don’t have to act them all out. Psychological space is the edge of freedom. We can reclaim the divinity of our bodies that may have been lost in a profane world that criticizes, abuses, represses, or thwarts our sexual expression. We can heal any shame-based attitudes, romantic assumptions, obsolete programming, and dissociations, or the wounds and trauma inflicted on us by the toxic behaviors of others. We can banish sexual ‘ghosts’ and learn to bring our whole selves into the sexual experience. Wounding opens us to compassion.

Collage by Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

Collage by Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: With the suppression of Goddess religions throughout history, how can women reclaim their divinity through their sexuality?

IM: Actually, in ancient Sumer, the Dragon Queen outranked her male partner, so who is serving whom? The holy female as primordial image has always been with us. The Feminine is always available for identification and exploration as one of many roles we engage. If those opposites are ’at war’ in your own subconscious you may suffer. Gaining awareness of this split goes a long way toward changing attitudes and behavior, even against an archaic cultural undertow of sexism.

Various religions, including Gnosticism, were judged heretical by the Church. This exile of the free feminine led to degradation, dividing nature and humanity. It’s hard to say how “divinely” women were treated in practical terms, even in the era of the Goddess. Every marriage goes through a phase of power-struggle that either makes or breaks it. Society has been stuck in this struggle for some time, much of it the result of political and socio-economic pressures. Of course, it served the agenda of the early church. There is one glaring problem in modern Catholicism, since the assumption of the Virgin, which is that if Mary is elevated to Goddess status, Jesus cannot be the Son of Man – rather of a God and Goddess.

In ancient times, a ‘Virgin’ meant a woman who was complete in herself – psychologically, rather than biologically intact. She has a lived relationship with her Spirit; she carries it for herself, rather than projecting that strength outward for some man to carry for her. So, the battle of patriarchy and sexual paradox is one of Spirit and Soul, which is what the alchemist sought to reunite with the body. If you leave the body out of the equation, nothing will change fundamentally.

However, moving forward, rather than looking back, there are some new models of gender reunion. Many have been consciously getting in touch with our inner opposites – anima for men and animus for women. Symbolically, this expresses a cultural yearning for a deep sense of “completion,” fulfillment, at the species level. It is part of our nostalgia for Spirit, for union with self, nature, and others. It is not a desire to revert to matriarchy, if it ever existed in any global sense, but to discover new ways of being and relating.

ZB: How can women learn to embrace their bodies and feel sexual despite society telling us that our beauty defines our sexual experience? That you must look a certain way, be a specific age to be sexy and sexual. How can magick or ritual address this?

IM: Female archetypes of earth and sky symbolize the Great Mother. She is conscious protector, spiritual guide, and nurturer, while at the same time the unconscious forces of birth and death, life and destruction. The unconscious anima wields her supernatural power to drive our lives either towards mystical knowledge, consciousness and individuation, or towards oblivion in sensual urges. The sky mothers and animas can transcend the body and ego, but in so many myths, they crave balance through the experience of the underworld, the unconscious drives of the instincts and the non-rational, expressing a balanced whole through this unity.

ZB: Will you talk about sacred sexuality? How do we introduce this into the concepts of sex amid the conservative and oppressive sexual nature of the Western world?

IM: Sacred sex is about freely expressing your emotional core. Like any myth or worldview, it has cosmological, metaphysical, sociological, and psychological aspects. If your approach to life is infused with spirit and meaning, it will be likewise in sex, with or without esoteric props and protocols. This is not just about sacred sex, but a sacred rather than profane body. So sex is an energetic merging of subtle bodies. It’s an augmented reality using spiritual technology that heightens sensual experience. It opens the couple to Cosmos, to the psychic reservoir of humanity.

If you have a spiritual approach to your sex life, then it will be so physically and psychically, here and now. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It is unlikely anyone is actually authentically recreating any traditional practices of the past. We have to be satisfied with a middle road that satisfies our own inclinations for best practice. Even so, some sexual experience may be more mundane than exalted. Some will be celebratory, rather than goal-oriented. Most are unlikely to follow any social or ritual script or prescription.

ZB: What are some of the various forms of magical, tantric or sacred sexual practices?

IM: The power of Magic is rooted in Eros. When the connection between the erotic and the occult is unconscious, repressed or hidden, the mystery of uniting the esoteric and the erotic becomes the ultimate arcane secret. It penetrates into the depths where all life is one, all boundaries broken down, body and mind fused in one. A deep and abiding awareness of the intimate interrelationship unites the opposites through the realization of imaginal workings. We embody the myth. As in tantra, occult ritual involves the transgression of social mores, locating and enacting cultural taboos in order to transcend constrictive boundaries. The erotic and the sexual then become a tool to experience the breaking of mundane bonds and something ‘other.’

Among the sexual arts are traditional Hindu and Buddhist tantra, contemporary ‘fusion’ tantric practice, goal-oriented sex magick or “success magick”, sexual alchemy of Frater and Soror Mystica for transformation, idealized Courtly Love, Kabbalistic practice within marriage, Taoist alchemy for longevity, neo-Gnostic approaches for wisdom and worship of The Feminine, as well as personal eclectic practices of auto-erotic and partnered ‘spiritual sex.’

This is the realm of Blood Mysteries, transformation mysteries, and women’s initiation rites, including offerings, ordeals, and sacrifice. There are several varieties of traditional tantra. Hindu or Buddhist, and if the latter, which school? Or are we talking about some form of self-styled practice and initiation, or that of a particular guru? Taoist alchemy has another approach with a goal of longevity, if not ‘immortality.”

Ritual Space [Courtesy Photo]

Ritual Space [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: For those who may confuse the two as similar, what is the difference between sex magick and tantric sexuality?

IM: There are so many eclectic practices, appropriations, and idiosyncratic forms of belief that we need to be more specific. The main difference between tantra and Sex Magick is that tantra is a form of religion in Sanskrit circles. The key difference between traditional forms of tantra and Crowley’s system lies not in the details of sexual union, but rather in the emphasis that is placed on sex in the first place. Crowley’s knowledge of actual tantric practice was very limited and based on a transgressive approach, so the two bear little resemblance, except in the broadest sense.

‘Tantra’ has become a pop buzzword for any new agey exotic sexual experience – a generic adjective, rather than codified practice. It is merging and emerging. We can experience a rebirth or rejuvenation using a sacred sex approach during which the couple becomes an altar of worship. But is it Tantra? Some of these practices are the opposite of traditional practices. The sexual element of tantra has been over-emphasized and equated to “spiritual sex,” with the goal of heightened orgasm and optimal physical pleasure, not spiritual development or spiritual evolutionary process. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a misnomer for a variety of practices of the arts of love, usually practiced a la carte outside of the religious context in which it arose. Some might consider it cultural appropriation.

Tantra massage is a fad based on mutual masturbation. Usually, some practitioner has found a way to commodify the needs and desires of paying customers. It’s just frottage – a fetish, like in Zentai: the act of rubbing against the body of another person, as in a crowd, to attain sexual gratification. “Zentai” is an abbreviation of “zenshintaitsu”, which means “full body suit” who say they are seeking liberation by effacing the physical self with anonymous sex. Both practices seek depth and transcendence.

Sex magick often has some practical goal, whereas tantra is more about experiencing Gnostic ecstasy – an augmentation of personal experience – an “inner trip.” Both practices are concerned with the fusion in unity of archetypal Male and Female energies to transcend the opposites, irrespective of the genders of participants. Both weave together physical, psychological and magical dimensions. Passion and a merger of minds as well as bodies are more important than protocols. Ultimately, you are generating this narrative and imagery within yourself for connecting and transcending. In magick, “Sex” is stored in the body for spiritual or magical power.

Many know about sex magick in the O.T.O. and how Crowley rewrote his contemporary rituals. Eclectic sex mysticism may or may not be considered tantra or sex magick, per se. Sexual mysticism doesn’t heighten spirit at the expense of matter, but instinctively includes it. You don’t need to be a sorcerer or mystic to imagine your partner as a God or Goddess leading toward rapture and union with the divine.  So, mostly this is an idiosyncratic practice, an eclectic mix someone makes up for themselves, not ‘tantra’. The value of magickal work is only as strong as the goal you are pursuing – short and long term. Whether it enhances your path is a very personal choice on which your inner guide will comment from time to time.

ZB: Will you talk about the history of tantra and what the practice is?

IM: Tantric teachings evolved in India and eventually spread to Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. As an abstract religious and sexual science, tantra has no clear, static definition. It systematically explores the mystery and phenomenon of love and relationships on earth by combining sexual energy, visualizations, and prayer. Understanding yourself and another is healing, completing, harmonizing, and liberating. Tantra unravels the mysteries of love and relationship, weaving together spirit and sex with all aspects of existence in a spiritual philosophy and evolutionary practice.

Tantras are texts which outline specific practices. These practices are meditational systems that aim at the experience of bliss in physical and spiritual relations by cultivating erotic potential. Tantras teach that earthly delights stem from the union of opposites and are achieved with an ideal partner. Such a union exemplifies harmony, perfection, and the centrality of love to existence. Kama, or desire, is a creative principle that aims at the perfection of life on earth. Mantras are aids to meditation. Sacred sounds may be visualized as yantras, and mandalas, symbols of psychic wholeness.

It is the weaving of spirit and sex. It is not, as it commonly labeled in the West, as being solely about sex. It is used in the West as a general term that relates to sexual practice as a spiritual evolutionary practice. Tantra is basically a philosophy of spiritual practice and does not have a negative connotation. It is the key to a life of fulfillment and prosperity. It is about feeling connected to and awed by the spiritual essence of the universe. It is emerging, and one can experience a re-birth when having “sex” with another using tantra techniques. Tantra is a spiritual method or yoga that takes into account both “inner” and “outer” realities. It is alchemical in nature, being based on the union of opposites. Derived from the root words to expand, weave, or extend consciousness, tantra implies a continuity beyond the physical plane.

ZB: Will you describe the act of tantra – physically, mentally, and spiritually within ritual?

IM: The body is your temple. We can embody that Divine archetypal Spirit in male, female, or androgynous form. We ‘see’ one another as divine male and female, Shiva and Shakti. We serve them consciously and they serve us. Both Magick and yoga help the soul on its initiatory journey. Magick begins with concentration and visualization, basic knowledge of the archetypes or god-forms, powers, functions, and attributes of each sphere. The deities become autonomous. Invocation means calling-in that form into the magickal circle and identifying with it. The astral form permeates our Body of Light and we are rejuvenated A banishing returns us to ordinary awareness.

A sympathetic resonance ignites kundalini to blaze up through the chakras, until this stream of flame reaches the crown center. In tantric circle worship, men and women alternate in the circle with one couple in the center. A ceremonial meal of wine, meat, fish, and bread is followed by sexual intercourse. The wine symbolizes fire and the immortality that the tantric must learn to distill and drink. The meat symbolizes air and bodily functions that must be brought under control. Fish represents water and the techniques of sexual occultism. Bread is the earth, or the natural environment, which must be understood and controlled. The sex act is the uniting quintessence. Sex is a sacred symbol that helps us apprehend the ultimate unity and expanded consciousness.

Ritual is the celebration of a myth. Myth functions as a paradigm, or model. Ritual can be seen as the enactment of this myth, as the myth would be represented as the source of all action. Myth is actually a dynamic expression of the motivational power of the archetype at its core. Ritual is for the soul – an aesthetic imitation of a numinous element (or godform) in our personal life. It is an epiphany or grace — a metaphorical expression of creative imagination.

Using a circle clears a working area. Light exercises focus and amplify our energy. Invocation, or the “calling in,” of the desired godform is an attempt at self-transformation. Charging and consuming a eucharist is an epiphany with the god. Meditation is consolidating and reflective. Banishing returns us to “normal” consciousness. We can include divination, dance, dramatic scenarios, or sacred sex acts.

ZB: Will you talk about how Alchemical Eros is a form of sacred sex?

IM: Alchemy approaches the spiritual value of sex by making the Soror Mystica essential to the Great Work. The sacred marriage, or coniunctio, creates a bond by which opposites are united in an image which transcends both original potentials. The whole art of alchemy is symbolized by the conception of a magical or divine child – a spiritual androgyne heralding psychological and spiritual wholeness. The queen is the body, the king stands for the spirit, and the soul unites the two in the royal marriage. The mother is the unconscious; the son is the conscious. It is a return to the womb of the mother. Penetration of the female is the same as the penetration of the water or the unconscious. Ordinarily, spirit, soul and body are separated from each other, even while in dynamic interaction. But when the Great Work is complete, the divine spirit is brought ‘down’ to shine through the soul and body and unifies itself with them, so they all form one and the same ‘body.’ Pulsating life is the substrate of our existence.  I wrote on sexual transcendence in Emotional Alchemy in Tantra.

ZB: What is the physiological or energetic reason behind experiencing bliss through the tantric practice of simple breathing or meditation exercises together?

IM: Bliss is often associated with heart chakra activation, and probably dopamine release and oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. So any method that amplifies the heart center moves us in that direction, separately and together.

ZB: Can practicing sacred sex help heal those who have sexual trauma, fear of intimacy and trust issues?

IM: It would be up to an individual to determine if such “tantric babysteps” help their overall recovery plan. Knowing they will not be physically touched may help, if that is their issue. The sex therapist or practice partner would need to have a certain amount of emotional availability and compassion.

ZB: Does one gender find it more difficult to practice tantra than another?

IM: I cannot imagine why that would be so. However, we should be careful of thinking in such polarities. The Jewish Mishna and Talmud also recognized intersex alternatives: the androgynous, the person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured, one who identified as “female” at birth but who was infertile and developed “male” characteristics at puberty, and one identified as “male” at birth who developed “female” characteristics at puberty and/or is lacking a penis. This likely originated by observing infants over aeons before modern neo-natal medical interventions for sex assignment. Such individuals may have their own issues, especially when transitioning.

ZB: Will you talk about the Kama Sutra and other sacred sexual texts people might study?

IM: There is a Japanese Pillow Book, observations and musings of a courtesan. The Kama Sutra, the classical Indian treatise on the Art of Love, describes ‘Sixty-four Arts’ which reminds us of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. These arts add to one’s graciousness, charm, and desirability. They include singing, music, dancing, writing, drawing, painting, sewing, reading, recitation, poetry, sculpture, gymnastics, games, flower arranging, cooking, decoration, perfumery, gardening, mimicry, mental exercises, languages, etiquette, carpentry, magic, chemistry, mineralogy, herbology, healing, gambling, architecture, logic, charm-making, religious rites, household management, disguise, physical sports, and martial arts plus many contemporary activities. May we learn to enjoy them all.

Next week, in part two of this series, Burden will talk with Miller more specifically about various practices and the directions to take to begin healing the body and healing the sacred sexual self. Stay tuned… 

*    *    *

[Guest journalist Zora Burden is a regular guest writer at The Wild Hunt, sharing her extensive interviews with interesting occult and Pagan personalities. Burden is a poet, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. She has written two books, “Women of the Underground,” featuring female musicians and artists. She also has five books of poetry on the themes of esoterica and surrealism available exclusively at City Lights Bookstore. In all her work, Burden focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism, and the esoteric.]

I think a little trip in the WABAC (Wayback) Machine is in order. In 1982, Chris De Burgh released an album called “The Getaway.”  The most famous song, by far I would guess, was “Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” an art rock piece describing the voyage of a soul over –- presumably -– the River Styx and warned to keep his obulos from the ferryman until the voyage reaches the other side. On the flip side of the album (a literal location back then) was a short song called “Where Peaceful Waters Flow.” This song is full of Anglocentric imagery that effortlessly echoes Pagan themes. It could as readily be both a song to a beloved as it could be a song to the Goddess.

David Banach of CalderaFest Photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno

To a freshly-minted witch still experiencing Pagan first fervor, it was a rare find. Locating any Pagan-centered music was sporadic, at best. You would hear of music titles in gatherings and grand covens; knowledge of them would spread by word of mouth at such events but getting a copy would become a major feat. For example, locating Gwydion Pendderwen’s album “Songs for the Old Religion” (1975) required a visit to the local record store and search through a seven-inch-thick tome of thin, near transparent yellow paper printed with 8-point type. The tome contained albums currently available for retail and resale. Pendderwen’s work was deep in the “other” section of the nascent world music genre that should actually have been titled, “Good luck with that.” The record store tried to locate a copy for me but weeks went by until we finally gave up.  Nothing was available.  Ultimately, my copy was a bootlegged third generation copy on cassette tape handed to me over my shoulder as I sat beside a bonfire.

While Jethro Tull released their obviously Pagan-centered album “Songs from the Wood” in 1977, the band was described as folk rock or progressive folk even with the subordinate title of “A new album of Old Magic.”  But Pagan connotations in the music did not make the band Pagan.  The members did not describe themselves as such. Lead singer, Ian Anderson, for example, only much later self-identified as “somewhere between a deist and pantheist” but that disclosure reportedly occurred in 2007.  The term Pagan wasn’t used.

And to be sure, back in 1982, being Pagan was the stuff of deep offense. It was a term to be avoided. It represented something more heinous than counterculture.  It was a term of subversion, deeply dangerous and potential life-threatening if not soul-threatening.  Pagans were apostates of the worst kind flirting with heinous contraventions like sexual equality and gender nonconformity while rejecting conspicuous consumption. And a few, ventured further into their transgression dabbling in augury and Witchcraft. Scary stuff indeed.

But here’s the thing, Pendderwen’s songs were different because he avowed being Pagan. Even at the height of Satanic Panic, music for any Earth-based spirituality was unsafe and often concealed in other larger works. The backlash was real. The Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” for example, were both pounded with allegations of demonic confederacy.  Never mind that they are each about something else.

Still, the concern for soul-endangering even seditious music continues to this day, though often for mundane over supernatural reasons.  Whether for fear of market constriction or worries about being artistically pigeonholed, many musicians eschew the Pagan label even when their music has been deeply embedded in modern Pagan culture. The list of Pagan-ambiguous musicians is long, from older artists like Stevie Nicks to more recent artists like Loreena McKennitt.  When Pagan themes are introduced in music as in the works of Hozier, Mumford & Sons, and even the Zac Brown Band, more mainstream interpretations of the lyrics are embraced and even promoted.

But when a musician proudly exits the broom closet, there is a powerful, inspirational and palpable effect. When you listen to Pendderwen’s music, you don’t have to wonder about his intent. The music is Pagan-inspired, Pagan-written and Pagan-centric. You don’t listen to his music and think, “Wow, that reminds of the Goddess.”  With Pagan music we clearly understand that the musicians are offering the work as a reminder of the Goddess. Just as it is in ritual work, the intent is central. It is at once a proclamation of will and a melody manifesting what that will is becoming.  It’s a point of pride.

Pagan music is intensely focused on creating that connection between the physical and the spiritual without necessarily being liturgical. It is an artistic revelation of community that promotes an awareness of Pagan paths without necessarily being ministries.  And bluntly, that’s’ important because it undermines the normative drive of presuming that a piece of music can only be interpreted with themes that are from outside our community. There is a serious power and pride invoked in knowing that a performer is Pagan. They not only serve as role models, but more importantly they show us that our community has the resources to cultivate its own creative economy.

CalderaFest, held in Georgia, was a crucible moment in our collective history. David Banach’s dream of creating a Pagan music festival came to fruition over this past weekend. It was a massive undertaking. There’s little that can be said to underscore the scope of the project and the amount to work it took to realize the event. David mentioned in his opening remarks on Friday that CalderaFest took two years from idea to realization. But David struck me as both humble and modest. It must have taken a tremendous amount of leadership, work, worry and finances to deliver the vision of such a production. He also had a great team of individuals led by MJ Delucci who bore the operational brunt of the event. To be clear, no one in modern history has accomplished what David did last weekend.

Green Album Performers at CalderaFest Photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno

Green Album Performers at CalderaFest Photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno

Pagan musicians are major threads in our historical tapestry. What David and his team also did was become stewards of a festival that took a generation to grow.  Only now, from the early beginnings of modern Pagan-identified music in the 1950s, can we say that critical mass of thriving, openly Pagan bands and artists were convinced and committed to perform together and at a festival of this magnitude. The musicians allowed their talents to merge in support of David’s vision.  And to add more gravity to the event, the “Green Album” was released in service of the Earth by benefiting Rainforest Trust.  The meaning of the event cannot be understated. It was a first for the broader Pagan community and a first for a genre of music.

During his performance, Damh the Bard kept returning to CalderaFest being a moment like Woodstock. Tuatha Dea echoed over and again the magnitude of the event. The musicians at CalderaFest were unstinting in their praise for David, his vision and his work. They were collectively and imminently aware of the gravity, excitement and significance of those 84 hours together.  It was a touchstone moment in Pagan culture and identity.

The event wasn’t perfect; there were glitches, but they were mostly uncontrollable or instigated by minor afterthoughts of contagious negativity.  What can start as a dribble of complaints can quickly become a flood of little issues. Most of them pale to the scope and magnitude of the festival. Yes, there should have been a better way to handle the dust which was arguably the most serious issue. Otherwise they were minor. Sometimes it was hot. Sometimes you had to sit on grass.  And it’s true: there were no bidets.

Collage of CalderaFest Performers Photo credit: m. Tejeda-Moreno and S. Ciotti

Collage of CalderaFest Performers Photo credit: M. Tejeda-Moreno and S. Ciotti

The vendors did a have real concerns about their placement and the amount of kicked-up red dust which at times covered their merchandise. And these voiced concerns raise a different set of issues that, while not unique to CalderaFest, bear, I think, an important mention. It seems to me that many festivals view vendors as simply an alternative source of income. They represent a sector of participants going to the festival with a specific purpose to make money. In one sense they are in fact that, but they also shouldn’t be taken for granted. Nor should they be placed in circumstances that limit their ability to make money or be viable contributors to an event. That was true here: vendor layout could have been improved.

The more relevant point is that festivals must take care to better recognize their vendors as talent. While some vendors are resellers of goods, others are true artisans. They offer goods that are crafted by skills few can match, here or around the world. They are sought after for their craft and reputation. Their presence at a festivals is a combination of their belief that they will make a profit as well as their confidence in the event itself. They themselves are a draw, whether it be a Pagan music festival or any other gathering. Vendors should also be afforded the opportunity to take center stage, as it were, in their selling and the demonstrations of their craft. They make money and the festival makes money.

Vendors at CalderaFest Photo credit: S. Ciotti

Vendors at CalderaFest [Photo Credit: S. Ciotti]

But while some vendors had concerns, they were also full of praise for CalderaFest. They were extravagant in their compliments to the CalderFest team. The vendors collectively recognized that it was a big production, yet the CalderaFest team pulled it off marvelously and magically. The issues moved back stage for the moment. The next festival — should there be one — will rise not only by vision but experience with the land, the finances and the community.

David chose the word Caldera to remind us of a cauldron of fire, where many musicals paths would meld and deliver something new and momentous. Like the witches of the Scottish play, the cauldron was receiving magical elements creating a powerful brew and releasing fierce spell. CalderaFest delivered its enchantment unerringly.

In Lukumí, the power of Orisha Ogún is represented by a cauldron.  It is a sign of industry filled with tolls to create perfect and create a vision.  Orisha Ogún lives in the wilds but is the father of technology and civilization. He is the will fulfilled and manifested through hard work. Ogún’s power was present at CalderaFest this weekend; his Ashe in the organizers and in the land. I saw his favorite food — watermelon — was everywhere with many partaking, and a few offerings left in discrete locations. To my surprise, Dragon Ritual Drummers directly invoked the Orisha during their performance on Friday night.  By whatever name, the creative will had become immanent.

Those of us who attended CalderaFest were privileged to be witnesses to a birth. It took form and burned brightly. It altered the Pagan spirit by strengthening our pride in the artists, talent, vendors and, most importantly, the visionaries and producers that brought the work to completion. Our musical ancestors fought for the moment that CalderaFest became. I am grateful for the talent and leadership that brought it to be. But now, I hope the last few days have brought rest and refreshment to everyone involved, from attendees to organizers to talent. Whether such a festival happens again is still in question. But for now, to paraphrase Damh the Bard, CalderFest sleeps, waiting to return.

SYDNEY, Nova Scotia – On the east coast of Canada, looking out across the Atlantic Ocean, is Cape Breton Island, the northeastern portion of the province of Nova Scotia. This island’s only connection to the mainland is a 1,385 metre (4,500-foot) long causeway across the Strait of Canso. On this rocky, picturesque outpost of Canada is a population of slightly more than 147,000 people, mostly in the urban area of Sydney. The Mi’kmaq are the indigenous people of the land, and were joined first by French settlers in the seventeenth century. English settlers followed, bringing the large and hugely influential Gaelic-speaking population. After the American War of Independence, 3,000 Black Loyalists fled to Nova Scotia. Decades later, freed slaves deported from Jamaica and refugees from the American Civil War escaping slavery via the Underground Railroad, made their way to the province to find safety.


The coastline of Cape Breton Island (wikimedia commons)

The coastline of Cape Breton Island [Wikimedia Commons]

Lynn Moore, a resident of the Sydney area, is the program coordinator of the Whitney Pier Society of the Arts. Her organization was recently awarded funding through the federal government’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, and has applied it toward a series of weekly lectures called “Never Too Old to Learn About Diversity.”

These lectures started in May, and are geared toward the island’s high ratio of senior citizens, who currently represent 20 per cent of the local population. The speakers are from a wide range of minority religious and spiritual paths. Nova Scotia’s population is overwhelmingly Christian, with 87% identifying as such in the last recorded census. For the diversity lectures, Moore has invited representatives from the local indigenous Mi’kmaq community, as well as presenters from the Jewish, Baha’i, Ahmadiyya Muslim and Wiccan groups in the area.

On the mainland of Nova Scotia, the Pagan presence can be found with relative ease, and various paths are well represented. The Grove of Nova Scotia Druids is an ADF group based in Halifax. The United Pagan Collective, a non-profit organization made up of Pagans from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, host the Pagan Family Spiritual Retreat from July 15 – 18 and a Witches Ball in autumn. The Earth-Spirit Society of Nova Scotia holds the “Tird Tursday Meet and Greet” [sic] every month in Halifax, and there is even a shop in Dartmouth called Into The Mystic that prides itself on being Canada’s only scent-free New Age gift shop.


But on Cape Breton Island, the Pagan community is small, isolated and relatively underground.

Phoenix Hawthorne, who is Wiccan, is the person that Lynn Moore contacted to make the presentation about her practice for the seniors group. When describing the Pagan scene on Cape Breton Island, Hawthorne said:

The Pagan community in Cape Breton, from my experience, is reasonably healthy, but closeted in many ways. There was a number of practitioners at Cape Breton University when I graduated 10 years ago, and I count about 10 of us among my immediate friends, but our practices are diverse. Most that I’ve met are solitary practitioners, though I’ve performed rituals with one or two friends before. No covens that I know of: it seems like those that do practice often keep to themselves unless in the company of others that they know follow similar beliefs.

At first, Moore wasn’t too sure about how well Hawthorne’s talk would be received by the senior group. She said:

I was nervous that Phoenix would not get the respect she deserved because of her age in comparison to the average age of the group, and the faith itself. We had 20 seniors, from age 50+ to 90 (or she will be in two weeks). I knew there were a few Wiccans around and was very glad to be able to bring Phoenix here to speak to the group. Most (if not all ) had never heard of Wicca.

Moore was not the only one concerned about how a talk about Paganism and Witchcraft would go in a community with a very strong Christian backbone, and to an audience of seniors who grew up in a place and time where religious tolerance and diversity were simply not part of everyday life. Hawthorne recalled:

We have a strong Roman Catholic and Protestant community here, and an aging population. Before the talk, I was extremely nervous, unsure of how it would go over, as some people I have tried to explain my beliefs to have shut down at the first mention of the word “Pagan.”

But, in retrospect, Moore said, “[The seniors] were very interested and asked wonderful questions.” Hawthorne agreed, saying:

The presentation was wonderful; I set up a representation of an altar and explained the implements and how they were used, and discussed the founding of Wicca, the basic concepts, and differences in practice between traditions, as well as group and solitary practitioners. It was very well received, with great questions from those present.

Moore was delighted with the content of Hawthorne’s presentation, more so for the similarities she found, than the differences. She said:

Phoenix explained that there are no covens (or she knows of none) in the area and therefore she worships on her own or with three others. She was kind enough to bring her chalice, her candles, her incense and her Book of Shadows for us to see. She also went over some of the “rituals”, explaining how to cast the circle, the sweeping of the circle, and the elements of purifications.

Her speech lasted about two hours and we all left with a greater knowledge and appreciation for Wicca. I would have to say the most interesting thing I personally came away with was how similar each faith is. We all have a book we should follow, we worship someone or something, and we should not be harming anyone. I strongly believe that what you do for or to others will come back onto you.

Hawthorne’s foray into interfaith work has left her with inspiration for the future of her public work on Cape Breton Island:

I had a lot of positive feedback. Many were surprised with the parallels that can be drawn between Christian practices, and were fascinated with the idea of spell work as prayer with a kinetic element….The big thing is that I would like to see greater visibility of the Pagan community here. I think many people are reluctant to come out of the broom closest fully because of the stigma attached to the idea of being labelled a witch/ pagan/ heathen. After this talk though, I have a lot more hope for more public talks in the future, and would like to take some steps to raise the profile of Paganism in the Maritimes.


Correction 6/6/2016: The article originally stated that “Pagans in the Malagash area” were hosting the Pagan Family Spiritual Retreat. This detail has been corrected to include the name and site for the specific non-profit Pagan organization called The United Pagan Collective that runs the retreat as well as other Pagan events.

OHIO — Raymond Buckland is known in Pagan circles as the man who brought Gardnerian Wicca to the United States of America. His name graces the cover of more than 40 books on Pagan and occult topics, published over the last 47 years. That history is more than enough to cover in the course of just one interview, but despite his prolific writing and years of teaching, Buckland has also found time to keep busy with quite a number of non-Pagan activities. These activities are wide-ranging and include, in his own words, “acting and the theatre, music (jazz, ragtime, bluegrass, etc.), art (illustrating books, cards, filmstrips, etc.), comedy (both writing and performing), ultralight flying, sports cars, screen-writing, all types of writing, especially fiction and non-fiction,” not to mention occasional stints of stand-up comedy.

bucklandGiven the vast number of things that continue to keep Buckland’s days full, narrowing the scope of conversation to just his Pagan activities seemed, at the very least, to be a kindness to the reader. Indeed, the fact that he was able to respond to questions at all suggests that some powerful time-bending magic might be at work. Even so, the interview was conducted via email over several months.

The Wild Hunt: What’s occupying your time recently?  Any upcoming or recent projects you’d like to talk about?

Raymond Buckland: My time these days is mostly taken up with writing mysteries, especially Victorian mysteries. I have done a series (the Bram Stoker Mysteries) for Penguin/Random House’s Berkley Prime Crime and am now working on two other series: The Postmistress Mysteries and the Designing Women Mysteries, both set in England in the 1800s.

In addition I also organize, and take part in, a twice-yearly comedy night locally and also run a weekly writers’ guild.

TWH: The scope of Paganism has changed a lot since you wrote your first book.  Right now, what kind of Pagan would you call yourself? Is Seax-Wica still part of your spiritual identity?

RB: Seax-Wica is definitely still part of my spiritual identity. I don’t care much for labels -– though some do seem necessary –- so will not label myself. I am very much a solitary practitioner these days and draw on a variety of beliefs and practices. When I moved to Ohio from California, back in 1992, I became a solitary and have remained so ever since.

TWH: Of all your published works, which one is your favorite?  Why?

RB: I have one or two favorites. I suppose that’s natural, having written so many books! In non-fiction I would have to list “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft,” “Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communication,” the three encyclopedias: “The “Witch Book,” “The Fortunetelling Book” and “The Spirit Book,” plus two of my decks: “The Buckland Romani Tarot” and “The Cards of Alchemy.”

With fiction then it would be the stand-alone: “Golden Illuminati” and the Bram Stoker series.

bucklandTWH: Thinking back to the time of your initiation in 1964, what’s the most surprising development you’ve seen among Pagan religions in the time since?

Be it Wicca or Paganism generally, the most surprising development is the very development itself; the growth of the movement. I had always hoped that we would reach the point where Wicca was generally accepted as “just another religion” and in many respects that has been achieved.

TWH: How do you think coverage of Pagans in the news has changed since the 1960s?

RB: It has changed dramatically. No longer are such news items included simply because they seem unusual (“Strange and odd-ball” even) but are being included because the events actually are news.

TWH: I have conflicting sources about the name of the first coven you had in the United States.  Without  vanguard like that?

Back in those days we didn’t name our covens, probably because there just weren’t enough of them. The first American coven met initially in Floral Park, Long Island, and then shortly after moved to Timberline Drive, Brentwood, Long Island, New York. It was simply “The Covenstead,” which is the name given to any home of a coven. Later, as more covens were established, then it became regarded as the New York covenstead, but we never gave it an actual name per se.

What it was like being at the vanguard was . . . tiring! Of course, we didn’t realize that we were at the vanguard of anything, though we were certainly trying to spread the word and by doing so to establish the Craft here in this country, which was what Gerald (Gardner) asked me to do.

TWH: Do you have a story you can share about your relationship with Gerald Gardner?

RB: Gerald was very keen to get the Craft established here in America and did rather push that. His greeting was never, “How are you?” but rather right into, “We have got to get you going over there.” He was wonderful in that Witchcraft (only later called Wicca) was his whole life and focus. He was extremely dedicated and there was no question about his sincerity. I tried hard to pattern myself on him and, in fact, found so many things in my life following his. There have been rumors that I changed things in his Book of Shadows when in New York. That is totally untrue (though I know that our successors on Long Island made many, many such alterations). I made it a practice to follow Gerald’s teachings and Book of Shadows to the letter.

TWH: When did you first start noticing differences between British and American forms of Wicca?

RB: I guess that as people began to realize that the Craft was now (then) getting going in America they started actively looking for differences. So far as Gardnerian was concerned, as much as I was able in the beginning, I tried hard to stick to what I had been taught. Later, when the baton was passed on to Theos and Phoenix, there were a LOT of changes made by them (to my chagrin, many of those have been erroneously attributed to me), so these were very much brought home to me.

In my autobiography (still working on it) I make the observation that, in my opinion, Theos and Phoenix probably did more harm to Witchcraft than did the whole of the Christian persecutors back in the Middle Ages! But apart from all that, over the years there have been many gradual and natural changes brought in. I certainly have no problem seeing “new” versions and variations of the Craft developing (after all, I did start Seax-Wica), but I would like to see Gardnerian remain as it was originally.

[Video Still from 2016 Comedy Performance]

[Video Still from 2015 Comedy Performance]

TWH: Is there anything you’d like to share with the public about your health?

RB: Yes, I had a bit of a set-back last year, in July. I developed a bad case of pneumonia which brought on a heart attack, leading me to being life-flighted to a hospital. I was on a ventilator for a very long time (several days) and ended up greatly debilitated. Ever since I have been making the long crawl back to health through physical therapy. But, at 81 (82 in August) I am now walking two miles every morning and spending an hour on exercises every afternoon. I no longer will travel any great distances, don’t do public appearances, and keep pretty low key with my writing (all fiction these days). But on the bright side, I feel so much better and am keeping very active locally, though not in any way pagan-oriented.

TWH: Have you given any thought to your legacy, and what you’d like to be remembered for in fifty or a hundred years, or more?

RB: The museum which I founded back in the 1960s has recently been taken over by fresh blood who are working on restoring and up-dating it, so that will be re-established. My personal library I have donated to someone who is going to be establishing the Raymond Buckland Memorial Reference Library, which will be in Kentucky. Many of the books I have authored are still in print. So all-in-all I think I’m leaving something. How much value that all is, I don’t know!

I guess I’d like to be remembered as someone who did his best to expand Gardnerian from the UK to the US, who tried to write truthfully about the Craft (without ever breaking his original oath of secrecy) and as someone who very much enjoyed working with others in many different fields.

As to when I die (though I keep assuring my wife that I’m not actually going to go!) I will be cremated and everything is in hand for that eventuality.

  *    *    *

The Wild Hunt will update readers on the progress and opening of both the Raymond Buckland Memorial Reference Library and the Raymond Buckland Museum. Buckland’s fiction work and other writings can be found on his website Raymond Buckland Books. He has uploaded videos of his stand-up comedy, theatrical and musical work to his YouTube channel.

Note: The Wild Hunt would like to thank Rev. Selena Fox for making this interview possible.

As some Pagans attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.

Cave rings in Southern France Hint at Neanderthal religious rites

Archaeologists have reported on an “extraordinary discovery” in France after finding several man-made circular structures, or rings, that date back 170,000 years to the time Neanderthals lived in the area.

The rings were constructed out of stalagmites from the Bruniquel Cave in France’s southern region, and excavators believe that they might have been used for some sort of ritual at the time of their creation.

The 400 stalagmites were presumably broken off from the sides of the cave and arranged into two circles, one larger one and a smaller one, as well as several organized piles throughout the cave.

The discovery was recently reported in Nature, an international journal, which reveals how the discovery sheds light on the life of Neanderthals. Some archaeologists believe these peoples lived in France thousands of years before the first humans 140,000 years ago.

[Video Still]

[Video Still]

The Phoenicians were really Portugese?

Scientists made a surprising discovery when they finished mapping the genome of a Phoenician male who lived approximately 2500 years ago. They expected to find that his maternal ancestry originated from North Africa or the Middle East. Instead they discovered he had a rare mitochondrial haplogroup that comes from European hunter-gatherer populations. Not only that, but his DNA most closely matched modern day Portuguese.

Phoenicians, as a distinct socio-political people, originated in what is now Lebanon. But they spread their empire throughout the Mediterranean. Their religion was a polytheistic one honoring Gods such as Baal and Astarte. In later years, the religion took a more syncretic turn and incorporated more Greek Gods and and Goddesses.

It is hoped, by studying the DNA of ancient peoples, archaeologists can get a better idea of human migration and exchange patterns, such as religion. Does this mean those early hunter-gathers from the Iberian peninsula also worshipped Baal? That we don’t yet know.

Even in ancient Egypt, you couldn’t escape death or taxes

A device called a nilometer has been found in the ruins of a temple complex in the ancient city of Thmuis. Archaeologists believe that the device was built in the third century BCE and was used for almost 1000 years to calculate how high the water level reached during the annual Nile flood.

This Nile river used to flood the delta region each July or August and it would leave behind a rich layer of silt. The silt made growing crops such as wheat and barley possible and made Egypt into the breadbasket of the Mediterranean.

If the river flood was too high, homes and grain storage facilities were swept away. If the flood was too little, famine would result from not enough crop land being fertile for crop growth. 

The nilometer was a circular well with a staircase leading down. In this way, Egyptian officials could measure the depth of the water and that would tell them if the crops would be plentiful or sparse. And that, in turn, told them how much in taxes to assess.

Nilometers were built in temple complexes because the Nile River is a God and the nilometer was an interface between the religious and mundane aspects of life in ancient Egyptian culture.

Want a new ancient Egyptian spell?

How about two? Linguists have just deciphered two more spells from a cache of such spells written on papyri dating back to the third century AD. The cache was found 100 years ago in Egypt and are written in Greek. One spell instructs the spell caster to burn a number of offerings in a bathhouse and write a spell on its walls calling on the gods to “burn the heart” of a woman who has withheld her love.

The other, designed to force a man to obey the caster’s every command, instructs the caster to engrave a series of magical words onto a copper plaque and then affix it to something the man wears, such as a sandal.

These spells and many others will be published in an upcoming volume of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

Peruvian women show a break in religious tradition

Archaeologists in Peru’s north coast earthed the unexpected – female sacrificial victims.

Most ancient societies in the region practiced some form of human sacrifice and the victims were almost always male prisoners. But in a temple in Pucalá, just outside of Chiclayo, the remains of six female sacrifice victims were found.

The six women were found with missing rib bones, suggesting they were left exposed to scavengers such as vultures for a time. They were then buried in a ritual space with high walls.

The remains date back to 850 AD, a time of ideological change. This is demonstrated by how the women were positioned for burial. The women’s bodies were buried, on a east-west axis, showing there was a change away from the dying Moche culture and towards the Lambayeque culture.

Although little is known about Moche and Lambayeque religion, it appears they both worshipped a single male deity which was represented by a mask of a male with his eyes turned upward. The Lambayeque developed extremely complex and hierarchical funeral practices.