Archives For CAYA Coven

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!

In Memoriam: Dennis Presser (1958-2013): Circle Sanctuary has announced that longtime Circle and Pagan Spirit Gathering community member Dennis Presser passed away last week from natural causes. In a memorial posted to their site, Circle Sanctuary said of Presser that they “honor his Nature-loving spirit, his devotion to sacred Rhythm, and the friendships he made so easily and widely.  What is remembered lives.”

Dennis Presser in 2009.

Dennis Presser in 2009.

“Thank you, Dennis, for friendship over the years.  Thanks for your environmental education and preservation work, your community drumming and celebrations, and for your wisdom, humor, and support.  Condolences, love and support to Laurie, Hunter, and Allegra, and to all of us mourning his death.  May we take comfort in knowing that this world is a better and greener place because of Dennis.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to post their own memorial remembrance at the Circle Sanctuary site. You can read his official obituary, here. You can read an editorial from PNC-Minnesota, here. What is remembered, lives.

S.J. Tucker Readies New Album: Singer-songwriter (and Pagan) S.J. Tucker has announced that she’ll be digitally releasing an album of new material on March 5th, with physical copies to follow. The songs were developed for the soundtrack of “micro-budget” fantasy/action film “Ember Days,” also being released on March 5th.

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

“I got you all a Valentine’s Day present.  It’s still cooking, but it’s on its way to being fully formed and tasty.  I have been a good little songwriter/producer this month.  Early in February, I went to work in my Pixie House and finished up the first project of this year.  Last week, on St. Valentine’s Day, I put that project into the hands of my mastering engineer, Mr. Mark Yoshida.  He’s working on it now.  When I get it back from him, and when Mr. Wiley and I settle on the album design, it will all go to printing and replication.  When that’s done, I’ll have it in my hands…and soon after that, I hope, so will you!”

According to Tucker this material will be a departure from her normal style, mining “goth/industrial or dubstep-influenced” sounds. Once released, you’ll be able to buy the album on the music page of her website. In the meantime, you can catch S.J. Tucker performing this weekend with Tricky Pixie at FaerieCon West in Seattle.

More Pagan Responses to Fox News Wicca Comments: The Pagan community is still responding to insulting comments made about Wicca on the Fox News channel by Tucker Carlson and others. While Carlson has issued an apology on Twitter and on FishbowlDC, many are still urging an on-air apology from the network itself. In a statement released this past Wednesday, the Clergy of Come As You Are Coven, an Interfaith Pagan community in Northern California, requested “that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology.”

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit of CAYA Coven. Photo: Greg Harder.

“We request that this issue be addressed by Fox News Network via an immediate, prominent, on-air apology; significant on-air retraction of specific comments with factual corrections; visible dialogue with practicing Wiccans and Pagans conducted in a respectful manner; and appropriate commitment by the Network to providing the individuals responsible with a mandatory professional course of diversity training in religious and sex/gender sensitivity.”

In addition, prominent Salem, Massachusetts Witches Laurie Cabot, Lorelei, Christian Day and Leanne Marrama issued a press release this past Tuesday on the matter. Day, who owns the Salem shops “Hex” and “Omen” said that “America is a bubbling cauldron of different peoples and faiths and it is to our credit that our nation goes out of its way to respect those days that are sacred to us. Witches believe in respect for all faiths and Carlson’s divisive rhetoric is out of step with American values.” Whether these, and other efforts, results in an on-air apology from Fox remains to be seen.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

Modern Paganism is a movement, an umbrella term for a variety of individual faith groups that share common practices, goals, outlooks, and theologies. In this, modern Paganism is more like Hinduism, than, say, Catholicism. There is no Pagan “Pope” or acknowledged leader that can label one group heretical, or cast individuals out. There is no singular statement of belief, or religious rule, that binds us all. So when schisms happen, when new groups form, our “umbrella” simply expands to encompass them too. That said, changes, evolution, and yes, schism, can signal a sea change within the larger whole (think of Buckland and Cunningham ushering in the self-initiatory “solitary” paradigm). A barometer to measure changes in our community’s weather. It is within this context, I feel, that we should view the press release just sent out by Lady Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

“With gratitude for a wonderful learning experience and warm memories of sisterhood over the past 5 years, Yeshe Rabbit and the Amazon Priestess Tribe announce that as of today, March 8, International Women’s Day 2012, we are retiring from the Z Budapest lineage of Dianic Wicca in favor of forming an independent lineage that reflects our particular approaches and views regarding Goddess-centered practice.

We offer our reverent thanks for the wit, writings, and wisdom Z Budapest has offered us and the world, while acknowledging that we nonetheless find ourselves at thealogical and ethical crossroads with some core practices of her lineage.

Namely, we cannot support a policy of universal exclusion based upon gender at our Goddess-centered rites, nor can we condone disregard or insensitivity in communications regarding the topic of gender inclusion and Goddess-centered practice. We feel it inappropriate to remain members of a lineage where our views and practices diverge significantly from those of the primary lineage holder.”

Yeshe Rabbit was ordained by Dianic Elder Z. Budapest in 2007, and founded the Amazon Priestess Tribe soon after. Rabbit is also co-founder of CAYA Coven, a popular religious organization that provides public rituals in the Bay Area of California, of which the Amazon Priestess Tribe is a part. This break is quite significant, as it comes after over a year of controversy and dialog over the issue of transgender inclusion within women-only rituals. An issue that was sparked at the 2011 PantheaCon in San Jose after an Amazon Priestess Tribe ritual turned away transwomen and acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. That ongoing dialog was complicated, some would say damaged, by events at this year’s PantheaCon.

“Z. Budapest is part of our beloved community. I honor the work she and our foremothers have done to enable the rest of us to worship as we will. Sometimes we need to gently tell members of our beloved community that we feel they are in error. There are many ways to do this. Last year, we tried dialogue. Much was written and discussed on the issue of trans inclusion or exclusion. A whole conference was organized to help further this. An anthology was just published to continue the conversation. Steps were taken by CAYA, around whom much of last year’s controversy centered, to rectify the situation, including the planning of two rituals this year: one for self-identified women and one pan-Dianic rite for all genders.

The only words attributed to Z as part of the conversation of anger, exploration and healing last year felt ugly, hateful, and inflammatory to me, and this year, her one offering to our collective included the words “genetic women only.” After all the work so many put in last year, my heart could not let this stand unmarked. So I decided to engage in another form of dialogue: sitting in silence. Z has the right to perform her ritual. I have a right to sit outside in silence and prayer.”T. Thorn Coyle

Initially, it seemed that Yeshe Rabbit was trying to pursue a middle path between Z. Budapest and those sitting in silent protest, proposing a path of conflict resolution on the issue. Holding sacred space between the two positions. While that desire for conflict resolution may remain, it seems obvious that it was decided it could not happen while they are still formally affiliated with Z’s lineage. In today’s press release, the Amazon Priestess Tribe, along with Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik, and Devin Hunter’s Living Temple of Diana will henceforth refer to themselves as “Pan-Dianic” to differentiate themselves from the Dianic Tradition of Budapest. What does that mean? According to the statement, it means a formal realignment on issues of gender.

“We support, for those who wish it, ritually gathering around specific experiences with appropriately- and respectfully-invited attendees rather than biological determinism as a matter of universal exclusion. For example, we believe it is every 11-year-old Maiden’s right to determine who will be present at her First Moon ceremony. We equally support gatherings that are open to all self-identified women for exploration of the varieties of women’s experiences. We equally support groups of gay men gathering to honor their own Goddess natures. We support the right of trans-women to create rituals specific to their experiences, and to share these with other trans-women and cis-women as they see fit. We support the idea of cis-gender, cissexual, heterosexual men gathering to explore the Goddess as daughter, friend, universal love, mother, queen, self. And so forth, into infinite beautiful variety.

We hold for clarity, compassion, and linguistic sensitivity in delineating intentional sacred space, and mindfulness toward how we communicate around the topics of privilege, healing, and spirituality. Our discourse shapes the universe. Words are breath, power, actualization. We hold our use of language as a significant magical responsibility.

We hold a commitment to elevation of all women’s rights at the center of our vision. We believe that elevation of cis-women’s and trans-women’s rights to a position of honored equality will open humanity as a whole toward a more balanced and healthy approach to life, the planet, and consciousness.”

In addition, the Amazon Priestess Tribe has decided to stop using the term “Amazon,” and have renamed themselves the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe. Part of the rationale for dropping the term was its link “with those whose approach to Goddess worship is predicated upon gender exclusivity.” You can see all the signatories to this statement, here.

One year ago, I said that the emergence of this debate, this dialog, was historic. That it would change us in ways we couldn’t envision within the moment. That our movement, our community, was readily adapted to accept the changes and challenges ahead in ways that other religious communities aren’t.

“If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.”

What we are witnessing, in real-time, is change happening. A realignment and reconsideration of gender within a Dianic context that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. No doubt there will be debate and analysis of this statement, and what it exactly means in practice, and what its true significance is, but I think that all might agree that this “retirement” can be, and should be, seen as a predictor for future changes in how modern Paganism thinks about, and engages with, gender identity.

ADDENDUM: Lady Rosmarinus Stehlik asked that the following clarifying statement be added to this post.

Please let it be known, to whom it may concern, that I have personally not retired from the Z Budapest Tradition. I Love, Honour and cherish the Dianic Tradition as I stand upon the Precipice of Personal Introspection and Reflection. My Inner Dianic Vision is evolving beyond my present experience. In the unfolding of Pan-Dianic Self Determination, I was present for a decision that engaged a Deep Current yearning to expand, and I agreed to embrace this nomenclature as one part of the Whole that I am. This does not negate my position as Dianic Heritage Keeper; as a matter of fact, it is Deep Devotion to Dianic Witchcraft that has motivated my actions. I Hold the Dianic Tradition as the Sanctum Sanctorum of Personal Autonomy, with a desire to Honour Understanding and Growth in All callings of the Goddess Diana from a point of Relation, moving forward. There is no either/ or in my logic, but a “this and that” thinking. All is One. In this Spirit, I stand as friend of Pan-Dianic Intent as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in search of understanding for All Walks of Life. I envision a Future in which the Dianic Community takes part of Future conciliatory realms of respect within an extended Dianic Reality; where It’s voice remains within Pan-Dianic Dialogue. Where it comes forth to speak of ItsTruth and Radiance. I feel called to facilitate dialogue in this quest; to build bridges of relation and to ensure a fostering of a common ground of Solidarity in the Name of Diana within the Greater Pagan Community.

With Love I support The Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe in facilitating possibilities for dialogue in this unfolding. To support the fostering of bridges of Peace, and Conciliation.

I am moving forward as a Dianic Priestess and Witch in the Spirit of bridge-building with the Pan-Dianic Paradigm- in celebrating the Beauty of Our Collective Diversity. I stand as bridge to All Dianic Worlds moving forward in Unity!

In Cosmick Sovereignty.
Lady RO

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Cherry Hill Seminary Names Two New Department Chairs: Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced the appointment of chairs for its Community Education and Pastoral Counseling departments.

Rev. Dr. David Oringderff speaks with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould during a dedication ceremony for the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle May 3, 2011. Oringderff is the executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation and represented the Earth-Centered Spirituality community during a religious respect conference at the Academy in November 2010. Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Rev. Dr. David Oringderff speaks with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould during a dedication ceremony for the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle May 3, 2011. Oringderff is the executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation and represented the Earth-Centered Spirituality community during a religious respect conference at the Academy in November 2010. Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

“Cherry Hill Seminary is pleased to announce two new academic appointments.  Valentine McKay-Riddell, Ph.D., is the new chair of Pagan Community Education, and David Oringderff, Ph.D., is the new chair of the Department of Pagan Pastoral Counseling.

A long-time professor for the department, Oringderff is well known for his role in the founding of Sacred Well Congregation, as well as many years of advocacy on behalf of Pagans in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Oringderff is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University, and holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University (Maryland) and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Union Institute School of Professional Psychology in Cincinnati, Ohio. […] The second new appointment is that of Valentine McKay-Riddell, Ph.D., as Chair of Pagan Community Education (PCE).  McKay-Riddell is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and a member of the adjunct faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, where she earned a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology.”

Academic Dean Wendy Griffin, Ph.D., noted that Oringderff’s “combination of broad life experience and professional background are what our students need as they prepare to serve in the real world. As more and more individuals serving in the military turn to Cherry Hill Seminary for training for ministry, Dr. Oringderff’s extensive network will be a tremendous asset.” Our congratulations to both Valentine McKay-Riddell and David Oringderff on their new roles within CHS. You can read more about these appointments, and CHS, here.

An Interview With Langley Air Force Base’s New Wiccan Representative: While we’re on the subject of pastoral duties to Pagans in the military, Dead Hour Radio will be featuring an interview with Langley Air Force Base’s new Wiccan representative this Sunday. The host of the show, Carrie Lynn, is an Air Force veteran who started the very first Wicca group at Langley in 2000.

“This Sunday at 10pm EST, on our show we are hosting Langley AFB NEW Wiccan representative to talk about military pagan issues today and the Wiccan faith.”

You can read more about Pagans in the Air Force, here. You can read a piece written by Carrie back in 2000, here. It should be an interesting and enlightening show!

PaganSpace Moving to Member-Owned and Run Model: The Pagan social networking site PaganSpace is moving to a member-owned and run model. In a message to members, outgoing owner Starrfire Price explains the reasons for the change, and how the transition process will work.

“Following a recent announcement regarding the desire to sell PaganSpace I came to the conclusion that the best way to assure the future of PaganSpace is to basically sell it back to the community thus allowing PaganSpace to be placed into the hands of the community who helped bring it to where it is today.

I’ll still be on the site daily and retain admin privileges, I’ll also be training all the new people who step into their positions. I will also be remaining on the board of directors at 10%, under a newly formed corporation (PaganSpace, Inc) that will be formed once the polling ends and board members are elected. I’ll also retain the network site and the domain names for at least the first year (those things will be placed into the corporation name but I know no one will have the means to harm the site with it remaining in my hands). So, I’m not technically going anywhere but I will be freeing up time to complete the many goals and tasks that are in front of me.”

A FAQ has been up for contributors, and those who’d like to have a hand in running the site. PaganSpace is one the few survivors of the DIY social networking boom from a few years ago, a time that saw many Pagan-themed social networking hubs emerge. It will be interesting to see how they progress under this new model, and I wish them luck.

Other Community Notes:

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

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.

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.

This past Saturday the 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths was held in California at the Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. Organized by the Pagan Alliance, and co-sponsored the Circle of DionysosSolar Cross Temple,Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, CAYA coven and the Earth Medicine Alliance, the theme for the one-day conference was “Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities” and featured Vicki Noble as keynote speaker. While sparked by issues arising from an incident of transgender exclusion at a public women-only ritual during the 2011 PantheaCon in San Jose, the conference itself opened itself up to a much wider-ranging discussion concerning gender within modern Paganism. Here are some reflections shared with me by conference chair and Pagan Alliance president JoHanna White.

joi wolfwomyn and Vicki Noble. Photo by Greg Harder.

joi wolfwomyn and Vicki Noble. Photo by Greg Harder.

“The Conference went remarkably well. It was well attended for a first year Conference on a cold day in SF. There was an incredible list of presenters: Judy Grahn and Dianne Jenett, Vicki Noble, Charlie Glickman, Veronica Monet, T. Thorn Coyle as well as many interested attendees such as M. Macha Nightmare, a number of Radical Faeries, students from ITP, PSR, etc. We had 5 cameras taping various lectures and performances and we hope to put out some online videos and a dvd within the next few months. Two documentarians, one filming for Ssex Bbox, and another working on a forthcoming documentary on sex, spirituality, and culture, shot video of talks at the Conference.

In her introductory remarks, joi wolfwomyn asked folks to treat eachother with respect and really listen to the different perspectives brought out in the day and that energy of respect really carried forward into the entire day of programming and events. Vicki Noble’s keynote integrated both her personal experience as a feminist separatist as well as her acknowledgement of the multitude of genders that exist and our need to respect the diversity of gender. Her statement on separatism was that it can be through having separate spaces that members of marginalized groups can become stronger and return to the larger community with the confidence and commitment to make real and positive change. The Conference had a number of workshops and presentations on 3rd and 4th genders throughout the world and was a wonderful sampling of the diversity of our community. CAYA’s co-sponsorship (along with ITP, Solar Cross, Earth Medicine Alliance, and Circle of Dionysos) on the event pushed us over a threshold where we were able to offer scholarships to many transfolk, low-income attendees, and disabled persons. Making this conference accessible to many. Hurrah!

We had some lovely seasonal Pomegranate mimosas (one of my best ideas of the year, I think) Hail Persephone and all that jazz and a beautiful food spread for attendees. Members of the Circle of Dionysos put on an amazing cabaret during the luncheon that included a costumed Sinnerjee depicted Loki doing “Every Other God a Greek.”an original composition (to the tune of Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music) by Origynal Sinnerjee, a musician depicting Freyr sang traditional Pagan songs in Finnish and Icelandic, as well as a drag Cybele monologue, an original song about Sirens a la lesbian separatists. The cabaret was overwhelmingly well received.

I had a great time and we’re looking forward to next year. We will likely continue to address Gender and Earth-based spirituality (due to overwhelming requests/suggestions from folk at the Conference), but will be bringing in some new tracks.”

In addition to White’s impressions, T. Thorn Coyle, who presented at the conference, shares her experiences in a just-posted column for Patheos.com.

T. Thorn Coyle at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

T. Thorn Coyle at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

“The 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths with the theme of Earth-Based Spiritualities & Gender left me with an intriguing mix of thoughts. I feel grateful that the Pagan Allianceput in the time, energy, and money to organize the conference, and am proud that Solar Cross Temple helped to sponsor it. Talking about gender in the context of Paganism feels very important to me. The sense I was left with after Saturday was that while we only scratched the surface of the topic, an elephant in the room was barely addressed, and more dialogue is necessary, goodwill was present amongst those attending, and that counts for a lot.

Many things felt heartening to me about the day: a variety of gender expressions walking through the hallways; seeing second wave feminists I cut my teeth on presenting at a Pagan conference; meeting a human rights activist from the Organisation Intersex International and wanting to talk more theology; the insightful comments and ideas that people shared with each other during my presentation on genderqueer theology; talks with people in between sessions”

While Coyle felt that the “whole subject of gender, normativity, fluidity, and polarity felt like it needs a lot more breathing room,” she applauded the Pagan Alliance “for seeing a need, and moving to address it.”

During this year’s conference Lady Yeshe Rabbit, High Priestess of CAYA Coven, whose Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011 provided the setting of transgender exclusion that ultimately led to this day, led a Ritual of Radical Forgiveness. At her blog, Lady Yeshe Rabbit explains the rationale for the ritual, and shares the ritual itself for those who couldn’t be there.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit at the conference. Photo: Greg Harder.

CAYA’s commitment to gender diversity includes a commitment to creating public circles for all to practice ritual together, circles for all who self-identify as a particular gender, and private, closed circles for those who continue to identify with their gender at birth for the sake of healing and deep personal work. It is not an easy place to be. On the one hand, intellectually-sound and impassioned arguments exist for the full inclusion of all self-identified men and women in all gendered spaces they choose. These arguments are well-reasoned, clear, loving and radical- all very much in keeping with CAYA’s core philosophies. On the other hand, there are mysteries and wisdom paths that are associated with embodying a certain gender from birth and the lifetime of acculturation to that gender, as well as physical experiences associated with coming of age in that particular body. These are primal, powerful, visceral and also radical- very much in keeping with CAYA’s core philosophies.

I do not think anyone in CAYA or outside of CAYA has the final answers on how this integration of diverse and sometimes opposing viewpoints can happen effectively to the highest benefit of the greater pagan community. Certainly it won’t happen overnight. Certainly it requires delicacy, patience, and good faith.

Our hope in offering a Ritual of Radical Forgiveness at the conference was to magically and sympathetically put to rest the discord around the topic of the past year and to acknowledge that there is pain and challenge on all sides of this issue. It is our prayer that, moving forward, everyone who has a strong and powerful opinion on this topic or experience of their gender reality will be able to at least co-exist in mutual harmony, respect for one another’s right to hold their views and practices as best befits them, and non-violence in our language and actions toward one another. The religious right would love to see us tear one another apart. It would mean they don’t have to lift a finger in order to cripplingly disempower us. I, for one, will not allow that to happen if I have any say in the matter whatsoever. My intent is to create respectful unity around our spiritual diversity and thus protect it with my own intentions, prayers, words and actions. To that end, here is the ritual outline, for those who were not able to attend. The ritual was received very well by the 25-30 participants who attended, and while it is not a final step to end all conflict, it felt like a powerful step in the right direction toward peace and wholeness within our extended community.”

The results of this conference are a first step, something acknowledged by all who attended. As intimated by JoHanna White, next year’s conference will also focus on gender in order to continue the important conversations started here. A date of September 8th, 2012 has been set. For more coverage, please see the follow up post from the PNC-Bay Area bureau.

As I said earlier this year, I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.

I think a collective future of “transcentric imagery, gods and goddess with the wide variety of trans bodies,” alongside and complementing the more prevalent cisgendered representations, will become a reality far quicker than any of us might realize, and that modern Paganism, a movement so ready to accept change, challenges, and differences, yet still remain identifiable and vital, will ultimately benefit from it. The collective maturity and willingness to dialog seen at this conference is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this gathering, it will be rightfully seen as a milestone in how we all approach the topic of gender within our interconnected communities.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Open Hearth Foundation Signs Lease on Community Center: On Thursday, PNC-Washington DC reported that the board of the Open Hearth Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned DC Pagan Community Center. This places the foundation ahead of schedule in its goal of opening a community center by Imbolg 2012 (February 1st).

An interior shot of the new space.

An interior shot of the new space.

“The property is on the second floor of a stand alone building at 1502 Massachusetts Avenue NE, in the Eastern Market neighborhood of DC. The space has two partitioned rooms that will be reservable, one of which will double as a library, a foyer area, full bathroom, a kitchen, and two refrigerators.  Build out is minimal and will include a fitting one room with book shelves, installing an electric stove, as well as installing a wheelchair lift. The two-year lease begins on October 1 and the official date the center is open for business is still to be determined. It likely will not be until November 1st or later.”

Stay tuned to PNC-Washington DC (aka Capital Witch) for future updates on the progress of this community center. As for the Open Hearth Foundation, they are in the midst of fundraising to meet their fiscal needs once the center is open. You can view their goals checklist, here, and the OHF business plan, here. Our congratulations go out to the Open Hearth Foundation on this major step forward!

Gender and Earth Based Spiritualities Conference: Today, September 24th,  is the 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths. The theme for the one-day conference in San Francisco is “Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities,” and  speakers will include Vicki Noble,  T. Thorn CoyleJoi WolfwomynLady Yeshe Rabbit, Diana Paxson, and acclaimed social theorist Judy Grahn. The recently revamped PNC-Bay Area has an article up on the conference, interviewing Bay Area Pagan Alliance Board President JoHanna White, joi wolfwomyn, who is representing the Holy Order of the Epicene, and Yeshe Rabbit, Presiding HPS of Come As You Are Coven.

JoHanna White, Board President of the Bay Area Pagan Alliance

JoHanna White, Board President of the Bay Area Pagan Alliance

“The issue of gender inequality in the pagan community addresses a problem, to be sure: a problem of education,understanding, privilege, and biological determinism. But the issue that really showed itself to be the disease of which the gender issue is but one symptom was that of a lack of shared set of guidelines with which we can approach challenging topics together safely, compassionately, and mindfully.” – Lady Yeshe Rabbit, CAYA Coven

This event is being cosponsored by Circle of DionysosSolar Cross Temple, Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, CAYA coven and the Earth Medicine Alliance. You can learn more about the issues that led to this conference happening, here. I look forward to more reports and reporting from PNC-Bay Area on this event, and hope to get reflections from organizers after the fact.

Merlin Stone Memorial: A memorial benefit celebration for influential author and art historian Merlin Stone, who died earlier this year, is being held today, September 24th, in Clearwater, Florida (Facebook event link). Stone was author of the seminal book “When God Was A Woman,” and a successful Kickstarter campaign was recently held  to produce a memorial documentary project in her honor. Speaking at the event will be Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary.

Poster for the Merlin Stone Memorial.

Poster for the Merlin Stone Memorial.

“Merlin Stone was an artist, art historian, author, and visionary feminist. She focused attention on Goddess reverence of the ancient past. She gathered together Goddess imagery, symbols, and lore from many peoples and shared with others through her books, radio appearances, and other endeavors. She inspired the emergence of multicultural Goddess spirituality in contemporary times. Her memorial is an wonderful opportunity to celebrate Merlin Stone, her works, her life, and her legacy”

Other speakers include Z Budapest, Ruth Barrett, Barbara Walker, Susun Weed, and Margot Adler. The memorial will also include music by Hecate’s Wheel, Emmet Bondurant, and Ruth Barrett. The memorial, which is open to women and men, will take place 11:30 am – 3 pm EDT at Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, 1470 Nursery Road in Clearwater. Free, open to the public. Donations welcome, but not required. For those who cannot attend there will be live-streaming of Merlin Stone’s memorial. For more information, head to the official Merlin Stone site.

In Other Community News:

  • At PNC-Minnesota, Nels Linde interviews Roger Williams of Magus Books & Herbs on the store’s 19th anniversary. The secret to their success? “What you need is to be persistent. You can have all the talent in the world, if you are not persistent, you are not really going to make a difference.”
  • Writing for Patheos, Gus diZerega tackles the issue of mainstreaming modern Paganism. Quote: “I suspect we will see a deep differentiation within our community. There will be the “shamans,” those who work with little institutional connection and who have developed a reasonably reliable set of skills, be they healing, divination, something else, with which to interact with the spirit world for the benefit of others. I suspect they will do more psychological work than physical healing, but the best can do both. There will hopefully in time be priests tending temples, such as exists today in Japan. That may be a good model for what will develop here. And there will be a rank and file, people focused primarily on other activities, but hoping to live in better harmony with the more-than-human by some involvement in Pagan community activities and a more mindful living of their day to day life.”
  • This Sunday Raven Radio will be holding a live panel discussion between Folkish, Universalist, Moderate, and Tribal Heathens. Quote: “We have an outstanding panel.David Carron, Randolf Millesson, Camille Klein, Cynthia Norris-Brooks and Mike Smith. As fine of panel of Heathens as one could ask for, This show can and will touch nerves, but I expect all to act with Frith and do not disrespect OUR house.” More information can be found, here.
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus discusses what is reasonable and what’s insane when it comes to religion. Quote: “Absolutism of one religious viewpoint over another is the real problem, not the assertions themselves.”
  • Scott at The Juggler watches the debut episode of The Secret Circle so you don’t have to.
  • Lupa on social justice and the shaman as intermediary.

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

If one topic dominated the Pagan web this week it has to be repercussions over the exclusion of transgendered women at a public women-only ritual during this year’s PantheaCon, and the subsequent discussions between Dianic Goddess worshipers, transgender advocates, and eventually, Pagans of all stripes, that emerged from it. When I first mentioned the matter on Sunday, only a few sites were addressing the issue, that ballooned by Tuesday, grew further the next day once official statements were released by CAYA Coven and PantheaCon organizers, and has now gone truly viral in scope. One of my entries relating to this discussion has garnered around 400 comments, and the topic is buzzing on Pagan blogs, social networks, e-lists, and message boards.

I’m going to provide a fresh round-up of voices on this issue, but first I wanted to quickly touch on why this one incident, clearly not intended to cause hurt or offense by CAYA organizers, has grown into a far larger conversation than many could have foreseen. In short, CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.

Here are a new batch of links relating to this discussion:

We are at a crossroads now with this discussion, and despite a few sour notes, most of exchanges I’ve seen have been reasoned, open, empathetic, passionate, and willing to create a dialog that is inclusive and productive. I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. I think the future that Foxfetch demands will become a reality far quicker than any of us might realize, and that modern Paganism, a movement so ready to accept change, challenges, and differences, yet still remain identifiable and vital, will ultimately benefit from it. The collective maturity and willingness we’ve displayed so far in these discussions is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this time they will say “this is when transgendered Pagans began to receive the full embrace and respect of their coreligionists.”

Lady Yeshe Rabbit, High Priestess of CAYA Coven, and the clergy of Come As You Are Coven, have issued a statement on the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011. This ritual served as the catalyst for the current ongoing discussions regarding gender, inclusion, and religious freedom.

“The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven wish to address the recent events and conversations regarding gender discrimination and the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011. It is our intention that this statement will a) open an inclusive, compassionate and respectful dialogue, b) shed light on some points that require clarity due to miscommunication, lack of communication, and misinterpretation, and c) help heal any deliberate or inadvertent pain caused by anyone along the spectrum of this emotionally-charged matter. Please accept the following offerings as an invitation to share in conversation as well as mutual understanding with us.”

Rather than try to summarize, I recommend everyone involved in this current discussion read the entire statement.

In addition, the organizers of PantheaCon have released the following short statement.

“PantheaCon 2011 is over, but one event held there has sparked an important discussion that is currently ongoing online in personal blogs and community spaces.  We have not yet started meeting to plan PantheaCon 2012 but many of us are keeping track of these online discussions.  We need to be sure that whatever decisions are made are the right ones, and as such we ask for patience and the space to ensure that we can find the best path forward.

We welcome your comments and concerns in the coming months.  Please feel free to email feedback@pantheacon.com with any information you would like us to have – we can’t guarantee a response, but someone will be reading anything that is sent to that address.  We appreciate the diversity of opinion and tradition that all of you bring to PantheaCon and we will do our absolute best to weigh the many alternatives and make the right decision.”

I will keep you appraised of further developments, reports, and statements as they come to me.