Archives For Andras Corban-Arthen

hcooper-256x500PARKERSBURG, W.Va.- The city council has “voted to uphold a ban on fortune-telling this week, despite a formal request from a local entrepreneur to do away with the decades-old law,” as reported by Riverside City News. In June we published the story of Heather Cooper, who had opened up a local shop called Hawthorn. Her intent was to offer Tarot readings as well as a place for local artists to display their work. However, she was denied a business license due to an old fortune-telling law, and she pledged to fight to have it removed.

After her first attempt, it was announced that the Council opted to keep the law, with a vote of 5-3. Cooper was disappointed, but she is continuing to work in the store and will keep trying. Cooper wrote, “We will not be doing any readings until further notice. We WILL, however, have classes at our store and continue to have consigned work from local artists. Stop by to see what we have and continue to watch the page for upcoming classes.”

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PENSACOLA, Fla. — Pagan David Suhor, the founder of the local chapter of The Satanic Temple, delivered his invocation before the Pensacola City Council meeting July 14. As we previously reported, Suhor’s scheduled appearance generated concerns, and a special meeting was held in order to decide whether or not to cancel the city’s inclusive prayer policy.

The council voted to keep the invocations, and Suhor was left on the schedule. However, when the day arrived, the council meeting did not run as smoothly as officials would have liked. Suhor’s invocation was interrupted by people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, one council person walked, and others protested. During the meeting several people, including Suhor, debated the policy again.

The entire meeting, including the opening invocation, can be viewed online. We will have more from Suhor about his religious freedom work in the coming week.

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287078_10150255779783742_3999081_oATLANTA, Ga. — It was announced this week that the Celtic American folk band Emerald Rose would be retiring. The announcement reads, “It’s been a great journey, but all things have a life cycle. It is time for us to let you all know that Emerald Rose has decided to retire as a band after the end of this year.”

The group will be performing at Dragon*Con, held in annually in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, and they are looking for one more venue to stage a farewell concert. The Wild Hunt has spoken to band member, singer and songwriter Arthur Hinds about Emerald Rose’s history, music and the retirement. We will bring you that interview this week.

In Other News

  • EarthSpirit Community’s co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen has been in Prague participating in the annual meeting for the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER). Corban-Arthen, who is currently serving as the organization’s president, wrote, “Representatives of 20 countries have gathered in a marvelous old building which currently houses the Czech Academy of Sciences.” Reporting from the event, Corban-Arthen said that they participated in a ritual built around “an old Celtic tripod of stones on the grounds of Vyšehrad.” He was reportedly told by locals that the “more than two hundred” people at that ceremony made up “the largest gathering of pagans in [Prague] in modern times.”  
  • The Temple of Goddess Spirituality, dedicated to Sekhmet, is experiencing a fiscal crisis. Founded in 1993, the temple is located in the Nevada desert near Cactus Springs. For 23 years, it has operated on the principle of the “gift economy.” However, in reality, the temple, which includes land and a structure, has been almost entirely supported by its founder Genevieve Vaughan. Donations reportedly make up less than 5% of their budget. Now in her 70s, Vaughan is not able to keep up with the temple’s needs. The organization has created a new governing “Temple Council” to develop new methods of funding. As they do that, donations of money and supplies are being accepted.
Temple of Goddess Spirituality in Nevada [Courtesy Photo]

Temple of Goddess Spirituality in Nevada []

  • Earth Traditions, based in Illinois, has announced a Death Midwife Certification Class for February 2017. The announcement was just made and a Facebook event created. The class will be held in Archer House, Northfield Minnesota and will be led by Angie Buchanan, who was trained and certified as a Certified Death Midwife by Nora Cedarwind Young, one of the founders of the Death Midwife movement. Buchanan said, “Death is the only guarantee we have in life and it is a sacred Rite of Passage deserving of as much thoughtful care and planning as any other life event.” Registration for the class is online and currently open.
  • The Guardian has reported on the opening of a local metaphysical store in the city of Lancaster. The owner of the new shop, called Bell, Book & Candle, is 38-year-old Dubhlainn Earley, who describes himself as a necromancer and a practitioner of “black magic.” In the interview he said that there should be more shops in the city due to its history. Lancaster is similar to the U.S. city of Salem. The Pendle witch trials took place in Lancashire, and the accused were all tried and sentenced in Lancaster due to it being the county town.  Earley believes Lancaster needs a Witch museum and hopes more Witches come forward now, saying, “there is no need to hide away, come out, come out wherever you are.”
  • There is a call for authors for the upcoming book Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History. “Author-Scholars are needed for the two volume reference work […] to be published by ABC-CLIO Publishing. We seek contributors with expertise in Women, Religion, and History to write articles of 500 to 2000 words, with overview, historical background, and selected details.” More specifications and requirements are on the website. The current deadline is August 15.
  • Another upcoming submission deadline is of the music kind. The Hermetic Library, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, is calling for artists to submit work for their 2016 Magick, Music, and Ritual 12 album. “These anthology albums help promote artists to the audience of the Hermetic Library and beyond. These albums raise awareness about the connection between ritual, music and magick. And, they are a mass of awesome fun.” The submission deadline is Aug. 15.

A Note from the Editor’s Desk

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TROMSØ, No. –American researcher James R. Lewis, a professor of religious studies at the University of Tromsø, has decided it’s time to take the pulse of Pagan communities once again. Since before the advent of the internet, there have been several such surveys, each with its own specific area of focus. While the new Pagan III survey has some questions that have caused some participants to scratch their heads, other academics are largely supportive of any effort to more accurately describe the dynamics within Pagan communities.


[Graphic Courtesy LWV / Flickr]

Lewis’ work reaches back specifically to a census survey conceived by Andras Corban-Arthen in the 1980s. EarthSpirit Community, which Corban-Arthen founded, was responsible for the dissemination, receipt, and initial tabulation of the questionnaires. Then, they were turned over to social scientist Helen Berger, who had secured a small grant from her university to hire some graduate students to do the heavy-duty number crunching. Berger went on to publish the findings as Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States.

Berger conducted two subsequent surveys that Lewis was involved in: Pagan Census Revisited I and II. “Since then,” Lewis wrote in the introduction to the Pagan III survey, “I have had new research questions arise. I have also been working with a new approach that provides select information on the development of Pagans and Paganism over time.”

That approach is one he calls “quasi-longitudinal.” Instead of tracking specific individuals over many years as in a true longitudinal study, he asks survey respondents paired questions that compare their views now with the ones they held when they started identifying as Pagan. He further explained his motivation and approach to The Wild Hunt.

When Helen Berger and I first worked on the Pagan Census Revisited questionnaire (PCR-I), we were trying to be comprehensive, and trying to reach as many people as possible (the final count was 8000+). We included whatever we thought of at the time, such as political orientation, social attitudes, comparative pieces from the General Social Survey and the like. In the PCR-II, both Helen and I asked some supplementary questions for some specific issues we were researching at that time. I added some additional paranormal items from the Baylor Religion Survey, plus I tried out a couple of ‘before and after’ questions — on marital/relationship status and educational level. It was my interest in further exploring the ‘before and after’ approach that was my primary motive for the Pagan III questionnaire.

An online survey has its limits, but it’s an approach which has been used before for collecting data about Pagans, and Lewis believes it’s still the most effective. “The obvious challenge is that the Pagan movement is a decentralized, anarchistic ‘movement’ (if we can even call it that) rather than a formal organization with a membership roll. No sample of this subculture is without its drawbacks,” he said. However, “Previous research by people other than myself have found that the great majority of Pagans spend much of their time on the internet, so I don’t think that’s a significant problem. A situation where that would becomes a factor is if one was researching the native faith people in the former Soviet Union. The internet is popular in those countries, but it’s not in every household like it is in western countries.”

Dr. Gwendolyn Reece, who conducted her own Pagan survey that was subsequently published in The Pomegranate, took the Pagan III and compared the two. “[Pagan III] is focused more on a number of beliefs and ideologies, as well as paranormal experiences, including trying to understand how these things changed for people once they became Pagan. Mine was focused on practices, obstacles to practices, and experiences in interacting with the dominant culture,” she said. In addition, she only asked questions of Pagans in the United States, rather than the worldwide approach Lewis is taking.

Lewis said that he is working with some Norwegian colleagues who asked that he include additional questions to further their own research. Some of these questions are on the paranormal, and others focus on conspiracy theories.Any place where the Pagan III survey link has placed shared on Facebook, also likely contains comments discussing some of these questions and the motivations behind them.

For example, a question about whether or not the respondent believes that some events have an official version designed to hide the truth from the public has drawn concern from some Facebook users who feel that events, such as the Tuskegee experiments, are proof of such activities. However, they are concerned that responding in the affirmative could give the impression that Pagans believe in wild conspiracy Reece observed:

I do remember that there were a lot of questions that seemed to be testing our alignment/divergence from the New Age, but that I had a bunch of questions about the phrasing on some of the conspiracy questions that I think could be misleading. I left comments about that. So, for example, do I believe that a small group has secret influence over the government? Yes, dark money and super PACs [but] not the Illuminati. I don’t think we need conspiracy theories about the Illuminati when we have the Koch Brothers, ALEC, etc.

Christopher Blackwell, who produced the ACTION newsletter for AREN, had similar concerns. He told The Wild Hunt:

I was asked whether I was married, then if I was widowed. Neither quite covered my situation. I had a partner who had died. Long term as it was we were not married, and nor was I exactly widowed. So in the case of those two questions I could not find choice that was quite right. Another common problem in a great many surveys that there is wording so that you tend to determine the answer by the wording of a value loaded question, rather than a neutral questions that gives you the actual opinion. Say that you ask, ‘Are you for Monsanto poisoning your food?’ instead of asking, ‘Do you believe GMO foods are safe?’

Questions evaluating views on the roles of Jews and Muslims in conspiracies weren’t worded in the same way, giving cause for concern that the results wouldn’t accurately depict how Pagans regard members of these two groups. In another area, a question about views of the nature of deity left some respondents, including so-called “hard” polytheists, without an adequate option other than “none of these.” Lewis said that questions about that particular type of belief “has simply not been of interest to me.”

Nevertheless, the Pagan III survey has already received more than the modest minimum of 500 responses, which Lewis established, and people such as Reece and Blackwell are encouraging participation despite their concerns. The questions dealing with views before and after the onset of Paganism in an individual’s life go to the heart of Lewis’ research questions, while those dealing with paranormal and conspiracy ideas are included to support other work entirely.

Blackwell said, “I still was certain that I wanted to take this survey to help establish some sort of benchmark of where the Pagan communities were at this point, so that we can compare with it both older surveys, and surveys in the future. It was mostly a very good and well thought out survey. Only by taking part in such surveys when possible, gives us the information to plan or understand anything about our developing communities.”

Reece agreed. “I do think it is worth taking any of these types of surveys because we need to be establishing some good base-line data about our communities.”

NORTHAMPTON, Mass — When the Parliament of the World’s Religions was staged in Salt Lake City last year, thousands of people gathered for this interfaith event. Being first held in 1893, the parliament is the oldest event of its kind, and others, which have emerged since, have not yet stripped it of its unique characteristics. One way the parliament stands out is in the fact that minority religions, including indigenous and Pagan ones, are given a seat at the table and a voice in the discussion.

The Wild Hunt sat down with vice-chair Andras Corban-Arthen during A Feast of Lights to talk about the parliament, his duties within the organization, and what he sees in its future.

[Photo Credit: G. Harder]

[Photo Credit: G. Harder]

Among his several responsibilities, Corban-Arthen is chair of the site selection committee, which is responsible for assessing potential sites for the next session. “It’s a big deal,” he said, and a job he takes quite seriously. The official invitation to submit proposals has not even been released, and already there has been interest expressed on behalf of several cities.

He said. “People think it’s a great idea to bring it to their town,” but not every city can handle the sheer number of people who show up, such as the near 10,000 which attended in Salt Lake City. That pressure depends in part on location: when it’s in the United States, where the parliament held its first and second sessions (in Chicago, 1893 and 1993), many more people attend than when it’s elsewhere in the world. However, there’s a clear desire to maintain the international scope of the organization by not restricting host cities to just one country.

It’s understandable why it’s appealing to bring the Parliament of the World’s Religions to town. The event translates into $15-20 million dollars spent by those visitors. That could offset any infrastructure improvements made to accommodate the crowds.

Corban-Arthen is also part of the nominating committee, which is arguably even more important. “It shapes the direction of the board,” he said, which impacts the overall tenor of the organization. It is because of the makeup of the board that such efforts as its indigenous task force even exist; he’s been part of that since 2008. That might be enough to keep him busy, but Corban-Arthen also is a delegate to the United Nations, representing the parliament as a non-governmental organization in the interfaith field.

“One thing that distinguishes the parliament is that minorities play a big role,” he said. “People ask where the Christians are,” he added, despite the fact that in Salt Lake City they were indeed the majority of those present. “It didn’t feel like it,” he explained, even though they are also a majority on the board, because they are “respectful and conscious, and let us be out in front. It’s a very healthy thing.”

Andras Corban-Arthen

Andras Corban-Arthen

An area that Corban-Arthen has worked in since long before the parliament was reinvigorated in 1993 is that of indigenous European religions. With the parliament now holding sessions regularly, skepticism that there might be survivals of those traditions has fallen away, as members of those traditions have come forth to participate. Indeed, the 2009 parliament in Melbourne generated a small controversy about how that might affect the very definition of Paganism. While Corban-Arthen believes it proved to be a hot topic among Pagans largely due to misunderstandings, at the same time he feels that 2009 represented a seminal moment when the larger interfaith community recognized indigenous European traditions into the fold.

The very concept has sent ripples throughout Paganism and the interfaith community, he said. “I was told that Paganism has nothing to do with indigenous traditions,” he recalled, while some tried to expand the definition of “indigenous” to include religions like Wicca, which while it did emerge in Europe, is generally considered newer than what’s referred to as indigenous. At the same time, he remembers a Presbyterian minister who was excited at the idea of indigenous European survivals, but “it bothered him that they turned out to be Pagan.”

Representatives of those indigenous traditions were included in the plenary session, he recalled, and “people had a huge, positive reaction” to the idea that Christianity didn’t wipe those traditions from the face of the Earth, as has been widely believed. “It felt like a vindication for them.” That’s a key role for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in his view: to support minority and indigenous traditions.

The parliament is where the modern interfaith movement started, and it continues to hold the largest events of that kind in the world. “Other groups may feel it’s not what it should be,” he said. “One major organization has criticized the parliament because it has Pagan members on its board.” That’s part of why it has such a large impact, he believes: minority voices being given the chance to be heard.

The Pagans sitting at that table didn’t get there by chance, though. “They didn’t really invite us” in 1993, he recalled, and he characterized the organizers at that time as being “reticent” to include them. His own Earthspirit Community, together with Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess, combined their efforts into what he called a “three-pronged approach” to convince those organizers to grant them admission. Then, they set up one joint information table in the area reserved for that kind of educational outreach, and disabused many attendees of the notion that Paganism was a thing of the past.

[Photo Credit: G. Harder]

[Photo Credit: G. Harder]

One interesting effect of having a parliament in a city, Corban-Arthen noted, is that the local Pagan community tends to thrive in its wake. That was true in Cape Town, Barcelona, and Melbourne, where local Pagans got a seat at the table and it opened doors for them into interfaith work. He said that new Pagan groups formed in those cities, and new leaders emerged. Time will tell if the “parliament bump” helps the Salt Lake City Pagan community find its footing.

Big names at the parliament typically include figures such as the Dalai Lama. However, a Roman Catholic Pope has never attended. That might well change with the next session, although Corban-Arthen isn’t sure it would be a benefit. He noted that among the potential sites is a city in Europe where the erstwhile organizers hope to extend an invitation to Pope Francis, who has proven himself to be more popular — among Catholics and people not of that faith alike — than any of his predecessors in recent memory. “That might be counterproductive,” Corban-Arthen said, because Francis has a following of his own that could distort the character of the parliament. “It might be all about the Pope,” he said. “We might not want that.”

Despite the fact that Vatican City is there, as well as members of those aforementioned indigenous traditions, Europe is a tough place to sell the parliament as an attraction, because “so much of the society is secularized.” That, more than other factors, could be why attendance is higher in the United States: there are more religious people here, despite recent downward trends.

What Corban-Arthen finds gratifying about the parliament is that “people don’t spend time arguing theology. They present their beliefs and observances, but we focus on social issues and trying to solve them, especially when religion is the cause.” That’s why he believes it’s so important for Pagan voices to be part of that conversation, as they have much to say about issues such as the environment and women in the priesthood. They can also be an important part of any dialogue about money, much of which is dominated by the Christian model that presumes it’s the root of all evil(and, seemingly at the same time, an earthly reward for living a good life.

Money is something he’s often found himself at odds with other Pagans about. He recalled a disagreement he had with Judy Harrow in the 1980s on that topic. “She felt that Christians put their model on us, but that small community-based Pagan groups couldn’t build mega-churches,” he said. “I told her that if a thousand people contributed five dollars a week for a year, that would be $260,000, which would be a good start” toward any goal that they established, including paying for staff, programs, schools, films, legal defense, and buying land. “We need to create infrastructure,” he added, echoing his side of an argument which is as old as the modern Pagan movement. “Until we do, we won’t be real to ourselves.” That’s a perspective other parliament members have shared with him: Pagans don’t take themselves seriously enough.

One thing that Corban-Arthen has learned in working with the Parliament of the World’s Religions especially is that his words are sometimes interpreted by members of his own community as speaking for them. “I don’t speak for all Pagans,” he said. “I’m just expressing my opinion. I represent the community that supports me,” not those who see things differently. That’s true for all board members of the parliament: they do not serve as formal representatives of their traditions. If other Pagans were to “step up,” they might also get elected to the parliament’s board. But with the ground work that he and others have helped to lay, perhaps it won’t take as many years of consistent effort to make that happen.

Over the weekend, the east coast was hit with record snow falls, blizzard conditions, white-outs, thunder snow and more as a Winter Storm “Jonas” came in for a visit. According to The Weather Channel, who began naming these winter storms in 2011, Jonas is the “largest snowstorm on record for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; and JFK Airport in New York City, with all of those locations receiving over 2 feet of snow.” As far south as Georgia through New York, the snow fell in varying degrees, and Pagans and Heathens took to social media to report the conditions at their locations. We reached out to a number of them to get a better idea of the conditions.

Tweeted from Space Station [Courtesy NASA]

Winter Storm 2016 as seen from the Space Station [Courtesy NASA]

Hardest hit was the New Jersey, Washington D.C. and New York City metro regions. Author David Salisbury reported going out to stores in preparation for the storm event and seeing goods lying on the floor and empty shelves. He said, “It looked liked a Walking Dead supply run.” Salisbury lives in the D.C. area and reported that he hadn’t seen a blizzard warning like this for six years. After making his own preparations to be stuck inside for several days, he posted the following public announcement on Facebook:

I’ll be stuck inside until at least Sunday so we might as well make the best of it! I’m offering deeply discounted rune and tarot readings until ‪#‎Blizzard2016 is over.

On Saturday, he did venture outside and took the following photo of adults and children enjoying the snow:

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

Not far away in Delaware, author Ivo Dominguez Jr. was watching the snow come down near his home. Dominguez is one of the founders of the New Alexandrian Library, located in Georgetown, Delaware.  He said that the library was safe, adding, “This was nothing. Hurricane Sandy went over it with zero damage.”  He shared this photo of his home at Seelie Court:

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

Farther north in central New Jersey, Elder Priestess Lady Pythia was watching the snow fall from the comfort of her home. She said poetically, “Noreaster sweeps. Cats eyes widen at ephemeral windy prey just out of reach, and we Witches toss herbs into the small cauldronfire, sip cinnamon creamed coffee, joke about animating shovels to tackle hip-high arctic drifts rendered in A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Pythia shared these photos as the snow piled up on her back deck:

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

Lady Pythia added, “A Witch sends out safe vibes for all in the storm’s path, with awe at the Mother’s wild Full Moon brushstrokes.”  As she and many other Pagans have pointed out, January 23 at 8:46 pm ET marked the full moon. NASA satellites captured the beauty of the moon’s light on the storm in this photo:

[Courtesy NASA]

[Courtesy NASA]

Over in Pennsylvania, Robert Schreiwer of the Urglaawe Kindred was also watching as the storm dumped more than 30″ of snow in his yard with sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph. Taking a spiritual look at winter’s process, Schreiwer said, “Many of us hail those associated strongly with snow: Skadhi and Holle. Being an Urglaawer with Holle as my patroness, I look at the snow blowing in the whirlwinds as a reflection of Her power. She has shaken her featherbed for over a day here, and the land is covered in the down. Although small, the first hail of the new year has fallen.” He shared this photo taken from his window:

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

Not missing an opportunity for some traditional religious work, Schreiwer added, “Per Deitsch tradition, I have collected some of it. One little stone I added to my drink; another I have retained for luck. The hail represents luck and opportunity for transformation and change. In the Deitsch healing and magical practice of Braucherei, the focus during this early time of the new year is on fixing that which needs repair, conserving the resources we have for last year, and planning and organizing the changes we need in order to make our lives better throughout the year. While we hail the snow, we also honor those who put their lives at risk to ensure the safety of others in this weather. Hail!”

Also in Pennsylvania, Priestess BrightFlame said that she was “snowed in” with  about 30″ of snow on the ground. But the resultant downtime caused by the weather has allowed BrightFlame to rest her sprained wrist and “reread The Fifth Sacred Thing ahead of allowing [herself] to indulge in Starhawk’s sequel, City of Refuge : the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing.”  This quiet time has also offered her the opportunity to prepare for an upcoming workshop that she is hosting in New York City with Starhawk,on February 20. BrightFlame shared this woodland photo from her home:

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

In New York City, Priestess and author Courtney Weber reported having a “perfect snowday.” She said that she also spent Saturday, “catching up on reading, writing the next book, and doing it all in pajamas because real Witches know how to multi-task. And do things better in pajamas.”  She shared this photo taken from her apartment window as the snow fell:

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

The storm’s reach stretched down the east coast forcing a number of governors to declare states of emergency and warning against travel. New York City shut all bridges and tunnels down through Sunday morning. Even as far south as Georgia, offices and schools closed early on Friday in preparation for the worst. And this wasn’t an unnecessary act. As the news has reported, at least 18 people have died in the wake of the storm with most of the deaths caused by slick roadways.

Star Bustomonte, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, has been stuck inside due to the weather. Although her area was not hit as hard as the coastal mid-Atlantic region, Bustamonte did report that she had over a foot of snow. She also said, “I’ll be several hours digging out once it starts to warm up. But I’m not even starting until it gets about 30 degrees.” She’s spent the weekend, like many, watching television and hanging out with her cats.

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

Due to this reportedly historic storm, there have been many store closures and event cancellations. For example, Asheville’s Raven and Crone was closed yesterday and has canceled today’s workshops. Brooklyn’s Catland Books was also closed yesterday with plans to open today. However, Sunday morning owners posted on Facebook, “BROOKLYN! Take another day to build snow altars and leave offerings for blizzard spirits – we’ll see you on Monday, and back again next month for Black Mirror Salon!”

We contacted EarthSpirit, the organizers of Feast of Lights to see if they were at all concerned that this mega storm would damper attendance at next week’s conference. EarthSpirit co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen said, “No.”  The event takes place in Amherst, Massachusetts which was not in the storm’s path. However, he did say that they are watching weather, adding “Living in New England, we have to do that every year. So far, things look pretty good for next weekend, and in the 18 years we’ve been putting on Feast of Lights, we’ve never had to cancel once.”

Back in Washington D.C., Salisbury looked out of his window on Sunday morning. The storm had passed and the skies were clear. He shared this photo of his courtyard:

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

Over the next few days, as the weather warms above freezing and the snow begins to melt, the east coast will get back to its normal activity with schools back in session, businesses open and travel schedules on track. Until then, much of the east coast will be gathering by fires, digging out and finding ways to enjoy the quiet of a winter’s storm.

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions is now over. As you have heard both here and in other places, the event, which began on Thursday, Oct 15, ended this past Monday, Oct 19. The official numbers have been released. The Parliament was attended by 9,806 people representing 30 religions with 548 sub-traditions. The following article contains a series of news notes and links, ending with a short editorial, to help wrap-up and provide a taste of what exactly happened.

Opening Fire Ceremony at 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

The early morning opening fire ceremony conducted by local Indigenous groups. The fires were tended and kept lit for the entire conference / 2015 Parliament. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]


Following the 2015 Parliament, the Board of Trustees elects and names the next Board. This year, it was announced that the new Vice Chair-elect would be EarthSpirit’s co-founder, Andras Corban-Arthen. He said, “I’m very honored, of course, at being elected Vice-Chair, particularly because of the trust it implies on the part of my fellow trustees. I think we have an excellent new governance team, led by Chair-elect Dr. Robert Sellers, whom I greatly respect.” Sellars, as we previously reported, is a Baptist minister from Texas, who has shown great interfaith leadership and, specifically, positive support for Paganism and other minority religions.

Corban-Arthen, who has attended every Parliament since 1993, added, “There are some interfaith organizations that cater only to mainstream religions. The Parliament, from the beginning, has not only encouraged participation by members of minority religions, but also has included some of us in leadership positions — Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and I have all served as trustees and officers of the Parliament.”

For the 2015 Parliament, Curott took lead on producing the inaugural Woman’s Assembly held on Thursday, Oct 18. The all-day event included workshops and large panels focusing on global issues facing women today, from education and violence; to leadership and building support structures. Curott spoke during the first assembly session saying, “The world’s religions cannot continue to allow the denigration of half of humanity.”

The Women’s Assembly not only provided a full day of focus on women’s issues, but it also inadvertently caused what some would term a “teachable moment” for the Parliament as a whole. On Thursday evening, after the final assembly sessions were over, the Parliament opened in earnest with its very first plenary. After a stately and impressive processional and drumming session led by local Utah indigenous groups, the audience became quiet as eight men, all wearing dark suits, took the stage to open the event. It was reported that, at some point early on in the plenary, a number of audience members stood up and yelled, “Where are the women?”

Four of the eight male presenters at the opening ceremony. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Four of the eight male presenters on stage at the opening ceremony / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

That message got through to the Board of Trustees and conference organizers. In fact, the Parliament posted and tweeted out the following Atlantic article titled, “The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical.” In it, mathematician Greg Martin explains how it is “statistically impossible” for conferences to have a speaking panel of all men, and that the under-representation of women on such panels can only be accomplished through calculated choice.

In other news, the local Sikh community, who organized and served Langar each day, announced that they had donated a total of 3,800 pounds of uneaten food, equal to 3,166 meals. The logistics of this size donation were difficult, but the community was aided by the Utah Food Bank. The donation, together with the daily Langar meals, are two ways in which the Sikh community gives service.

Where does the Parliament go from here? Corban-Arthen is chair of the site selection committee and said, “Now that Salt Lake City is over, we have a lot of work immediately ahead of us to choose the host city for the next Parliament.” While he can’t offer anymore than that, the event will not be held in the United States. So Americans need to get their passports in order. Typically, the model has been to host the event every five years putting the next Parliament in 2020. However, there reportedly was an announcement that the Board is shifting to a new model that will allow the Parliament to be hosted every 2 years. However, no site or plans have been announced. Stay tuned and ready your passport.

Notes and Links

During the Pagans at the Parliament gathering, Angie Buchanan stood up to thank everyone for attending. Buchanan is former trustee and member of the site selection committee. Buchanan was instrumental is coordinating efforts for Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, acting as both a welcoming face and advocate for their presence. In retrospective, she said, “The most important part in determining the success of an event resides in the seed planted in the hearts of those who participate, and in what they will nurture that seed to become. It may be too soon to tell but it feels as though the seeds of a forest have been planted by the Parliament in Salt Lake City.”

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Since the Parliament ended, a number of videos, photographs and writings have surfaced, which suggest that Buchanan was correct. Seeds have been planted.

More highlights, photos, videos and discussions will emerge over the next month, including the video recording of The Goddesses Alive! performance that was featured in a previous article. To keep up with the growing number of reflections, readers can visit the Pagans at Parliament 2015 Facebook group, which has been made public.

Along with the opening plenary, as linked in the news section above, a number of other recordings have been posted either on the PWR website and in various social media locations. The official videography team recorded and has made available all the plenaries, which covered the following topics: WomenIndigenous Peoples; Climate ChangeWar Violence and Hate Speech; Income Inequality and Emerging Leaders. Please be aware that the links provided above may only be to the first half of the recorded plenary. Look through the list to ensure that there is not a second part available.

Within several of these plenaries, readers may notice familiar faces. Notably, in the emerging leaders category, EarthSpirit’s Donovan Arthen addressed the crowd. Around minute mark 39:45, Arthen takes the stage. He describes how he grew up attending Parliaments with his parents, and how that experience planted the seeds for his own understanding about interfaith work. After a brief talk, Arthen then leads the entire room in ritual sound experience.

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

The Pagan and Heathen presence at the Parliament was very notable. One anonymous attendee said, “Pagans rocked the Parliament.” Another attendee, Audrey Galex, who is content director for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting, said “I am so happy to see such a large Pagan representation in both attendance and presentations.” And, Circle Sanctuary member Casey Burke Pope reported that the teachers of the Religions 101: Islam class mentioned Paganism multiple times. In one instance, a speaker said, “Pagans need to be heard,” adding “we may not agree with them, but they need to be heard.” Pope recalled, “It was surprising and nice to be recognized.”

Pagans and Heathens participated in a number of activities and presentations, including the first ever Parliament chorus. The group sang “Songs for the Earth: A Cantata in Praise of this Earth.” Look closely in the sea of faces for friends.

This list of contributions and interactions is endless. The takeaways for Pagans and Heathens, and from Pagans and Heathens, are seeds as Buchanan suggested. In retrospect, Corban-Arthen said:

I am delighted that the Parliament was such a great success, and that so many more pagans attended than ever before. When we come right down to it, what the Parliament does – by bringing together so many people from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives – is to provide the opportunity for meaningful, important experiences, be they spiritual, cultural, artistic, political, or just plain social. Those experiences, in turn, can induce profound changes in people, and motivate us to work together for the common good, despite whatever differences we may have. That, above all, is what I hope those pagans who attended will take home.

And, Buchanan added, “I look forward to seeing the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions prosper and grow the interfaith movement into something that changes the world for the better. If ever there was more important work for Pagans to be involved in, I don’t know what it would be.”

Editorial, from Wild Hunt editor Heather Greene

I could not conclude any write-up about the Parliament without sharing a little bit of my own experience. Walking around the Salt Palace, I was passed by so many people representing so many different backgrounds; speaking so many different languages and having so many different beliefs. The doors of opportunity to learn were blown wide-open and the interior spaces were thoroughly inviting. While I have never lived in a fully closeted way, I did note the feeling of freedom to be openly Pagan without any reservation in speaking authentically to anyone, including my own community members.

The five days were filled with both learning, listening, hearing and teaching. Outside of reporting for The Wild Hunt, I also participated in the Goddesses Alive! performance; sat on an excellent panel about the Pope’s encyclical with John Halstead, Sylvia Linton and Andras Corban-Arthen; assisted Circle Sanctuary with a beautiful healing ritual, and attended a delightful dinner bringing together Evangelical Christians and Pagans. The days were busy, to say the least. Other personal highlights included visiting the United Religions Initiative space; listening to the entirety of the Women’s Assembly; seeing the famous Mormon Tabernacle buildings; meeting a host of amazing new people and talking to old friends; sitting quietly in the Hindu religious space and Sunday night’s rousing spontaneous sacred singing session.

Circle Sanctuary’s healing altar. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

When I returned home, I reflected on all that had happened over those five days. At times the tears fell and, at other times, I couldn’t help but smile. Then, I realized what was so unique about the Parliament; what had touched me in such a profound way. I had felt very comfortable in the extreme diversity of human experience and belief. I not only felt safe, but I also felt invigorated. And, it reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the urban outskirts of New York City. The building in which I lived contained the same level of extreme cultural diversity. We even held a yearly party, which could have been mistaken for a purposeful multicultural celebration. So, at the Parliament, I felt at home.

What The Parliament of the World’s Religions offers us directly is education by providing the safe space to share, discuss, debate and learn. At the same time, the Parliament offers something indirectly that is just as valuable, if not more; something that I received growing up in that building and something that Donovon Arthen mentioned in his plenary talk. It is exposure. Through the Parliament we are exposed to the basic humanity that lies beneath all of the differences holding us apart. And, simultaneously, our own humanity is exposed. We eat together; we laugh; we walk; we clap, smile and sing. And, then, we all go to sleep and start again the next day. Through participating in this level of true human interaction, we find a way to stop thinking of our differences as obstacles, and start seeing them as a beautiful, curious details inviting us to the dance.

This is how the Parliament of the World’s Religions can save the world. Like the Olympics, the Parliament is a global stage. However unlike the Olympics, which is centered around competition, commerce and plagued by political controversy, the Parliament just aims to be a safe space of interaction and exposure. Whether you sit and simply watch people come and go, or attend a full day worth of sessions, you are exposed to a world of color. And, that alone is worth the price of admission.

The only unfortunate part is that the Parliament speakers are, to coin a phrase, “preaching to the choir” in many instances. The attendees aren’t necessarily the ones that need to hear the messages spoken and witness that humanity. However, the experience is still invaluable, inspiring and life changing. And, going back to Buchanan’s quote, perhaps the seeds that we all took away, and those that we planted, will germinate, grow and expand outward into our extended communities. And, with each passing Parliament, the messages will thrive and eventually cover the world over.

“May the roots grow deep and the branches spread wide. May it provide shelter and strength, wisdom and sustenance. May it remain a peaceful sanctuary, a cathedral of healing, an institution of learning, and the voice that encourages and reminds us to do better, to be better, every single day.” – Angie Buchanan

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SALT LAKE, Utah — In one week, thousands of people from all over the world will descend on Salt Lake City to participate in the Parliament of the World Religions. The opening ceremonies and procession take place Thursday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. and are followed by four full days of workshops, observances, plenaries, meals and music. Within the expansive walls of the Salt Palace Convention Center, eager attendees will be seeking a unique educational, and potentially transformative, experience only found through global interfaith interaction, communication and harmony.

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

[Photo Credit: Garrett via Wikimedia ]

“The 1993 Parliament at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago was a truly transformational experience, one that changed my life in ways that I could not have anticipated. I’ve heard a lot of other Pagans say the same thing after attending their first Parliament. So, I would strongly encourage people to come with open minds and open hearts, and with a willingness to let change happen,” said Andras Corban-Arthen, who has attended every Parliament since 1993 and is currently serving on the Parliament’s board of trustees.

The Parliament of the World’s Religions began in Chicago in 1893 and was part of a larger exhibition event. Originally called The World Congress of Religions, the Parliament was the very first large scale meeting of western and eastern religious leaders. Due to wars and economic down turns through the 20th century, the event was never repeated.

Then in 1988, a council was formed to resurrect the concept and host a new Parliament. That happened in Chicago in 1993, a full century after the first one. Not only was that event a landmark as the rebirth of the Parliament, it was also largely considered one of the first times that Pagans “came out of broom closet” to the world’s interfaith community.

The Parliament was then held again in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain; and in 2009, in Melbourne, Australia. The basic idea was to continue hosting this international interfaith conference every five years. However, in 2012, the Council was having financial trouble and nearly had to shut its doors. Then, in 2013, the Parliament was saved with an emergency fundraiser, in which Pagans played a significant role.

Rev. Selena Fox and others plant a Peace Pole at the Cape Town Parliament 1999 [Courtesy Photo]

Rev. Selena Fox and others plant a Peace Pole at the Cape Town Parliament 1999 [Courtesy Photo]

Soon after, the Council began immediate planning for the 2015 Salt Lake event. Angie Buchanan, a trustee emerita and a member of the Parliament’s site selection committee, told The Wild Hunt, “So much work has gone into producing this event. Staff, volunteers, presenters, attendees but, it’s all worth it in the end because, this event can be life changing. The heart and energy of it has the potential to change the world.”

Before Thursday’s opening ceremonies, there will be a daylong women’s assembly. During that time, women leaders will speak on “two primary themes, which will [then] be further explored by attendees in small group discussions.” The themes include: “the responsibility of the world’s religions to affirm women’s dignity and human rights” and “share sources of religious and spiritual inspiration for women’s empowerment.” There will also be a number of related workshops.

Following the assembly are four full days of scheduled events, ending Monday with a closing plenary at 3:45 p.m. There are religious observances every morning, beginning at 7 a.m. Several Pagan observances are on the schedule. For example, Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox will host a Brigid Healing ritual and a Ritual for Planet Earth. Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Jim Dickinson will be offering “Chalice of the Four Waters.”

One of the big Parliament features is a free daily lunchtime meal called Langar, which is the Sikh word for ‘open kitchen.’ Sponsored by local, national and international Sikh communities, Langar is a tradition expressing inclusiveness and the “oneness of humankind.” Everyone is invited, and the only requirements are a head-cover, open mind and appetite. Rev. Selena Fox said:

One of my favorite memories of the 2004 Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona, Spain was having lunch with thousands of others at the Sikh’s Langar. The Sikh’s free food serving area was in a huge, air conditioned tent pavilion. We sat on the floor in long rows with our plates and cups before us and members of the Sikh community went down the rows and served each of us delicious traditional foods  … I look forward to experiencing Langar again at the 2015 Parliament.

Throughout the conference, there are multiple workshops, talks and lectures during every single time slot and even in-between. In some cases, one time slot may host 20-30 different events at once. Corban-Arthen said, “Be prepared to feel overwhelmed by all the programs you want to attend, which conflict with one another. Pick and choose wisely.”

He also advised, “Don’t just attend workshops – there are also great concerts, religious observances … films, artistic presentations, exhibitions … informational/merchandising booths, and of course, lots of opportunities for making new friends.”

Within that staggering four-day schedule, there will be number of specifically Pagan or Heathen -themed programs. Corban-Arthen said that the 2015 Parliament will have at least double the amount as were ever offered previously. In fact, there is even a specific “Pagan track” listed in the Parliament’s mobile scheduling software.* While there are too many to list here, some highlights include:

“Staving off Ragnarök: A Heathen Response to Climate Change” with Diana Paxson
“Black Madonnas and Dark Goddesses: Images of the Divine Feminine” with Vivianne Crowley
“Calling the Ancestors Home” with Solar Cross
“Diversity in Contemporary Paganism” with Jeanine De Oya, Eblis Correllian and Andras Corban-Arthen
“Goddesses Alive! Ritual Perfomance” directed by M. Macha Nightmare (as featured in a previous Wild Hunt article)

Those are only five of the many amazing workshops, observances, panels, performances and talks with Pagan or Heathen themes. How does this measurable increase in events impact the overall interfaith Parliament experience for everyone? Corban-Arthen said, “This time around, we will have the chance to present various elements of paganism in much greater depth and breadth.”

In addition to an increase in programming, the 2015 Parliament will also have the largest Pagan and Heathen representation than ever before. There will be an estimated 200 Pagans and Heathens in attendance, which is 120 more than the well-attended 1993 Chicago Parliament. Buchanan said, “We are glad so many friends and community members have chosen to come experience it for themselves.”

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit's Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

MotherTongue, EarthSpirit’s Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

Many national and international Pagan and Heathen organizations will be represented including, Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess, EarthSpirit, Solar Cross, Earth Traditions, The Pagan Federation, Cherry Hill Seminary, the Pagan Federation International, The Wild Hunt, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and others. Rev. Selena Fox said “Circle Sanctuary has more than three dozen ministers, ministers in training, community members, and networking associates as part of our delegation.” Some of these groups, like Circle Sanctuary, will be hosting informational booths in the Parliament’s exhibit hall.

While an attendee’s day could certainly be filled with Pagan and Heathen events alone, there are 100s of other offerings on the scheduled as well. Buchanan said, “I would encourage you to try new things, see as much as possible, sing, dance, participate in rituals and ceremonies that you may never have another opportunity for. Stretch yourselves, learn something new, share, be amazed, and be amazing to those who find you as curious as you find them.”

Corban-Arthen agreed, reminding attendees that this isn’t a Pagan event. He advises, “Leave your prejudices at home … You might be surprised to realize how much others at the Parliament already know about us, how willing they may be to accept us. Some might even tell you that they not only take us very seriously, but that, if anything, they don’t see us taking ourselves seriously enough … And don’t be surprised if a Christian offers you a heartfelt apology for what their religious ancestors have done to pagans over the course of history (I’ve had that happen to me at least once every Parliament). It’s that kind of an event.”

During the conference, there will be six plenaries, each is separately themed and will include a panel of speakers and a major declaration. The topics include: Focus on Women; Emerging Leaders; Income Inequality; War, Violence and Hate; Climate Change; and Indigenous Peoples.

Corban-Arthen said, “The one question that will weave as a common thread throughout this Parliament and beyond is: what insight, what wisdom can our spiritual traditions offer to help us heal these global problems?” He added, “Pagan voices can, and should, be heard in those conversations.”

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World's Religions.

Peace procession of Pagans at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions [Courtesy Photo]

Buchanan agreed, saying, “When the world’s religions come together to be part of the solution, the possibilities are endless. It is positively magical and we Pagans are an important part of it; an important voice in the interfaith movement and at the table for the discussion of global issues that have an impact on our planet; our environment.”

The Council is now in the very final stages of preparatory work as attendees prepare to make the trip to Salt Lake City. The mobile application is available to download and, while it is not perfect, the app does provide a basic tool to help navigate this seemingly monstrous event.

For those that will be attending, Buchanan is hosting a Pagan Reception at the Marriott Hotel Thursday at 3:30 p.m.This scheduled social time will provide a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and meet new ones before the Parliament begins in earnest.

The Wild Hunt will be in attendance and live tweeting beginning Thursday morning through Monday. You can follow us @thewildhunt.


* Important note: Not all Pagan or Heathen – themed events are listed on the Pagan track. This is due to the way they were cataloged. 

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max01Vodoun Priest and Supreme head Max G. Beauvoir died Saturday at the age of 79. Born in 1936, Beauvoir studied chemistry in both the U.S. and France, and eventually pursued a successful career as a biochemist. He worked at Cornell Medical Center, Tufts University as well as other private research institutions. According to a Washington Post article, Beauvoir was not initially interested in religion at all. However, he was called back to his home and to Vodou by his dying grandfather, who told him in 1973, “You will carry on the tradition.” He couldn’t refuse.

Beauvoir left his research and commercial career to become “the public face of Haitian Vodou.” In 1974, he founded Le Péristyle de Mariani, his first temple. Over the next few decades, he continued to lead, build community, and speak out publicly in support of his tradition. Beauvoir helped to establish a number of organizations, including the National Confederation of Haitian Vodou. In 2006, Beauvoir was named the Supreme Chief or “L’Ati Nationale.”

According to AP, Beauvoir died after a long illness, no other details are publicly known. In a tweet, Haiti’s president Michel Martelly has said, “Mes sympathies à la famille et aux proches de l’Ati national Max Beauvoir … Une grande perte pour le pays.” [Translation: “My sympathies to the family and those close to the National Ati Max Beauvoir … A great loss for the country.”]  Beauvoir’s supporters and followers have taken to social media to share their stories and express their grief. What is remembered, lives!

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CPWR-150x150In other world news, the Parliament of the World Religions (PWR) is now only one month away. People from all over the globe will be descending on Salt Lake City for potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Wild Hunt will be there along with many other Pagan and Heathen organizations. In addition, we are preparing a pre-Parliament article that will highlight the Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist representation over that October weekend.

To do that, we’ve been talking with EarthSpirit’s co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen, who serves on PWR’s Council and is considered one of the “voices of the movement.” In our discussions, he recently informed us that the Council will be welcoming a brand new chair at the upcoming Salt Lake event. Professor Robert Sellers, a Baptist Minister from Texas, has been elected to the position.

Corban-Arthen said, “I have to admit that when Rob first joined our Board of Trustees some years ago, I wondered how well a Baptist professor of theology from the heart of Texas would fit in an organization as liberal, and as open to religious diversity, as the Parliament of the World’s Religions. But Rob turned out to be one of the nicest, most open-hearted and open-minded people I’ve met in a long time … He’s precisely the kind of leader the Parliament needs at this juncture: someone who is a big thinker, a careful and respectful listener, and a great team builder … I think our religious communities and traditions, as well as other minority religions, will find a good friend in Rob Sellers. I very much look forward to continue working with him in his new capacity as our Chair.”

Also recently announced, Jane Goodall will be addressing the attendees as the keynote speaker. According to a press release, Goodall will be speaking on two main topics: War, Violence & Hate Speech and Climate Change.

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11012592_1640656266173423_5626125078192369128_nTo update a local story that we covered in August, Druid Cindy McGinley is still fighting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. As we previously reported, McGinley has been caring for two deer, Deirdre and Lily, who cannot be re-released into the wild. McGinley is a registered wildlife rehabilitator and typically rescues animals with the intent of re-introducing to their natural habitat. However, after caring for Deidre and Lily, she determined that these does would not survive in the wild. The DEC is attempting to force her to either release or kill the pair of deer.

In an update, McGinley said, “I think oral argument went well for us, but the judge did not render his decision today. He wants time to consider. The DEC, for their part, is trying to paint me as a criminal who willfully broke the law and so am ‘unfit’ to have a LCPEE.” She said that local media has been at her door, asking for interviews and looks at the deer. She remains hopeful, but the campaign continues. The Save Deirdre and Lily Facebook page offers ways to help the cause.

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T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle [Courtesy Photo]

Over the weekend, there was another big announcement from blogging world. T. Thorn Coyle is preparing to return to writing. Over the years, Coyle and her inspirational words developed quite a following. Then, in March, she announced that she would be taking a leave of absence to focus her energy on other work.

On Friday, Coyle published a post reading, “I’m ready to come back to this blog, but in a different way. My five year plan is to continue ramping way back on public teaching and hopefully shift toward making a living writing.” To help launch her career, Coyle has set up a Patreon account, on which supporters can help fund her writing. She has already reached the first goal of funding one essay and one short story per month.

Coyle noted in the announcement, “The leave has been good for me, allowing me to continue studying fiction and planning out two novel series. I’m also slowly working on a long-form essay.” Her first set of works will be published on her blog in October.

In Other News

  • The new Druid College UK will host its grand opening on Oct. 3-4 in a “a lovely retreat house venue in Essex.” According to the announcement, Joanna van der Hoeven said, “Druid College is dedicated to Earth-centred spirituality, to the integrity of our natural home, and to the crafting of sacred relationship. Twinned with its American sister college, the three-year programme begins with the basics of Druidry and moves on to crafting the wild soul, establishing a deep connection to the rhythms of life around us, finding out how we can be of service to the land, the ancestors and the gods …” There are only a few spots left in the first year program.
  • Taylor Ellwood’s Pop Culture Magic 2.0 has been released and is available through publisher Immanion Press. The book is the follow-up to his first book Pop Culture Magic that explores the intersections between magical practice, pop culture and religion. In a blog post, Ellwood wrote, “You’ll also learn how pop culture is becoming the mythology of our time and how older mythologies are showing up in contemporary culture.”
  • The Maetreum of Cybele was recently interviewed on Radio Survivor about their new station (WLPB) and the upcoming Grassroots Radio Conference. As we previously reported, the Maetreum of Cybele has just launched a low-power, local FM radio station in its small hamlet of Palenville, New York. In addition, the organization is playing host to the Grassroots Radio Conference, which is a national conference of community based, low power FM radio station owners and operators and staff. You can listen to the interview here:
  • Gods & Radicals is going to print. The popular blog is taking its work into paper form. The announcement said, “twice-yearly print collection of smart, dream-soaked words collected against the horror of Capitalism and toward the beauty of the world thereafter.” To initially fund the project, editors launched a GoFundMe campaign and, in only 6 days, raised 3x their goal amount. The journal is due out around Samhain.
  • For those interested in “Hillfolks’ Hoodoo” and Appalachian folk magic, writer and teacher Byron Ballard has finished her long awaited second-book in that series. Titled Asfidity and Mad-Stones, the new book will continue the conversation on the unique magical experience originating from the southern Appalachian region. It is a conversation that Ballard began in her first book Staubs and Ditchwater. To keep readers updated on its progress, she has launched a facebook page and is currently taking pre-orders. Asfidity and Mad-Stones is due out in October.

That’s it for now. Have a nice day!

RobertRudachukHeathen Robert Rudachyk has announced his candidacy for Canada’s Liberal Party of Saskatchewon. Rudachyk ran in 2014 and, in an interview with The Wild Hunt, talked about his goals and his work as an openly Heathen candidate.

He said,If I am able to become the candidate, I intend to run my campaign on the issues facing all Canadians, not on my faith. I will never hide who I am, but I will also not whip my hammer out in public and shove it into people’s faces.”

This year, Rudachyk is running “to be elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly ( MLA) for this seat or district as you might call it. It is for the provincial government of Saskatchewan It is essentially the provincial parliament.” The campaign was just announced, and we will have more from Rudachyk in the weeks to come. The election itself will be held in April 2016.

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Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

(Photo: T. Mierzwicki)

On July 17, Professor Sabina Magliocco created a new survey for an independent study on fairy legends in the Pagan community. Magliocco is a professor of Anthropology at California State University – Northridge. Her online survey was titled “Fairies in Contemporary Paganism.” She wrote, “I’m interested in your legends, experiences and beliefs surrounding the fairies, fae, sidhe, Fair Folk, pixies, trolls, and similar creatures from any cultural tradition. What are they? Do you work with them in your spiritual practice? What is their role in the world today?”

Within one week, Prof. Magliocco received over 500 responses, far exceeding the allowances of the technology used. She announced the survey’s closing and began compiling the data. Although the work has only begun, she offered this quick assessment: “a majority of respondents believe fairies are real and associate them with the natural world. Nonetheless, fairies are not central to the majority of respondents’ religious practice — but a substantial number of respondents do interact with them, mostly by making offerings.” The full results will be presented at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, held in Claremont, California in January 23-24, 2016

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Many Gods West Facebook Photo

Coming up this weekend is the brand new conference, Many Gods West. As noted on the event website, it is “meant to be a celebration of [many] traditions, those newly-reconstructed and those continuously-practiced. There are many gods in the world, and many peoples worshiping them.”

Held at The Governor Hotel in downtown Olympia, Washington, Many Gods West will feature three days of workshops, lectures, rituals and more. The keynote address will be delivered by Priest and Author Morpheus Ravenna on Friday at 7:00pm. Rituals include the Bakcheion (Βακχεῖον)’s “Filled with Frenzy,” Coru Cathubodua’s “Devotional to Cathobodua,” and Viducus Brigantici, Filius’ “Kalends Ritual” and more. Many Gods West opens for the very first time on Friday, July 31 and runs to Sunday, Aug 2.

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Over the past few months, there have been some changes to the group Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR). According to various sources, the group experienced internal conflict in June, which led to a split between the various moderators, organizers and facilitators. The disagreements were centered around internal operations and structure.

HUAR is currently still in operation and slowly re-building. In a recent post, The HUAR Team wrote, “We have undergone some recent internal reorganization to be more effective in accomplishing our goals of opposing racism and co-optation of Heathenry by racialist groups and organizations. We’ve learned a lot of hard lessons from the mistakes of the past few years and are working to be more effective now and going forward.” *

In addition, a new group has formed called Heathens For Social Justice (HFSJ), which was created after the June events. HFSJ is run by nine democratically-elected board members. They describe the group as a “safe space” and as being “committed to fighting all oppressions, wherever [they] find them, in service to both [the] heathen community and [their] local, regional and national communities.” Organizers added, “We are about action, not platitudes.”

While the two groups do have some crossover in purpose and goals, their focuses do appear to be slightly different. We will continue to report on both groups as they continue or begin their advocacy and work.

In Other News

  • The Sacred Harvest Festival is about to kick-off its eighteenth year at its brand new location in Northern Minnesota. The festival will be held at Atchingtan in Finlayson,MN, which is 90 minutes north of St. Paul. As always, the scheduled is packed with rituals, drumming, workshops and other events. The guest speaker will be Shaman Joy Wedmedyk. PNC-Minnesota has recently published an interview with Wedmedyk, in which she says, “I want the people who attend to know the reason I teach is because I want people to have as much information as possible to be able to move forward spiritually and to know prosperity and abundance in all levels of their life. I love to encourage people to develop their own skill set, and perhaps offer them a different perspective about a practice they may already be doing.” Sacred Harvest Festival begins on Monday, August 3 and runs through Aug. 9.
  • Mills College Student and co-founder of the Pagan Alliance Kristen Oliver has been selected as a Chapel Programs Assistant. Oliver said, “I will be working for the interim Multifaith Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life (SRL). I will be doing things like managing SRL’s Facebook page, helping to organize and lead activities and events like the school’s multifaith Festival of Light and Dark which happens in December, and being available to students who have spiritual/religious queries.” Oliver added that she “continues to be impressed” by the school’s support of the Pagan Alliance and Pagan students.
  • As we reported last week, Starhawk has ventured into self-publishing for The City of Refuge, the sequel to her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. To accomplish this task, she will be opening a Kick Starter Campaign to pay for various aspects of the process. The campaign will begin on July 31, as suggested by Starhawk’s favorite astrologer. As she writes, “It’s also the eve of Lammas or Lughnasad, August 1, one of the eight great festivals of the Celtic and Pagan year.” 
  • EarthSpirit co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen was invited to sit on a panel called the “Indigenous Leadership Talk Issues and Innovation” at the Nexus Global Youth Summit, held at The United Nations. The other panel participants included “Abhayam Kalu Ugwuomo, Chief Kalu Ugwuomo, Tonatiuh Cervantes, Aina Olomo, Ricardo Cervantes, Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.”
[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

  • Ivo Dominguez, Jr will be hosting a new workshop in Delaware to be taught by Byron Ballard. Held on Aug. 29, the workshop, called “Old Wild Magic of the Motherlands,” will be based Ballard’s new research on Appalachian traditions. Ballard’s work is focused on the magical traditions and cultures of her home in the mountains of the Appalachian region. For her next book, she has been studying the various customs that came over from the British Isles. Ballard notes, “The charms, spells and talismans that crossed with those ragged immigrants from Scotland, Northumberland, Cornwall and Cumbria are little known and very interesting. Weather workings, healing charms, curses and blessings–all handed down to us from a by-gone age.” The new workshop will present her findings and will be held in Georgetown, Delaware on Aug. 29.

That is it for now! Have a great day.


Another damaging summer storm has a hit major Pagan festival. This time it is Summerland Spirit Festival held in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The intense winds and rain arrived Sunday night around 10 p.m. on the festival’s first full day. According to reports, tents were damaged or completely lost, and parts of merchant row have been destroyed. During a race to get into the permanent shelters, several people sustained minor injuries such as scrapes and twisted ankles.

Fortunately, the intense storm was over in thirty minutes, and did not cause the local creek to rise. Those who did lose tents were able to find sleeping space within the lodge or in neighbors’ tents. While there has been property loss, the festival will continue on. As today’s sun dries out the campground, attendees and the organizing committee will spend the day cleaning up, looking for lost items and assessing damages. Beyond that, the organizers plan to continue on with Summerland programming as scheduled. While the weather reports do call for another possible summer thunderstorm today, the rest of the week looks promising.

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Equinox Publishing will be launching a new peer reviewed journal in 2016. It is titled Body and Religion and will “provide a forum for the study of all manner of ancient and contemporary practices, concerns, ideals, and connections or disconnections between body and religion.” The editors are Shawn Arthur of Wake Forest University and Nikki Bado of Iowa State University. The book reviewer will be Kevin Schilbrack of Appalachian State University.

Body and Religion will be published twice annually and is currently seeking submissions. The editors write, “We welcome English-language submissions from scholars who use diverse methodologies and approaches, ranging from traditional to innovative, to explore issues of’“body’ as a fundamental analytical category in the study of religion.” They will “consider submissions from both established scholars and research students.” Equinox is also the publisher of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

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Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

In the past, we have reported on the New Year divinatory tradition held by Cuba’s Santeria Priests. For more than 30 years, these Priests have offered recommendations and predictions for the coming year. Traditionally, these readings have been performed independently from each other. Last week, however, The Havana Times reported that this will change in 2016. The article reads, “The two main currents of Cuban Santeria that announce different “Letter of the Year” prophecies at the beginning of each January have finally decided to come together and make public a single version of the predictions by the popular oracle Ifa.”

The partnership between the two leading “currents,” led by Lazaro Cuesta and Jose Manuel Perez, is reportedly being seen as a “means of consolidating the community of Afro-Cuban religion practitioners” Rather than offering competing recommendations, the groups will offer a joint “Letter of the Year” for the first time in history.

The Havana Times article goes on to discuss the relationship between the Cuban practice and that of Miami’s Santeria Priests, who also offer their own Letter of the Year. As is written, “Perhaps the new winds of change blowing between Washington and Havana will end up bringing Ifa priests on both shores together in their dictates and recommendations for the year.”

In Other News:

  • Author Marla Hardee Milling, a native of Asheville, has published a new book called Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History. The book examines why Asheville, North Carolina is often labeled “America’s quirkiest town.” In it she explores aspects of the bohemian character of her home town, interviewing a number of local residents. One of the interviews is with local Priestess Byron Ballard, who has the distinguished title of local Village Witch.
  • Llewellyn has published a guest blog post written by Aaron Leitch, which examines whether the Bible outlaws magick. He writes, “The question of magick among these traditions arises every so often. Usually, it is asked by newcomers who feel a calling to practice the arts of magick, but have been raised with the belief that it is directly proscribed by their religion.Their fear is very real—they worry if delving into the arts will result in the loss of their immortal soul.” Leitch then goes on to examine various references to magick, Witchcraft and sorcery.
  • Circle Magazine is currently seeking submissions for its upcoming fall issue, which will be titled “Life’s End & Beyond.”  Editor Florence Edwards-Miller said that she is “hoping to cover a wide range of topics … including end-of-life planning and care, Pagan funerals, coping with loss of a human or animal companion, honoring ancestors, deities associated with the dead or dying, myths or beliefs about what comes after death, reincarnation, or other related subjects.” The issue will also cover the rituals, crafts and food associated with Samhain. Due to the PSG flooding, the submission deadline is now Aug. 7.
  • Over the past week, Patheos Pagan Channel writers have been debating the somewhat controversial subject of deity popularity. Channel manager Jason Mankey kicked off the conversation at Raise the Horns, which was then followed by several other reaction pieces.The latest post was written by John Beckett at Under the Ancient Oaks.
  • Another Pagan programming announcement has been made for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Andras Corban-Arthen put together a proposal for a panel entitled “We Are the Earth: Pagans Respond to Pope Francis on the Environment.” It was accepted by the Council. The new panel, moderated by Sylvia Linton, will include Corban-Arthen, John Halstead and myself. Other Wild Hunt writers will also be in attendance at the Parliament, and we will be reporting directly from the October event.

That is it for now. Have a nice day!

BERKSHIRE MOUNTAINS, Massachusetts –For the 37th year, members and friends of the EarthSpirit Community gathered this past week for the Rites of Spring. Like many Pagan festivals, this is a private affair for which advance registration is required. Participants are expected to aid in building a temporary community in the woods, wherein the focal point is the very maypole that represents the season in this, and many other, Pagan traditions. Radiating outward from that beribboned symbol of fertility Pagans and friends circled, danced, learned, laughed, drank in the gifts of the Earth and returned a fair portion to the mountain which plays host year in an year out.

Long before that stout log was hoisted towards the sky, tireless volunteers began weaving an invisible web which would define and support the weeklong festival. The strands are unseen because they have been spun and woven again and again over the years, but the web created is a strong one. Upon arriving at my first Rites of Spring, that web surrounded and supported me every step of the way. Clear signage guided my faithful car, Bucephalus, and I to the registration area, and if I got turned around, there was always someone to set me back on the path towards the gate.

After my ritual entry, I was smoothly led through a registration process that practically didn’t need my participation. The registrars confirmed my arrival, attached a wrist band to identify my meal plan, verified that I was planning on using a tent rather than staying in a cabin, and directed me to my selected tent site, as well as to the permanent parking area for when I was done unloading. An unbreakable, invisible infrastructure kept me on task and oriented, ensuring that I would have housing and food taken care of no matter how gobsmacked I became.

Andras Corban Arthen (courtesy Megan Walker, Afon Art)

Andras Corban Arthen (courtesy Megan Walker, Afon Art)

The entire site had been transformed by a core group of village builders, who arrive some days ahead of the main body of attendees, and who numbered about 400 this year. Andras Corban Arthen, who coordinates the annual gathering with his wife, Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, recalled that in the first year, Rites of Spring was a learning experience. He said, “It quickly became apparent that rituals designed for a living room don’t work for a hundred people,” which is how many attended that first festival.

While as many as 700 have attended some years, the traditions of the EarthSpirit Community — and even the modern Pagan community — were just being formed at that time. “I had the only drum there, and no one was interested in having a fire,” Corban Arthen admits as part of recounting the history of the organization. When a fire was finally lit and some started to dance, “others were almost repulsed,” he said, because “that’s not in the book of shadows.”

Fire plays a core part in Rites of Spring each year, being kindled as part of the first ritual and providing space for personal and group sacred work throughout the week. The web of support is particularly vibrant in the fire shrine: food donations are actively sought for the drummers and dancers, water is copious, and safety protocols are always in place, but never noticeable unless needed. Want to dance into trance from sunset until sunrise? Rest assured trance spotters will be aware of you, even if you’re not aware of your own surroundings. Providing someone the space to walk their own path, but ensuring they remain hydrated and safe, is one of the many gifts found on this community’s web.

Dancing the maypole (courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

Dancing the maypole [Courtesy EarthSpirit Community]

The central ritual field is where the massive maypole is erected. It quickly becomes a focal point of community. One group seeks out the hefty pole (which is used annually as long as it can be) and brings it to the field, where the hole has been made ready by others in the ritual. Like everything the EarthSpirit Community does together, dancing the maypole is performed to the tune of original chants, to which everyone seems to know the words and tunes.

That’s partly because the words and tunes are easy to learn, and partly because so many people attend again and again. About 20% of the attendees this year were newcomers, which Pulgram Arthen said is similar to past years. However, it was not difficult to find oneself in conversation with someone who had attended 20 or 30 prior Rites of Spring, and even a nine-year-old who had technically been to ten of them.

The age range this year ran from three babies still in bellies up to 73 years of age, and there were spaces and places for all. Once the ribbons adored the maypole, the depth of this community was given face as people approached it and announced milestones from the prior year: births and deaths, graduations and jobs, joys and sorrows. Like so many traditions at this festival, the process of sharing allowed people space for their news, but was efficient enough that the energy did not lag.

Keeping hundreds of Pagans occupied from Wednesday until Monday, particularly when they are so diverse in their ages and interests, was another opportunity to deepen the web of community. This multi-day event is a time when affinity groups, fostered by EarthSpirit, are able to meet and explore common interests. The daily schedule reserved a slot for these groups alone. For example, this year’s scheduled included a slot for participants 50 and over; one for those who have studied Faery Seership; and another for those exploring the role of queer energy in Paganism. For others, this time was an opportunity to explore nature or spend time connecting with old friends. Overall, the daily schedule was designed to provide space for magical moments that make a festival come alive in one’s memories, be it over a game of cards or a quiet conversation shared under the stars.

Weaving the web (courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

Weaving the web [Courtesy EarthSpirit Community]

While affinity groups use Rites of Spring to strengthen bonds, this festival also has space for intensives: classes which take place each day to allow for some mastery of the subject. With most of these sessions taking place during the same morning slot, participants were less likely to face the age-old problem of missing out on several other workshops to join in. Options included spending the morning drumming, walking the labyrinth, learning the ways of northern or Indian traditions, or mastering the art of spinning poi. Most of these intensives were structured to allow those who arrive later in the festival to drop in and learn.

Other classes targeted specific demographics, such as the Vulva Dialogues and several aimed at the younger generation of festival-goers. The Wilderness Survival intensive, for 9-15-year-olds, may have generated the most adult envy; youngsters learned about tracking, fire-building, camouflage, and spent the night in shelters they built themselves.

Deirdre Pulgram Arthen (courtesy Megan Walker, Afon Art)

Deirdre Pulgram Arthen [Courtesy Megan Walker, Afon Art]

The web holding together the Rites of Spring is not just a metaphor: EarthSpirit Community comes together each year to weave one around the maypole, transforming the ritual field into an even more magical space. The anchoring strands, which all stand for such varied spirits as the wisdom of the elders, insights of the seeker, animals, plants, and elements, are held by adults, while young and old alike weave colorful strands throughout to create a web made of chaotic joy. Each person is given a chance to weave their piece into this web, creating a magic which lasts long after the last tent stake is pulled up.

Part of the tradition is for pieces to go home as talismans, or materials for creating something new. Two such items appeared in this year’s auction, and fetched handsome prices. The auction is another annual piece of the festival, with proceeds this year going towards sending a delegation to A Parliament of World’s Religions, and to helping to upgrade EarthSpirit’s web presence.

In addition to an amazing assortment of hand-crafted items, a number of community members put themselves on the block to be “serving wenches” of any gender for the sumptuous feast. This celebratory spread, open to all participants whether they paid for a meal plan or not, is served buffet style. Winning a server at auction means more time to spend building community, and less time on line filling one’s plate.

As was the case frequently during the week, the atmosphere of the feast was livened by Brizeus, the pipe-and-drum band which is contracted to make everything more awesome. At any time, one could be surprised by bagpipes rolling across the site’s lake, or find oneself joining in a sing-along of Beatles and Floyd played on guitar.

Within this web of music, ritual, workshop, and quiet space, there was somehow room more. Late nights at Rites featured a number of musicians, as well as DJ dance parties and karaoke blow-outs. Professional-class storytelling and fire spinning rounded out the entertainment options. Lovers of ritual could choose a Heathen blot, ancestor devotionals, Quaker silent worship, labyrinth walking, and several others focusing on various magical and religious paths. Workshops numbered in the dozens, not including the intensives already noted. There was even an opportunity for Pagans in recovery to join in 12-step meetings. The web was strong enough to allow everyone to be as busy as a bee, as quiet as a mouse, or to change gears at a moment’s notice.

Rooting out invasive plants.

Rooting out invasive plants. [Courtesy EarthSpirit Community]

Perhaps one of the most heartfelt parts of the festival is when Pagans are asked to act in accordance with their beliefs, and give back to the mountain. Groups of all ages gathered with tools and gloves to seek out and remove invasive species and litter. One Japanese barberry, in particular, showed how intractable a plant out of its place can be, breaking several tools over the course of an hour or more. But it did not break the spirt of the people intent to removing it; the massive root ball was later displayed as would any great kill would be by its hunters. This heaviest work went to those in prime physical condition, but there was also plenty of garlic mustard and litter to collect along the roadsides. Most invasives at the site come in on trucks, according to Isobel Arthen, but this annual practice has measurably reduced their impact on the land.

The transition back to everyday life can be a hard one, which is probably why it can take so long to say good-bye and hit the road. EarthSpirit has rituals to support this work, as well. Monday morning, a group of visitors sang a-maying songs throughout the camp, announcing the it was time to take down and pack up. When the community gathered one last time around the bewebbed maypole, the many people who helped to make the festival happen came forth to be acknowledged: not just the teachers and village builders and kitchen crew, but the newcomers and children and others who rounded out this temporary community were cheered.

Taking down the web was, of course, accompanied by the song “Carry it Home,” a perfect choice to help keep the magic of this time and place in one’s heart. And while most attendees sang their tearful partings as they processed back through the gate, their cars were being quietly moved around so that vehicles which had been packed like sardines were now all accessible for a quick load and leave. Even after the physical web had been taken down, the strands of support just made even those final mundane tasks a whole lot easier.