DETROIT – 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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TWH – 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.”