TWH – Pagans across the country continue to join protests organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline and in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Water Protectors in North Dakota.

Tuesday, Nov. 15 was a nationally coordinated day of action against the pipeline. The protests went ahead despite the Army Corps’ postponement of any decision on whether or not to let the pipeline construction proceed – an act which many viewed as a partial success.

In San Francisco, there was a march and protest held outside of the Army Corps of Engineers office. It was organized by local indigenous people, Idle No More Bay Area, and interfaith leaders, including representatives from Reclaiming and the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood.

Claire “Chuck” Bohman of Reclaiming and The Temple of the Waters said that there were several thousand people who gathered for a successful day of action.

Indigenous leaders from Tohono O'odham nation and other tribes leading the march.

Indigenous leaders from Tohono O’odham nation and other tribes leading the march in San Francisco. [Courtesy C. Bohman]

“The prayers and action was powerful and effective, and the US Army Corps of Engineers was forced to close their offices for the day,” she said.

Bohman added that, as people who have a deep spiritual connection with the earth, Pagans need to take action and join in indigenous-led efforts.

“Simply doing magic and praying is not enough. Magic is the food that will sustain our spirits. We must push ourselves out of comfort zones and join together with people of different beliefs who also care about the earth and are committed to stopping this pipeline and moving towards sustainable energy,” Bohman said.

In the nation’s capital, Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd, defending the sovereign rights of Native Americans, water quality for the nation’s citizens and affirming the reality of climate change.

“The idea that at this moment in history, when the scientific community is crystal clear that we need to transform our energy system, that at this moment we have the fossil fuel industry pushing for more pipelines, for more dependency on fossil fuel, is totally insane,” Sanders said.

Among the crowd was Gwendolyn Reece, who said she was happy to see Sanders at the rally but she was just as happy to read about the 300-plus cities that took part in the action and the thousands of people who came out.

The issue of protecting the environment seems to be intrinsically tied to the pipeline fight.

“This issue, the environment, should be non-partisan, and most Pagans, the vast majority of Pagans believe in the sacredness of the planet and we believe in the sacredness of water,” Reece said, who heads the Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon, Sacred Space Foundation, and is a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.

With an incoming White House administration who has reportedly received more than $100,000 of support since June from chairman and CEO Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Dakota Access, the issue seems to be anything but bi-partisan.

For Reece, the results of the election are a setback, but she said that it has only forced her to change focus and tactics.

“To me the pipeline in addition to being something that is a social justice concern, because it’s of the incredible continuing exploitation of native people, it is also one of the clearest demarcated battle grounds for the environment and the environmental activism including for climate change right now,” she said.

Reece added that she sees the battle at Standing Rock as a part of our nation’s miasma, tied to humans’ treatment of the environment, First Nations, and African American people.

The goal, she said, “is trying to heal the miasma, which is when we’re out of right relationship with the gods, ourselves, the planet. As far as our national consciousness, this exists from the beginning of this nation. ”

Sacred Stone Camp [Courtesy Casey McCarthy]

Sacred Stone Camp [Courtesy Casey McCarthy]

MaryAnn Somervill, a CUUPs member in Asheville, North Carolina, said that she organized a rolling thunder ritual to coincide with the supermoon. The ritual allows people to remotely lend their aid and is so-called because participants join in at a fixed time, regardless of their timezone. If it occurs at 8 pm in the eastern time zone, an hour later it will occur at 8 pm in the central time zone, and so on.

A few hundred people joined in to cast a cone of protection on the camps near Cannon Ball, ND, the water defenders, and their supporters. Somervill said that this event really moved her to take action.

“This is something that made me step up in a way that I hadn’t before. I haven’t been on the front lines of any protests or anything like that,” she said.

At Standing Rock, Linda Black Elk has been there since the beginning. Black Elk, of the Catawba Nation and teacher of ethnobotany at Sitting Bull College, has two children enrolled with the Standing Rock Sioux, recently stated on Facebook that she sees a paradigm shift at work with Standing Rock right at the epicenter. She sees the presidential election as a reaction to that shift.

“(People are) scared out of their minds because change is uncomfortable, and shifting away from fossil fuels, a culture of consumption, and ultra convenience is annoyingly uncomfortable,” Black Elk said.

“We just have to be gentle, loving, patient, and understanding …but we must also be strong, powerful, brave and unshakable. Walk with power. Respect eachother (sic). Listen to the women in your lives.”

The camps, meanwhile, are growing in size and scope, and their needs are changing with the seasons. As snow and cold fronts move into the northern plains, protestors and water protectors are preparing for a long winter.

Dusty Dionne and Belladonna Laveau of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church are among the countless number of allies who have made the trip to North Dakota to show their support. From their home in Index, Washington, Dionne and Laveau received enough donations to buy a cord of wood, which they transporter by trailer from Washington to North Dakota.

Wood is one of the many supplies that are hard to find and very expensive. That might be unexpected, until you take into account that in the grasslands of North Dakota there aren’t very many trees to be found.

Dionne describes a very militarized, intimidating scene as you approach the camps. Countless numbers of police line the perimeter, with vehicles that are outfitted with satellite dishes and radio towers, and “Volkswagen-sized halogen lamps” lining the country side.

Standing in opposition to that is a makeshift barrier made of scrap wood and metal and barbed wire. But once you get inside, the atmosphere completely changes.

[Photo Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr]

“I was really moved with how many people were showing up to help and just the sheer energetic power. It was very inviting, not intimidating,” Laveau said.

“They’ve got a big circle of flags and you pull up to Oceti (the camp set up by the Native American water defenders) and it’s just teepees and teepees and teepees and you’ve got buses creating walled off areas for mini-camps and corrals with horses,” Dionne added.

They both describe being overwhelmed by how many people were there.

“I was really afraid that when I showed up there was just going to be a couple of people, not a lot of supplies. (But) this is organized,” said Laveau.

She says that seeing the size and organization of the camps gave her hope that they might win the fight.

“It is a huge area that they’ve made their encampment, it’s the size of a small town,” Dionne said.

In fact, a small town is exactly what the goal is at the Sacred Stone camp, where supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux have begun setting up the infrastructure to support a community, including building a root cellar and a school.

“They need building supplies, they need firewood, they need subzero sleeping bags, canvas tents. They’re building a town, so they need builders. They need people to swing hammers,” said Laveau.

Corey Moore, a Pagan from Kansas City, MO, also brought a trailer full of supplies collected by friends and family to Standing Rock this week.

“We brought lumber left over from a family’s deck project, a few coats, blankets, medical supplies including bandages, milk of magnesia, eye wash kit, and hand warmers. There were also food stuffs and even a few guitars specifically requested by the Rosebud youth camp. In addition we brought nearly $1000 in cash and gift cards to Lowe’s and Menard’s,” he said.

Moore also reported that they helped build the covered root cellar at the Rosebud camp for winter food storage.

“The indigenous people at Standing Rock are sacrificing themselves, their health, their bodies, their livelihood, to protect the planet and the water that feeds us all. The waters they are protecting serve the entire center of this country,” he said.

Moore said everyone who goes to the camp learns to stay oriented toward “prayerful respect.”

He said that, in the face of infuriating actions, it is very important to maintain that approach.

In spite of the forward momentum of the movement and growing awareness of the issue, Dakota Access and the police protecting the pipeline construction are not backing down. As recently as Sunday night, an action to open a bridge that has been blocked by police for month resulted in authorities firing rubber bullets, tear gas, and a water canon on protesters despite below-freezing temperatures.

Democracy Now reported that a team of legal observers noted 20 mace canisters launched into a confined area within 5 minutes, causing those targeted to vomit and lose bowel control. Angel Bibens, a laywer with the Red Owl Legal Collective, said that the water canon had been mixed with mace, so that even medics and observers were impacted. Medics also reportedly revived an elder who suffered a heart attack. On Monday it was also reported that at least 17 people had been hospitalized, a majority for hypothermia after the actions of police and security personnel.

Actions like these have made some Pagan community members question what our future will look like, and what the role of the Pagan community will be.

“We’re all worried about robots rising up and taking over the world in some kind of distant future but right now corporations have taken over the world and they’re not people. The only thing that they value is profit and that is a real fight right now to take the world back from soulless, mindless companies that do not value human life,” Laveau said.

“What kind of ancestors will we be for the descendants? Will there even be descendants of humanity? All of this is at stake and each of us is needed to turn the tides,” Bohman said.

For those interested in contacting local authorities in the area Yes Magazine has put together a comprehensive list with phone numbers, addresses and more.

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[UPDATE 11/23/ 11:22am: The embedded video showing protesters being sprayed with water was removed or blocked at its original source and can no longer be viewed. We removed the embedded bad link. However, the video can still be seen at various online sources, including The Guardian. ]

bloomfield-nm-editDENVER, Colo. — A conclusion has come to a story that we first reported in 2014. Wiccan Priestess Janie Felix and Pagan Buford Coone with the full support of the ACLU challenged their home city of Bloomfield’s installation of a Ten Commandants monument on public property. The ACLU argued that city officials “accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation.” The case was heard in early March 2014, and the U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of Felix and Coone in August of that year.

At the time, Felix told The Wild Hunt, “We are delighted . . . with the court’s decision. It feels that the law was upheld and that the court reflected the Founding Father’s [sic] plan for our country.” However, the city decided to appeal the district court’s decision. The case then moved to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colorado and was heard in Sept. 2015.

On Nov. 9, 2016, the court issued its decision, affirming the lower court’s ruling. While it did note that the “cluster of other [historically-based] monuments surrounding the Ten Commandments can dampen the effect of endorsement,” the court said, “the city would have to do more than merely add a few secular monuments in order to signal to objective observers a ‘principal or primary’ message of neutrality. Thus the impermissible taint of endorsement remains, and as we have said, nothing sufficiently purposeful, public, and persuasive was done to cure it.”

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Dianne Daniels

Dianne Daniels

NORWICH, Conn. — It was announced this week that Dianne Daniels would be succeeding longtime NAACP branch president Jacqueline Owens. Daniels is an eclectic Witch with strong leanings toward Wicca, flavored by the Egyptian pantheon, and including her Native American heritage. In a February article, Daniels told TWH that she gathers inspiration from Madam Marie Laveau, Cicely Tyson, and Maya Angelou. In that interview, Daniels also noted that, more recently, she has been “focusing more on my personal heritage – [her] own Black History.”

Originally from Detroit, Daniels moved to Norwich in 1997 and immediately joined the local NAACP branch. She’s been active in the local community, both as a volunteer and as a professional since arriving. Daniels was elected to the office of president Nov. 16. She is quoted as saying that this election was “one of the biggest honors of [her] life.” We will have more from Daniels and her work in the future.

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The Druid NetworkUNITED KINGDOM —  The Druid Network (TDN) announced that it has been recognized as a “full member of the UK Inter Faith Network (IFN).”  The Druid organization, as well as other Pagan organizations, have been involved with IFN for many years. In fall 2014, TDN was granted a two-year probational IFN membership. In 2015, TDN reported that, for the first time, it was able to send a representative IFN’s annual general assembly. At the time, TDN trustee and treasurer Neil Pitchford said, “I have the honour of being the first Druid to attend after I was chosen to be TDN’s first representative.”

Now, after two years of waiting, TDN has reported that it was granted its full IFN membership, which will provide “greater legal standing and also some influence in the religious community of the UK.” In a press release, Joanna van der Hoeven said, “This is a fitting conclusion to over ten years of work by many people to get TDN Druidry recognised as a bonefide [sic] religious practice and outlook. The consequences of full membership, amongst other things, means that the IFN views TDN Druidry as a valid religious practice and, by default because of its funding and remit, the government of the U.K. must now also acknowledge that fact as well.”

Van der Hoeven added, “This announcement marks the end of one journey, one that many asserted could and would never happen. It also marks the beginning of another as we start out in building relationships with other religious groups on an equal standing (possibly for the first time in modern times).”

In Other News:

  • Druid Scott Holbrook will be back in court Nov 22. As we reported, Holbrook was arrested Nov. 2. He was charged with the “dissemination of obscenities,” after he allegedly sent nude photos to an uncover police officer. After a Nov. 3 hearing, Holbrook posted bond and was released from custody. We will update you on this story in the coming week. 
  • In another developing story, Circle Sanctuary ministers Jeanet & David Ewing and Tristan were joined by nearly 30 other members of Maryland’s Pagan and Earth-based spirituality communities in attending the 10 a.m. service at the local Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Springs. The group was there to lend its support to a  congregation that recently found itself the victim of a hate crime. We are following up on this story to learn just what happened at the church and why the Pagan community got involved.   
  • Huginn’s Heathen Hof has announced that it will be launching a new worldwide Heathen survey. In 2013, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried hosted a similar landmark project on his blog NorseMyth.org. “Our hope is that because of that groundbreaking work we will be able to reach a significantly larger portion of the population than that initial attempt, simply because people will be more aware of it due to his previous efforts,” explained Xander Folmer of HHH. The survey is now available in both English and Spanish. Folmer added that they “hope to add Portuguese and a couple of others as soon as possible.”
  • Gods & Radicals has launched is annual fundraiser. This year editors are hoping to raise enough money to pay their hard-working writers. The campaign reads, “Why Pay Writers? Because all work has value. Writing takes time. Writing is work. And in a system that prioritizes profit over creativity, the time and mental space to write is a luxury not everyone can afford.” Gods & Radicals is an online blog and print journal focusing on radical thought and contemplation.
  • Lastly, The Wild Hunt is always looking for new and upcoming guest writers. We enjoy showcasing and sharing the many diverse voices opinions, and practices that exist within our collectives communities both within the United States and beyond. If you are interested in submitting a proposal or a fully written piece, please contact us at editor at wildhunt.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Wild Hunt Solstice Guide is Coming!

TWH – Today marks the 17th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Around the world, organizations and individuals will be hosting events, memorials, and vigils to remember those who have been lost due to transgender-related violence. It is a powerful day – one that is part of a larger month-long transgender awareness campaign.

Held every Nov. 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) marks the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered in her Boston apartment in 1998. The case still remains unsolved to this day. However, a year after her death writer, Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil in San Francisco to honor Hester’s life and to bring awareness to the issues faced by transgender people. The 1999 vigil became the very first Transgender Day of Remembrance. Shortly after, other awareness campaigns and movements were launched, including the website, “Remembering Our Dead.”

Seventeen years later, the movement has grown. Throughout November, activities are held, culminating in the Day of Remembrance. The TDoR campaign’s main site hosts a list of not only the worldwide activities, but also the names of people who have died as a result of transgender-related violence over the past year.

transgender-day-of-remembrance

For TDoR 2016, Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary decided to expand its own regular annual memorial observances. Rev. Selena Fox said, “It is important to stand in solidarity with our transgender community members. With transphobia and hate crimes on the rise, it is important that we draw attention to this issue that impacts many in our community and to create a safe and supportive place to share concerns, experiences, perspectives, and support.”

Fox said that Circle has had trans* members since its inception in 1974, and the organization has always worked toward supporting the trans* community’s quest for equality. Four years ago, Rev. Fox began hosting a formal memorial ritual to honor TDoR. This year, that event, which is being facilitated by members Brianne Burne, Jake Bradley, and Nate Metrick, has been expanded to include a candle lighting memorial in the temple room, followed by a sharing circle.

Rev. Fox added, “We recognize that the Divine takes many forms, and that there are many forms of gender expression, all of which are sacred. It is our hope that events like ours will help build a better world where the divinity within each person is honored, and where no one feels afraid due to their gender identity.”

For the 2016 TDoR Wild Hunt forum, we reached out to the coordinators of Circle’s new event, asking them tell us more about living transgender, what this specific day means to them, and how these observance event can help the greater cause. We spoke with Brianne Burke, known as Brianne Raven Wolf or simply Bree. She is a 73-year old gender-fluid trans*woman, who is a member of Circle Sanctuary and a practicing eclectic Witch.

Bree is joined by Jake Bradley, a certified naturalist, death midwife, and doula. Bradley has provided ministry for over 25 years, and designs and manages harm-reduction outreach and shelter programming for people experiencing homelessness. Bradley founded and helped manage the first trans-safe youth shelter in Chicago, and provide training and consultation on LGBTQ competence, trauma-informed care, harm reduction, crisis management, and other topics through their business, Elements Consulting.

In addition to the two Circle event coordinators, we also spoke with activist and minister Katharine A. Luck, who participated in last year’s TDoR forum. Rev. Luck is a transgender woman of mixed racial heritage living in Florida. She is a Neo-Hellenic priestess, minster of Fire Dance Church of Wicca and transgender activist. In 2013, Luck organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Pensacola. The following year, she setup the transgender advocacy group STRIVE of which she is currently the President.

We welcome our contributors, and thank them for taking the time to speak with us.

The first question asked was whether our interviewees have seen or felt any noticeable change in awareness in the mainstream public’s understanding of transgender issues. If there was a change, has that change been positive?

Jake Bradley: The last few years have been an interesting and exciting moment in public consciousness around trans* issues. Between the emergence of some transgender pop culture figures and wider-spread efforts of education and advocacy, it seems that the “average American” is more aware of the existence of trans* people than before, and dialogue about the needs and perspectives of trans* people is much more commonplace. I am especially grateful for Laverne Cox and celebrities like her who highlight the particular struggles and triumphs of trans* people of color and who speak out in issues that others in the LGBTQ community have often ignored, such as incarceration and homelessness.

While we still see misguided transphobic rhetoric about the dangers of inclusion and respect for trans* people, and plenty of deference to the comfort levels of cisgender people over the dire safety needs of trans* people, it’s heartening to see more and more public figures and organizations affirming inclusion. For example, as ugly and hurtful as the “bathroom bill” policies have been, we now are in a moment in history where many businesses and public figures are willing to … rebuke and boycott the jurisdictions where hate and ignorance are currently winning the day. In more subtle ways, we see less common exploitation and ridicule of trans* people in mainstream media, and several media outlets are making a real effort to use people’s correct names and pronouns, and to educate the public on acceptable terminology, etc.

Schools and other organizations are more frequently realizing they need to educate and skill-build with their faculty and staff. Trans* kids in many places are being given more access to competent and sensitive medical care. Support groups and alliances are more numerous and accessible. There have been some important changes in government policy under the Obama tenure that have led to greater education and non-discrimination practices, and I’m hopeful we will manage to protect these as we move forward into the next administration. We have a very long way to go, but we seem to be headed in the right direction!

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Brianne Burne: I think there has been a noticeable change from what it was a few years ago. I’m involved in quite a few groups, locally and nationally. Around Madison [Wisconsin], I belong to the Madison Area Transgender Association and also LGBT OutReach-Madison. We have quite a few trans* activists here, and the growth has really been coming from social media in my opinion.

Katharine A. Luck: Prior to the recent “bathroom bill,” such as the now infamous HB2 in North Carolina, we were largely ignored by legislation, and we have not suddenly started using public restrooms in the last two years. Instead, as trans* people have become more visible, a side effect of visibility is transphobic legislation from people who think our existence began with their awareness of it.

For the next question, we asked what the biggest threat to the community’s safety was. This is a difficult question, but we asked our interviewees, if they could wave a wand to change one thing that would make the biggest impact, what would that one thing be?

JB: This is a difficult question. Trans* and GNC (gender non-conforming) people are at astronomically disproportionate risk for homelessness, unemployment or underemployment, depression and suicide, being physically and sexually assaulted, negative interactions with police, incarceration, and many other challenges and harms, which are all consequences of cisnormativity and transphobia.

It would be easy to say that ignorance and transphobia are the biggest threat. The fact that police often fail to protect and respect trans* folks, and even frequently brutalize us with impunity, makes the everyday safety of trans* people a thing never to take for granted. Still, there are gradations from relative safety to extreme risk inside the community of trans* and GNC people based on other identity and socioeconomic factors.

Race (and racism) is probably the biggest cause of disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable trans* people from competent medical and mental health care, adequate employment, safe housing, and fair treatment by law enforcement. Institutional racism and white supremacy cause so much more harm to trans* people of color, and especially to black and brown trans women, and also cause division within the LGBTQ community, so that young trans* people of color often don’t benefit from allyship on the part of more affluent or empowered LGBTQ people, nor have their safety and quality of life as positively impacted by gains from LGBTQ activism. My magick wand would eradicate white supremacy and dismantle racism. Then, the most at-risk trans* people would benefit, along with people of color of all genders in this nation.

BB: The biggest threat to the community’s safety may well be the new incoming Republican administration given the far right evangelical Christian attitudes of the VP-elect and others in some state and federal governmental positions. Especially in the southern states, such as North Carolina and Mississippi. The one thing that could make an impact: if people everywhere would realize we are all human beings and, even though the trans* community is different, […] we aren’t a threat to anybody.

KL: This country just elected one of the most outspoken enemies of the LGBTQ community to the office of vice president. Our new president-elect is, frankly, a thinly veiled neo-Nazi, having surrounded himself with champions of white supremacy, like Steve Bannon, and has run on a platform of racial fear, hatred, and proposed separatism. Our vice president-elect Mike Pence has specifically targeted the LGBTQ community. He was responsible for Indiana’s anti-LGBTQ legislation and believes LGBTQ people can be “cured” through conversion therapy. He even tried to divert funds from HIV programs to conversion therapy. While its modern incarnation might not include shock treatment, conversion therapy increases suicides, nonetheless.

At present, I can say without reservation that the greatest threat to the transgender community, LGBTQ people, and likely all marginalized people, is the new administration which will begin in January.

Circle Sanctuary TDoR "Green Face" altar [Courtesy Photo]

Circle Sanctuary TDoR “Green Face” altar [Courtesy Photo]

With that in mind, the third question asked was how can non-trans* people can be the best allies? What should cisgender people do or not do to help raise awareness, support their friends, and eliminate any of the barriers discussed above? 

JB: Here is a handout we made a while ago called “Top 10 Ways to be a Trans* Ally.”

BB: To elevate the barriers. People need to get educated about trans* people through community programs. I am starting to see this in a lot of public schools with programs like GSAFE and adult programs such as PFLAG. We need to eliminate the “fear” that cisgender people have about us.

KL: I consider intersectionality and solidarity to be the key to equality. Every person of conscience in this country and the world must resist the oppression of all people. Trans* people exist in every demographic, and I will do all in my power to advocate for all of them. I ask that everyone else do the same.

For our fourth question, we asked what the Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities could do better in support of their transgender members.

JB: Neopaganism was perhaps founded in part in reaction against patriarchal religious systems that emphasized masculine personifications of the Divine, and Paganism has been revolutionary in its promotion of the Divine as feminine and also as a “balance” or “marriage” of both feminine and masculine. Paganism has made revolutionary contributions to the world in terms of celebrating embodiment, in promoting some feminist ideals, and in sex-positivity. However, for those of us who don’t see our gender as the most essential aspect of our identity, or for whom our gender is not rooted in anatomy or gendered biological life cycles, or for whom binary gendered paradigms don’t fit, there’s still plenty of opportunity for alienation.

Gender constructions are so rampant in most Pagan practice, and are present in so many standard rites of passage. I think lots of Pagan communities (like many in dominant U.S. culture), could become safer for their trans* members by recognizing and celebrating that there isn’t just one way to be a woman or to be a man, that gender doesn’t have to be based on biology, that “maleness” and “femaleness” aren’t mutually exclusive, and that lots of us don’t fit in that binary system in any case. I think that Pagan communities would also find that cisgender members would benefit from the increased freedom and room that recognizing and celebrating gender diversity can offer anyone.

I appreciate the step many groups have made of affirming people’s self-identity rather than projecting gender onto people or having some other qualifying “test” or eligibility criteria for one of the binary identities. The next step might be to question whether rites of passage need to be attached to biological events and gender-based social roles, and to begin to ask people what things are meaningful to them in their passage through life and what symbols there are of these passages, etc., and to begin to develop some non-gender-based rites that affirm the things that are most meaningful to people as they pass through stages of life.

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JB (continued): What are the things all of us have in common as we age, regardless of gender or biology? Teenagers are teenagers. Parents are parents. Many of us, if we are lucky to live long enough, have a part of our lives where maybe we work for a living less, and our bodies start to be less sturdy and reliable in ways we might have previously taken for granted. I’m not advocating that cisgender men and women shouldn’t have opportunities to celebrate their embodiment, but just that there be more spaces where gender (and binary-gendered bodies and biological cycles) isn’t the primary aspect of our humanity, and that there be more spaces where diversity of gender identity, expression, experience, role, etc., are embraced more. Finally, I just want to say that I am so deeply grateful for Selena Fox’s leadership and legacy for LGBTQ inclusion throughout her life, and for the efforts made by Circle Sanctuary to embrace and support gender minorities.

BB:  I think the Pagan community is, from what I’ve been involved in, doing a very good job supporting trans* people. I’ve never had a problem with anybody in the Pagan community not making me feel welcome, accepted, and loved.

KL: As Pagans we must diminish the focus on binary gender and become more inclusive. We must have roles in both our society and our practice which can be occupied by anyone, of any gender. If necessary we must be willing to create new roles to suit the needs of the members of our community. We must remember tradition, but we must be willing to adapt. The trans* community has always had a role to play in both pagan religion and witchcraft, and always will.

Next, we asked for words of hope. Often when talking about silenced populations, we focus on the struggle. So, we asked our interviewees to take a moment to share something beautiful about the transgender community or about being transgender: a story or even a moment?

JB: Oh, wow! Thank you for this question! Spaces where gender variance is the norm and where lots of folks under the trans* umbrella are present can be the most beautiful and amazing spaces! There is so much more room for everyone  to be whoever they are, in whatever collection of attributes and expressions they come up with! Trans* people tend to be phenomenally resilient, adaptive, and creative about making family and community across all kinds of difference!

BB: Something beautiful happened earlier this year in Mt. Horeb, Wis. Here’s a little piece: “Last November, at the Primary Center elementary school in Mount Horeb, a transgender first-grader was about to transition.The school administration and staff were fully supportive, and […] had decided that reading the book I Am Jazz. […] Soon the school district and its teachers were threatened with a lawsuit if the book was read and [it] was cancelled. In a show of solidarity, two readings of I Am Jazz were held–one organized by students […] and the other organized by a local mom named Amy Lyle.” [Read the full story]

KL: It is in the struggle and the pain that I find some of the most beautiful moments. It is in the struggle that we find our family and ourselves. I have seen the strongest of bonds formed in the face of oppression. I see hope in a person’s eyes when they walk into one of our gatherings without anyone to call their friend, and they are immediately greeted as family. In the reading of names on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we speak the names many may not have even heard before that night. I am uplifted when I see people mourn the loss of family and friends they never met because they have faced injustice. I gain strength when I see those allies begin to work because the names of those we lost too soon touched their hearts.

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Mt. Horeb community reading of “I am Jazz”[Courtesy A. Bledsoe]

To end the conversation, we asked our interviewees what this day, Transgender Day of Remembrance means to them.

JB: In a world where some of us can’t get people to call us by our names and correct pronouns, and where people are invisible (or have to try to be to survive), the reading of people’s names feels entirely necessary; it is simultaneously a frail gesture and one that is revolutionary. Names are commonplace, and they are sacred. We have to call out the names of those who have been casualties of our oppressive and alienating systems. We have to set aside a week for Transgender Awareness, and a day to remember those who have died, so that cisnormativity and cisgender privilege aren’t all that there is, so that trans* folks see that we’re not alone, and so we remind ourselves to keep on working for a world where the numbers of the dead go down from one year to the next.

BB: For me its a very solemn day and has been. It reminds me of all the violence worldwide against our trans* community, more so in other countries. When I hear about the violent murders, beatings, and especially the suicides when a lot of us get so depressed especially when family and friends choose to not love us, or accept us a human beings. That’s where more education will help.

KL: The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a memorial to those we have lost, and it is a reminder of why we must always move forward. It is not only for ourselves that we seek safety and equality. It is in memory of those who came before, and it is for those who will come after. What is remembered, lives.

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Rev. Katharine Luck will be holding a vigil and memorial in Pensacola, Florida through the organization STRIVE. Brianne Burne and Jake Bradley, along with co-coordinator Nick Metrick and Rev. Selena Fox, will be hosting observances in Wisconsin, through Circle Sanctuary.

Bradley noted, “I feel really honored to contribute to [Circle’s event] by helping to shine a light on those impacted by transphobic hate and violence this year, and by helping to celebrate the resilience of the TGNC community. I think events like this are sorely needed, especially at a moment in our national history that feels terrifying and bleak for so many of us, because they help us demonstrate and galvanize allyship.They remind us that some particulars of our stories may differ, but that all those of us who face oppression or marginalization have much in common.”

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For those people who are attending organized vigils today or would like to participate in their own way privately or with their own groups, TWH has provided the TDoR list of 2016 victims of anti-transgender violence. There are many others resources on the issues discussed for both trans people and allies. GLAAD provides a short list of legal resources and other support. Now celebrating its second anniversary, the Trans Lifeline is available nationally

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In 1940, Walter Benjamin wrote, “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ’emergency situation’ in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.” (thesis 8) It’s a good thing that Pagans and Polytheists have been talking about strengthening their communities and developing defense and solidarity networks, but black and brown people in America have long been living in an “emergency situation.” Obama has deported over 2.5 million undocumented immigrants while in office. Black, indigenous, Hispanic and Latino people have been killed by the police at consistently higher rates than those seen as white. This reality must be kept in mind as we analyze the present moment.

Tiger mosaic from the "House of Dionysos," a 2nd-3rd century Roman villa at Kato Paphos [Paul McCoubrie / Flickr]

Tiger mosaic, “House of Dionysos,” Kato Paphos [Paul McCoubrie / Flickr]

Benjamin also wrote that “to articulate what is past does not mean to recognize ‘how it really was.’ It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger.” (ibid 6) We live in a moment of danger, but it is up to us whether or not we will seize memories from the past as they flash by, and which memories they will be. For “the true picture of the past whizzes by” and “threatens to disappear with every present which does not recognize itself as meant in it.” (ibid 5)

Like the 1930s, the present is once again “a moment wherein the politicians in whom the opponents of Fascism had placed their hopes have been knocked supine, and have sealed their downfall by the betrayal of their own cause.” (ibid 10) Like the German Social Democrats, “the stubborn faith in progress of these politicians, their trust in their ‘mass basis’ and finally their servile subordination into an uncontrollable apparatus have been three sides of the same thing.” (ibid 10)

In such a moment, we are reminded that “it has been given us to know, just like every generation before us, a weak messianic power, on which the past has a claim. This claim is not to be settled lightly.” (ibid 2) This messianic power is weak because there is nothing inevitable about its victory. Like our ancestors before us, we may well be crushed once again by the ruling classes. Like them, we will seek ways to survive nonetheless. But perhaps this time we will become that “final enslaved and avenging class, which carries out the work of emancipation in the name of generations of downtrodden to its conclusion.” (ibid 12)

Benjamin described the seizing of the past in the moment of danger as an explosive rather than a progressive process:

For Robespierre, Roman antiquity was a past charged with the here-and-now, which he exploded out of the continuum of history. The French revolution thought of itself as a latter day Rome. It cited ancient Rome exactly the way fashion cites a past costume. Fashion has an eye for what is up-to-date, wherever it moves in the jungle of what was. It is the tiger’s leap into that which has gone before […] into the open sky of history. (ibid 14)

Burned National Guard vehicles, Highway 1806. [Ancestralpride.org]

Burned National Guard vehicles, Lakota land. [Ancestralpride.org]

Make It Impossible for This System to Govern on Stolen Land

Benjamin’s call for the “introduction of a real state of emergency” is echoed in Indigenous Action Media’s recent essay “Anti-colonial & Anti-fascist Action: Make It Impossible for This System to Govern on Stolen Land,” which reminds its readers that “moments and movements” such as Black Lives Matter and the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “are the result of ongoing resistance that has been waged for hundreds of years on these lands.” The essay quotes black anarchist Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin’s statement that “we must make it impossible for Trump to govern the country, and must put power in the hands of the people in the streets.”

The struggle against the DAPL, also known as the Black Snake (zuzeca sape), is one that reflects both the current global “state of emergency” and a long history of anti-colonial warfare on the plains of North America. On Oct. 27, six different states (Wisconsin, Indiana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, and Nebraska) sent officers to assist North Dakota police raid the Sacred Ground camp which was located on Lakota territory under the terms of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and directly blocking the path of the DAPL. The out-of-state police were sent under the auspices of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an interstate compact that was supposedly “designed for natural disaster situations,” but which has been used against two uprisings in the past two years: the Baltimore rebellion after the police killing of Freddie Grey, and Standing Rock.

In the course of the Oct. 27 raid, a DAPL security guard pointed an AR-15 at water protectors, but his truck was run off the road, looted and burned. The National Guard was sent against a blockade on Highway 1806, the incursion was fiercely resisted, and two military supply trucks were set on fire as well. The active participation of the U.S. military in the operation is a clear sign that the Indian wars never ended. Small wonder that an Oct. 30 dispatch from Red Warrior Camp signed off with the phrase, “In The Spirit of Crazy Horse.”

The Indigenous Action Media essay makes explicit the terms of the ongoing war between the forces of colonization and indigenous communities:

We stopped talking about hope when we had to focus on survival. […] We reconnected to the understanding that we never had a choice but to fight. That colonization has always been war. That we are survivors of its brutality. That we’ve never stopped fighting.

We understand the difference between power over and power with. That there’s more power to the power of people than choosing which system will rule them. That no politician can ever represent Indigenous lifeways within the context of a political system established by colonialism. That representational/electoral politics are oppositional to liberation from colonial oppression. That the struggles of our ancestors, who defended Mother Earth and her beings with prayers and weapons in hand, is the same struggle that we carry forward today.

[Black Spring / Instagram]

Olympia anti-fracking train blockade. [Black Spring / Instagram]

We Resonate Across More than One Time and Place

Many calls for direct support and solidarity with the struggle against the DAPL have been made, including by witches and spirit-workers. A “clandestine coven at Standing Rock” has issued a call “to all witches, pagans, and co-conspirators of earth centered spiritual faith to join us in resistance.” They write: “We call you to join a frontline battle in a spiritual war that has been raging for centuries. A war against a dead civilization for all life on earth.”

Spirit-workers have invoked a curse against “the Agents, Executives, and Mercenaries of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” utilizing a sigil which they invite “those who wish to support this curse to inscribe […] against the buildings, cars, equipment of company executives & agents, and law enforcement and private security agencies who serve as their mercenaries.

Since Nov.11, water protectors in Olympia, Washington have been blocking railroad tracks in order to stop “a train carrying hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) proppants from exiting the Port of Olympia.” “Proppants” are ceramic beads used in the fracking process, and the proppants aboard the blocked train are intended for the Bakken oil fields where the oil which DAPL is being built to transport is extracted. On Nov.18, the encampment was cleared by the police, but in the words of one blockader, “This isn’t over. This is never over.” Funds are being raised for legal fees.

The water protectors in Olympia explicitly state that “as we hold down the tracks in Olympia, we resonate across more than one time and place.” They invoke the memory of the Port Militarization Resistance struggle of 2007, when military shipments intended for the Iraq War were blockaded at the port of Olympia. “There is a real force that shares power between these times and places where people have and continue to resist authority,” they write.

Another article traces the roots of the special agents of the Union Pacific Railroad back to the infamous Pinkerton Detective Agency: “It is appropriate that the blockade be facing the same agency that birthed both the FBI and every major private security company in the US. All of them were created to protect capital and for no other reason. This is their only function.” The writers align themselves with the “indigenous people, bandits, and saboteurs” who attacked Union Pacific railroads in the 1800s, with the Homestead Steel Works strikers who fought the Pinkertons, with a long and rich lineage of resistance.

Train blockades have been used elsewhere in the anti-DAPL struggle as well, ranging geographically from Atlanta, Georgia to Mandan, North Dakota (about 80 kilometers north of the anti-DAPL encampments) to Montreal, Quebec to the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory. During the 1990 conflict at nearby Kanesatake, warriors from Kahnawake shut down the Mercier Bridge for over a month. In solidarity with the struggle against DAPL, the Mercier Bridge was again blocked for several hours on October 28, and train tracks were blockaded on November 4 and again on November 15. The effectiveness of the tactic can be seen in a proposed law in Washington State that would make blocking oil trains or otherwise disrupting transportation and commerce a felony and label such actions “economic terrorism.”

[Public Domain]

Chess-playing automaton. [Paul K / Flickr]

The Services of Theology

Marxists believe that “the puppet called ‘historical materialism’ is always supposed to win.” Comparing the relationship between historical materialism and theology to that of a chess-playing automaton manipulated by a dwarf hidden inside it, Walter Benjamin turned this thesis on its head: “it can do this […] so long as it employs the services of theology, which as everyone knows is small and ugly and must be kept out of sight.” (ibid 1)

I believe that the guidance of the gods, ancestors and spirits is what will get me and my communities through the times ahead. Here I use the word “through” not in the sense of “along,” but in the sense of “exploding the continuum of history.” We aim to survive, to keep our traditions alive, to defend ourselves, to destroy the system which seeks to destroy us, and to find joy and beauty and love in every moment of the struggle.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

befunky-design3As many people work to figure out how to move forward after one of the most explosive and unnerving presidential elections in recent history, time marches forward into the holiday season. Despite the current complexity of politics in the United States and around the world, this time of the year is most commonly associated with memories and traditions of family, worship, and celebration.

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Public Domain [Pixabay.com]

I have always believed that the magic of any season has the ability to transition us toward healing and wellness, and the magic of traditions helps to frame our varied experiences. With this current political client, this idea could become essential in helping us move forward during a time when life feels so uncertain to many.

“Tradition is one of the most beautiful ideologies we have created and experience as living and loving humans. There is no cookie cutter outline for what your tradition should look like, who you should share it with or how it should grow over time.

Tradition remains one of the few practices that truly belongs to your family and close friends, and allows you to cherish the very valuable memories created with your loved ones over the years.” – Daffnee Cohen, Why We Need to Maintain Family Tradition Huffington Post

Traditions within any context reflect on repeated and meaningful customs or beliefs that often connect us to culture. How one interprets culture, and how one enmeshes the many different variations of culture embraced within one’s spirituality can be very unique and very specific. The intersecting layers of culture that we balance are often reflective of our families, spiritual traditions, racial culture, gender, and regional experiences.

Certain times of year we see many of these pieces come together in a very intricate and beautiful way. November and December happen to be the time of year when we often see such things collide.

Traditions are also important within the intersecting communities of modern Paganism. Much focus is placed on training and passing down information from one source or another to support the practice of our craft. But how important are our holiday traditions and do we see them as important?

I see our cultural and familial practices as magical acts that are just as important as any other. These include: the passing down of tradition to those we love; the sharing of memories that hold reflections of history; the solidifying of cultural norms that enhance our connection to identity, purpose, time, and place. In that way, recipes can act like spells and planned activities like rituals that have the ability to manifest powerful threads of connection.

Some celebrate Thanksgiving in November while others embrace the winter holiday season in December. It is interesting to see how many Pagans connect to the different holidays that are widely celebrated in contemporary society. For the same reason that some Pagans celebrate a secular version of Christmas, many of our Pagan families and cultures continue to celebrate the societal norms of such widely accepted holidays.

[Photo Credit: Crystal Blanton]

Thanksgiving in my home has always been infused with the smells and tastes of collard greens, yams, cornbread, banana pudding, and walnut pumpkin pie. The ritual of cleaning and cooking starts 2-3 days before the holiday – a routine passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, and to me. Recipes and food preparation are as important as any ritual set up, and my grandmother’s memory comes through as we manifest the same traditions year after year.

My family celebrates a spiritual Yule and secular Christmas, opening presents in the morning and spending family time together in the evening. On New Year’s Eve, we all burn the midnight oil until the clock ticks midnight, when we are able to toast to Apple Cider – another long family tradition that we still do every year.

When we are not able to be together, it is tradition for us to call each other right after the New Year rolls in so that we will be together throughout the coming year.

What does it look like for others? What foods, rituals, traditions, and practices are held as sacred throughout the holiday season? How do we create new traditions when those of our past do not serve us? Because there is such a diverse spectrum of Pagan and polytheistic traditions and a wide array of different types of people within our community, I reached out to others to learn what kind of traditions, cultures, practices, memories, and even recipes where cherished at this time.

During Yule we try to stay up all night. Baking. Playing games. Crafts. We do a traditional Christmas as well with presents, tree, decorating. Looking at lights. Lots of family and good good. Like any good ritual. – Chrystie Sargent.

My holiday tradition is to reach out to anyone who might be alone or find family time traumatic. This year a friend who had personal disaster is my Thanksgiving guest; last Christmas Marie and I took a friend whose family is overseas to a movie, and every New Year’s I hold my door open to anyone needing oasis from the pressures and noise of the night. – Diana Rajchel

We hold vigil for the longest night of the year. Staying up and playing games, chatting, movies or whatever. We tend the flame that was lit at dusk. Then just before sunrise we go out and sing up the sun. Everyone lighting a candle to take home with them to carry the energy home.

I also now use a real Yule tree. When it comes down, I shave off the branches and grind the needles to make incense and save the branches for kindling. The trunk I store in my shed until Beltaine. The trunk then becomes the family May pole. The pole once wrapped in ribbons is then stored again until Yule.

When we get the new tree, I pull the May pole out (the previous year’s Yule tree trunk) and cut it up into smaller pieces. Usually about 7-8 inches long. I use one for my own Yule fire and gift the others to friends. – Sabrina H.

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC [Photo Credit: Dominique Smith]

Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC [Photo Credit: D. Smith]

Quite honestly my tradition is to run away and go on a spiritual adventure. Last year I was in New York for Christmas, I attended midnight mass at St.Peters Cathedral, a Thelemic rite, an eclectic Wiccan rite, and a Wiccan/Heathen rite, I even did a pilgrimage to Salem. This year I’m running away to Cuba to experience Santeria first hand.

I was keen on reconnecting to Catholicism this past year because I had been finally able to let go of the hostility I had towards Christianity, as a whole, and I wanted to experience it with new eyes. It was a beautiful experience and when the man on the pulpit started in with his judgmental dogma I was happy to find myself in only minor annoyance compared to seething rage.

Essentially, these trips allow me to connect with myself, my spirituality and forces experiences I haven’t had before as I do these trips solo and I’m not distracted by others. I also tend to fly by the seat of my pants during these trips as I don’t tend to have any hard schedule and allow the experiences to flow. I’ve met very wonderful folks and had amazing spiritual experiences that would not have been possible if the trips had been overly organized. Spending nine days this year in Cuba by myself, as a woman, who has never traveled off this continent will definitely take me out of my comfort zone. – Dominique Smith

Like Thanksgiving? For us it’s a small sit-down dinner, and the only time I get out the good china and silverware (inherited), and the lace tablecloth, also inherited, but not “real” in that it’s machine washable, which is for the best. Turkey, creamed onions, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce (both kinds and both from cans), and stuffing, Mrs. Cubbison’s I think.  And gravy, with giblets on the side because I’m the only one who likes them. Husband cooks; I set the table. We go around the table saying what we’re thankful for. We have finally abandoned the familial tradition (both sides) of eating until we hurt.

For Yule, where we used to do Christmas stockings, we now use those 8″ plastic cauldrons. Then, at my parents’ house, we open those gifts (small silly things) first, have breakfast or brunch, and then open other presents. We do Yule as a potluck dinner with friends, and after a ritual battle of the Kings. The party and feast serves as a time for people who want to exchanged gifts. We save family gifts till everyone’s gone. – Ashleen O’Gaea

Some years ago, I purchased a book titled The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I’d like to say that the book is quite good, but truthfully, I haven’t really read it. You see, I’m not super mathematically inclined. Upon the first day that I was looking at the book, I leaned over to ask my more-mathematically inclined partner a question about a formula, and the next thing I knew he was baking bread, and I was enjoying fresh baked bread. Since this is a satisfactory division of labor to me, I never really got around to reading it.

One of the gems from that book is this cornbread recipe. It has been dubbed by my most atheist and scientifically-minded friend as “magic cornbread” and has become a staple in our holiday dinners for the last decade or so. While it’s not a yeast bread like most of the others in the book, it is delicious all the same, and we are frequently asked to bring it to gatherings now.  – Stephanie Kjer

By McKay Savage from London via Wikimedia Commons

[Photo Credit: McKay Savage / Wikimedia]

Mid-winter is the time of the Promise of Life. The plants will bloom again, the birds will sing, creatures great and small will make themselves known once more. The Dark will fade into sunlight. It isn’t here yet, but it will come.

The holiday season is the perfect time to make our own promises. While this is often done at New Years, this is when we feel the need to plan and affirm the actions we will be taking when the warm weather returns in full power. This is when we chart our course for after the thaw of spring releases our languor into animation.

In our family, we take the time to consciously prepare ourselves for the coming year. We have taken the time to remember what has passed at Samhain, to celebrate our present at Thanksgiving. Now is the time to create our futures at Yule. We use the knowledge of the past and resources of the present to conceive our best future, to invest those resources in the next step of our lives. -Kalisara

While something as personal as traditions and culture can be inspirational and empowering, it is also important to acknowledge that not everyone has this same experience with family traditions or with the holiday season. These holidays can be a very challenging time for many people, and this often includes ways to find refuge, solace, and support during this time. All communities have people with a spectrum of experiences and preferences. Therefore, it is important to hold space for this as well.

In moving forward through the next few months, which are inevitably filled with celebrations, expectations, memories, and observances, there is also a unique opportunity to consider what this time of year means for us individually. What holds magic? Which traditions no longer serve us, and which traditions we want to create?

As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I wish everyone a safe, fulfilling, empowering, and magic-filled time. May we all find balance in the traditions we choose. And, maybe even enjoy some these amazing recipes:

Bacon Cornbread
Crystal’s Simple Crockpot Mac and Cheese
Soul Food Collard Greens

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

BRIGHTON — For people travelling to this year’s Witchfest in Brighton, there will be additional entertainment option: the premiere of the play Doreen: An English Witch. This new theatrical production is the brainchild of director Roman Withers and writer Gavin Caine of Normal People Productions. The Wild Hunt caught up with Caine and Withers to talk about the play, its impact, and the creative process that led to its birth.

doreen-flyer

Withers explained how a meeting with the late John Belham Payne inspired the very latest celebration of Valiente’s life:

“We met John Belham Payne last November, as he was the Head of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, and knew Doreen, so I decided it would be really good to put a play on. We’re both in the craft ourselves and it seemed only fitting as Doreen lived in Brighton and spent many, many years here.”

The play Doreen: An English Witch is the second outing of Normal People Productions, an up and coming new theatre company. As Withers says, “It was only founded about a year-and-a-half ago and this is our second show. Our first show was last year, that was called Cabalesque – which luckily was sold out. That was a combination of cabaret and burlesque that went down last December and will be performed again at Brighton Fringe next year.”

Withers continued on to say, “This is our second play and we’ve got a couple more lined up for next year. But this one has been quite hard work. It’s been intriguing but it’s taken all year to go from start to finish, so it’s taken a lot of time but it’s been very enjoyable.’

The company is keen to stress that it wished to avoid a documentary-style showing and have described their latest effort as covering “certain stories and things that are said or remembered about Doreen.” Writer Gavin Caine says, “We wanted to include things that are told of her, some of the better-known and lesser-known stories of her life.

“We’re not trying to replicate Doreen herself, or do a documentary piece. It’s a work of fiction inspired by a magnificent woman with stories about her that are known by quite a lot of people, or known by fewer people and that are quite interesting or funny.”

Withers adds, “The play covers some of Doreen’s stories, obviously, but it doesn’t cover all of them as there’s about 30 or 40 stories that we could have used, so we had to break it down a little bit. I like to think we’ve picked the best ones and the ones that express how Doreen went about her daily life.”

The play is set in Doreen’s flat, and Withers explains that it begins with Doreen (Sharon Drain) hosting an interview with someone, a young lady (Charlotte Dearing), and the things that follow from that.

Caine and Withers have gone to great lengths to ensure the play is a fitting tribute to the first lady of the Craft but also wanted to make sure it was accessible for non-pagans. Withers says, “When the play was written, we had to make sure that non-craft people would enjoy it as well. I would like to think that the story has been done well, so that if people didn’t know who Doreen Valiente was they can still follow it and enjoy it. There are quite a lot of funny moments in it as well, so I hope we’ve found the find balance between that.”

Caine adds, “It’s trying to find that balance between the Pagans and particularly the Wiccans, because obviously that’s the legacy that we know best, of Doreen and to understand, but that it’s also accessible to people who are not into that area of witchcraft or paganism or any area of witchcraft or paganism to be able to come and see the play and get something from it, and go away from it having learned something and enjoyed it.”

Withers and Caine have been keen to represent, in some way, all aspects of Doreen’s work in the performance. As an example, Caine says, “We […] wanted to give air to some of Doreen’s poetry, which she always thought her best work and which I love and many others do.”

Doreen’s ritual work is also referred to in the play. As Caine enigmatically states,“There’s some suggestion of magical ritual in the play but I can’t say what.” When pushed, he demures, “There’s a magic coconut.”

The play will be presented at the Marlborough Theatre in Brighton from November 21-27. “We wanted to do it at the same time as Witchfest as we thought that would be more helpful for us, as if people were travelling from different parts of the UK they are also able to come and see it,” says Withers.

On the closing night, the performance will include a question and answer session with a panel including Philip Hesleton, author of the recently published biography Doreen Valiente: Witch; Ashley Mortimer, a Trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation and the Director of the Centre for Pagan Studies; Julie Payne, a Trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation.

Since word of the play’s production went public, there has been huge international interest. “We’re having people come from around the world,” says Withers, “We had a ticket bought the other day from Australia, so we feel very, very humbled.”

The company has decided to make the play available on commercial release as a DVD. Withers says, “The play will also be professionally filmed. We’ve had a lot of interest from Wiccans in America asking if we’re going to tour it in America, so we’re having it professionally filmed and we’re turning it into a DVD.” The DVD release will be announced on Facebook, and the upcoming play website.

Rumours also abound that the play will tour in England in 2017, so watch that space for updates.

There is no doubt that the play has been close to Withers and Caines’s hearts. Caine says, “Doreen’s writings are some of the most inspiring things and have contributed a lot towards bringing people into the craft, as is the case for me, so it was a labour of love in that respect.”

Withers agrees, “We wanted to get her stories out to as many people as possible. A lot of people know her stories anyway, but I wanted to spread the word of Doreen Valiente really. She was a remarkable woman and I hope as many people as possible get to see it.”

He adds, “All the profits from the play will be going to the Doreen Valiente Foundation. I’m not doing this for my own gain, I just wanted to get the word of Doreen out there and to help the Doreen Valiente Foundation.”

Looking ahead, there are already new projects in the pipeline for Normal People Productions. Withers says, “We’re working with Preston Manor in Brighton, where the Doreen Valiente exhibition is currently, to produce a play about two of their famous ghost stories.” For now though, the spotlight is firmly on Doreen as this iconic figure takes her rightful place centre stage.

Cast and Crew of “Doreen: An English Witch” do the Mannequin Challenge

PORTLAND, Ore. — Sacramento Elementary School is poised to become the first public school in the country to permit the operation of the newly-formed After School Satan club. On Nov. 15, the Portland Chapter of The Satanic Temple hosted an evening event at Parkrose Middle School with guest speakers Lucian Greaves and Jex Blackmore. They answered questions about the temple’s work and about the new after-school program. Then, on Nov. 16, the chapter scheduled a morning open house session at the host elementary school, in order to answer more questions and share its intended program. The club will open for children Nov. 23, and reportedly host meetings once per week on Wednesdays.The After School Satan clubs are the creation of The Satanic Temple (TST), which recently established  a new headquarters in “America’s Witch City,” Salem, Massachusetts. The clubs were launched in reaction to the proliferation of Christian-based, evangelical after-school programming, more specifically CEF’s Good News Clubs.

In a press release, TST co-founder and spokesperson Lucien Greaves said: “It’s important that children be given an opportunity to realize that the evangelical materials now creeping into their schools are representative of but one religious opinion amongst many.”

Greaves goes on to say that the “After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us. We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.”

As quoted in OregonLive, Finn Rezz, who is TST’s Portland chapter spokesperson, said another focus of the clubs is to teach “benevolence and empathy for everybody.” This ideal is something that TST sees as being in direct contrast to the Good News Clubs’ evangelical programming. In a press release, TST explained, “Unlike the Good News Club, After School Satan Club does not try to convert children to one religious ideology. Instead, it teaches children to think for themselves.”

The Good News Club, as we have reported in the past, is one of the missions of the Child Evangelical Fellowship, the purpose of which is to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.” The CEF after-school program is specifically “designed to bring the Gospel of Christ to children on their level in their environment.” The intent of CEF is not hidden.

While the Good News Clubs are not the only evangelical after-school program in the country (e.g. Rise Up for Christ), they are the most well known and the most common found within public school systems. CEF reported that in 2015 there were 78,000 total clubs in operation worldwide. Together with its teen program, the foundation claims to be serving 19.8 million children with “good news.”

When talking about religion-based clubs in public schools, a question of legality always arises. In 2001, CEF and the Good News Clubs were, in fact, at the center of legal battle that challenged the constitutionality of their presence within the public school environment. The city of Milford, New York had denied Stephen and Darleen Fournier’s request to establish and hold a Good News Club at their local high school. The city stated that the “the proposed use–to sing songs, hear Bible lessons, memorize scripture, and pray–was the equivalent of religious worship [and, therefore,] prohibited by the community use policy.”

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the justices of which ruled in favor of the clubs with a decision stating that “Milford’s restriction violates the Club’s free speech rights and that no Establishment Clause concern justifies that violation.” (The Good News Club v. Milford Central High School).

As explained in the ruling, public school buildings are considered “limited public forums” and, as such, the city of Milford “discriminated against the Club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the Free Speech Clause.” That ruling paved the way for not only an expansion of the Good News Clubs but also the birth of similar religious programs nationwide, including now TST’s After School Satan clubs.

14910418_1803244776624243_6609693793544342953_nDespite the SCOTUS ruling, Good News Clubs have continued to spark protests. In 2014, the city of Portland had one of the largest and most vocal coalitions pushing against CEF and the clubs. Its formation was propelled, in part, by the publication of journalist Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club: The Religious Right’s stealth assault on American Children. Local Portland parents and other concerned citizens engaged in protest and signed petitions in an attempt to stop the clubs from expanding any further.

At the same time, the group Protect Our Children was formed. Its mission statement reads, in part, “We support freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and everyone’s right to worship as they please at home or at church. We also support the separation of church and state, and hold that public schools, which serve people of all beliefs, should be religiously neutral and free from evangelizing.”

In an August 2016 article in Willamette Week, local Pagan grandparent Lana Buchanan described how, in the fall 2015, Good News Club volunteers were aggressively passing out fliers in front of Harrison Park K-8. Buchanan was quoted as saying, “I quickly informed them we are a Pagan household and have enough gods, thank you very much.”

Despite any of those efforts, the Good News Clubs have continued to pop up in the area. Today Portland’s school system plays host to several after-school CEF programs.

In spring 2016, The Satanic Temple, which is known for its religious freedom actions, decided to join what is in essence a religious freedom debate. TST created its own school club. If schools allow the formation of Good News Clubs or the like, they must also allow the After School Satan clubs.

To begin its work, TST sent letters to a select group of school districts nationwide, noting its intention to start a school club. Greaves explained, “All of the districts we’ve approached are nearby to local chapters of The Satanic Temple, and each school district has hosted, or is now hosting, Good News Clubs in their schools. This being the case, we are sure that the school districts we’ve approached are well aware that they are not at liberty to deny us use of their facilities, nor are they at liberty to deny us any level of representation in the schools that they afford to other school clubs — such as fliers, tables, brochures, and school-wide announcements.”

Since sending out the requests in August, TST has been dealing with the questions, backlash, and obstacles. However, despite the challenges, the temple is now celebrating the opening of at least two after-school programs by the end of the 2016. Portland’s Sacramento Elementary School club is set to open for business this month. In December, a second club will reportedly open in Tacoma, Washington.

Other cities on the TST radar include Powder Springs, Georgia; Panorama City, California; Taylorsville, UT; Pensacola, FL; Springfield, Missouri; Tucson, Arizona; Capitol Heights, Maryland. In addition, there are reports stating that the small town of Nehalem, Oregon, has also given a green light to After School Satan.downloadOver the past month, the announcement of the Tacoma Washington-based club has drawn notable media tension and backlash. Originally slated for Mount Vernon, the new After School Satan club was moved to Point Defiance Elementary due to the strong presence of Good News. In reaction, as reported by the local news, 75 religious leaders came together to create a plan to stop TST. Many Facebook news-related posts on the subject have since garnered 100 of comments, both in support and against.

In addition, it has also been reported that the club’s proposed opening has been a catalyst for parent protests and petitions. However, the reports do not agree on the size, scope, and number of any of those recent actions.

Despite any outrage or debate, TST was ultimately successful in its mission; Point Defiance Elementary will be getting an After School Satan club in December. The first open house will be held Dec.14. Like all of its clubs, the instructors are or will be volunteers, who “have been vetted by the Executive Ministry for professionalism, social responsibility, superior communication skills, and lack of criminal history.”

In all of its work to promote religious freedom, The Satanic Temple attempts to make one point very clear. It “does not advocate for religion in schools” nor does it want to convert children to Satanism. The organization explains that “once religion invades schools, as The Good News Clubs have, The Satanic Temple will fight to ensure that plurality and true religious liberty are respected.”

FOREST GROVE, Ore. — Pagan magazine publishing might be considered a cottage industry, with a rich tradition that extends back to the days when newsletters were created on photocopy machines and shared ad infinitum among friends. BBI Media might not be operated out of an actual cottage, but it is one of the last remaining publishers of Pagan-focused print magazines in the United States, and it isn’t exactly an empire, either.

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“We work out of our basement,” said Anne Newkirk Niven, whose company puts out both Witches & Pagans and SageWoman magazines. “People are surprised when they call and I answer the phone. It’s just my husband, my son, and me.” BBI Media has never been the sort of company that is headquartered in a gleaming tower with the CEO’s corner office providing a command view of the world below. It is more like a shining soapbox, a place where Pagans with something to say have been able to find an audience.

Through a number of magazine titles and a wide variety of blogs hosted at Pagansquare.com, Niven has provided opportunities for Pagan writers who may or may not be ready to publish an entire book.  She offers an opportunity for thoughtful discourse in a world where reaction often outpaces cognition.

Niven is unable put a date on when she first identified as Pagan, but estimates that it’s been about thirty years. “I’m an eclectic polytheist Witch,” she said. “I do think that different gods have agency, but I have a great fondness for the God and Goddess.”

She considers the fact that her livelihood is based on serving the Pagan community a great boon. “I’m very, very lucky and fortunate,” she said. “I’m sure a lot of people would like to dedicate their professional life to Pagan practice. It’s a great blessing.”

Anne Newkirk Niven [courtesy photo]

Anne Newkirk Niven [courtesy photo]

That blessing came in the form of opportunity or, as she put it, “I got into it by accident, but not entirely by accident.”  Niven was seeking clients for her husband’s printing business, and hand-printed ‘zines were all the rage at the time.

“I had a copy of SageWoman, and cold-called the publisher,” she explained. The timing was right. The publisher “had just had one printed upside-down and backwards,” and was ready to try someone new.  After successfully printing it right-side up for several issues, Niven learned that the publisher had “hit hard times.”

“I offered to buy the magazine with an inheritance from my mother,” Niven said. Three years after making that purchase, Niven took on editing responsibilities, as well, starting with issue 25. SageWoman now has 90 issues published, with Niven editing all those since.

“Don’t quit your day job,” Niven said, as a warning to anyone who wishes to follow in her footsteps. “You won’t draw a salary for a long, long time.”

Building upon SageWoman, a number of other titles have been created over the years: PanGaia, New Witch, Blessed Be, and Crone were all created as BBI periodicals. SageWoman and Witches & Pagans are the only two now being published by the company, and Niven said that there are no plans at this time to create any new titles.

What’s stayed the same through all the titles and all the years, Niven said, is the desire to “tell our stories to each other. Inspirational, relatively upbeat stories. That’s why we’re still around.”

Surviving as a magazine publisher alongside the internet is no small feat. Doing so while serving a Pagan community that is undergoing massive change adds another layer of challenge. “Paganism is more varied and complex” than when the first issue of SageWoman hit the stands, Niven said. “It was very Wicca-flavored, at least the West Coast Paganism I’m familiar with.”

She went on to describe a Paganism steeped in hippie counterculture, protests, and peace movements. It was in opposition to anything that had a whiff of “establishment” to it. “Now, we’re everywhere. Some are working on Wall Street, at least one is in the presidential administration, and there are Pagans in every profession. I even know several Christian ministers who are Pagan. It is no longer scary to say you are a Witch or Pagan,” she added, although acknowledging that the fear still exists in some areas.*

“In a sense, we’ve won,” Niven said, noting that she began this work in the heyday of Jack Chick, the Christian comic artist who died last month. “We no longer have to convince people that we aren’t going to sacrifice their children and cats; that’s no longer a mainstream belief about us. Mostly, we’re seen as harmless goofballs.”

As the number of Pagans has risen — Niven guessed that there are ten times as many as when she started on her path — being seen as “goofballs” is a “sea change” from when most people, as she said, “thought we were evil, or didn’t know we exist.”

She hopes that BBI publications has helped in some way.

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While perceptions of Paganism among members of the general public have changed, so too have Pagans changed in how they view themselves. Recalling a time when nearly all Paganism was Wiccan influenced, Niven said, “In the ’90s, we thought it was the ‘old religion’ with an unbroken lineage. Metaphorically yes, but literally no. We now have more sophistication about our roots. That’s important, because it keeps fundamentalism down.”

A 1995 issue of PanGaia published a lengthy article debunking of the trope that nine million women were burned during the so-called “Burning Times.” Niven said that she is still quite proud of that piece. She did add that she likes the song that Charlie Murphy wrote about it, but said that “there are no winners in the victim Olympics.”

Awareness brings its own issues. Pagans, particularly Witches, are now a regular part of Hollywood entertainment. While that in part helps to normalize the idea of Paganism, there are consequences. “I get asked for spells like body-switching from time to time,” Niven said, not to mention requests for instant wealth. “I would have used that myself!” she said.

Today, Paganism has many branches that stem from Wicca, and many more that do not. Polytheists and Heathens do not always consider themselves Pagans, based on what they feel the overarching values associated with that label are. Niven thinks Paganism “resembles first-century Christianity,” in that there are many factions and a fair bit of theological squabbling.

“It’s very cool, and totally healthy,” she said.

Niven hasn’t been a member of an established group in quite some time, and in that way mirrors most of her readers. “I think about Paganism 60-70 hours a week,” she explained, “and at the end of the day, it’s time to have dinner, watch television or play a game.” Repeated surveys have shown her that most readers of BBI magazines also worship largely on their own.

“Back in the day, there was a theory that one became a Witch by saying so three times. Self-initiation is absolutely a thing. There’s no pope setting the rules.” In addition, most Pagans and others stuck with that label tend to bristle at the idea of hierarchy, she has observed.

In a sense, Niven thinks that the trend toward solitary practice is an historical aberration born of the current culture of individualism. “In a hundred years, or 200, it might transform again into set of more socially-controlled religions, and that probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.” Witches, however, will likely always have a solitary role to play, living on the edges of society and providing wisdom and healing to those who seek it.

Continuing to publish on paper also makes BBI Media stand out. “Paper is becoming a premium product,” Niven said, calling it an underrated technology that’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t require a power source. “Comparing paper and digital is like comparing cabbage and a banana,” she said, “they just don’t taste the same.”

Niven feels that paper is superior for long-form writing, and that’s what is mostly what is presented in her magazines. The bloggers at Pagansquare.com tend to write shorter pieces, which is suitable for that medium. Digital is much better for information such as phone numbers, where a search function makes the data more usable.

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Niven believes that there will always be an audience for paper. “The ecological footprint of digital is not zero,” she said, and BBI publications have been printed with soy ink on recycled paper for far longer than most people knew about those options. There’s also a number of her readers that prefer to peruse the magazines while in the bath, which can be trickyr when using a tablet.

BBI became one of the last publisher of print Pagan magazines in North America last year, when Circle Magazine’s final issue was published. She attributes that not to any failing on the part of Circle’s staff, but to a difference in mission. “[Circle Magazine] was never their main ministry. Publishing is all we ever do. We don’t hold services, give degrees, consecrate, or initiate.”

What the hardworking people at BBI Media do instead is provide a platform for mostly positive pieces on Paganism, in all its many forms, including for people who don’t want to be called Pagan at all but would like to be heard by those who do.

[Author’s Note: This interview took place prior to the recent presidential election, and does not reflect any events that have occurred since that time.]

13900162_1171081342964773_254502616375191286_nGLENWOOD, Mass. — EarthSpirit Community announced that co-director Andras Corban-Arthen and member Donovan Arthen have traveled to North Dakota in an effort to help the protesters at Standing Rock camps. According to a press release, EarthSpirit “sent its delegation in response to a call to religious leaders from Chief Arvol Looking Horse.” While at the camps, the delegation “met with some of the organizers of the camps and [performed a] ceremony with some of the indigenous Elders.”

Additionally, they carried EarthSpirit’s own statement of support as well as documents of support from the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the European Congress of Ethnic Religions. Corban-Arthen gave all of these solidarity statements to the elders personally. EarthSpirit’s own statement reads, in part, “The EarthSpirit Community expresses its solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as its people who defend and protect their sacred lands and water. […] We ask for a halt to construction, for the demilitarization of the police force in the area and for a peaceful solution that respects both the Sioux Nation and our mother the Earth.”

Corban-Arthen serves on both the council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the board of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions. The PWR statement reads, in part, “The desecration of sacred sites, for profit or otherwise, is both an unjustifiable practice and a violation of the basic human right of religious freedom. This desecration is especially unacceptable when, as in this case, it is perpetrated against peoples who have weathered a long history of abuse for the sake of material wealth, land, and resources in both the recent and distant history of the United States.” The ECER statement begins, “The Dakota Access Pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to occur.”

EarthSpirit is the most recent in a long line of Pagan organizations to publicly respond to the Standing Rock call for assistance. Corban-Arthen told The Wild Hunt that he is currently en route back home, and that he will share his reports publicly in the coming days.

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14963255_1300630256648495_2912948511722442464_nPENSACOLA, Fla. — Rev. Katharine A. Luck, an ordained minister at Fire Dance Church of Wicca, published a post-election article at the Huffington Post.  Luck is not only a Wiccan minister, but also the president of STRIVE, a local transgender advocacy organization. In her article, Luck begins, “Listen up, y’all. Not a damn thing that matters has changed,” and then she goes on to say that the problems showing themselves now through the election, existed prior.

On Saturday, Luck organized and spoke at local rally. She told The Wild Hunt that, immediately following the election, she spent much of her time counseling people who were frightened. “There’s a great deal of fear in the trans community in the wake of the election,” Luck said. “There has already been an increase in violence against various minority groups. We will remain strong in the face of adversity and support one another as we always have. We will overcome.” This was her weekend message.

The Huffington Post article ends on a similar positive note, saying, “I call upon my fellow healers, protectors, and advocates. You are hurting, but I know you are strong, and you are needed more than ever. Uplift those around you, especially those who for so long have done the same for others. Support one another, and we will thrive as we always have. I’m not sitting down, I’m not hiding, and I am not leaving. I intend to fight for as long as I’m able.”

Luck is now preparing for a local vigil to be held Sunday, Nov. 20, Transgender Remembrance Day.

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map_of_killeen_txKILLEEN, Texas — It was reported that,on Nov. 2, a member of the local Killeen Pagan community had been the victim of vandalism. After coming home from a Wed. evening class, she found the words “Exodus 22:18” scrawled in marker on her front door. The Pagan woman, who asked to remain anonymous at this point in the investigation, lives alone in her duplex apartment and was surprised by the vandalism. She immediately contacted the local police to report what she considers a “hate crime.” However, the incident was recorded as “criminal mischief,” despite the implied message in this particular scripture. Exodus 22:18 is the verse expressing the infamous phrase: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Prior to the Nov. 2, she had experienced only one other similar incident. On Oct 29, while the woman was attending a Pagan retreat, someone slung mud on her front door and covered it with boot prints. Neither she nor the police know if the two acts of vandalism are connected. Local officials told The Wild Hunt that there are currently no suspects and no one is in custody.  We are following this story and will have more as it becomes available.

In Other News:

  • Aquarian Tabernacle Church archpriestess Belladonna Laveau and high priest Dusty Dionne reported that they made a successful supply run to Standing Rock. The two delivered a trailer filled with firewood to the camps on their way to Ohio. Laveau and Dionne reported on the experience over Facebook live as they drove out of the area. The video report is available to the public.
  • Since the election, mainstream news reports have been filled with post-election demonstrations and rallies. Adding to that story, Salem Witch and elder Laurie Cabot reportedly published a post-election call to action. Through social media, Cabot allegedly asked all Witches to use magic to help “neutralize” the incoming administration. According to the now popular Facebook post, she said, “We as a group need to neutralize Donald Trump and Mike Pence immediately! Especially before the full moon…”  Cabot then goes on to provide a spell with complete directions. Near the bottom, she added, “I am reminding everyone, we do not wish/do harm to anyone.”
  • Cró Dreoilín and the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans at Jefferson Unitarian Church announced that they will be hosting their annual Paths and Traditions Fair Jan. 14, 2017. The fair is a “day-long open house for those who are new or seeking info on Pagan and Polytheist paths to come and meet representatives of various traditions.”  The organizers are currently looking for “Pagan and Polytheist groups or individuals who are interested in making connections with new people or who would like others to know more about their traditions.” This includes the leaders of  “covens, kindreds, groves, or other groups, teachers of classes or workshops, organizers or managers of Pagan or polytheist groups or anyone starting a new Pagan or polytheist group, path, or tradition. The event will be held at the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado.
  • Canadian Pagan and Wiccan Chaplain Samuel Wagar has recently been appointed as “scheduler for the new Multifaith Prayer and Meditation space” at the University of Alberta. He said that this new expanded role will benefit Pagan students studying on campus. Along with this position, Wagar said that he will be hosting a “Tarot Table […] as a way of reaching out and meeting new Pagans on campus, and will be supporting the continuation of interfaith discussions on campus.
  • The New York Times published a video report Nov. 8 called the Historic & Emotional Vote for Women.  A familiar Pagan face leads the Times report. As it opens, Rev. Selena Fox stands at an altar, holding a wand. She says to the viewers, “Be informed. Be empowered. Vote.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

UNITED STATES — The Interfaith Council for Greater Portland called to its community to gather Nov. 10 in the Pioneer Courthouse Square to rally for peace and inclusion. As Rabbi Ariel Stone said, “Today we will seize the high ground to demand from ourselves and all others the ongoing awareness and action to demonstrate that kindness is our only hope, truth our rallying flag, and that we will never stop affirming that love trumps hate.” The interfaith rally drew members of the area’s Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, First Nations and Pagan communities, and was only one of many in the immediate area. 

[Photo Credit: Matt Morris / Twitter]

T. Thorn Coyle, who offered a prayer to Brigid during the event, said, “The reason I wanted to be out last night is to make a clear statement that I stand with Muslims, with immigrants, with our trans siblings, with the poor, and with my black and brown and indigenous comrades. Leading up to and immediately following the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, hate crimes are on the rise in this country. We must work together in as many ways possible, to ensure the safety and well-being of those who are most at risk.” 

Coyle was joined by other Pagans, including Sister Krissy, Ravyn Stanfield, Blaedfyr, Crow Walker and Patrick Garretson. She noted that her aim is, as always, was “to work for love, equity, and justice, and to counter hatred and oppression.” What Coyle expressed and what is exemplified by this interfaith event is a genuine and visceral rising fear, one that was already keenly felt by many minority communities.

While the 2016 Republican platform officially reads, “We oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination,” the party’s official statement did nothing to ease the growing stress found in marginalized communities; nor did it buffer or censor Trump’s 2016 campaign rhetoric. (Republican Campaign Platform, p. 9)

The concerns expressed at the Portland rally are not limited to those attending individuals or any of the others protesting across country, blocking highways, and attending vigils. On Nov. 11, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times, which states: “If you do not reverse course and endeavor to make these campaign promises a reality, you will have to content with the full firepower of the ACLU at your every step.”

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In the wake of the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center has created an online petition calling for Trump to renounce his campaign’s hateful rhetoric. According to the organization, there has been an unprecedented number of hate crimes reported since Nov. 9.

Similarly, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) has said that “it will work vigorously to oppose any attempts by the administration of Donald J. Trump to undermine religious freedom in the United States.” In a Nov. 9 press release, AU executive director Rev. Barry W. Lynn said, “Donald Trump’s rhetoric shows a shocking disregard for core principles of religious liberty […] Religious freedom is far too valuable for us to lose and far too fragile for us to leave unguarded.”

In both their public statements, the ACLU and AU noted specific campaign promises that have led to their organization’s outrage. With regard to religious freedom, what were those promises?

In the section titled “The First Amendment: Religious Liberty,” the 2016 Republican Party platform begins by stating, “The Bill of Rights lists religious liberty, with its rights of conscience, as the first freedom to be protected. Religious freedom in the Bill of Rights protects the right of the people to practice their faith in their everyday lives.” (p. 11)

From there, the document continues on to discuss the “ongoing attempts to compel individuals, businesses, and institutions of faith to transgress their beliefs” and the “misguided effort to undermine religion and drive it from the public square.” More specifically, the platform urges the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which would remove the 1954 IRS code restricting tax-exempt entities, including religious bodies, from engaging in partisan politics. (p. 18)

This is one of the issues raised by Americans United. As its press release states, the Johnson Amendment “prohibits all 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates for office,” thereby creating a definitive boundary, at least in law, between church and state.

Where does the Trump campaign and now administration stand specifically on this issue? According to Time, Republican platform committee member Tony Perkins said, “[Repealing the Johnson Amendment] is a priority in the platform, and from the Trump folks, it is a priority of the campaign, and will be a priority of the administration.”

The Republican Party platform goes on to endorse the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (HR 2802) (FADA) that addresses “discriminatory actions against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction.” The promise to support FADA includes a repeal of the IRS tax code, as noted above, as well as other protections for faith-based institutions. The platform reads, “[the act would] bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” As such, the platform “condemns the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor.” (p. 11)

This is another issue specifically noted in the AU statement. As the watchdog organization suggests, FADA “would allow people who hold the religious belief that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman, or that extramarital relations are sinful, to ignore laws that conflict with that belief. Individuals, businesses, health­care providers, taxpayer-funded so­c­i­al service providers and even government employees would be allowed to use FADA to get around non-discrimination protections.”

The FADA is similar in purpose to the decades-long RFRA movements around the country. Future Vice President Mike Pence has been a vocal supporter of that movement, having signed into law one of the most publicized and notorious of RFRA acts. It was the 2015 Indiana RFRA that sparked Wiccan and ATC High Priest Dusty Dionne to speak out publicly in order to defend religious freedom. In response to overwhelming criticism, Pence said, at the time, that the Indiana RFRA law was never intended to be used as a tool for discrimination. Under pressure, Indiana’s state legislature was forced to clarify its RFRA’s original language, but those changes did not make any significant changes to the law’s premise or application.

In his 2015 book Crippled America, Trump writes, “What offends me is the way our religious beliefs are being treated in public. There are restrictions on what you can say and what you can’t say, as well as what you can put up in a public area. The belief in the lessons of the Bible has had a lot to do with our growth and success. That’s our tradition, and for more than 200 years it has worked very well.” (p. 132). In October of the same year, he reportedly told Iowa supporters, “I’m a good Christian […] If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store … You can leave happy holidays at the corner.”

Returning to the 2016 party platform, religious language can be found in many parts of the document, even outside of those devoted specifically to First Amendment concerns. However, the platform once again directly addresses religious freedom in a discussion on foreign policy. It expresses support of governments and systems that “protect the rights of all minorities and religions.” (p. 47) The document reads:

The United States must stand with leaders, like President Sisi of Egypt who has bravely protected the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt, and call on other leaders across the region to ensure that all religious minorities, whether Yazidi, Bahai, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant Christians, are free to practice their religion without fear of persecution. (p. 59)

During the campaign, Trump himself was not silent on topics related to Daesh. He repeatedly proposed strong action against terrorism, even using the subject as a distraction during the debate. However, some of his statements veered drastically from the above stated ideal of ensuring protection for religious minorities. Americans United wrote, “Trump has also proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States or subjecting them to heightened forms of scrutiny simply because of their faith. Such a policy would violate our nation’s fundamental commitment to religious freedom.”

Since Trump’s initial 2015 statement calling for a ban, Pence has said that the administration “no longer wanted to impose a temporary ban on Muslim immigration.” In July 2016, Trump clarified his plan, explaining that the original statement was about “territory” and not religion. More recently, Pence denounced the entire proposition, saying that this was no longer Trump’s position.

[Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikipedia]

[Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikipedia]

Outside of policy promises, Trump’s campaign rhetoric has been very clear in its religious focus. At a September rally in Iowa, for example, he asked his supporters to raise their hands if they were Christian conservatives. “Everybody,” he said. After cheers, he followed with, “Raise your hands if you’re not a Christian conservative. I want to see this? Right. Oh, there is a couple of people. That’s all right. I think we’ll keep them. Should we keep them in the room? I think so.”

Just before the November election, the campaign released one final commercial that fueled a heated- response from the Anti-Defamation League. This would not be the first time that Trump had been accused of using anti-Semitic rhetoric based on the false assumptions of a global Jewish conspiracy. After the Nov 8. election, ADL said in a press release that it “cannot and will not simply ignore the fact that this campaign brought out many of the worst elements of our society.  We saw a mainstreaming of anti-Semitism and a normalization of bigotry that deeply concerned us. […] We will not shrink from the fight ahead regardless of where it takes us.”

At the same time, the ADL also shared words of hope, saying that it is prepared to work with the president-elect and his administration “to seek the common ground and reconciliation that has been the hallmark of all presidential transitions that follow American elections.”

While not a religious-based group, the NAACP has also stated that it is watching the incoming administration. As one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the U.S., the NAACP offered congratulations to the newly elected president, but added: “[We] must bluntly note that the 2016 campaign has regularized racism, standardized anti-Semitism, de-exceptionalized xenophobia and mainstreamed misogyny.”

While implementation of the more extreme policies and promises may not be possible and any attempts will quickly be countered by the many U.S. civil rights organizations, the rhetoric fueling Trump’s success continues to linger in the minds of many Americans, who now are asking, “Where do we go from here?”

For Pagans, Lady Liberty League (LLL) stands behind its policies of inclusiveness and will stand ready to discuss any legal issues or religious freedom concerns that do arise in the coming months or beyond. Rev. Selena Fox added that LLL has seen an increase in reports over the past year and, as a result, LLL has been restructured in order to handle them. Anyone needing assistance can reach the organization through its website.

As unstable as the U.S. appears to be at this point, the NAACP ended its press release on a positive note, echoing an idea that is similar to the message coming out of the local Portland interfaith rally and the new hashtag action #lovetrumpshate. The NAACP wrote: “Our beauty as a country shines brighter than the ugliness of this election. It is up to all of us to reveal the beauty of who we are as a people as we yet see the possibilities of the nation we can become.”