It was announced yesterday that Senior Druid A.J. Gooch had died suddenly upon arriving at Sunday’s Winterstar Ball, a yearly fundraising event to honor the legacy of Jeff Rosenbaum. A.J. was a longtime member of the Rosenbaum’s Starwood Community, as well as the Barony of the Cleftlands, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). A.J. was also member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and the Ohio-based Stone Creed Grove. He regularly attended Cleveland Pagan Pride.
Along with his many community roles, A.J. devoted much time to his position as “the Senior Druid of Stone Creed Grove, and was serving as the Assistant Senior Druid at the time of his death.” Friends and family have been posting photos and stories on his Facebook page to commemorate his life and share the ways in which A.J. touched the community. Cleveland Pagan Pride organizers posted, “Our positive thoughts are with his wife and children in this time of mourning. Journey well our brother to your ancestors that await you in the Summerland. Blessed Be!”
Stone Creed Grove (SCG) is planning a memorial service and will post more details on its own website as plans are finalized. SCG Officers added that if anyone would like to offer assistance to A.J.’s family, contact them directly. They wrote, “We know that AJ touched many lives in the many groups he was involved in. He will be remembered with honor as he joins the Mighty Dead in the summerlands.” What is Remembered, Lives!
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Over the past week, a number of conservative media outlets have been replicating a story originally posted by Judicial Watch, entitled, “Air Force Academy Uses Chapel Tithes and Offering Fund to Pay for Cadets’ Attendance at Festivals Celebrating Witchcraft, Faery Magick, and Voodoo.” The original report criticizes the Academy for using donated funds to send cadets to Pagan religious events, citing both Beltania and the Denver Witches’ Ball. Judicial Watch based its article on a number of receipts and documents obtained directly from the academy.
Since Judicial Watch published its initial report, it has attracted the attention of mainstream media sites as well as smaller conservative outlets. Additionally, a number of concerned Pagan organizations have gotten involved and are speaking out in defense of the Air Force Academy and the local Denver Pagan community. Rev. Joy Burton and Jo Butler, directors of Living Earth Church, published a statement on their website in response to Judicial Watch. In that statement, they said that nobody from Judicial Watch ever contacted them about these concerns. Living Earth Church hosts the annual Beltania retreat cited in the story. Rev. Burton told The Wild Hunt, “Living Earth has respect for all faiths and appreciates those who answer the inflammatory words with calm, reasoned responses.”
In addition, Lady Liberty League has gotten involved. Rev. Selena Fox stated that the organization “supports fair and equal treatment of those of the many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies serving in all branches of the US Military. We are thankful that the Air Force Academy supports the rights of its members to practice their religion or no religion at all.” Members of LLL’s Military Affairs Task Force have been working with Living Earth Church, the Sacred Well Congregation, and the Pagan Circle at the Air Force Academy, and others who have been or may be directly affected by the Judicial Watch article.
To thank Lady Liberty League for its support in Denver and elsewhere, Living Earth Church board members voted last night to donate “5% of Beltania Festival 2016 proceeds” to the LLL. Rev Burton said, “May these unkind and dismissive attacks never dissuade us from building bridges of understanding. May the ignorance and negativity only remind us of the need for greater learning and love. Beltania 2016 will be our most open-hearted and welcoming festival ever, and we invite all to join us this coming May to show support for our cadets and help build community.”
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Publisher and author Taylor Ellwood posted a third “Open Letter to Pagan Convention Organizers and to Pagan Presenters” on his blog. The post, dated Feb. 24, opens with: “Back in December of 2015 I wrote 2 open letters to Pagan Convention Organizers. In the first letter I explained that I no longer wanted to present at events where I was expected to pay to present and no compensation was offered for my efforts. In the second letter, I called for transparency on how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected.”
Ellwood went on to share several bloggers’ responses to his initial calls to action.Then he thanked convention organizers, renewed his request for transparency, and clarified his position. He wrote, “I’m not [selling out] … I’m just accepting that there are certain realities to putting an event together that involves a lot of expense and moving parts. I get that […] but I want what I have to offer acknowledged and valued.”
Finally, Ellwood announced his plans to host a virtual conference. He said, “It’s going to take a while for me to do it, but I will do it […] More importantly, I promise that you will have the potential to make money.”
In Other News:
- Artist and Author Lupa will be launching her second Tarot of the Bones crowdfunding campaign. The original IndieGoGo campaign was started last spring and ultimately raised $10,148 dollars toward the deck’s production This next campaign will cover “printing costs for the completed deck and book set.” The campaign will launch March 1 and will run for 60 days. Lupa said, “Campaign backers will be able to choose from a variety of perks, ranging from The Tarot of Bones deck and book set to original assemblage pieces used for the card art. Previous campaign backers and new supporters alike will be able to choose standalone perks like prints and limited-edition bone jewelry, as well as perk packages including The Tarot of Bones deck and book.” More information is on the Tarot of the Bones official website.
- Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) has posted details about their upcoming summer event. The CUUPS board said, “We are very excited to announce that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will host its Convocation on August 26-28, 2016. All CUUPS members, UU’s and those interested in UU Paganism, Earth and Nature Centered Spirituality are invited to register and attend.” It will be held at the “First Church UU in Salem has roots dating back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” This year’s speakers include, John Beckett, Byron Ballard, Silver Branch, Gypsy Ravish, and Rev. Shirley Ranck. More details on the event and the registration process are located on the CUUPS Patheos blog site.
- The Wild Hunt is proud to announce the addition of a new columnist. Karl E. H. Seigfried will be joining the TWH monthly writing team. Seigfried is known for his dedicated work at the Norse Mythology Blog, which has been recognized as one of the top blogs on the topic. He will be joining us to share his expertise in Norse Mythology, comparative religion and media. His first Wild Hunt article will be published at the end of March.
- Looking for some new music? Sencha the Vate has released an album called Mists on the Mountain. It is described as featuring “soothing Native American flute and guitar compositions.” Details are available on Sencha’s new website.