Archives For Ardantane

It is all over the mainstream news from local papers to The Washington Post: “Wiccans Sue City over Ten Commandments.” Yes this story is true. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in February on behalf of two Wiccan practitioners who were offended by the installation of a Ten Commandments monument on City Hall property in their hometown of Bloomfield, New Mexico. The lawsuit went before a U.S. District Court Monday drawing national media attention.

bloomfield nm

©jorndorf/roughshelter.com

The narrative isn’t new but the players are. Wiccans fill the plaintiffs role instead the widely expected Atheists or Humanists. In this case, the two plaintiffs are Bloomfield residents Janie Felix and Buford Coone, both members of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage. Janie is a certified clinical herbalist and High Priestess of the group. In 2000 she moved to Bloomfield New Mexico  where she began teaching Wicca 101 and herbalism at the local metaphysical shop. She says:

I quickly found there were many like-minded folks, some not knowing where to turn, some practicing solitaries and some merely dabbling. Over a period of time we formed a spiritual group, and eventually a formal coven.

Janie Felix

Janie Felix

Janie’s home now serves as the covenstead with a permanent ritual site in the backyard. That site and Buford’s home are both less than 2 miles from City Hall where the problems all began.

On April 3, 2007, Bloomfield’s Councilor Kevin Mauzy “made a presentation of a monument to display the Ten Commandments in front of Bloomfield City Hall serving as a historical and art display for the city.” As noted in the official meeting minutes, the proposal was approved and the funds were to come from “private donations from the community.” In testimony this past week, The Albuquerque Journal reports Mauzy saying, “[The monument] was not for religious purposes. It was for historical purposes and to beautify the city.”

After the approval, the Council adopted a resolution permitting private “citizens, groups and organizations” to sponsor displays on City Hall’s lawn. The official resolution outlined the scope and approval process for such an installation. For example one requirement states that all displays must reflect the “history and heritage of the City’s law and government.”

There was an almost immediate outcry from people of many religious backgrounds. At the 2007 meeting, the City Manager urged the Council to delay the monument’s approval until legal concerns were addressed. Opponents spoke at council meetings, sent letters-to-the-editor and signed petitions. One Bloomfield citizen even launched a blog called: “Bloomfield NM Ten Commandments Monument.” In one of the few entries, the writer includes a published letter to editor of The Farmington Daily Times. His words prophetically state:

Perhaps saddest of all, the City Council will no doubt cost the small town of Bloomfield large amounts of taxpayer dollars in legal fees in an attempt to defend this unconstitutional course.

Despite the myriad protests, the monument was erected in June 2011.

Present at the unveiling was Debra Dogget, volunteer coordinator of Ardantane Pagan Learning Center, former Bloomfield resident and former member of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage. Debra says, “It was very much a religious ceremony … with a great deal of talk about the Ten Commandments being the foundation of law in the US.”

In the ACLU’s complaint , Buford Coone is recorded as saying the “display shows that the City favors the Christian religion and supports Christianity over other religions [and] … violates the U.S. Constitution and the New Mexico Constitution.” In the same document, Janie Felix says, “[the monument] sends a message of exclusion to those who do not adhere to that particular religion.”

Watching the situation from her own home in New Mexico is Amber K, a Wiccan Priestess and executive director of Ardantane.  She says:

New Mexico is home to hundreds of different religious faiths, traditions, denominations and sects, who should be able to expect that government agencies will perform its duties in an unbiased, even-handed, secular manner, respecting no creed above any other. New Mexicans can be proud that citizens of many cultures and beliefs live together in mutual respect; the Bloomfield monument threatens and disrespects that fine tradition.

Debra Doggett

Debra Doggett

Amber’s statement supports Janie’s own observations about the region. She notes that there are Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Atheists, Baptists, other Protestant denominations and, in nearby Farmington, a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. In addition, the region has at least two CUUPS chapters, Ardantane Pagan Learning Center and Covenant of the Goddess’ Albquerque-based local council Chamisa. Janie also adds that the area boasts “a strong presence of Native Americans following traditional paths.”

Despite this diversity, both Janie and Debra agree that the immediate Bloomfield area has become more religiously conservative. Debra says:

The climate in Bloomfield, at least for those who work for the city, is very much controlled by Christianity and those who don’t tow that line are very much in fear of losing their jobs. There [were] many more folks who were approached to be plaintiffs … but several of them work for the City of Bloomfield and they fear for their jobs … They knew they would lose them if they agreed to sue.

But why sue? Why not simply fund a monument per the city’s resolution?  Debra points out that news articles got that point wrong. She says that there “is no longer any room for more” monuments. “The group that funded the Ten Commandments has [used] up” all the allotted space.

©jorndorf/roughshelter.com

©jorndorf/roughshelter.com

“That group” is the Four Corners Historical Monument Project which was led by councilor Kevin Mauzy himself. Twenty-one days after the 2011 monument ceremony, the Council amended the 2007 resolution stressing the limits of usable lawn space. Later that year, the group installed two other monuments, the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, within that limited space.

Was the original monument actually the city council’s endorsement of the private religious beliefs of its sitting councilors?  The ACLU believes so. The organization has been watching since 2007. After sending letters-of-concern and launching an investigation, the ACLU finally decided to file a lawsuit on Feb. 9, 2014. According to the filed complaint:

The City of Bloomfield accorded preferential treatment to the monument’s sponsors, disregarding many city ordinances and policy requirements that would regulate the monument’s installation. Public records requests also reveal that Mauzy sought and received legal advice on the monument from the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization that often advocates for the merging of government and religion.

On Monday, March 10, the case went to trial before U.S. District Judge James A. Parker in Albuquerque. Janie and Buford were both there to testify. The trial ended Thursday but the Judge is not expected to make a ruling for several weeks or even months.

On advisement from her attorneys, Janie was unable to comment further on the case. However she did say that she will be happy to share her experiences with The Wild Hunt at a future date. Until then we will have to wait to see how the next chapter in the story is written.

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

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele

The Maetreum of Cybele, which had just won an important legal victory in their property tax fight against the Town of Catskill in New York, has been the victim of another vandalism attack. The news was posted Sunday morning at the religious order’s official Facebook page. Quote: “The Maetreum was attacked again last night with four windows broken out, three in the cafe and on the second floor. The Circle W next door was also hit.. Cops taking it very seriously this time.” The reason police are taking the matter seriously is because the Maetreum was attacked by a rock-and-epithet-throwing individual back in September. Quote: “Last night while I was enjoying talking to Cathryn Platine at the Maetreum of Cybele, a teenager/young man started throwing rocks at the house. At first we thought it was just branches falling, but then the window in the kitchen broke from two rocks that were thrown through the window. It was just Cathy and I downstairs so I followed her outside. The young man ran from the bushes near the road across the road, and then began taunting us…” Are these events unconnected? Simple hooliganism? Or has the high-profile nature of the Maetreum’s tax fight brought out the haters? We’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

View from Ardantane.

View from Ardantane.

Ardantane Pagan Learning Center, located in north-central New Mexico, has launched an IndieGoGo Fundraiser to help develop land purchased adjacent to their current property into a space dedicated to the goddess Hekate, complete with stone circle. Quote: “Do you honor Hekate, the Lady of the Crossroads, Keeper of the Keys, Queen of the Witches, Goddess of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld? Then help us honor Her with land and a ritual circle, dedicated to Her in perpetuity. Ardantane Pagan Learning Center is located in north-central New Mexico, at the edge of the Jemez Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Albuquerque. We have purchased over two acres of wild land adjacent to our campus, named it Spirit Hollow, and dedicated it to Hekate, who is one of the patron deities of our school. Here we have created a stone circle for Her, and hope to add a shrine and processional way from the main campus. We also plan to hold a Hekate Retreat on the weekend nearest one of Her holy days. But we need your help.” There are a number of Hekate-themed donation perks for those who give to this initiative. The fund drive runs through the next 30 days.

Amy Martin

Amy Martin

Over at Patheos, John Beckett reports on the announced retirement of journalist Amy Martin, who ran the Texas-centric service known at Moonlady News. Quote: “Moonlady was Moonlady News, a massive moderated e-mail list for Pagan, New Age, environmental and other progressive events and causes in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, run by Amy Martin, the Moonlady.  This week Amy announced her retirement – Moonlady News will make its last run on December 20.” In her farewell letter, Martin says that she wants to devote her life to personal writing. Quote: “With the completion of Moonlady News as we know it, Moonlady retires as well. I’ve been an activist since I was 12. Over 45 years, 20 of it with the Moonlady community, working every day for a better world. My passion, my core identity, is being a writer and I must devote myself to that. I’m not getting younger and there are a few major creative projects baying at the gate to be completed. That’s kind of scary, having no more excuses, but exciting. I am grateful for you all. Someday I’ll tell the full story, of how knowing you were out there, and being of service to you, kept me going through the worst time of my life.” My hats off to her, and I wish Amy Martin well with her writing. The work she is doing is important, and I hope her example inspires others. You can also donate to defray the operating costs of the site.

 In Other Pagan Community News:

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  • The recently debuted Australia-centered Other Magazine is already giving sneak peeks at the next issue, including an article on Australia’s oldest Pagan festival gathering. Quote: “When Michel Marold first visited Mt Franklin in 1978 he was awed by the ancient natural feature, and soon tapped in to the liminal ‘otherness’ and primal power of the place, connecting to an invisible current that had lit up the caldera of the extinct volcano for thousands of years.” You can subscribe here.
  • Alex Mar, director of the recent documentary film “American Mystic” (featuring Morpheus Ravenna), is currently researching contemporary American Pagan ideas about funerary rites. She is now specifically seeking thoughts on funeral pyres and excarnation (a.k.a. sky burial) as traditional practices that have yet to be introduced in this country. If you have a personal interest in either of these rites, whether for yourself or a loved one, and would like to share your thoughts and opinions, please contact her. She is seeking Pagan perspectives from all regions of the country. You can reach Alex Mar at:funeraryrites@gmail.com.
  • The Pagan Writers Press Blog is inviting you to a Winter Solstice Blog Hop. Quote: “Beginning 12/6/13, the authors at Pagan Writers Press are putting together a holiday blog hop and we want YOU to join us! If you are an author or a book blogger, sign to to join us for the fun. […] Your blog post can be about winter holidays, winter memories, the season of winter. What is your favorite memory of winter? Does the season inspire you to write? You can write about the solstice, about any winter holidays, about the snow or the season, about your characters experiences of the season, flash fiction or an excerpt dealing with winter or the holidays.”
  • I know it’s Winter, but registration for the 2014 Pagan Spirit Gathering this Summer has now officially opened. Quote: “Throughout the Gathering, there are hundreds of program activities including rituals, concerts, workshops, panels, meetings, intensives, revels, dancing, drumming, firespinning, and bonfires. There are also a variety of youth program activities including specific programming for children, tweens, and teens. In addition, there is leadership training for Pagan ministers and other leaders through the Pagan Leadership Institute.” Theme this year is “Heart and Harmony.”
  • Starhawk’s IndieGoGo campaign to fund diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings is still ongoing. Quote: “One week into our fundraiser and we’ve already reached over 10% of our goal! So thankful to all who have supported this already!! Please help us reach 100% and help us spread the word.”
  • Ásatrúarfélagið in Iceland recently held their General Assembly, and the legendary Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson has been elected to another five-year term as Chief Goði for the Asatru organization. Congratulations to him!

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

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Sunday.

Ardantane Needs Infrastructure: Ardantane, a Pagan learning center in the Jemez Mountains (that’s in New Mexico), is holding a fundraiser through IndieGoGo to help build a free-standing eco-friendly handicapped-accessible restroom/shower.

Ardantane

“One rather glaring problem with our facilities is – a lack of restrooms. We have one small toilet in the staff residence, but it’s not handicapped-accessible. Thus we created the HARRE Potty Project: “HARRE” stands for Handicapped-Accessible RestRoom, Eco-friendly. We figure it will cost about $15-16,000 to build a fairly spacious, free-standing restroom with two toilets, two sinks and a shower, and tie it into our water treatment system (which goes to a drip irrigation system to water our “Oasis”). We have eight or nine thousand raised, but will need about $7,000 more to get the project done. You can help!”

It’s a flexible-funding campaign, so all donations made will go towards the project. There are 28 days left in the fundraiser, and a number of perks available to those who donate.

  • Dan Halloran Undergoing Brain Surgery: New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Theodish Heathen Dan Halloran is undergoing brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. Quote: “On Wednesday, I will undergo a neurosurgical procedure to remove a benign tumor.  It’s a lengthy operation that will require me to remain in the hospital for the rest of the week.  Then, after all goes well, I’ll return home to rest and recuperate.  My doctors expect a speedy recovery, and I hope to be back on my feet within a few weeks — and get back to the business of serving you in City Hall and fighting for our district, the middle class, and our shared values.” We wish Halloran a quick and speedy recovery.
  • SPLC Reports on Odinist Terrorist: The Southern Poverty Law Center reports on the sentencing of white supremacist Wayde Lynn Kurt, who was accused of plotting to assassinate President Barack Obama. Kurt, 54, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges related to firearms and forgery. Tapes played during the trial showed Kurt saying that Obama “needs to be killed.” Kurt was involved in the racist Odinist group “Vangard Kindred” (whose co-founder is also in trouble with the law). FBI Special Agent Joseph Cleary testified that he believed “Mr. Kurt had a terrorist plan that involved the president of the United States.” During the trial, prosecutors played a video of a Odinist blot Kurt took part in, where the Norse pantheon was invoked to protect them from other races, with Nazi flags flying in the background.
  • Skyclad Ritual in India: The Times of India reports on the remote village of Handanakerae, where once a year women clad only in leaves give homage to the goddess Gonimaradamma in return for answered prayers. Quote: “I prayed to goddess Gonimaradamma for my family’s well-being. She fulfilled my demands and that’s why I performed this service. No family member or any villager forced me to do this ritual. I’ve been getting good things from the goddess and so I do this service for her. What’s wrong in it?” Women who participate in the ritual are treated as manifestations of the goddess, and any misbehavior is heavily frowned on, believing it would bring punishment from Gonimaradamma.

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

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

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The raging Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico, which has been threatening the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is also within 20 miles of Ardantane, a Pagan learning center in the Jemez Mountains. According to the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) PIO blog, there’s no immediate danger as “wind is blowing in a direction away from Ardantane and towards Los Alamos.”

Ardantane

Here’s a statement released today by Ardantane:

“By now, many of you have heard that a huge wildfire is raging in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. (Our campus is located about six miles south of Jemez Springs). At this point, the Las Conchas Fire is moving away from Ardantane, and toward Los Alamos. Very bad news for Los Alamos, which was hit hard in the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000. The fire is now at 60,000 acres (which I believe is the largest in NM state history) and 0% contained. There is significant smoke at Ardantane, and if it gets worse we might have to evacuate resident staff and visitors. But so far there is no immediate danger to the campus. If conditions change, we will provide an update here. Thanks to the many people who have offered shelter in the homes, in case of evacuation. If you would like to help, please work magick for rain here, and for the safety of firefighters and all those in the fire’s path.”

COG National First Officer Peter Dybing, who has participated in hands-on activism in places like earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince in Haiti, and in clean-up efforts on the Gulf Coast, in addition to helping raise over 30K for Japan relief, has been dispatched to the area as a firefighter by the US Forest Service and FEMA.

We will keep you updated on any new developments.