Archives For Austin

FORT WORTH, Texas –Members of the Council of Magickal Arts, or CMA, are standing up to help make the organization whole after it was discovered that its director of finance, Alicia Wilson, had reportedly spent more than $4,000 out of operating funds on personal purchases. Wilson was elected to the position at the Texas-based council’s annual Samhain festival last year. The first unauthorized purchase occurred less than three months later, on January 25, 2016.

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The embezzlement represents about half of CMA’s operating budget, according Megan Dobson, the council’s interim director of communications. Even so, plans for Samhain 2016 continue unabated.

“Far from being imperiled, it promises to be an outstanding festival,” Dobson said. “We will be welcoming internationally-published author and activist M. Macha Nightmare as our featured guest speaker . . . it’s all coming together to create an amazing event!”

According to the official account, Wilson embezzled $4,160.22 between late January and April 29, when corporate officer Gary Parks discovered the unauthorized charges. While past directors of finance provided board members with read-only access to financial information, this was one of several practices that Wilson had not reportedly followed. CMA bylaws require that generally-accepted accounting principles (GAAP) be used, “but they do not dictate a specific system,” explained Dobson.

“The financial system previously in place had not been passed as official policy; a set of procedures and guidelines was passed on from one director of finance to the next. Ms. Wilson changed the system by writing all the checks herself, and, as a result, the previous practice of oversight was circumvented.”

This Samhain, CMA members will be asked to vote on a package of reforms to prevent that situation from happening again. “The new system requires that one person writes the checks, a second person keeps the books, and the director of finance is responsible for overseeing both persons. Additionally, the entire board of directors has access to view the accounts and the accounting software system at any time,” said Dobson.

Spirithaven, CMA's grounds 2002 [Courtesy Wren / Witchvox]

Spirithaven, CMA’s dedicated grounds 2002 [Photo Credit: Wren / Witchvox]

While the unauthorized withdrawals did take place over several months, once discovered the reaction was both swift and transparent. Wilson was reportedly removed from all accounts and asked to explain her actions. After claiming that she had inadvertently used the wrong card to make purchases, she reportedly said that she would reimburse the CMA account on May 1.

That payment was not forthcoming, and Wilson resigned from the board for “personal reasons” May 5. D. Blaze Johnson, a prior finance director, was made Wilson’s interim replacement a few days later. By May 13, she had confirmed how much money was missing. With that information, board members agreed to hire an attorney, and it notified the full membership May 29, which happened to be the same day that a town hall meeting was already scheduled.

By the time of that meeting, Wilson had reportedly signed a restitution agreement under which she would pay $300 monthly. If it is not kept, the remainder of those funds — presently on the books as a debt owed — will be re-characterized as an “excess benefit transaction,” and Wilson will be hit with a 25% excise tax on that sum.

In addition, on May 29, board members suspended Wilson’s CMA membership for a year and a day. In October, the full membership will decide if that is sufficient, or if other sanctions should be considered.

Nevertheless, board members have acknowledged that this incident was likely preventable. “The situation should never have been allowed to occur in the first place and the board has taken immediate steps to ensure that it never happens again,” said Dobson. Those steps include the institution of new policies expected to be ratified this October.

“Institutional knowledge from past boards concerning checks and balances on the director of finance was lost,” a situation which the new rules should prevent.

“No system is perfect, and a determined thief will find a way,” said Dobson. “However, the new system is now codified, has more checks and balances, and will allow future boards to identify a problem, if there is one, early on.”

Members of the council have rallied to keep the organization whole, as Dobson recounted, “The recent Phoenix Rising benefit concert, masterfully organized by our Austin Area Lead Representative, raised approximately $1,600 to replace the monies lost. Shortly after the embezzlement loss was reported to our membership, two members approached me; they said that they’d been considering buying a lifetime membership for a while, and that now seemed like the time that CMA needed it most. Between the benefit, the lifetime memberships, and smaller donations made by individual members, we have at this point been able to replace all the stolen funds. It’s been amazing, watching our community come together in support of CMA and its future.”

TWH was unable to locate Ms. Wilson for comment, but she did submit a report to the council’s newsletter, The Accord, for its spring 2016 issue. In addition to updating members on a variety of routine expenses, she wrote, “I am working diligently to get to the transparency that the membership wants and so do we.”

logo trothTWHAs we reported last week, the Asatru Folk Assembly made public statements on its Facebook page that ignited an immediate backlash from users, which then spilled out across Heathen communities, the blogsophere and beyond. In reaction to those Facebook statements, a number of Heathen organizations and individuals publicly responded to the AFA posting.

On its website, The Troth published “An Official Statement from The Troth.” It reads, in part: “The Troth stands against the AFA’s vision of what Asatru should be, and we do not recognize their beliefs as representative of a majority of American Asatru (Heathenry). There are no arbiters of who can and cannot worship our deities, but the Gods themselves.”  The Troth, founded in 1987, is one of the biggest international, non-profit Heathen organizations.

Similarly, Heathens United Against Racism posted its own statement, saying “We wholeheartedly condemn the recent statements made by the Asatru Folk Assembly […] There are no words to express how strongly we are revolted by their clear, unquestionable embrace of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and pure bigotry.” Other groups and bloggers, Heathen and Pagan alike, published discussions on the topic throughout the week. We highlighted two different viewpoints, Jön Upsal’s Gardener and Josh at Heathen Talk, in yesterday’s edition of Pagan Voices.

To date, AFA’s only public reaction to any of these statements was to thank the general online community for bringing attention to the group’s Facebook page, and its own community for rallying behind its statements. Marc MacLeod ended the response by saying: “We will be clear and stand by our values, but we don’t need to change anyone’s minds, we just have to provide a place for our folk, that have the same world view, to go. That is our mission and that’s what we will continue to do.”

We will continue to watch this story and report as needed.

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logoCANNON BALL, N.D. — The elders of the Seven Council Fires, members of the Great Sioux Nation, have come together to protest the building of the $3.7 billion dollar Dakota pipeline near Standing Rock. As reported by Indian Country in May, private construction had already begun despite protests at the time. Since that point, there has been an outpouring of support for the local community and that support continues to grow daily. Not only has the Great Sioux Nation itself has come together, but other tribes from around the country have brought support as well.

Members of Pagan and Heathen communities have also been joining the protests to stop the pipeline and keep the local land and waterways clean. Some individuals went directly to the North Dakota sites to aide activists at Sacred Stone Camp and elsewhere. Others have been raising awareness locally or online, and shipping funds and supplies to the area.

Solar Cross founder T. Thorn Coyle said, in part, “Solar Cross supports native sovereignty. Genocide, cultural oppression, theft, and broken promises have been hallmarks of white occupation of this continent. The Sioux and other nations who gather in defense of their land and water, in defense of the sacred earth, and of their own autonomy, have called on us all to help.” Solar Cross has been raising funds to purchase supplies for the activists at Sacred Stone Camp, including tents, tables, canopies, tarps, blankets and more. The group is also involved in an effort to send a delegation to Washington DC.

The federal judge is due to rule on the case Sept. 9. We will have the complete story with interviews and more in the coming days. 

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AUSTIN, Tex. — Over the weekend, a Phoenix Rising event was held at the Elysium nightclub in Austin, Texas. It served as a benefit function for the non-profit Council of the Magickal Arts (CMA). Organized by Candyce Eskew and John Elysium, the evening event featured musical guests, Darwin Prophet, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and the Flametrick Subs. There was also a raffle, a number of vendors and readers. 

Why a benefit? Elysium and Eskew explained that, “Earlier this year, CMA suffered the misfortune of having several thousand dollars, about half our operating budget, embezzled by a former officer. This benefit is a fundraiser to recoup some of this loss; all proceeds will go directly to CMA’s operating fund.” As of Saturday’s report, Eskew said that the function was a success and they have already raised at least $1,600 toward rebuilding the organization. TWH has reached out to the organization to learn more.

CMA itself will be hosting an upcoming Samhain festival October 20-23. The featured guest speaker will be Aline O’Brien, also known as M. Macha Nightmare, and the musical guest is Goodnight Charlie. All CMA festivals are held on Spirit Haven, a 100+ acre private wooded property in Cistern, Texas.

In Other News:

  • Radio show host Michael Greywolf will be launching a new program on the Pagans Tonight Radio Network (PTRN) called Walking the Unnamed Path. He will be joined by co-host Matthew Sydney. Greywolf said, “Our show will be talking about and discussing topics and ideas pertaining to the Unnamed Path, an emerging shamanic tradition for men who love men. We will be featuring music, guests, and covering general topics pertaining to queer Pagan men.” The new show will first air Sept.10 at 3:00 pm CST, and air the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month.
  • Solar Cross Temple has just launched a new devotionals program. As the group explains, “Every month we will call upon different people to offer a meditation for us all to focus on together. […] We ask … that you follow up with one action-in-the-world to help bolster your connection to the month’s meditation. This can take many forms. Use your creativity, and share it with us on our Facebook page.” The program kicked off Aug. 21 with a prayer called, “To Our Ancestors of Spirit, Body, and Mind” written by founder T. Thorn Coyle. The next one will be Sept. 18 and every 3rd Sunday following. Additionally, the Temple will be continuing its popular “Solar Cross Presents” program with the next class being held Sept. 21.
  • Cherry Gilchrist has released a new book on the tarot. Published by Red Wheel/Weiser, Gilgrist’s new book Tarot Triumphs: Using the Tarot Trumps for Divination and Inspiration is said to “focus on the major arcana, or trumps, of the Marseilles Tarot” with the “aim of encouraging the reader to experience the tarot in a direct, fresh, and uncluttered way.” Gilchrist is a teacher, lecturer, and author or more than 30 fiction and non-fictions books.
  • Speaking of books, TWH’s own writer and assistant editor Terence P. Ward has released his own book Depth of Praise. In 2015, Ward was working to raise money in order to build and complete this devotional work to the god Poseidon. He finally finished the project, with the help of many donors, procuring work from artist Grace Palmer for the book’s cover, and contracting Richard Goulart for the interior illustrations. The completed devotional is now available through CreateSpace.
  • Andras Corban Arthen, co-founder of EarthSpirit Community, recently stated, “I have just learned, and am delighted to report, that I have been condemned yet again by another Christian extremist.” What is he talking about? In the book, World Empire and the return of Jesus Christ, Pastor Simon Downing included, “I find it deeply disturbing to read of Reverend Desmond Tutu’s involvement with [the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions], not to mention the Board of Trustees and its huge religious diversity.” (pp. 272) Downing lists a number of parliament board members including Corban Arthen and Rev. Angie Buchanan. Corban-Arthen has taken this in stride, saying “Back in the mid-1990s, Pat Robertson […] held up a photo of me wearing Pagan ceremonial garments and accused me of being ‘a bad role model for the youth of America.’ Though I could not sue Mr. Robertson […] I chose to do the next best thing, which was to use his indictment of me as a badge of honor.” He added that Robertson’s “very personal condemnation” ended up opening doors for him in the many years since.
  • Are you going to be attending DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia? The Wild Hunt will be there covering the event, talking to Pagans, Heathens and polytheists about their experience at the world’s largest pop culture convention. We’d like to hear from you, say hello, and see your costume.

Got a news tip or story? Reach out to us via our contact page with information, press releases, statements and other news tidbits. We want to hear from you.

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11181851_1462453380.8327DETROIT – On May 4, Michigan’s Pagan community lost one of their beloved leaders. Michael Wiggins was a teacher, artist, dancer and the “face of Convocation,” an annual Pagan conference held in Michigan. He was born into a Pagan family, making him a second generation witch. He was president of the Michigan Education Council and was declared “Michigan Pagan of the Year” in 2013 for his influence on local events and his advocacy work in the community.

A memorial fund has been set up to raise the needed money to cover his various unexpected final expenses. The current goal amount, which is now at $10,000, was raised twice over the past four days after donors quickly exceed the original and secondary marks. L. Claudine Durham wrote, “The new goal is just a number and is not an expectation…you have already blown away this out of the water and we love you all.”

Fellow Michigan Pagan and writer Kenya Coviak wrote on her blog, “Michael was a truly beautiful soul. A witty conversationalist […] You never knew what insight you would get, but it was always something thoughtful and surprising. His wisdom helped shape a vision of what greatness and beauty that can be ours if we grasp it.”  We’ll have more on Michael’s life and his legacy in the coming days. What is remembered, lives.

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224684_128918613850144_1452602_nTWH – On May 1, the Asatru Folk Assembly announced a change in its leadership. Current Alsherjargothi Stephen McNallen stepped down, handing the reins over to, as he wrote, “an able team consisting of Gothi Matt Flavel, Gythja Pat Hall, and Allen Turnage as Lawspeaker.”  McNallen made the announcement saying, “I created the Asatru Folk Assembly twenty years ago and have led it through thick and thin.” He explained that he had looked around “at the other leaders of [his] generation” and saw them backing off of their daily involvement in organizational operations. He said that it was time for him to do the same.

McNallen wrote, “Others need a chance to lead, without standing in my shadow. They need room to grow, for their own good but also for the good of all that I, and we, have built. I don’t want to be that old geezer hanging on at age eighty-five because he’s just too stubborn to let go.” One of those new incoming leaders, Gothi Matt Flavel, wrote in response, “We are so deeply honored for the trust and the responsibility to lead the Asatru Folk Assembly into a glorious future. We have a strong and proud tradition to build upon and great momentum to continue the good work and mission of the AFA.”

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ALBERTA – A Canadian wildfire in the province of Alberta still rages out of control as residents have been forced to evacuate the area. The Fort McMurray wildfire is said to be larger than both Boston and Chicago combined, and has “grown to nearly 400,000 acres (625 square miles), as of Sunday morning and has destroyed more than 1,600 structures.” The fire, which started on Sunday, may have been ignited by campers or by a lightning strike; the source is not known. While officials say that wildfires are common to this remote area, the region’s prolonged dry conditions have led to the fire’s quick spread and its incredible growth.

Dodie Graham McKay, our Canadian news correspondent, has been speaking with members of Alberta’s very active Pagan community. Edmonton, located in the southern portion of the province, is home to a number of different Pagan organizations, events and retail stores. At this point, Graham McKay has said, “It’s chaos there right now.” Reports are coming in that, as the winds move steadily southeast, the fire is now threatening the neighboring province of Saskatchewan. Graham McKay said, “Fires are also now raging along the Manitoba/Ontario border. Winnipeg is being affected with smoky skies and fire bans. And, it’s only May. The dry season isn’t supposed to happen until August.”

A recent shift to cooler weather and some rain has brought hope in Alberta, and has slowed the spread of the massive fire’s flames. However, officials still say that the flames could burn for many more weeks. Graham McKay has been in contact with several local Pagans in the fire zone and will have the full story on Thursday.

In Other News

  • Over the weekend, the Bay Area Pagan Alliance honored another one of its local community members with the title of Keeper of the Light: Glenn Turner. She is known for many years of devoted work within the local community, as well as being PantheaCon‘s event coordinator. She was given the title of Keeper of the Light during the alliance’s annual May festival held in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.  She was presented with the title by Wild Hunt writer, author, and activist Crystal Blanton, who was honored in 2015. Congratulations to Glenn Turner!
  • As noted in the Tallahassee Democrat, a number of religious leaders from the Tallahassee area have signed a joint statement appealing for courtesy. Included in that interfaith group is Covenant of the Goddess member and priestess Diana Kampert.  After listing a number of recent violent and hate-driven events, the group wrote, “These are but a few of the factors that seem to be contributing to a denigration of civil discourse among us. We sense a rising tide of fear, suspicion, disrespect and disregard for one another’s full humanity.” Then the interfaith group called on people to “resist those who would turn us against one another. We urge our neighbors to listen respectfully to people of differing religious and political convictions, and to share their own perspectives without resorting to slanderous attacks.”
  • The Austin Pagan community has also recently garnered some mainstream press coverage. Mary Caldwell, Ed Fitch and Philip Elmore were interviewed by Qiling Wang, a writer for Reporting Texas. The article is titled “Out of the Shadows: Wicca Grows in Austin and Beyond,” and it reportedly caught the attention of the Drudge Report. After more than 400 comments streamed into the site within the first hour of publication, the news outlet had to shut the comments down. The Austin Pagan community is generally very pleased with Wang’s article and her respectful treatment of the subject.
  • The annual festival Rites of Spring is coming up this month. It is hosted by the EarthSpirit Community and held every year in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. The event is open to “all who celebrate the sacred nature of the Earth.”  The Rites of Spring is one of the first week-long Pagan festivals of the summer season, and features workshops, rituals and performances with the reported goal of establishing “a vibrant and joyful living community that expands outward with [attendees] when [they] leave.” Organizers remind interested guests that “on-line registration is open until Friday May 13.”
  • Cherry Hill Seminary has posted its class schedule for summer 2016, and has opened registration. This list of classes include several masters level classes, the military specialization stackables, a selection of short 4-week insight classes, as well as the new educational program that allows students to earn a Certificate Environmental Leadership. Cherry Hill Seminary is the “leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities.”

5980505.28As we reported in February, the trial had begun in the Phoenix Goddess Temple prostitution case. At the time, temple leader Tracy Elise told The Wild Hunt that she believed that she would be found innocent because she was “confident that the jurors recognize that the Phoenix Goddess Temple was never the brothel that prosecutors claimed.” However, on Mar 2, the jury disagreed and handed down a guilty verdict on all 22 counts.

Among those charges were the “conspiracy to commit illegal enterprise, illegal control of an enterprise, operating or maintaining a house of prostitution, multiple counts of money laundering and multiple counts of pandering.”

During the trial, Elise maintained that the temple was not a house of prostitution but a space offering spiritual services. In defense of that position, Elise’s son, Ben Wade, told local reporters, “We have the freedom of religion, […] The statute said, ‘No, you cannot touch genitals.’ To us, our religion and our belief, the body is the temple. The body is sacred. That may include the genitals. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does.”

However, the jury did not see it that way. After the verdict was read, Elise was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom. Elise’s sentencing date is set for Apr. 8.

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bucklandAuthor Raymond Buckland has been a public figure on the international Pagan scene for many decades. He is author of the popular book Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft and the founder of Seax-Wicca, among other things. However, over the past decade, Buckland has been dabbling in crafts that are external to his past work, including writing the fiction series The Bram Stoker’s Mysteries.

More recently, Buckland has been spotted doing standup comedy periodically at a local hotel in Millersburg, Ohio. At each recorded event, Buckland stands comfortably at the microphone with a brick wall behind him. He wears a black bowler hat and vest, which give him a distinguished and stylized appearance. The crowd can be heard laughing in the background as he delivers his jokes.

Buckland has uploaded several of his routines to YouTube, including the latest which he performed March 5.

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[Courtesy Doreen Valiente Foundation]

Coming this fall to Brighton will be a new play called Doreen: an English Witch. Written by Archie Caine and Roman Withers, and produced by Normal People Productions, the new play is scheduled to run around the same time as the two Brighton Witchcraft exhibitions sponsored by the Doreen Valiente Foundation (DVF) and the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS).

As quoted in Pagan Dawn, Withers said, “The play will be a talking head style play, featuring a single set throughout, and will see Doreen tell stories of her life, ranging from meeting Gerald Gardner all the way to her last partner Ron, with the help of a training postulate.” The magazine also reports that “well-known local actress Peta Taylor” has accepted the title role of Doreen.

DVF has reportedly offered its full support in the writing and staging of the play, and will be receiving all production profits. Currently, Normal People Productions is advertising the play’s run dates as Nov 21-25 at the Emporium. However, Pagan Dawn has reported that this information is not accurate. The location and run time have apparently changed, and will be announced in the coming months.

In Other News:

  • The Sacred Space Conference begins Thursday in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Sacred Space is an “annual esoteric conference on the East Coast for intermediate to advanced practitioners.” As noted on the website, each year featured guests and a “host of highly qualified regional teachers offer a wide variety of workshops and rituals developed for a more advanced audience.” This year’s feature presenters include: Ian Corrigan, Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. The conference will run through Sunday and is held at the Hunt Valley Inn. For up to the minute information on changes and announcements, attendees can follow Sacred Space on Facebook.
  • Speaking of conferences, the Pagan Federation International is getting ready for its 16th annual conference held in the Netherlands April 16. The day-long event will be hosted at “Lunteren in the national park ‘de Hoge Veluwe.’ ” The guest speaker is Julian Vayne who will offer talks on both ‘Chaos Magic and Witchcraft’ and ‘The Medicine Path – psychedelics and spirituality.’ And, in the evening, the Irish & American folk band Tobermore will perform. Registration and tickets are available through the PFI-Netherlands website.
  • Members of Hearthstone Grove, ADF have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help purchase land for future use as a “shared meeting, camping, and ritual space.” The campaign reads, “Our vision is for our grove to own and steward a public space specifically for Austin paganism to be practiced and for groups to host their Things.” Organizers have already chosen a 10-acre, fully-wooded property that will reportedly meet all organizational needs. Their future plans are fully explained on the campaign site. Hearthstone Grove, ADF is an Austin-based congregation “devoted to practicing the religion of our Celtic Ancestors.”
  • Published today, the Temple of Witchcraft’s podcast, Voices of the Temple, featured an interview with Tim Titus. In this episode, host Adam Sartwell speaks with Titus about “his work with Virgo ministry’s healing case study group and beginning to teach for the Mystery School in California.” The podcast lasts for 20 minutes and can be downloaded or streamed directly from the Temple’s website.
  • The second issue of A Beautiful Resistance will be available May 1. It has been “edited by Lancashire poet and awenydd Lorna Smithers” with a foreword by “UK animist, mystic, and anarchist Emma Restall Orr.” Editors have posted information about pre-sales, and the full list of contributors will be shared Apr. 1.
  • As a reminder, for those attending Paganicon, please join The Wild Hunt writers and editors for an evening social on Friday, March 18 at 9 p.m. in Suite 217. Paganicon is an annual conference held at the Doubletree Park Place in Minneapolis Minnesota. It runs from Mar. 18-20.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Patrick McCollum’s Visit to Thailand: As I mentioned back in January, Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be traveling to Thailand in February at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with Buddhist Lamas. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation. At the Patrick McCollum Foundation web site, Patrick shares his thoughts as he embarks on this historic journey.

“My journey continues to get increasingly more interesting as more and more opportunities present themselves, and I feel much like I am in an adventure story just waiting to find out what will happen next.  On this trip to Thailand, I will not only be meeting with venerable Buddhist lamas and monks, I will now also be meeting with several distinguished spiritual leaders from other traditions to forge sacred bonds and find common ground.  So far, I will be meeting with Cheif Kapiteotak Dominique Rankin, also known as T8aminik in the Algonquin language, former Grand Chief of the Algonquin nation and Elder in the Circle Of Medicine Men of the Canadian tribes. I will also be meeting with Master Li Hechun, Master of the Longmen (Dragon Gate) branch of the Ch’uan-chen (Complete Perfection) School of Taoism in China and with Guru Chintamani  Yogi of the Hindu VidyaPeethmovement from Nepal, founder of the Shanti Sewa Ashram and Peace Service Center. I will also have the honor to spend part of my journey with Patrick Kuaimoku, Kahuna Lokahi from Hawaii, Keeper of the Ancient Hawaiian wisdom tradition.   In such company, it is hard to imagine any part of my journey being anything less than extraordinary.”

Patrick will be sharing more information and insights about his trip with us when he returns. This is a major interfaith event for modern Pagan faiths, one that could have far-reaching effects on Buddhist-Pagan relations for years to come. Congratulations to Patrick on this great honor. To keep track of Patrick’s journey be sure to follow the Patrick McCollum Foundation’s blog, and the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Sacred Spaces Series: Cara Schulz of PNC Minnesota has started a new video series (Part 1, Part 2) on the creation of modern Pagan sacred spaces, speaking with Priest Drew Jacob from Temple of the River.

Many Pagan groups share the dream of building some type of sacred space.  A temple, a community center, a permanent altar.  It remains a dream because they lack the information, skills, and experience to bring it into reality.  Yet other groups have accomplished what can seem, at times, impossible.  They have learned how to raise funds, deal with city inspectors, and overcome challenges that stymie most groups who attempt these ambitious projects.   In this series, PNC talks with groups who have successfully created their own Sacred Spaces.

You can see part one of this video series, here. Part three will most likely happen after this year’s PantheaCon, as Cara and several other PNC bureau members will be attending that event this weekend. This is an excellent video series, and shows the potential and scope of locally-focused Pagan news bureaus.

The Green Heart of England is Not For Sale: Controversy has raged recently in England over the proposed plans to conduct a massive sell-off of state-owned woodland. A move that sparked almost universal condemnation, and a rare public climb-down from the environment secretary. British Druid Philip Carr-Gomm, leader of The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, had this to say on the issue.

“David Bellamy articulated the feelings of most people when they first heard the news of the government’s proposed disposal of all of England’s public forest: “The green heart of England is not for sale.” It looks as if the message is getting through. Over half a million have signed the ‘Save Our Forests’ petition organised by grass-roots movement 38 degrees and today David Cameron signalled that the plan may be ditched […] The irony of a party with a tree as its logo behaving in this way has occurred to many. Our Druid group has been working with the idea since it began. Melanie Philips, of the Daily Mail telepathically picked up our thoughts (ha!) and voiced them on TV on the BBC’s Question Time, suggesting a felled oak and a dead stag as the Conservative logo…”

Carr-Gomm promises that efforts to “apply pressure and voice our concerns” will resume should the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government decide once more to sell off large swathes of its green heart, but for now, there is a celebratory mood of victory.

Pagan Newswire News: I’ve got some Pagan Newswire Collective-related announcements to make. First off, a warm welcome to the PNC’s newest bureau, PNC-Bay Area!

“Welcome to the Bay Area Bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective. We are an all volunteer group (of currently 10 people), reporting on news and events of interest to the pagan communities here in the Bay Area of California. We have bios of our volunteers posted on its own page of the site here. If you would like to join our collective and write for us, email our Bureau Coordinator at bayarea (at) paganewswirecollective (dot) com.”

I am very excited to finally have coverage from the San Francisco Bay Area of California, long a hot-spot of modern Paganism, and look forward to their contributions! Several members of the new bureau will be at this year’s PantheaCon, and I’ve created a special page listing all official PNC-related events for those attending. You may also notice that we’ve quietly debuted the new site design, and you’ll hear more about that as things progress. I think 2011 will be a great year for the PNC, one that will greatly benefit all Pagan media outlets.

Cooking for a Pagan Seminary: In a quick final note, a number of Austin-based Pagan groups are organizing a cook-off and potluck benefit for Cherry Hill Seminary.

“One thing everyone in the Austin Pagan community shares is the love of a good potluck. Diverse organizations and individuals in the Austin area are coming together to co-sponsor a cook-off and silent auction to benefit Cherry Hill Seminary. Cherry Hill Seminary serves all our communities by providing quality higher education and practical training in Pagan Ministry. They offer several master’s degrees, certificate programs, and community education primarily available through distance learning. Many of us have received outstanding training in our chosen tradition, but there are some individuals who feel compelled to go above and beyond with their service to others. While many resources exist to train and assist students as they pursue their chosen Pagan tradition or path, there is an acute need for specific training in areas such as counseling, ethics, marriage and family issues, religion and the law, interfaith work, Pagan scholarship, media and public relations, ritual arts, leadership development, and nonprofit management.”

As a former CHS board member, and occasional teacher, I fully support the idea of communities rallying together to support this venture. One that will ultimately benefit all modern Pagans. Kudos to the Austin, Texas Pagans for putting this together!

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