[The Wild Hunt welcomes journalist Claire Dixon to our weekly news team. She is our U.K. correspondent and will be covering news and events specifically in that region, as well around the world. To learn more about Dixon’s background and her experience, check out her bio page.]

BRIGHTON, England — The doors opened on an exhibition of artifacts from the Doreen Valiente collection this month, but it was the new biography of the U.K.’s most famous Witch that caused the biggest stir. Why? The book revealed that Valiente had worked at the legendary MI6 spy base Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

doreen valiente

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

As reported in The Wild Hunt in January, Philip Heselton’s book, Doreen Valiente Witch, was published by the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) to coincide with the landmark exhibition in Brighton, West Sussex. It is the book’s third chapter, titled Glimpses Through the Shadows (Or What Doreen Did During the War), which has been attracting the most interest.

MI6 used Bletchley in Buckinghamshire as its code-cracking centre and would intercept all manner of German ciphers. The most famous was the Enigma code, because it had more than 100 million variations. Heselton states that Valiente had signed the Official Secrets Act and was part of Bletchley’s ISOS division, whose job it was to translate intercepted messages.

DVF trustee Ashley Mortimer said that Heselton, in his research for the book, had finally confirmed a long-standing suspicion that she was involved with this code-cracking. The discovery was an exciting development for DVF and the Pagan community, in general.

Mortimer said, “John and Julie (Belham-Payne, founders of the foundation) had always believed Doreen was involved in secret work during the war, they’d both speculated that Doreen may even have been at Bletchley Park. So to have this confirmed by Philip was truly thrilling.” He added, “This aspect of Doreen’s life, now revealed, throws a new perspective on other aspects – certainly her ability to be secretive and to take her promises seriously, as she plainly did with the Official Secrets Act.”

Unfortunately, this new chapter of Valiente’s story, which Heselton has now opened, may never be fully told. The work carried out at Bletchley Park was first disclosed in the 1970s. But because Valiente signed the Official Secrets Act, she was prohibited from speaking about the nature of her business with the government. For intelligence work, this limitation would usually apply to the remainder of the signatory’s lifetime and , furthermore, any information covered by the Act can sometimes be officially classified for up to 100 years.

So what do we actually know? According to Heselton, the ISOS division, which was based in Hut 18 at Bletchley, was part of the effort to counter the Abwehr, or German military intelligence. Abwehr had spread itself through Europe by sending out spies posing as refugees fleeing the Nazi regime. These spies would then report back on enemy military sites, training regimes and so on. ISOS worked to intercept those messages, crack ciphers, and track down the spies.

Once detected, German spies were given a stark choice. They could become double agents or face execution. Many chose the former, which led to the creation of the highly successful double-cross system. False information was fed back to German, and one very notable success was to convince the Nazis that the Allies would be landing at Calais rather than Normandy on D-Day. These double-agents went unnoticed by the Germans, and it is estimated that the work of Valiente and her colleagues at Bletchley saved millions of lives, cutting the length of the war by up to four years.

Heselton also claims that Valiente spent a lot of the Second World War travelling between Bletchley and South Wales. She was reportedly gathering information from foreign merchant navy men regarding the Battle of the Atlantic, at the core of which was the Allied blockade of Germany. It was during this time that Valiente met her first husband Joanis Vlachopolous, who drowned only six months after they were married in 1941. However, Valiente’s role in South Wales is less clear than her role at Bletchley.

Heselton’s research has undoubtedly added an important new dimension to Valiente’s story, and the Pagan community is abuzz with questions. However, as noted earlier, given her signing of the Official Secrets Act, we may never know the true extent or nature of her work during the war – or at least not for some time. Mortimer said, “The research continues, and we are all convinced that there will be further information and other revelations to discover. Doreen Valiente remains an enigma and it seems the more we find out about her the more we realise how little we know.”

Bletchley Park was contacted for a comment but did not reply.

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

Meanwhile, another interesting disclosure in Heselton’s biography is Valiente’s acquaintance with the British royal family – particularly the Queen Mother (who passed away in 2002). Heselton told the Brighton Argus: “I have had it from a number of people that she indeed knew the Queen Mother. As with a lot of her life, much of this is a mystery and will remain so but we have certain clues to their relationship.”

According to Heselton, the Queen Mother flew Valiente to Balmoral, which is the royal family’s official summer residence in the Scottish Highlands, by private jet in the 1980s to warn her that the government of the time was thinking about outlawing Witchcraft again. Witchcraft had been banned in Britain in the 16th century under the reign of Henry VIII and was punishable by death. Notable purges include the North Berwick witch trials in East Lothian, Scotland (1590) and the Pendle witches trial in Lancashire, northern England (1612).

However, in 1735 a new Witchcraft Act was passed to reflect the Enlightenment values of the times. Being a practitioner was no longer punishable but belief in witchcraft was. The maximum penalty was one year’s imprisonment or a fine, and the Act remained statute law until 1951.

When Gerald Gardner introduced Wicca to popular culture in 1954, Witchcraft began to enjoy a resurgence. Therefore, the possibility of a fresh ban must have been alarming. Heselton was unclear on the exact timing of Valiente’s flight to Balmoral, but he said, “My impression is that her meeting with the Queen Mother was some time in the 1980s.”

Another related rumour cited by Heselton is that the hand-held mirror used by Valiente in her rituals, which can be seen in the current DVF exhibition, once belonged to the Queen Mother. Valiente reportedly picked it up at a jumble sale at a village neighbouring Balmoral after the Queen Mother had a clear-out. She is said to have got chatting to the Queen Mother at the sale, who confirmed that the mirror was hers. However, there is at present no way of verifying this story.

As with this rumour and the Bletchley tale, it would appear that there are many more stories to be told about Valiente. We will keep reporting as they continue to surface.

TWH — Although a signature is still needed by President Obama, it does appears that women in the United States will soon be required to register with Selective Service, making them eligible to be drafted into the military. As it stands now, all men ages 18 to 26 must register for possible involuntary military service with the Selective Service System. Women have previously been exempt due to restrictions that kept them off the front lines and out of combat roles.

That all changed earlier this year when Defense Secretary Ash Carter, implementing an Executive Order from President Obama, opened all military jobs to women.

[Public Domain / Video Still]

[Public Domain / Video Still “Women in the Military”]

The proposal was first introduced to the House Armed Services Committee by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who placed this measure in the Defense Department Spending Authorization Bill to protest the President’s Executive Order. Although he feels the rules limiting Selective Service registration to males is sexist, he made it clear he doesn’t want women in combat roles or possibly being drafted to fight in a war. Unfortunately for Hunter, the proposal passed a vote in the committee and is expected to be signed into law later this year.

The Wild Hunt spoke with Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists and asked their opinions on women being required to register for Selective Service.

Druids

John Beckett There is no draft. There is only registration for the draft, which would expedite the draft process should it be necessary, which would require an act of Congress. Given that we’ve done without a draft for over 40 years despite fighting seemingly endless wars, I don’t see where we’re likely to have one in the foreseeable future. Maintaining the draft registration is a waste of public resources.

That said, if we should need a draft, there is no reason to exclude women. Women have shown over and over again they can serve as well as men.

Misty Pullen (Eclectic)  If they think that there should be a draft, then both sexes should be a part of it. I am a military brat that if my mother hadn’t gotten out to get schooling (she could have taken long distance learning even in the 80s) I would have been a child that would have changed schools myself and gotten to know what it was like to be in while she was in.

Dean Jones While I detest the notion of the draft, I will comment. As a former member of the armed forces I worked under many women supervisors and had many women in command and they were without exception as capable or more capable than the men they served with. I am not comfortable with anything that bars women from receiving any right that a man has equally, the world is already too unbalanced. As we reach a time period where people are considering more than one gender, I’m not sure that it should even be a consideration for armed service.

Patricia Lacasse I do not want my granddaughters to have to register for a draft. I don’t want anyone to have to register for the draft. I never want to see the mandatory draft come back. I lived at a time when I watched with horror as friends and family were drafted and sent to Vietnam to be killed in that senseless war. If someone of their own choice decides to serve in the military that is one thing. I respect their sacrifice and appreciate their service. No one should be forced to serve. If women want to join the military it should be their choice If they want to serve in combat situations that should be their choice also. I don’t think it should involve registering for the draft. It will be too easy for the U.S. to go to continuous wars if both women and men are registered, and next thing will be the Congress will vote to bring back the mandatory draft. I do not and will not trust the war hawks in Congress in this situation. I served my country as a V.I.S.T.A. volunteer but have no military experience.

Heathens

Erin Lale I have not been in the military but many members of my family were. Get rid of the draft entirely. Forcing someone to work under threat of jail is slavery.

Erik Saulness I’m a navy veteran and I identify as a culturally Pagan (Norse Heathenism, if it matters) Atheist. I see the draft as inherently immoral; it’s slavery. There are conceivably situations of existential crisis where it could be the lesser evil, but it’s evil. That said, intellectually, if we allow women in combat roles and we have a draft… then it should be a draft for all. It’s not a policy I would ever choose, but it’s the only morally consistent one that we’ve set ourselves up for. And in a situation where a draft could ever be justified, I suppose we would need everybody manning the wall anyway.

Ideally, I would test for combat eligibility without considering gender. The PT standards shouldn’t be lowered or altered, if a recruit passes and is eligible… then give them a gun. Again, this is a distasteful hypothetical in which we’ve already embraced a draft at all, which I oppose for all.

Angie Kunschmann I am not OK with it but I certainly don’t see why women wouldn’t be a part of the draft if men are. I would prefer we got rid of the draft period. I was an army brat as a child.

dogtags

[Courtesy Photo]

Robert Anthony Parobechek  Personally, I don’t think there should be such thing as a draft period. If a foreign power actually did invade our country, I am sure the citizens would be sufficiently motivated to volunteer. Outside of that I think women should have to register in a draft. If the country goes crazy again in its lust for war over oil, someone drafted to fight against their will has international political refugee status.  Australia, Sweden? See you there.

Heather Honeycutt-Wyne I come from a military family and was a Navy wife. Like most here, I would prefer to abolish the draft. I don’t necessarily think that women should be drafted. ‘Equal to’ does not mean ‘the same as’, and many women may not have the necessary physical qualities for combat. However, during war there are a lot of positions that need filled, and not all of them are combat positions.

Hellenic Polytheists

Anne Hatzakis I was turned down for military service at 18 because of poor vision. If we keep the draft, both men and women should be required to register for it. Personally, I would like to see the draft abolished for everyone as I think it’s not a good thing.

Victory White Being blunt here I think this is a game by an increasingly schizo Congress. They don’t want to even talk about the Equal Rights Amendment, equal wages, women’s rights over their own reproduction and several other women’s issues but they will add women to the roles of a program that hasn’t even been used in over 30 years?! What are they trying to sell here? And most importantly why?

The economic situation has already created a group of citizens to fill the current needs of the military as it stands now. They draft is out dated and was unfair when it was in use.  As a Hellenic. I have too many questions about this to be anything more than doubtful. As a patriot I believe in defending my country. That also means to me defending it from becoming a way mongering greedy monster run amok.

Pagans

Morninghawk Apollo (Animist) I oppose the draft (or even registration for the draft) in general. I am a feminist, and believe that every position a man is qualified for, so is a woman. As a result, if men are to be forced into slavery for the state, so should women. It is part of the responsibility of being equal. I think there is a positive, unintended consequence of forcing women to register for the draft like their brothers. It will raise the issue and the evilness of the whole process in the social consciousness. Maybe that will cause politicians (especially those who have daughters) to reconsider the whole thing.

Philipp Kessler (Eclectic) In the interest of equality, women should be required to register with the draft. That is, unless we abolish the draft entirely. Which I feel is a very good idea. The draft has not been activated in decades. It is an unnecessary requirement. If we were truly in a time of world war, then yes the draft should remain intact with the addition of women being required to register for the draft.

I am not in favor of the bill. The proposed bill includes a rider that would eliminate federal protections for the LGBTQ employees of contracted companies. As well as an unnecessary increase to military spending.

Amanda Durfee-Spencer (Eclectic) I don’t agree with making any one regardless of gender register for the draft. To me, the draft violates the very things this country stands for by forcing someone into military service such as what happened in Vietnam. There are other ways to “serve” your country that don’t include being shipped out to war. And until the government fixes the broken Veterans Affairs health system and starts taking better care of our military men and women, they really have no business asking anyone to register.

Scott Reimers This seems to be topic which Pagans can agree on. While conservative Pagans tend to be pro-military industrial complex and liberal Pagans tend to be anti-military industrial complex, both sides believe in supporting our troops. Both sides almost always share a perspective in support of gender equality. Since our community tends of be at the front of equality issues most of us have stopped considering women “weak.” Additionally warfare has changed. It’s not about being big and strong to hike long miles before swinging a sword. It is about being properly trained to use tools… and hey… cliche to the rescue. Women aren’t known for the adventures in trying to figure something out without reading directions.

Lee J. Lavallee-Cothran Former active duty military, and yes I would agree to that. With caveats excusing single parents of either sex, and limiting parental units to one from a family with dependents, and this goes for same sex couples who have families as well. Remember, signing for a draft does not necessarily mean being drafted into the military like it once did. It means being eligible in case certain situations arise.

Tracie Wood As someone who served in the Marine Corp for 6 years I’m all for the draft for women. Women have the right and responsibility to serve and protect this country the same as men do. More and more combat roles are being opened to women across all services. Also, even if a woman is not serving in a combat role, there are supporting jobs that need to be filled so the men can serve in combat. Why should all the responsibility fall to men?

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- From left to right, Staff Sgt. Josie E. Harshe, flight engineer; Capt. Anita T. Mack, navigator; 1st Lt. Siobhan Couturier, pilot; Capt. Carol J. Mitchell, aircraft commander; and loadmasters Tech. Sgt. Sigrid M. Carrero-Perez and Senior Airman Ci Ci Alonzo, pause in the cargo bay of their C-130 for a group photo following their historic flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

First all female C-130 Hercules crew to serve a combat mission for the U.S. Air Force, 2005 [Public Domain]

Witches or Wiccans

Ash Sears I’m a Navy brat, former army wife and now wife to marine.  Having two daughters I am not a fan of it, but honestly I am not a fan of the draft at all. Having said that, I think it’s a natural part of the process since women are fighting for equality as much as we are

Tasha Rose I don’t have military background, but I’d just like to point out that liberal “equality” is what gets women being forced to register for the draft. I’m not interested in being equal to men’s warring patriarchal system. I want to smash it to pieces.

Tony Brown I oppose conscription for people of any gender. But if there is to be a draft, then yes, it should be implemented in a gender neutral fashion.

Lisa Cowley Morgenstern (and Heathen) When I was 18 I considered registering for the draft because I thought it was wrong that women didn’t get drafted but men did. However I was a naive and scared Catholic girl who was afraid she might actually get drafted and end up in barracks with men and that was scary then. As a dual trad witch and Heathen I think both genders should be eligible if there is a draft.

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Senate lawmakers must sign off on the draft review and changes before they can be sent to the president to become law. The authorization bill isn’t expected to be finalized by Congress until this fall. U.S. citizens have not been subjected to a draft for over 40 years and both lawmakers and military leaders say they do not foresee a situation in which one would be used.

51eUScE78yL._UX250_LAKE WALES, Fla. — In an update to a story that we previously reported, Heather Freysdottir has come forward to say that she has backed out as a headliner for this coming week’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG). Freysdottir explained to The Wild Hunt, “I heard the rumor about the Frosts appearing recently, and when I inquired FPG management, I was told that there were no covert workshops and that the Frosts were attending, that’s all. [Then] I was presented with a handbook for this years’ FPG Beltaine that includes the Frosts as presenters and teachers. […] They have since retracted this and released a new handbook, but the fact that this was changed due to public outcry tells me that the Frosts were originally planned as presenters. I would not have consented to headlining with them on the bill anywhere.”

Freysdottir went on to say that she does not “bear FPG any ill will; there are many wonderful people who contribute to it every year, but the fact that the Frosts keep getting invited back disturbs” her. She also wrote on her blog that she is concerned over the “subterfuge about their attendance and amount of participation.”

The Wild Hunt has since learned that this lack of transparency has become its own issue, outside of any questions surrounding the Frosts attendance at the popular Florida event. A former volunteer, who has asked that his name be left out of this report, has not only issued a cease-and-desist letter to stop FPG’s organizing board (TEG) from using his software and other intellectual property without proper authorization, he has also contacted the Florida State Prosecutor’s office, alerting them to what he called “black-letter extortion.” He expects this “criminal case” to take a long time. But he did say that the board has since admitted to using his work without permission, and he hopes that this part of the conflict can now be put to rest.

As of publication time, Freysdottir is still listed as a headliner on the FPG website, but she did confirm, “I will not be headlining and I am sorry for anyone who was hoping to meet me there.” Her full response and explanation is posted on her blog. As we reported previously, FPG’s organizing board (TEG) has declined to comment on the situation.

Florida Pagan Gathering will be held this coming weekend in Lake Wales, Florida.

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PF-Ireland-Logo_d800

NAAS, Ireland — The Pagan Federation of Ireland recently made social media waves when its response to a marriage inquiry went viral. The original April 23 email, written by a person named Sarah, stated that she and her finance were a newly engaged American couple looking for clergy to marry them while they were in Ireland. Sarah stated that they were practicing “odinists” and that they wanted a clergyperson who only “performs heterosexual ceremonies” and “refrains from marrying those of mixed races.”

The next morning, PF-Ireland responded with “We are most happy to report that none of our clergy subscribe to your views on mixed race or gay marriage, and so we cannot assist you in your upcoming visit to Ireland. Fuck Off. Yours very sincerely, Everyone at the Pagan Federation of Ireland.”

The response was posted publicly as an image, and it quickly began to make the digital rounds. While the group reportedly received some backlash and concerns about PF-Ireland’s openness toward Heathens. The group responded simply by saying, “Pagan Federation Ireland operates a zero tolerance approach to racism and homophobia, both of which were abundantly clear in the initial communication.” And showing off more of its dry wit, the group offered to send to the querent a laminated and even framed copy of its policy statement in exchange for a small donation to any Irish Pagan organization.

The original “viral” image can be found in a number of places in social media, including this original Facebook post.

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Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

TWH – Wiccan Authors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone‘s long awaited book Lifting the Veil is now published and will be available by the end of this month. On their newly designed website, Farrar and Bone wrote, “Written to fill an existing gap in the current available knowledge on trance, prophesy, deity-possession, and mediumship within the neo-Pagan and Wiccan communities, Lifting the Veil was developed from [our] personal work and public workshops on trance-prophesy and ecstatic ritual over the last 20 years.”

They are both currently on a speaking and workshop tour in the U.S. They recently attended Brid’s Closet’s annual Beltane festival held at Palaia Winery in Hghland Mills, New York. Next, they will be making their way  to Florida. After that, they will stop in Atlanta, Georgia and Englewood, Colorado. Wild Hunt Journalist Terence Ward met up with them this weekend to talk about their work, their practice and the new book. We will be sharing that interview later in the week.

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pagancomingoutday

TWH – Today marks the 5th year of International Pagan Coming Out Day. It was first recognized in 2011 and encouraged by a non-profit organization called International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD). Events are being held locally around the world, some of which are noted on the Pagan Coming Out Day Facebook group and across social media.

The purpose of the organization and the day is to encourage “Pagans who are ready to come on out.” The website reads, “Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”  IPCOD provides a number of different resources to help in the decision and the process.

In Other News

  • The article that prompted the Global Conference for University Chaplains to invite Mary Hudson to its event in Australia in now available online. It is called “The Voice of the Other” and can be found in the digital version of The Journal of Tertiary Campus Ministry Association. Hudson is now only $1400 away from her funding goal. Due to the success of the online campaign plus a few local fundraisers, she said it looks as if she’ll be headed to Australia. Hudson added, “Trust is a beautiful thing when it comes to stuff like this and honestly magic really does happen.”
  • The Pagan Federation’s Pagans with Disabilities group has launched a week-long online Beltane celebration. On the event page, organizers explain, “Here at the Pagan Federation we’re trying to combat the loneliness and isolation that the disabled in our community feel. Too large a number of our brothers and sisters are finding it increasingly difficult to make it to moots and events. So, we’ve decided that if we can’t take them to the gatherings, we’ll bring the gatherings to them.” The online Beltane began on May 1 and will run through May 8. Photos and videos are being shared, along with stories and other community details. PF encourages anyone feeling left out to contact them. They want this event to be accessible to all and are listening.
  • Pagans in Oregon made the local paper this weekend. Oregon Live interviewed Jonathan Levy about the founding and community value of the Columbia Protogrove ADF. Writer Melissa Binder attended the group’s Beltane festival, and interviewed two of its members. Binder quoted Amber Reed as saying, “Coming here is like coming home.”
  • Touchstone Advocacy and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has re-launched its 2015 campaign to encourage people to remember the victims of what it calls “wiccaphobia” or witchcraft-related violence.

20892_10153292760836974_7941993647697095620_n

  • Festival season is now underway. Many Pagans are preparing to attend to two Southern-based festivals that will conveniently run on back-to-back weekends. First, the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) kicks off its 2016 event in the mountains of Tennessee. Held at Montgomery Bell State Park in the city of Burns, PUF is a four-day family-friendly camping event that will begin on May 19. Each year PUF has a playful theme, and this year, it is Star Wars. Next year, PUF will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the organizers have chosen a Harry Potter theme. PUF includes rituals, music, food, workshops and vendors.
  • One week later, over Memorial Day weekend, the new musical festival Caldera will open at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, Georgia. It is also a four day event with 30 Pagan acts, plus vendors and workshops. Caldera is currently running a “Beltane” special, noting that no tickets will be sold at the festival gate. And for those interested in both? Caldera and PUF are only a short four-hour drive from each other through the Appalachian region of the Southeast.
  • The group Nemuer has announced the release of its first music video. The song is called “Caves of Damnation” and comes from their 2015 album Chapter V: Labyrinth of Druids. The group said that the new video, directed by Jakub Řehoř, and the track’s vocals were all recorded “in the darkest caves of the Czech Republic.” Nemuer is described as an “instrumental dark-folk music project, oriented on ancient civilizations and mystical atmosphere.”

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Don’t forget! If you have a community announcement or a news tip, let us know. We also take submissions, pitches and proposals for articles. We love hearing from our readers. Contact us.

I.

If determined enough, the dead can assert themselves to appear nearly as present as the living.

And if one who is noticing and interacting with them does not know they are dead, and/or they are too young to comprehend what dead even is, the distinction between dead and living becomes rather confusing if not at times completely irrelevant.

This was my experience, anyway.

What I believe to be my earliest memory, for example, seems quite average on its surface.

I am a toddler, just old enough to walk and talk. My grandparents are sitting up in their bed, facing the television that was perched on their dresser, and I am sitting at the end of their bed, playing with a pile of coins, babbling enthusiastically to my grandpa about my stacks of pennies. On the television is a rerun of ‘Matlock’, and my grandpa is engrossed in the show, not paying much attention to me. But my grandmother keeps reaching her hands out toward me, trying to get me to sit on her lap. And I keep looking over at her and smiling at her, but I am too distracted by stacking pennies and the sound of my own voice to go to her.

1909464_48456013517_3100_n

Me at 2 1/2 in the yard where I sometimes saw my grandmother.

It’s a notably clear memory, right down to every little detail. And it wouldn’t strike me as unusual at all if not for the fact that my grandmother died of cancer when I was only a year old, well before I was old enough to climb onto the bed and babble in sentences and recognize Andy Griffith’s face on television.

And yet nobody had told me directly that she had died, and everyone else in the house still talked about her as though she was still there. So it didn’t seem all that out-of-place to me as a toddler that I would see her around and occasionally interact with her. My clearest and most sustained memory of her is of that day in the bed, but I can also clearly recall seeing her hovered over the counter in the kitchen, sitting in one of many antique chairs in the living room, hunched over the dryer in the laundry room, sweeping on the back patio, or in the backyard near the doghouse.

Our dog also had been dead for quite some time, having been my mother’s childhood pet. The backyard had seemingly been abandoned once the dog had passed on. By the time I was a toddler, the backyard was so overgrown with ivy it was barely navigable, and the doghouse still sat in the corner, rotting and collapsing, with a metal bowl still poking out from the ivy. But just as I did not grasp that my grandmother was no longer on this plane, I similarly did not completely grasp that we did not actually have a living dog. I never saw the dog quite as I saw my grandmother, but I sensed that she was there all the same.

It wasn’t until I was around four years old that it started to occur to me that my grandmother was not a current member of our household and that my sightings of her were not shared by my mother or my grandfather. I had overheard a phone conversation in which my grandfather mentioned “the summer before Betty died.” I still didn’t understand what death was, but I could sense what it meant on one level, and it meant that the person was said to no longer be here.

And yet she was. She was all over the house.

grandmakitchen

My grandmother in the kitchen, exactly as I remember her.

II.

One afternoon not long after that, my mother and I were in our front yard, sitting on the sole boulder that graced the edge of the yard. My mother was watching the road in front of us, waiting for a friend, while I scrambled up and down and around the rock. There were etchings – crude letters carved into the side of the rock, which I had always noticed for their texture but which suddenly held a greater interest to me as I was just learning to read.

“What does it say?” I asked my mother.

“It says ‘Here Lies Elroy’, she said.

“Who’s Elroy?”

“Elroy was my brother’s gerbil.,” she explained. “When he died, Jay buried him under this rock. That was when we were kids, long before you were born. This rock is Elroy’s gravestone.”

“So Elroy is dead like Grandma?”

“Yes, and like your uncle Jay.”

All I knew about my uncle Jay up to that point was that my bedroom was once his room. In a sense, it was still his room. It was often referred to as “Jay’s room” by my mother and my grandpa, and I had always felt that, while it was my designated space within the house, on another level it was not my room at all. I had somehow always felt more like a guest in that room than its primary inhabitant. But unlike Grandma, who was talked about regularly and often as though she was still present, Jay was rarely mentioned, and I had always sensed not to ask questions about him. My room was his room, and that had been the extent of my understanding.

But now, at least I knew he was dead. And on one hand, that knowledge only deepened the mystery, but on the other hand for the first time I felt as if I had some concrete understanding about who was still here and who was not. They were all dead – Jay, Grandma, Elroy and my mother’s old dog who still seemed to live in the backyard. At at that moment the fact that they were all dead was suddenly real where before it had only been abstract.

III.

As I reached grade school age, the sightings of Grandma became much fewer and farther between. And while I couldn’t deny to myself that I was still seeing her occasionally, the part of me that knew that I wasn’t supposed to be seeing her would very actively kick into gear, resulting in a tug-o-war in my head between experience and reason every time I thought I spotted her.

‘Ghosts aren’t real’

‘But I saw her!’

Part of me didn’t want to be seeing her at all. Part of me just wanted to believe I was imagining things. And part of me also wanted to tell the world, or at least to talk to someone about it. But part of me also knew that it was very real, and that I was best off keeping my mouth shut.

And so I did keep my mouth shut about Grandma. I also knew to keep quiet about what was in the garden.

My mother had built a garden in the side yard the year before. She would sit me out in a tiny lawn chair with books-on-tape as she worked for what seemed to be hours on end, weekend after weekend, tilling and planting neat little rows of flowers and vegetables.

Within a few months, we had a glorious garden, and it quickly became a favorite spot of mine. I would spend hours out in the garden, examining flowers and bugs and stealthily rescuing/relocating the snails from the saucers of beer that my mother would leave out to drown them.

Garden slug. Photo by I, Colae.

Garden slug. [Photo Credit: I. Colae]

But eventually, I sensed something else there too. Unlike Grandma, I couldn’t see anything concrete, but after a while I felt a constant presence every time I was in the garden. I could sense her; I could hear her,

Maybe this is God, I thought to myself more than once. But God is a man, I would then reply to myself. I knew little about religion or God, other than that my mother had referred to our family as “lapsed Catholics” when I asked her once. But I had taken enough in from the wider culture to know that ‘God’ was also the ‘Father,’ and while I couldn’t see whatever was in the garden, I felt very strongly that it was female. So she couldn’t be God.

But what was she?

I didn’t know, but she was definitely there. And I liked her, and I could tell she liked me back.

Around that same time, I had started to read the book Anne of Green Gables. In the book, Anne refers to God several times as ‘Providence,’ which stood out to me as unusual as I had thought that Providence was a female name. At some point, I was reading the book in the garden, and when I felt the presence of the yet-unnamed entity in my garden, a potential connection stirred in me.

I asked whoever was there if I could call her Providence. And I sensed immediately that the answer was yes.

IV.

When I was ten, my grandfather died.

My mother and I had moved out of the house three years earlier. She had remarried, and they were able to buy a house of their own, a small Cape Cod-style bungalow about ten miles away from what then became known as “Grandpa’s house.”

Grandpa had continued to live in ‘his’ house for the next few years until a heart attack rendered him unable to live alone, and he ended up moving in with us for what ended up to be the last few months of his life.

grandpaxmas

My grandfather, six months or so before he died.

I grudgingly surrendered my bedroom, not really grasping that his life was coming to an end. He recognized my frustration at losing my space and invited me to share the bed with him if I wished. I took him up on it a few times a week.

And it was on one of those nights, when I crawled into bed with him in the middle of the night, that he died peacefully in his sleep with me sleeping right next to him. When I woke in the morning, I turned to shake him awake, and he was cold. I knew instantly that he was dead.

After the wake and the funeral were over, what remained to be reckoned with was nearly as emotional and painful as my grandfather’s death in itself. We needed to do something with Grandpa’s house.

I had assumed when he died that we would be eventually moving back into that house. After all, not only was it bigger and nicer, and in a much better neighborhood, it was our home. My grandparents were the original owners, and both my mother and I were raised in that house. While I didn’t recognize it so distinctly at the time, I considered that house the closest thing I had to an ancestral home, and the land around it was the only piece of land with which I had ever had a real relationship. I wanted to live where I was born and raised, where Grandma and most likely now Grandpa still remained. I wanted to replant the garden where I first met Providence. I wanted to clean up the backyard and fix up the doghouse so that it was a more proper place for the dog that I sensed was still there.

My mother, on the other hand, had absolutely no desire to live in the house again. And while in retrospect I can completely understand why she felt that way, as a ten year old this decision sparked nothing but anguish, anger, and resentment on my part. I sullenly tagged along as she slowly emptied the house. At times, I flat-out refused to help, as I watched her empty it of the antique furniture with which I had grown up. She eventually put the house up for sale.

By the time prospective buyers were beginning to look at the house, it had all become so painful for me that I started to emotionally detach from the process, not able to bear the thought of losing it. During that period, I often took refuge in what was once the garden, by then overgrown with grass and weeds, crying my eyes out to Providence and anyone else who would listen. At one point, it occurred to me that in losing the house I would be losing my relationship with Providence as well, which only brought more tears.

It wasn’t until a few months after the house had been sold, as I finally started to recover from the numbness and grief associated with the entire episode, that I started to notice an occasional and familiar presence as I went about my day-to-day, unmistakably the same presence that I first met in the side garden as a child.

V.

My mother quit smoking the year I started. Ironically enough, her quitting and my starting were both directly related to the same event. She became pregnant with my sister and quit for the obvious health-related reasons. And then a few months later I started it up as a coping mechanism, wanting no part of a life with a younger sibling. I was fourteen years old and an only child, and was dreading the changes that were sure to come.

When my mother was a smoker, she occasionally kept a pack or two stashed in random places, a fact I remembered one day when I was home alone. Inspired by the idea of found treasure in the form of nicotine, I rifled up and down the sides of my mother’s dresser drawers, hoping to find that prized, half-empty pack of stale smokes.

But instead I found an old envelope in the crack of her sock drawer that had a piece of newspaper poking out of it. I generally wasn’t one to pry in such a way, but my instinct told me to look inside, and so I carefully and gingerly opened the envelope and pulled the piece of newspaper out.

It was a clipping from the local paper dated April 1982, summarizing the death of my uncle Jay. He had been killed in a car crash, having driven into a telephone pole only a few miles away from where we lived. The article stated that alcohol was a probable factor in the crash.

I thought of the uncle I never knew, whose room I grew up in, whose death was never mentioned once throughout my entire childhood. I felt a sudden and strange relief, as a mystery that had grated on me for years had finally been answered without my having to actually ask.

jayID

My uncle’s college ID card. He died a year before he was set to graduate.

I also immediately understood why it was never mentioned, especially given my mother’s penchant for avoiding uncomfortable subjects. And as I took in and processed this new discovery, I also forgave my mother for her silence.

VI.

I had been living on my own in the city for a year or so at that point, and had decided to drive out to Jersey to visit my parents for the day. On the drive out, my mind drifted to thoughts of my grandfather’s house, which I realized hadn’t seen since it was sold nearly a decade earlier. Out of curiosity, I decided to take a detour through my old neighborhood before heading to my parents’ house.

I parked on the street and stepped out of the car, and the moment I stepped onto the property I felt a distinct chill. Instantly, this place and I recognized and remembered each other despite many years of absence. The yard and the house had both been altered with much of the original flora removed, but Elroy’s rock remained as did the tree I planted as a small child. I walked toward the side yard, toward the garden where I first met Providence. The garden was gone.

“Hey, what you doing?” I heard a voice yell behind me. I turned around and found myself face to face with my former next-door neighbor, whose expression went quickly from anger to a smile as he recognized me. I knew him quite well; he and his wife had lived next door to our family since my mother was a small child. My mother grew up playing with their daughter, and I grew up playing with their granddaughter.

“Oh my God you’re all grown up. Look at you. I knew you’d come back one day.”

Without exactly knowing why, I burst into tears.

He reached over to hug me. “You know,” he said, as I tried to calm down. “Maureen talks to your grandpa and grandma constantly. She sees them all the time.”

I immediately stopped crying and jerked back in shock. Maureen was his wife.

“She does?”

He nodded. “Oh yes. Her and Betty have long conversations. I don’t know the details, but she says they’re both quite loud and active.”

I spoke before realizing I was speaking, before realizing that I had never said what I was about to say aloud before.

“I used to see Grandma all the time. She even tried to play with me once. I remember it quite clearly.”

He nodded again and pointed to the house. “Since your mother sold it, its changed hands three times in eight years. I swear, your grandparents are so loud over there that nobody wants to stay for long. The last folks remodeled the entire kitchen and patio before they left… I watched them just pour thousands into it but then just pick up suddenly and leave anyway.”

I thought of Grandma in the kitchen, and suddenly it all became a little too much.

I explained to him that I was on my way to see my mother and that I had just taken a quick detour and should be going.

“Come back anytime,” he said as I quickly walked towards my car. “I’m sure Maureen would love to see you.”

*  *  *

“I went by Grandpa’s house today,” I casually mentioned over dinner.

My mother looked up immediately. “Oh yeah?” she asked. “Does it still look the same?”

“Not really,” I answered, uninterested in talking about the aesthetic changes. “But I saw Bill. And he told me that Maureen talks to Grandma and Grandpa all the time.”

My mother laughed a bit and then was silent for a moment. “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. Its funny, I always felt like Mom had never quite left that house.”

I stared at her for a moment, not quite believing what I just heard. Until that moment, my mother had never acknowledged anything of the sort to me, had never given any indication that she ever sensed the presence of anything at that house. Suddenly, between Bill’s words earlier and my mother’s words just then, my experiences were validated after nearly a lifetime’s worth of questioning in silence.

“She never left, Mom, trust me. She definitely never left.”

Still stuck on the idea that my mother held any kind of religious belief or superstition, I decided to go all or nothing and ask one of those questions I had never before dared to utter.

“Why are we lapsed Catholics as opposed to regular Catholics?” I asked.

It was almost as though she was expecting the question. “Well, your Grandpa’s mother, your great-grandmother, she drowned in the ocean when your Grandpa was a teenager. And even though she drowned, the Church insisted it was a suicide, and they refused to grant her a Catholic burial.” She paused.

“And then they turned around and said they would bury her for a price. Which the family somehow paid, but once she was buried the family didn’t want to have much to do with the church after that. And so neither do we.”

I had never really thought much about my grandfather’s life growing up, other than the knowledge that he had lived through the Depression. But something hit me hard the moment that my mother told me that my great-grandmother had drowned in the ocean. Our family had spent nearly every summer at the beach as I was growing up, a yearly trip which I always dreaded due to a lifelong and unwavering discomfort of being in the ocean. I could never fully enjoy the water no matter how hard I tried and I could never quite understand why, and I couldn’t help but to reflect on that discomfort in light of what I had just learned.

“What was her name?” I asked. “My great-grandmother, I mean.”

“Her name was Providence,” my mother answered.

VII.

A friend and I had spent the day endlessly talking and catching up, and trying to plan out the pilgrimage that we would be taking in just a few months. Both of us were under a lot of stress, both coming off of traumatic experiences, trying to piece together what had happened with our lives and what was being triggered by our upcoming journey. After hours and hours of back and forth, he eventually passed out on the couch. I passed out in my bed not long after, and slept better than I had in weeks.

And when I woke up, I felt a strange familiar presence, which I noted but didn’t put much thought into until he woke up a few hours later.

“I felt so safe,” he told me. “Safer than I had in ages. And I actually slept. And when I woke up early this morning, I heard this lovely voice telling me that I could go back to sleep, that it was safe. And I did. And I feel so well-rested. And whoever that was, it was such a wonderful feeling. Do you know who or what that was?”

I thought back to the presence I sensed when I woke up and I smiled. “Yes,” I said. “I’m pretty sure that was Providence.”

“Who’s Providence?” he asked.

“I’m not exactly sure,” I admitted. “I once thought she was a land spirit, or more specifically a garden spirit, nowadays I think she might be an ancestor spirit but again I’m just not sure. What I know is that she’s been around me since I was very small and she’s always nurtured and protected me. She’s just… around. I don’t think about her for a long while and then she’s just there and reminds me she exists. I’ve never seen her, but I feel her and I hear her and that’s been a constant for most of my life. She never wants anything. She’s just around, and she’s warm and she’s wonderful.”

“Yes, she’s quite wonderful,” he said with a smile.

VIII.

I woke suddenly, not knowing why. It was the middle of the night, but I couldn’t remember anything that I was dreaming which could have stirred me awake. I sat up and looked out the window, and immediately felt the urge to be outside.

Quietly so not to wake my partner, I slipped on my shoes and my coat and went downstairs. I stepped out the front door of my building, and felt myself being pulled toward the river. A minute later, I was lying on by back on the dirt by the riverbank, suddenly overtaken by a stream of visions and messages that seemed to be pouring out directly from the full moon above me.

Full moon over Portland. Public Domain.

Full moon over Portland. [Public Domain]

Under the Scorpio moon, just a week before Beltane, the dead filed through and thoroughly between my ears. I closed my eyes and saw generations’ worth of flashes through my mind, scenes that I can only assume were connected to my ancestors. And then, my grandparents. And then, my uncle Jay. And then the scenes changed sharply, and I was back at the house in which I was raised complete with all the familial spirits and old furniture, and as I saw myself as a child in the garden. I felt the presence of Providence nearby.

I opened my eyes for a to stare at the moon, and then closed them again. This time I saw what I only can assume to be the future, with flashes and aerial scenes of myself and a dear friend backpacking over mountains as the dead stirred beneath our feet. Every step we took echoed both above and below, an echo I physically felt in my feet throughout the course of the vision.

It then morphed into darkness, and we were in a cave-like setting. And then, he is gone, and it is only I. And there she is. Not a ghost, not an ancestor, but a god.

I knew what she was about to tell me. I also knew why he had suddenly disappeared, as he had not only received this exact message from Her before, but had related it to me only a few weeks prior. There was also a small part of me that knew that if I opened my eyes at that moment, that it would all disappear, that I technically did have a split-second option to escape this moment.

But I also knew that, while I may be able to escape the first-person utterance, I didn’t get to escape its consequences. And I realized in the moment that the message, though delivered before, was incomplete in its overall meaning until now. For the words were not just about the future, but also about the past.

So I kept my eyes closed and stayed, anticipating her words.

“Do not look there, unless you’d leave.”

*  *  *

I returned home and back into my bed. When I fell asleep again, I deeply and vividly dreamed about the house for the first time in years.

We were all sitting at the dining room table, all having what looked like Thanksgiving dinner. And when I say all of us, I mean all of us: Grandpa, Grandma, my mother, my uncle Jay, and myself as an adult. In my sleep, straddled between worlds, we were talking and laughing and drinking wine and breaking bread without any concept of the barriers between life and death. We were just together, enjoying life, as the family that never quite was.

Even the dog was there, in the corner, patiently waiting for scraps.

 

This column was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth. 

Merry May Day

Heather Greene —  April 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

For many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists around the world, this weekend is one to celebrate. The days surrounding the first of May mark many traditional spring festivals and religious holidays recognized around the world. Of these the most well known is Beltane or Bealtaine, which, in some traditions, honors the union of goddess and god or marks the beginning of a Celtic summer. In many secular and non-Pagan religious communities, the day is still celebrated as May Day, complete with the iconic Maypole.

[Photo Credit: Jengod via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Jengod via Wikimedia]

However, that is just one of the many holidays appearing at this time. Walpurgisnacht, celebrated the night of April 30, is closely associated with Witches and also called Hexennacht. The eve of May Day was consider the night when witches gather and meet.

In ancient Greece, the holiday of Anthesteria was celebrated. Today it is more commonly called ProtomagiaIt is a day that recognizes the rebirth of nature and is associated with the well-known story of Persephone’s ascent from the Underworld. While some modern Hellenic polytheists celebrate this day in February, many celebrate it on the first of May. And, not long after, as spring continues its dance, some modern Pagans celebrate Thargelia, which is a birthday celebration for Apollon and Artemis.

These festivals and others herald the coming of summer or the apex of spring – a time of merriment, awakening and bounty; a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the other world are thinned. In many traditions and cultures, it is also a time of divine union and fertility.

But that does not apply to Pagans everywhere. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are readying for winter. The first of May marks the height of autumn and the end of the harvest season. The celebration of Samhain and other similar holidays that honor the dead or the Ancestors are now upon them.

And, finally, there is one more celebration happening this weekend, and it has nothing to do with seasonal events. The Pagan Federation, based in the U.K., is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Members and supporters have planned a gathering to honor the organization’s commitment to supporting Pagan rights in the region since 1971.

Here are some quotes for this season:

“On Beltaine we dance with the fairies, we give thanks to the nature spirits for their abundance and growth, for blessing us with nourishment and beauty. We honour the living God and Goddess energy. We call upon the most enjoyable aspects of the Taurus energies, the ability to fully experience the pleasures of this realm, the love of the body, the sensual thrills of lovemaking.” – Candise, “The Sweetness of Beltaine

“Beltane has always been a holiday for me since childhood because it is my birthday. I sometimes saw maypoles growing up in Germany, but I never knew what they were. As a child, I always begged my parents to host large parties outdoors, preferably under trees, with lots of games, singing, and dancing. That hasn’t changed. Nowadays I like celebrating Beltane and my birthday together and dancing the maypole at public rituals. Dancing with friends and strangers is a perfect mix of hilarity (up? under? under again? really?? oops! wait, what?!?) and deep magic.” – Annika Mongan, “On Beltane

Two young girls lead the procession to the altar. [photo provided by YSEE]

Two young girls lead the procession to the altar. [photo provided by YSEE]

“It is springtime on our farm! Small white flowers start appearing in the axils, the angle between the trunk and the leaves of the olive tree, emitting a very pleasant scent. Our trees will soon start blooming and bearing fruit […] The first day of May in Greece is associated with the custom of Protomagia (May 1st), a celebration of the awakening of nature after a long period of winter. With its origin somewhere between pagan rituals pre-dating the Olympian Pantheon and later folklore traditions, this celebration highlights the beginning of the spring, the victory of life over death.” – From “Oliveology

“Mirth seems to explode around us as we approach the season of Beltane. Nature seems to be slipping on her best dress and looking for a good time. […] Mirth is an expression of gratitude to whatever gods you believe it. It is enjoyment of the gift the universe has given you. To ignore it is to waste that precious gift and thumb your nose the gods, God, the Universe, or whoever you believe gave it to you. In this way, mirth may be the highest and most spiritual virtue I can think of. So dance, sing, feast, make music, and love. For the sake of the gods, open up a bottle of mirth any time you can!” – Tim Titus, “Virtues of the Goddess: Mirth”

“As I grow older, I find it is the simple things that keep us on the good path – waking with gratitude for the day, honor our food, lighting a candle daily for our ancestors, rooting into the Earth finding presence in our breath, calling to the spirits in all the directions asking to make good relationship. It is these small things that make the difference over time, guiding us to live immersed in the sacred, dwelling in a world that is enchanted and holy. […] The river tonight was as beautiful a thing as I ever seen. The night sky reflected on its still surface, as mist moved over it dividing the river from the land, the three worlds sliding into one another, earth, sea, and sky. It was simplicity that brought me to this place, the little things guiding my steps. And that made all the difference in the world” – Snowhawke, “You Do What You Can

A Very Merry May from The Wild Hunt!

[Today we welcome guest writer Lyonel Perabo joining us from Northern Europe. He is a MA student currently enrolled in the Old Norse Religion program at the University of Iceland. He has written for various news websites, blogs and student magazines in the Nordic countries Lyonel is currently working on his Master’s thesis, which seeks to analyze the way North-Scandinavian populations were perceived in Saga Literature and works as a tourist guide and local History blogger in the town of Tromsø in North-Norway.]

The Sjamanistisk Forbund, or Shamanic Union, was established in 2012 in the city of Tromsø located in the far north of Norway. It was founded by Kyrre Gram Franck, a native of the region. Since then, the organization, which aims to rejuvenate the age-old shamanic traditions of Northern Europe, has experienced a steady growth and now has members over the whole country. I was able to meet with Franck, who assumes the role of regional chairman and vision-leader in the organization, to discuss the group’s spiritual vision, challenges, and role in the 21st-century Norwegian religious landscape.

The coast of the island of Kvaløya near Tromsø, North-Norway. [Photo Credit: L. Perabo]

The coast of the island of Kvaløya near Tromsø, North-Norway. [Photo Credit: L. Perabo]

The Northern edge of Norway was historically the country’s last Pagan stronghold. While the Christianization process, kickstarted by kings Ólafr Trygvasson and Ólafr digri, met with little resistance in the south, the inhabitants of Norway’s northernmost constituency Hálogaland resisted the longest. They were even able to successfully defeat and slay Ólafr digri, who would later be made a Saint for this martyrdom. While the Church progressively became increasingly influential among the Norse population of Arctic Norway throughout the Middle-Ages, the indigenous Sámi people were, for the most part, able to retain their traditional religious beliefs and practices, most of which revolved around the figure of the noaidi, or the shaman.

Considering this rich and complex history, it is understandable that lately, natives of the region have been willing to engage with their pre-Christian roots and heritage while keeping an eye on other traditions and practices for help and inspiration. While the Sámi shamans Eirik Myrhaug and Ailo Gaup started to develop their practices in the 1980s and 1990s, there were no organizations gathering those interested in shamanism until fairly recently when Kyrre Gram Franck established the Sjamanistisk Forbund.

Franck had a spiritual connection with Nordic nature and its spirits since childhood, and had been engaged in discovering and researching shamanism since his late teens. He developed his practice over the years through personal meetings with shamans of various traditions. However, it was only after a rather singular spiritual experience that he came to establish an organized group centered around the practice. Franck explained:

One night in 2009 a vision came to me in my dreams that showed a lot of people sharing what they had of knowledge with each other. The spirits showed me that the tradition we once had could be revived, through sharing. There were men and women from all continents there, who showed us things while we showed them others. Since I am an empath a lot of emotions also came to me then beyond just the information. Right before I woke up there was a clear voice that told me to start something called the Norwegian shamanic Federation

Shortly thereafter, Franck had a talk with Ronald Kvernmo, the organizer of the Isogaisa Shamanic Festival and decided to drop the “Norwegian” from the name of the organization in order to display a greater acceptance of shamanic cultures beyond Norway or even Scandinavia. In 2012, The Sjamanistisk Forbund was registered as an official religious organization in Norway.

Kyrre Gram Franck drumming in Southern Norway in 2014 using a drum and hammer made and offered to him by the Hungarian shaman Regös Sziránszki József [Courtesy Photo]

Kyrre Gram Franck drumming in Southern Norway in 2014 using a drum and hammer made and offered to him by the Hungarian shaman Regös Sziránszki József [Courtesy Photo]

From the beginning, Franck had the idea to develop Sjamanistisk Forbund around both Sámi and Norse shamanism. As exemplified in the Medieval Norse-Icelandic sagas and later folkloristic material, Norse and Sámi Pagan practices and beliefs have indeed likely influenced each other for centuries, thus mirroring the close relationship the Sámi and the Norse populations have had since the late Iron Age. However, according to Franck, the organization focuses on reconstructing shamanic practices from much further back in time when the boundaries between the future proto-Sámi and proto-Norse cultures were at best dim, if existent at all.

However, having been in contact with shamans and Pagans from many cultures and traditions, Franck stresses the fact that individual members and affiliates are free to engage and develop their own practices. He said:

As a organization our focus is on Norse and Sámi shamanism and creating a living, vibrant culture for it in Norway, but we welcome all aspects of shamanism. A member’s own practice is between him and The Creator and and is not up to us to define as correct or not. The spirits showed me that it is important to emphasize the spiritual in tradition rather than the technical aspects.

As an organization, Sjamanistisk Forbund has over 250 members distributed all over Norway and many more sympathizers. For the moment, the group’s focus is on celebrating of the full-moons and the solstices as well as organizing weddings, funerals, coming of age and naming ceremonies. Franck also underscores the fact that by being an established organization, Sjamanistisk Forbund has many more opportunities to reach out to the public sphere. He said:

SF has served as a means to inspire others but also to create an understanding for both governmental organizations as well as people who have no previous experience with “Alternative” religions or shamanism. In addition, by creating public acceptance of shamanistic beliefs and faith we will also be able to create space  for the development of the individual. Together we will protect and create a vibrant culture, bringing life to what we have lost

There is no denying that the emergence of the organization has to be seen in the context of a shifting Norwegian religious landscape in which, according to Franck, being associated with and even engaged in “Alternative” or Pagan groups is much more accepted than before. Sjamanistisk Forbund has also had the opportunity to cooperate with some domestic Pagan organizations such as the Heathen congregations Bifrost and Forn Sed, as well as with a few international ones including the Ural–Altaic traditional culture festival Kurultaj in Hungary and the The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids in the United Kingdom.

Picture_IV_Lyonel_Perabo_Article_Norwegian_Shamanic_Union_April_2016

A meeting of the Sjamanistisk Forbundet. From left to right: Morten Storeider, Christoffer Skauge Eid, Louise Degotte, Kyrre Gram Franck, Gro Hilseth and Tone Johnsen. [Courtesy Photo]

Since its inception, Sjamanistisk Forbund has even had contact with the Norwegian Lutheran State Church, which used to behave in a mostly dismissive and antagonistic way toward non-Christian or non-Abrahamic congregations. Such a mitigating demeanor is a symptom of the dilemma the Church is faces when an increasing number of Norwegians no longer identify as Christians. Last month, the hierarchy of the Norwegian Church was shocked by a nation-wide poll published in the leading Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten, which revealed that the majority of baptized members do not identify with the faith. While many commentators have interpreted this study as a sign of an increasingly secular and nonreligious civil society, Franck does not believe that spirituality is on the wane in the Kingdom. He said:

Most humans have a spiritual part in them, when we don’t express it we get sick or as I would say it, our Fylgja (Norse name for protective spirit) gets sick. We have tried to turn that part of us away for a long time. But people are rediscovering their spirituality at an increasingly rate. I cannot count the times that people have come to me, people I have never regarded as spiritual, and told me about their spiritual experiences. I foresee a revival age where shamanism isn’t just a belief but also a part of our proud heritage, a part of our culture.

Franck very much embodies this idea and does not see his spiritual practice as separated from his daily life and activities. He is a musician, a member of the ethnic-ambient band Bålfolket, and the World-Trance outfit Northern Lights Sound Project.

 

Both through his art and the organization he founded, Franck sees his spiritual engagement as a means to bring about a greater understanding of and acceptance for not only the Sjamanistisk Forbund but also for the greater Pagan and shamanic worldview in order to, according to him create a living, vibrant culture for it in Norway. May he, the organization, and all of its members and representatives, be successful in this endeavor.

Santa Cruz, Calif. – At 11:30 pm on the night of Sunday, April 17,  police in Santa Cruz responded to an unusual call. Somebody was breaking out of a business at 428A Front Street in the city’s downtown area. This is the location of the Academy of Arcana, the latest venture of Oberon Zell and business partner Anne Duther. Founded in October 2015, the Academy is the physical campus of The Grey School of Wizardry, the magickal education center founded by Zell in 2004. The location also includes the Museum of Magick and Mysterie, a library and reading room, and a gift shop offering magickal items, ritual supplies, books and jewelry.

Academy of Arcana proprietors Oberon Zell and Anne Duther

Academy of Arcana proprietors Oberon Zell and Anne Duther [Courtesy Photo]

The shop itself is located in the front of the establishment. Anthony Starr, aged 20, was caught on video, bashing a hole through the tempered glass of the front door. A passerby with a cell phone captured the escape on video as another passerby called 911 for police assistance. Starr used a large athame to bash a hole at eye level in the door. He then managed to climb head first through the ragged opening of broken glass, sliding to the ground. The video then shows him jumping to his feet and looking directly at the camera before making his escape by running away, down the street.

In a recent Skype interview with The Wild Hunt, proprietor Oberon Zell has this to say about the incident:

Clearly he snuck in hoping to have a place to just crash for the night. He did not apparently come in for the purpose of theft or anything. How he got past us, we still can’t figure out. The place was full of people, but somehow he did. And when we locked it all up, he was locked in. When he woke up in the middle of the night hearing voices, which he attributed to the ants when he talked to the police about it.

We have got a shop that is full of images of angels, fairies, dragons, Goddesses, all kinds of guardians, you know, magical stuff all over the place and skulls and strange sigils. That anybody would even dream of coming in to a place like that with hostile intent is kind of amusing in the first place. So apparently the voices sort of told him he had to get out and not touch anything, don’t mess with anything, just get out of there, whatever you do! Of course he couldn’t get out, because the door was locked.

Anthony Starr (Police photo)

Anthony Starr (Police photo)

It is assumed by Zell and the staff of the Academy, that Starr entered the building sometime on the evening of Saturday April 16. It is not known where he was hiding when the staff left the building, locking him in. Zell explained that the store, library and temple space was designed so that there are clear sightlines with no hidden corners. Starr may have been able to make his way to one of the back offices. Police were able to inform Zell that Starr did use the shop phone to call his mother at some point in the night. It is presumed by Zell that he did not use the phone to call 911 for help getting out because he was afraid of being arrested. Whatever Starr’s mental state may have been, his physical state was affected by the glass since he had to crawl through it to get out. Blood was found on the door. Zell reports:

To go up and over (the broken window), scraping himself on the broken glass edge of this – he messed himself up pretty thoroughly. But on the other hand, he did not do any damage inside, he didn’t even take money out of the tip jar. He just didn’t touch anything except the blade he used to break through the window, which he left behind. He just got out of there.

Aside from the broken glass in the door, nothing in the Academy of Arcana was harmed. This came as a tremendous relief to Zell, who rushed to the scene to meet staff and assess the situation. The large museum collection of more than 360 Goddess statues, devotional items, magickal tools, Books of Shadows and regalia, as well as the vast library of myth, sci-fi, fantasy, history and magick books belonging to Zell, and his late life-partner Morning Glory Zell, are on display at the Academy.

The break out has proven that any publicity is good publicity. When the video of Starr slithering out of the hole in the door went viral, curious people made a point of visiting the store that had featured in it. Zell said:

This happened Sunday. Monday and Tuesday we were closed, these are our normal closed days. When we opened Wednesday, we were mobbed. All the rest of that week, people had to see the place – they had seen the video. The reporting officer came down and brought one of his friends, another officer, to show them the thing, and discuss it and have a few laughs about it. I went out and we visited. It has been fantastic for business! You can’t buy advertising like that. When we opened up, the first thing we did was a little prosperity spell. Within about a half an hour, we had sold over $250 worth of stuff, that’s our half of the window.

Academy window w new sign

The Academy of Arcana, Santa Cruz, CA [Courtesy Photo]

The landlord of the building is covering the other half of the cost of replacing the glass. The small amount of damage did not warrant an insurance claim.

Starr was located the next morning by officers from the Santa Cruz police, sleeping in a nearby doorway. He was suffering from cuts to his hands and body and had several bloodstains on his clothes. He is now in the custody of the Santa Cruz Police. He has been charged with felony vandalism for this incident. This was his fourth arrest in three weeks. The state of Starr’s physical and mental health are not known at press time, but Zell has stated he will be speaking to police to learn more about what happened and find out how Starr is doing.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Mary Hudson made waves when she became the second Pagan chaplain at a higher education institution in the United States, continuing a service that began with the advising the Syracuse University student Pagan club. Two years after that chaplaincy appointment, Hudson decided to attend the Global Conference for Chaplains in Higher Education, which was being held at Yale that year. Unfortunately, the experience left a decidedly bad taste in her mouth, which she shared with the conference organizers. They took her feedback to heart, and asked her to return this year as a presenter.

Mary Hudson preparing an altar

Mary Hudson preparing a handfasting altar. [Courtesy Photo]

Hudson would like very much to return to the conference to do so. However, “global” means that the conference moves around, and this year it will be in Brisbane, Australia. She has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the needed travel expenses. As of this writing, her campaign has raised nearly 60% of the $5,000 she expects the trip will cost.

Hudson’s history of working with college students on questions of religion dates back some 14 years, as she told The Wild Hunt. The position fell into place because she was already a university employee and practicing Pagan:

Many years ago I was sitting in my office when a student, non-trad, walked in. We had met at a small Pagan gathering a couple of months earlier and they had a request: would I consider being the advisor for a student Pagan group registered at the chapel? This student had been working with the Lutheran chaplain to get Pagans recognized, as it had become evident based on the amount of students looking for such a group that something needed to happen. I asked what my duties would be and I was told all I had to do was sign the paperwork. Well, that wasn’t exactly true as I came to find out. I stuck with it because the students needed to find community someplace and they needed to learn, from elders and from each other, that they were part of a larger community and not alone.

When in 2009 Hudson was preparing to leave that job, she began to look for another adviser for the Pagan students, whose club was called Student Pagan Information Relations and Learning, or SPIRAL. What she learned from some of the campus chaplains was that she was qualified to become one herself, partly because she belonged to the legally-recognized Church of the Greenwood. She worked with the church’s president and university officials to create the first Pagan chaplaincy. Then, she was appointed to the newly established position.

The University of Southern Maine had already created such a position in 2002, but Hudson understands that the original chaplain there, Cynthia Jane Collins, has since left and no replacement has been found. As TWH reported at the time of Hudson’s appointment, “Not everyone is happy with this growing ethos of interfaith cooperation, both Free Republic and conservative Anglican site Virtue Online have gotten the vapors over this development.” Despite those complaints, the overall reaction was positive.

Three years later, TWH reported tha,t under Hudson’s guidance, Pagan students had obtained and built their own sacred space on the Syracuse campus.

The project was approved with relative ease. On October 14, the school installed four permanent altar stones in the main quad, each representing the cardinal directions. Coincidentally, while the stones were laid, a Native American student group happened to be performing a ceremonial dance across the quad. Mary says,“[This] is a true symbol of the dedication that the university has to supporting all people in a diverse world.”

But it was in 2012, attending the chaplains’ conference at Yale, when Hudson experienced firsthand what it can sometimes feels like to be a Pagan in a predominantly Christian world. It is not that she was openly discriminated against, as she explained. However, the overall impression she received was that Paganism was a surprising oddity. At one workshop in particular, which was focused on crafting a common language for spirituality, she found the intolerance towards non-Abrahmic paths quite overt. She said:

The workshop leader started by declaring that they had found, based on research they had done on their own campus, that spirituality was a word that should be done away with; it was not a viable way to talk about connection to anything. Religion had to be based in longstanding tradition and practices and that is what was needed to be built on in the schools so that students “have a foundation of belief.” This attitude and belief was cheered and it was stated that only religions with texts which tell people how to live, and the organizations which hold those texts, are valid. It became worse as the participants began to snicker and mock the idea of [the] “other religious” designation in the program. I was the other religious designation – literally. I wasn’t listed as Pagan but as Other.

The mocking grew more vociferous when the workshop presenter talked about a student in her study that identified as Jewish Wiccan Quaker. These three faiths were what the student grew up with in her household. Participants openly mocked the student’s self-identification and attempt to claim a multi- and inter-faith tradition. The man seated next to me openly stated that the terms multi-faith and interfaith should done away with as there were no such things and never would be. I was seething with anger, and at the same moment felt attacked. No one in the room other than my friend knew my faith practices; no one knew the other was sitting amongst them and so there was a comfort in belittling and mocking anyone not part of the norm – meaning Christian.

Hudson said that this was just one of the many experiences she had at that year’s conference.  When organizers called for a reflections paper, she provided some strongly-worded feedback, and it was that paper that led directly to an invitation for her to participate again, including sitting on a panel.

[The feedback] was scathing, and I called it what it was – a horrible event that wanted nothing to do with anyone other than Christians. I was contacted immediately and told that my paper would be published in the journal dedicated to the conference and asked permission to share it with the forming committees so that they could change. The individuals in charge had no idea how the “other” faiths were treated or felt. It was eye-opening. This request to participate shows and effort to change and I think it is imperative to attend and show those that are willing to see what true hospitality is about. I firmly believe it takes just as much courage to accept change in others as it does to try and change the self.

The panel, on which she will be sitting, has the curious title of “Pulling Apart a Platypus.” The focus will be four different models of chaplaincy in use today. Hudson will be sitting beside a Catholic priest, a Buddhist, and one other person whose religious designation — if any — Hudson didn’t know.


After her emotionally bruising experience at Yale, Hudson does have some advice for other Pagans who feel put upon. First, she said that what you do and say really depends upon the situation. Then she offered:

I don’t normally “hide” and after the first three workshops that is exactly what I did. I was in “hostile” territory and I didn’t feel safe. I did find two friends that came with me. They were allies with whom I could talk to about what was going on and what I was feeling. I think it is important for people to have someone to talk about what is happening and how they are feeling.

I have to stress that no one is alone. They may feel that they are at times but truly they are not. Look to the local shops, PPD websites, Witchvox for local groups, and other such places for contacts that might be able to give you support and healing kindness. I would also stress that help doesn’t have to come just from other Pagans. Someone being mistreated for their faith will find allies in people who dislike injustice. Talk to people of faith, minority on non-mainstream traditions, to seek out an ally if you need to. You would be surprised at where help can come from.

Those interested in helping Hudson with her triumphant return to the Global Conference for Chaplains in Higher Education can contribute to the GoFundMe campaign here.

Nikki Bado 1954 – 2016

Cara Schulz —  April 26, 2016 — 6 Comments

[Courtesy Iowa State University]

[Courtesy Iowa State University]

“The casting of the Circle is complete. You are led to the edge of the Circle, where Death, your challenge, is waiting for you.” – Nikki Bado, excerpt from Coming to the Edge of the Circle

After a long illness and sudden heart attack, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University Nikki Bado died April 22. A noted scholar and Wiccan Priestess with over 40 years in the Craft, Ms. Bado was perhaps most well known for her book Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation RitualThe book was written as a “challenge to the commonly accepted model of ‘rites of passage.’ Rather than a single linear event, initiation is deeply embedded within a total process of becoming a Witch in practice and in community with others.”

Bado straddled the difficult line between being an academic and a practitioner. She faced criticism from colleagues for being a participant in the field she studied. An article she authored in the Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies addressed this criticism, which is often faced by Pagan academics. She wrote:

Witches say you never forget your own initiation into the Craft. Mine remains vividly alive to me, even though almost forty years have passed. I am no longer a newcomer to the Old Religion, but a high priestess who is well seasoned in performing rites of initiation for others. Yet according to a kind of thinking still common in religious studies—and painfully evident in Markus Davidsen’s 2012 article “What is Wrong with Pagan Studies?” —the above statement becomes an admission of guilt, one that marks me an “insider,” or in Davidsen’s curious phrasing someone who has “gone native in reverse,” and immediately makes my scholarship suspect.

As both a scholar and a religious practitioner, I felt compelled to confront the dilemma of the insider/outsider issue more than thirteen years ago when I started writing on Wiccan initiation, a manuscript that eventually resulted in the publication of my first book Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual.

At that time, I reasoned this was an issue that needed to be confronted head on, and early in my academic career, well before my work on ritual and on material and popular culture in religion established my legitimacy as a scholar. By 2013, I had hoped our field would have moved beyond such facile distinctions as insider/outsider and developed a more finely honed sense of reflexivity, or at least a more sophisticated understanding of perspective, location, and place.

I am profoundly disappointed that we are here today, still talking about insiders and outsiders.

Chas Clifton, author of Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Contemporary Paganism in America and editor of the Pomegranate, posted a remembrance of Bado on his personal blog. He wrote, “I have forgotten just when we met, but it must have been at the American Academy of Religion meeting. She helped build the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group and worked with me as a co-editor on our book series for Equinox Publishing. She wrote on Paganism, religion in popular culture, Japanese religious festivals, the body in religion, and pilgrimage, among other topics. Her longest work on Pagan religion was the book Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual. Good friend, priestess, hard-working scholar. She will be missed.”

9780195166453In an email to The Wild Hunt, Clifton went on to say, “I would see her only once a year at [the American Academy of Religion], typically, but I got lots of late-night phone calls, which I will miss. Her medical problems gradually made it harder and harder to teach and write the last couple of years — she suffered a lot — and I am glad that she is free of that. But now that she is a professor emerita on the other side, she may still be of assistance.”

Macha NightMare, author and Priestess, said, “I will miss Nikki’s keen mind, her hearty humor, and her ardent commitment to her work. I knew her as a prominent presence in the fields of ritual studies and Pagan studies at AAR (American Academy of Religion). Her book, Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual, is well worth being more widely known and read. May her merriment echo in the lives of those who knew and loved her.”

Wendy Griffin, Ph.D, Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary, also knew Bado through the AAR, as well as through Bado’s time as President of the Board for the seminary. They became friends over many conversations, and, like the others, she most remembers Bado as an excellent scholar and having a “wicked sense of humor.”

Bado’s last Pagan conference was January’s Conference on Current Pagan Studies, where she was a presenter. Jeffrey Albaugh, organizer for the conference, remembers, “Although Dr. Nikki Bado taught philosophy and religious studies at Iowa State University and served as president of the board for Cherry Hill Seminary, I personally knew her from my work with the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, where we were blessed to have her as keynote speaker this past January.  Nikki was a gracious sport, and was the first keynote we had participate remotely, from her hospital bed, via Skype. Despite some minor technical issues that had not occurred during our testing of the equipment and internet connection, she engaged the audience warmly and authentically regarding issues of social justice and our Pagan communities.”

51xgxnAs9zL._UY250_Albaugh continued on to say, “This last CCPS was my first dealing with her, but I bonded with her immediately. Her goal in her recovery was to dance again, I think it was ballroom dancing. I promised to dance with her, but that will have to be in the Summerland. She is on my afterlife dance card.”

In addition to her book on Wiccan initiations, Bado also co-authored Toying With God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls, with Rebecca Sachs Norris along with many articles on Wicca, Goddess worship, and Japanese spirituality. Among her many editor credits includes Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music, which includes a contribution by The Wild Hunt founder, Jason Pitzl-Waters.

What is remembered, lives.

David Babulski, 1944-2016

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Pagan community lost one of its elders this month. David Babulski, more commonly known as Papa Bear, passed away on April 11, 2016 at 71. David was an internationally recognized artist, as well as an author, educator and musician. He is most well-known for his mineral paintings, which have been featured in exhibits around the country and have been the subject of numerous books. David said that growing up “in the Sunland/Tujunga of Southern California” made him “intensely curious about the natural world” and inspired his love to draw.  He also noted that he grew up next to an avid mineral collector, which intrigued him at a very young age. By the time David was in college, his interest in art and science merged into a lifelong career, spilling over into his hobbies and his spiritual beliefs.

David practiced Wicca, studying and circling with a number of Pagan groups in the Atlanta-metro area. Lady Arsinoe of the House of Oak Spring wrote, “Because of his love for nature and science, he studied the energy that binds the universe and brought the scientific method to his magical practice.” She continued on to say that he loved dowsing in particular, and crafted new tools for that very purpose. Lady Magdalena of Temple of the Rising Phoenix remembered David’s “warm personality, his far-reaching intellect and his wicked sense of humor.” She said, “He was always there to share what he knew openly and support whatever we were doing.”

David’s talents were many, and he was always up to something. He loved storytelling through creating, music, poetry and the written word. He was an accomplished harpist, and wrote two children’s books about an elf named Piffles.

In recent years, David had been coping with debilitating muscle spasms. His ability to circle with his Pagan families declined over the years. Some members were able to visit him at a rehab center in his final weeks, offering to keep him stocked with art supplies. Then, on April 11, he suffered a heart attack. A memorial service and life celebration were held in April 17 at the Eternal Hills Funeral Home. In the announcement for the memorial, David’s daughter told attendees, “Aloha Shirts or SCA garb optional,” which speaks directly of his everlasting and unforgettable whimsical and warm spirit. What is remembered, lives!

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HUAR LogoLODI, Calif. — Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) is involved with an anti-fascist action to be held in Lodi, California. In recent weeks, HUAR assisted in the research and writing of an article detailing information about an international group called Soldiers of Odin. The article itself is posted on a blog called Anti-Fascist News, and begins “A big thanks comes to Heathens United Against Racism, who did a large amount of research for this article.”

The article goes on to describe the Soldiers of Odin as a “new phenomenon” and a “group of people who are trying to ‘defend’ European nations and the U.S. from […] refugees.” Soldiers of Odin was reportedly born in Finland and now has small groups in multiple countries throughout the world. As is noted, the group uses elements of the ancient Nordic Pagan religion to support its political stance and related work.

The Anti-Fascist News article ends with a call-to-action, asking for activists to join them on April 30 for a protest event at Lodi Lake Park, in Lodi, Calfiornia, where the Soldiers of Odin have reportedly planned a private “meet up.” HUAR is currently working with non-Pagan Antifa Allies on this action.

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HPS-Handfasting-AltarSYRACUSE, NY. — Mary Hudson, president of the Church of the Greenwood in Central New York and the Pagan chaplain at Syracuse University, recently launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money for a trip to Australia. In the campaign letter, she wrote, “In 2012, I attended the Global Conference for Chaplains in Higher Education held at Yale University. It was a unique experience that I had hoped would help create better understanding of Earth-based faith traditions ..” However, as she goes on to say, it didn’t turn out that way. The experience was “abysmal.”

Hudson was invited back to the conference after submitting an account of her 2012 experience. She was offered the opportunity to present. Hudson wrote, “My voice, a tiny voice, has been heard and it has been acted upon by those that had the power to facilitate change.”

The 2016 conference will be held in Bendigo, Australia. Hudson and her fellow Greenwood Pagans are raising the money needed to fund the trip. As of publication time, Hudson has already passed the 50% point. She said, “I am truly humbled by the generosity of all of you.” We will have more on this story in the coming week. 

In Other News

  • downloadFor those Wild Hunt readers interested in coloring, Red Wheel/Weiser has released The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book. Written by Theitic, a member of the New England Witchcraft community, this coloring book is inspired by the many images featured in past Witches’ Almanacs, and also includes “images that have not been presented.” The coloring book is “neatly packed into seven distinct sections,” with titles including Woodcuts, Constellations, The Planets, Egyptian, Americas, Tarot, and Creatures. The publisher writes that book is meant to “allow the inner artist to emerge in a meditation of color.” The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book sells for 12 USD “wherever books and eBooks are sold.”
  • This spring, Cicada Magazine published what has been called “a wyrd & witch edition.” The March/April 2016 issue of the children’s publication is “rife with magicks, moons, familiars, fellowship…” Pagan blogger and author Sara Amis is one of the featured writers in this issue. Her short fiction story called “The Witch’s Egg,” begins on page 19.  Along with her work is a test called, “Does your mom suspect that you’re a witch?” and “Rooted in Feminine Power: An Interview with Nnedi Okorafor.” Cicada is a literary publication aimed at pre-teen and teen girls.
  • Wild Hunt columnist Alley Valkyrie has released her first published work, called Night of a Million Stars. Valkyrie has been a Wild Hunt writer since 2012, and her new book takes its cue from the column. It contains 19 essays in which Valkyrie “shows us the worlds we miss, the worlds we forget to look for, and the worlds we bury in memory.” Digital copies are now available through gumroad.com. Print copies will be available in May through Lulu.
  • Last January, Mike Rodgers, also known as The Fluid Druid, began a community radio broadcast focusing on Paganism in Arkansas. This show, called The Fluid Druid’s Medicine Show, is one of the few Pagan-dedicated programs on broadcast radio in the U.S. It airs on 97.9 FM Sundays from 10-11 am CT. For those outside the listening area, the show can be heard live at KUHS Radio.
  • From the blogosphere, John Halstead has written a two-part article based on his presentation at the Greening of Religions symposium in Columbia, South Carolina. In the two posts, he contemplates the relationship between the many diverse Pagan religions and the modern environmental movement. He asks, “What exactly [does] the word ‘nature’ really means to Pagans?”

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