On Friday, March 28, Paramount Pictures will release Noah into U.S. theaters after a flood of controversy. Noah, dubbed a biblical blockbuster, was co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, the award winning director oBlack Swan (2010.) Noah has an all-star cast including Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connolley and Emma Watson.

Almost any time a biblical story is adapted to film, there will be controversy. Does the movie adhere to the original narrative? Does it represent its characters and thematics accurately?  Are the creative elements born of the spirit in the original text? These are some of the questions that circle around all biblical films. Realistically these are the same questions that arise with the adaptation of any famous text. However when religion is the story’s birth-mother and caretaker, the questions are far more poignant and the debate more heated.

“Noah’s Ark” is arguably one of the most well-known Old Testament stories and is often used as a children’s tale. It has been re-told in so many formats that it almost transcends its biblical roots becoming a mythical story in our over culture. “Noah’s Ark” has even found its way into the whimsical world of Disney cartoons (Fantasia 2000) and Broadway musicals (Two By Two).

Considering the amount of creative license needed to produce a Broadway or Disney rendition of the story, it may seem surprising that anyone would consider protesting a live-action adaptation by an award-winning director. However that is exactly what has been happening.

To date the film is banned in four Islamic countries (UAE, Indonesia, Bahrain and Qatar) and is expected to be banned in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait. Their objections are based upon the Islamic rejection of “any acts depicting the messengers and prophets of God.” as reported by Reuters.  Paramount expected these bans.

Paramount Films Noah 2014

Paramount Films Noah 2014

Back here in the U.S. viewer complaints center mostly on Noah’s characterization as well as its sub-themes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a group of Christian viewers invited to test market the film “questioned [its] adherence to the Bible story and reacted negatively to the intensity and darkness of the lead character.” One interviewee described Noah as a “crazy, irrational, religious nut who is fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation.” In response, Russell Crowe  has told an ABC interviewer, “This is a dude who stood by and watched the entire population of the planet perish. He’s not benevolent. He’s not even nice.”

Similar complaints have been pouring in since the movie’s inception. In 2012 Brian Godawa coined the now famous title “Noah: Environmentalist Wacko.” After reading the script, he wrote “This movie will be rejected by millions of devoted Bible readers worldwide because once again it subverts their own sacred narrative with a political agenda of pagan earth religion.” Godawa has also been quoted  as saying, “the director had transformed a scriptural story into ‘environmental paganism’ by blaming the great flood on man’s “disrespect” for the environment.”

It is no secret that Hollywood breathes contemporary issues into its adaptations. Was this film project born after an executive finished reading a report on global warming and the potential drowning of populated coastal areas? It is conceivable. The international media has billed Noah as “the original disaster story.” Interestingly enough, a 1928 Warner Brothers version of Noah’s Ark is largely considered the first melodramatic Hollywood disaster movie. There is an undeniable narrative correlation and, realistically, disaster movies are hot box office fodder.

Returning to 2014, Aronofsky’s Noah is just that: Aronofksy’s Noah. As filming progressed, Paramount became increasingly nervous that his creative license would not appeal to its target audience – conservative Christians. They began to test market various cuts of the film at the risk of straining the producer-director relationship. In the end, Paramount has opted to release the director’s cut despite viewer concerns.

According to the Washington Times, Aronofsky calls his film a mythic,“dark parable of sin, justice and mercy.” He also said it is the “least biblical Bible film ever made” calling Noah the “first environmentalist.” However Aronofsky also notes that biblically-based details directly informed the film’s development including the shape of the Ark and Noah’s drinking bout. In a recent ABC interview he said, “You don’t want to mess with it [the story]. You just want to bring it to life and … breathe life into it.”

Although Paramount will be releasing Aronofsky’s version, they are doing so with the following message attached:

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Paramount’s decision to add this disclaimer was based upon a request from the National Religious Broadcasters, “a non-partisan international association of …Christian communicators coming together to spread the life-changing Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through every electronic medium available.” Having spent a reported $130 million on the biblical blockbuster, Paramount felt the disclaimer was fiscally prudent.

There are many Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders who have come out in support of the film. Most recently, the Pope himself granted Crowe an audience after three requests.  According to several reports, he blessed the film’s release.

Paramount Pictures Noah (2014)  Starring: Russell Crowe

Paramount Pictures Noah (2014) Starring: Russell Crowe

Despite Papal approval, viewer objections still haunt the film. Creationist Ken Ham has asked his followers to see Ray Comfort’s Noah film, being released the same day, “instead of wasting money by supporting a pagan Hollywood Noah movie that really makes a mockery of the account of Noah, the Ark and the Flood.”

Once again the primary accusation is one of fostering “paganism” (lowercase intended.)  In most cases, the word is simply used to refer to “secularism or environmentalism.”  However in many of these reviews, the writers are in fact referring to what they call “pagan earth religions.”

This begs the question: Does the film have Pagan themes?  After hearing such complaints, did Paramount ask the opinion of people practicing “Earth Religions?” If so there are no such indications or media reports.

Will you go see the film? Pagan blogger Jonathan Korman is looking forward to its release. He wrote, “I have been joking that Darren Aronofsky’s forthcoming film Noah is a film for which I may be the only audience. I’m ethnically Jewish, a former atheist, and a Modern Pagan, with a fascination with the whole range of religions and myth.”

He may be right in its very eclectic appeal. Compressing the flurry of mainstream articles and reviews, here’s a glimpse at the global scope that has and still is surrounding the film and its production. In the mythic style of Lord of the Rings, Aronofsky’s Noah is a creative retelling of a beloved biblical story written and directed by Jews; containing contemporary Pagan Earth Religion themes; marketed specifically to a conservative Christian audience and banned by the world’s Islamic community.

And they call Hollywood secular.

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

fortean_times_12856_12Steve Moore, an author and occultist who helped found Fortean Times, passed away earlier this month. Moore worked extensively with famed comic writer Alan Moore (no relation), who credited him with learning how to write comic scripts. The Strange Attractor journal, to which Moore was a regular contributor, has posted a moving tribute. Quote: “Steve was a warm, wise and gentle man, with a surreal sense of humour and an astoundingly deep knowledge that covered history, the I Ching, forteana, magic, oriental mysticism, martial arts cinema, science fiction, underground comics and worlds more. Steve was amongst the earliest members of the Gang of Fort, who launched Fortean Timesmagazine in the early 1970s, and later edited its scholarly journal Fortean Studies. He was also the author of a great many influential comics and short stories for publications.” What is remembered, lives.

510KxQLOMyL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Anthropologist Murphy Pizza’s history and ethnography of Minnesota’s Twin Cities Pagan community, dubbed “Paganistan,” will be published by Ashgate Press in April. Quote: “The story of the community traces the formation of some of the earliest organizations and churches in the US, the influence of publication houses and bookstores, the marketplace, and the local University, on the growth and sustenance of a distinct Pagan community identity, as well as discussions of the patterns of diversifying and cohesion that occur as a result of societal pressure, politics, and generational growth within it. As the first ever study of this long-lived community, this book sets out to document Paganistan as another aspect of the increasing prevalence of Paganism in the US and contributes to the discussion of the formation of new American religious communities.” This will no doubt be required reading for many. You can find the Amazon.com listing, here. The hardcover is pretty spend-y, so you might want to await the paperback edition.

2014-03-15 08.46.12Sacred Space Conference board member Caroline Kenner has posted an overview of the recently held East Coast event at The Witches’ Voice. Quote: “2014 marks Sacred Space’s 24th year, an extravaganza of classes and rituals designed for an audience of intermediate to advanced magical practitioners. Each year, Sacred Space hosts national presenters as well as local teachers. This year, M. Macha Nightmare, Selena Fox and Orion Foxwood were our featured talent, and sponsored guests Jason Pitzl-Waters and Renna Shesso also joined us. We were delighted to welcome back Selena and Orion in particular: they both presented at the first conference of Sacred Space’s most recent incarnation, held in 2008. This year, we were able to give them a much larger and more vigorous audience for their teaching.” You can listen to the Appalachian Folk Traditions panel from Sacred Space here at The Wild Hunt.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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 Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“Strings and wires and cords bind me and embrace me and restrain me, but they are not mine alone. There are other filaments, unseen but always felt, invisible but ever-present.  Some tie you to me, thoughts and dreams, laughter and hatred, what is shared and what is feared.  I meet you and we are tethered, sometimes anchored, sometimes set aloft like connected balloons slipping from the hands of children into the endlessness of sky.  Some tie me to you, affection or dislike, duty or admiration, care or casualty, love or loss.  Some are like chains which weigh upon the soul, but many others like long stitches which keep us together. Not just in present, either.  There are the threads of fate woven into my form and existence at birth and from even before, the tugging strong rope of destiny unfolding, and all the myriad unfollowed threads of stories and sorrows, possibilities and failures still loose. I’ve heard existence spoken of as a web, but I have never quite felt this true.  Webs are spun to constrict and trap, to bind and kill.  A broken strand does not destroy it.  Its patterns can be predicted, its geometry assured. No. Rather, then, a tapestry, woven from time and the self, of threads countless and coloured, and each strand is you, and you, and you, and some of them are me.” Rhyd Wildermuth, on strings, and the tapestry of existence.

Julian Betkowski

Julian Betkowski

“Part of the process of community building is realizing that community will be composed of others potentially quite unlike ourselves. We must be willing to release our preconceptions and allow others to speak for themselves. Others are not simply mirrors, dully reflecting our own images back to us, they possess a depth and mystery all their own. When we interpret the speech of others as metaphor, we strip them of their depth, of the richness of their experience, and refuse to acknowledge any unique substance in them. Simply, others are reduced to pale imitations of ourselves, and can only be understood as phantom extensions of our own being. This is a subtle form of solipsism. The strategy of reinterpretation becomes even more troublesome when the speech of others becomes so unique, so different from our own expectations, that it naturally resists all attempts to be read as metaphor. We will encounter others with whom we share so little in common that descriptions of their own experiences will find little to no resonance among our own store of memory. In such situations we are forced to either employ extreme hermeneutical maneuvers in order to apologize their speech with our experience or disregard it as nonsense. Alternatively, we could, most simply, just accept it as it is presented to us.” - Julian Betkowski, on resisting the urge towards metaphor in our interactions with others.

Carol Kirk

Carol Kirk

“Even to use the word “community” when speaking of Pagans would seem to be a misnomer.  There is no Pagan community where I live.  There is just a small group of Pagans who get together over coffee every two weeks and then go their own way. They have no interest in working together on community projects or in working with those of non-Pagan religions. They don’t have any interest in creating any sort of Pagan community so why care about reaching out to the rest of the interfaith community at all?  It seems to me we have become as judgmental and as intolerant of each other as those other religions we complain of when they do the same. Perhaps our interfaith work as Pagans needs to begin with ourselves.  If we cannot find tolerance and an ability to work together between the various forms of Paganism, what chance do we have of finding it in the outside world? Something to remember about interfaith work is that it isn’t all about talking about your beliefs and practices with others; although, education to end misinformation is certainly part of what we in interfaith hope to accomplish.  Rather successful interfaith is about gathering those of many faiths who have an interest in programs to benefit their community, to promote social justice, and to work to the good of all.  It is through working side by side on such programs that we come to acknowledge that we are all human and that we can and do care for each other.  Maybe this is where the various Pagan religions need to start.” – Carol Kirk (aka Lark), on interfaith within the Pagan movement.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“What matters to me is that we leave behind a viable culture and a real infrastructure as Pagans. Infrastructure  is the single most important next step. Things that are tangible and real in the physical world are infrastructure. It could be a building, be land, be a library or a shrine or temple. A large event like Pantheacon is infrastructure too. It takes a large number of individuals, money, time, and energy to create this Brigadoon type of event that lasts only a few days. Three thousand people intersect in a great Pagan crossroads, like a Pagan United Nations session. This is also fragile, it takes very little to destroy an event. It take a lot to maintain, and requires cohesiveness of a group to continue. How we hope to maintain things like this is by this example. We put on an event every few years called Between the Worlds. In 2015 it conflicts with a smaller annual event in the Mid-Atlantic area the Sacred Space conference. We could just go forth and divide the teachers and participants between the two events. The smaller group would probably suffer financially and possibly become less viable. Our two boards met and decided to hold a joint conference. Both events will take place in the same hotel and admission to one gets you admission to the other. We have worked it out to be fair and keep both events, the infrastructure viable.  Cooperation is possible, it is not easy. It is messy, but it can be done.” – Ivo Dominguez Jr., on what Paganism needs to accomplish in the next 20 years. 

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“Here was a great book; a practical step-by-step guide,  with detailed tables and illustrations, that explained magick in a direct, matter-of-fact manner which encouraged scientific thinking and observation of empirical evidence.  Sometimes I am a little obsessive about things, and I threw myself into the Work.  I did the year-long course delineated in Mr. Kraig’s excellent textbook in six months. This is not something I recommend, by the way.  My life went promptly to hell for the next two years, grounded in personal magickal transformation and teenage angst.  But I emerged from that period as a very strong person, with a lifelong appreciation for and love of magick and the Craft. I credit Modern Magick with significantly improving my magickal technique; because the training was excellent, and because I did it at such a young age.  I have seen this book since listed among recommendations for “Advanced” material that long-time Witches, bored with the basic how-to books, could go to in order to take their practice to the next step.” – Sable Aradia, on how Donald Michael Kraig impacted her life and religious practice.

Lon Milo DuQuette. Photo by Charles Elliott.

Lon Milo DuQuette

“I bet you’ve always felt special, haven’t you? Be honest with yourself. I’d wager that even as a child you you were haunted by the uneasy feeling that you were different from everyone else around you. You probably felt (and still feel) profoundly alone with a host of naughty feelings, secret fears, disturbing dreams, curious passions, and desires that are uniquely yours and yours alone. Compared to everyone else, you might consider yourself quietly odd, different, perhaps even defective or incomplete. Nevertheless, even though all of us to one degree or another secretly believe ourselves to be profoundly and fundamentally flawed, we simultaneously believe we are the most special, most interesting, most fascinating person in the universe—the super-star of our own movie, the protagonist of our own novel, the most important actor in the great drama of existence. Am I right? Don’t worry if your answer is “yes.” You’re probably not too crazy. And you’re certainly not alone in your megalomania. Everyone feels that way—and for good reason. Because it’s true!” - Lon Milo DuQuette, on finding the Muse.

David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

“Recently, I found myself feeling like I was running through a gauntlet within a local Facebook group by a few members of the group who had a serious problem with Christopaganism.  Their problem was centered on their understanding of, “the Bible says this…”  What transpired was a litany of Bible passages they felt that condemned Paganism.  I responded that I didn’t feel it necessary to “proof text” with them and volley back with other Bible passages.  I responded that I didn’t feel the Bible was “inerrant” and that I believed it was written by people struggling to make meaning out of their world.  I mentioned that what was important was the hermeneutic one used to interpret the entire text and not taking various texts out of context to use as a “theological weapon” against another. What does it mean for Pagans if we become what we say we are not?  One does not need to embrace Christopaganism to dialogue about it for understanding.  What does it say if we become the type of community that expects tolerance from others without practicing tolerance?  This is the heart of the dilemma I presented. This same treatment I’m advocating towards Christopaganism should be offered towards other forms of Paganism different from one’s own.   As a community, Paganism is starting to mature.  We’re starting to “come of age,” and with that comes responsibility.  In life it is often common to give youth or adolescence a “pass” from time to time with the explanation of, “Well they’re young…” As a community we’re reaching a point where we can no longer be given a pass.  We need to practice the tolerance that we covet for ourselves and when we fall short of this, and we will, we need to acknowledge our shortcomings and keep trying.” - David Oliver Kling, on practicing what you preach.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Do you know that thing which happens to some performers, who are great in a performance in front of thousands of people, but then they falter when they know that their mother is in the audience? This kind of feels like that: I’ve done rituals halfway across the world, and in many other parts of the U.S. (including not far from here, in Anacortes and Seattle and Bellingham), in front of large groups of people, but this is different. Two people who will be there have only done/been at one other ritual, ever (this one!), and while I’d like it to be good for them, at the same time, I know that pretty much anything will be good as far as they’re concerned…And, I know the main Diva who will be receiving our praises appreciates anything and everything that people are able to do for her, and should be pleased with this (which may be the largest group I’ve ever had for a ritual to her–the next-largest being myself and two others, including Erynn Rowan Laurie, in 2009 at her house, and likewise one in 2005 in Ireland with two others, including Sharynne MacLeod Nic Mhacha at my house there), nonetheless, there’s another audience that we don’t often take as much into account as we ought to, even as scrupulous, self-conscious, and (most importantly!) other-aware polytheists and animists, which is the place of place itself and those places that are particular to us and know us and in which we have lived, but which may not be “used to” certain sorts of activities by us in those locations.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on a strange form of homecoming.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“There is nothing in our lives that is not sacred. Our laughter. Our excretions. Our hopes and dreams. Our fear. The way we love. The way we cry. The way we fight. What we eat. How we learn. There is nothing in our lives that is not sacred because life itself is a holy and blessed thing. Every flower, animated. Every rock, an ancient pattern. Each song, an expression of humanity in relationship to all things. We are star stuff, it is said, and this is true. We are made of the same iron that gives off distant, dying light. We are made of the same iron that anchors us to this earth. Sometimes we remember. Sometimes we forget. Every day presents this offering: Try again.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on living sacred

That’s all I have for now, have a great day! 

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During my time at PantheaCon, I was fortunate enough to speak with Geraldine Beskin, the owner of the Atlantis Bookshop in London. Like myself, this was Geraldine’s first trip to PantheaCon and we both were amazed and delighted by the enormity of it all. When we sat down to talk, my original intention was simply to ask her about the changes at the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, but we were quickly sidetracked discussing everything from the Museum to Atlantis; from the Wildwood Tarot to the Occult in film. When two Gemini sit down for a conversation, the topic never stays constant.

Here is an overview and history based on that fascinating discussion.

Geraldine at work in Atlantis Bookshop Photo: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life spitalfieldslife.com

Geraldine at work in Atlantis Bookshop  Photo Source: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life

Geraldine Beskin is the longtime owner of the 92-year-old Atlantis Bookshop in London. Located in the Bloomsbury district on Museum Street two blocks from the British Museum, the shop is the oldest and most well-known occult shop in England and quite possibly the world. It was established in 1922 by occultist Michael Houghton. As Geraldine says, “it was founded by magicians for magicians.” Some of the most well-known occultists and witches have passed through its doors including Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, W.B. Yeats and so many more.

Geraldine Beskin  Photo Source: The Gentle Author / Spitalfields Life

Geraldine Beskin Photo Source: The Gentle Author / Spitalfields Life

Geraldine’s own history is very much tied to Atlantis. In 1962 her own father assumed ownership of the store. As a result she grew up in and around London’s magical world; absorbing its energy and learning from the people that came and went. She recalls walking past Gerald Gardner on the shop’s stairs as he headed up to a meeting with her father and others. Although she never formally met him, she knew he was considered the “king of witches.” Today as she shares that memory, she laughs saying, “There stood one asthmatic Gemini named Geraldine looking at another asthmatic Gemini named Gerald.”

At the age of 19, she began working in the shop and then eventually took over as owner in 1972. Due to family responsibilities, she sold the shop in 1989; only to return again in 2002. When she returned to town and repurchased the store, news spread quickly that “Geraldine was back in town.”  It was as if the universe was set right again. Geraldine was back where she belonged.

Today she and her daughter Bali together own and manage Atlantis. They give us a tour in the following video taken by Jack Dark, writer of the popular essay: “A Very Brief History of British Paganism.”

After 92 years in operation, Atlantis is still a shop by magicians for magicians. The world surrounding Witchcraft and Witches is a far cry from what it was in 1922. The store has seen an immense amount of cultural change but has continued to play an important role in England’s magical culture. As Geraldine notes, people from all walks of life stop by, just as Crowley did, for a cup of tea and good conversation. In fact, it was a visit to Atlantis that inspired Shai Feraro, the Israeli academic, to pursue  his research on Paganism and Feminist Spirituality. He said:

After a visit to the British Museum, I stumbled upon an occult bookshop on Museum Street. As you probably guess by now, it was the Atlantis Bookshop … This led to my M.A. thesis on the development of the Feminist Spirituality Movement in the United States during the 1970s-1980s.

Authors John and Caitlin Matthews are two regular visitors to Atlantis.  They said:

Atlantis Bookshop is a central point for all who are seekers on the path of occult wisdom. It’s at once a resource, a drop in for Pagans and seekers of all kinds of magical arts. Geraldine is, of course, herself a fount of knowledge and wisdom, and her expertise on Esoteric arts and practices is both practical and informed. … Whenever we have time in London we call in at Atlantis for tea, a chat and a browse … Atlantis is a shining light in the jungle of London.

Today Atlantis publishes its own material under its imprint Neptune Press just as it did in 1922. They also sponsor workshops and launch books. John Matthews says:

When we were making a trailer for a TV show set partly in the 40s we filmed several scenes in the basement and courtyard of Atlantis, which doubled for wartime London. They have been consistently helpful to us, promoting our work and … drawing the attention of customers to our fledgling publishing company, Mythwood Books.

Geraldine herself offers lectures on occult topics such as “Woman of the Golden Dawn,” “Aleister Crowley: The Man behind the Mask” and “Many P. Hall: The Murdered Mystic.”

Atlantis Bookshop Photo Credit: The Good Author / Spitalfields Life

Atlantis Bookshop Photo Source: The Gentle Author/Spitalfields Life

Atlantis has become an important part of British Witchcraft history. Lurking in its walls, there is a treasure trove of stories from times past. It is an artifact in its own right and even a museum with Geraldine as its curator.

In that way it is not at all surprising that Geraldine works closely with the famous Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall. Established by Cecil Williamson shortly after the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, the Museum was originally located on the Isle of Man.  After a few unsuccessful moves, the Museum landed in the small fishing village of Boscastle in 1960 where it has remained ever since. Like Atlantis, the Museum has survived much change including a devastating flood in 2004. The waters washed away much of the town and buried the Museum’s entire first floor in mud. Despite this devastation, “the museum lost almost nothing,” says Geraldine who calls the cottage magical.

In October of 2013, owner Graham King announced his retirement.  He bought the museum from an ailing Williamson in 1996 and has been running it successfully ever since. His successor is high-profile art director and set designer, Simon Costin. Geraldine herself remarked how thrilled she was with this appointment. She believes that Simon’s modern media savvy will be a refreshing addition to the British landmark.

However Simon Costin was brought on for more than just media awareness.  He has a unique passion for the preservation of British folklore and the Museum of Witchcraft fits that bill. Although Costin is not a witch himself, Witchcraft history “ticks his boxes,” as Geraldine described. In a 2010 interview with artCornwall.org Costin said:

I have been interested in Myths and Folk Stories for as long as I can remember … [This interest] is completely separate from my work as a practice but there is a blurring of interests. I have been involved with it for so long now that it’s hard to say where one thing stops and another starts. My early artworks were influenced by fairy stories and folk tales. Much of my work … takes me into mysterious other worlds where changes in scale have echoes of Alice in Wonderland, so I suppose there are overlaps.

In 2009 he started a traveling Museum for British Folklore.

Quite often over the years, I have tried to find a place where I could learn more about Britain’s rich folk heritage only to discover that we don’t actually have any such institution. This is strange really when we produce so much of it.

Today the award-winning Museum stands as one of the most recognizable tourists destinations in Cornwall, if not England itself. Author John Matthews has remarked, “The museum of Witchcraft is a study centre which enables serious students to get beyond the sensational (although there’s a fair bit of that too)… to the real history of Witchcraft.” In December 2013, the museum announced that it is applying for official museum accreditation and will remain in Cornwall for at least the next five years.

Photo Credit: Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.

Photo Source: Selbst fotografiert von JUweL under CC lic.

During our conversation Geraldine couldn’t say enough positive things about the future of the Museum. She also added that the cottage “oozes charm.” It appears small from the outside but when you step inside it goes on and on like a “Harry Potter building.” Together the Atlantis Bookshop and the Museum of Witchcraft have become two respected institutions aimed at preserving what Simon Costin called “British folk heritage” and additionally the history of Witchcraft. Going forward both appear to be in very good hands.

Dancing Pan by Woody Fox Willow.  Sculpture is now on permanent display outside of the Museum of Witchcraft. (www.woodyfoxwillow.co.uk)

Dancing Pan by Woody Fox Willow. Sculpture is now on permanent display outside of the Museum of Witchcraft. (www.woodyfoxwillow.co.uk)

 

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“We cannot effectively advocate that which we do not live. We must practice what we preach, before we begin to preach it. Our way of doing things is an integral part of our difference from the mainstream and so of the message we have been called forth to bring.”Judy Harrow

Judy Harrow

Judy Harrow

On Friday, word emerged slowly through Facebook and private correspondences that Judy Harrow, Wiccan Elder, Pagan community organizer, counselor, and author, had unexpectedly passed in her sleep. While Harrow may not have been as high-profile as some prominent individuals within our community, she had been hugely influential, laying the groundwork for many of the projects, institutions, and modes of thought we now associate with our movement.

Coming to Gardnerian Witchcraft in the middle 1970s, Harrow went on to co-found Proteus Coven, a theologically liberal manifestation of her tradition. Shortly after this, Proteus Coven affiliated with the newly-formed Covenant of the Goddess, with Harrow serving in a number of leadership roles within the national organization in the 1980s. In 1985, she was the first member of COG to be legally registered as clergy in New York City. Founding the Pagan Pastoral Counseling Network in 1982, she would go on to head the Pastoral Care and Counseling Department at Cherry Hill Seminary. In addition, Harrow did important outreach work within the fields of professional counseling and interfaith.

Judy Harrow was also active in media and publishing, producing the weekly radio feature “Reconnections,” which concerned progressive religious groups, for WBAI in New York, and authoring two books. These were “Wicca Covens: How to Start and Organize Your Own” and “Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide.” Harrow also edited the collection “Devoted To You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice.”

Since word emerged of her passing on Friday, a number of tributes have been written, from both organizations and individuals within our interconnected movement.

“The Covenant of the Goddess takes a quiet moment to say farewell to one of its long-time members and elders as she crosses. Judy Harrow was instrumental in expanding CoG’s reach from its birthplace in Northern California to the East Coast. She helped to establish the North East Local Council that assisted the growing number of Wiccans and Witches in that area. Judy was also a dedicated National Board member and one of the only East Coast members in attendance at the very first Merry Meet in 1981.  Judy’s work for CoG was only a small part of who she was and of what she contributed to the growth and well-being of the Pagan community. In all her efforts, Judy was keenly aware that history was being made step-by-step. On this day in early spring, we honor all that she did, all that she was and all the beauty in the legacy that she left. What’s remembered lives. And what lives, will bloom forever.”The Covenant of the Goddess

“Judy was involved from our early years, forming and chairing the first Department of Pagan Pastoral Counseling, pushing the organization to begin aligning our training with professional requirements at a time when most Pagans still only concerned themselves with coven secrets and ritual cycles. Without her wise shaping of the program, I can’t imagine what CHS would look like now. Judy was a gifted teacher, as both our students and scores of her own lineage will attest. To thank and honor her, CHS several years ago named our online library the Judy Harrow Library. True to form, she was pleased but surprised by the fuss and wanted us to keep the title as simple as possible.”Holli Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary

Judy Harrow & Margot Adler. Photo by Lisa Bodo.

Judy Harrow & Margot Adler. Photo by Lisa Bodo.

“She was the only one of the members of our small Gardnerian coven, iargolon, who carried the flame far and wide, creating so many groups that everywhere I go, I get, ‘Hello Grandma, I’m downline!’”Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down The Moon.”

“I am so sorry to hear of Judy’s passing! Judy was one of the first people I met in the Craft outside the Bay Area, many, many years ago. To me she was an example of someone who could bring together the magical disciplines with psychology and psychotherapy and her own abundant trove of common sense. She never lost sight of the need tor our groups and covens to learn group dynamics and community building skills. She is a true elder and one of the early trailblazers for the Pagan movement, and she will be deeply missed!”Starhawk

“I first met Judy many years ago, in the late 1980s, when I lived in western Masschusetts. She attended events with various groups I knew at the time, including larger festivals, traveling from the New York City area to gather with others. I remember her as being opinionated, feisty and a true firebrand; like so many of our pagan elders, the burgeoning pagan movement was an exciting space to explore and Judy was a major figure in the growth of that movement. [...] As we grow older and our pagan elders pass away (including Donald Michael Kraig earlier this week), may we never forget how these strong and spirited people forged paths and inroads for all of us, and may we continue to learn from their example and honor their work. Go in peace Judy, and may your lively conversations continue with those who have gone on before.”Peg Aloi, The Witching Hour, and The Witches’ Voice

“Oh, there’s so much more to say about Judy and her life!  Others have told their Judy stories elsewhere.  There’s plenty of drama to go round.  In my experience, however, over many years and many projects, Judy maintained the ability to keep her eye on the prize.  Regardless of personal disagreements — and they could be long and heated and irresolvable — Judy made sure we kept our focus on the goal toward which we were striving.  Her life influenced many people, from teaching coveners to getting NYC to accept CoG’s credentials, from writing a Wiccan chaplains’ manual for the military to schmoozing with world religious leaders in Barcelona, from dancing round a bonfire to helping create a respected Pagan seminary. Knowing Judy has enriched my life beyond measure.  She was a Pagan pioneer.  If you knew her, you know all this.  If you didn’t know her in life, know that her work has advanced our religions and made our futures more assured and comfortable.  She has blessed us all. Judy went to the simmering cauldron of emerging American Paganism and added something every once in a while.  Then she’d stir it to mix it all in and to keep stuff from sticking on the bottom.”M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien)

“I first met Judy very late on a May evening in 1979, when I picked her up along with another friend at the Trailways Bus terminal in Framingham, MA. She had come to attend the first Rites of Spring gathering, the first large pagan festival that either of us had ever been part of. We became friends that weekend, and occasional collaborators in the years since, founding (along with a few other people) the North East Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess, and participating in a spirited panel discussion on pagan clergy in FireHeart magazine, among other things. Judy went on to become a psychotherapist, an author, the founder of the Protean tradition, and a member of the faculty of Cherry Hill Seminary. I have fond memories of the brief time we spent together in Barcelona during the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions, though it was painfully obvious even then that she was in poor health. I will never forget Judy telling me once how very important it was for us to always be mindful that we were writing pagan history — that one day we would be remembered as ancestors by future generations, so we needed to leave them some really good stories. Judy has now officially become part of that history, and joined the ranks of the ancestors. Farewell, my friend, I will miss you.”Andras Corban Arthen, EarthSpirit

“I am thankful for Judy, for our friendship, and for her many contributions to Paganism, to Interfaith relations, and to the Mental Health Professionals realm.  I cherish memories of our good times together at Pagan conferences and festivals over the years, and at the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona, Spain.  May her bright spirit, writings, and wisdom continue to support, encourage, and inspire.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“I want to write about Judy, but it’s too hard. It’s like I’m standing too close to something, trying to take a picture. Nothing comes into focus. It’s all too big to fit into the frame. She was family. I guess that’s what it comes down to. She could be maddening; she could be irascible. She sang off key; she made mistakes. She had the most astonishing students you could imagine; she wassmart and disciplined and passionate, and she adored reaching out to people she imagined might be more those things than she was. She was righteous to a fault, absolutely dedicated to Pagan movement and the Craft, and probably constitutionally incapable of compromising her ethics. She loved scholarship and scholars, she loved innovation and music… and she loved her community.”Cat Chapin-Bishop

“The 1990s were a time of testing boundaries, of high magic and higher tempers. From those fields rose a handful of patient and brilliant teachers, who were also visionaries about the future of these strange spiritual systems and their place in the modern world. Judy Harrow was one of those teachers, one of those visionaries. We have been blessed by her work for many years and her death leaves a hole in our springtime world. We won’t see her like again.”Byron Ballard

This is but a sampling, as I know that many more are who have been touched by her work and life are penning tributes and obituaries to this remarkable individual. As the days progress, I will spotlight them as they emerge. As for me, my interactions with Judy Harrow have been brief, but were weighted with the great admiration and respect I held for her. We overlapped a bit at Cherry Hill Seminary when I sat on their board for a short time, and I got to make her acquaintance at a PantheaCon some years ago. I remember she was quite frail at that meeting, having recently emerged from a long medical ordeal, but well enough to give me a hug and tell me that I looked far friendlier in person than in my sometimes severe online portraits. I was worried then that we would lose her, but she rallied and remained a strong presence in our community for years to come.  Now that she has truly left us, I find myself wishing I had found the time to speak with her more, to learn from her history more, to step aside from my deadlines and drink deeply of her experience.

Losing Donald Michael Kraig and Judy Harrow in the same week draws attention to the fact that our elders, teachers, and visionaries are a precious resource that we can lose at any moment. Some, we are prepared for, and some hit us hard, but all take with them their vibrant spirit, though they may leave their teachings and legacies. This should be a moment of awakening for us, to truly honor those who blazed the trails we now seek to travel on, to preserve as much as we can of their work and life for future generations. We have the means, technology, and ability to do this work, all we need to do is find the time and will. There are some nascent projects on this front, but we need more.

As for Judy Harrow, you will never be forgotten. You have enriched us, you have fought for us, and you have given your life in service to our faiths. You live still with us, especially with the many Witches you’ve shaped. Rest now in the arms of the gods and return to us again.

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Chiwetel12YearsInterviewidephoto3Winning the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, 12 Years a Slave continues to generate conversation among people from all over the world. The movie, based on the true story of Solomon Northup, has brought the reality of slavery in the United States to the big screen – as others before it — but this time gaining lots of attention for a production well done. The story of slavery is not new, society is still learning from the impact and damage of this glitch in time, and ultimately how that trickles down to the many different factions within our world today.

These conversations — generated by what is current on the big screen — help to shape culture and have a potential influence on discussions that help to further shape culture; this is not just within greater society, but even within the smaller sects of society, like it is within the Pagan community.

The winning award for this movie shows some, previously lacking, acceptance for movies that depict people of color as the main attraction, but also for the story itself. A moment of acceptance for the beauty and the horror of the story of chattel slavery, the subjective definitions of freedom, and the perspectives that continue to influence how people look at our history and our present. As discussions of diversity continue to flourish within the Pagan community, reflections on our past become the discussions that are mirrored in our discussions of today.

solomon sign imagesThere were some incredible moments within the horror of this movie that pulled the audience in, to stay with the images on the screen. In addition to the discussions of racism, privilege, oppression, there has been a lot of discussion around actress Lupita Nyong’o award winning performance. Nyong’o, who won the best supporting actress award for her remarkable performance of some of the most heart wrenching scenes in the movie, carried the movie with her stunning performance as the slave Patsey. The harshness of the brutal damage of slavery, rape, and dehumanization was shown alongside of the reality of survival and resilience of spirit.

The Pagan community is expanding and understanding the levels of intersectionality within varying levels of oppression, history, marginalization, resources, and privilege, and how that impacts the way that the Pagan community functions today. Which brings us back to seeing the impact that films like this have on society, and how people within the Pagan community feel about the impact of films like this on our community.

In exploration of this topic, several Pagan practitioners responded to questions regarding their personal reflections on the movie, and on community.

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What are your impressions of the movie 12 Years a Slave?

As a student of history who has spent a considerable chunk of time on African/Diaspora/African-American history, I find the modern portrayal of such narratives on the silver screen integral to our overall understanding of our shared American history. Though I have not yet read the original writings in which the movie was based upon, I felt that the movie itself was a compelling piece which presented a very unique perspective into the slave system of the United States. – Byron Tyler Coles, student.

I am still shocked by the impugnity with which white people oppressed the people whom they had enslaved. Even the plantation owners who showed the occasional inklings of humanity still built the foundation of their entire society upon the endless suffering of those whom they considered property. – Chris Moore

12 Years a Slave brought the brutality of slavery home to me in a way that I’ve never experienced before. Knowing that slavery happened and was awful from an intellectual standpoint was completely different than seeing it shown on the faces and bodies on the screen. My heart broke again and again, seeing the atrocities that are only one small percent of what life must have been like for those enslaved. It’s a knowing that doesn’t go away, that personalized slavery in a way that wasn’t personal before. – Del

I was deeply saddened by this film. It was heart wrenchingly painful to view the treatment of my ancestors, and more painful still to consider that although many things have changed, many have remained the same. We have no plantations in the 21st century, we have prisons overflowing with African American male bodies. We have no plantation Overseers in the 21st century, we have police officers whose unchecked brutality is often directed at African American males and ended the lives of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. We don’t have female house slaves in the 21st century but we do have African American women whose faces remain unseen, voices remain unheard, stories remain untold, and whose experiences, cultural contributions, and lives remain undervalued. – Heaven Walker, Dianic High Priestess

la_ca_1213_costumes_12_years_a_slaveHow do you think a movie like this has an impact on the overall culture of society?

Many have refused to see this movie because it is “too depressing” or because they “already know about slavery” or because it “isn’t like that today” and fail to see its relevance to current day race relations and culture. Some saw this movie and said “that’s terrible, I had no idea things were that bad” and then went out to dinner at a 5 star restaurant and failed to notice that most of the waiters or bussers were people of color and most of the customers were white. Some saw the similarities between then and now and were deeply moved. And a tiny but mighty few saw the film, understood its relevance and importance, and said “what can I do?” – Heaven Walker, Dianic High Priestess

Unfortunately I am afraid that I will not have a lasting impression on the overall culture of today’s society, and this is due to a variety of reasons. Most particularly for younger adults, we have been barraged with a rather imbalanced and historical unsound idea of American history concerning slavery. I believe this can be seen in our fairly unsettling ability to address racism, colorism, and etc in the country today let alone throughout the centuries. However, it does for a split second bring to light such a conversation that too often loses steam once the Hollywood award season is over with. – Byron Tyler Coles, Student.

To be honest, as much as I would like to think that 12 Years a Slave would change the culture of Silence and Denial that permeates the US, I have little hopes that a movie by itself, no matter how well done, could effect the kind of change needed. But I do think that it helps bring the history of violence and oppression in to the national dialogue. I don’t think that it will change the minds of those who are willfully ignorant, sadly, but I think that just talking about it is a way of breaking down the walls of cultural cognitive dissonance that have permeated the US. This movie reminds us that you can close your eyes, you can not look – but it happened – these stories are real, these people, and hundreds, thousands, millions, of others, were hurt – and no, you didn’t hurt them, but how are you helping?

And also, I wouldn’t presume to speak for African American people, but I would think that in some ways, as hard a movie as this was for both descendants of oppressors and oppressees, it’s also very powerful – to have your history validated, to have your cultural stories taken seriously and displayed with sensitivity. And if the movie won’t change the mind of those who’ve chosen to shut their eyes, I think that it has the power to lift up those who have felt silenced, and give their history a voice.  - Del

I felt really conflicted about the movie. I do think its a really important movie for white people to see, because it takes slavery, a situation that they could in no way relate to or understand, and makes it relatable by having it happen *to* someone who was free. Since he was a free man who was kidnapped, everyone can see the horror of how wrong that was, and can put themselves in his shoes. However, what left my conflicted was realizing that the filmmakers were invoking little empathy about what was happening to the rest of the slaves. They do of course show the horrors of what happens to them as well, but you leave the theater feeling good about his wrong being righted at the end, and never look back and think about the rest of them. I think that is why this movie is so successful because everyone can relate, which is also why I think its important for white people to see, but at the same time I think it devalues the lives and stories of the rest of the slaves. In the final scene where he is reunited with his family, like everyone in the theater I was crying, but shortly thereafter I realized, “Wait, why am I crying for him and not the other slaves? Why is his story so much more tragic?” Because this happened *to* him, He is not “supposed” to be a slave, therefor its wrong. The rest of the slaves were born into it, so for them it’s just the way it is, but for him, it was wrong. – Ellie Bryan, Musician.

I think there is actually a danger here that the more privileged among us will take solace in the idea that slavery is somehow “over”, or that the institutional, generational oppression of people of color is not alive and well in the here and now. The events in this movie need to be seen as the antecedent of our current reality. – Chris Moore

I hope it does. Just last week my children’s supervising teacher said to me and the boys “racism is over, thing are equal”. Upon seeing the look of shock on my face she said “I mean, at least for me it is”. And honestly I don’t know if a movie like this, about the past, can change someone’s mind about today. – Melanie Moore

12years-captive

Do you think this particular movie, and movies like this, has an impact the culture within the Pagan community? Why or why not?

I think only time will tell, though we are ultimately a sub-culture in and of ourselves, we are none the less part of the mainstream culture. In religious practices that originate in cultural specific locales, I believe it is essential that we understand how ethnic nationalism can affect our religious traditions in modern pagan practices, and how it influences us to understand American history and other individuals. – Byron Tyler Coles, Student

We Pagans are generally open-minded. The danger of this attitude can be complacency, or an unwillingness to further examine our assumptions. I think this movie can raise the awareness of those Pagans who are willing to feel uncomfortable and challenged. – Chris Moore

I would like to think that this movie would have great impact on pagan culture, and there are many groups such as Reclaiming and Come As You Are Coven who are not only committed to Social Justice but consider cultural education and social justice activism to be part of their magical practice and deeply linked with earth based spirituality. And there were far too many in the pagan community who did not see this film because they were convinced that it had nothing to do with them or their experience and did not connect with the idea of “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” on a sociocultural level.- Heaven Walker, Dianic High Priestess

12 years images

How can movies like this impact individuals within the Pagan community’s ability to understand the impact of historical oppression on diversity today?

Magic and movies are both visual mediums, and often experiential; what we see often becomes truth. The truth is informal censorship of slavery through film history is a dialogue that extends far beyond the visual medium; and we as a country have done little to truly understand and reflect on our history and the real human impact of slavery. 12 Years a Slave reveals itself as one of the first major film attempts to explore slavery not as a political institution (“Lincoln”) or as an individualist fantasy-land in which any slave could take on an army of whites if they “wanted” to ( “Django Unchained”) but as it was actually experienced to those who endured it. It is authentic truth, much like magical experience is authentic truth.

For the Pagan Community, when we come to the table of authentic experience we come to feel, know, honor, and begin to heal. As Pagan’s we step further into the dialogue that we visualize in 12 Years a Slave that is still experienced today, by using magic to transform our nation’s legacy of power, privilege and oppression into a future of Love. To me this is the films greatest impact, the impact of truth. – Erick DuPree, writer, magic maker

I honestly think that no one movie could enlighten a mind to the historical basis of racism in America today, if that was possible it sure wouldn’t be a movie I would be breaking down doors to see. Unfortunately our shared, national history is marred with racial, sexual, and social-economic classism that for some, is just too hard to swallow. And thats alright, however, we must not let the discomfort be the excuse to address such occurrences of yesterday or today. I am strong believer that if new knowledge doesn’t make you uncomfortable knowing, or pondering, it is not worth learning at all. Movies such as 12 Years A Slave, Beloved, and so on can give us great insight into cultural and religious history within our nation, allowing us to embrace the good and reflect on the ugly. We can look to our nation’s history as religious/spiritual/ethical narratives of truth in showing what not to do, how to prevent, yet present us with the challenge of understanding them today.  - Byron Tyler Coles, Student

I hope that the ability for everyone to relate to the wrongs being done to him would help pagans understand historical oppression, although I don’t know that a misunderstanding of historical oppression is necessarily an issue within the pagan community (I think most pagans understand that their people and ancestors were oppressed and oftentimes decimated by Christianity, so I would think that the ability to relate to oppression would already be there) – Ellie Bryan, Musician.

That’s the problem. There was no “happy ending” for the vast majority of enslaved people. I hope people look around and see that new systems of oppression have been consciously and unconsciously built upon the ruins of slavery, including other forms of actual slavery! – Chris Moore

 

How does the presentation of Lupita Nyong’o challenge perceptions of womanhood and beauty on and off the screen?

patsey 12 yearsThe character Patsy gave a very strong portrayal of women during the times of slavery. Often the male experience is focused on and the experiences of women are invisible. However, this showed the truth of the female experience and how women endured not only brutality, but sexual abuse, the loss of their children, the contempt of their mistresses and fear for their lives. Lupita won a much deserved award for this performance and the illumination of black female experience. She is also being celebrated for her beauty and talent and is a positive image for black women today who are constantly confronted with negative stereotypes of African American women and feel unseen and undervalued in our culture. – Heaven Walker, Dianic High Priestess

I think she is exoticized both on and off the screen. In american/western culture oftentimes dark-skinned women are not considered beautiful. However Nyong’o's foreign-ness allows for an exception to this rule, she is exotic and therefor beautiful. I think her presence in the media is a step in the right direction for breaking down barriers that block dark-skinned women from being accepted as beautiful, however, it’s like everything she does is amazing, simply because she is exotic. If her exoticism was taken away, would she still be as fascinating? I can’t say for sure. If she was a dark-skinned girl from America would she receive the same treatment? I don’t know – Ellie Bryan, Musician.

While there are many differing opinions and interpretations on this film, it is obvious that a film like this can generate some very important conversations and discussions within our community on topics of race, history, and our collective futures. I personally found it refreshing to see so much conversation happening in the Pagan community around this one movie, because it gave a silent permission to talk about some things that are usually not open for discussion. These conversations might eventually lead to a more empathetic, and culturally sensitive society in general, and within the Pagan community as well. As a microcosm of the macro society, every chance to understand and challenge perception is one that the Pagan community can grow from.
**Special thank you to those who took the time to answer the questions for this piece.

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“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”Rainer Maria Rilke

Today is the vernal (spring) equinox*. It is the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Wiccans, Heathens, and various modern Pagans celebrate this day as OstaraLady DayShubun-sai, or simply the spring equinox (autumnal equinox for our Australian friends). Other Spring festivals include Holi, the Hindu festival that took place on March 17th this year, while in ancient Rome, March was packed with agriculture-related and seasonal observances. Several current secular Easter traditions including the Easter Bunny, and dying/decorating eggs are considered remnants of pre-Christian spring celebrations. It is a time for the celebration of the renewal of life.

A manifestation of Spring.

A manifestation of Spring. Photo by Jason Pitzl-Waters.

Here are some quotes from the media, and from community members, on our seasonal celebrations.

“Since the earliest times, the egg has been humanity’s obvious and essential symbol for the significant atmosphere of the vernal season: birth, fertility, growth, eternity. The purely primal power, which comes from the handling of eggs at the equinox, has been a principle influence on many popular spring ritual practices throughout time and across culture. Eggs dyed red as the womb were given as gifts at the spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. Greeks still toast each other at the family Easter dinner by tapping hard-boiled red eggs, one person to the next around the table. The egg that survives the clinking go-round uncracked brings luck for the year to the person who holds it.”Donna Hennes, The Huffington Post

“At this time, as blossoms emerge from slumber, as leaves shoot out, birds play, and the earth awakes from a long winter, go out and let the cool breeze blow around you. Dig your toes into the dirt.  Let the sun peeking behind clouds kiss your face with its light. Draw in the moist air with slow, deep breaths.  Hold each breath for a moment and release them with gratitude. Once more, we seek renewal; for the year, the earth, the garden, and for ourselves. May we all take steps toward renewing our bonds with the natural world, its spirit and wonders. May we all grow a little further toward a healthier way of living within nature.”Raven J. Demers, SageWoman Magazine

“The Spring Equinox arrives this year on Thursday, March 20th—not a moment too soon for those of us who have struggled our way through a tougher than usual winter. And while spring on the calendar isn’t always reflected outside our windows, the energy of the season makes this the perfect time to reboot your body, mind, and spirit. The energy of the natural world varies with the seasons, and different times of the year can give our endeavors a boost if we work with that energy instead of against it. We’re just coming out of winter, which tends to be a slow and quiet time, where the land rests and the light is dim. This can make trying to get things done pretty difficult if your to do list doesn’t say: eat, nap, eat, read, go to bed. The spring, however, is an entirely different story. The energy in this season is all about coming up and out of hiding, new beginnings, and growth. It is the perfect time to start new endeavors, or to give yourself something of a personal reboot, if you will.”Deborah Blake, Witches & Pagans Magazine

“Ostara is the dawn of Spring, the entry way to Summer. At the Spring Equinox the Earth stands fresh and renewed. Let us all be like the Earth, let us cast away the darkness of Winter and embrace the wonder of green growing things. May we find delight in that which blooms around us and let us never forget our responsibility to this place we call home. This world is magickal place, may the power of our Lady and the beauty of Nature remind us of that everyday we draw breath.”Jason Mankey, Patheos.com

“It’s hard to notice the extra three minutes of light each day, but every sunset since the dead of winter, I rejoice for the extra time we get to see the sun. Like a half birthday for the seasons, the vernal equinox marks the day that the Earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun’s light and receives almost equal parts day and night. Also celebrated as the first day of spring, March 20 is a day of celestial balance. [...] Many cultures use the alignment of light on the equinoxes to ritualize a new phase of the year. Located in the center of Chichen Itza, Mexico, El Castillo, a very classic looking Mayan pyramid, displays a large shadowy serpent that can be seen slithering down the steps only on the weeks surrounding the equinoxes. Other celebrations, from the festival of Isis to the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, celebrate this equality of light and dark as they recognize balance among the seasons and new beginnings.”David Broomfield, VailDaily / Eagle Valley Enterprise

“New Orleans Culture also has it’s own St. Joseph’s day customs that have been going on since the influx of Sicilian immigrants in the 1800′s. There are parades, altars, and even lucky fava beans. Altars created are beautiful and complex, featuring flowers, candles, medals, and food, specifically bread. Julie Walker writes in theTimes Picayune about the tradition of stealing a lemon from the altar to get a husband. There is another tradition associated with St. Joseph’s day in the Crescent City, and that is the Mardi Gras Indians. They traditionally “mask,” or come out in costume for the last appearance of the season on Super Sunday, the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day. So enjoy your day, donate what you can, that is said to be key. This is a feast of beggars, it is said to have gained popularity when a great famine was ended by a bounty of fava beans from an unknown source. Happy St. Joseph’s Day!”Lilith Dorsey, Patheos.com

“On the right bank of the river Angi just two kilometers (1.2 miles) from Lake Baikal, the Ekhe Yordo mound rises above. It seems that it couldn’t be a natural formation, although geologists have not found any indication that the plates that make up the mound were brought here by people. After a 100-year break, the Yordyn Games Spring Festival of Indigenous Peoples of Baikal was finally reintroduced. Since then, the festival has been held here every four years. A main event at the games is a circular dance around the Ekhe-Yordo (Big Hill) that is a kind of marathon taking several days to complete. It takes 700 people to completely encircle the hill, and the festival has 2,000 to 3,000 visitors. The games take place over several days, and the sacred dance around the great hill continues day and night. During the festival, dancers wear out several pairs of shoes. During the festival only shamans are allowed to climb to the top of the hill.”Dmitry Sevastianov, RBTH

“I feel like an actor ready to step onto the stage.  What is that wonderful speech from Henry V? ‘I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot! Follow your spirit…’ That is how the Equinox feels to me–as though I am leaning forward, into this rich and work-filled time. I am eager to leave the winter behind me and to get out into the world of soil and manure and food so fresh it is beyond compare. There is sweat in this season, and joy, and companions in the fields. For a few moments, I live in Hardy country–a land of magic and terror, of hares and ancient tended earth.”Byron Ballard, My Village Witch

May you all enjoy a fruitful and blessed spring!

* Technically speaking, the 2014 March Equinox happens at March 20th 16:57 UT. Check your time zone for exact calculations.

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

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Yesterday, I shared the sad news that author and magician Donald Michael Kraig had passed away after battling pancreatic cancer. Today, I wanted to showcase a tribute to Kraig by his longtime employer and publisher Llewellyn Worldwide. Quote: “Don has been an important part of Llewellyn for over 40 years, and has been a tremendous colleague, teacher, mentor, and inspiration to many. Don first started his journey with Llewellyn as an author, when he submitted Modern Magick with encouragement from his then roommate Scott Cunningham. Shortly after he was hired as a writer and moved to St. Paul to work at Llewellyn headquarters.  He eventually became the editor of FATE magazine as well.  Later, he moved back to California but continued on as a writer and editor of New Worlds magazine and as an acquiring editor, where he continued using and sharing his extensive subject-matter knowledge. Don has touched so many lives and will be dearly missed. We are grateful to his life lived, and for his teachings and words that will continue to live on through his many books. Our thoughts go out to Holly and their friends and families.” Updates on a memorial service, and a place to leave donations to help with expenses, can be found here.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols.

OBOD founder Ross Nichols.

Modern Druid group The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids turns 50 this year, and a special golden anniversary grove is being planned to honor the occasion. Quote: “2014 is the 50th year of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. We have asked ‘Trees for Life’ in Scotland to plant a sacred grove to commemorate this anniversary, and have started the project with a donation of 98 trees. We’re calling it ‘Nuinn’s Grove’ after the Druid name of our founder, Ross Nichols. Have a look at the special web-page for this grove here. You’ll see that you can donate a tree for just £5 and ask for a dedication to be read out at its planting. The Order has 17,000 members, a mailing list of 10,000 newsletter susbscribers, and 16,000 listeners to our podcast every month – if every one donated a tree we could plant a whole forest with many sacred groves in it! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?!  Do help make this vision a reality, if you can, by gifting at least one tree now and spreading the news! Trees for Life have made the process incredibly simple!“ 

logo-bsfGede Parma, author of “Ecstatic Witchcraft: Magick, Philosophy & Trance in the Shamanic Craft,” will be presenting this week at BaliSpirit Festival on the Indonesian archipelago of Bali. According to Parma, ze is the first Witch to present at this high-profile yoga/dance/music festival. You can see Parma’s listing on the official web site, here. Quote: “Gede spends his time actively promoting conscious engagement with Place and the Planet, teaching and writing about Witchcraft and Magic, and deepening connection with the Many Bright and Cunning Spirits that people this Cosmos. Ze is also a Reclaiming Witch, a modern tradition of the Craft co-founded by several individuals in California, most famously Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance. Reclaiming does the work of (re)uniting politics with spirituality and is an activist and ecofeminist expression of Witchcraft and Paganism.” Parma recently relocated to Bali, and is half Balinese. The festival runs from March 19th through the 23rd.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • The always-interesting Norse Mythology Blog, run by Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried, is once again up for a religion-category Bloggie in the fourteenth annual Weblog Awards. If the blog wins this year it will, according to Seigfried, “be the first religion blog (on any religion) to be installed in the Weblog Awards Hall of Fame.” Voting is open through Sunday.
  • The 2014 Ostara issue of ACTION, the official newsletter of AREN, is now available. As always, it is chock-full of interesting interviews (plain text version). Featured interviews this time out include Cairril Adaire, Laura Perry, Rufus Brock Maychild, and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (who talks about Wiccanate privilege, and if it’s a problem). ACTION, as I’ve said many times before, is a quiet gem of a resource, don’t miss out on reading it.
  • Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC, which recently announced that it would be closing its community center space, has made announcements regarding plans for new initiatives moving forward, and the election of new officers to guide the foundation. Quote: “The Open Hearth Foundation Board of Governors has decided to focus the organization’s efforts on building community support and funding for its mission, with the goal of reopening a Pagan lending library within the next two years.”
  • The Temple of Witchcraft in Salem, New Hampshire will be holding a Spring Open House on April 6th. Quote: “On Sunday, April 6, 2014, The Temple of Witchcraft will be opening its doors to the public for our Spring Open House in Salem, New Hampshire. Join us in sharing the magick with coffee, tea, refreshments, and lively company. Curious? Have your questions answered by our knowledgable ministers and learn the facts and fantasy about modern Witches and Witchcraft. Come learn about our various ministries, including our work in Healing, Art, Women’s Spirituality, Grief Support, Prison Ministry, and Rites of Passage.”
  • A Pennsylvania coven fighting to perform legal handfastings, whom I’ve mention before here, has won their struggle to navigate the red tape. I’m glad this has been resolved for them.
  • Cosette writes about an unrepentant Australian Pagan predator in the community. Quote: “In my quest to discover the movers and shakers of the Pagan community in Australia, it was bound to happen that I would eventually stumble upon him. He is a man that everyone talks about through cautious whispers and shameful glances. Nobody says his name. I didn’t know his name until the internet magically revealed it. He’s the Voldemort of Victoria, but worse because he is real. His name is Robin Fletcher.”
  • Challenges for Pagan youth, in their own words. Quote: “I don’t think there is a catch-all solution for providing youth with more resources. Everyone has a different need, style of communication, and a learning pace that we just can’t issue a panacea for. I think the first step is acknowledging that young people are still coming to Paganism and polytheism in droves and that it’s up to us to help meet that demand in whatever ways we can.”
  • Panegyria, the newsletter of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, turns 30 this month. Quote: “For thirty years, Panegyria has aimed at connecting the Pagan communities and individuals in the greater Seattle area. During the early 80’s the scene was filled with a disjointed community consisting of small groups, and scantily published newsletters. Pete “Pathfinder” Davis saw a need for a more comprehensive publication to showcase and bring together the voice of the Seattle-area Pagan community.”

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Author, lecturer, and magician Donald Michael Kraig died yesterday after battling an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. Kraig was a very influential author and thinker in the realms of ritual magic(k), magical theory, and related practices. He is perhaps best known for his book Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts, which was dubbed a “modern-day classic” by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. Other recent works included a remembrance of author Scott Cunningham, and an occult-themed thriller novel. He was also an acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide.

Here is the official announcement from his wife, Holly Allender Kraig.

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Donald Michael Kraig and Holly Allender Kraig. Photo: Elysia Gallo.

Donald Michael Kraig died on 3/17/2014.

 It is with great sadness that I announce that Donald Michael Kraig took his last breaths last night (3/17/2014) and died. He has crossed over to Summerland and is finally no longer suffering. The type of cancer he had was just too aggressive for us to do any more treatments and his body finally gave way. He did not suffer. He simply slipped away in his sleep.

 In lieu of flowers or cards, please consider donating to the fund [linked here] to help offset medical expenses and, now, funeral expenses.

 At a later date to be named, there will be a memorial service celebrating his life and what he meant to all of us.

Namaste,

Holly Allender Kraig

Tributes to the life of this influential magical polymath have already started to appear. All of them praising a life well lived, one that made a deep impression on all who got to meet him.

Donald Michael Kraig & Christopher Penczak

Donald Michael Kraig & Christopher Penczak

“As the author of Modern Magick, Don was one of the first to blend the traditions of “High Magick” with the sensibilities of Neopaganism. He worked to break down the walls between the two. His writing was clear, common sense, and accessible, without ever sacrificing intellectual rigor. He applied those same standards to the excellent follow-up, Modern Sex Magick. Don was fun, funny, playful, and full of life. He is one of the people truly responsible for my career as a Pagan author, encouraging me to write a book over and over. He worked with me on the sex magic section of The Way of Four Spellbook. I asked him to read the section because I respected his expertise on the subject, and he was generous with his time and input. I am going to miss him a lot. May he be born again to those who love him, and know them, and love them again.”Deborah Lipp

“It’s a sad day for modern Pagans, as we lost one of the best men in our ranks. Donald Michael Kraig passed away last night following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He inspired so many with his books like Modern Magick, and he inspired me personally in ways I’m too sad to describe right now. We love you Don and happy travels, my friend!”Melanie Marquis

“I’m very sad right now with the passing of Donald Michael Kraig. And seems so weird to be writing about it on FB. I just heard he passed after his fight with pancreatic cancer, same as my Mother had. Don has always been incredibly kind and encouraging to me. We only saw each other once or twice a year, usually at Pantheacon, but had a good time, even if was a brief catch up in the busy hallways or a drink at one of the suites. I was a huge fan of Modern Magick, and when I first became a Llewellyn Worldwide author, someone at LL told Don that, and while he was visiting the Minneapolis office at the same time, we would not be crossing paths. He changed his travel plans so we could have a little time together talking at the office before he caught his plane. And that generosity set the tone of our relationship for years to come.”Christopher Penczak

“With great sadness I have just learned that my friend Donald Michael Kraig crossed last night after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Don and I have been friends since the late 1970s. He showed me great kindness over the years, and was always there with encouragement, a smile, and a really bad joke. He taught me much through simply being the good man that he was in this lifetime. I do not say goodbye, I say ‘Until we meet again, my old friend.’”Raven Grimassi

As for me, I can only reiterate what I said on learning he was battling cancer.

“Donald Michael Kraig is not only a noted author and thinker, he’s also a charming, funny, and supportive individual. When I was invited to my very first festival as a newly minted “Big Name Pagan” I was very nervous, and felt completely out of my depth. My first talk during that weekend was attended by, like, 4 people, and very few people there had heard of me. Luckily, Don was there, and was very supportive. He attended my second talk (which was better attended) and afterwards praised my performance, saying I was a natural at public speaking. Now, whether this was true is up to debate, but perhaps he helped make it true by saying it to me, reminding me that I had done the work to be invited there, and that I did have something to contribute (magick!).

Just as Don had helped me, so he has helped many other people in his life, which is as good an argument for extending his remarkable life as any (that, and the amazing stories of his rock-n-roll past). Also, to be frank, the Pagan community can’t bear to lose a wit of his caliber.”

This is a great loss for our interconnected communities in so many ways. He was a man who lifted his friends up, made his enemies look foolish, and was deeply generous with his knowledge, wisdom, and infectious sense of humor. If we truly return on this wheel again, then I hope it spins quickly and brings his spirit back to us, because the qualities he brought to us are needed now more than ever. I take solace knowing that he will be remembered, and what is remembered lives.

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If there was a dominant theme to the 2014 Sacred Space Conference in Laurel, Maryland, it would be Appalachian folk magic, and the teachers from that culture who have emerged within our community. Featured presenter Orion Foxwood, author of “The Candle and the Crossroads: A Book of Appalachian Conjure and Southern Root-Work” spoke to packed rooms that seemed reluctant for their experience with the charismatic teacher to end. Likewise, Byron Ballard, author of “Staubs and Ditchwater: a Friendly and Useful Introduction to Hillfolks’ Hoodoo” gave a rollicking overview of “the joy of hex” to a standing-room only crowd.

Byron Ballard

Byron Ballard with presentation materials.

So, it stands to reason that a panel featuring Foxwood, Ballard, and Linda Ours Rago, author of “Blackberry Cove Herbal: Healing With Common Herbs in the Appalachian Wise-Woman Tradition” (among other works) would come to seem like the capstone of the entire weekend. Moderated by Michael G. Smith, an Elder in The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, the resulting experience was one filled to the brim with stories, laughter, more stories, explanations of differences in geographic terminology for similar folk-magic practices, even more stories, and emotional evocations of their land and culture.

The Appalachian Folk Traditions panel participants combining their powers for the camera.

The Appalachian Folk Traditions panel participants combining their powers for the camera.

There’s no way I could accurately capture the experience of this panel, so with permission, I recorded the proceedings and now share them with you here. 

Within modern Paganism, and certainly within the many religious movements that overlap with ours, authenticity is important. I think that these practitioners so inspire students and observers because they bring with them a cultural authenticity born of their own experiences. Naturally, when spiritual technologies seated within a specific cultural context are taught in these events, the issue of cultural appropriation comes up (as it did in the Q&A section of this panel). The goal, I think, is to hold onto values of honesty and transparency when given the opportunity to learn from circumstances like these. Their experience is rooted in the land from which they came, and nothing can replicate that. We may learn new spiritual technologies and viewpoints for which to encounter our own day-to-day practices, but we can never become “Appalachian” in the way they manifest, no matter how fervently someone might wish.

Moments like these are opportunities to enrich our understanding of the vital tapestry of magical traditions, and how similar roots can produce very different flowers depending on where they grow. All of these teachers are here to teach, and we should learn from them, while also remembering that we can never become them. So long as we hold that truth, we will be able to become mutually enriched, and events like the Sacred Space Conference can continue to organize unique moments in time like this from a place of curiosity and respect.

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