Archives For Ardantane

TWH – In the wake of Tuesday’s U.S. Presidential election, talk of racism, bigotry, misogyny and hatred has been sweeping conversations, both public and private. In some circles, the rise of President Elect Donald Trump has been compared to the rise of Hitler, and the phenomenon of his success has been compared to that of the Nazi party of the 1930s. With this energy feeding public discourse around the world, Pagans and practitioners of similar earth-based paths are preparing to deal with the possible changes that could come from such a seemingly dramatic shift within the government of the world’s leading superpower.

As a response to the increasing frequency of hate and hate crimes in North America, the New Mexico-based Ardantane Pagan Learning Center invited Canadian Pagan Kerr Cuhulain, to deliver a two-part online class, “Dealing With Hate Crimes”.

Cuhulain lives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada. He is a regular member of the Ardantane faculty and offers various classes via the internet to Ardantane students across North America. He is a retired police officer and dispatcher, who has been a Wiccan for 48 years. During his professional career, he was deeply involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crimes investigations on behalf of Pagan community.

Despite being retired now from the Vancouver Police Department, Cuhulain still takes an active interest in fighting back against intolerant anti-Pagan propaganda. Cuhulain is also the author of a number of Pagan books, including Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca, Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training, Witch Hunts and The Wizard: The Story of the First Wiccan Cop to go Public About His Pagan Beliefs.

The relationship between Canada and the U.S. is a close one. On the night of the U.S. presidential election, citizens on both sides of the world’s longest unprotected border sat and watched as the results were reported. In Canada, American politics often outshine domestic ones, dominating the media we share and possessing more scandal and intrigue than domestic news.

For Cuhulain, who is married to an American, this election had some personal overtones. Many of the messages and patterns seen in the media coverage were, he said, familiar to his previous investigations. “What happened back in the 80s and 90s is this thing they called the Satanic Panic, which was an urban legend, or series of urban legends that were launched and sent through the communities in an attempt to create the illusion that there is a problem out there, so that the people putting the information out there could present themselves as the solution,” he explained.

In his online class, he laid out the history of the Satanic Panic, and the strategies used to persecute those deemed “Satanists,” which also included many people of minority faiths – Wiccans being one of the most named. Cuhulain went on to say, “Now there is a new generation out there who isn’t familiar with this history and now it could happen again. I am starting to get requests again, about this stuff, so obviously people are starting to try to do it again. I’m retired, but I have this information and I don’t have a problem putting it out there, so people can see how (hate crimes) happened and recognize these things when they happen again. “

Pagan author & teacher, Kerr Cuhulain (courtesy photo)

Pagan author & teacher, Kerr Cuhulain (courtesy photo)

Throughout his career, Trump has been quoted as reportedly making many uninformed, bigoted, and racist remarks. Cuhulain warns that such rhetoric can lead to copycat behavior in the general public. “We’ve got a red-haired political candidate running for president in the States who is a narcissistic personality disorder,” Cuhulain said. “And, he is putting out all kinds of misinformation and this encourages other people to do the same. They figure that ‘if someone at that level can get away with it, I ought to be able to do it on my level.’ ”

During Cuhulain’s presentation, one point he stressed is that the projected hate is typically instigated by a very small number of bigoted people, who use various tactics and techniques to make it appear that their opinion is shared by the majority. This can cause the “us against them” sentiment witnessed in Trump’s campaign. By manipulating the media and fears of the people, the few make themselves appear larger than they really are.

Many are now worried that the Trump victory will contribute to what already appears to be an increase in hate crimes. When asked his opinion, Cuhulain said that he wouldn’t rule that out. “It is a possibility that has certainly occurred to me. We are seeing it – we’re seeing people intimidating voting groups that they don’t want to see come to the polls; we are seeing vandalism and all kinds of violent things happening.”

“It’s encouraging people to be paranoid,” he went on to explain. “That is what the Satanic Panic was about; this paranoia that there is the problem, and ‘if we only get rid of THEM, then we’ll be OK.” When the political discourse of America includes proposing a wall to keep out Mexicans, or halting immigration from certain religious or ethnic groups, we see the instilling of the same sort of paranoia.”

Alongside this current of fear, there has also been a spirit of defiance, and a proactive approach by religious and spiritual groups to build a capacity to uncover and combat hate crimes. Ardantane Pagan Learning Center’s offering of Cuhulain’s class is only one example; other individuals and religious groups are also reaching out to Cuhulain, in order to take advantage of his expertise and long history of investigating these cases.

“Yesterday I had a request from a professor in the department of sociology at Chapman University, which is a Christian university in Orange, California, asking for all of the information I may have on Cavalcade Productions, who was one of the supporters of the Satanic Panic, and put out many films and videos and publications,” he said.

“They are starting to teach courses on how people did these hate crimes and how they used them to create these pop therapies, and obviously they see it as an issue too, at this university, that within their community, this is a problem. I am glad to see them taking this approach. When I was doing this work, allot of the people investigating were not just pagans like myself, but Christians who were concerned about the perception that people were going to have about their community, because of this vocal minority using hate to gain power, money and influence.”

The definitions of what constitutes a hate crime will vary by country, state, or region. A general definition, which is given by researchers Garofalo and Martin, states that a hate crime is:

A bias-motivated crime is a crime in which the offender is motivated by a characteristic of the victim that identifies the victim as a member of some group towards which the offender feels some animosity.

If you are the victim of something you suspect may qualify as a hate crime, Cuhulain suggests that you do some research to see if your experience falls within the definition of your community. You can send an email or phone a reputable faculty of theology, look online at law, or reach out to local government or law enforcement to understand the definitions of what constitutes a hate crime.

Ardantane is planning to schedule another session of “Dealing With Hate Crimes” early in the New Year. This will once again be an online class, presented in two, one-hour sessions.

Cherry Hill SeminaryCOLUMBIA, S.C. — Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) has announced the launch of a new Community Ministry Certificate. In partnership with the Sacred Well Congregation, the new 15-month program is designed to lead to ministerial credentials. The program covers such topics as ethics, leading ritual, diversity understanding, family dynamics, addiction and more.

As we previously reported, CHS has recently found itself at a crossroads. Director Holli Emore has said, “Unpredictable cash flow has compromised our ability to be sustainable. The nature of the extended Pagan community, the economy, and even the very face of higher education have all changed dramatically in the past decade.”

Despite that struggle, the organization is continuing operation, keeping its commitment to students. The new ministerial program is part of that work. In a press release, CHS notes that they never offered this type of training before because, as they explain, times were different: “Most people belonged to covens, and some of those leaders advised CHS founders of a concern that students would leave their home group if they got training elsewhere. Now a large percentage of Pagans surveyed say that they are either solitary by choice or unaffiliated with a group for other reasons. Finally, most tradition training does not cover the topics taught at a seminary.”

Registration for the new program begins in November. In meantime, CHS has just launched a new survey to help gather input “in planning [their] programs so that they can best meet [the community’s] needs.”

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heathercooperPARKERSBURG, W.Va — It was announced that the city council of Parkersburg had a change of heart and has lifted the ban on fortune telling. The reversal to the July decision came Tuesday, surprising many locals. Heather Cooper, who had initially challenged the law, was there to witness the vote, and told a local journalist, “I figured it would be passed, but when they finally said it was passed we weren’t really sure that it was passed. We figured there would be a lot more to it. So we were like what?”

As we previously reported in June, Cooper had discovered that fortune telling was banned in the city. As a result, she was unable to fully operate Hawthorn, her new metaphysical store that focused primarily on tarot reading. When she challenged the old code, the city council upheld the ban. At the time, Cooper pledged to fight, launching a GoFundMe campaign that ended up raising $500 to cover legal retaining fees.

Then, this past Tuesday, the ban was dropped. We caught up with Cooper, and she briefly explained what happened to change the city’s mind. “The ACLU wrote them a letter, telling them it was unconstitutional. Parkersburg lost a lawsuit the last time the ACLU was involved over panhandlers. [The city] lost $80,000. The city attorney told them they had to pass it.”

Cooper added that it helped that she had already hired a lawyer, saying, “[My lawyer] was also talking to other city council members. City councilman Brown decided to change his vote from no to yes, which got the ordinance back on the agenda. From there the ACLU did the rest of the convincing. Sounds like they can be quite persuasive.”

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TWHThe Wild Hunt has begun its  annual Fall Fund Drive. Since 2004, The Wild Hunt has been serving its global readership with modern Pagan news and commentary. What began as an informative, community-minded blog has slowly and steadily grown into one of the most widely-read nonprofit online news magazines for modern Pagans, Witches, Polytheists, and Heathens in the world. Today, our reliable, independent news agency is made up of a 16-member team of reporters, columnists, and editorial staff, all of whom make sure that you receive relevant, well-crafted, original content every day of the week.

During our annual Fall Fund Drive, we ask that you help us continue to do that; to continue to be here for you every single day. We are grateful for the support you have already shown that has allowed us to come as far as we have. With your continued support, we’ll do our best to repay your generosity by expanding and growing our delivery.

For more on our fall campaign, the exciting perks, our future goals, and other fun TWH facts, go to our newly launched IndieGoGo campaign. And, while you are there, consider donating today and sharing the link. Support independent, nonprofit, Pagan journalism!

In Other News:

  • Norse Mythology blogger Karl E. H. Seigfried recently sat down with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. In that interview, Seigfried and Stein discuss a number of very current issues, one of which is her awareness of non-Abrahamic religions. In response to one question, she said, in part, that one of our contemporary challenges is”to find our common humanity and overcome the sense of fear, otherness, and divisions by embracing each other as members of the same human family. We may tell different stories, but that’s okay. Different stories are enriching the traditions of us all.” The entire interview is published on The Norse Mythology Blog.
  • The California-based Academy of Arcana, launched last year by Oberon Zell and several colleagues, is continuing its quest for more funding. In recent letter, board member Emrys Dragonseye said, “I pen this letter to you with a heavy mind, for there comes a time in all our lives when we reflect back upon the path that has led us to where we are today […] Sadly, we have seen too many of our revered elders pass through the veil in recent years as age and its accompanying trials continue to erode their mortality.” Dragonseye goes on to say that the Academy of Arcana’s new board is working “toward the goal of seeking out a means by which to preserve the Zell’s museum and library collections of Pagan archives and artifacts.” The board is calling to the Pagan community for assistance. In a second letter directly to The Wild Hunt, Dragonseye confirmed that this call to action has nothing to do with Zell’s own health. He said that Zell “is doing fine,” and only “a bit disheartened at watching so many of loved ones, friends, and close associates pass away.”
  • The New Mexico-based Ardantane Learning Center will be hosting a “Hate Crimes” two-part lecture series featuring Kerr Cuhulain. The event page explains, “People use misinformation to paint ugly and slanderous pictures of others to further their pursuit of power, influence, and prosperity. Kerr shares the lessons he learned dealing with hate crimes during the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s and his experiences with educating law enforcement and other public agencies about Pagan religions. This course is based on Kerr’s 25 years as a hate crimes investigator.” The two classes will be available online Oct. 16 and 23.

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  • Rev. Patrick McCollum and his work were recently featured in The Interfaith Observer. Written by Ruth Boyde Sharone, the article is titled, “An Instrument of Thy Peace” and focuses on his violin in advance of the upcoming UN International Day of Peace, Sept. 21. McCollum told The Wild Hunt, “I am so honored to have my work selected to represent this momentous occasion, and I hope to continue to shift the consciousness of the world to a new meta-narrative that promotes the truth that we are all family and that there isn’t an us versus them, there is only us.”
  • The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, located in Boscastle, England, will reportedly appear in a future episode of “Antiques Roadshow.” Museum managers Judith and Peter Hewitt took one of the artifacts to the show’s nearby filming event in hopes of it being used for the “Enigma Game.” The item was chosen and filmed for reportedly five minutes with the Hewitts in the background. The museum has posted several photos and more about that experience on its site.
  • In response to the continued actions and support for the Great Sioux Nation and the Standing Rock protests, blogger Melissa Hill felt compelled to publish her thoughts about the place of magic and meditation in this work. In Singing the Cricket Song for Standing Rock Tribe, Hill wrote, “[Magic] in no way replaces the physical work of the protesters. It doesn’t replace sending money and supplies, or contacting your governmental representatives, or signing petitions. But it does have a place.”

If you have news tips, events, or story suggestions, contact us.

TAOS, NM — After four hours of deliberation a Taos jury found 51-year-old West Virginia native Ivan Dennings Cales Jr. guilty of the murder of Roxanne Houston and of tampering with evidence. During the investigation as was brought forward during the trial, the state found data and gathered testimonies, suggesting that the accused may have been on a modern day Witch hunt.

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

Houston, a Wiccan practitioner from Colorado, disappeared in July 2014 after moving to New Mexico. Her body was found by a hiker near the “Two Peaks area” in December of that same year. According to a local news agency, “Elizabeth Hagerty said she was walking with her husband, Robert, and their two dogs when one canine began rolling on what appeared to be a burnt part of a brassiere.” Police later identified the body as Houston’s and launched an investigation.

Prior to her 2014 disappearance in New Mexico, Houston’s life was reportedly complicated and unstable. According to her estranged ex-husband George Houston, Roxy, as she was called, was bi-polar and had been off medication for quite some time. She has four children, who all live with adoptive parents, and was frequently moving between relationships.

In June 2015, Mr. Houston, a non-Pagan, laments his own involvement and failures to help his wife. In a public Facebook post, he demonstrates his continued affection for her, despite their past problems. He pledged to fight for justice in the courts.

As the story goes, Roxy reportedly left Colorado in 2013 with a boyfriend, and arrived in Carson, NM. The couple camped for some time and, eventually, moved into a home with several other male housemates. She lived at that location until her death.

Houston was last seen hiking in June 2014, but her body wasn’t discovered for six months. Then, after a long investigation, Cales was found living at a local shelter and arrested Feb 23, 2015. The Taos Sheriff’s office noted that this case was particularly difficult because many of the involved parties were “transients,” including Cales, who had only arrived in New Mexico in April 2014.

In a post on the Rainbow Gathering Family site, Cales described himself as a survivalist, and includes “loves the outdoors. open minded. non drug user. native American beliefs.” In 1999, he renounced his American citizenship in an AIM forum titled, “The American Indian Movement” on the basis that the government was illegal. He reportedly met Houston when he moved into the residence where she was living.

During the March trial, Cales’ cellmate Raymond Martinez reportedly testified that Cales actually claimed “Native American” heritage and connected that fact to his motivation to kill Witches. He reportedly said that he was on a “witch-hunt” and that Houston was a Witch. As the local paper reports:

He testified Cales drew pictures of a witch hunt […] He said Cales told him he was Native American, and that Native Americans believed if a witch cast a spell on them, they needed to kill the witch to break the spell. Artwork that looked like pencil sketches of a witch hunt — done in jail and presumably signed by Cales as “Kwenishguery Manito Lenepe Witch Hunter 2000”— were exhibited in the courtroom as evidence.

Another witness Thomas Thebo reportedly testified that Cales said, “If a Wiccan ever cast a spell on him, he would have to kill the witch to get rid of the spell.” We reached out to the Lenape Nation for a reaction to the testimony, but did not get a response back by publication time.

In a number of media interviews, Cales’ defense attorney Thomas Clark calls the Witchcraft testimony “nonsense.” Before the trial began, he filed a motion to have these documents and the Martinez testimony removed from the case. The motion was denied. All evidence pointing to the Witch hunt was included.

District attorney Donald Gallegos also suggested that Cales was in love with Houston, making the alleged Witchcraft accusations simply a mask. In his public post asking for prayers, Houston’s ex-husband also suggested that there may have been a love triangle. But Gallegos also reminded reporters, “the unrequited love and the witch theories are just that — theories. However, he and his staff are sure that Cales is Houston’s killer.”

Houston was given what was called a “New Age, mystic, pagan service” funeral. Her boyfriend and other roommates did not attend. We reached out to several local Pagans in the region, but did not get a response by publication time.

While Roxy’s mental illness was well-known and led to instability, she was remembered fondly by the few that knew her. As reported in the news, “several local residents […] remembered her for the compassion she is said to have demonstrated towards neighbors. Houston reportedly worked as a caretaker for one neighbor and is also said to have lent a hand distributing food to Carson area residents.”

Upon learning the guilty verdict, Houston’s friend Cheryl Bailey Payne wrote a note to the Taos Sheriff’s office, saying “Thank you from the bottom of not only my, but my daughter’s, and Roxanne’s sister’s hearts – RIP Roxanne – we love you!!”

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Although Houston’s case was not labeled a hate crime, the concerns over such aggression and violence directed at Witches and other minorities do loom in the background for many. Ardanane Learning Center, located in New Mexico, will be running an online two-part seminar dealing specifically with the subject of “Hate Crimes.”

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Over those two days, instructor and former investigator Kerr Cuhulain will “share the lessons he learned dealing with hate crimes during the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s and his experiences with educating law enforcement and other public agencies about Pagan religions.” The classes will take place on March 26 and April 2.

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Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

On Thursday June 18, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a “teaching letter,” also called an encyclical, on the environment. This highly anticipated document will most likely become big news of the week as the Pope enters the debates on climate change. A recent New York Times article suggested that, through this work, he is “seeking to redefine a typically secular discussion within a religious framework.” Many activists, around the world, stand ready to applaud his efforts to publicly engage in the global Earth Stewardship conversation and, thereby, hopefully increase pressure on communities, businesses, organizations and governments to enact change.

To some Pagans and others, who already position the Earth or a connection to natural systems of place, at the center of their spiritual practice, the need for such a document might seem superfluous. However, the team who created the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment did a very similar thing. They made a public statement that clearly positions environmental protection within a spiritual framework.  Now, many Pagans view the pending encyclical as an opportunity to demonstrate, in a concrete fashion, that people of different religious beliefs can stand together for one cause. Writer John Halstead said:

I wonder if the timing of the publication of ‘A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment‘ and the papal encyclical on the environment might be an opportunity for the beginning of a rapprochement between Pagans and Christians. No doubt this will be difficult for both, as we tend to define ourselves in contrast to each other … It can be difficult to see this when we are immersed in our own distinct paths. But when we suddenly find those paths intersecting, as they are at this moment, perhaps we can reconsider whether we — and all other life on Earth — would be better served by emphasizing our similarities, rather than our differences.

As for the Pagan statement itself, it is now has 6, 272 signatures, coming from people all over the world and many religions.

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In the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, there is a small metaphysical store called Raven and Crone. Although the store has only been around a short time, it has been making headlines in one of the city’s local magazines. In a recent article in Capital at Play, writer Roger McCredie featured the store in an article titled “Raven & Crone: Asheville’s Most Bewitching Retailers: Wiccan Make This Work.”  McCredie writes, “In recent decades a saying has arisen that there are probably more Wiccans in the woods of Southern Appalachia than there are rabbits. The sentiment may be fairly new, but the fact it addresses is as old as human habitation of these mountains.” He refers largely to the traditional magical practices and spiritual beliefs found within the Appalachian region.

The store is owned by Lisa Svencicki and Kim Strobel. In the article, McCredie, who is not Pagan, interviews them both about their backgrounds, the decisions that led to the store’s birth and how they are doing. He writes, “Lisa and Kim saw the runic writing on the wall and decided the time was right to create a retail source that could serve the whole spectrum of Asheville’s growing alternative religion communities and also to cross-market to the general public.” The entire article, originally published in print, is available online. Raven & Crone, which bills itself as “the only only “Old Age” metaphysical supply store,” is located on Merriman Avenue near the University campus.

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Christopher Lee at the Women's World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

Christopher Lee at the Women’s World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

On June 7, actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015) passed way at the age of 93. Lee is remembered for a number of roles, including Dracula in group of Hammer Horror films and the Man with the Golden Gun in the James Bond film franchise (1974).  However, younger movie goers will recognize him as Count Dooku or Darth Tyranus in the Star Wars series (2002-2008), or as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2012-2014). And, many Pagans will also recognize him as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Lee was born in London in 1922; in the early years of the film industry. During WWII, he served as an “intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces.” He returned to London in 1946 and began his illustrious acting career. After sixty-three years of work, Lee was knighted in 2009 for his contribution to the arts.  Known for his deep voice, Lee was also a singer and recorded a number of operas during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, at the age of 88, he recorded a symphonic metal album called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and Cross” and then in 2013 “Charlemagne: the Omens of Death.”

Lee’s career was extensive, full and long-lived. Through his artistic legacy and the characters he brought to life, he will continue to entertain generations to come.  What is remembered, lives.

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In Other News

  • Twin Cities Pagan Pride has just released details about its Paganicon 2016 conference. The theme for its 6th year will be “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions & Voices” and the guest of honor will be T.Thorn Coyle. Organizers said, “We walk this world together; we have different spiritual ways of interacting with our deities, our ancestors, our families, and our rites, but ultimately we share many similar traditions and techniques of relating to the sacred.” Next year’s event will celebrate and honor this diversity. Submissions for programming will be accepted later this week.  In addition, organizers are currently holding a related T-Shirt design contest. Entry rules are posted on the website. Paganicon 2016 will be held from March 18-20 at the Double Tree Park Place in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Lydia M. Nettles Crabtree’s book Family Coven: Birthing Hereditary Witchcraft has just been released. Crabtree has been researching and writing this book for over ten years. She calls it a “comprehensive guide to developing a family oriented spiritual practice … covering the basics of communication, relationship building, finances and parenting.”
  • Coming in October is Cernnunos Camp, a five day festival devoted to the Horned God. Organizers say, “Come and feel the antlered mysteries and abandon yourselves in a celebration of wild unfettered worship of Him with hand, tooth, claw, hoof and feet. Bring your bodies, your drums and rattles, antlers, masks and other ceremonial tools.” Cernnunos Camp will take place from October 14-18 in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Over at Patheos’ The Agora, Dana Corby recalls the making of the album “Songs for the Old Religion.” As the story begins: “In 1973, a friend of mine returned to Southern California from a visit to a Wiccan gathering in the Bay Area telling me about a musician he had met by the name of Gwydion Pendderwyn who had a songbook full of wonderful music … “  Corby then goes on to describe the process and spirit that led to actual recording of the music.  She writes, “We didn’t know we were pioneering anything, or that there would soon be a booming cottage industry in self-produced Pagan music. We just wanted to “show ‘em how it should be done!” This post, which is marked as part one, provides a nice look into some of the early history of the modern Pagan movement in the United States.

songs of old religion

  • On June 5, a writer for Motherboard published an article called “Pop Culture Pagans Who Draw Power From Tumblr.”  The article discusses the use of Pop Cultural icons within magical and religious practice, as well as the controversies surrounding it.  A number of Pagans were quoted or interviewed for the discussion, including author Christine Hoff Kraemer, lawyer and witch Emily Carlin, and editor Taylor Ellwood, who has published a number of books on Pop Culture Magick. In the Motherboard article, Carlin explains, “For those of us who grew up stewing in pop culture, using those ideas in magick seems only natural.” In addition, Carlin has published the writer’s full interview on her own site.
  • Organizers of the upcoming 2016 Pagan Music Festival have recently announced some changes to the spring event. Originally the festival was to be hosted by Dragon Hills in Bowdon, Georgia. However, those plans fell through. Organizers have successfully relocated the festival to Cherokee Farm in LaFayette, Georgia, which is only 2 hours north of its original location. In addition, the event has been renamed to The Caldera Pagan Music Festival. Organizers did add that programming ha not changed; more than 20 bands are scheduled to perform over the 4 days from May 26-30. More information can be found on their website.
  • Tomorrow, Ardantane Learning Center will begin a new “Teaching intensive with Ina White Owl and Amber K.”  The four week course will instruct students on how to “teach more powerfully and effectively,” including “creating lesson plans, working with psychic energies in classrooms, communicating on multiple levels, evaluating your own strengths as a teacher, and handling various other challenges.” Teacher and author Amber K is the executive director of Ardantane, which is located in the deserts of New Mexico. The teaching intensive will be held Tuesdays at 7 pm from June 16-July 7. Registration is now open.

That’s all for now,  Have a nice day!

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.