Archives For Cara Schulz

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

Earlier this month I gave an overview of Cara Schulz’s candidacy for a city council seat in Burnsville, Minnesota. Schulz, a Hellenic Polytheist and staff writer for this publication, has long been active in politics. As a candidate for this non-partisan seat she has endorsed a “Socially Accepting and Fiscally Responsible” platform, and it looks like enough voters in Burnsville liked what they saw. Quote from her Facebook campaign page: “THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered, told their friends about me, and are heading to the polls today to vote. If you think people are selfish, not involved, or lazy … run for office – you will be disabused of those erroneous notions. I’ve been offered help before I could even ask and volunteers helped an insane number of hours. I’ve made some great friends and learned from kind mentors. I’ve met some incredible people from all over Burnsville. [...] The final tally is in! Thank you to everyone who volunteered, sent me messages cheering me on, told others about me, and took the time to vote in the primary.” Schulz will now advance to the general election in November, where the top-two vote getters will fill the two vacant seats on the city council. Our congratulations go out to Cara! 

10557341_10203741099061740_6626525900185221594_nAuthor and Dianic Witchcraft Elder Zsuzsanna Budapest sent out a press release last week announcing that she had bestowed a blessing on Claudiney Prieto, part of Brazil’s Nemorensis Dianic Tradition, for his work on behalf of the goddess Isis. Quote: “I was greatly impressed by Claudiney Prieto in Brazil, who has successfully nurtured an Isis revival. I have blessed him to be a Priest of Isis, which he already is. I saw what he has done and I think he serves the Goddess with his personal leadership. Everybody loves the man. He is dynamite in circle. Such a man with ten years of experience richly deserves the blessing. Both sexes are part of the rituals and sacred plays and always have been. This fits us well. I connect with this because I am also a play write. The original Isis plays have all been translated. It will be great fun creating a religious experience within the medium of theater for this community.” Budapest went on to clearly state that this blessing was not a shift in her beliefs concerning gender and her tradition’s Dianic rituals. Quote: “Although there was some initial confusion about the blessing, it was clarified that he was awarded by her as an honoring of his work with the Goddess [...]  Budapest honored Prieto and bound him as a priest to the Goddess within the constructs of Prieto’s own Nemorensis Dianic Tradition and not her own Dianic Tradition, which is women-born only.” The stated “confusion” and subsequent clarification is most likely related to the fact that Budapest’s form of Dianic Witchcraft is open to cisgender women only, and this blessing could have been interpreted as a move away from that ethos. Such a shift would have been dramatic news indeed, as Budapest has received criticism from within the Pagan community in the recent past for holding “genetic women only” rituals that exclude not just men, but also transgender women, at Pagan events that are open to the public.

green-faiths-3atransThe Covenant of the Goddess (COG), one of the largest Wiccan and Witchcraft-focused organizations in the United States, is holding their annual business meeting, the Grand Council, this week in Atlanta, Georgia. Grand Council, which is held in conjunction with an open-to-the-public event called Merry Meet, is where the sprawling consensus-based organization elects its board and decides on policy. I’ve personally held forth on why I think COG could have a vital role in Wicca and religious Witchcraft’s future, and The Wild Hunt has covered these meetings for the past three years. This year, Merry Meet will feature Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary as a special keynote speaker. Quote: “We are very excited to have Selena Fox as our Guest of Honor for Merry Meet 2014 and as our Friday Night Keynote Speaker. Selena has been a leader and mover in Interfaith for many years and has worked, and continues to work, tirelessly within the Interfaith Community. Join us for what is sure to be a lovely evening of good food, camaraderie, and our shared passion for ‘Standing on Common Ground’!” Stay tuned for a report on the event from Managing Editor Heather Greene in the near future.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Polytheist and spirit-worker Sarah Kate Istra Winter has announced the publication of a short booklet on working with animal bones. Quote: “Working with Animal Bones introduces the reader to the biological processes which form bone; gives advice on how to find bones in a natural setting, and subsequently identify and thoroughly clean them; discusses the types of crafts that can be made with bones; and explores the history and modern practices involving the sacred use of animal bones, including divination. An annotated bibliography and list of online resources for collectors are also included.” The book can be purchased at Etsy, or on Amazon.com.

img_3163

  • Over at the Patheos Pagan channel, The Staff of Asclepius blog has welcomed two new contributors: Nornoriel Lokason and CJ Blackwood. Quote: “Nornoriel Lokason is a thirtysomething Norse pagan and demonolater living in the Portland metropolitan area with spirits and a cat [...] Nornoriel is a disability and LGBT rights advocate and in his spare time he enjoys thrifting, communing with nature, reading, and being an armchair historian. [...] CJ Blackwood graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in English [...] She’s been a practing witch and Pagan for eight years. Her path began with eclectic Wicca, but has now taken her to dusky realms of warrior goddesses, creative goddesses, and crones.”
  • Hungarian Pagan band The Moon and the Nightspirit have released a new album entitled “Holdrejtek.” Quote: “Just like its predecessor ‘Mohalepte’, ‘Holdrejtek’ is much influenced by a deep veneration for and love of nature as far as its concept is concerned, while this time, mastermind Mihaly Szabo approaches the subject in a less romantic and more intellectual way. The lyrics are rife with the philosophical idea of simultaneous oneness and duality of micro- and macrocosm, which is attributed to Hermes Trismegistos and his screed ‘Tabula Smaragdina’.” You can purchase the album digitally on iTunes and at Amazon.com.

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

Cara Schulz is a resident of Burnsville, Minnesota, and has decided to run for one of the two open seats on the Burnsville City Council. Like many small city councils across America, the election is non-partisan, meaning the primaries coming up later this month will simply winnow the field down to four candidates from the current seven, regardless of each candidate’s personal party affiliation. The public will then vote two candidates into office this November.

Oh, and did we mention that Cara Schulz is also a Hellenic Polytheist?

10378157_10202241520539235_4465347862056082361_n

Longtime readers of The Wild Hunt won’t be surprised at this news, after all, Cara is a staff reporter here now, and has been an active part of the larger Pagan community for several years. Here’s a brief excerpt from a piece she wrote about her faith for Patheos.com back in 2011.

“I ‘toss the barley’ and am humbly grateful to do so. I pour wine as a libation, the same as my ancestors did. I feel sacred Hestia in the flame that burns in my hearth and in my heart and I reap the benefits of my careful tending to the flame. I pray before my home altar, make offerings to the Agathos Diamons, and ask Hermes to guard me as I venture out of the protections of my home. There is a spiritual rhythm to my life that gives me great personal strength. My household worship practices, such as cleaning out the entire house and getting rid of all broken or wanted things each month on the Deipnon, improve the quality of life for all my family members. These ancient rituals have profound meaning that I would have missed if I had dismissed them as old and pointless.”

Schulz has also been active in politics for a long time, most notably, she was an active volunteer for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson in 2012. Like Gov. Johnson, Schulz is liberal on social issues, and conservative on fiscal policy, or as she puts it “Socially Accepting and Fiscally Responsible.”

“Although Cara wants citizens more involved in local government, she feels government has become too involved in peoples’ personal lives and businesses. Her general rule is, ‘If you aren’t hurting or cheating anyone, and you’re doing it on your property, it’s none of the government’s business.’”

In a local paper’s candidate questionnaire, Schulz expanded on her political philosophy, and how it would affect locals in Burnsville.

“The townhome I live in had a pool rule of No Food Allowed, which residents ignored. There are two possible approaches. What city councils normally do — assume the problem lays with you and force compliance. Or what our association did — realize there’s no damage or injury so the problem was with the rule and eliminate it. I’ll bring the second, common-sense approach to the City Council because residents aren’t the problem, but the solution.”

Not backed by the Democratic or Republican parties in this race, Schulz faces an uphill battle to get her message out to voters, though she has received an endorsement from the Liberty Minnesota PAC, a libertarian-minded group that hopes to steer the Republican party toward their ideals.

“Cara is a dedicated liberty activist involved with a variety of causes in and around her city. Cara is an Air Force veteran who does a wonderful job covering a variety of policy topics on Youtube videos [...] According to Cara’s responses on Liberty Minnesota’s candidate questionnaire, Cara is focused on removing or replacing: Building codes, nuisance laws and blue laws in Burnsville.”

As their endorsement points out, Schulz has been posting videos to Youtube where she discusses various issues as they relate to her political philosophy.

The primary election will be held on August 12th, and if she makes it to the final four, no doubt more endorsements, money, and scrutiny, will flow towards her campaign (such is the way with elections). We will keep you posted as things develop.

[Editorial note: The Wild Hunt is dedicated to documenting instances of Pagans, Polytheists, and other members of our broad religious movement engaging themselves in the political process. Coverage of a candidate should not be confused with endorsement, and The Wild Hunt will not make official endorsements in any political race. Here are some instances of us covering Pagan political candidates: Rev. Kathryn Jones, Lonnie MurrayDeirdre Wadding, Erin Lale, and Jessica Orsini, among others.]

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna

Morpheus Ravenna, co-founder of Coru Cathubodua, and one of the subjects of the documentary American Mystic, launched an IndieGoGo crowdfunding venture this week to fund a book project focused on the Celtic goddess Morrigan. In the span of just a few days, it has already managed to reach 70% of its $7,500 goal. Quote: My name is Morpheus Ravenna. I write the Shieldmaiden Blog and I’m known in my community for my service as a priest of the Morrigan, the Celtic Goddess of battle, prophecy, and Otherworld power. I’ve been studying these traditions for almost 20 years – my entire adult life. I’ve combed the volumes of Irish lore, ancient history and archaeology, and modern scholarly study for insights to help modern practitioners understand and connect with the Great Queen. My research notes encompass hundreds of pages of material, some of it never presented outside academic publications. And now I’m ready to share my years of study with you.” Here’s the Google Hangout video from the launch night event. Below, I’ve embedded the official pitch video

10378157_10202241520539235_4465347862056082361_nThe Wild Hunt’s own Cara Schulz, a member of Hellenismos, is running for a seat on the Burnsville City Council in Minnesota. In a recent post on her candidacy page’s blog, Schulz explains to voters about her faith. Quote: “Hellenismos is very family focused and primarily practiced in the home. It mainly consists of praying and burning incense. I find it spiritually fulfilling and beneficial to my life. It’s a comfort to me when I need comfort and a kick in the pants when I need that. What residents may want to know, and they have a right to know, is how will my religious views affect me as City Council member? Probably no more, or no less, than any other candidate. I have no intention of pushing my religion on anyone or allowing its tenets to dictate law. Our government is a secular government and I firmly support that.” Schulz added that “Burnsville residents have always been welcoming of cultures, faiths, and ideas, as long as you are open and honest with them. It’s one of the things I love most about Burnsville.” The Wild Hunt, as a rule, does not endorse candidates from any party in elections, Pagan or not, but we will wish our friend and colleague good luck in the race ahead. Find out more about Cara and her candidacy at the official candidate’s page. You can also find her on Facebook.

Cherry Hill SeminaryPagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has released a free media presentation called “Don’t Look Away” to help non-professionals recognize and respond to abuse within their community. Quote: “In response to growing concern about accountability in our communities, Cherry Hill Seminary has released a free media presentation called Don’t Look Away: Recognizing & Responding to Abuse for non-professionals. Don’t Look Away was created to help individuals and small groups better understand the nature of sexual abuse and appropriate ways to respond, as well as what to do if you have been abused, yourself. Numerous resources are given, such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Child Traumatic Stress Network, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and others. The presentation also references a new Emergency Resources page on the Cherry Hill Seminary web site. The page is a quick reference, not only on sexual abuse, but on domestic violence, addictions, child and elder abuse and neglect, mental health, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” You can find the CHS Emergency Resources page here. CHS Executive Director Holli Emore added in the official press release that “for far too long, we have either not recognized the signs of abuse among us, or we have looked away, assuming, hoping, that someone else will take care of the problem. But those problems don’t go away by themselves.”

In Other  Pagan Community News: 

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

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the state of the publishing industry with respect to Barnes & Noble’s recent unimpressive fiscal announcements. How would the disappearance of the last remaining large-scale, traditional bookstore affect the metaphysical book industry? After speaking with two industry experts, the answer seems conclusive. A Barnes & Noble collapse, while not at all preferable, would not permanently damage either company. Llewellyn and the Phoenix & Dragon Bookstore both maintain flexible, diverse, customer-driven business structures that are adaptable in this evolving marketplace.

books3-1024x516

Photo Courtesy of Elysia Gallo, Llewellyn

Will Barnes & Noble go the same way as Borders? Only time will tell. The industry is still changing and evolving. To date, there are many factors that have contributed to the upheaval including increased competition, changing consumer behavior, and the diversification of the product. There are paper books, audio books and eBooks in multiple formats. There are books published by the “big six,” by independent publishers, and most recently, by the authors themselves.

Self-publishing has become one of the hottest trends in the marketplace. Several weeks ago I interviewed New York Times best-selling author John Matthews, who had just announced the launch of his new self-publishing venture Mythwood Books. After years of negotiating the traditional publishing world, Matthews has chosen to “go it alone” in order to earn a greater percentage of the revenue and to maintain creative integrity over his work. 

As I reported in that article, approximately 43% (or 148,424) of all published books in 2011 were self-published. Bowker Books in Print reports the 2012 figure to be well-over 235,000 titles.The number continues to grow.

DSC06408

Cara Schultz

First-time author Cara Schultz chose to self-publish after an uncomfortable encounter with a traditional publisher. She explains:

The security, expertise, and wider distribution offered by publishers were attractive, but in the end the loss of control over my content and brand weighed too heavily… The publisher wanted to add and subtract products featured in my book based on advertising and marketing partnerships with companies.  I wanted to only feature products I own, use and recommend based on performance. 

Ginger Wood

Virginia Chandler

Virginia Chandler, author of fantasy fiction novels, and Christine Hoff Kraemer, Patheos Pagan Channel’s managing editor, also made a similar choice. Chandler’s first two books were published by Double Dragon Publishing, who she describes as “very supportive.”  However, she “craved more control” over her end product and has now turned to Amazon’s Create Space. Kraemer published her first books through a traditional academic publisher but turned to the more progressive Patheos Press for her most recent work, Seeking the Mysteries: A Introduction to Pagan Theologies. “The royalty percentage [is] much higher,” she says.

In response to the Matthews interview, author Donald Michael Kraig posed a poignant question to those who do choose to self-publish:

Self-publishing replaces everything the publisher did, including promotion, advertising, marketing, etc. Publishers have distributors and can get their books into bookstores and chains. How will you, the self-publisher, accomplish this?

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

All three of authors had the same response. Shultz said, “Publishing houses say they will help market your book, but … they really won’t.” Chandler agreed saying, “Unless you are JK Rowling, Dan Brown, or a guaranteed million dollar selling author, you are going to be doing all of the promotional legwork.” Kraemer added, “Some publishers still do limited marketing for you, although this is becoming more rare.”

So how does their choice to “go it alone” affect the traditional book industry players? EBooks nearly eliminate the need for a publisher, distributor and brick-and-mortar store. Everything is done digitally. Phoenix & Dragon had already lost 15% of its sales to Amazon even before the popularity of eBooks. Self-publishing only exacerbates the problem.

Many self-published authors, like Kraemer, have turned to print-on-demand publishing services. These companies, such as Lulu.com, bridge the gap between a traditional publisher and full self-publishing. With print-on-demand, the author can offer a tangible product which broadens the potential readership and increases the likelihood of seeing their work on a store shelf.

However, it is not quite that simple. When I asked Candace Apple about the growth in self-publishing, she simple stated, “It makes life crazy.”  Phoenix & Dragon employs a full-time book buyer who evaluates every book sold. This screening process becomes more strenuous with self-published products. In such cases, Apple can’t rely on a publisher’s reputation in order to pre-qualify a book’s content.  Her buyer must carefully screen every self-published book. That takes time.

ba944243e5ae7ca30d2ae62a3545bb54

In addition, the cost is prohibitive.  As Apple explains, self-published authors do not offer wholesale discounts and large inventories. Apple must pay the full cover price plus shipping for every book purchased.

With that said, Apple believes in supporting community and will showcase local self-published authors. “I enjoy finding the gems,” she told me. Fortunately for the self-published Pagan author, the independently-owned metaphysical bookstores have that flexibility. The big chains, like Barnes & Noble, don’t. Going forward, Apple hopes that Amazon’s new distribution processes will alleviate some of the headaches associated with selling the self-published book.

What about Llewellyn? How is it handling the increase in self-published material? Bill Krause said:

There is no denying it has never been easier to self-publish and would-be authors may choose this path rather than submitting a manuscript to a traditional publisher for consideration. We can’t change this, so we have to figure out how to work with it. We have picked up some authors who were originally self-published and sold them to the trade quite successfully. In some cases we had them write new books, in other cases we had them rework their original. In all cases, it’s based on the content of the work.

He continued on to say:

The number of self-published books that find success is extremely small. Unless the author has some industry knowledge and also happens to be a tireless marketer/promoter while also being a strong writer, editor and designer (or willing to pay for this assistance), it’s very difficult to find success. 

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Author David Salisbury echoed this sentiment saying:

My books so far have all gone through the traditional publishing process. It made the most sense for me to go that route for all the practical reasons. I love writing but hate doing everything else that goes along with putting a book out (editing, marketing, pitching etc.). I felt better handing my work over to professionals who I trust more than myself to complete a nice polished product

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton, author and Wild Hunt Columnist, also chose the traditional route. She said:

All three of my books are published through Immanion/Megalithic Press….I was looking for a partner in the process of working on my book. I chose to publish with a small press because I wanted the support of a publisher yet the creative freedom that a smaller press like Immanion could provide.

But what about that great promise of 70% revenue on every self-published book sold versus the 10-15% from a traditional publisher?  Krause said, “70% of what? To be another face in the crowd with no marketing budget.” He reiterated the importance of the relationship that Llewellyn forms with its authors.  This relationship along with its professional services can be invaluable over the long run – making up for that 55-60% revenue difference.

By Jorghex (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) via Wikimedia Commons

By Jorghex (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

For the author there are certainly pros and cons to both forms of publishing. For both Llewellyn and metaphysical shops, like Phoenix & Dragon, the self-publishing boom has created complications – ones that now must be taken seriously.

As for the mega book seller, don’t count Barnes & Noble out just yet. According to some analysts, Barnes & Noble is now in a golden position to thrive in one specific area –book selling.  It has the brand name, the resources, the real estate and industry clout. The only question is: can it adapt to the changing climate, find a way to work with the growing population of self-published authors and compete with Amazon? If it does, it will only be good news for Llewellyn, specialty stores like Phoenix & Dragon and many others.  If it doesn’t, we can all reminisce about our glory days getting lost in a book superstore.

 

Full Unedited Comments from authors:

Cara Schultz
Virginia Chandler
Christine Hoff Kraemer
Crystal Blanton

 

Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“My heartbreaks, tears flow and these words are my attempt to find solace.  Nineteen members of a Hotshot Firefighting crew are dead in Arizona.  For the last few years I was on a Southwest Area Incident Management Team. These are men I know, have eaten meals with, showered with, shared conversation with. My job at fires as a Logistics Section chief is, at its heart, keeping the firefighters safe: feeding them, providing for their needs, rest, equipment, medical attention, communication, transportation, sleeping arrangements etc. This is intensely personal for me. Tears hover in my eyes, the loss is profound.  Each of us in the firefighting community understands the risks, yet when a tragedy of this magnitude occurs we are devastated. We are a family, each of us with a special knowledge of what being a wild land firefighter really means. Today we grieve, wonder what went wrong and think about their families’. These are men whose lives I have protected, who take the risks that most would shy away from to keep people, homes and communities safe. They are also faces I know, each with a story, a community, and a dream for the future.  Their loss reminds all of us of the fragility of life.” – Peter Dybing, a Pagan first responder, reacting to the news of 19 firemen dying while fighting a fast-moving wildfire in Arizona.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“These are times in need of beauty. These are times in need of depth. These are times in need of study. These are times in need of rallying cries and manifestos, of art scrawled upon pavement and wild dancing in the streets. Fortunately for us, these things are happening. Peter Grey writes: “Love is the war to end all wars, and the war is upon us.” This is a bold statement by the author of The Red Goddess, from the titular essay of his latest book: Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Grey writes of a Craft that is filled with power and the lust for life. He writes of a Craft that breaks down the crumbling social orders of oppression, greed, and fear in order to raise a society of freedom. Peter Grey wants us working in the shadows and full sunlight. He doesn’t want us to back down. He wants us to be born again, a danger to the forces that wreak havoc on our beloved earth, and on us. [...] Yes, sometimes the writing in Apocalyptic Witchcraft verges on melodramatic. Sometimes I vehemently disagree with what is written, and other times I want to cheer. Not every essay in each issue of Abraxas moves me, but all of them make me think. This is for the good. We need allies to pit ourselves against, and to stand with, not people who keep us comfortable. There is too much complacency in the world. If love is a battle, we need comrades that test us. Peter Grey, Christine Oakley Harrington, Alkistis Dimech, and Robert Ansell are these comrades. They incite us to magic. They incite us to art. They incite us to philosophy. They incite us to live.” – T. Thorn Coyle, writing an appreciation of Peter Grey, Scarlet Imprint, and a growing movement within the British esoteric community that incites a “love to end all wars.”

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Hoff Kraemer

“Hard polytheism is the view that the gods are objectively existing, independent personalities with whom human beings can have relationships. This theological position is somewhat unique in contemporary Paganism because it is the only belief around which groups of Pagans have strongly rallied. Interestingly, although conversations around hard polytheism are often framed in terms of belief, hard polytheists’ objections to soft polytheism are primarily about the way belief informs practice. For hard polytheists, soft polytheist practice—especially practice that approaches the gods as interchangeable archetypes—is both less effective and potentially disrespectful. Pagans will sometimes speak of rituals where the gods do not “show up”—no energy moves, no sense of connection or presence is felt, and the participants return home in much the same mental and emotional state in which they arrived. Hard polytheists believe that this undesirable state of affairs occurs because Pagans do not recognize the nature of the gods. Hard polytheists usually experience the gods as powerful presences with distinctive desires and behaviors, as well as historical ties to particular traditions, cultures, and lands. In order to connect with a goddess or a god and form relationship with them, hard polytheists will look at rituals from the deity’s native culture for guidance. When they ask a goddess or god to be present, they see themselves as calling someone very specific. Some use the metaphor of dialing a phone number to reach a friend: the ritual objects and the proper names and prayers are ways of ensuring one has the right number. Once a deity has been contacted, an ongoing relationship can be formed through prayer and ritual. This experiential relationship allows the practitioner to move beyond attempting to reconstruct an ancient religion using historical texts, and instead to create a practice that is oriented to the present.”An excerpt from Christine Hoff Kraemer’s book “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies” on sale today at the Amazon.com Kindle store for only $0.99, and available at a reduced price of $2.99 for about a week thereafter. You can read the table of contents, introduction, and glossary here, reviews here.

Carl Neal

Carl Neal

“Those of us who choose a Solitary path can be a difficult group with which to work. When we speak of the trouble in organizing Pagans as “herding cats” it’s never truer than when dealing with the dedicated Solitary. Many of us are proud of our independence and may stubbornly cling to it beyond the bounds of logic. Those who are forced to be Solitary by geography (or other factors) may not always possess the same type of fierce independence. They may be seeking out the companionship, guidance, and structure of a coven or group – things studiously avoided by some who are Solitary By Choice. There are a few rare individuals who straddle this line and both belong to a coven and walk a Solitary path at the same time. For most of us, the Solitary nature of our practices simply demands that we walk our paths alone. Those of us who practice this way see it as a type of freedom, although we have to recognize that there are things that can be easily accomplished with group practice that are difficult or impossible for the Circle of One. This doesn’t mean that we never work with others. Like all Pagans, we tend to share and learn from one another. Sometimes we gather, stand in circle together, and may work very intimate magick. At other times, some Solitaries may participate in public rituals with dozens of people they barely know. Being “Solitary”doesn’t mean being “alone” or “isolated”. It’s the path that is Solitary, not the person. In fact, some Solitaries tend to do all ritual work with others, although they are not all on the same path. Until they find a coven or other appropriate group, many who are Solitary By Circumstance will use this same approach.”Carl Neal, a dedicated “Solitary By Choice,” on why being “solitary” does not mean being isolated.

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

“Finding a suitable partner is difficult enough for anyone. With more Pagans saying finding a partner who shares their values, if not their religion, the search for a match is even more difficult. How to overcome that challenge? Attend one of the large gatherings of Pagans at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). At this year’s PSG attendees were invited to a single’s meet and greet, attend the wedding of a couple who met at last year’s PSG, and wish Circle Sanctuary‘s Rev. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, who met and later married at PSG, a happy 27th wedding anniversary. Rev. Fox says that from the very beginning of PSG, straight and same sex couples have met, and married or handfasted, at the festival. “I think the courting dimensions of attending festivals is something quite old and never goes out of style. I’m happy for all the good relations that have come out of PSG,” said Rev. Fox. What is changing are the increasing numbers of Pagans who attend festivals with the express purpose of finding Pagan, and not just Pagan friendly, mate. Yet just like in the mundane world, sometimes love finds you when you aren’t looking for it.”Cara Schulz at PNC-Minnesota writing about looking for, and finding, love at Pagan festivals.

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

“ADF has always championed the civil rights of all people. Our priests have performed same-sex weddings where legal and handfastings where they are not. And we are delighted to see that US Federal benefits will now be available to same-sex couples who may now legally wed, and to see that marriage rights have been extended to California. But this still leaves a large number of people without such rights.  In the USA only 30% of people live in states where same-sex marriage is legal, and while the momentum is there, we fear that many of our members in less liberal areas of the country won’t see such rights for a long time indeed. We have members all over the world, but outside of the USA only Canada offers full marriage rights, though our members in New Zealand will have full rights starting in August.. The United Kingdom may have full rights soon, but Australia only recognizes same-sex marriage where one partner has had gender reassignment therapy. So while we are delighted that this step has finally been taken in the United States, we are also aware of how much more there is to be done. We pray that through hard work and strong intention the Gods will support all of us in achieving marriage equality for all people.” - Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), releasing an official ADF statement in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8.

Lupa, author of "Skin Spirits," at her shop.

Lupa, author of “Skin Spirits,” at her shop.

“What I had thought I wanted was more structure and piety, sharing nature through an evangelism of orthopraxy. What I needed, in fact, was to toss the entire artifice away and simply immerse myself in the world of awe and wonder I’d rediscovered. As for the spirits? I no longer needed to try to keep convincing myself that their presence was a literal reality despite all my doubts and inconsistencies. I didn’t need “belief”, I didn’t need to use speculation and pseudoscience to “prove” that the spirits are “real”, and I ceased caring whether they even existed outside of my own deeply rooted imagination or not, because I only needed them to be important to me. I had the twin flames of science and creativity, the one creating a structure of general objective understanding, and the other adding wholly personal, subjective color that didn’t have to be “true” for anyone but me. And that is where I am today. I still honor my totems and other spirits, but as a personal pantheon carried inside of me. They are what gives added vitality to the world around me; they embody my wonder and awe, my imagination and creativity, the things that I as a human being bring to the relationships I have to everything else in this world. Science is important in that it tells me how the moon was formed, what the dust on it is made of, and how it affects the tides, but there is a spirit inside of me that loves the beautiful silver of the moonlight and all the stories we’ve told about Mama Luna. In balance and complement, science and spirits both become my animism today.” – Lupa, on how she lost her religion and gained the world.

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“The heroes of American Religion are constantly being co-opted and misinterpreted for political gain. The deism of Thomas Jefferson has been overlooked by many who have attempted to insert an Evangelical Jesus into places where that messiah did not exist. Similarly, the Hellfire Club’s Benjamin Franklin has been romanticized to the point of caricature. Many of America’s deified heroes are now more myth than man; their failings ignored by a general populace that refuses to believe any of our “Founding Fathers” were capable of making mistakes. [...] While having a great deal of respect and admiration for many of our national leaders and the documents and speeches that make up American Civil Religion, I am no fan of the institution. I love the symbolism of figures like Justice and Liberty, but the deification of words and men leads to a false sense of infallibility. America remains a great nation, but we also remain a nation capable of mistakes and a rigidness of thinking. The men who wrote the Constitution never thought that their words would be taken as holy writ. They were politicians and not prophets; men with flaws and limitations just like the rest of us. I think their humanity makes them more compelling and is worth remembering.”Jason Mankey on American civil religion, and its shortcomings.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day! Oh, and if you’d like to hear me spout off on various topics, Inciting A Riot has a podcast interview with me up now.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

"Psychostasia" by Daemonia Nymphe

“Psychostasia” by Daemonia Nymphe

  • The great Greek Pagan band Daemonia Nymphe have announced that their new album, “Psychostasia,” will be officially released on May 10th.  Quote: “Six years after ‘Krataia Asterope’ (2007) and many Live dates in Europe, the Greeks led by the duet Spyros Giasafakis & Evi Stergiou are back with their new album ‘Psychostasia’ (the “weighing” of souls by Gods). Since its origins the band uses instruments recreated from the Greek Antiquity [...] ‘Psychostasia’ takes us into the journey of a Life, the journey of a Soul. It starts with Zephiros (the god of Wind), then comes ‘Pnoe’ the breath that animates each thing … During the trip, we will meet Gaia, the forces of Nature, the moon dances for Selene and Eros, to finish into Hypnos’s dreams.” You can order and hear samples of the new album at Prikosnovenie.
  • The reality television program “Wife Swap” aired another episode featuring a Pagan family last night, but according to participant Arana Fireheart, the process from his standpoint was not exploitive. Quote: “[The casting director] reassured me that we would be given the chance to present ourselves as a normal happy family that just happen to be Witches and I trusted that he would keep his word.” So did anyone watch it? How was it? Let us know in the comments. I think it’s fair to say that the show hasn’t the best track record regarding Pagan families, so I’m interested to see if things have evolved
  • Stonehenge is looking for a part-time Solstice manager, which has gotten a bit of press attention. One of the qualifications is an ability to maintain good relations with Druid groups and other “stakeholders” who access the stones for special events. Quote: “As English Heritage’s Tim Reeve told the BBC, one of the General Manager’s subsidiary jobs will be to liaise with neo-druid leaders, helping to oversee arrangements for the ceremonies that those leaders conduct to celebrate the summer and winter solstices. The General Manager will work to guarantee, essentially, that the rocks of the 21st century remain as faithful as possible to the rocks of prehistory. It’s ‘important,’ Reeve notes, ‘to ensure we keep the dignity of the stones.’” You guys are lucky I’m not a UK citizen, or I’d have this thing locked up. 
  • A retired Russian Orthodox bishop has been deposed after it was revealed that he was giving psychic counseling at a New Age center in Russia. It seems a fair cop. The Orthodox news site that reported on the incident is in English, but the lingo, acronyms, and haughty triumphalism make it nearly indecipherable to the casual reader (I suppose some could argue the same about my site, though I try to remain accessible). 
  • This story is supposed to be satire, but I can actually imagine certain Heathens saying something like what’s quoted in the “article.” Quote: “It’s an insult to our religion, it is bad enough they turned our God of Thunder into a blond pretty boy in a unitard, but the lack of bloodshed makes a mockery of our beliefs.” You laugh now, just wait until they turn The Morrigan into a superhero character… oh, wait.
Photo: Time Magazine / EFE / ZUMAPRESS

Photo: Time Magazine / EFE / ZUMAPRESS

  • In a move that should surprise no one, the Vatican has made it clear that they really, really, don’t like Santa Muerte. Quote: “The Mexican offensive against Santa Muerte (Saint Death) launched by former president, Felipe Calderon, has now gone global. In an interview last week with a Peruvian Catholic news site (Aciprensa), the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, condemned the cult of the skeleton saint as “sinister and infernal.” The Italian prelate, whom Vatican watcher John Allen recently called “the most interesting man in the Church” and even profiled as a candidate for the papacy, called for both Church and society to mobilize against devotion to Saint Death.” Chances that this will hinder the religious movement? I’d wager they are slim to none. 
  • The interfaith ceremony that took place after the Boston bombing attack excluded humanists and atheists. Quote: “We made it exceedingly easy for the Governor’s staff to find us and include us, but they chose not to do so. The exclusion of non-theists today no doubt deepened the hurt the people in the non-theist community are feeling. What principle was served by our exclusion, I don’t begin to understand.”
  • Come visit scenic Cornwall, we’ve got a really, really, big Celtic Cross. Quote: “We hope it will become an iconic landmark, our version of the Angel of the North, so people don’t just pass by Saltash, but go in.” Also, King Arthur was conceived there, but that’s not exactly a roadside attraction. 
  • Speaking of Stonehenge, here’s a new theory about it. Quote: “…the site, which was occupied continuously for 3,000 years, had evidence of burning, thousands of flint tool fragments and bones of wild aurochs, a type of extinct giant cow. That suggests the area near Stonehenge may have been an auroch migration route that became an ancient feasting site, drawing people together from across different cultures in the region, wrote lead researcher David Jacques of the Open University in the United Kingdom.”
  • My pal Cara Schulz (who also happens to be a Hellenic Pagan), is holding a Kickstarter for a cool-sounding luxury camping book, and in honor of reaching $1,500 of the $4,500 goal she shares a drink recipe on Youtube called the “Blue Gem.” With Summer festival season almost here, maybe we could all use this book? 

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

I like to consider myself a pretty savvy guy when it comes to journalism. I’ve spoken to a range of local and national reporters about Paganism, I’ve been interviewed, and I’ve been used as a resource for reporters looking for sources. I’ve spent years of my life analyzing, and critiquing, journalism that covers our diverse faiths. Despite that savvy, or perhaps because of it, I allowed myself to get suckered by a sensationalist tabloid journalist looking for dirt.

M.L. Nestel

M.L. Nestel

I was contacted by a reporter from the New York Post who wanted to do a story about Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, currently accused of fraud and bribery, and was looking for information about Halloran’s Theodish faith. I was justifiably skeptical, since I do know that the New York Post is a sensationalist rag, but after speaking to the reporter, a Matt Nestel, I agreed to put him in contact with a couple sources. Why did I do that? On the phone, he said the right things: He said he wasn’t out to do a hit job on our religions, he expressed how he wanted to learn about Theodism and modern Pagan/Heathen religions, he stressed how he had treated other minority religions sensitively, he even offered to let me vet the piece for accuracy before it went to print. So I put him in contact with Cara Schulz, Managing Editor of The Pagan Newswire Collective, who had interviewed Dan Halloran in 2010, and Nick Ritter, my trusted go-to source on Theodism, and someone who actually knew Dan’s religious history.

Needless to say, things didn’t work out so well…

“The city councilman who bungled his way into federal bribery charges is also a total bonehead in his kooky heathen religion — whose members wear medieval garb, make sacrifices to multiple gods and compete in combat games. Dan Halloran (R-Queens) — who was arrested Tuesday as the suspected bag man in state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s alleged plot to buy his way onto the mayoral ticket — has been publicly flogged and lost a spear-throwing contest as part of his Theodish punishments. Halloran converted in the 1980s from Catholicism to the pre-Christian Germanic religion, whose believers drink mead or whiskey from horns and dress like characters in a Renaissance fair.”

When I saw the article my stomach sank. I knew this was a tabloid, and I knew they’d be going after Dan Halloran, nothing could prevent that, but I thought that at the very least our faiths would be treated with some sensitivity since we had cooperated. How foolish I was. I got played. I never saw a draft, naturally, nor did I ever hear back from Mr. Nestel once he got what he wanted. That’s not entirely true, I did get a cryptic one-sentence reply when I expressed my disappointment at the published piece, but that was it. In an editorial published at PNC-Minnesota, Cara Schulz noted how much time was spent trying to provide good information to Mr. Nestel, only to have it thrown aside once a sensationalist scoop was found.

newyorkpost_screenshot

“To his credit, Nestel spent the better part of two days researching Theodism.  That’s a considerable amount of time in the news industry.  He asked intelligent questions, asked for more information on areas he still didn’t understand, and requested multiple sources to interview.  We spent just over 4 hour son the phone with him during the course of two days answering his questions.  We connected him to some really fantastic, knowledgeable people to interview.   Sources to read to learn more about the religion of Theodism.  Then we stepped back and hoped our assistance wasn’t in vain.  We can help, but we can’t write the article for the reporter.” 

Having settled on the “part of a kooky religion that whips people” angle, The New York Post’s piece quickly became fodder for a series of blog posts and like-minded tabloids across the pond.

  • “I’ve been following politics for 40 years and seen a lot of characters come and go who believed weird things, or acted in a bizarre manner. But Halloran’s beliefs and actions top the list. Not only is it bizarre, but kind of pathetic as well. He is obviously seeking something that he doesn’t get from mainstream Christianity. And hey! Who wouldn’t want to be a prince with their own cult?”Rick Moran, American Thinker
  • “And that’s what the Post gets down to today with an exclusive report on some of the more unsavory details about his religious beliefs. The most ‘juicy’ detail is that Halloran was once publicly flogged after he committed an undisclosed act against a female “thrall” (a follower). He was stripped to his waist, strapped to a tree and flogged with a belt 11 times. Meh, it’s not like he helped make Steve Guttenberg a star, or was shackled to a ‘stone of triumph.’”Ben Yakas, Gothamist
  • “But now he can be best remembered for something else: Halloran was voluntarily tied to a tree and flogged 11 times with a leather belt by the leaders of his pagan sect as punishment for an “undisclosed act” against a female “thrall” (probationary servant, in non-pagan-Religion-terms).”Peter Moskowitz, Gawker
  • “Formerly a Catholic, the First Atheling of New Normandy converted to Theodism in the 1980s. In those early days, Halloran was punished for committing an undisclosed act with one of his lady “thralls,” a probationary servant. He was stripped to his waist, tied to a tree, and flogged 11 times with a belt, a source told The Post.”Sarah Rae Fruchtnicht, Opposing Views
  • “For Dan Halloran, being arrested was not the most memorable thing about him in the news this week. The Republican councilman in New York City was indicted Tuesday on bribery charges, which was newsworthy enough, until Friday’s New York Post revealed the bizarre rituals he engaged in while practicing the pagan faith of Theodism. According to the report, Halloran was once voluntarily flogged against a tree as punishment for unspecified acts against a female “thrall,” and participated in a spear-throwing duel with a religious rival, all while dressed like a Renaissance Faire employee. He remains innocent until proven guilty on the bribery charges, but the court of public opinion likely won’t be holding back on judging him for that spear-throwing duel.”msnNOW

The only clear-headed take on this was from The League of Ordinary Gentleman, who chided those engaged in merely mocking the Pagan, instead of sticking to the serious charges facing Halloran.

“Whether Halloran is or is not guilty of corruption is one thing. That’s not what these articles are about. What is shameful is the point-and-laugh articles pretty much openly mocking Halloran for embracing a restated version of ancient Germanic polytheism. He worships the old gods. And that’s his right as an American citizen. It’s our obligation as a people to disregard the apparent silliness of his religious beliefs and judge the man on the content of his character. Let us focus on the moral and legal merits of the man’s case. He’s only interesting to anyone outside of New York because of the corruption accusation. Is he guilty or not? If he is guilty, ought what he did be deemed a crime at all? His religion is irrelevant to such inquiries.”

Sadly, voices of reason in this renewed feeding frenzy are few.

All I wanted was for good information to overcome bad information. That a reporter would be brave enough to be accurate and fair, even if they worked for a tabloid. I was wrong, I was too liberal in my trust, and I exposed people I care about to an industry that only cares about grabbing as many page-views as possible. I was foolish, and I am sorry. My hope is that this unfortunate incident can be a learning moment for me, and for the wider community. Consider the source, even if the reporter seems nice, even if they say the right things. If someone writes for the New York Post, or any tabloid, they don’t care about what’s fair, they only care about finding more dirt. Work only with reporters who have proven themselves to be fair, to avoid sensationalism when writing about our faiths. Don’t talk to the news simply because you can, remember that sometimes silence is better.

I was suckered by a tabloid, and I’ll try to not let it happen again. I have failed my community in this moment, even if it was not me who decided to write that piece. Mea culpa.

[The following is a guest editorial from Cara Schulz. Cara Schulz is the Managing Editor of the Pagan Newswire Collective and the Chair of Pagan Coming Out Day.  She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, enjoys attending festivals, and has no tattoos.]

Let me first state that all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That said, things look grim for Councilman Dan Halloran (R), Queens, although he maintains his innocence.  He, and five others, were arrested on charges of accepting bribes and attempting to rig an election.  Halloran was specifically accused of setting up meetings with three other elected officials and handling bribes totaling thousands of dollars.  The details, and guilt and innocence of each person, will come out in trial and I have no interest trying the case here.I’m also not naïve enough to think bribery and corruption aren’t rampant in all levels of our government.

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

It may be as blatant as what the FBI claims Halloran engaged in or it may be more subtle and pervasive.  How many of our politicians leave office poorer than when they were first elected?

Dan Halloran wasn’t just any politician, though.  While we’ve had, and will have, other Pagans and Heathens in elected office, none were as prominent as Halloran.  None had been so publicly and brutally outed during their campaign, and yet still won, as Halloran.  And none, once mocked and derided for their religion, had either of the two major parties stand by him as steadfastly as the Republican Party stood by Halloran.  For the first time, mocking one of our religions not only didn’t work, it backfired.  People of all, and no, religious persuasions said bigotry was not a winning campaign strategy and they voted Halloran into office.

Which is why his election as a New York City Councilman was a watershed moment for our religious communities.  We could now point to his election, and the circumstances around it, and say, “This is now possible.”  It was something many Pagan and Heathens didn’t think they would see in their lifetimes.

His election to office was something we could take pride in, although many Pagans and Heathens wouldn’t vote for a Republican even if the other choice was Prince Joffrey.  And many in the Heathen community disliked Halloran personally and by reputation and were vocal in opposition to his candidacy.  We don’t always get the trailblazer we desire, but in order to blaze a trail, the person has to succeed in gaining the position.  Halloran ran a tough campaign during an even tougher election when all the momentum was for his opponent.

Which brings us to this week.

pagancomingoutdaySome of you may know me from my work with Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd).  I’m the founder and Chair of this organization, which works to achieve greater acceptance and equality for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.  We help those who feel they are ready to come out, in some way, in some portion of their lives.  This is important not just for the well-being of the individual, but for the community.  The more people that come out, the safer and more accepted we will all be.

Yet there are responsibilities when a person comes out.  For many people you are the only Pagan they know.  They will judge all Pagans by your behavior.  That may not be fair, but who said life is fair?  When you are a prominent person in your city or in your career field, the responsibility to be an ambassador for other Pagans is greater.  When you are the first Pagan in an area or at a certain level, such as a CEO of a major company or a New York City Councilman, the responsibility jumps even higher.

No matter Halloran’s eventual verdict in a court of law, it’s clear he either didn’t understand or refused to acknowledge he carried that extra burden of honor.  To act according to the highest of ethical standards so others, when given the opportunity to vote for a Pagan or Heathen candidate, could look at his example and feel reassured we are as moral a people as any other religious group.  Because we are.

Earlier this week I pointed to the fact that modern Paganism is now a global phenomenon. That we aren’t simply a small religious movement isolated to North America and the UK, and that we will increasingly be affected by issues we thought relegated to “over there.” Things that “aren’t our problem.” When I wrote that piece I knew that “Yana,” a Syrian Pagan, and friend of Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz, had been killed, but it wasn’t my story to tell, my obituary to write. Today, at PNC-Minnesota, Cara tells the story of her death, learned through another Middle Eastern source that she considers reliable.

Syria in ruins.

Syria in ruins.

“What happened to her is so ugly I’m struggling to … I can’t even finish that sentence.  I’ll just tell you what I have learned, and although I trust this source, there is no way for me to independently confirm this.  Some time in late June, Yana’s brother, who had become radicalized, informed the rebels that his sister was a Pagan.  They took her, tortured her, then her brother publicly denounced her as a whore and a witch.  After that, she was drug out onto the street, raped, and killed.

What I remember about Yana is she was always joking, always smiling.  She injected joy into everything she did, from talking about the Gods she honored to showing off her latest hair style.  She had more hair combs than anyone I’ve ever known.  She wanted to come to America and eat bacon.  She was fascinated and repelled by the thought of bacon so I would tell her about putting it in chocolate and on maple ice cream.  She was nervous about getting married.  Her father doted on her and she worried a husband might not be so kind or forgiving of her free spirit.  She told me younger men like to show how manly they are so she thought about telling her parents to find an older man for her to marry.  It was hard to see her become less exuberant as the fighting started, and then drew closer.  To see fear creep in and hear from her less often.   How sad she was that she never left her home anymore because it wasn’t safe.”

In January, Schulz wrote about how the small and isolated number of modern Pagans in places like Syria and Egypt were falling silent as fighting and political turmoil reached new heights.

Yana's last communication to Cara Schulz.

Yana’s last communication to Cara Schulz.

“The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly. They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut, buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets. They detailed neighbors going missing. Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars. Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

Yana dropped off first.  I last heard from her in June of 2012.  Bayan, another Syrian Pagan, also hadn’t heard from her but said fighting in her area was intense.  He said he had seen patrols targeting young women and men, beating them and he said it was rumored they were raping them.  He thought perhaps she fled to a safer area or was silent to avoid detection.”

These aren’t Christians or Muslims accused of sorcery, these aren’t dissidents accused of heresy, these are our people. These are modern Pagans, people interested in reviving their own culture’s pre-Christian past, people who were, and are, deeply curious about what their Western cousins were doing, what we were thinking. These were our people killed in this conflict “over there.” Our people in hiding, on the run, pretending to be (the right kind of) Muslims, trying to survive. The situation brings to mind a classic chant often used as public Pagan rituals by Morning Feather and Will Shepardson.

“We are an old people, we are a new people, we are the same people, stronger than before.”

To my mind, the chant was about continuity, about solidarity. That modern Pagans were diverse, that we came from different sources, but that we were a movement who were now coming together to be stronger, to declare ourselves to the world. It’s time that our movement claimed the full responsibility for our success. We have been working a global spell for the last fifty years, telling everyone that the Witches, the Pagans, the Heathens, the old ways, were back, that everyone who felt that connection should embrace it, should return to the old gods, should join us in becoming a movement of people who were stronger than when we fell before. The spell has worked, now we must embrace what it has brought us, however imperfect, or inconvenient, or painful some of it may be. When you try to change the dominant religious paradigms of the world, people will die, they will be placed in danger by mobs who want power, who fear change, who want to establish never-ending towers of dominance. This is not hyperbole, because far from the (relative) privilege and safety of the West, there are people who heard our chants, our calls, and are now hiding and dying as a result.

What can we do? What should we do? We start by engaging with the world, by re-doubling our interfaith efforts, by supporting the organizations that are sending people to speak for us. Beyond that, we can support Doctors Without Borders, who have a long and positive track-record of helping people in war-stricken lands (there’s an option to earmark for Syria), and we can educate ourselves on all those issues “over there.” This self-education doesn’t mean we all have to agree on how we should respond, but we can at least start from a place of awareness when we do have these conversations. Finally, we can pray, do magic, and do ritual, for all Pagans across the world endangered because of who they are, because of where they are, realizing that such workings are the prelude, not the end-point, of action.

ADDENDUM: For those of you wanting to donate to Doctors WIthout Borders in Yana’s name, Cara Schulz has set up a special page at their website for that purpose, and hopes to raise $1000 for relief efforts.

[The following article is reprinted from the PNC Minnesota bureau, and reported by Cara Schulz.]

Areas where there is political turmoil or fighting are often difficult places for even those in the mainstream of a culture to live in. It’s even harder for people on the fringe of society as they face confusion, uncertainty, deteriorating living conditions, and daily fear for personal safety. Those set apart by ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, political views, or religion are the most vulnerable to loss of property or even loss of life. In Syria and Egypt, two countries currently experiencing political turmoil or civil war, one by one Pagan voices have fallen silent.

Syrians demonstrate in the coastal city of Banias against the regime of hard-line leader Bashar Assad in the spring of 2011. (Syrian Freedom via Creative Commons)

Syrians demonstrate in the coastal city of Banias against the regime of hard-line leader Bashar Assad in the spring of 2011. (Syrian Freedom via Creative Commons)

There are eight Pagans, three in Egypt and five in Syria, that I have regular contact with online. They had always been cautious about revealing their religion to people within their country and expressed dismay over their isolation, but they were happy to talk online and wanted to know what American Pagans, especially those who practice Mesopotamian or Kemetic religions, were doing.

Egypt

The Egyptian Pagans, who were elated at the fall of Muburak, expressed hope that a truly democratic government would emerge in Egypt. Then, concerns crept in at the increasing power of the Muslim Brotherhood. Karim saw the Brotherhood as a threat to both his country and to him, as a Pagan, personally. Over the past seven months, the lag in communication grew as he became more politically involved and went to rallies and protests. He expressed fear that pagans and other religious minorities were in increasing danger and that the Christians would sacrifice people like him to the Brotherhood to appease them. The other two Pagans I communicate with followed a similar pattern. Elation, followed by concern, followed by fear and determination. Then silence. I have no way of finding out if they are simply too involved with the political turmoil in Egypt to respond, if they are keeping quiet to avoid suspicion, or anything else. It’s been three months since I have heard from any of them.

Syria

The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly. They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut, buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets. They detailed neighbors going missing. Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars. Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

email-for-article

Yana dropped off first.  I last heard from her in June of 2012.  Bayan, another Syrian Pagan, also hadn’t heard from her but said fighting in her area was intense.  He said he had seen patrols targeting young women and men, beating them and he said it was rumored they were raping them.  He thought perhaps she fled to a safer area or was silent to avoid detection.

That was the last email I received from Bayan.  Like dominoes the other Syrian Pagans went silent.  No emails or texts.  No word on their safety.  I keep hoping I will hear something, but it’s been several months and still no word.

I reached out to a Pagan in Lebanon, Adon, to see what he has heard about his coreligionists in Syria and Egypt.  Although he’s not in the same country, he’s much closer than I am.  I asked Adon if he had heard from Pagans in Egypt and Syria.

I haven’t heard of my pagan friends in Syria for a while too now, i know at least three of them who moved to other countries, especially Algeria, and United Arab emirates, but i have lost their contact in the process. The others are still silent, so they’re either disconnected, moved from the country, or worse. It’s hard to tell at the moment, pagans in the Near East were already several secluded clusters of individuals who don’t have a lot of contact with each other before everything started to happen. This is the case even in Lebanon where it’s relatively easier to be open about one’s religious identity.

I didn’t had any contact previously with Egyptian pagans, but they’re probably fine, but everyone in Egypt is too distracted to think about anything but politics and survival at the moment, i’ve had trouble having a decent conversation even with non-pagan egyptian friends in the past few months.

Anyway, you’re right that the atmosphere is getting a lot less safer for non-muslims in general and even for less devoted muslims. It’s very risky to even discuss religion in Syria at the moment, whether we were in the areas controlled by the regime or by the rebels. In Egypt the situation is a bit brighter since there’s a larger civil society and minorities in general and things are still relatively peaceful. However, the general feeling here is that this is temporary, the Islamists are taking the lead now after being in the shadows for decades, and all this will catalyze the process of getting over fundamental Islamism faster.  - Adon

My hope is that peace and liberty come to this region of the world.  I hope my friends are safe and that someday soon, they can live without fear.  That their voices are once again heard and this terrible silence ends.  May Anu and Horus watch over them.