Archives For Canada

ELORA, Ont — After a recent move by corporate giant Nestle to extract and bottle the water from an aquifer supplying the idyllic small town of Elora, Pagan writer Dr. Brendan Myers has been prompted to put his money where his mouth is. Elora is both Myers hometown and the inspiration for Fellwater, the setting in his fantasy novel series “The Hidden Houses.” Myers has pledged to donate the profits from the November sales of these books to a community group called Save Our Water. The money will be used to help cover the costs involved in fighting Nestle’s extraction plan.

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Elora Gorge [Photo Credit: Lone Primate / Flickr]

Nestlé Waters Canada, a subsidiary of the transnational Nestlé Company, has conditionally purchased a well, which is located on the Grand River across from the Elora Gorge Park. To begin operations, the company needs approval from the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment.

In a recent interview, The Wild Hunt spoke to Dr. Myers about his pledge to donate to Save Our Water and about his hometown of Elora:

The Wild Hunt: What is the most beautiful thing about the town of Elora?

Dr. Brendan Myers: The gorge. It’s a two-kilometer, 20-meter deep riverbed of limestone, topped with a cedar forest. There are always trees and cliffs to climb, little holes and blind caves to explore, and stories to tell. In the spring the oil from the cedar trees was thick in the air, so much that after a few hours you would feel like you bathed in it. In my novels I described it as “a place you could go wandering, and never care if you became lost.”

In a recent blog post, Myers wrote:

Elora’s rich, diverse, delightful, and bountiful watershed, the very flowing heart of the real-world fairyland that I still love, is clearly threatened by industrial water extraction. The company plans to take 1.6 million litres of water every day. That’s almost as much water from the aquifer as the village itself takes; effectively doubling the demand on the ecosystem. Yet where Elora residents pay $2140 per million litres, Nestlé will pay only $3.71 for the same volume.

Local residents are concerned that the aquifer will not be able to sustain the drain on the water supply, or the increased traffic on the roads that the water trucks will create, as they haul water as much as 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The water will be moved to the neighbouring town of Aberfoyle, where it will be bottled in plastic bottles and sold to the Canadian market.

The residents of Elora have banded together as the group Save Our Water and have made three demands:

  1. Require Nestle to monitor local wells for two weeks prior to the Middlebrook pumping test in order to provide better groundwater baseline data, plus a commitment from Nestle to assure transparent data collection and independent, third party assessment of the test results.
  1. Impose a three-year moratorium on consumptive water-taking permits for commercial bottling in the Grand River Watershed.
  1. Provide municipalities in the Grand River Watershed time to complete their Water Supply Master Plans and Tier Three Risk Assessments as required.
The Hidden Houses series, by Brendan Myers

The Hidden Houses series by Brendan Myers

As a writer and high profile member of the Canadian Pagan community, Myers has decided to use his influence to help spread the word and publicize Save Our Water’s work. In his most recent blog post, he expressed his own rage and despair at what he perceives as an injustice and offers his books as a way for others to experience the magic Elora has to offer. By pledging his November book profits to the campaign, Myers is also offering an incentive for book buyers to help the cause.

TWH: What message are you trying to send out to other Pagans by making this pledge?

BM: I suppose I’m saying that each of us can do more than think we can do, and perhaps more than we presently do, to protect the earth. Modern paganism is not only about spells and rituals and honouring the gods. It’s also about social and political justice. This has been the case since the 1700’s, when the first modern pantheists published tracts against mercantilism and monarchy. It remains true today with the activism work of Reclaiming, The Pagan Federation, and so on. Squabbles about which lineage of British Wicca is “authentic”, or about the relative merits of hard versus soft theism, are in my view red-herring distractions. More important than what you believe, is what you do.  So this month I’m donating my royalties to a noble cause. So let’s all drop the hair-splitting and fight the real enemy.

TWH: What has the response to your pledge so far?

BM: The response in social media has been excellent. My blog post has been “liked” and “shared” by hundreds of people; it’s my second-best social media response since I wrote Clear and Present Thinking. My blog post was retweeted by no less a luminary than Neil Gaiman— I’m especially proud and thankful for that! In terms of book sales, however, I’ve sold no more than usual this month. Publishing is certainly not a path to wealth and fame (unless you have a million-dollar budget for marketing, which I don’t). But there’s still more month to go.

Dr. Brendan Myers (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Brendan Myers [Courtesy photo]

TWH: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

BM: Yes, I do. I’m convinced that climate change and global warming is the most important problem of our age— socially, politically, economically, philosophically, and spiritually. I wrote my doctorate on environmental ethics and future generations; I regularly discuss it with my students; I vote with my money and my feet for economic change; in fact I sometimes lobby my government.

TWH: Are there any other causes that you are particularly concerned about?

BM: I’m deeply concerned about income inequality, the “dumbing down” of culture, the apparent rise of “men’s rights activists” (translation: anti-feminist activists), whether my books will be still be read after I die, and when Bethesda will release the next Skyrim game. (Although I’d rather create my own such game.) But mostly I want to live a good life, as a writer, as a friend to those I care about, and as a human being on this good earth and at this interesting historical time. To paraphrase Cornell West: I’m not promoting any particular political ideology, I’m just trying to live a life of integrity.

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This decision from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment is expected by mid-November.

Image: public domain

Image: public domain

OTTAWA, Ont. — Monday, October 19, 2015 was a day for the history books, as Canadians went to the polls to vote for who would lead the country for the next four years. This campaign was the longest and also the most expensive that Canada has ever seen.

Canada has three major political parties. On the right is the Conservative Party of Canada, the current ruling party, led by Stephen Harper. They came to power in 2006, and Harper served as Prime Minister for 10 years, winning three consecutive elections before being defeated this week.

The most recent opposition party is the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) led by Thomas Mulcair. It is the left-of-centre option, and rose rose to the position of official opposition for the first time in 2011. Somewhere down the middle is the Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau. The Liberals fell hard from grace after the 2011 election, finishing with only 19% of the popular vote, an all time low for the party. As a result, they left the official opposition position to the NDP.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper Photo: Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper [Photo Credit: Canadian Press]

When the writ was dropped on August 4, and the election officially called, nobody could have guessed how things would have turned out. The press was at first speculating that it would be a tight race between the Conservative Party’s Stephen Harper and the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair. Not much was thought of liberal Justin Trudeau at the time. He was written off as being too young, inexperienced and just a pretty boy with great hair, attempting to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Pierre Trudeau.

The elder Trudeau is remembered as Canada’s most charismatic and revolutionary leaders. He led the Liberal Party and served as Prime Minister, from 1968 – 1979 and again from 1980-84. He was an outspoken leader who dated high profile women, loved to canoe and caused media frenzies. He was photographed doing pirouettes at important events and giving the one-fingered salute to protesters. He married the beautiful and much younger Margaret Sinclair, and had three sons. Justin is the oldest, born December 25, 1971.

A young Justin Trudeau canoes with his Father, the late Pierre Trudeau Photo: public domain

A young Justin Trudeau canoes with his Father, the late Pierre Trudeau [Public Domain]

The changes brought about by the last ten years of Conservative government were vast and sweeping. Many Canadians felt that the ruling party jeopardized Canadian culture and institutions. Many federally-funded organizations saw their budgets cut or eliminated. such as those for veterans, low-income citizens, environmental protection, senior citizens, immigrants, women, indigenous peoples, healthcare and the arts. Not even the high profile Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was safe as this institution and voice of Canadian culture saw massive layoffs and programming cuts.

Twice Harper prorogued Parliament, in 2008 and then again in 2009, holding up proceedings that he felt threatened and criticized his government. These were the only two times that this had ever happened in Canadian history. In March 2011, Harper refused to disclose the costs of big-ticket programs and, subsequently, became the first Canadian Prime Minister to be found in contempt of Parliament.

Harper will be remembered internationally for muzzling scientists and shutting down world-class scientific studies, such as the Experimental Lakes Project (ELA). He will also be remembered for losing Canada’s seat on the UN Security Council; for his insistence in pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline; for his failure to rise to the Syrian refugee crisis and the list goes on.

A Canadian polling staion on Election Day, October 19, 2015 Photo: Elections Canada

A Canadian polling station on Election Day, October 19, 2015 [Photo Credit: Elections Canada]

And so, last Monday, Canadians went to the polls to vote for a new Prime Minister, or as some pundits predicted, to re-elect Harper. As the polls closed on the east coast, and the first returns came in, one thing was clear – the Liberal Party was making a comeback. As more and more counts were confirmed, the electoral map of the country was slowly being marked with Liberal red. Even before returns were in from half the country, the numbers in favour of the Liberal Party were so high that the CBC was already declaring Trudeau would be the next Prime Minister.

In the end, the liberals won a majority government with 184 seats.The NDP was crushed, only taking 44 seats and losing the title of opposition party to the outgoing Conservatives, who took 99 seats. Ten seats went to the Quebec based Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party took one lone seat, which is held by its national leader Elizabeth May.

But the drama did not end there. Before the night was over, Stephen Harper resigned as leader of the party, choosing to stay on as a member of Parliament, representing his home riding of Calgary Heritage in Alberta. This news was sent out as a press release by Conservative Party president John Walsh, just as Harper took the stage to make his concession speech. The news spread like wildfire across social media.

So who is this new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? Do Canadians like him? Do Canadian Pagans like him? Popular horror writer and Toronto Pagan Pub Moot organizer Karen Dales, from Toronto, Ontario, had this to say:

I find it interesting that when referring to our new PM we are calling him Justin, not Trudeau. We never called Harper by his first name, we never called Paul Martin, Paul. We never called any of our PM’s by their first name. Now we are doing so with Justin. When one calls another by their first name, it breeds familiarity and friendship–connection. I think this in itself marks a change in how the people of Canada relate/connect with our PM.

Maybe it is because Justin Trudeau grew up in the public eye, we know him. When his younger brother, Michel died tragically in a skiing accident, we mourned with the family. When Pierre Trudeau died, political divisions were set aside and the entire country grieved.

Justin Trudeau [Photo Credit: Alex Guibord / Flickr]

Justin Trudeau [Photo Credit: Alex Guibord / Flickr]

Social media was abuzz with comments from Pagans and Heathens from coast to coast. They were chiming in to the national conversation with thoughts and hopes for change. One Heathen with great hope is Robert Rudachyk, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In 2016, Rudachyk will be running for the Liberal Party as a candidate in the provincial election. He said:

I feel that this change will bring a new openness and inclusiveness to the government. Now the issues that they need to focus on are rebuilding our economy, getting rid of many of the repressive and xenophobic laws supported by the old government, and keeping their promises.

Across the country in Prince George, British Columbia, Pagan Andrew Burton is also feeling reflective about change. Burton, who runs a youth theatre group called Street Spirits, campaigned to be elected to his local school board last October. Despite not being elected, Burton remains active in his community. He said:

I am optimistic about the change in government. A friend of mine (an MLA in Manitoba) once said: “Change is a good thing. After you’ve been in power for a while you start to think you own it.” We need a fresh approach and a thoughtful agenda. At the same time It troubles me that people seemed to be voting against Harper rather than for a particular candidate in their riding. We need to be voting for a capable voice in parliament and a positive vision rather than to kick the scoundrels to the curb.

In Burnaby, British Columbia, Pagan podcaster, Sparrow, of The Wigglian Way, got to work ensuring that things ran smoothly at her local polling station. She shared:

I volunteered as a “candidate representative” for Lynne Quarmby, Green Candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour. I arrived at the polling station at 6:30 am so that I could observe that the ballot boxes were empty and sealed correctly. Next, I looked at all the ballots to be sure that they were not marked on the front in any way shape, or form and to be sure they were initialed by the Deputy Returning Officer at each station.

It was my job to observe the area for any shenanigans. Every hour I checked behind all the voting screens to be sure there were no markings on the instructions or screens themselves. As each voter’s name was announced I would cross it off a voter list to be sure that no one was voting again. At the end of the voting day, representatives of each candidate witnessed the counting of the votes at each poll. We stayed until all the ballots were counted. The rejected or “spoiled” ballots were also counted and all were logged. We did not leave the locked room until everything was sorted and accounted for.

I was surprised that there were not more volunteers throughout the day. I was the only candidate representative that was present all day. At the end of the day, I went for a very well earned Chili Stout. Cheers Canada! We Heaved Steve!

Photo: Elections Canada

[Photo Credit: Elections Canada]

Canada now has a great deal of work to do at home. It is notable that the country will now have more indigenous members of parliament than ever before, and that Trudeau has pledged to ensure that his new cabinet will have equal representation from across the country and gender balance for the first time in history. He has also promised to “move quickly” on a long overdue national inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls.

Many Canadian Pagans and Heathens have been concerned that the Harper government’s “Barbaric Cultural Practices Act” could be used to persecute various forms of Pagan ritual and practice and could be a gateway to a modern Witch hunt. Dales expressed relief that the election results may change this:

Canada spoke true and with hope on October 19th. No longer will we Pagans be worried that a neighbour is calling to report our practices–which are protected in the Charter of Rights–as barbaric. We Canadians said that we will not tolerate bigotry, fear-mongering, and divisiveness.

Harper may have been what Canada needed when he was first in office, but power went to his head. Canada has hope in Justin, because we see in him many aspects of ourselves. As Pagans we can look to his wife, Sophie Gregoire, as someone who may be part of our ‘tribe’ if not in religion, but in spirituality.

Witch and poet, Katherine Bitney, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, also sees the need for the new government to be held accountable to campaign promises made, and to restoring Canada to its former glory:

This morning I woke up to a Harperless Canada. Such a freeing, smile-inducing thought, such a breathing in and out of such immense relief. Long road ahead cleaning up the ugly mess, repairing the years of damage, but oh, oh, science is unmuzzled, journalists can ask questions, the Prime Minister will meet with the Premiers, and he will dang well go to Paris to deal with climate change, environmental issues.

We shall see, then, once the honeymoon is over and the new government gets itself in order, and down to the work of running the country, whether this mandate is justified in the long run. We, the citizens of Canada, will be holding their feet to the fire on promises made, and accountable for the restoration and protection of democracy, and the health of the land itself. Let’s see if this government proves a worthy steward.

[Columnist Christina Oakley Harrington is our talented columnist based in London. She is one of the team members who has assisted in expanding our coverage beyond U.S. borders. If you enjoy reading her work, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive. We are completely reader-funded, so it is you that makes it all possible! So, donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

Among UK Pagans, everyone has heard of the Pagan Federation. It’s been with us forever: a bit staid and not always terribly exciting or visible. It’s the body that deals with officialdom; gives information on paganism to civil servants in government bodies; and provides balanced quotes when news stories come up. Most university chaplains, registrars and news journalists know the basics nowadays.

This is unexciting work, but it is worthy beyond measure. When a dramatic event occurs associated with a pagan, such as a crime, the Pagan Federation helps the news media separate the crime from the religion, and lets them know that our community will not tolerate otherwise.

But the Pagan Federation’s work is invaluable, too, in times when pagans meet officialdom in the daily business of life. My experience of the past week has shown that more clearly than I ever imagined.

[unknown origin]

[creator unknown]

I live in London, but nine days ago I raced to Heathrow airport to catch the first flight to Toronto. My father, a Canadian, was in the hospital; his health failing him. On arrival I learned quickly that he was dying. And I, his eldest child, faced the unimaginably painful task of asking for his extra oxygen to be removed, as Dad had wanted. It was the equivalent of switching off the life support.

It felt too much for me at that moment, so I asked for the nurse to send for the chaplain. I knew the chaplain would not be Pagan, but I had to have someone. To the hospital bedside came a loving and experienced man named Jason. He was a Christian of course, but we met as human beings. He did not bring any agenda; he brought his insight and care. Our two hours together at my father’s bedside helped me greatly, and I did what I needed to do.

Hours later, dad died. Almost immediately my relatives took me to the funeral home where we had to plan the funeral. With no sleep and still in shock, we had to negotiate religious differences. Dad was atheist, but came from a committed Presbyterian family. He had in me a pagan daughter and two spiritual, but not religious, other adult children.

A minister we’d never met would take us through the ceremony. In he walked to my aunt’s formal living room. His name was Darrow. Dad’s atheism was acknowledged with kindness, and he fit these facts into the way he guided us to choosing readings for a service which was framed in the Christian structure so important to my father’s sister. He noticed and understood my tiny silver pentagram pendant with a gentle smile, and we agreed on a reading about nature.

Somewhere, somehow, both the chaplain and this minister had learned a bit about paganism. They didn’t know much, but it was enough. They were neither confused nor disturbed by me, and I could be open with them. It was clear that pagans had been part of their interfaith education. To those nameless Canadian pagans who showed up to a seminary, a meeting, or a conference years ago, I say ‘thank you.’ Because of those pagan, at a time of great vulnerability, a bereaved pagan daughter thousands of miles from home could speak from her heart and hear words of consolation.

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

Pagans often express a healthy disregard for the bounds of convention. We pride ourselves on being on the edges and challenging restrictive norms. I love this about us, but there are times when we simply need our faith to be understood; so we can get through, without fuss or fight, those difficult times of death, suffering or despair.

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In the UK, when a person dies, the funeral normally takes place a week or two afterward. This gap allows time to plan a personalised ceremony. Most pagans are situated in a wider family who are not of their own faith, so they will have a balancing act similar to that of my own family. Some of us, however, do leave a majority of family and friends of our own faith.

Wiccan priestess Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) asked to have a pagan funeral and her friends accorded her one in the crematorium’s non-denominational chapel, with friends she had chosen in advance standing in the four quarters. Priestess Madge Worthington (d. 2004) of the Whitecroft line of Wicca had the Charge of the Goddess read at her funeral. Here in Britain, crematoria chapels are where most non-religious funerals take place and the staff are beginning to be less surprised when pagan rites are done in them.

When I opened the newspaper this summer to read of ‘Britain’s First Pagan Funeral’ I knew it was not true. The event for the death of Cornwall’s ‘Eron the Wizard’ was colourful, hippy, gothic pagan, with the press invited. Everyone who reads the papers in the UK now knows that pagans die too, and that we can have outlandish funerals. This is to be welcomed.

Some prefer a more sober style of funeral. But at the end of life, we need our spirituality there with us, just as do all people of faith. When we can receive an understanding smile from a crematorium porter, a funeral director, or a chaplain at this time, it means the world. The unglamourous work of interfaith education pays all of its dividends at those very moments.

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[Cara Schulz is one of our talented weekly staff writers. She brings you the news and issues that most affect the Pagan and Heathen worlds. If you like her work and that of our other weekly reporters, help us by donating to our fall fund drive. Bringing you news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. It is your continued support that makes it possible for us to continue. Support independent journalism! Donate today.Thank you very much.]

SASKATOON, Canada – It was just another night door knocking and campaigning for Robert Rudachyk – no different from the 49 previous nights. After he finished, he headed home and, as he was about to enter his front door, he witnessed an unfamiliar car occupied by two men slam into his neighbor’s car and then try to drive off. Rudachyk didn’t hesitate. He chased the car down on foot as it tried to get away.

Rudachyk, a Heathen living in Saskatoon-Riverdale, Canada, has been campaigning on behalf of the Liberal Party candidates for the upcoming Canadian federal elections scheduled for October. He’s also running to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly himself in April’s regional elections.

Robert Rudachyk

Robert Rudachyk

On the evening of September 23, Rudachyk saw the unfamiliar car hit his neighbor’s car while attempting a three point turn. When the two men sped off into the dark, Rudachyk ran after them. “It was obvious they were trying to get on the main road about a block and a half away. I ran after them hoping I could catch them at the intersection. Luckily, there were pedestrians crossing in front of them and heavy traffic,” said Rudachyk. The vehicle was forced to stop long enough for him to catch up.

His cell phone dead, Rudachyk decided to bluff and yelled at the two men in the car that he had snapped a photo of their plate number. The car turned into a 7-11 parking lot, and that’s when Rudachyk was able to confront them. He told them if they didn’t come back to the scene of the hit-and-run, he would call the police. He also told them that he would physically restrain them from leaving the area. “They agreed to come back and I stayed close until [my neighbor] came out,” said Rudachyk.

The young men and his neighbor exchanged insurance information and, for Rudachyk at least, the matter was over.

Rudachyk said that this isn’t the first time there’s been a hit-and-run in the neighborhood. He said, “It has happened to me and all my neighbours at one time or another, and it has cost us all a lot of money from insurance deductibles.”

That history, combined with the ethics of his religion, Heathenry, spurred him to run after the car. He believes everyone is accountable for their own actions and, “To run from your actions and hide from it is a huge dishonour. It is also dishonourable to stand by and do nothing if you can help.” He added that he’s happy to have been in the right place and time to stop someone from getting away with another hit-and-run.  

As for Rudachyk’s relationship with his neighbors, they have engaged in a bit of humor over the entire situation. “It just happened that the owner of the car is a supporter of the Conservative party and I am a Liberal. It allowed for a little political humour afterwards when his wife was expressing amazement that I was able to run them down. I smiled and said, ‘After almost 50 days of running hard to get our Liberal candidate elected in the riding, it was a piece of cake.’”

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“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” — Vincent van Gogh

There once was a time when earlier generations could look up at the night sky and they were able to observe the cosmos in its entire splendor. The depth and range of the stars were obvious, far beyond what we can see today. Our ancestors created art, philosophy, religion and culture based on how they perceived themselves in the universe. This was inspired by what they could witness in the night sky. Somewhere along the way we lost this vision, our perspective was blurred and diminished. This change was brought about by the constant presence of artificial light, generously and carelessly spilled upwards, into the heavens, drowning out the beacons of light that once guided us.

Over exposure to artificial light has been linked to various health issues, from sleep disorders to depression. Human beings tend to have a natural inclination to soft, warm light, such as the cozy glow of candles, or crackling campfires, yet we overwhelm our communities with the blaring glare of spotlights, electronic billboards and flashing marquees.

Author & astronomer, Kerr Cuhulain. Photo courtesy of Kerr Cuhulain

Author & astronomer, Kerr Cuhulain. [Courtesy Photo]

How can we reclaim the night sky and our primal connection to it? Canadian Pagan author and teacher, Kerr Cuhulain, explored this question. Cuhulain has been a high profile and active member of the Canadian Pagan movement for more than 40 years.

Also known as Detective Constable Charles Ennis, he retired from a long career in law enforcement in 2013. He served as a police officer for the Vancouver Police Department and as a police dispatcher. Often, his commitment to the Pagan community blended with his professional career. He was actively involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crime investigations on behalf of the Pagan community since 1986.

When Cuhulain retired from his career, all of his newly discovered free time had to be re-applied to something. He soon discovered that this freedom provided him with an opportunity to devote more time to one of his passions – astronomy. So he chose to become involved in the creation of something special – the building of an observatory.

Cuhulain said, “I joined the Sunshine Coast Centre (SCC) in 2013. The observatory construction had commenced in 2012. I participated in the building of the observatory, and when I became president of the SCC in December 2014 I presided over the completion of the observatory, the grand opening, and the subsequent training of Qualified Operators and the start of public viewing sessions.”

The Sunshine Coast Centre Observatory. Photo by Kerr Cuhulain

The Sunshine Coast Centre Observatory. Photo by Kerr Cuhulain

The Sunshine Coast Centre is a community group located at the Sunshine Coast Regional Airport near Wilson Creek on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. It has been recognized by the acclaimed Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a national astronomy organization consisting of thousands of members, offering programs and events from coast to coast. When the observatory opened June 27, 2015, people came from far and wide for a look through the telescope. Cuhulain saw the effect that this experience had on the curious visitors.

He said, “On the day of our grand opening we had a ‘First Light’ ceremony where the public came to see the night skies. Some foreign students were brought to the SCC Observatory by one of our members who is a grade 9 science teacher. One of the young men, an Iraqi, came to me just as we were about to close up for the night and put his hands on my shoulders and said, ‘This has been the most amazing night of my life. I will never forget this night.’ And I smiled and thought: That’s why we built this observatory.”

Astronauts who have viewed our planet from space report a phenomenon known as “The Overview Effect”. This euphoric sensation is a cognitive shift in awareness caused by actually seeing the Earth for what it is, in space. This revelation creates a spiritual awakening, and the space traveler comes to realize that the borders and conflicts that separate us are just not worth it. Our small blue planet is just a dot in an unimaginably vast sea of stars, and that we must protect and preserve it. According to Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.”

For those of us who won’t be traveling into outer space anytime soon, visiting an observatory will be as close as we can get to experience this effect. Cuhulain agreed and has similar ideas about how the experience can enrich our lives. He said, “It helps you get yourself back into synchronization with the natural cycles of the days, seasons, and years, back into connection with the universal energy around you. A lot of modern illnesses arise from disruption of circadian rhythms and this connection helps you get back into a healthier lifestyle. It teaches you to respect what we got here on this Earth because you can see the vast forces at work around us and how fragile a balance we have here.”

The Milky Way. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Milky Way. [Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The Sunshine Coast Centre promotes the concept that appreciation and wonder of the night sky is a natural human heritage. As a species, human beings are drawn to stare up at the stars, so how disconnected are we from the night sky? Are we living in an age when we just don’t know what is up there?

Cuhulain fields all kinds of questions from visitors to the observatory. To the above question, he said: “One of the most common questions I get asked when people contact me to set up observatory sessions is: ‘What nights of the year can you see things?’ They ask this because 2/3 of the world’s population can no longer see the night sky due to light pollution caused by artificial light at night. They can no longer see the night sky that was a glory to our ancestors and thus have no idea how much there is to see up there any clear night. People come to these sessions and ask: ‘What is that glowing cloud in the sky?’ I tell them it is their home, the Milky Way galaxy. Seeing the sky gives you a completely different perspective regarding your place in this universe and the importance of respecting this tiny world we live on.”

The problem of alienation from the stars may be worse than we are even aware, because most of us are used to seeing the night sky washed out by light pollution. This has become normal to our urban eyes. Luckily, this form of pollution is reversible, all we need to do is turn off the lights. The International Dark-Sky Association recommends that we all take initiative to reduce light pollution, by only using artificial light when absolutely necessary, using energy efficient bulbs, shielding outdoor lights, using motion detector lights and timers and keeping blinds down at night so that interior light doesn’t spill outside. The benefit of this, as Cuhulain describes, is a new perspective:

He said, “If your perspective of the universe around you is the glare of street lights and billboards, revealing landscapes imprisoned in steel, glass, and concrete, your perspective of the world is confined and your universe a small one. If your perspective of the universe is a clear view right out to the edge of the observable universe, your perspective is unconfined and open to endless possibilities. Our SCC Observatory opens people’s eyes to the size and splendor of their universe and gives people back that perspective”

Visitors to the observatory get up close to the telescope. Photo courtesy of Kerr Cuhulain

Visitors to the observatory get up close to the telescope. [Photo courtesy of K. Cuhulain]

How far can we see into space from Earth? What access to the stars and planets can an average person get without use of a space ship? If you can get your hands on a decent telescope, make your way to an observatory like the one at the Sunshine Coast Centre, and take in a presentation like the one Cuhulain hosts, you may be amazed.

Cuhulain said, “When I do public presentations I ask for a show of hands for the question: ‘How many of you have taken the time to watch the moon rise?’ Typically less than half of the people put their hand up. I then ask them: ‘How many of you have taken the time to watch the moon rise on another planet?’ This typically results in a lot of puzzled stares. And I tell them: “I’m the guy with the telescope, remember? I’ve watched the moons rise on Jupiter and Saturn, and you can too.”

If you would like to see how serious light pollution is in your area, check out NASA’s Blue Marble Navigator.  And remember to give yourself a break from artificial light, and remember to look up and seek the stars.

[Note: Today, September 6 has been declared World Goddess Day. Pagans around the globe are participating in activities that celebrate the divine feminine. To see what is happening in your area, go to the official World Goddess Day site for a listing of the 2015 registered events. For more on the day’s history, check out our previous report.]

SASKATCHEWAN – Election mania is sweeping Canada. Canadians are preparing to go to the polls Oct. 19 to elect a new Prime Minister to lead the country. The campaign so far has been aggressive, with the leaders of the three national parties competing to achieve a majority government.

On April 4, 2016, a few short months after this federal election, citizens of the Province of Saskatchewan will return to the polling stations. This time it will be to elect a new provincial government.

Saskatchewan is known as a prairie province, famous for its flat, wide-open spaces in the south, rich in agriculture. The province also supports pristine forest in the north. Despite is huge size, 405, 071 square miles (651,900 square kilometers), the population of Saskatchewan is a mere 1.2 million people, half of which are divided between the two largest cities in the province – Saskatoon, and the capital, Regina.

Entering the race for a seat as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is Robert Rudachyk, a long-standing member of Canada’s Heathen community. Rudachyk has decided to put his Heathen code of ethics into practice as he embarks to become the MLA for the constituency of Saskatoon-Riverdale, located directly in Saskatoon, the largest city in the province.

Heathen Robert Rudachyk, running for the Liberal Party of Sakatchewan. Photo courtesy of R. Rudachyk

Heathen Robert Rudachyk, running for the Liberal Party of Sakatchewan. Photo courtesy of R. Rudachyk

Canadian Pagans and Heathens are very fortunate that they do not experience the degree of prejudice and intolerance, which many of our counterparts in other regions of the world face. This environment makes it possible for Rudachyk to be nominated by The Liberal party, one of the three main parties in the country, and to run on its behalf for a seat in the provincial legislature.

The Wild Hunt: Do you think Canada is a safe place for an “out” Pagan to run for public office?

Robert Rudachyk: I believe it is. This is a very diverse country with many cultures and faiths represented. Yes, there is hatred from the ignorant and uneducated, but with time and dialogue this will be overcome as well. Our constitution protects our right to believe as we wish, and our politicians and courts are very active in protecting those rights. I find less hatred from the mainstream community than I do from the Pagan community. Many times I have been attacked by members of the Pagan community, because I am far more pragmatic in my views and am not interested in glomming onto the latest fashionable conspiracy theory that they read on the internet. Sadly there are many in the Pagan community who feel that it is a badge of honour to be an outsider and look to enhance that view rather than trying to work with mainstream society to build bridges between us. These folks view me as selling out to mainstream society, but that is not true, I am working to build bridges with mainstream society so that there is better understanding, and we are not all perceived as fluffy bunnies or raging racist Viking wannabes.

TWH: Can you describe how your politics are informed by your Paganism?

RR: My worldview is Heathen. I believe that we are our deeds, and if I want to change the world and make a difference I can’t be afraid to stand forth and do everything I can to make the changes I see as necessary. An example of this is my proposal to mandate Sask. Power to purchase green energy supplies from local independent producers at a fair market rate. This was put forward at our policy convention and passed. In doing this, it allows farmers to “farm” electricity using their land to set up wind and solar generating units. Less productive land can be used in this way while still being utilized for pasturage or crop production. This will lessen out reliance on coal-generated power and help us to protect the environment, which I hold sacred. I have always taken a lead role in all the Pagan/Heathen communities I have belonged to, In my neighbourhood affairs, and now I want to take it to the provincial level to affect the changes I would like to see.

Another way is that my politics are focused on inclusiveness. I have been a strong voice and activist in the anti racism movement in the Heathen community, and am a founder of Heathens United Against Racism. I have for many years now fought hard against that cancerous pustule of racism that has infected the Heathen community and will do so until my dying day and bring that same strength of conviction to politics.

Saskatchewan Legislature Building. photo - public domain

Saskatchewan Legislature Building. [Public Domain]

TWH: How do you describe your religious path?

RR: I am Heathen. I worship the Norse gods, and have done so for over a quarter century. Over that time I have been active in community building among Pagans in every community that I have lived in. I have organized coffee meetings, community ceremonies, and just great fun meet and greet parties. My hope is to build strong ties between different paths in the Pagan community as well as with the rest of society. These are my ideals that I aspire to in this lifetime. My view is that we are our deeds, and the name we have is only borrowed from our ancestors. It is not returned to them, but rather is passed on to our children. I wish to gain honour for my family name by doing everything I can to make this world a better place in any way I can. And if that means standing up and trying to make it better for all Pagans and Heathens in Canada, then so much the better.

TWH: You are running for the Liberals, the party led at a federal level by Justin Trudeau, son of the late Pierre Trudeau, who was once Prime Minister. What led you to join the Liberal party?

RR: I have always been a Liberal. In my youth I was a supporter of Pierre Trudeau, During my young adult phase I left the party, as the cuts in the 1990s by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister Paul Martin destroyed the career path I had chosen for myself at that time, and my life became a real struggle just to make ends meet. However as I got older I learned more about the economic situation that required those cuts, and came to realize that there was no choice for the government to do anything else but the path they chose and I returned to the party. The Liberal Party is a centrist party that does not bend to either the right’s or left’s ideologies, but rather uses both to choose the path that best serves the needs of most people. As well, they are the party that has the courage to do what is necessary to keep this country great regardless of whether it is popular or not.

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - a highly charismatic and influential figure in Canadian history. photo- public domain

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – a highly charismatic and influential figure in Canadian history. [Public Domain]

TWH: Have you ever experienced prejudice because of your Pagan beliefs?

RR: Not really, there have been times where I have had some people treat me badly out of ignorance, but I am a good communicator, and have the ability to educate people in such a way that they understand I am not as different from them as they feared, but rather I just have my own way of doing things. As for the rest who would try to attack me for my faith, I am not afraid, because I am more than willing to give as good as I get and do not back down from a fight. I am not afraid for my safety because as a Heathen, I know that the number of days of my life have already been set. I may not know the day of my death, but trying to run and hide from it is just a waste of time. I would rather focus on doing the best I can with this life and let my name be respected from my deeds.

TWH: How are you preparing for the election in 2016?

RR: At this time, I am working on the election campaign for the candidate in the federal election in the roles of deputy campaign manager, fundraising manager, and neighbourhood captain. I ran for the nomination in this riding federally and was the first openly Pagan person to be green lit to run for a nomination in a major political party in Canada. While I was defeated, I have focused on giving my whole effort to getting the candidate that beat me elected and will continue to do so. This is giving me valuable experience for my own campaign, and helping me to build a network of contacts with which I can create my campaign team from.

TWH: How is being a political figure affecting your life?

RR: It is a challenge to my home and work life. There are a lot of days and nights where I am forced to be out of the house for campaigning. This leaves my wife to have to shoulder all the responsibilities of taking care of the kids while I am campaigning. This can cause strains. As well, it is necessary to separate work life from political life to avoid strains with others in the workplace who may not share your political views. But in the end, if I am successful, the sacrifices will be worth it. As for my faith, I find it more and more difficult to focus on my faith as much as I would like. It seems that I am just getting too busy most of the time to commune with nature and feel its rejuvenating energy. It is getting harder and harder to find the time for gardening, fishing, and hunting, three things that help me to truly feel my faith as a living part of the natural world.

*   *   *

With the Saskatchewan election only seven months away, Rudachyk will be busy campaigning hard to become the first openly Heathen MLA in the country. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted on his progress.

OTTAWA, Ontario – Last month, a landmark document was delivered to the people of Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its much anticipated report summary, detailing 94 recommendations to heal the generations of conflict, racism, mistrust and misunderstanding that were created by the Indian Residential School system in Canada.


[Public Domain Photo]

Indian Residential Schools were created by the Canadian government in the late 19th century as a way to assimilate aboriginal children into the developing white Canadian society. Aboriginal children were removed, typically by force, from their families and home communities.They were taken to residential schools and forbidden to speak their own languages and were denied access to their culture. Many survivors of the residential school system report extreme cases of physical and sexual abuse, starvation and neglect at these institutions, which were co-run by the church and the state.

Accurate records of how many children were abducted do not exist, but it is estimated that at least 150,000 children were subjected to the system. It is without question that the reach of Indian Residential Schools crept into every native community in the country. We now know that more than 6,000 children died while in the care of the schools, and they were usually buried in unmarked graves. It was even common for the families to not be informed of what had happened to their kids. This is not ancient history as the last school closed as recently as 1996.

In this new environment of reconciliation, many Canadian Pagans are finding themselves thinking about how native spiritual practices have influenced their own journeys and are trying to grasp the extent to which the legacy of these institutions have shaped the attitude with which both aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians view each other. Can we learn from each other and share our practices with respect? Is there enough common ground to grow understanding? Can we honor without appropriating aboriginal culture or identity?


For some Pagans of European descent, walking the Red Road was part of a path that led to European-inspired Pagan spirituality. For Lawrence, an initiated Witch, the journey from his devotedly Mennonite background to Witchcraft was inspired by experiences with native culture:

My cultural background is ethnic Russian Mennonite. Very European, with my mother born in Russia just before the revolution. My relationship with indigenous people of Canada and US was first a matter of social justice, but spending 2 years working with AIM (American Indian Movement) people in Minneapolis and 2 years in Attawapiskat (a remote northern reservation) gave me experiences far beyond the realm of social justice, and it changed my life.

Most of those people will never know how much they influenced my path. They have been more than generous … and this against the backdrop of the appalling treatment they’ve received. From evangelical Mennonite, to a universalistic mysticism, to paganism, to witchcraft, it’s been a journey that was heavily influenced by the spiritual practices of the indigenous people I spent time with.

For Nana Du, a Canadian Witch of Scottish and English background, her journey on the Red Road came to her as part studying for her degree in social work:

During the late 90s, I was enrolled in a four-year undergraduate degree (in social work). I learned a lot about First Nations People on Turtle Island, while in university. This period of study taught me a lot about the negative impact of Church and State on the Indigenous People of this area. I started to attend sweat lodges, pow wows, as well as Sundance ceremonies to learn more experientially. Returning to the Mother’s womb (lodges) was challenging, yet rewarding. Eventually, years later I started to Sundance.The Aboriginal Traditional Ways of Healing are powerful and deserving of respect. I continue to have visions while in the sweat lodge and/or during the Sundance.

There are many Spiritual and/or Mystical paths, perhaps all leading to the Original Source: Creator, God & Goddess for example. As a professional I work with a large Aboriginal population. My teachings and practices have assisted tremendously in connecting with First Nations People. I am mindfully aware that I sit with Spirit, whenever I meet with any children, youth and/or families. A Pagan Path shares many similarities with Traditional Teachings, both honour and respect Mother Earth (Gaia), Grandmother Moon (Luna), and Father Sky, for example. Both also celebrate the solstices and equinoxes (Sabbats). Many ceremonies (circles) consider the 4 directions (East, South, West & North). Pagan, Wiccans and First Nation People are highly concerned about Climate Charge and social as well as environmental issues. I am honoured to be a Witch, returning to my Celtic Roots, my Blood Memory has been activated along the many paths that I have walked.

Many Canadians are of mixed backgrounds, both native and European. And, for those people, the blending the two cultures and spiritual practices become a part of life. Dr. Maryanne Pearce, Co-Owner of Raven’s Knoll Campground and Co-Director of Kaleidoscope Gathering is of mixed Celtic and Mohawk blood.

I was raised Christian, with indigenous spirituality as a “common-sense” type background. It was this that I gravitated to. Through feminism and environmentalism, I also discovered Paganism. It reminded me of elements of my background that I so treasured. I purposely began to research and experience more elements of indigenous cultural and religious practice. Eventually, after many years, I have found that I am most comfortable describing my religious practice as I do my ethnic background. I am a mixture, and I practice both. For example, it was my Pagan friends who assisted me in creating a huge dreamcatcher, in the shape of the Triple Goddess, as a memorial to the missing and murdered Indigenous women that I documented in my doctoral work. It was raised at our campground as a memorial.

Dr. Pearce made newspaper headlines across Canada in 2013 when she released her Ph.D. thesis entitled “An Awkward Silence: Missing and Murdered Vulnerable Women and the Canadian Justice System.” This paper drives home the need for a public inquiry into the epidemic of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. This point was also part of TRC’s recommendations.

Anne-Marie Greymoon, organizer of Wic-Can Fest and Harvest Fest, is Metis, a distinct culture of French and Aboriginal blending. She grew up with the all too common experience of not being told the truth about having aboriginal ancestors. Denial, a form of racism, is no longer accepted by a growing number of people as they proudly reclaim their heritage:

I always danced in the rain and loved it when my relatives called me a savage, a term I loved! My grandpa told me about my ancestry when I was a little kid, my mom said it was a lie to make me happy!! Now I know and, yes, my cousins look WAY more native or Inuit than I do. There is a book on the custom of “passing” as in “passing for white” written by someone who discovered she had black ancestors. It’s really interesting as it is in great part what happens here with people of indigenous ancestry … Metis people. My family insists they are all white and all from France! There are so many of us who are strangely dissociated from our roots because of colonial life! How do you repair a people, hundreds of years after the fact?

It is becoming more common to see Aboriginal spirituality being represented at Pagan events. Christian Dennis, an artist from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, a community of Chippewa in southern Ontario, shares his aboriginal teachings with Pagans at Wic-Can Fest each year by leading a traditional sweat lodge:

I feel non-aboriginal people exploring our path is a positive as long there is some sense of a spiritual respect from the beginning. Those that have not the respect for each other seem to create chaotic energy or energy of ignorance. When people come to a place of respect to begin with, they are open to understanding… I am grateful to the pagan community for [their] openness to embrace me as well as I them. I have healed so much in their midst and of considered them as my family… It is my hope that the sweat lodge, or Inipii, will spiritually inform and create awareness to all who visit and experience The Lodge. The Lodge is a Sacred Ceremony where we come together to recreate, heal, and celebrate the remembering of ourselves as ONE

On July 19, Dennis and his work will be featured in an art show in Durham, Ontario.

Christin Dennis will be featured in an art show on July 19, in Durham, Ontario. Photo by Christin Dennis

[Courtesy Christin Dennis]

We can see change happening in Pagan communities, bridges of understanding are being built. The big question facing all Canadians now is, will the Truth & Reconciliation Commission bring change to Canada? The 94 recommendations cover a broad spectrum of need for Aboriginal people, including health care and language rights; new education legislation; a public inquiry into the crisis of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls; funding for the National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation; a commitment to eliminate the over representation of aboriginal people in the prison system, and the list goes on.

Lawrence sees this as an opportunity to effect a change and build understanding:

At no time in our history have we had a more clear opportunity to respond to the genocide of the residential schools. Though knowledge of the residential school horrors is not new, we now have the clearest, most complete picture we will ever have of the deliberate and callous actions against the aboriginal people of Canada. And this despite the Government of Canada’s refusal to hand over millions of documents still held in secret. So there is no better time than now for our relationship to take a new turn, and start the long road to truly just relationships. We are not called to act unilaterally. We must do this as a relationship.

Dr. Maryanne Pearce observes that this is a call to action and understanding for all of us living in Canada:

I do not think many people found much of what the TRC recommended to be unexpected. All Canadians should be grateful to Justice Sinclair and all of his commissioners and staff for the long years of heart breaking work. But mostly, grateful to the survivors and their families for being so incredibly brave as to expose their hearts and souls by telling their stories. I believe that those who listen, and read not only the tales of what happened, but its aftermath on individuals and generations that followed those students, may have a better understanding of the situation of Indigenous people today – and understand that it is the responsibility of everyone, not just governments, to make the future one built on trust, acceptance and reconciliation.

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Early morning on March 31, Heather Arlene Carr, known as Kiteria in her magical community, set out to perform a healing ritual for her ailing Uncle. Within a rock art installment at Riverside Park, Carr began her rite in night’s darkness at 2:30 a.m. Carr was a “night owl” and comfortable with being alone. The park was a place she frequented. Nothing about the evening was unusual for the longtime witch. However, on this particular night, something went tragically wrong.

Heather Arlene Carr [Courtesy Photo S. Carr)

Heather Arlene Carr [Courtesy Photo S. Carr)

Heather Carr was born on September 6, 1974 in Kamloops, British Columbia to a Mormon family. She and her family moved to Tumbler Ridge, where she graduated from high school in 1992. Over the next few years, she gave birth to her two sons, and continued to attend the local Mormon church. However, in 1998, her life changed. She and her sons returned to Kamloops, where she attended college, built her home, and, eventually, discovered a new spiritual path.

While Carr was working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work, she met her former partner Leesa Warner, and together they were introduced to Wicca. Warner said, “During her first year of university we were playing some online games. Someone we chatted with regularly from Ontario mentioned Wicca. We bought books, looked online, and researched our asses off.” Both Carr and Warner have practiced together for years. Warner added, “Later in life, Heather identified herself as family tradition Wicca. She practiced a combination of Wicca, shamanism, and Druidic works. Near the end she identified as ‘Dragon Fae’ though none of us really knew what that meant.”

After graduating, Carr’s life was full and not without difficulties. One of her sons was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome and the other one with Autism and a brain tumor. She was devoted to attending to each of their special needs.

Despite the pressure this put on her own life, Carr dedicated her life to helping others,either privately or within her practice as a social worker. When three of the children in one of her case files were murdered by their father Allan Schoenborn, she had to take long-term disability. Close friend and Druid, Charlene Ross, said, “She was devoted to her children, family, and was very much an advocate for them and others she worked with over the years as a social worker.”

Ross is one of seven members of the local Pagan circle that Carr began about five years ago. The group is open to people of many paths and serves as a place of support and discussion. Warner, also a member, added, “Everyone in the group …. is on different paths. I for example practice Thelemic Magic, [Ross] is a Druid etc. It [is] a good place to go to talk magic and practice magic. To be able to discuss the “signs” all around or get help with an issue or just to learn about anything and everything.” She went on to say that Carr originally was the only teacher, but eventually the group evolved to allow everyone the opportunity to teach.

[Photo Courtesy S. Carr]

[Photo Courtesy S. Carr]

Over the years, Carr expanded her outreach within the larger Pagan community. She became a regular at PanFest, Alberta’s biggest Pagan festival held in August, where she often taught workshops on magic. Warner said that she and Carr began attending over eight year ago, and that Carr had even convinced many locals to make the long trip to Edmonton each year.

Additionally, Carr created and administered the “Being Pagan Out of the Broom Closet” Facebook group. She, herself, embraced being open about her practice and was frequently seen walking in Riverside Park wearing her cloak. Ross said, that Carr “definitely was becoming more vocal about social justice, earth changes, and other issues close to her heart. She lived her beliefs, rather than “practised” them … She was at home out in the natural, meditating, listening, perceiving, and was fierce in defending those she loved.” Carr made no apologies for who she was.

More recently, Carr had signed up to participate in The Way of the Seabhean -Ancient Irish Shamanism Training for Women on April 10-12. Unfortunately, that day would not come.

Late Monday night, according to several reports, Carr told friends that she was headed to Riverside Park to gather materials to make wind chimes, something she had done before. Alone, she climbed into the center of the park’s rock sculpture – a place that held spiritual significance to Carr. She was handfasted at this site and, only a few days earlier, she and Ross were there “clearing and annoiting the stones with healing water, herbs, and cleaning up the site physically.”

Around 2:30 a.m., Carr’s husband Stephen, who works a night shift, decided to stop by the park on his way home. He knew that she had gone there. As reported by Warner, when he arrived, all he saw was emergency vehicles, and he knew immediately it was his wife.

Although the specific details of what happened are not clear, authorities assume that some part of Carr’s clothing caught fire during the ritual, and because of her position within the rock formation, she panicked and became trapped.



After getting a call from Carr’s mother, Warner joined Stephen at the hospital around 7:30 a.m. She said, “The hospital thought about transferring her to Vancouver general burn ward. They did a video conference with the doctor there and the decision was made that there was no point. [Carr] had type 1 diabetes and her system was in too much shock.” At 11:02am, she died. Warner said, “Steve and I did a passing ritual of sorts, a quick ‘goddess accept our wife.’ ”

In life, Carr was an strong and eccentric woman, who was devoted to family, to her Pagan practice and to her community. Blogger Sable Aradia, a longtime friend of Carr’s, published a tribute days after her death. She wrote, “It’s a testimony to Heather’s character, I think, that even those with whom she has come into conflict in the past are pouring out their compassion to her family and close friends.”

Leesa Warner said of Carr:

Whether you loved her or hated her, if you knew her; she affected your life

Charlene Ross added:

Being pagan, and learning about leadership, and having taught at festivals over the last twenty plus years, this is the time where our teachings can help us come to accept death as a part of life. The loss or parting does hurt.  I take comfort knowing her spirit is free, she is no longer in pain physically or emotionally anymore, that the struggles for now, are done, till she returns again. 

Heather Arlene Carr’s death was certainly a tragedy, one that has shaken the many people and communities that she touched. Ross said that her death, while painful and shocking, can also bring lessons, saying, “So, if we learn something from this,….it can happen to anyone.” Sable Aradia added:

I think that while the circumstances are horrible, and of course no one wants something like this to happen to them, Heather was a dedicated Priestess, and I think that she died heroically in the way she wanted to live; serving her gods and her family, practicing her Craft.  And who among us can say that?

Because most of Carr’s family is not Pagan, they have requested a “celebration of life” funeral, which will be held April 11 at 3 pm at Kamloops Funeral Home. Carr’s Circle group and a few others will be performing a “Passing On Ritual” April 19 at noon. Due to the high level of media interest in the story, the location has not been made public. Anyone interested in attending must contact Warner or Stephen Carr privately. In addition, the Edmonton Pagan community will be honoring Carr in a ritual in to be held May 10.

What is remembered, lives.

March 14, 2015 – a day of action across Canada [Photo by Paul S.Graham]

March 14, 2015 – a day of action across Canada [Photo by Paul S.Graham]

It is hard to ignore the current political climate in Canada. Never before have we been faced with a government that has tried to overhaul and carve up our country quite the way our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his Conservative government are doing right now. For a country renowned for it’s affable nature and politeness, things are changing. In numbers not seen for decades, people are becoming radicalized and discovering reasons to become activists – for the environment, for our social programs, and now for the basic safety, privacy and security we had come to take for granted.

On January 30, 2015, Bill C-51, an “Anti-Terrorism Act” was unveiled in the House of Parliament. This massive piece of proposed legislation includes sweeping, radical changes to Canadian law and security systems by reducing the privacy and freedom of speech of Canadian people.

Bill C-51 would allow the government to:

  • Expand the definition of “Security” to not only include public safety, but to also prevent interference with the “economic or financial stability of Canada”. This could mean if you were a protestor at a rally or blockade against a pipeline you would be seen as a national threat to security.
  • The bill leaves the government to its own discretion to designate what activities may be security threats, without clear definition.
  • Even experts, such as Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, are unclear about what will constitute free speech under this bill. How are average Canadians supposed to know what can get them into trouble? The Criminal Code of Canada already has laws against committing or inciting others to commit terrorist acts. C-51 adds another layer including “advocating or promoting terrorism.’ which makes understanding the offense even more difficult.
  • The current criminal code already allows for something called “preventative arrest,” or the ability for police to arrest and detain without charge if they think you may commit a terrorist activity if they don’t. C-51 expands this, lowering the threshold and doubling the time you can be detained for.

The list goes on from there. Bill C-51 is a sprawling document over 60 pages long. With a federal election looming on the horizon, the Harper government needs to gain approval and push it through fast. It has already been voted in by the majority Conservative government, led by Stephen Harper. Now it must be brought before the House committee on National Security and Defence. If they approve it will be re-introduced to the House of Commons for a final vote before it is enacted into Law.

In a speech delivered at an anti-Bill C-51 rally on March 14, Pat Martin, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre explained how Harper rushed the process of closing the bill:

…he has moved closure on this bill after only one and one-half days of debate, he has truncated the committee process to only a few witnesses will be heard, he has run roughshod and undermined everything that is good and decent about our parliamentary democracy in his zeal to ram this bill through Parliament…the last time Parliament dealt with any kind of amendments to the public safety act was after 911, we had 54 days of debate in the House of Commons, we had 90 witnesses, expert testimony, because we know you do not interfere with these basic fundamental rights and freedoms lightly. This is not something you do with a day and a half of debate in the House of Commons….Harper has undermined the ability of your elected representatives to act on your behalf….you have to take it to the streets – sometimes civil disobedience is civil defense. 

On March 14, 2015, more than 60 Canadian communities held rallies and marches to protest Bill C-51. All across the country people from all walks of life participated in an action that, if this Bill passed, would no doubt land them on a government watch list.

Within Pagan groups, what does this mean? Many of us are environmentalists, some of us subscribe to alternative news sources, or campaign for religious freedom. Within the description of Bill C-51 is a wide grey area that we fall into and many of the causes we hold dear and participate in could land us on the government’s watch list. Many Pagans across the country got involved in the day of protest.

Outside the Canadian Houses of Parliament, a 1-year old, third generation Pagan attends his first protest. [Photo by Marc LeBlanc]

Outside the Canadian Houses of Parliament, a 1-year old, third generation Pagan attends his first protest. [Photo by Marc LeBlanc]

In Canada’s capitol city, Ottawa, Ontario, hundreds of people gathered outside the office of the Prime Minister on Parliament Hill. Sheena MacIsaac, a member of the Board of Directors for Gaia Gathering – The Canadian National Pagan Conference and mother of two, attended with her family:

We are participating because this bill is a terrible overreaction. It feels like it has been sitting in wait for anything to happen in Canada. There is no accountability, nor oversight. The terms are vague. I don’t want my children or family targeted because we love the earth and are vocal about it.

In London, Ontario, Sophia, an American Pagan living in Canada as a permanent resident, is shocked to find out that Canada’s politics are just as compromised as other places. Her reason for participating in the March 14th protest is pure and simple, She said, “I can say is that political action is part of my commitment to the living Earth that supports us with such grace.” 

On the west coast of the country, in British Columbia, the Pagan presence in Vernon took the form of writer and Priestess, Sable Aradia, one of over 400 people who shut down the highway in her hometown of Vernon, a small city of 40,000 people located in the lush Okanagan Valley.

Of her participation in the protest, Sable says:

Sable Aradia protesting Bill C-51 outside the office of her local Member of Parliament. [Photo by Chris Madsen]

Sable Aradia protesting Bill C-51 outside the office of her local Member of Parliament. [Photo by Chris Madsen]

I’m not really an activist. I sign occasional petitions and write the infrequent letter. The last thing I publicly protested was the Gulf War. But C-51 was a deal-breaker for me. It’s a less-well-regulated variant of the Patriot Act. What’s particularly troubling is the inclusion of groups that threaten the “economic well-being” of Canada. Since environmental activists and First Nations often chain themselves to trees to stop loggers and would-be frackers, it’s pretty clear how they intend to use this clause. I see no way in which the bill would, in actuality, increase our security but I see many ways in which it would endanger our civil liberties. It is an overreaction to an isolated incident and it’s clear that it is at least in part motivated by racism. It has no place in the Canada that I want to live in. My tradition of witchcraft is BTW descended but distinctly influenced by the more political climate of West Coast Paganisms such as Reclaiming. My politics tend to be moderately left-wing. I support equality, freedom, feminism and environmentalism. For me those ethics flow naturally from the Charge of the Goddess.

Also in British Columbia, activist and Pagan podcaster Sparrow, of the Wigglian Way Podcast hit the streets of Vancouver, along with over 1000 other protestors, and gathered on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Sparrow, who has put her talk into action recently protesting the Kinder Morgan pipeline through her Burnaby Mountain home, felt that there really was no choice but to protest C-51:

Bill C51 is counter to what being Canadian is all about. We have the freedom and the responsibility to keep government in check. It is our government and our country is supposed to be a democratic one. Bill C51 is in direct opposition of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The bill would in effect make it illegal to protest in this country. It is a direct attack on First Nations people and Activists. This bill has nothing to do with “terrorism” as those in authority would have us believe, but everything to do with raping this land of it’s resources.

Sparrow is very active in environmental issues as well as Aboriginal rights and equality issues. A project she is passionate about is Settlers, a website offering information and resources to facilitate a paradigm shift in Canada among the non-aboriginal Canadian population in relation to First Nations, Métis and Inuit people and create unity and understanding among the entire population.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba edition of the protest was also attended by over 1000 people and many “WinniPagans” joined the crowd. The rally was held in the courtyard of Winnipeg’s City Hall and featured speakers from government, Aboriginal, student, and community groups. Underscoring the wide range of people who could be considered a threat to national security was a performance by “The Winnipeg Raging Grannies” who provided some hilarious songs of protest and decent and reminded us of how easily our own actions can be deemed dangerous.

This is what a threat to Canadian national security looks like – The Raging Grannies [Photo by Paul S. Graham]

This is what a threat to Canadian national security looks like – The Raging Grannies [Photo by Paul S. Graham]

One outspoken WinniPagan is Katherine Bitney, a poet, essayist and Witch who participated in the protest accompanied by her daughter and granddaughter – three generations of strong Pagan women determined to fight for the land:

My Paganism in a sense drives and/or determines my politics. Learning natural law, as it manifests in the world around us, and living from an ethics based on this. We are very aware that this bill is aimed at anyone who opposes Harper’s agenda to give the land over to corporations that will, already do, destroy it. It makes environmentalists, anyone who stands up for the land, Indigenous people, into enemies of the Harper state. It silences and criminalizes dissent. As a Pagan it’s my responsibility to listen to and watch out for the land, and to speak out against, fight, its enemies. All land is holy.

Reinforcing the Pagan connection to the land, is Lawrence, another WinniPagan, who attended the rally with the rest of his covenmates:

The bill would be used to crack down on the civil, humanitarian, and ecological endeavours of groups who choose to protect those rights against corporate and economic profiteers. C-51 places economic interests on par with – or above – human and ecological rights. As a witch, that makes no sense at all. My gods aren’t capitalists. They are gods of the wood, of the land, of waters, of air, of sacred groves and hearths. There is nothing in that which calls me to spoil the land, starve living beings, or disproportionately churn what natural balance is left. I choose to be political so I can protect that which is sacred to me, respect that which the gods find honourable, and affect what change may be possible.

Winnipeg Witches protest C-51 at City Hall [Photo by AT]

Winnipeg Witches protest C-51 at City Hall [Photo by AT]

What should Canadian Pagans and Witches do about C-51? Sparrow had this to say, “Now, I do expect more from Canadian Pagans. I expect the mundane and the magical. I’ve been to a lot of ritual where the idea was planted, but nothing is growing. I’ve also been to ceremony where you make a pledge to Spirit or the Gods, and YOU DO WHAT YOU PLEDGE. It’s not that hard. Really. Get out to a “call to action”. Activism is fun.”

As a response to the increasing dissent toward the government of Canada and the growing frustration of Pagans with the way things are going, more and more Pagan folk of all stripes are fed up and becoming activists. Sable Aradia invited some of us to join her in her new blog, Winding Widdershins, dedicated to Canadian politics through a Pagan lens. She said:

In general, I prefer not to discuss politics in Pagan circles; we’re already such a factitious lot. But our spirituality guides our ethics, and our ethics do influence our politics. I don’t like politics myself, but I keep finding out about things that concern me through Facebook feeds and chance conversations and that’s no way to do it. I figured we needed a forum to encourage this kind of discussion, if nothing else so that I don’t feel so impotent against overwhelming forces. 

Looking ahead, it really seems like this will be an exciting year of political activity in Canada. With a federal election tentatively scheduled for October 2015, issues like Bill C-51 will be boiling over and Canadian Pagans will be stirring the pot.

By earth, by air, by fire, by water
We are the good earth’s sons and daughters
By voice, by heart, by my own hand
I swear to keep this holy land
By the power of three times three
This is my oath So mote it be
And as you share
So do you swear

– Crystal Coven of Winnipeg’s  “Oath to the Land”

Welcome to Canada – a country rich in natural beauty and natural resources. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, travelers may overdose on pristine wilderness and breathtaking landscapes. Each region of Canada has it’s own unique features and riches, but many of those riches are being extracted and exploited at an increasing, and for many, alarming rate.

Western Canada is rich in oil. By now most North Americans have heard of the oil sands in the province of Alberta and the various schemes to extract the oil and move it out of Canada to the United States and beyond. Recently the actions of Kinder Morgan have created a protest movement, which has managed, for the time being anyway, to stop this corporate giant.

Kinder Morgan is the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, with a natural gas network consisting of 68,000 miles of pipelines moving one third of the natural gas consumed on the continent. They possess the only oil sands pipeline serving the West Coast. Kinder Morgan wants to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline system, which moves both crude oil and refined products from Alberta, through the Rocky Mountains to the province of British Columbia and the city of Burnaby, where the pipeline ends. The oil products are then transported in tankers, via the Burrard Inlet, across the Pacific Ocean.

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Burnaby. Simon Fraser University campus sits atop of Burnaby Mountain, with the city below

Nestled among the mountains, Burnaby is located directly east of the city of Vancouver and is considered a part of the Metro Vancouver area. With a population just shy of a quarter of a million people, it is the third largest city in British Columbia, covering 38 square miles, or 98.6 spare kilometers.

The problem is that the City of Burnaby, the City of Vancouver, First Nations groups as well as countless residents and concerned citizens oppose Kinder Morgan expanding the pipeline. In a letter to the people of Burnaby, Mayor Derek Corrigan wrote:

The City of Burnaby is officially opposed to this proposal because of the damage it would do to our city –during and after construction – and because of the long-term safety risks it poses to residents and the environment.

The protests began in September when Kinder Morgan cut down 13 trees on Burnaby Mountain, in order to perform a survey. This act broke the city’s by-laws and proper permission had not been sought or granted.  Kinder Morgan’s plan was to bore holes into Burnaby Mountain, right in the middle of a thriving residential neighbourhood, near a conservation area and the bustling campus of Simon Fraser University. Kinder Morgan is trying to sell this plan as “twinning” the existing pipeline which has been in the ground since 1953, but this is not so, as Mayor Corrigan also explains in his letter: 

In fact, in Burnaby 90% of the proposed line would follow a completely new route. It would carry unrefined oil products, not the refined (and less toxic) products carried in the existing line. It would result in a tripling of the capacity of oil stored on Burnaby Mountain and seven times the number of tankers carrying the oil (up to 580,000 barrels in each tanker) through Burrard inlet. The 890,000 barrels-per-day of oil it would carry would be for export, not for use anywhere in Canada. In no way would this pipeline resemble the existing line.

6_TWH Dec 20_14Two of the residents involved in the outcry against Kinder Morgan are Sparrow and Mojo, co-hosts of the popular Canadian pagan podcast The Wigglian Way. They identify as Wiccan, and the podcasts reflect this, but they strive to be as inclusive to all Pagan paths as much as possible and to honor the spiritual journey of all Pagans. Mojo is also an accomplished musician, having performed with the group Chalice and Blade as well as a solo performer. The couple lives within sight of the original pipeline and mere minutes drive away from the holes being bored through their mountain home. They were motivated to get involved and forced to take action in ways that, until very recently, they would never have guessed.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, Sparrow opened up about her experiences at the protest site. She started off by saying:

This is my home, I love it. When people come to this mountain you can feel a spirit, especially in that park where the drilling was done. We have held so many rituals at that space. You can see the sun set from that space, there are totem poles there, we have had so many gatherings, it is one of our sacred spots, it holds so much spirit. So I went up there, (to the protest site) and started doing it.

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Sparrow & Mojo’s street . Yellow and white posts mark existing underground pipelines

The Wigglian Way motto is “Its all about the love”, and that is certainly evident from the obvious love and affection that both Sparrow and Mojo convey in their work for their community, their environment and each other.

On November 14, Kinder Morgan was granted a court injunction against the protesters. It had been determined that their camp fell within the designated area that Kinder Morgan was working in and the protestors had to move or face arrest. This was also the site of a sacred fire that had been lit by an aboriginal woman named Sut-Lut, an elder from the Squamish Nation. The intent of this fire was to provide a sacred space for people to gather and speak as equals.  Her efforts were respected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) onsite and they even helped tend the fire and ensure that Sut-Lut was free to come and go, despite it being on land assumed to be off limits to protesters.

On November 20 Sparrow headed up to the protest camp, which remained, despite the injunction, set up by the roadside. This was the day that Sparrow’s life changed.  She recounts what happened next:

When everything happened I said I was going to protect this land and I was going to protect the mountain and I was prepared to do whatever I had to do. Well, we had certain plans, but those didn’t pan out because while we were standing in the camp, the RCMP opened the gate and barreled in and started surrounding us. So we linked our arms, and it just happened, all of a sudden, and there was about nine of us. Brigette De Pape was one of the women with us, and my sister, and a lady named Maxine and some other people. We started singing and chanting and all of a sudden – what am I doing? I ‘m surrounded by RCMP! And they were saying, “You can leave, we’re going to give you a few options here. We have read the injunction to you, and you are in this space you are not supposed to be in, you can leave”

My sister decided that she would leave, for her reasons, so she went and documented everything – you need documenters too! So it got down to six of us. They started removing people quite forcefully and it turned out that I was the last one, or, as Mojo called me – the last Warrior. I was sitting there and there were people taking pictures and flashing me the peace sign and saying they loved me. One of the fire-keepers started drumming for me, and this incredible thing happened. I started looking around at the forest, which is my home, and I was looking at the sun dappling through the leaves, and I was looking at the moss and the ferns and all the beauty around me and smelling the rotting, gorgeous, loamy smell and I listened and I could not hear any birds. That’s one thing on this mountain, you will always hear birds, there are so many, but I couldn’t hear any birds. I was thinking.

If Kinder Morgan comes in here, this mountain won’t hear birds any more, they won’t see the bears anymore, the coyotes won’t sing at night. All these wonderful things that ARE the mountain could be devastated. There was kind of a meeting of the mountain spirit and my spirit and I knew at that moment I would do whatever I needed. That’s the moment when I realized my life was different. This is what I was going to do and I had to protect this Earth. We only have one Earth. We are ruining it for ourselves. At that moment I became a different Sparrow. The words that came were Earth Warrior.

The Last Warrior. As the RCMP moves in to arrest Sparrow, a woman named Clarissa drums and sings in support [Photo Credit: Tara Anderson]

And then the RCMP moved in, and arrested Sparrow. She became one of the first six people to be taken into custody by RCMP officers. Over four days almost one hundred more people were arrested, including an 84-year-old librarian, a mother with her 11 year old daughter, a young man named Tamo Campos, the grandson of famous scientist and environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki, and many other people from all walks of life.

Mojo stands against the tape which marks the injection zone. The RCMP sent their biggest officer to keep him company

Mojo stands by tape marking injection zone. The RCMP sent their biggest officer to keep him company

As Sparrow suffers from Lupus and was concerned for her health, she stood up and walked with her arms outstretched in a gesture of peace into her arrest. The RCMP officers escorted her to their car, searched her and tied her hands behind her back with zip ties. Sparrow was then loaded in to the back of the police van, or as she now calls it “The really great drumming acoustics van” where she and her five companions treated their captors to singing and drumming with there feet.

She found herself in the company of Brigette DePape, an activist who became a national underdog hero when she used her position as a page in the Canadian parliament to protest our current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, by holding up a stop-sign style sign which had been customized to read “Stop Harper”.

According to Sparrow “It was such a beautiful and loving experience in the police van.” Maxine, a Quaker and the oldest woman of the group, did not have her hands bound and was able to unzip Sparrow’s jacket when she got too hot, and adjust DePape’s cap as it slid over her eyes. The captives sang and reassured each other as they were transported to the temporary RCMP detachment, only 35 meters away from Kinder Morgan’s site headquarters in a parking lot, where they were processed, charged with civil contempt and warned that if they were to return to the encampment it would be a much more serious charge.

In the end, all of the civil contempt charges against Sparrow, the five others she was arrested with, and the almost one hundred others arrested after them, were dropped.  It turns out that the arrests were made illegally. Kinder Morgan had based the injunction on their GPS coordinates, which turned out to be inaccurate – they could not prove the protesters were actually trespassing.

Brigette DePape became a household name when she used her position as a page in the Canadian parliament to voice a popular opinion of Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Brigette DePape voices a popular opinion of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Canadian parliament

One has to wonder: if Kinder Morgan can’t give accurate GPS coordinates for a court injunction, should they be drilling a tunnel, through a mountain, in an earthquake zone to transport toxic petroleum products through a residential neighborhood and wildlife conservation area? Is there any wonder that the civic governments in the area as well as the First nations, residents and environmental groups are protesting?

As a Pagan, Sparrow believes that she needs to be a good steward of the planet and take care of it, and act on behalf of all of her ancestors, both in the past and in the future. Her decision on Burnaby Mountain to participate in the protest and do whatever needed to be done was her commitment in action, her gift to the place she calls home.

Mojo drumming his support to those being arrested

Mojo drumming his support to those being arrested

When asked if Canadian Pagans are political enough about the environment, Sparrow’s response is an enthusiastic “No!” and she goes on to say:

Everybody has to work to their own ability and they have to be able to come to their own place. My place was that I could get arrested, but some peoples place is make sure you are recycling and not consuming as much, that’s a really great place to be. Whatever any individual can do – that’s what you can do.  Until Idle No More about a year ago, I had never protested or rallied or anything. It’s Idle No More that got me going and then this protest just got me – I call it Instant Activist! It propelled me into a totally different world. I have a whole new group of friends with a whole new group of ideas and energy and events. It’s quite amazing.

In conclusion, it is so important for Sparrow that everyone understands that Kinder Morgan are still going to try to tunnel through Burnaby Mountain and that they need to be stopped.  Why are we building this infrastructure for such a dwindling resource? Why are we not focusing on alternate, renewable energy sources?

Kinder Morgan applied for an extension to extend the injunction to keep the protesters away from the two drilling sites but was rejected by the provincial Supreme Court.They were forced to clear out by the December 1st expiry date. The data they were able to collect will be presented to the National Energy Board in hopes of approval to proceed with expansion plans.

If the outcry against the test drilling was this extreme, what will happen if the project is approved? Only one thing is for certain: Earth Warriors will be there to protest.