UNITED STATES — On Tuesday morning, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was shot in the chest and back by a Louisiana police officer outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La. By Tuesday night, protests and vigils began in that capital city. While many people were still examining the video of the shooting and processing what happened, another shooting occurred. On Wednesday evening, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While an official police video of the shooting hasn’t yet emerged, a video of Castile’s death was livestreamed on Facebook.

By Thursday, protests against police brutality, along with vigils for the two men, swept the nation. Most protests have been peaceful. However, one in Dallas, Texas ended with five police officers killed and seven others wounded by a former military member who said he wanted to “kill police officers, especially white ones.” Two protesters were also wounded in the attack. Then, on Saturday evening in Minneapolis, several officers were injured by protesters throwing rocks and bottles. Police responded with CS gas and rubber bullets.

Protest in NYC July 2016 [Courtesy C. Weber]

Protest in NYC July 2016 [Courtesy C. Weber]

The shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have much in common, along with a few differences. The deaths of both men were caught on tape and viewed by millions of citizens. Both men were carrying a firearm when they were killed.

In Minneapolis, police pulled Castile over for the stated reason of a broken taillight. Unknown to Castile, police reportedly thought he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect, and wanted an opportunity to take a closer look at him. According to Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in a car with him, the officer asked him for his license and registration. She said that, as he reached for his I.D., he informed the officer that he had a concealed-carry permit and was armed. Reynolds said the officer told him to put his hands up and not to move. But, as Castile tried to put his hands up, he was shot five times and died. Reynolds said that Castile was attempting to comply with conflicting orders by the officer: to produce his identification, to put his hands up, and to not move.

In Baton Rouge, Sterling was just outside a store when police came. Officers were responding to a call that a man was displaying a firearm or that it was visible. As Sterling is a convicted felon, he was not legally permitted to carry a firearm. However, that fact was reportedly not known to police at the time of the shooting. Additionally, the video doesn’t show Sterling brandishing or reaching for his weapon during the attempted arrest. What the video does show is Sterling and the police struggling, then the officer fires several times killing Sterling.

Both cases have civil rights activists, Black Lives Matter activists and many others questioning whether these killings were justified or examples of excessive force used by police.

The Wild Hunt spoke with Pagans across the country about why they attended the weekend rallies, what religious ethics drive their actions, and what they experienced first hand.

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Detroit, Michigan

Kenya Coviak is a diasporic practitioner of modern neo-pagan witchcraft and folk magick, Founder of the Great Lakes Witches Council of Michigan, Co-treasurer of Ancient Faiths Alliance; Founder of Black Moon Grove and President of Pagan Pride Detroit INC. Coviak said:

“One, I am a diasporic, that means Black. [A] woman in this great nation who is directly and indirectly affected by what is going on in the class and race conflicts ongoing in the way we treat each other as a country.  The blood that is being spilled is my own in spirit, kith, and kind if not kin. It is a greater issue when it comes to Black Lives Matter. It is not Black Lives Matter OR Blue Lives Matter. It is Black Lives Matter AND Blue Lives Matter. Because the tide of wickedness that is flowing through the rivers of pain in our country are a form of sickness that is seeking to divide and dissolve our collective unity.

“Those who have been twisted and turned into the tools of hatred and bigotry are killing citizens before they can even get to the hearing. And there is a spectrum of force that is being skipped and cherry-picked when it comes to Black and Native and Poor people.”

Detroit Protest July 2016 [Courtesy K. Coviak]

Detroit Protest July 2016 [Courtesy K. Coviak]

Coviak continued, saying “The fact that there are Pagan activists all over the electronic landscape is one thing, but unless we get in the streets and off the keyboards, what good are we to people who do not have time to put their coffee next to the screen and read the latest thought piece?

“Michigan is unique in that it has so many new and old Pagan and Heathen groups that are openly and actively involved in bridge building. There is no justifiable reason that there should ever be a demonstration where NO representative of Pagan faiths are in attendance. And the fact that I went through three bundles of smoke cleansing herbs and oils means a great deal to me. Even security and law enforcement were open enough to ask questions and even let the smoke clear and bless them.

“I am an activist and former Family Service Worker for Head Start. Boots on the ground is how I have always rolled. I experienced the energetic  [at the rally] shift from anger to focus to optimism.  As the crowd grew, so did the feeling of a storm breaking. Some were overwhelmed and took generous gulps of water as they were comforted by volunteers.

“My values dictated that where there is a spiritual awakening, and where there is an etheric shift that trauma causes,  I should be there if I can.  I come with heart,  hands,  and soul to share the weight.”

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tasha Rose, a practicing Witch, said:

“I went to the rally because clear injustice was laid upon Philando and his family. I wasn’t able to stay beyond bringing food that I made but that’s how I serve, I cook. I prayed as I made a simple snack for protesters and as is my personal daily practice, imbued the food with love and strength and resilience and other attributes I thought would be needed by those standing up and speaking out.”

Minneapolis Rally July 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Schulz]

Minneapolis Rally July 2016 [Photo Credit: C. Schulz]

Rose added, “This man was innocent. He was murdered by a police officer who spooked like a newly broke horse after he profiled Philando. These kind of people do not deserve to count themselves as protectors of the peace when they are waging war built on classist, racist pretenses. I went and left prayerful food and said my prayers at the rally because we should all feel safe around those who wear a badge. We should all be able to drive without fear of being murdered by those who are sworn to serve us.”

Atlanta, Georgia

Sara Amis is a writer and Faery Tradition initiate. Amis said:

“I actually went to two marches: one Thursday evening from Five Points to Piedmont Park, and one Friday that started in Centennial Park and basically went on for the rest of the evening with a bit of rally in between. Aside from the obvious…that I think there’s a problem with police violence that the system as it functions now is not addressing, and that there is a measurable racial bias element to it as well…I think it’s important to be present, to walk the streets with those most at risk and hear what they have to say in their own voices, to let them know they are supported in real time with my own feet and voice and risks. It’s an act of democracy and an act of love.”

Atlanta protest July 2016 [Courtesy S. Amis]

Atlanta protest July 2016 [Courtesy S. Amis]

Amis continued, saying, “I wrote an ‘Incantation for Justice’ a year and a half ago, which begins ‘The place of the witch is beside the downtrodden.’ If anything I’m more convinced of that now than I was before. Fundamentally, if I think that life is sacred, that each person is a unique expression of the divine, it’s not good enough to think that in the abstract. I have to express those ideas in concrete ways.

“Atlanta is interesting. There’s such a strong tradition of civil disobedience here, and many of the veterans of the Civil Rights movement are still around, still doing work in their communities in and out of politics. When John Lewis is the senior member of your Congressional delegation, it changes things.

“The Friday afternoon march started as the Center for Civil and Human Rights which is also an Atlanta tourist attraction, and my Congressman, Hank Johnson, was marching in it. I was there with my boyfriend, who is a political candidate. That isn’t to say that there isn’t some antagonism, but it’s more passive-aggressive, like Mayor Reed claiming that Martin Luther King, Jr. would never have blocked a highway, which if you ask me is a patently ridiculous statement.

Atlanta rally July 2016 [Courtesy S. Amis]

Atlanta rally July 2016 [Courtesy S. Amis]

“But the protests here almost never get ugly and can often be quite celebratory, even with all of the typical confusion, police, flashing lights, and helicopters. The Thursday night march was more somber but Friday night people were drumming, singing, dancing down the street. There were all ages and races and backgrounds there, but the majority of them were African-American and many of them were quite young. When I look at them they look like my students…some of them clearly were students, from Georgia State, Emory, Spelman, Agnes Scott, Morehouse, etc. They were bantering back and forth about Rosa Parks and Zora Neale Hurston. They were cheerful, funny, ebullient even. Bystanders were also very supportive, waving and honking their horns even as we were keeping them from getting where they were going.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was tense at times. The police were present with AR-14s (sic), though I assume that was in fear of a copycat of Dallas. I heard they had tear gas though I didn’t personally see it.  And after the stand-off on the Williams St. exit had gone on for a while it looked like they were going to try to box us in. The response was to peel off a large group and march around the city for about an hour and a half, singing and picking up more people as we went.

“My boyfriend and I finally left before the trains stopped running.  We passed someone who had parked his car and had it cranked up playing ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.’  Then argued politics with people on the train on the way home; another thing about Atlanta is that people talk to each other, in the street, on the train. It’s a very human city, like an overgrown small town.”

Oakland, California

Elizabeth said: “I don’t prescribe to a specific type of Paganism. I practice goddess worship, acceptance, kindness, peace, love, feminism, and social justice.”

“I went to the Shut It Down protest in Oakland, CA  this past Thursday as white ally and witch. The crowd was extremely diverse. There were all different religions races and creeds. Children, families, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, elderly adults. The protesters were culturally diverse, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian […] What I saw with my heart was my community coming together in support of Black Lives Matter.

“I attended the protest with my Hive Sister from CAYA Coven and we were burning sage and walked the perimeter of the rally with our focus and intentions on maintaining a shield of protection around us (protesters) from violence and police brutality and boosting the signal that Black Lives Matter.”

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Morpheus Ravenna is a Celtic polytheist Pagan, and Lore Chieftain of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. Ravenna said:

“I attended the rally because I must. I value justice, sovereignty, the kinship of humanity, and I can’t stand by and claim to care about those things but not act to do something about the horrific injustices that I see perpetrated by our institutions against People of Color. There are plenty of other ways to make a difference; but for me as a practitioner of a warrior tradition and a dedicant of the Morrígan, I’m called to act by joining the Black community in the streets and participating in direct action and resistance.”

Ravenna at Oakland protest July 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Ravenna at Oakland protest July 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Ravenna continued, “The mood of the crowd was passionate that night. News of the extrajudicial killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had just landed in the community on top of weeks of awful revelations about the OPD and several other local police forces in a truly reprehensible sex trafficking conspiracy. There was a feeling of outrage, grief and frustration. You had this sense that this crowd was not going to be stopped. The march moved very quickly from the plaza to OPD headquarters, and then in a matter of moments was cascading across the highway, shutting it down completely and holding it for over four hours.

“I saw fierce chanting, outpourings of rage and grief, revolutionary speeches; and I also saw celebratory music and dancing, spontaneous outbursts of jubilation. When the front of the march crested the on-ramp and took the highway, someone let off a few firecrackers overhead and there was victorious cheering. People took care of each other, sharing food around as the night grew later. When someone in the crowd had a seizure, street medics stepped up, and a doctor whose vehicle was stuck in the shutdown even came and helped out.

There was a lot of good feeling. But also, as all this was going on the news about the Dallas sniper started going around the crowd, and people were very nervous that the police would come down hard on us because of it. We were working with other clergy people at the march, preparing to place ourselves as shields between police and Black activists if the situation called for it. Thankfully, we saw no violence that night.”

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Brennos Agrocunos, is a Celtic polytheist Pagan and the acting Chief of the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood. Agrocunos said:

“I attended the Black Lives Matter rally in Oakland California on July 7 in order to support the Black community, stand alongside Black clergy, and work as a street medic during the event. As a part of my commitments and oaths to my Gods and ancestors I work to serve my community in the best way that I can.  In Oakland, violence from the police against the Black community is a significant and deadly problem.  Providing support for People of Color in our community during a time of crisis is the morally correct thing to do, and as a human I’m compelled by my conscious and as a priest I’m compelled by my oaths to my Gods to act.”

Newark, New Jersey

Queen Mother Imakhu, is a Shenu-Khametic, a branch of Ancient Egyptian spirituality, and Pastor and Leader of the Sharaym Shenu Khametic Temple.  Queen Mother Imakhu said:

“I was walking to my bus stop, on my way home from the Farmers Market. There was no difficulty in catching it, because it was stuck at the intersection, along with a long line of buses and cars. Traffic was at a standstill because grassroots protesters had taken over the major intersection of Newark. We sat there for an hour. Our bus driver was in solidarity, and shut the bus off. He said he wasn’t going to attempt to move until the protesters allowed passage. Other drivers followed suit. Some tried to push through, but got nowhere. I jumped off the bus to grab photos with my phone, then reboarded.”

Newark Rally July 2016

Newark Rally July 2016 [Courtesy Queen Mother Imakhu]

She added, “What was disappointing was hearing folks complaining about how the protestors were an inconvenience. Others complained about getting to work. They missed the point about the economic shut down. Business in downtown Newark was disrupted. And these were Black folks complaining.

“My driver happened to be a colleague: a Kemetic High Priest. Our faith calls for making a difference through actions. The spiritually awakened Khamite/Kemite stays calm, but stands on the side if truth. While others in the bus were screaming and complaining, we both maintained our cool, and affirmed our support for the protestors. He took a lot of heat too. He was calm, dignified, resolute, smiling.

“I was happy to see how my personal influence of teaching and demonstrating Activism has positively influenced our community overall. Kemite used to be ostriches. Our faith demands activism. I’ve posted events I’ve protested at in order to educate about being involved. That’s why.”

New York, New York

Courtney Weber is a Progressive Wiccan, Priestess and author. Weber said:

“As a Priestess in a diverse, urban community, I’m terrified that one morning I’ll wake up to see that the next victim of police violence was one of my students, community members, or friends–or one of their children. I won’t be neutral. I won’t be quiet.

“The rally was big, tight, and peaceful. We streamed into and blocked traffic up 5th Avenue to and along 34th street, then up to 42nd street, blocking Times Square. Some drivers were losing it at their wheels. Others honked or raised fists in solidarity. Whole buses had to sit and wait. I hoped passengers would get off and join us. Maybe some did. The sit-in in Times Square was the most peaceful part. We sang, but most people sat in silence. It’s was the most calm and quiet I’ve ever seen in that space.”

Portland, Oregon

T. Thorn Coyle, is a magic worker, author, spiritual director and agitator for justice. Coyle said:

“I could call upon Pagan ethics, and my Goddesses and Gods, as reasons for activism, but frankly, during these times to not stand up against injustice? That would be a slap in the face to my very humanity. I do this simply because I feel in my bones that it is the right thing to do. I cannot do otherwise.”

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Portland rally July 2016 [Photo Credit: T. Thorn Coyle]

Coyle wrote a personal account of her experience at the Portland rally in an essay titled “To Run In, Freeze or Flee.” Briefly she said:

“Around 45 minutes into tonight’s gathering in Portland, a man pulled a gun on us. It turns out he is a Trump supporter and right-wing agitator. I was right near him, saw the gun, saw him unsnap the holster, and turned to get some children to back up. Once the kids were safely taken by some other adults, I was still close to him, trying to decide if I was needed. Then the ‘hit the ground’ call went up.

“I am grateful to the level headed people who just kept walking toward him, getting him away from the crowd. As the small group walked him further off, others of us were asked to form a cordon around the protest. We did.

“As the Black man who asked us to said, ‘I don’t want to get killed keeping you safe. I’m willing to die for you, but it’s your job to hold this line.’

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Alley Valkyrie, a Feri initiate, radical polytheist, columnist for The Wild Hunt. was at that same rally. Valkyrie said:

“I went to the rally for many reasons. I consider it my responsibility as someone who benefits from white supremacy and colonialism to speak up against oppression and state violence against Black folks, I knew many of the folks who had organized the rally, and its very much a community issue as well as a national issue given the racist history of Portland and the history of racist violence that our local police department has engaged in over the years. I have close friends in town who are afraid for themselves and their children due to police violence and I wanted to support them and stand beside them. I also have specific orders from the gods I worship to stand up against oppression and white supremacy, and going to the march fit right in with those orders.”

Portland rally [Courtesy T. Thorn Coyle]

Portland rally [Courtesy T. Thorn Coyle]

Valkyrie added, “The rally started out real well. Several hundred people gathered in Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, several leaders from the Black community spoke and engaged the crowd, and then we took the streets and marched through downtown, blocking traffic (most folks in cars were supportive), and eventually pausing at in front of the police headquarters where more folks started to speak again.

“And then out of nowhere a well-known right-wing agitator named Michael Strickland pulled a gun on the crowd and waved it around several times in a threatening manner. He was agitated because folks asked him to leave, as he was filming the crowd for malicious reasons. He runs a right-wing youtube station that he uses as a platform for harassing local activists, and has allied himself with self-proclaimed fascists who doxx local activists.

“I was nearby but blocked from sight of the gunman, but my partner was right in front of Strickland and had a gun pointed and brandished at him. Despite the fact that this occurred right across the street from the police station and there was heavy police presence at the march, it took the police around 20 minutes to arrest Strickland. Once he was arrested, the march continued through downtown, blocking the streets for another few hours. I went home at that point due to back pain, but the march then proceeded to block off the Morrison Bridge for over an hour.”

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The Wild Hunt will have continuing coverage of the protests in the days ahead.

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Note: Michael Strickland, the man accused of brandishing a weapon at the rally, has been charged with two class A felonies after being arrested and released Friday morning on his own recognizance without bail.

[The Wild Hunt is pleased to welcome Tim Titus to our monthly team. Titus’ column will appear on the first Saturday of every month, beginning in August.  He will be sharing his own perspective on life, community and religion. Check out his full bio for more on his work and interests.]

The notions of freedom and personal spiritual authority are driving factors that bring people into the practice of a Pagan religion. Many modern Pagan practitioners are fleeing the older, more dogmatic and hierarchical forms of religion offered by the mainstream in favor of seeking a spiritual practice that speaks to them and is controlled by them.

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler specifically cites “freedom” as one of the major attractions that a Pagan path holds for modern people, writing that people often become Pagan “because they could be themselves and act as they choose, without what they felt were the medieval notions of sin and guilt” as well as a refusal to honor “rigid hierarchies and institutionalization” (23). In Paganism: An introduction to Earth-centered spirituality, authors Joyce and River Higginbotham specifically list “A pronounced religious individualism” (4) as a major tenet of their Pagan religion. Pagans, it would seem, seek their own paths rather than membership in any leader’s flock.

Yet leadership is still necessary, even for such an individualistic group of people. Although Pagans may not follow a shepherd’s crook as their ultimate beacon of hope nor any one sacred text as an infallible set of rules, we still look to those who have blazed trails to help us down the path that best suits our needs. If everyone hacked their own way through the woods, all the trees would be dead and the underbrush trampled.

[Courtesy Photo]

John Beckett [Courtesy Photo]

Druid and Patheos blogger John Beckett cites a number of roles that leadership still plays for the Pagan community. First, writes Beckett, is the more mainstream idea of “leaders as decision makers.” While there is no ultimate authority, “decisions have to be made based on an understanding of what the group wants to do.” This can be done through consensus or democratic process rather than an authoritarian style, but, “knowing which method to use for decisions is a key part of leadership,” explains Beckett.

Beyond that traditional leadership role, Beckett also sees Pagan leaders as teachers, managers, and visionaries. In the role of teacher, he emphasizes the necessity of strong communication skills. And, the role of manager is necessary because, while any group has a set of goals that drive it, “someone has to make sure all this gets done.” In the visionary role, leaders are needed to “articulate a vision and inspire people to do what’s necessary to make it a reality.”

Without leaders, our vision of the future can be difficult to see and even more difficult to attain. It is vital to the health of Pagan communities to produce strong, ethical people who are willing and able to perform these leadership functions.

Photo Credit: Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Courtesy Photo]

Now, it can be a daunting task to step out from the comfort of your own private spiritual practice and into the more public world of community leadership. However, many Pagan leaders have found it rewarding both personally and spiritually. To take those first steps into a new role, author and blogger Shauna Aura Knight advises a “model of apprenticeship and increasing responsibility” to help new community leaders get their feet wet. Knight regularly blogs and teaches a variety of leadership skills in the Chicago area. She further explains that this apprenticeship model can apply to anything from ritual facilitation to “event planning, leading meetings, and many other aspects” by “building the emerging leader’s confidence.”

Christopher Penczak, author and co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, says that this is how he became involved in leadership. “Each time I got the call to take on a little more responsibility,” he writes, “I thought that would be as far as it would go. Yet every few years, the call to go deeper would happen.” Although he did not seek a leadership role, “each time there was a need, and I found myself asked to step into a new and uncomfortable role.”

David Salisbury, an author and co-facilitator of The Firefly House in Washington, D.C. echoes this process, saying that, “I like to think that I tripped, stumbled, and fell into leadership.”

Photo Credit: Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak [Courtesy Photo]

Whether they intentionally sought out leadership or “stumbled” into it, there are certain personal qualities that help new leaders succeed. Knight believes that self-reflection is vital. “If you’re not actually looking into the mirror,” says Knight, “you’re going to keep making the same mistakes and wonder why your group’s falling apart and never realize your own role in it.”

Penczak states that communication skills are indispensable. “While you can’t please everyone all the time, and really can’t even try,” he says, “you have to understand what people are saying to you and be able to convey what you can and cannot do, and why.”  Alix Wright, the Lead Pisces Minister in the Temple of Witchcraft, agrees, noting that, “You can’t expect people to do what needs to be done, if you can’t tell them in a manner that they understand.” Wright adds that, “Since everybody hears and understands in different ways, you have to be able to communicate in a style and manner that matches each person you’re working with.”

Knight also recommends “the ability to hold paradox.” She writes, “Some issues are not just the binary of black and white, good or bad,” and explains that, “many leaders get stuck in being a know-it-all obsessed with being right, and that causes a lot of conflicts.” Salisbury echoes this when he advises young leaders to “remain humble and open to listening to your community.”

David Salisbury [Courtesy Photo]

There are always issues that can hold a new leader back. “Fear,” states Penczak, “is the biggest problem with new leaders.” This includes “Fear of losing control. Fear of not getting something done. Fear of not being worthy, and an effort to hide all these fears rather than acknowledge the process.”

Wright and Salisbury agree that doing too much at once is a major obstacle for new leaders. Wright emphasizes that, “One of the lessons I needed to learn was that it’s okay to say no, and when I do say yes, then it’s okay to ask for help and delegate.” Salisbury cautions against “trying to be everything to everyone all at once” because “burnout is a major leader-killer.”

Knight fears that, when new groups or events begin to form, those in charge “never stop to talk about what their goals are,” and she warns that, “most conflicts come from assumptions.” She advises “direct communication” to unravel those conflicts.

She also warns against another pitfall of leadership: “egotism.” “Many leaders desperately want to be ‘the person with the good idea,’ or ‘the one who’s right’ or, more broadly, ‘the savior.’ ” This, she says, leads to poor boundaries and poor choices, and it brings her back to stating her top quality for leadership: self-reflection.

“Know thyself.”

Perhaps this ancient wisdom is the single best piece of advice. As John Beckett stresses, in the end “leaders are servants.”  Leaders serve those whom they lead, providing them with spiritual experiences and practical direction, sometimes at their own expense. “Good leaders do that work,” concludes Beckett, “because they want to serve the Gods, their groups, the Pagan community, and the world at large.”

I first met Beowulf on a field trip. My grade school class had a special engagement to see a stage version of the story, performed – I think – by St. Louis’ Metro Theater Company. The spare production featured only a few actors and a set of props that, like those of The Fantasticks, were few enough that they could have been brought on stage in a gunnysack. A central platform at the center of the stage doubled as all the locations of the poem – the darkened hall of Heorot, the haunted mere, the dragon’s cave. A long pole served for almost everything else; it became swords, treasure, and, most memorably, the arm of Grendel, which Beowulf tears from him in their famous wrestling match.

We all read our own Beowulf. This collection belongs to Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute. [Photo Credit: E. Scott]

I recall feeling disappointed. Being a child, I had no real understanding of theatre or literature, and so I did not understand theatrical minimalism, or that there might be good reasons to tell the story in this way besides a lack of money. One of the actors explained that they did not want to show us Grendel as a latex-and-animatronics spectacle, and I remember thinking that was exactly what I wanted. Oh, well; children’s theater is wasted on children. I’d give anything to see that play again today, with adult eyes, if only to see their dragon again – a man perched atop the platform in cloak of red and gold, which he swirled around his body to create the image of flame.

Some twenty years on, I have spent the past three weeks standing deep in the poem, working with a number of scholars in a summer institute about Beowulf and its relationship to Old Norse-Icelandic literature. Much of this has focused on some very specific textual echoes: Beowulf fights monsters in a king’s hall and a watery mere; Grettir Asmundarson, the hero of the Icelandic Grettis saga, fights a similar pair of trolls in a farmer’s hall and a waterfall cave. Bodvarr Bjarki, a character in Hrolfs saga Kraka, can be read as an Icelandic equivalent to the hero, and even serves a king whose name is cognate to a relative of Beowulf’s King Hrothgar. But beyond these textual correspondences – and the arguments for whether they are mere coincidence or represent evolutions of a common source – much of our discussions have focused on how Beowulf fits into the broader picture of the medieval north, and indeed, just what we know about those societies.

The central, seemingly inescapable question of Beowulf is the poem’s relationship to paganism. The poem, which survives in a single monastery-produced manuscript, clearly survives because of Christian literary practice; just as clearly, its story looks back to the heathen past and the heroic mode. Though every character in Beowulf is, logically, a heathen, the language itself is suffused with Christianity. Critical opinion has ranged from the notion that the poem is largely an oral heathen epic with a veneer of Christian commentary layered over it to reading it as an entirely Christian document that serves to criticize the ethical failures of the past.

The picture isn’t any clearer for other documents from the medieval north, either. The problems with Snorri Sturluson’s Edda are well known, being a prose synthesis of a pagan mythos several centuries after the official conversion to Christianity. But even a poem like Völuspá, which underpins so much of what we think we know about Norse mythology, often gets read as a Christian reflex, perhaps a systematizing of the heathen ways in the face of Christianity. Pick a feature of the literature and you can find a critic who will argue for its Christian influences.

Although I do my best to keep myself objective when I’m in a scholarly context, I admit that I struggle with this. In part I grumble because I feel that medieval studies, across the time period and the discipline, overemphasizes Christianity; while the religion clearly had more social influence than just about any other institution in the period, medievalists seem to interpret everything as though all people living in the middle ages were fanatically devoted, which simply seems unlikely to me. But these interpretations also go against my personal attractions to the literature. I read Beowulf and its Old Norse analogues, ultimately, because it’s the literature that’s shaped me, in ways obvious and not. It’s bound up with my Paganism, and therefore with my sense of self.

That means I want to see the pagan core to the poetry, and I want to see the coherent system of the cosmology. I want to read about Beowulf’s Geats pleaing to their gods for aid against Grendel and ignore the narrator’s snide commentary on their beliefs. I want to read Völuspá as a history that was complete before the Scandinavians ever heard of Christ. Above all, I suppose I want to read the texts with the comfortable sense of understanding they had when I first read them, even though I realize that is an impossibility.

Our modern Paganisms depend in large part on the institutions that study the ancient paganisms from which we draw our inspiration. While we come to our own individual understandings of our sources – and some of us even do excellent research of our own – ultimately, there are matters of expertise and access that underpin our understanding of the past that go beyond the average person’s resources. But that scholarship too is precarious, and often as not reflects assumptions and desires alien to those of the religionist.

Earlier in the Beowulf institute, I had a friendly disagreement with a religion scholar, whose position was that it was wrong, conceptually, to think of ancient Scandinavian paganism as a “religion.” To him, the word betrayed too many modern assumptions, too many Christian influences. For me, it was exactly the opposite: the idea that a “religion” can only refer to an Abrahamic-style proselytizing system seemed to demonstrate the exact kind of bias that he was trying to avoid. I absolutely wanted to think of Norse paganism as “religion,” because religion implies a degree of legitimacy that no other English word contains.

I don’t think either of us quite understood the importance of the others’ framing of the question, what is a religion. It was as if we were both children in the theater, watching the man in the cloak of flame, neither of us quite sure as to the shape of a dragon.

EGANVILLE, Ont.  – Canada’s only public place of worship dedicated to honouring the pre-Christian Scandinavian and Germanic gods, has just been rebuilt and enlarged to accommodate growing numbers of visitors. Known as a Vé, this open-air holy site is located in a grove-like clearing amid a mixed forest of deciduous and coniferous trees. It consists of nine posts in a squared formation with a portico at its lowest point. The entrance faces high ground where god-poles, dedicated to Freyja, Frigg, Odin, Freyr and most recently, Thor are located. A low, natural stone altar is set in front of the god-poles. The area is enclosed by the Vé-bond rope, which is ritually hung from the posts. The land is part of Raven’s Knoll, a 100-acre Pagan-owned and -operated campground near Eganville, Ontario, along the Bonnechere River.

The Ve at Raven's Knoll (courtesy of Erik Lacharity)

The Ve at Raven’s Knoll [Photo Courtesy Erik Lacharity]

The Vé needed repair because some of its posts had rotted and fallen over. Earlier this spring, campground staff noted that another post had been broken and pulled from the ground and that the Vé-bond rope had been pulled to one side.

The perpetrator of this vandalism is believed to be a young and gangly moose who had been hanging around the property at the time. The damage provided opportunity to make the Vé larger, as the numbers of folk attending rituals and ceremonies at the site are growing. The Vé was getting stretched to capacity.

Raven’s Knoll steward and gothi Austin Lawrence is the primary caretaker of the Vé. In a recent interview with The Wild Hunt, he explained how the Vé is used, and who uses it. Lawrence said:

The Vé was created for the worship of gods and goddesses of the pre-Christian religious traditions of the Old Norse and Germanic peoples. In particular, the Vé is a powerful and sacred place to interact with their power directly and intimately. This is done in large group rituals, such as blóts at the Hail and Horn Gathering, or through individual worship throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall when the campground is open. Some people spend time in the Vé to meditate, to read omens, to do personal rituals such as dedications or to speak marriage vows.

The Vé is open to anyone that makes the oath required to enter the Vé and follows the rules and taboos of that oath. To enter and participate in any ritual taking place in the Raven’s Knoll Vé, three basic rules should be strictly followed as a sign of respect for the holy powers and to ensure one’s own continued good fortune. These rules are to: 1) honour only the Æsir and their close allies; 2) keep frith and maintain good relations; and, 3) maintain sacral cleanliness, keeping the Vé holy and undefiled.

Most people prefer to make that oath to a gothi or gythia or other ring-bearer who has done ritual in that place at the Hail and Horn Gathering. However, anyone who has previously been oathed into the Vé can administer the oath. It does not matter, one bit, what biological ancestry, sexual or gender identity, class background, nationality, creed or other similar factor someone has. Anyone can enter the Vé, so long as they follow the rules and taboos.

Lawrence and Lacharity celebrate the newest god-pole. (courtesy of E.Lacharity)

Lawrence and Lacharity celebrate the newest god-pole. (courtesy of E.Lacharity)

Lawrence went on to explain where the original inspiration came from to create the Vé. He said:

We were originally inspired to create the Vé at Raven’s Knoll after reading the “risala” of Ibn Fadlan, ambassador of the Caliph of Bagdad to the King of the Bulgars, from the year 921 C.E. This account is one of the few first person accounts of how Heathen Scandinavians practiced their religion.

As modern Heathens with a passion for reconstructing the religions tradition of our ancestors, our goal is to create an accessible, publicly accessible place to worship the Aesir in the manner of the ancients. We have found that this allows for some of the most intense and close spiritual experiences possible in the various Heathen religious traditions. We simply want to share our love and experience of the gods with others.

One of the many co-creators of this sacred space is Erik Lacharity. He shared how it feels to be a part of constructing such a special place. He said, “It means that I am inextricably tied to the place. My deeds, my words are bound as much to the Vé as are the poles that stand within it. When I think back to the efforts I have exerted there, I feel that I have lived. I cannot imagine having gone through life and not been involved in the development and establishment of such a grand holy site.”

Lacharity explained how the Vé, as well as Raven’s Knoll and its growing community have all taken on a special role in his life:

As a person, I chose to live my life mythically. That is, I immerse large segments of my reality into what I perceive as a cosmic tapestry that is influenced by, at once my own deeds and the whims of the gods and ancestors. Raven’s Knoll gives me a place that I can live such a mythic life among others who value the experiences shared there to a similar degree. In such a small place in a rural town in Ontario of all places, I can strive to become as the “big men” who came before me and leave a lasting impression on those yet to come. It is here that I, and many others can be “all that we can be”.

Rebuilding the Vé and acquiring the resources needed was a large project, involving many of the folk from the local area. New posts needed to be sourced. The original red pine ones, which came from the surrounding forest, rotted quickly.

Local Heathen farmers, Kristoff Loki Wodinson and his partner Yitka Wodinson were able to donate new, more durable, cedar posts to the project. The ritual elements necessary for setting the posts were contributed by Lacharity, Lawrence and Juniper Jeni Birch. The hard physical labour of setting up the space, was shared by many hands.

Gypsy Birch, one of these workers, described the process:

Lawrence and Juniper Jeni Birch ritually set a pole (courtesy of E.Lacharity)

Lawrence and Juniper Jeni Birch ritually set a pole [Photo Courtesy E.Lacharity]

For the past couple months, I have taken over the general maintenance of the Vé in terms of cutting the grass, the pushing back of overgrowth, and general upkeep. Many people seem to forget how much work goes into maintaining a sacred space, and part of my personal path is to allow people of other faiths to focus on their personal spirituality without worrying about the details. The act of repairing the two broken posts and the subsequent expansion of the Vé space is not something that was done in a day. There was much coordination required in order to clear the undergrowth, accurately measure the new space, source the new posts, cut and transport the new posts, remove the old posts, fill in the old holes, dig the new holes, and place the new poles.

This does not even take into account the ritual requirements of many of these tasks. James and I worked hard to coordinate a lot of these behind-the-scenes tasks, but admittedly, his work at getting the posts measured, cut, and delivered from Loki and Yitka’s farm, and then sitting in the sun for hours to skin the posts of their bark was by far the most labour-intensive part of the process. Of all the work that was done and the hours of sweat put into building the physical space, my personal spiritual growth comes from knowing that I have helped remove the burden of labour from others.

Last weekend, during Hail and Horn Gathering (HHG), a new god-pole was created and erected as the main ritual. Each year at this event, a Norse god is highlighted, and a god-pole dedicated to them and added to the Vé. Next year’s HHG will be held June 30 through July 3, and will feature two deities: Heimdall and Syn.

The god-poles (L to R): Freya; Frigg; Odin; Freyr and Thor. (courtesy of Erik Lacharity)

The god-poles (L to R): Freya, Frigg, Odin, Freyr and Thor. (courtesy of Erik Lacharity)

Paganism in Poland

Terence P Ward —  July 6, 2016 — 10 Comments

POLAND — This European Union member state is a bastion of Roman Catholicism, with as many as 37 million adherents (87.5% of the total population) today. Yet, even in Poland, one of the most Christianized European countries, Pagan religions are growing within the shadow of the Church. Today, that population is still dwarfed by its Catholic counterpart, but its loyal practitioners continue to cultivate a Pagan thriving subculture.

With the help of several Polish Pagans, we examine the diversity of Pagan practice found within the country.

Offering to Żerca [photo credit: Laszka]

According to Wiccan priestess Agni Keeling, Wicca is a growing, but still quite a small, Pagan path in Poland. To her knowledge, there are only about 50 initiates in the entire country. She herself has initiated people from her native land by first requiring them to travel to England, where she has lived for some years. It is difficult to find reliable sources about Wicca in Poland, although Keeling said that some books by Vivianne Crowley are being translated. The three Wiccans who spoke to The Wild Hunt demonstrated a real excitement about helping their religion expand.

The most popular Pagan path practiced in Poland is Rodzimowierstwo (“native faith”), an indigenous form of Slavic polytheism. Adherents tend to use a reconstructionist methodology to rebuild their native faith, which has not spread through the English-speaking world as widely as some other European-based Heathen religions.

Tomasz Rogalinski is one such practitioner. He first encountered the tradition in 1978, before it had acquired the standardized name. He was attracted to it because of his extensive historical knowledge of the Slavs.

Rogalinski explained more of the tenets of this native religion, which varies depending upon the source material. Binding all the traditions together are the beliefs in native Slavic gods, the offerings of mead and food (traditionally groats, white cheese, and bread), a code based on principles of honor, responsibility, and courage, and the “circles of responsibility,” which centers on family and widens to include community.

“The circles are a challenge [to be] understood in a positive way, not a negative one,” Rogalinski acknowledged. “It is looking for similarities and helping those who are nearest to us, it is not about fighting other people.”

As with Wicca, the resources for those interested in Rodzimowierstwo can be a mixed bag. Gniazdo is a magazine created by the Rodzimowiercy, but there are other publications that, according to Rogalinksi, mix traditional and New Age beliefs without providing any context.

He further explained that the tenets of Rodzimowierstwo “exclude creating religious mix or joining different faiths (in a way of joining patheons or following many paths). It does not mean that there is no possibility of conducting one’s life according to the rules taken from the other faiths (unless they’re contradictory to Rodzimowierstwo), fascination by the other culture or having friends, family or know the people who have the other dominant faith.”

Along with the practice of Wicca and Rodzimowierstwo, age-old folk magic traditions continue to be practiced in Poland. Verm, one of our interviewees, was taught folk Witchcraft by a grandmother and an aunt.

Tomasz Rogalinski calls Rodzimowiercy to ritual. [Photo credit: Laszka]

Tomasz Rogalinski calls Rodzimowiercy to ritual. [Photo credit: Laszka]

Many of these practices are somewhat tolerated in this largely Catholic nation, but that might be because no one has noticed them yet. According to Sheila, who is a second degree Gardnerian Wiccan, there are those who worry that, as the population of Pagans grow, this might change.

Sheila said, “Polish people (in general) are not very good in being understandable and tolerant. Most of us live in safe environment – with loving families and thoughtful friends, being quite anonymous while living in the big cities,” organizing largely through social media.

One result of Church domination is a form of syncretic polytheism. “The native religion of Poland could be a mixture of Catholicism with the old, Pagan customs and practices, including the magical ones,” said Verm. “It can be classified as polytheism, but instead of gods, there are Christian saints who had replaced gods and taken over their qualities. The interest in such practices is marginal, but is becoming bigger.”

Laszka shared a narrative that is common in other parts of the world where Christian traditions draw upon Pagan practices.

People bless the eggs on Easter, they decorate the table with green, they have a Christmas tree, they eat the meals that are traditionally connected with Winter Solstice, they hang mistletoe, they celebrate Pagan Dziady (the festival connected to death) and they have to add some invented holidays (e.g. Candlemas in the term when we have Weles’ festival, Saint John’s festival on Kupała, etc.). They just needed something to be at the same time of the year, because of the fact that Pagan festivals and traditions were preserved even despite the Christianisation.

Verm also is familiar with cases in which being public didn’t serve the individual well, highlighting a difference between the urban and rural experience. “I know some cases when people following other than Catholic paths are discriminated, especially in smaller places and in the villages where people point the finger at those who do not attend mass. Very often, those people have problems with finding or maintaining their jobs. I know the case of a girl who was diagnosed as mentally ill by a Catholic psychiatrist, because she wasn’t Catholic and believed in polytheism.”

“I don’t see persecutions preserved in the people’s minds,” observed Laszka. “There are some clashes, but it is more connected to political rather than religious reasons. Fortunately, in Poland there were no such cases as in the Ukraine, where the statues were destroyed on Włodzimierzowe Wzgórze/Starokijewska Góra.”

Rogalinksi said that, while there are “aggressive speeches of clergy” condemning minority faiths, it is not generally talked about by others. “Religion is not the subject of discussion; it is not discussed because of its personal character.”

Religious freedom is a right in Poland, and a group of 100 people can form a church, carrying with it lower taxes and the ability to teach the religion in a school setting. According to Rogalinski, Rodzimowierstwo has three of these formally organized groups.

However, in the view of Nefrestim, who is a second-generation Wiccan, the current government’s conservative bent does make practicing openly uncomfortable.

Drawning Marzanna in the village Jeziorzany in 2014 [Photo Credit: Jacek Świerczyński]

Drawning Marzanna in the village Jeziorzany in 2014 [Photo Credit: Jacek Świerczyński]

Estimates of the number of Pagans vary widely. The 2011 Poland census asked specifically about Rodzimowiercy, but not other Pagan paths. According to Sheila, many Poles shy away from the word “Pagan” even if they do follow such a path, but she believes that they number in the thousands.

Rogalinski downplays the official number of Rodzimowiercy (4-5,000 people); his own figure of up to 2,000 is based in part on activity, not just on self-identification. Laszka, who also practices Rodzimowierstwo, thinks the total number following the tradition is 10,000. Many of the Pagans are solitary, making their numbers difficult to estimate, but they appear to be concentrated in the cities.

Whatever the number, it’s small, and that carries with it certain limitations. Lacking reliable resources for many Pagan paths on paper or online, the alternative — seeking a teacher in person — can also be difficult, due to the low density of Pagans overall. According to Nefrestim, the city of Poznań hosts two esoteric shops. As it is in other countries, these businesses have the potential to become networking hubs as the Pagan population grows. Still, the client base has not grown large enough to support many such businesses yet; online shops fill that gap, especially for Pagans who don’t live in the larger cities.

Another issue with the small number of Pagans is that they tend to know each other, like residents of a small town, which is fine, until it isn’t. Verm said that long-standing disputes can make it difficult for Pagans to cooperate at times. Rogalinski laments that the only agreed-upon sites of worship tend to be cultural or archaeological monuments that can’t be used. He believes, this type of sacred place could bring Pagans together despite their low numbers.

Putting a different spin on that idea, Laszka said that Pagans can buy their own land for worship. “The main obstacle is that there is no possibility to have a traditional burial. Polish law does not provide it. We have been struggling for it for ages (our judiciary system is very slow and the case may even require the changing of the law).”

All told, while laws and aspects of the culture present very real obstacles for Polish Pagans, the small community does enjoy the freedom to practice and continues to eagerly expand despite the very large shadow of the country’s dominant religion.

ANTELOPE VALLEY, Calif.– Steve Hill, the first open Satanic Temple (TST) member to run for office, was defeated in the June 7 California State Senate primary for the 21st district. Mr. Hill faced off against fellow Democrat Scott Wilk.

Hill received 12% of the vote, amounting to just over 13,000 voters who supported his bid for State Senate.

Steve Hill [Courtesy Photo]

Steve Hill [Courtesy Photo]

Although Hill did not win the primary and was, according to him, shunned by Democratic Party officials, the Los Angeles Chapter of TST saw his campaign as a positive step:

Our very own Steve Hill ran as a Democrat for California State Senate in the 21st district/Antelope Valley. He is the first openly Satanic, black political candidate in U.S. history. According to the 2015 census, Antelope Valley is largely white and Hispanic with roughly 20% of the populace being African American, it also boasts the largest concentration of churches per capita in California. The mayor of the City of Lancaster, Rex Parris has decreed Lancaster to be a ‘Christian City,’ a statement from a public official, that is in direct violation of the first amendment.

On election day, Steve secured 12% of the vote. Over 13,000 people in this small community went to the polls to support his campaign. Not only was this a huge victory for Steve, but it clearly shows that a substantial cross section of this community has, until now, been without a voice. The city officials in Antelope Valley have now heard that voice loud and clear. Steve’s campaign and our recent actions in Lancaster are a pretext to a series of legal and political actions in the valley. They are a reflection of the greater vision of The Satanic Temple which is nothing short of a revolution. A SATANIC REVOLUTION!

Hill may be the first open TST member to run for office, but others may soon join him. TST spokesman Lucien Greaves said that although he doesn’t know of any members who are elected officials in the US, “…every day, we’re being told of new plans for credible people within our membership to make a run for various public offices.”

According to Hill’s bio, he is an atheist and is currently helping to organize an L.A. chapter for TST. In his career, he has served in the United States Marine Corps, then worked as a civilian in the aerospace industry. After that he worked for the California Department of Corrections and is now a business owner and comedian. The focus of his campaign was alleviating poverty and protecting civil liberties.

The Satanic Temple is often at the forefront of First Amendment, civil rights, and anti-child abuse issues, using a combination of savvy public relations, humor, and lawsuits. TST is known nationally for challenging organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church, which regularly holds anti-gay protests at military funerals, and for creating a large statue of Baphomet specifically to sit alongside the large Ten Commandments sculpture at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

More recently, TST is reportedly making waves in Pensacola, Florida, where member David Suhor is listed on the city council’s July invocation schedule. In 2014, Suhor made headlines when he delivered a Pagan invocation at an Escambia County Board of Commissioners meeting. As noted in the RNS article, the Pensacola city council is now rethinking its inclusive invocation policy in order to allegedly “stop [Suhor] from delivering his message.” In early 2016, TST members forced a similar action in Phoenix, Arizona.

Although the Satanists say they do not worship the devil, they do claim status as a religious group and do have a clearly defined mission. That mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” In addition, they “embrace practical common sense and justice.”

Despite Hill’s loss in California, the Satanic Temple has said that more temple members are planning future campaigns for public office.

Hill was unavailable for comment.

CAYA Coven 2016

CAYA Coven 2016

SAN FRANCISCO — The Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe, a division of Come As You Are Coven (CAYA), joined Planned Parenthood, Good Vibrations, and others to help sponsor the 2016 San Francisco Trans March, held June 24. The group set up a booth and offered “blessings for good health, love, home, abundance, and tarot readings on the spot.” They also provided interested marchers with “protection charms, handmade and blessed by members.”

Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe Dedicant Root Holden said, “People were curious and a bit shy in coming up to the booth, but once they saw that we were just part of the community, all of us are queer, non-binary, and/or trans, they were really interested in what we had to offer. This may the first time many of these folks have been in contact with priest/ess/exes from a tradition that fully embraces and celebrates them.”

Divine Spiraling Rainbow Tribe is a “Mxgender Mxtery Tradition within CAYA Coven.” As noted on its website, the group is “devoted to exploring and honoring sacred mxgender Mysteries. Our Priestxes embody the experience of identity beyond the gender binary, and celebrate the glittering prism of Divine existence that is Powerful, Delightful, Enthusiastic, Playful, Transformative, Magickal, Compassionate, and Reverent.” 

Holden said, “The group’s priest/ess/xes provided marchers with a chance to meet the many queer, transgender, mxgender, non-binary witches next door, and get a taste of what CAYA Coven has to offer.” From its booth, CAYA members offered a variety of blessings including ones for health, prosperity, love, and home. They also had a glitter blessing to “shine with your own inner sparkliness.” Melissa ra Karit said, “Blessing people with glitter was magical and very queer.”  The group considered their work a success. 

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1157423_151040095096531_1406229761_nDENVER – Hesperides Garden, a Pagan community located in Denver Colorado, has launched a Facebook event asking for people to help them define the world “Pagan” in modern terms. On that page, the group writes, “For too long the word ‘Pagan’ has been defined by outsiders, the time has come for Pagans to define the word that describes us collectively. With respect to all the many paths ‘Pagan’ is..?”

The group is asking for Pagans everywhere to post in the page’s discussion comment area a definition of Pagan. On July 15, the event page will close and the group will “compile the responses,” generating a full report. Organizers said, “In an effort to create the most accurate representation we will then take your feedback on creating a unified definition through compiling and voting.”

Hesperides Garden defines this effort as a “coming together” and asks for respectful discourse within any online discussions. The group is also collecting definitions through a Google + account.

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[public domain]

[public domain]

UNITED STATES – Today many people around the U.S. will be celebrating Independence Day with fireworks, picnics, and other outdoor activities. As has been written here in the past, “The United States of America that we know today, for better or worse, was built and shaped by an incredible diversity of lives, experiences, religions and cultures; by every person that has walked on its soil and stood beneath its skies.”

The holiday weekend means different things to different people within American subcultures, birthing many discussions concerning the concept of freedom. American Pagans, Heathens and polytheists often use this day to be thankful specifically for the ideals of religious freedom written into the early documents. Neither Pagan nor Mahamedan nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, quoting John Locke.

At the same time, Americans continue to face difficult challenges, witness profound social changes, confront new problems as well as old ones still not yet resolved. And, together with the world, they continue to look into the face of unthinkable violence. The U.S. is not a country of perfect. But, as a nation, its people continue to try, to debate, to rebel, to speak out, and to evolve.

In Other News

  • As we noted in Unleash the Hounds, it was announced Sunday that film director Robin Hardy had died. Hardy is best known for his direction of the The Wicker Man, a film that has long captured the imagination of many viewers and is considered one of the top horror movies in the world. Blogger Peg Aloi has published a detailed post about the director, the film’s history, and its meaning within the Pagan sphere. She wrote, “I can’t imagine my early years in the pagan community without having this evocative film, its scenery and its music, making an appearance in my subconscious on a regular basis.”
  • In October, Moon Books will be releasing editor Trevor Greenfield’s anthology, titled Goddess in America. According to the publisher’s site, the anthology “identifies the enduring experience of Goddess Spirituality through a four-part discussion focused on the Native Goddess, the Migrant Goddess, the Goddess in relation to other aspects of American culture (Feminism, Christianity, Witchcraft etc.) and the Goddess in contemporary America.” The book includes the voices of nineteen different writers. It will be released Oct. 28 in both paperback and e-book.
  • Also coming in October is a “new type of theater experience directed by co-founder and co-producer of OCCULT, Sarah Jezebel Wood.” Titled Sub Rosa, the theatrical performance is a “multimedia production featuring the talents of LUNARIS” and various guest artists. It includes dance, ritual, music, singing and visual art. Sub Rosa tells a “darkly feminine tale of pathworking through the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.” The performance will be held Oct 7 and 8 at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, New York.
  • The Dallas Observer posted an article featuring the work of feminst and witch Dr. Susan Harper. The article captures not only her practice of Witchcraft, but also her strong feminist views. Harper is quoted as saying, “‘It’s an incredibly powerful political act for anybody, women in particular, to put female images and feminine pronouns on god, because the idea that god is male has been used to justify the oppression of women and queer folks and gender nonconforming folks for a long time.”
  • The editors of Walking the Worlds have announced a submission call for issue number five. As noted, “The topic for Issue 5 will be Ecstatic Practices and we’re looking for essays and articles dealing with traditional and perhaps not so traditional ecstatic practices, ways of achieving an altered state throughout the vast array of our polytheisms.” The deadline is Oct. 1.
  • Coming soon… The Wild Hunt will be bringing back its popular Pagan Voices feature. On one Sunday every month, we will be sharing a groups of quotes, opinions from the many diverse voices found in the online Pagan community. TWH’s Pagan Voices will return on July 24.

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — In his home studio in Belfast, artist Glyn Smyth spends his days designing album covers, gig posters and other similar commissions, while working on his own pieces in the off-time. He is a full-time, professional printmaker, illustrator and graphic design artist with a wide range of styles from textile patterns and art nouveau to print illustrations depicting a haunting realism. Despite this artistic range, there is one particular element that does bind all of his work together, and that something is found through his deep devotion to esoteric themes.

"Savage Mistress"

“Savage Mistress”

“Although I don’t align myself to any one school of thought or tradition, my interest in Witchcraft seems deeply rooted on an emotional level. I do feel that many artists — and not necessarily just those who identify with the esoteric or occult — regularly invoke similar forces to those experienced by magical practitioners. My gut feeling is that to a great extent, magical thinking and practice is something universal, even if it manifests in a myriad of forms,” Smyth explained in an email interview with The Wild Hunt.

He further said, “Ultimately, I have an aversion to the concept of ‘religion’ which I tend to view as a control mechanism, but feel that the ‘New Atheism’ of the last few years is essentially throwing the baby out with the bath water. We’re dismissing millennia of shared cultural experiences and interactions with what appears to be another form of intelligence. On its most basic level, Witchcraft — regardless of what form it takes — seems to be a proactive way of interacting with these intelligences and that interests me greatly.”

Both Smyth’s artistic endeavors and his interest in the occult began at a very early age. He said that he can’t recall a time when he was not fascinated by either. As a child, Smyth was an avid drawer, picking up techniques very naturally. But, then in his teens, he drifted away from art due to a “dissatisfaction with [his] own efforts.”

But Smyth eventually returned to his roots in 2006, when friends began asking for his help with promotional material for their metal bands. “Graphic design would definitely be the bridge by which I returned to making art,” he said. “In older punk and metal culture, collage art was definitely a predominant aesthetic. Before Photoshop, we had scissors and glue and these were my weapons of choice for many years. The highly charged, political work by anarchist bands like Crass and pioneers such as John Heartfield are very important influences to me in this regard.”

"Thanatos" Commission for NYC metal band Tombs

Commission for American metal band “Tombs”

He moved into printmaking, designing t-shirts and posters for his own band and others, eventually incorporating “illustrative” work. Smyth is now a full-time artist supporting his own studio. He said, “I’ve been freelance for over 10 years now, and whilst I still accept suitable commissions I am endeavouring to spend more of my time working on personal projects and printmaking from this point onwards. There is a distinct vision and aesthetic I have in mind for Stag & Serpent (my studio identity) and I’m keen to develop this more fully.”

Much of that identity is wrapped up in his personal interest in folklore and occult themes. He explained, “On one hand, it’s easy to say that subjects such as Witchcraft, mythology and other esoteric pursuits provide ample resources to draw from for visual art. This is undoubtedly true. But I am repeatedly drawn to similar types of imagery. Sometimes it’s a conscious decision, other times I realise there’s certain motifs and symbols that keep appearing without much pre-planning. Essentially, I feel that by drawing from these myths and engaging in an act of creation with them, I am helping myself to understand them more thoroughly.”

Within Smyth’s body of work, occult imagery and esoteric symbols can reveal themselves as tiny fragments embedded within a larger collage illustration, or as overarching themes breathing through the entire composition. Some of his work is purely symbolic in nature, such as in No Help for the Mighty Ones, and at other times the expression comes through in full illustration, such as in the Gathering.

Smyth imagery is dark and at times haunting, but it is equally evocative and empowering.

GATHERING

“The Gathering”

As noted earlier, many of Smyth’s prints are commissions for use as promotional material, including posters and album covers. He said, “I’m a long time fan of underground bands and I feel that this respect for these genres crosses over into the work. I take it seriously. The world of ‘metal’ is very diverse with a myriad of subgenres and aesthetic conventions in play, but I always strive to bring a fresh approach whilst acknowledging what’s come before.”

Although the term “metal” does cover a wide variety of sub-genres, he said, generally speaking, metal “does indeed seem to have a natural home with these [occult] themes.” This is idea is similar to that expressed in Peter Berbergal’s book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll. Bebergal discusses “the remarkable influence occult beliefs have had on culture.” (Introduction, p. 28).

Smyth said, “The solemn and often experimental nature of many of the bands I work for echo the sentiments of past art movements. I feel that much Black Metal is essentially a modern incarnation of Romanticism in its basic themes and overall aesthetic, for example.” These sentiments often live at the crossroads of myth, magic, religion, and artistic expression.

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM

Commission for metal band “Wolves in the Throne Room”

When designing an album cover, Smyth doesn’t always have the new music available for inspiration. In those cases, he said, “I listen to the band’s earlier work at the outset to get a general feel for it. But more so than the sound of the band, it’s the ideas they want represented I rely on as a guide. I usually try to find some visual symbolism inherent in the concept, do some reading and let it stew for a while.”

He added, “I try not to force it, or let myself get coerced into too strict an approach. Keeping things malleable until the late stages seems the key to success in my experience. I like getting a good conceptual starting point and then being allowed to see where that takes me as opposed to having the specific visuals mapped out.”

Smyth approaches his own art in the same conceptual and spiritual way, saying that simply “appropriating symbols” is not the aim. He explained, “I prefer to succumb to the idea itself, rather than try and force it as such. On a conscious level I focus primarily on composition and technique, but also like to leave room for the idea to breathe and ‘do its own thing’ as such […] With my own personal work I’m inclined to leave the process much more open to suggestion from external sources, synchronicities and the like.”

"Celestial"

“Celestial”

While commercial illustration can often confine his exploration and limit the depth of expression, Smyth has been spending more time with his own work in recent years. Before 2013, Smyth operated under the name Scrawled Design, a moniker that he felt he had outgrown as he increasingly began to explore his own work beyond the band commissions. On Samhain 2014, he launched Stag & Serpent.

“It was a conscious move to reframe my illustration work more in line with my own personal interests whilst placing renewed emphasis on the pure “design” aspects of my work,” he said. “I also saw this as an opportunity to set myself some personal rules regarding aesthetics and the type of projects I wished to be involved in.”

When asked if he had any one piece that was particularly powerful for him, he first said, “I try not to dwell too much on work once it’s done and keep moving forward.” But he then added, “On a personal level, I’m very happy with my ‘Gathering’ print [shown earlier] which I just released. I feel I achieved the atmosphere I was going for here…which is not always the case. Over the last while I’ve tried to express more nuance and even ambiguity in my work. It’s the mystery that endures, not so much the answer I guess.”

"Maiden, Mother, Crone" prints

“Maiden, Mother, Crone” prints

As for the meaning behind the studio’s name, Smyth said, “Stag & Serpent is essentially a title that acknowledges duality in nature. Solar and cthonic. The serpent on the cross. Male and female polarities. These positions are not necessarily fixed. There’s a certain gnostic quality to the thinking here. The name and symbol design came very much out of the blue and I’m content to let the meaning evolve with time.”

Although Smyth’s aesthetic, working style, and personal interests are strongly centered in occult expression, he hasn’t illustrated much specifically for occult projects. He said, “I have been approached by a few esoteric publishers on the possibility of illustrating specific magical texts. Obviously I find this interesting and is something I would certainly consider if the timing and material was right.” Some of his work will be in the Pillars Vol. I : Perichoresis, to be published by Anathema Publishing in late 2016.

"Our Flame Returned" Smith's newest illustration not yet printed.

“Our Flame Returned” Smyth’s newest illustration not yet printed.

Smyth added, “a Tarot deck is definitely something I would like to work on some day. I could see this being quite a few years further down the line however.” That idea is not at all far reaching when looking through his gallery at many of pieces.

Right now, he said that he has a backlog of personal projects to work on, including one called the Shadows of the Fort, an “open-ended project which may also find outlets in the form of small publications or books.” He also continues to take commissions to help sustain his studio and freelance business. And, he sells his limited edition prints over the Internet through his studio site.

Smyth described his work and this new direction “a calling.” He said, “The material is both poetic and challenging, and invites different approaches and interpretations. It also allows me to embark on work that is directly related to the land around me which feels important after years of working with overseas clients.”

More of Glyn Smyth’s work is on display at his gallery, Stag & Serpent. The site also includes journal entries, which offer a further looks into his influences, as well as a video displaying his printmaking techniques.

“In retrospect,” said Smyth “I now at last feel I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.”

NOTE: All images appearing in this article are the property of Glyn Smyth. They are copyright protected, and are not to be reproduced in any way without written permission from the artist. © 2016 Glyn Smyth. All Rights Reserved.

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

[Public Facebook Profile Photo]

[via Facebook]

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Michael and Cheyenne Kupper were arrested and charged with felony child abuse and human trafficking Friday June 10. According to local news reports, the couple was “harboring a 27-year-old female victim as a servant,” and their six children showed signs of neglect. A New Hanover County Services representative added, “One of the children reportedly had fleas in their hair.”

According to the same reports, a relative, Elisa Barrett, is claiming that the charges of child neglect and human trafficking are ridiculous. Barrett believes that the alleged victim “is framing the Kuppers” because she lost her job and “could not have Michael Kupper for herself.”

Barrett also added that she believes that the arrests show a sign of “religious bigotry” on the part of the police. The couple is Wiccan. According to the reports, they were in a coven with the alleged victim. Barrett told reporters that “the woman lived with them, participating in sexual activities with the two. Part of those activities included ‘dominance and submission.'”

In response, a police spokeswoman said that there was no mention of Wicca in the police reports and “WPD does not discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs.”

Both Michael and Cheyenne Kupper are currently being held at the New Hanover County jail with bond set at $1 million each. The children were taken into custody by the county services. We will have more on this story as it unfolds.

Religious Freedom

  • A two-decade-old religious freedom court case made headlines again when California’s Ninth Circuit “found that a federal judge didn’t check whether prison officials were complying with a consent decree about an inmate’s Wiccan religion before he dismissed it.” The panel found that the federal judge “overlooked [inmate William] Rouser’s dispute to the prison officials’ compliance claims.” According to the court’s opinion, the judge neglected to address the prison’s full compliance and did not “analyze whether the purposes of the 2011 decree had been ‘adequately served.'” The full story is outlined at courthousenews.com.
  • In another religious freedom story, Native News Online reports that the “federal government admitted that it was wrong to send an undercover agent to raid a American Indian powwow and seize nearly 50 eagle feathers used for religious worship.” Federal law restricts the possession and use of eagle feathers without a permit, which are available to “federally recognized tribes.” The Lipan Apache tribe of Texas, however, is not federally recognized, which led to the raid and court case. The subsequent settlement agreement has been called “historic.” As reported, “It ends a decade of litigation by recognizing the right of Pastor Robert Soto […] and 400 other Native Americans to freely use eagle feathers for Native American worship.”
  • The Satanic Temple now has its first member running for public office, while openly “acknowledging affiliation.” Steve Hill, a former U.S. Marine Sergeant, is running as a Democrat for the California State Senate (D-21). In a TST press release, Hill said, “I am not an establishment politician and my sense of civic responsibility is not compromised by religious loyalties. As an atheist and organizer for The Satanic Temple’s Los Angeles Chapter, I fight for true religious freedom.” More on Hill’s background and campaign are posted on his own website: Steve Hill for Senate.

Historic Texts and Sacred Spaces

  • According to the Archaelology News Network, the “German Stonehenge” is now open to the public. The site, called Ringheiligtum Pömmelte, “is estimated to be around 4,300 years old and was discovered in 1999 in the forest near the banks of the Elbe River.” Made only of wood, the structure had to be reconstructed, and it sits above a burial ground containing the skeletons of children and young women. The ancient sacred space, which can be visited, has been placed “on the tourist trail known as Himmelsweg.”
  • In Mexico, Jehovah’s Witnesses are being blamed for damaging an ancient temple of the Otomi Indians. According to AP, “the assailants [… are blamed for] toppling stone structures used as altars, breaking carved stones and scattering offerings of flowers, fruit and paintings at the remote mountain shrine known as Mayonihka or Mexico Chiquito.” A spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mexico denied any connection with the attack. However, local witnesses maintain it was them.
  • In Tibet, the Chinese government has reportedly ordered the eviction of the Buddhist monastery Larung Gar. According to Lion’s Roar, and confirmed by other sources, 5,000 monks and nuns now “face eviction.” According to these reports, the order was placed due to the government’s concern over the area’s growing population and associated risks. There is now an online petition to stop the eviction. The Lion’s Roar reports that this has happened before, and it was stopped by a public outcry. Supporters are hoping that history will repeat itself, and the government will once again back down on its demands.
  • Another sacred space was recently damaged, according to a video news release. Kaniakapupu, considered to be one of Hawaii’s most sacred cultural sites, was vandalized June 23. The historic site was the “King Kamehameha III Summer Palace.” According to the reports, “Vandals etched a series of crosses on at least three of the inside walls of the crumbling structure.” Chairman of the site’s restoration group said, “It’s not the first time they’ve carved all kinds of stuff in there. They’re carving happy faces, all kinds of stupid stuff. This plaster is 180 years old; was put here by the hands of the kapuna. It was the first government building built by the government of Hawai‘i. When you vandalize it or damage it in anyway, there’s no way we can repair that.” Watch the full video news release.
  • According to Quartz, author Dan Brown has donated funds to digitize a number of historic occult and religious texts. These texts include: Corpus Hermeticum, Jakob Böhme’s works in English, Giordano Bruno’s Spaccio de la bestia trionfante, the first printed version of the tree of life, an early Quran printed in Arabic and a first-edition Quran in Latin, and a hand-colored version of the Bible. Quartz reports that most of the collection will be available for free in Spring 2017.
  • In his book The Bad Ass Librarians of TimbuktuJoshua Hammer recounts the race to save the ancient and historic manuscripts from jihadists and al Qaeda. National Geographic’s Simon Worrall interviewed Hammer about his research and the book’s story. Worrall writes, “[Hammer] explains how the Timbuktu manuscripts disprove the myth that Africa had no literary or historical culture, why Henry Louis Gates had an epiphany when he saw them, and why the jihadists found them so threatening.” According to the report, the manuscripts are currently in Bamako, and are being restored and digitized.

The Arts

  • It was just announced that Robin Hardy, director of the British film The Wicker Man (1973) has died at the age of 86. Hardy’s The Wicker Man is one of only three feature length films that he ever directed. However, the film is critically acclaimed and, still more than 40 years later, considered a cult classic. It is often found ranked among the top horror films of the decade and overall. Mr. Hardy was born October 2, 1929 in Surrey, England. He died Friday after being hospitalized for several weeks. The announcement was made public by Hardy’s wife, Ms Victoria Webster. What is remembered, lives!
  • Lastly, violinist Lindsey Stirling shares her original song “The Arena” in a video spectacle, containing a captivating post-apocalyptic, steam punk-inspired atmosphere.

 

In these last few weeks, we have witnessed not only natural disasters of flood, wind, and fire in the North America, Europe and Asia but also human-made events that have left many of us — based on broadcast and social media — wondering what type of world is unfolding around us. We’ve witnessed a hate-driven massacre of historic proportions in Orlando that united the civil world in mourning. We have seen a rebuking of globalization while also ripping off the veneer of tolerance across Europe, exposing rampant and unhealed xenophobia. We may be witnessing the shattering of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland and Scotland as well as the British overseas territory of Gibraltar questioning their continued home under the British crown.

And this week, the Daesh attacks in Istanbul reignited our mourning. The assault in Ataturk airport is itself an act of hate against the liberties of the West. They occurred on the second anniversary of Daesh’s self-declared caliphate and their constant and cowardly attempt to restore oppression through fear. This, on top of the list of violent acts across the Middle East.

The news machines have assaulted us with their constant barrage of opinion and very little explanatory journalism. We have all been inundated with interpretations of the stories and experienced the political spins on each of them. In Orlando, the reactions of some politicians ranged from grotesque to insulting to idiotic that included everything from victim blaming to an unreal avoidance of acknowledging it as an act of hate. The outpouring of support for Orlando was tremendous; but it also stirred an ongoing debate on how to deal with killers, how to control hate crimes and possible radicalization; and, ultimately, the question of access to weaponry that can be used in similar butcheries. Politics and opinion aside, this act as about hate.

And, bluntly, so was Brexit. The vote involved both a repudiation of globalization and the massive release of frustration against an establishment of experts describing economic challenges yet seemingly and wholly disconnected from them particularly as they affect individuals of lower and middle incomes. Yes, the vote exposed a palpable anger that the mechanisms of globalization have failed to distribute wealth and opportunity in an equitable manner, and that those same mechanisms have served only to concentrate both of those things in an elite class of individuals. Those who have investment access to the markets that promote globalization have reaped decades of lucrative rewards, and those who have been subjected to the negative effects of globalization have consistently experienced a gradual narrowing of their opportunities for both themselves and their children. Globalization is a complex mix of benefits, challenges and obstacles that began millennia ago with the Romans trading with India and China, but the modern version unfortunately keeps boiling down to this: a privileged few see a bright future, and others a bright past.

Brexit also involved a deeply-vocalized resentment towards immigrants. There was plenty of fear-mongering leading up to the vote, and fear is so easy to precipitate  into hate especially when scapegoats are convenient and plentiful.  While at first there was rhetoric, there are now real instances of hate crimes.  Nicely done.

UK-Exit-Flag

Image Credit: Manny Tejeda-Moreno

This is a pan-European problem as we see already with other individuals questioning their country’s involvement in EU. It’s a resurgence of supremacist and nationalistic paranoia that has happened before, only this time it involves Europe slowly becoming “Eurabia,” the famous doomsday scenario of an imminent Islamization of Europe described by Bat Ye’or (aka Gisèle Littma) in her 2005 eponymous book. Euroscepticism feeds right into conspiracy theory by framing the European Union as the mechanism for destroying sovereignty while slowly and malevolently erasing culture. That cocktail produced other acts of hate like the 2011 massacre in Norway by a hard-right terrorist.

All these acts trigger our fears and undermine our hope by impressing upon us a deep sense of uncertainty about our personal and collective future. Politicians and institutions channel that uncertainty to maintain social control. They use ambiguity and uncertainty to undermine our self-esteem and our faith in each other so we cede control to them because, of course, they insist that they offer stability, clarity and certitude.

But this is a Pagan news site, so let me introduce you to the critically endangered and super-cute axolotl, also known as the Mexican salamander. We’ve busy trying to kill off this species for several centuries now, but it has managed to survive. It’s found only in Lake Chalco -– which no longer exists because it was drained — and Lake Xochimilco, which is under pressure because of the sprawl of Mexico City and the introduction of exotic fish species that eat the axolotl young and compete for its food. In fact, we may have already exterminated them in that lake as well which means that the axolotl may no longer exist in the wild, but only in captivity. The little axolotl is basically endangered because humans can incredibly easily become an environmental disaster in their own right, just by getting together and making terrible decisions that impact generations.

[Photo Credit: th1098/ Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: th1098/ Wikimedia]

Now the axolotl is sometimes called a “walking fish” but it’s not a fish, it’s an amphibian. Just as a reminder, that term amphibian comes from the Greek ἀμφίβιος meaning “two kinds of life,” in this case one in water and one later on land. The axolotl is also a species that can reach adulthood — unlike most other amphibians — without undergoing metamorphosis. Moreover, it can exist in a state of duality called a paedomorph, where the animal retains larval juvenile traits but becomes a sexually mature adult. It can assume a form that is between ages and states, and it does perfectly well in that intermediate form. It’s a mess, defying expectations and still managing to hang on, and it’s perfectly fine at it: half extinct, half adult, half landlubber. It thrives in its states of ambiguity.

I think there is a powerful lesson there that also exposes a great Pagan strength. Paganism is replete with ambiguous spaces. From accepting different views of divinity to the importance of will and magic, Pagans and polytheists have a comfort with the shades of gray that more accurately represent the human experience and the world around us. We get by in the grey zones, but in a world where the dominant institutions insist on defining what is right and what is wrong, gradients are transgressions.

Yet, gradients are our world. Nature is ambiguous and life is non-linear. In statistics we speak of chances, not certainties. We live in the fluid space of possibility not inevitability. It’s a hard concept for individuals craving or raised in duality. Accepting ambiguity is a difficult task, especially when we come from a world that is predetermined and compartmentalized into good and evil. I personally think that accepting ambiguity has become a critical skill, especially now.

In my area ambiguity and uncertainty are essentially synonymous; the skill to deal with it we call ambiguity tolerance. And we need more of it. We need to cultivate it in ourselves and our leaders. Now would be a good time.

Well over 60 years ago, psychologist Else Frenkel-Brunswik theorized an inverse relationship between ambiguity tolerance and ethnocentrism; more ambiguity tolerance results in less ethnocentrism. Replicating her work has been challenging and the results are mixed (meaning that the link may be more complex that originally hypothesized). Recent evidence does suggest that ambiguity leads to an increase appraisal of threat when dealing with others (Chen & Lovibond, 2016), and that means we are more likely to be aggressive when we can’t handle the ambiguity. Research has also shown us an association between ambiguity tolerance and creativity (Merrotsy, 2013); those who tolerate ambiguity more often find creative solutions to problems. Not surprisingly, those who tolerate ambiguity are also more likely to avoid or reject authoritarian leadership. It may even improve multilingualism and our ability to acquire new languages (Dewaele & Wei, 2013), suggesting a more open attitude to new cultures and circumstances.

Uncertainty

[Image Credit: Manny Tejeda-Moreno]

And, it can be taught. We can fortify our ability to manage ourselves in an uncertain world. We can get used to it. We can manage ourselves without letting uncertainty drive us to control others. We can work on ourselves to respect the beliefs of others while also expecting good from people; and judging them on their acts not their looks. Behavior defines character not dress, not hair color, not tattoos; we can look past the ambiguity of appearance.

Sound familiar? We can learn to thrive in uncertainty just like the axolotl. Accepting uncertainty lowers our stress and ultimately improves our ability to navigate difficult times. It helps us handle those random, rare and dramatic Black Swan events that suddenly challenge our understanding of the world. Our tolerance for uncertainty becomes a personal reservoir of calm, peace of mind that we can offer to ourselves and those who need us.

Our world is one of constant change, and unfortunately, there will be more challenges causing grief, regret and loss. There is a brand of rampant moral absolutism that wholly rejects reason and evidence while classifying everything into good and evil. That absolutism has been obsessively invoked by many political and religious leaders, and it has become a major catalyst for spawning acts of violence and hate. Many institutions capitalize on uncertainty they create to promote fear and blame in order to galvanize their social control. They orchestrate false choices and offer simple, insular, and authoritarian answers. They want us to crave predictability by yearning for conformity while punishing originality, and they desperately want us to admire revolutions that lead to domination and to vilify revolutions that lead to freedoms.

They ultimately want us to abandon the nuances — the gradients — of the world that Pagans and polytheists so readily embrace.

We may not like uncertain times but we can tolerate the ambiguity they bring. And that clarity of the moment may help us elect better leaders who offer wisdom over ignorance; cultivate cooperation over relentless competition and listen more gently to those who are hurting. Through peace in the moment, we can more fully embrace a rhetoric of acceptance and reject intolerance. We really don’t need more certainty: we need more humanity.

Citations

Chen, J. T. &  Lovibond, P.F. (2016). Intolerance of uncertainty is associated with increased threat appraisal and negative affect under ambiguity but not uncertainty.  Behavior Therapy, Vol 47(1), Jan, 2016 pp. 42-53.

Dewaele, J. & Wei, L (2013). Is multilingualism linked to a higher tolerance of ambiguity? Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Vol 16(1), Jan, 2013. pp. 231-240.

Merrotsy, P. (2013).  Tolerance of ambiguity: A trait of the creative personality? Creativity Research Journal, Vol 25(2), Apr, 2013. pp. 232-237.