Archives For BBC

14907184_10154460078391041_1569964577789401968_nONTARIO – On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 16,  Ontario’s Pagan community lost a much-loved and cherished friend. Carole Kitchenwitch, a force of nature and energetic volunteer at festivals, died peacefully at her home with her family and partner Mike by her side. Carole had served on the kitchen staff at Wic-Can Fest for about 25 years. She will be fondly remembered for heartily encouraging all those who attended the dining hall to bless the meals by shouting, “Thank the gods for food!” This custom has now become part of the fabric of the festival.

Carole arrived at Wic-Can Fest for the first time as a single parent with seven children in tow. She had numerous foster children, and was a fierce advocate for the rights of foster families. Carole was also  proud to be the first “out” Pagan foster parent in her province of Ontario. Maryanne Pearce, one of the directors of Kaleidoscope Gathering, recalled: “Carol epitomized service to the community, personal love, sacrifice and commitment to vulnerable children and how work, volunteer, and personal life must be intertwined.”

Anne Marie Greymoon, Wic-CanFest’s organizer, said, “To me, [Carole] was family, a sister, a best friend, my initiate and grandma to my grand-kids. As I type these words, it still feels so unreal that this formidable powerhouse of a woman, who learned to bale hay, farm, chainsaw, who overcame critical illnesses at least twice, fought for her rights and lived through so many tragedies, so determined in her convictions and so full of life, is gone.”

Carole was renowned for having an exceptional passion for life. She will be forever remembered for her contagious habit of throwing her head back, arms outstretched and shouting, “I LOVE MY LIFE!” It was her delight to get others doing this as well. Carole will be lovingly remembered by her eight children, fourteen grandchildren, her partner, extended family, and by her multitudes of friends throughout the Pagan community. A memorial service will be held at the Coboconk Railway Station on Saturday, Dec.17, from 2 until 4 p.m.  What is remembered, lives.

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2CANNONBALL, N.D. – Numerous media outlets and social media posts, including Facebook Live streams, reported that North Dakota state police were actively trying to break the protest occurring in support of the Standing Rock Sioux of which many Pagans were taking part. Reports and videos show riot police approaching and arresting numerous protesters, using militarized tactics including sound cannons for dispersing crowds, rubber bullets, batons, chemical weapons, percussion grenades, smoke bombs, armored tanks and Humvee-style vehicles. The Camp of the Sacred Stones blog has also reported that horses and riders were fired upon by police using rubber bullets, resulting in numerous injuries, including a horse that had to be put down.

To date, at least 127 people have reportedly been arrested. There are also reports that some have had numbers written on their arms and were kept in dog kennels.

David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said in a statement that “North Dakota law enforcement have proceeded with a disproportionate response to (the) nonviolent exercise of their First Amendment rights, even going as far as labeling them rioters and calling their every action illegal.” Archambault has repeatedly called on the Department of Justice to intervene, so far without response. Meanwhile observers from Amnesty International are being dispatched out of concern that human rights violations are occurring. It has also been reported that the United Nations is getting involved by sending in experts to assess the situation for such violations.

Pagan and Heathen organizations and individuals have continued their vocal and active support of the Great Sioux Nation. Solar Cross Temple, based in California, just announced that it will be sending more supplies based on an updated needs list provided by Standing Rock Healing Council.

The Wild Hunt has reached out to several activists directly involved with the protests. Due to very poor mobile service in the region, we was unable to contact anyone at the camp in time for this publication. We will update this story when possible.

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Doreen Valiente FoundationDoreen Valiente, who is known by the title “the mother of modern Witchcraft,” continues to intrigue and interest the public. On Oct. 21, BBC World Service published a BBC radio segment on Valiente, her work, and the museum collection, which has been on display at Brighton’s Preston Manor.

While the release of the BBC radio show ahead of Samhain is no accident, this worldwide publicity is also well-timed for launch of another related project. In late November, Normal People Productions will be producing the play, Doreen: An English Witch. This new play, based on Valiente’s story, will run for one week at the Marlborough Pub and Theatre in Brighton.

Conveniently, one of the largest Witchcraft festivals, Witchfest International is being hosted in Brighton during the same week as the play is being staged. Normal People Productions suggests, “If you’re going to Witchfest you can also see the play […] including a late night performance on the day of Witchfest itself.” All theater tickets sales will help benefit the Doreen Valiente Foundation in its efforts to preserve both Valiente’s legacy as well as modern Witchcraft history.

In Other News

  • Salem Witch Laurie Cabot has recently participated in the design of a new jewelry line. The Laurie Cabot Collection is filled with silver and gold-plated items inspired by her magical teachings and practice. Cabot said, for example, some of the symbols used in the jewelry are ones she’s been using in her book of shadows for years. The line was released on Oct. 15.
  • The Firefly House was live on Good Morning Washington to talk about modern Witchcraft practice. David Salibury and Caroline Carr appeared in the broadcast. Salisbury said, “We had a great time with ABC’s Good Morning Washington! I appreciate the straightforward questions from our anchor (Prince!) and having space to talk about the sacred feast of Samhain and how the witches of DC celebrate.” Here’s a clip:

    • For Pagan writers and researchers, the next issue of the student journal Sacra is “ancient and modern Paganisms.” Sacra is a peer-reviewed academic journal for the study of religion. It was founded in 2003 and is based in the Czech Republic. According to one of the editors: “The main aim of the journal is to provide PhD., M.A. and B.A. students with a space in which to publish academic texts from the field of the Study of Religion.” The editors are currently seeking submissions.
    • For tarot enthusiasts and dedicated readers, today is the last day to enter author and Witch Courtney Weber’s giveaway drawing. The lucky winner will receive a package that includes: a signed copy of Weber’s new book Tarot for One, a signed copy of Teresa Reed’s Tarot Coloring Book, a copy of the Tarot of the Boroughs deck, plus two 15 minute readings. More information is on Weber’s blog.
    • The Wild Hunt is now in the final days of its Fall Funding Drive. We have reached 58% of our goal with five days to go. Thank you to everyone who has donated and shared our link. If you enjoy reading TWH each day, consider donating to the drive.  Your support is what makes this nonprofit, community-based news agency possible.  Listen to what other Pagans are saying. “I came across it by accident and spent hours going through the archives of articles. I was so impressed, I donated that night. It is so helpful and encouraging to just hear what other pagans are doing and seeing how the movement is growing,” writes Rachel Spence. “Crikey, but I wish more people would read The Wild Hunt!” states J. Sobchack. And, here is Ivo Dominguez Jr. sharing his thoughts:

Donate Here

txlclogoTexas Local Council’s (TXLC) Diversity Day was a success for the organization and people involved. In mid-November, the Dallas TX-based local council for Covenant of the Goddess sponsored a Diversity Day to confront and discuss social privilege and to bring greater awareness to “the challenges and struggles of others.”

The event, called “We Can Make a Difference,” was held at the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church on Nov 14. Doctor Beth Fawcett, PhD, MPH led “participants through a powerful exercise known as a Privilege Walk,” followed by an extended community discussion. TXLC organizers explained, “[Dr. Fawcett specializes in race and ethnicity courses and walked the attendees through a series of questions designed to show, in a very physical way, how we go through our lives with or without ‘Privilege’ even when we are unaware of it.”

The event was also a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Black Trans Men. TXLC reports that they raised over $525.00. Representatives of this organization also toured the UU church and participated in some of the activities.

Faelind, an attendee and member of TXLC, said, “It was nice to be out of the chilly weather, and our hearts were warmed and overflowed with compassion for our fellow humans’ struggles and injustices. There were tears and laughter and much, much healing. I felt honored to witness and hear the stories, feelings, and questions posed by all.”

TXLC reports that Dr. Fawcett has volunteered to continue sharing the privilege walk concept with Covenant of the Goddess at a local and national level.

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11012909_10153704768763232_4819252007164573430_nOn Jan 8, Jason Mankey’s book, The Witch’s Athame, will be released and available for purchase. Mankey is the current Patheos Pagan Channel Manager and runs the popular blog Raise the HornsThe Witch’s Athame is Mankey’s first venture into book writing, and it is part of larger series of books, each written by a different author, exploring the tools of the Witch.

As described by publisher Llewellyn, “[The Witch’s Athame] takes a deeper look into the significance of what Gerald Gardner described as the ‘true Witch’s weapon.’ For the new Witch this book goes through all the steps in finding just the right athame, consecrating it, and then using it in ritual. For the experienced practitioner the book serves as a thorough history of the athame; tracing the use of ceremonial knives from ancient times to the grimoire tradition of the Renaissance and finally to the modern day.”

To celebrate the release, Mankey will be hosting a book signing at 1 p.m. Leigh’s Favorite Books in Sunnyvale, California. In the Facebook event announcement, he writes, “This is just a big day in my life and I want to celebrate it with as many people as possible.”

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The MGZ Memorial Foundation’s Academy of Arcana continues to make progress in its growth development. On Nov 27, its gift store, called Curiosities, opened to guests at its new address 428A Front Street in Santa Cruz, California. Several days later, Oberon Zell and Anne Duther were both interviewed by the Santa Cruz Sentinel about the store’s opening. The article begins, “The term “magical” may most often be heard in reference to the county’s redwood forests and ocean views, but it also applies to downtown’s newest storefront, the Academy of Arcana.”

Duther and Zell have also said that the library will be open by the end of this month, and that they will begin programming in 2016. As noted on the GoFundMe site, “In January we’ll begin offering ‘Sunday Sessions’ with classes, presentations and salons, ‘Crafts & Arts’ on Friday afternoons, and Wednesday night magickal movies from our extensive DVD collection.”

The Academy of Arcana is a nonprofit organization under the Grey School of Wizardry. For more information on the specific location, hours and updated programming, visit the organization’s website.

In Other News:

  • If you missed the news in our 2015 Retrospective, the United Religions Initiative (URI) was asked to be part of a special CBS Christmas Eve interfaith event. Several Pagans, including Don Frew and Rachel Watcher, are active participants and organizers within this global, grassroots organization. They were both involved with production, providing footage, interviews and information. Although there were only small mentions of “Earth Spirituality” in the final cut, URI reportedly received a boost in visibility, which will only make their work easier going forward. Footage not used by CBS, including that provided by various Pagans, will be saved for future URI films and videos.

    • According to Iceland Magazine, Ásatrú High Priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson led his organization’s traditional Winter Solstice ceremony, or blot, “in the Öskjuhlíð hill recreational area, the small forested hill just south-east of downtown Reykjavík.” This is the planned spot for the organization’s future temple. The article goes on to say that, over the past year, the Ásatrú organization has had to ban visitors to their blots due to the media attention generated by the temple plans. Hilmar told the magazine, “Foreign visitors, who had in previous years been like ‘flies on the wall’ had begun to turn into somewhat of a nuisance this year, turning into ‘flies swarming in the food’.” The temple is scheduled to be erected in 2016.
    • For a bit of holiday fun, look who’s on Buzz Feed. Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, the son of Isaac Bonewits and Deborah Lipp, was invited to the media outlet’s offices to predict what a few people would get for Christmas. After a very typical Buzz Feed presentation of several readings, the articles says, “Although Arthur may not have been able to predict what the gifts will literally be, we think his predictions of how they’ll have an emotional impact on us were much more interesting.”
    • As is typical at this time of year, public discussions emerge on the Pagan origins and symbolism found in the Christmas holiday. On Dec 21, the BBC took on this topic with the help of “Ronald Hutton, professor of History at Bristol University; JJ Middleway, a celebrant and ritualist based in the Druid tradition; and the reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a Church of England vicar and author of New Age Paganism and Christian Mission
    • And, lastly here is another mainstream media outlet exploring Paganism. Sky News published the following video, with explanatory titles, to demonstrate what a Pagan Ceremony might look like.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND –The year was 1971 and, despite the death of Gerald Gardner some years before, Wicca was continuing to gain adherents. The high priest and priestess of the Sheffield coven of witches, Arnold and Patricia Crowther, who had been initiated by Gardner in 1960, were emerging as strong voices of the movement. Their voices were markedly amplified when they produced A Spell of Witchcraft, a show on BBC Radio Sheffield, explaining to listeners through a half-dozen twenty-minute segments what modern witchcraft was really like.

patricia crowther

Patricia Crowther [Courtesy Photo]

Those programs have recently been made available online by the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS). Patricia Crowther provided the original cassette recordings, which were digitized and, with approval of the BBC, upload for public consumption.

Arnold passed on in 1974, and Patricia was on holiday and unavailable to be interviewed directly. However The Wild Hunt spoke to CPS director Ashley Mortimer about the significance of these early radio programs. Mortimer was also able to reach Ms Crowther and relay some of her own recollections. Mortimer said:

These programmes are certainly informative, unquestionably, but the deeper historical interest to me seems to be that they show the attitude that Craft members like Patricia and Arnold thought they should adopt in explaining the Craft to a wider world. This has cultural context to the time. I gather they caused a reasonable stir in 1970s Sheffield, a northern industrial town in Britain, and perhaps deliberately so . . . but also carefully thought out to not court controversy while equally not ignoring the fact that it may be viewed as such.

The idea that these segments were produced to carefully “toe a line” does not fit with Crowther’s own recollections, as reported by Mortimer. “She didn’t think much of the question about pagans justifying themselves(!),” he explained, rather, “she said things like her talks and the radio programme were just meant to be interesting and informative. There was no real agenda to promote anything; the Goddess was already rising into people’s consciousness anyway.”

Nevertheless, Mortimer’s observation that these recordings “give a glimpse into the way early pioneers of publicly ‘defend’ paganism and the Craft” isn’t necessarily off-base. The fact that the programs do appear to be a justification today suggests they could have been interpreted as a defense just as easily at the time they were first broadcast.

To better understand what being a public member of the Craft was like in that time and place, we asked Mortimer this question: “Do you think Pagans today feel less of a need to justify themselves, as was done in these shows?”

I think these shows were less of an attempt to justify pagans and paganism than a genuine attempt to simply show that pagans deserved to be treated with equal respect to other faith groups — times WERE different in 1960s and 1970s Britian, that’s for sure. I think today it depends on the cultural context, in some places it’s quite ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ to be pagan though some people have a tendency to rather flaunt it, whereas in others there is still genuine fear from the prejudice that sadly still rears its ugly head — like the case in Iowa when the local Christian faction decided to show their magnanimity and generosity of spirit and understanding for people of other faiths to their own.

The Crowthers themselves were no strangers to such controversy but, according to what Patricia relayed in a phone conversation with Mortimer, it wasn’t her work on the air that stirred the proverbial cauldron. Mortimer explained, “She said that there was little controversy over the programmes, it was the talks and lectures that attracted some adversity, including the time that a church group prayed for her talk to be cancelled … they didn’t object to a talk on witchcraft but they did object to a witch giving it!!! She also said that she did a lot of talks around that time, she enjoyed the universities because she found the students particularly open to new and different ideas and she also liked the private clubs and the Masonic events she was invited to speak at.”

In the years since A Spell of Witchcraft first aired, many religious practices identifying as Pagan have emerged, and even the word “Wicca” has become broader in how it’s used. But the shifting of labels has in no way diluted the clarity with which Patricia Crowther herself sees her own religious practice. According to Mortimer, Crowther “wanted to stress that paganism and the Craft are not precisely the same thing, and that there are lots of people working in pagan circles who are identifying with the Goddess and paganism, they are certainly pagan but not Craft.”

While these radio programs were intended to convey information about the Craft specifically, the content is expansive and may be informative to other, more eclectic Wiccans and any Pagan whose tradition has been influenced by such early work.

witches for hanging

CPS’ will continue to focus on building a history around the roots of the Craft movement. While there were only a half dozen segments in A Spell of Witchcraft, Crowther told Mortimer that, “she was quite a regular on BBC Radio Sheffield, she was interviewed hundreds of times about Witchcraft, astrology, folklore and all sorts of things.” Mortimer intends on trying to source more of those broadcasts and obtain permission to digitize and publish them online as well.

Longer-term projects include plans to open a museum of magic, witchcraft and folklore, once public funding for the project is obtained, and to continue research into Valiente’s and Gardner’s writings. This may result in published research, but possibly also a conference focused on the various incarnations of the books of shadows used in both their work.

In addition to all of those pursuits, the Centre for Pagan Studies will be republishing Crowther’s novel Witches Were for Hanging on May 1. Also in the works is a brand new biography of Doreen Valiente written by Philip Heselton. Mortimer, who is also a trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, said ” I can promise your readers [that the book] will make some rather startling revelations about Doreen and her life that Philip has uncovered; amazing, actually (but I won’t spoil the surprise for everyone until the book is published!).”



Maureen Wheeler

On Jan. 8, Maureen Wheeler, fondly known as Aunty Bunty, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Maureen was a Witch, High Priestess and Elder member of the U.K.’s Pagan community. She trained and was initiated by Gavin Bone in the early 1990s. By 2001, she had birthed a legacy of more than a dozen covens around the country. As noted by Bone in his personal tribute, “Magically [Maureen] was a witch, not a Wiccan, not any particular tradition, she was a witch. She was a witch before I met her and she died a witch above all else.”

In a video titled Witchways 1, Maureen describes her first experience with Witchcraft. In 1955, at the age of 17, she was introduced to a man wearing an inverted pentacle and, out of curiosity, accompanied him to an event. But it wasn’t what she wanted, and many years passed before she once again encountered anyone practicing Witchcraft.

That year was 1990. Maureen discovered that her daughter-in-law was studying Witchcraft. Once again, Maureen’s curiosity was piqued, and so she attended a meeting. This is where she met Gavin Bone, who would become her initiator and good friend. Bone said, “I still remember the first time I saw her; she was in battle dress! Dressed in leather jacket, dark glasses read to wrestle her daughter in law from us evil satanists! The reverse happened in stead she stayed.”

Soon after, Maureen became an initiated Witch, studying with Bone and eventually with others, including The Fellowship of Isis. As time passed, she formed her own coven and became a High Priestess, a respected teacher, a skilled Tarot reader, and an active member of UK’s Pagan community.

Maureen Wheeler [Still from Witchways 1}

Maureen Wheeler [Still from Witchways 1}

Maureen never hid her practice, and was willing to be filmed and interviewed. Along with the two short Witchways videos, Maureen participated in several BBC programs. In 2001, she was featured on a show titled ‘Rush,” which includes a dramatically-filmed bit on modern Witchcraft. In 2005, she consented to be part of an episode of the BBC TV show called “Inside Out.” Focused on the magic in Kingsley Vale, the segment shows Maureen with her coven performing a ritual in a Yew grove and ends with a brief interview.

In 2011, Vogue UK did an editorial, titled “Merrie England,” exploring the folk revival in the region. Included in the twenty photographs taken by renowned photographer Tim Walker is the striking image of Maureen in ritual dress. The article’s subtitle appropriately reads, “Tim Walker captures its practitioners at their most magical.”

Unfortunately, this past October, cancer caught back up with Maureen after being in remission for nine years. The treatments were difficult and eventually took their toll on her body. Maureen passed into the Summer lands in the presence of her daughter at 8:50 a.m. on January 8.

Maureen’s daughter, Louise Hilborne, was initiated by her mother and said, “From a very early age she told me I was a witch as she was but it would be many years later that I was woken to this. It terrified me.”  She added, “I will do my best to carry on her good work in the way I know how. ”

Maureen’s son, Dave Hilborne wrote this tribute:

My dear mum was the most remarkable woman,it didn’t matter if you were 16 or 66 she could and would make a connection with people. My greatest pride was that she took enormous joy from watching me perform and even more so I would love to make her laugh until the tears rolled down her cheeks. My mum saved me from almost intolerable hardship as a child,she taught me the value of saving and being grateful for all that I have. She taught me to be tolerant. She taught me life. (reprinted with permission)

Simon Costin, director of The Museum of Witchcraft, said:

10881339_10153238862409523_31314659_nShe had a remarkable life and a very unique take on the craft that was very much her own. I learnt more from Maureen over a cup of tea than from any number of books. Hers was a meaty, no nonsense kind of magic and all the better for it….I will miss her dearly.

At the end of his tribute, Gavin Bone said:

She was my friend as well as my initiate. Alex Sander’s said (stolen of course from someone else): ‘If the initiate does not surpass the initiator, the initiator has failed!’ I did not fail, she surpassed me and I am proud of it. But I will not take any credit for this as Maureen was a witch from the day she was born, I learnt as much from her as she did from me; we initiated each other. I will miss her but know we will ‘…meet again’!

Maureen was a dedicated and passionate Witch, Priestess, teacher and guide. She was deeply respected and loved. She will be missed by her family, her friends and her students. Her legacy will live on through her work, her teachings, and the impact that she had on the modern practice of Witchcraft.

What is remembered, lives.

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.

(Credit: Wikimedia/DarkGeometryStudios via Shutterstock/Salon)

(Credit: Wikimedia/DarkGeometryStudios via Shutterstock/Salon)

  • Let’s start off with’s follow-up to the outing of rogue Wikipedia editor “Qworty,” which focuses on his strange vendetta against Pagan, esoteric, and occult pages. In the piece Andrew Leonard links to my run-down of the story, and manages to dig up some new information as well. Quote: “Every page deleted or altered by Young on grounds of self-promotion or conflict-of-interest clearly deserves a second look. And that great effort is already well under way. The Neo-Pagans are clamoring for the return of some of their deleted pages and scouring those that survived the purge to see which of Young’s cuts will be reverted. But Young didn’t confine himself to questions of notability or conflict-of-interest when tangling with the Pagans; he also challenged the basic tenets of Pagan spirituality. Wikipedia, he argued, should be debunking such things as Wiccan rituals or the exploration of drug-induced conciousness-raising, rather than reporting them.” This experience has left some Pagan Wikipedia editors disillusioned, to put it lightly. It will be interesting to see how things progress from this point. 
  • The branding of children as “witches” by pastors in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues. The BBC has a new documentary where a British citizen who was born in the DRC finds out her cousin has been accused of witchcraft and races to find her. Quote: “Journeying from her home in London to her birthplace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kevani tries to discover how ancient traditions have been hijacked in the name of Jesus, why families are singling out vulnerable children and hurting them and why toddlers are having to endure excruciating rituals in order to ‘rid them of demons’.” It should be noted that branding children as witches is illegal in the Congo now, but the pastors seem unconcerned.
  • The book “Ritual” by David Pinner, which inspired the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” is going to be getting a sequel. Pinner told Rue Morgue Magazine that he’s written a book set 30 years later entitled “The Wicca Woman.” Quote: “I’ve just completed the sequel to Ritual, after all these years, called The Wicca Womanthe children who are in Ritual are grown up in this. It’s set 30 years later just before the millennium. Wicker Man obsessives will no doubt want to keep an eye out for this one. Meanwhile, StudioCanal continues its hunt for lost footage from the 1973 film’s original cut in hopes of releasing a complete anniversary edition. 
  • Christianity in Britain could be declining faster than originally thought according to a new analysis of the 2011 UK census data. Quote: “A new analysis of the 2011 census shows that a decade of mass immigration helped mask the scale of decline in Christian affiliation among the British-born population – while driving a dramatic increase in Islam, particularly among the young. It suggests that only a minority of people will describe themselves as Christians within the next decade, for first time.” We may see a truly post-Christian Britain in our lifetimes. That new analysis is from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, by the way. 
  • John Macintyre, former president of the Scottish Pagan Federation, is interviewed by about the importance of Pagan involvement in interfaith. Quote: “Interfaith is not a threat, it doesn’t aim to change what Paganism is, still less to merge it into some kind of ‘one size fits all’ universal religion. It allows us to educate other faith groups and the wider society about the reality of modern Paganism, to challenge prejudice and negative stereotyping close to its sources, and to make a positive contribution as one of the many faith communities that make up our society.”
Santa Muerte

Santa Muerte

  • Dr. R. Andrew Chesnut, author of “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint,” writes about the Vatican’s ongoing battle with the cult of Santa Muerte. Quote: “In addition to theological objections, the current religious economy of Mexico and Latin America provides a compelling explanation not only for the condemnation of narco-saints but also for other dynamic religious competitors. For the past three decades both national bishops’ conferences and the Vatican have inveighed against the “invasion of the sects” in Latin America. Of course, Pentecostals, the most vibrant of the Church’s competitors, have been the primary object of condemnation, but Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Age groups and Spiritists have also been singled out.” 
  • PNC-Minnesota has an update on Pagan-initiated tornado relief efforts in Oklahoma. Quote: “As of Saturday, Solar Cross has collected $545 in donations and was able to send 400 N95 rated respirators, 58 pairs of work gloves, 50 safety goggles, 20 tarps, and 10 shovels. Tillison said, ‘Thank you thank you thank you! Your donations will be distributed within 24 hours of the time they arrive and sent out to Little Axe, Newcastle and the outlying areas that are not receiving the outpouring the greater area of Moore is.'” You can read my initial report on this, here.
  • When talking about legal protections, “who’s a journalist” is the wrong question. Quote: “When considering whether to grant legal protection for the gathering and dissemination of information, the question should not be the person performing those acts, i.e., “who is a journalist?,” but “is this an act of journalism?” Before the user-generated content revolution, focusing on journalists (i.e., people defined by their institutional affiliations) served as a functional if rough approximation of the true interests at stake (i.e., debate on issues of public concern). That is no longer the case.” This issue is an important one for all us Pagan media types who are not affiliated with a recognized institution. 
  • Paul Louis Metzger argues that sometimes Christians create the “idols” for modern Pagans out of ignorance of our actual beliefs and practices. Quote: “We Christians need to be on guard in our understanding of such movements as contemporary Paganism. We tend to lump all of modern Paganism into one general and distorted category. We often fail to account for the vast complexity within the movement and articulate Paganism accurately. For all our concern about pagan idolatry, we may be guilty at times of making their idols for them. We need to develop the practice of respect for understanding their practices, rituals, and beliefs.”
  • Wiccan love spells: sometimes they (kinda) work (at least for awhile). Quote: “Yes, I shed a few tears, but not because I was in love with him. I cried because the spell hadn’t worked, at least not all the way, and I was now forced to revert to being a Party of One after having had a brief, haunting reminder of the cozier aspects of being in a relationship.”

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.

Yesterday the BBC News Magazine posted a look at “spiritual, but not religious” people, cobbling together various studies and perspectives to try and understand this rather nebulous (yet growing) demographic. Interestingly, the lump modern Pagans in as part of the larger “spiritual” trend noting that “the spiritually aligned range from pagans to devotees of healing crystals, among many other sub-groups.”

Mike Stygal, is a secondary school teacher who practises paganism in his private life. He believes in a divine force in nature. “I believe everything is connected, I feel very in touch with nature and the changing seasons. Awe is a very good word for how I feel. It’s a sense of deep respect for nature. I can communicate with the deity.”

They also point to a quote from pop superstar Pink where she talks about her spiritual-but-not-religious makeup.

Pink on the BBC, October, 2012

Pink on the BBC, October, 2012

“I love Native American spirituality and paganism, and I’ve studied Buddhism. I think organised religion is one of the top problems of the world actually, so no, I’d say I steer clear of religion and go straight towards spirituality.”

Increasingly, I think more and more people are finding Paganism not as discrete religions, but as a part of an open-sourced kit to build an individualized belief system or practice. They aren’t Wiccans, or Druids, or Asatru, they are practicing “Paganism” as a syncretic and eclectic system in its own right, people like Shirley McMichael a community engagement worker with the Policing Board in Belfast.

“The widow described herself as a pagan rather than a witch — although she does have a small ceremonial broomstick, a wand and casts spells. “Wicca (witchcraft) is more structured than our Pagan Voice group but we have quite a lot in common” she said. For Mrs McMichael, paganism — the worship of natural forces often personified as a god and goddess — is a way of being in tune with the environment.”

I think McMichael’s quote there is important because it highlights that she sees Wicca as a religious system that she chooses to work outside, though finds some affinity with. Likewise, turning back to the BBC News Magazine article, we find a woman reviving “ancient traditions” but with no real interest in labeling herself as a Pagan.

Bridget McKenzie, a cultural learning consultant, does daily walking meditations. “It’s about making time to contemplate the awesomeness of life on earth, the extraordinary luck this planet has in sustaining life.” She is not a pagan but for the summer solstice organises a Garlic Man Parade in south east London to reconnect with ancient traditions. “We all sense changes in the light as the seasons change. It’s important to mark the occasion.”

When the census data for England and Wales was released, I noted that as impressive as Paganism’s growth was, they may have been many more of “us” hidden in other categories.

Bringing to just over 80,000 (or so) Pagans. That number doesn’t count how many Pagans there might be lurking within the category of “Mixed Religon” (23,566), “Own Belief System” (1,949), or “Spiritual” (13,832). Other figures of note in the “Other Religion” category include Vodoun at 208, Traditional African Religion at 588 (both numbers that I think are too low), and New Age at 698 adherents.

The spiritual category might have included the Garlic Man Parade organizer mentioned above, the one who wants to reconnect with ancient traditions, and “mixed religion” would most certainly have encompassed a pop star who loves Native American spirituality, Paganism, and Buddhism. In short, Pagans are indeed much larger that some give us credit for, but our numbers will always be diffused through several categories because Paganism doesn’t demand brand loyalty or exclusive rights to your soul.

People are rejecting “religion” in ever growing numbers, and a growing number of individuals are defining themselves as “spiritual but not religion” even if they claim a religious affiliation. This decline simply speeds the decline further, as it becomes easier and more attractive to jettison religious labels.

Pagans dance in "nonreligious" Estonia. Photo: BBC.

Pagans dance in “nonreligious” Estonia. Photo: BBC.

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.”It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility. […]  In a large number of modern secular democracies, there’s been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%.” The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category. They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them. And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

What happens is that you start to encounter cultures where “nones” dominate, and where spirituality is often shaped by the landscape, and by the people living in it. This can be very Pagan as in the Pacific Northwest, where the authors of “Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia,” note residents are “eclectically, informally, often deeply ‘spiritual.’” Specifically, New Age and nature-oriented spirituality loom large among “nones” here.

“According to the just-published “Cascadia: the Elusive Utopia.” … a lot of these “nones” in the Pacific Northwest are actually very spiritual, walking a path of their own making, but not into organized religions and churches. Sociology professor Mark Shibley of Southern Oregon University wrote the lead essay called “The Promise and Limits of Secular Spirituality in Cascadia.” “This region is different. The people here are not as connected to religious institutions,” he says. The alternative spirituality here shows itself in two main ways, Shibley notes: “nature spirituality,” such as you see in the secular environmental movement, and the more well-known New Age spirituality, where the gaze is shifted inward.”

While some Pagans seem to scorn this growing contingent of eclectic, syncretic, label-free, spiritual people, I think it is this growing phenomenon that will deliver vital cultural shifts for those of us who are explicitly members of a Pagan religion. The rise of the unaffiliated in the world weakens the power of the religions that seek to create a homogenous “united” religious identity under their moral guidance. Call them wishy-washy, or unable to commit, or whatever invective you choose, but the “spiritual” people are the buffer that allows for the continued growth of Paganism around the world. Pink’s love of Paganism helps create a future where even more people can learn to love us.

Happy Friday everyone! Here are three cool (Pagan) things from the news to start off your weekend right.

How Will They Include the Footnotes? Den of Geek reports that the BBC will be making a six-part adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s landmark fantasy novel “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.” The book, which posits an alternate England where magic was once practiced but has fallen into the realm of antiquarians and scholars, tells the tale of two magicians and magic’s revival.

jonthan strange mr norrell

“6×60 series, based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Peter Harness. Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell is set during the Napoleonic Wars in an England where magic once existed and is about to return.”

No further information has been announced, but the book is an utter delight, one that captures the thrill and dangers of rediscovering magic, while building an alternate England with delightful footnotes and references. I know a lot of people are looking forward to HBO’s American Gods series, but I think I might be more excited for this adaptation.

Scaring the Winter Ghosts in Austria: The Reuters photographers blog has a post up documenting the Perchten festival in western Austria, where townsfolk dress up as demonic figures to frighten Winter spirits and ensure a good harvest. The resulting photos are amazing, despite photographer Dominic Ebenbichler’s skepticism about the rites.

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang

A man dressed up in tradtional Perchten costume and mask perform during a Perchten festival in the western Austrian village of Heitwerwang.

“The explanation goes back to the years about 500 AD. Back then farmers performed pagan rites to disperse the ghosts of winter to help bring a fruitful harvest. They thought it might work with terrifying masks which should scare even ghosts. And what is more scarier than the devil himself? Right, nothing! Even ghosts have to be scared by the devil.

In 2012 not much has changed. Of course we know that scaring ghosts is not going to work, but traditions are deep-rooted and somehow people still believe in the power of pagan rituals. And in the countryside there is nothing more important than a good harvest, so why not help a good harvest along by getting rid of some winter ghosts one way or another. Old habits die hard I guess.”

The Perchten are the entourage of the goddess Perchta, a figure associated with Holda, whose name means “the bright one.” Perchta performed a Santa Claus-like role, dispensing gifts in winter to good children. The Perchten are a remnant of her worship.

How Ren. Faires Changed Everything: Finally, Chas Clifton points us to the release of a new book, “Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture” by Rachel Lee Rubin that “reveals the way the faires established themselves as a pioneering and highly visible counter cultural referendum on how we live now—our family and sexual arrangements, our relationship to consumer goods, and our corporate entertainments.”


“In order to understand the meaning of the faire to its devoted participants,both workers and visitors, Rubin has compiled a dazzling array of testimony, from extensive conversations with Faire founder Phyllis Patterson to interviews regarding the contemporary scene with performers, crafters, booth workers and “playtrons.” Well Met pays equal attention what came out of the faire—the transforming gifts bestowed by the faire’s innovations and experiments upon the broader American culture: the underground press of the 1960sand 1970s, experimentation with “ethnic” musical instruments and styles in popular music, the craft revival, and various forms of immersive theater are all connected back to their roots in the faire. Original, intrepid, and richly illustrated, Well Met puts the Renaissance Faire back at the historical center of the American counterculture.”

Seems like a must-own for anyone interested in the development of American counter-culture, and the influence Ren. Faires had on the development of modern Paganism in the United States. As a young man I spent a few years working at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I think  those experiences were formative for the person I was to become, especially in showing how alternative religions and lifestyles were absorbed into one “faire family.” I’m very much looking forward to reading this.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

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.

Ronald Hutton

  • The Somerset Guardian reports on a Clutton History Society meeting, featuring a talk from historian Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon:A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft.” Quote: “After the summer break Clutton History Society resumed its monthly programme of talks in September with a visit from Professor Ronald Hutton, of Bristol University’s History Department, who gave a talk entitled Village Witchcraft. Appropriately the audience were spell bound with the professor’s informative and very interesting talk. Professor Hutton is a notable authority on early modern history, folklore and pre-Christian history.” For more on Hutton, here’s the scholar explaining how Puritans ruined our fun. We’re still awaiting the broadcast of “Britain’s Wicca Man,” a documentary about Gerald Gardner hosted by Hutton.
  • At Forbes, conservative Christian commentator Bill Flax admits that the United States isn’t a Christian nation (albeit with a number of caveats). Quote: “America wasn’t founded as a Christian nation and many of our beloved Forefathers sadly were not, yet America was largely comprised of Believers. Liberty allows us to worship freely or not at all per conscience. America was never meant to be theocratic or homogenous religiously, but Christianity has always been indelible to our social fabric.”
  • AlterNet interviews  Nancy L. Cohen, author of “Delirium: The Politics of Sex in America,” about why “sexual fundamentalists” still hold such much political power, despite shrinking as a demographic (in essence they’ve slowly entrenched themselves into the Republican base and presidential nominating process). Quote: “The secret to understanding American politics right now is to understand how these extremists are less popular yet more powerful than we imagine. The GOP platform is a good object lesson about how sexual fundamentalists operate within the Republican Party. The delegates that ended up at the convention are the most extreme of the Republican base. The people who were elected to be on the platform committee are the most extreme of the extremists. That’s how you end up with a platform that says not only no abortion with no exceptions, even for rape, but also includes a lot of junk science that says it’s proven women become depressed from abortion or that there is fetal pain.”
  • For those of you who’ve enjoyed the recent back-and-forth in our community concerning belief and religion, historian Kelly J. Baker, author of “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930,” centers on the perennial question of ‘They don’t really believe that, do they?’ Quote: “If I, the person who studies “weird” or “exotic” religion, will assure them that these people don’t believe, then maybe they can rest easy. I cannot assure them. And, if I am being truly honest, I really don’t want to. Instead, I emphasize that this “belief” is materialized in every prophetic utterance, billboard proclaiming the date of the end, online discussion of reptoid encounters, and each weapon purchased for the possibility of race war.” 
  • Boycotts are awesome when we do them, and terrible when other people do them.
  • Ke$ha’s new album is about magic! The first single is called “Supernatural”! She had sex with a ghost! Quote: “It’s about experiences with the supernatural, but in a sexy way. I had a couple of experiences with the supernatural. I don’t know his name! He was a ghost! I’m very open to it.” So, yeah, that happened.
  • A Republican polling firm has found that 69% of hunters and anglers support reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming. Perhaps proof that climate change isn’t a partisan issue, and that denialists are increasingly out of step with the people they say they represent?
  • Naomi Wolf defends her new book “Vagina” at Quote: To Wolf, criticism of her choice to couch that information in hippie-dippy terms like “The Goddess Array” has also been used to suppress discussion of female sexuality. The concept of “transcendence,” she says, is based in a long literary tradition, and though it “can be seen as a mystical term, it’s also a clinical term.” She is not actually “making a claim for some dimension of reality that exists outside of the brain.” Instead, she’s calling on the gods in a literary attempt to push back against 5,000 years of human history, in which the vagina has been “demeaned, debated, debased, and stigmatized,” she says. “I chose the phrase ‘The Goddess Array’ flippantly, I suppose, because it’s like, ‘fuck you.’ Seriously!” The coinage was an attempt to “carve out a space for women where they feel a radical sense of self-respect,” she says. “Is that coinage working for everybody? Obviously not. But if you have a better word for radical female self-respect, please tell me, because it does not exist.”
  • BBC on the Druids.
  • Killing your religious disciple is not OK.
  • US Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe rejects calls for anti-blasphemy laws, saying that freedom of religion and freedom of expression are inseparable. Quote: “The inseparable freedoms of expression and religion are important not for abstract reasons […] when these freedoms are restricted, we see violence, poverty, stagnation and feelings of frustration and even humiliation.”
Star Foster

Star Foster

  • In a final note, farewell to Star Foster, our Pagan Portal Manager, who’s leaving Patheos to concentrate on her new life in Paganistan. Quote:  “So this is my last post for this blog. My fond farewell. I need to focus on something other than Paganism for awhile, or at least Paganism at large. My personal practice has suffered, and needs some tender loving care. I won’t completely disappear. I might do a story or two for the PNC. One day, I might even blog again. But I’m going to be silent for a long while. I need that desperately.” Thank you for all your work Star, and I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of you!

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.

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.

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

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.

Last week I deconstructed the Daily Mail’s sensationalist assertions regarding the teaching of Paganism in British religious education courses, specifically in Cornwall. I pointed out that there is no hard-and-fast mandate requiring schools to insert Pagan religions into their curriculum, and that the RE advisory council is exactly that, advisory. This didn’t stop conservative Catholic columnist Christina Odone from flying off the rails, using the story as a jumping-off point to rail against any who dare place non-Christian faiths on equal ground with Christianity.

“God, Gaia, whatever: school children are already as familiar with the solstice as with the sacraments. In pockets of Cornwall, children will point out a nun in her habit: “Look, a Druid!” Their parents will merely shrug — one set of belief is as good as another. How long before the end of term is marked by a Black Mass, with only Health and Safety preventing a human sacrifice?

So with the discourse on this non-event having sunk about as low as it could go, it was time for the journalistic grown-ups at the BBC to step in and set things to rights.

Sue Green, director of education, said Cornwall’s heritage was “quite unique” and must be celebrated. The director said the syllabus suggested if there was an important religious aspect of beliefs such as Paganism, teachers should “explore it”. “We must celebrate the spiritual and religious heritage for our children.” Ms Green said: “For many of our schools there will be children who come from Pagan families and we wouldn’t want those children to feel marginalised.” But she added, that “no school is being told to teach about Paganism”.

It should be noted that Sue Green is director of education for the Anglican Diocese of Truro, which serves Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, so not exactly a shill for the powerful (and largely imaginary) Cornwall Pagan lobby. Nor is Green the only prominent Cornish Christian to speak up in defense of the curriculum guidelines, a local paper in Cornwall interviews the Rev Mike Coles, pastor of Falmouth Evangelical Church, and chairman of Cornwall’s advisory body for religious education, about the council’s recommendations.

“It seems right to develop a distinctively Cornish element that included the early Celtic saints, the influence of John Wesley, and the history of Truro Cathedral, as well as the significance of pre-Christian sites.”

Rev. Coles is a conservative Baptist, again, not exactly a “rah rah Paganism” kind of guy. That paper also speaks with David Hampshire, RE adviser for Cornwall, who notes that the “option” (notice the word option and not “mandate”) was developed “in order to develop a ‘Curriculum Kernewek’ (Cornish curriculum),” and that Paganism would “not be a major feature” of the curriculum. Thus, yet another controversy constructed by The Daily Mail is laid to bed, though I’m sure critics will once again lash out at the BBC for being too “Pagan friendly” for daring to accurately report the news.

In a final note, only one news outlet bothered to get a statement from the local branch of the Pagan Federation, and that was the Huffington Post UK.

“Fiona MacDonald, co-ordinator of Cornwall’s Pagan Federation, said the group welcomed the decision to include Paganism on the curriculum. “We have been campaigning for schools to introduce it for the past 10 years,” she told The Huffington Post UK. “It is not a question of teaching children Paganism, rather teaching children about Paganism. “We are just normal human beings with different ideas,” she added.”

So here’s to HuffPo UK for actually asking local Pagans what they think about a story that affects their lives. It’s sad that they were the only ones to do so.

So, to wrap up, an advisory RE curriculum is advisory, not mandatory, local Christians and Pagans don’t seem to have a problem with the RE curriculum, children are not being indoctrinated by Pagans, and the Daily Mail is a terrible way to get your journalism and you should really stop reading and linking to it.