Archives For Cherry Hill Seminary

Before beginning I’d like to express my enthusiasm for the future of The Wild Hunt. Writing for and about this extended community has been both challenging and invigorating. One of the perks of the job is in the education. Every time I write an article or retell someone’s story, I learn something new. That’s the gift that I receive in return for my time and effort. In addition, I am ever thankful to Jason for instilling his trust in me to help usher in a new decade for this amazing resource.

That brings me to the subject for the day: resources or, more specifically, archival resources. Over the past 10 years Jason has been cataloging Pagan news. The Wild Hunt has become an historical archive containing data on many past events. Each post is a point in time providing a snapshot of what’s going on – the good and the bad; the progressive and the not so progressive and the downright ugly. It catalogs our successes and our failings as well as capturing the whimsy in celebration and expansion.

Photo Credit: Flickr's timetrax23

Photo Credit: Flickr’s timetrax23

Archival research has always been essential to much of my work and that remains true to this day. As I child I was told to never make a statement without 3 supporting facts. My teacher would often say, “Prove it.” I took her advice to heart and will do an excruciating amount of digging before making any type of claim. Now I find something very exhilarating in the finding of the “tiny needle in a haystack” after hours digging through archival material.

However the preservation of historical data serves more than just research junkies like me. There is a higher purpose. The founders of The Adocentyn Research Library explain, “We are living in a period of growth, diversity and change akin to the first few hundred years of Christianity. Future scholars shouldn’t have to rely on the discovery of a future Nag Hammadi library in order to understand our diversity and our history.” This is a project whose time has come.

Here’s an example from my favorite subject: film history. At the turn of the 20th century, movies were considered lowbrow entertainment or sideshow novelties. Nobody thought much more about the filmed product. Technical innovators focused on production while producers focused on the building of a commercial venture. Nobody stopped to catalog or archive the footage being shown. Nobody considered or knew how highly flammable the early celluloid material would be. The American film Industry focused on the doing and not the archiving. Consequently most early films are lost in whole or in part. The historical data contained in those early film reels and in the production processes are completely gone. That’s nearly 40 years of lost material.

Photo Credit: Flickr's Sonear

Photo Credit: Flickr’s Sonear

The Pagan Movement, as it’s been called, is now well beyond the stories of Gerald Gardener, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and the like.  Up to this point the focus has been more on the doing and not the archiving. No doubt much has already been lost. Regardless we still have many long trails of breadcrumbs through our cultural forest that can be captured. Sabina Magliocco, one of the founders of the Pagan History Project says:

It’s clear that we’re now one of the fastest-growing new religious movements in the world. The documentation of our early history is thus doubly important, especially as the movement is changing in important ways. The elders who were involved in the movement’s early days are now in the twilight of their lives; we have already lost a number just in the last year. Recording their histories and archiving documents from the beginning of the diffusion of modern Paganisms in the US will help preserve that history for future historians.

Just in the past two weeks, Judy Harrow’s crossing came as a surprise to many. Director Holli S. Emore says, “At Cherry Hill Seminary we are all too painfully aware of how the loss of someone like Judy Harrow inserts a sort of glottal stop in the narration of how we came to be where we are today. Anything we did not learn from Judy before last Friday is now gone forever.”

There are lessons to be learned from past experience at all levels of practice. What worked and what didn’t? Why did this group fold and this one last for 30 years?  Shauna Aura Knight is an author and presenter whose focus is on Pagan leadership skills. She says:

When I travel and teach Pagan leadership, what I see over and over is reinventing the wheel … I’ve seen local Pagan unity-type organizations–with actual not-for-profit status–folding because the leaders couldn’t sustain the organizations any longer. Thus those resources become lost, and any future group has to start again. 

Fortunately a number of projects have formed or are forming to fill this very need. Located in California’s Bay Area, The Adocentyn Research Library aims to preserve an expansive amount of material from a variety of religious communities “including indigenous, tribal, polytheistic, nature-based, and/or Earth-centered religions, spiritualities and cultures around the world and throughout human history.” They currently have cataloged more than 6,000 books and are working with the “Lost and Endangered Religions Project on conservation and storage of Pagan materials from India, Turkey and Guatemala.”

Similarly, in southern Delaware, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is raising money to finish the construction of the New Alexandrian Research Library (NAL). The “Library will be collecting materials from all religious traditions focusing on their mystical and the spiritual writings.” Founders hope that NAL will serve as both a functional community and research center as well as become a “cornerstone for the new magical Renaissance.”

Photo Credit:  Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

Photo Credit: Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

All archiving doesn’t need to be done by librarians and institutions. Several groups have digitized their own newsletters such as the Georgian Wicca Tradition and the Covenant of the Goddess. Back Issues of old print periodicals are available for purchase such as Circle Magazine whose offers issues dating back to 1980 when it was still called “Circle Network News.” The Founders of Adocentyn say “Archiving our history ourselves is important because we take our movement seriously, know how parts relate to one another, and understand it.”

Another recent development is the effort to capture individual stories. Shauna Aura Knight is co-editing a new anthology for Immanion Press has that very aim. She says, “I hope to start collecting the stories of what works and how leaders can use that, but also, what hasn’t worked. What are the mistakes we want to avoid in the future?”

The Pagan History Project has a similar objective. Sabina Magliocco explains:

The Pagan History Project is modeled after other oral history projects such as the American Folklife Center’s Veterans’ History Project. We rely on community members to record oral histories from other community members. These digital documents will be posted on a website and made available to other community members and scholars. … At this point, we are focusing on interviewing elders in our community who were involved with the inception of Paganisms in the US.

The Project seeks to create a “mythic history” that captures our humanity through the recording of voices. Currently organizers are looking for volunteers to go out into their communities and interview anyone willing. In this way future generations can benefit from the experiences of even those who have chosen to lead a quiet, non-public life. Holli S. Emore says,”For the many mystics among us, and most certainly for reconstructionists, an understanding of our historical roots has proven to be a vital part of our spiritual journey …  We are deeply enriched by learning the many layers and traces of Pagan history.”

The preservation of the past serves to not only enrich our present experience but to help build a stronger future. Together all these records will tell the greater story of a Movement or Movements with all the nuance and color one might expect. And, if nothing else, these archives will help future historians, research junkies and Wild Hunt journalists look back and say, “So that’s how it all came to be…”      

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!

cup-bearer-tea-time-300x215The Pagan Tea Time initiative spearheaded by Patheos Pagan channel editor Christine Kraemer, meant to encourage face-to-face discussions in a Pagan & polytheist blogosphere that has, at times, grown decidedly combative, is now well under way. According to Kraemer, there have already been some remarkable conversations taking place. Quote: “So far, I’ve seen some great reports of Tea Times involving Rhyd WildermuthConor O’Bryan Warren, and a three-way chat between John Halstead, Sannion, and Galina Krasskova (wow!). I haven’t had any tea times with people I haven’t already met yet — one of the blessings of being managing editor here is that getting together with writers via video chat happens semi-routinely, as does attending conferences, so I’ve met many of you already. (Yay!) I did get to do a nice catch-up with Niki Whiting, though, and I have a few more dates set for next month.” The project runs through the month of February, when established Pagan conventions like PantheaCon and ConVocation take place, providing more chances for interaction. Here’s to civility!

amaundex3Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that Lauren Raine will be their artist-in-residence for 2014-2016. CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh, in a public statement, said “it is my pleasure to announce our new Artist in Residence, Lauren Raine. Lauren is a visionary painter, mixed media sculptor, and choreographer, although I know her best from her beautiful and moving theatrical and ritual masks.” Raine, a painter and mixed-media sculpter, is perhaps best known within the Pagan community for her “The Masks of the Goddess” series. Quote: “I’ve always been fascinated with masks as sacred tools – as what Carl Jung called ‘vessels for the archetypal powers’. In 1998 I began a collection of masks of Goddesses from spiritual traditions around the world, first worn at the 20th Annual SPIRAL DANCE in San Francisco.” For the terms of the residency, you can read them at the CHS website.

shawnus2In Pennsylvania, a local coven documents their struggle to attain the right to perform legally binding wedding ceremonies. Quote: “So i started at my County level and had voice and email exchanges for three days with a very nice, helpful and informative lady there in the right department. There is a notice posted on the Courthouse door, and i tried to paste it in here and then save this draft and WV completely wiped my post off their server. So i will just say it said, to quote, that legal marriages could be performed by Justices of the Peace or Judges or Ministers “of a regularly established church or congregation” which means from those three Religions of the Book. There is a license for Amish, Mennonites and Quakers, but i am not one of them. I am a Witch and we Do have Our Religion!” The Wiccan Priest struggling through this process is Shawnus Merlin Belarion, and he is seeking assistance from outside Pagan organizations in navigating this issue. You can find contact information here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Sannion has announced that a proposed Polytheist Leadership Conference will indeed take place this Summer. Quote: “The Polytheist Leadership Conference will take place Friday, July 11th through Sunday, July 13th – though we’ve made arrangements so that you can get the block room rate if you want to come in earlier on Thursday.” Please note: “This conference will be open only to people who affirm the autonomy and diversity of the divinities, people who recognize that there are differing types of divine beings (such as Gods, Spirits and Ancestors) and that they all require different forms of cultus, people who are actively engaged in cultus, people who have respect for traditional ways and yet remain open to innovation when it’s called for and people who do not find magic (when properly distinguished from religion), mysticism and direct engagement with the holy powers to be problematic. Racists, sexists and queer- and transphobic need not apply either.”  All inquiries should be sent to sannion@gmail.com.

  • Pagan band Tuatha Dea is crowdfunding a new collection of songs based on the work of author Alex Bledsoe. Quote: “We were INSPIRED and though we had no intention of working on a new CD this soon we simply couldn’t help ourselves! So with Alex’s blessing we began writing music based on his amazing trilogy! One song for each novel, “The Hum and the Shiver”, “Wisp of a Thing” and the anticipated yet to be released “Long Black Curl” (yes we have the skinny but you’ll have to wait and read!) The project..An album called “Tufa Tales- Appalachian Fae”.a musical tribute, backdrop and celebration of these wonderful works and the world within their pages! But that won’t be all…as Tufa’s ourselves we have some other personal bits and pieces to add to the CD!”
  • The current issue of Sage Woman Magazine (#85) has been mailed to subscribers and is available to order online. Quote: “Celebrate the amazing world of women’s herbalism with this special issue. Stories of healers, visionaries, and pioneers fill us with inspiration. Discover new goddesses, old remedies, and learn how close our own healing powers are in our homes and the natural world all around us.”
  • The Imbolc edition of AREN’s ACTION newsletter is now out, featuring its usual treasure-trove of interviews. This time: Oberon Zell, Ellen Evert Hopman, PC Andrew of the UK Pagan Police Association, and much more!
  • Medusa Coils has information on the 2014 Glastonbury Goddess Conference. Quote: “The 19th annual Glastonbury Goddess Conference will begin July 29 and run through August 3, with fringe events beginning July 26, Kathy Jones, conference organizer, announced. The theme of this year’s conference is “Celebrating the Crone Goddess: The Cauldron & the Loom.” The conference is held in Glastonbury, England, aka Avalon, also the location of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.”
  • Paganicon in Minnesota (held in March) has announced two new featured guests: Taylor Ellwood and Steven Posch. Quote: “We are increasingly excited about this year’s ever-expanding line-up including Oberon Zell, Deborah Lipp, Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and now Taylor Ellwood and Steven Posch. We hope you sign up right away! Remember if you wait too long you’ll have to pay extra, so get the good rate while you can!”

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

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!

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

As mentioned in last week’s installment of Pagan Community Notes, Pagan elder Morning Glory Zell is currently in the hospital due to kidney problems. Her partner, Oberon Zell, has posted an update on her status, saying that ”she had a double-dose of blood extraction and filtration: phoresis all morning, and dialysis all afternoon. By the time they were done, she was really wiped out, and she had a very rough night. Today she was due for another phoresis treatment, and then they were going to alternate days of phoresis with days of dialysis. But she begged them to let her have a day off, and they agreed. So tomorrow she’ll be back on phoresis.” As treatments continue, a fundraiser has been organized to help cover costs associated with her long hospital stay. Quote: “Money for Morning Glory Zell is accepting donations to offset living and medical expenses for our Pagan Priestess.” As of this writing, over $4000 dollars of the $5000 dollar goal have been raised. Our best wishes go out to Morning Glory, her family, and loved ones.

Deborah Ann Light (photo via Anna Korn)

Deborah Ann Light (photo via Anna Korn)

It has been announced that Deborah Ann Light, a Wiccan Elder who has been heavily involved with the interfaith movement, has entered hospice. A Facebook group has been set up for those wishing to send messages or share remembrances as she prepares for this next stage in her journey. Here’s a short quote from Andras Corban Arthen of EarthSpirit on Light and her contributions to modern Paganism. Quote: “Deborah has been a great benefactor to the pagan movement over the years, and helped to open many doors for us, especially in the area of interfaith. At the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, when, after much negotiation, the Parliament agreed to give one seat at the Assembly of Religious Leaders to be divided among the three co-sponsoring pagan organizations — EarthSpirit, Circle and COG — Deborah (as a member of all three organizations) became our joint representative and signed the Global Ethic document on our behalf. As a philanthropist, she has given substantial funding to many pagan organizations and causes, never wanting public credit or fanfare, only the satisfaction of knowing she had been able to serve her community.” Our best thoughts and wishes go out to Deborah Ann Light, her friends, family, and co-religionists.

Wendy Rule

Wendy Rule

Pagan musician Wendy Rule has just released a new album, entitled “Black Snake.” Rule calls the album one centered on “transformation.” Quote: “Black Snake is an album of transformation. It follows my personal journey of the past couple of years – of stripping back and letting go of everything that was holding me back, and of reaching a point of vulnerability that allows for true growth. It’s an album of great optimism, and although some of the songs are soft and dark and sad, many are full of the great exhilaration of Life and Nature and the incredible Universe. Even though the 12 songs explore my own journey, they are really celebrating universal themes of death and rebirth, of descent and re-awakening. It’s your story, too! And it’s Mother Earth’s story.” You can purchase the new album at her recently re-designed website, or at CD Baby. A launch party for the Australian singer-songwriter’s new CD will be held in March.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • “Entering the Sacred Grove,” the 2014 Summer Intensive from Cherry Hill Seminary, will be held July 10th-13th in Butler, Missouri. Quote: “Myth signifies a story which encompasses deep meaning and insight into the human situation and life on this Earth. The sacred grove is a place where we may explore the interfaces where what is mundane and domesticated in us confronts the wild divine within and the transformation that results. The authentic spiritual life embraces both, searching for an alchemy that will move the seeker beyond the mundane.”

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  • “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism,” which focuses on the lives of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, written by John C. Sulak, will be released on February 1st from Llewellyn Wordwide. Quote: “Telling the stories of their singular lives in this unique oral history, Oberon and Morning Glory—together with a colorful tribe of friends, lovers, musicians, homesteaders, researchers, and ritualists—reveal how they established the Church of All Worlds, revitalized Goddess worship, discovered the Gaea Thesis, raised real Unicorns, connected a worldwide community through Green Egg magazine, searched for mermaids in the South Pacific, and founded the influential Grey School of Wizardry.” Looks like a must-own for Pagan scholars and historians.
  • Chas Clifton notes that the funeral rites for Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva, can now be viewed online. The Lithuanian news site has also posted a lot of photos. You can read The Wild Hunt’s obituary for Jonas Trinkūnas, here.
  • Pagan musician S.J. Tucker has entered the “Song of Arkansas” contest. Quote: “New Song! Hope you all enjoy this. Pretty well sums up how I feel about the positive aspects & beauty of the place I came from. I wrote this for a song contest which closes today. The pro judges will pick the top 5 entries over the next two weeks, and then general voting begins on February 10. We’ll see if I make it into the top 5!” Good luck! I’ve embedded the video below.

  • The Imbolc 2014 issue of Pentacle Magazine“the UK’s premier independent Pagan magazine,” is now available for order. Offerings include: “Green Man: Albion Fracked!,” ”Thoughts on Being Called a Heretic,” and ”By Spellbook and Candle: a Guide to Cursing.”

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

The Spring 2014 courses are starting soon at Cherry Hill Seminary, a learning institution dedicated to “practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities.” Over the past couple years, Cherry Hill Seminary has made leaps and bounds towards its goal of becoming an accredited institution, and part of that is thanks to the growing number of prominent Pagan Scholars who have joined to teach courses and work on its board or administrative body. Joining that number this year is Dr. Jenny Blain, who recently retired from Sheffield Hallam University, and will be teaching “Heathenry: Altered States and Non-Human People” at CHS starting this month. Dr. Blain is author of “Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism,” and co-editor of “Researching Paganisms” in the Pagan Studies Series.

In this short interview, we discuss her decision to teach at Cherry Hill Seminary, her work on the topic of sacred landscapes, Heathenry and the practice of seidr, and more.

Dr. Jenny Blain

Dr. Jenny Blain

As someone who has been very involved with the development of Pagan Studies, particularly through the book “Researching Paganisms,” what drew you to work with Cherry Hill Seminary? Do you think that more Pagan scholars will follow your example as CHS grows in size and prominence?

I’d met Wendy on various occasions, and of course she was a contributor to Researching Paganisms, where we were attempting to bring together the different ways that people had found themselves drawn into Pagan Studies and the particular approaches that they were using. And so, a couple of years ago, Wendy asked if I’d be interested to contribute a course to Cherry Hill – but because of my work for a university in England it had to wait until retirement! I’m glad to keep a foothold in teaching, and particularly in distance learning, and of course also to help display aspects of Heathenry to people who may have some preconceptions about this religion that don’t actually chime with the way many Heathens practice.

Cherry Hill gives that opportunity and I’m excited to see how the course will develop and indeed how the Seminary can serve needs of a very diverse range of Paganisms. So, yes, there is scope for Pagan scholars to contribute to CH. I do feel it’s important that the diversity is recognised and particularly that people who are engaging in various sorts of Pagan ‘Ministry’ understand the very different approaches to sacredness and the divine which are possible and present – and of course also how these relate to other religious expressions. On which point it’s time to move to that reburial issue and some of the diversities there.

Touching briefly on your body of work, which has dealt quite a bit with the issue of ancient remains, modern Pagans, and the political issue of reburial (or display/study), what do you make of the current protests headed by Arthur Pendragon at Stonehenge over the remains at the visitor’s center? Is this an issue that you believe more Pagans should be paying attention to? Does it tie into larger issues for modern Pagans?

The issue of ancient remains is, for me, part of a much wider issue about people’s relationship with landscape and place, and with the other-than-human people that surround us. These include – but are definitely not restricted to – ‘ancestors’ in the widest sense, people who lived on the land, worked with the land, developed cultural understanding of place and self and community. To give an example, the people buried at Cairnholy in Galloway are quite probably not ‘ancestral’ to me in the sense of DNA or something like that, but they are ‘ancestral’ in terms of having lived on and with the earth and sea and rivers that my Blain ancestors, much much more recently, farmed and fished. We don’t know what these very far past ancestors thought about death, but we do know that they, some of them at least, were placed into the burial cairns with care and deliberation, into a particular set of relationships with the other beings within the landscape, whether beetles, grasses or other ‘ancestors’. In removing ‘remains’ from their context we are disrupting that relationship.

Now, sometimes that disruption can’t be helped, and many remains unearthed today are discovered during works for new buildings or new roads, with the result that the work stops and archaeologists carefully remove the remains, usually for reburial as close as possible to the site where they were found. Archaeologists do care about these things! But that leaves us with the issue of remains which have been deliberately excavated and stored for research purposes and museum display, which is mostly what Arthur and other campaigners are on about. The whole legal situation is a rather tangled mess, and there are differences between Scotland and other parts of the UK, as in Scotland the dead one has the ‘right of sepulchre’, the right to be left undisturbed unless for very good reason, whereas in England the rights pertain to descendants. The Avebury Reburial Consultation a few years ago showed how difficult it was to make a claim without being able to demonstrate ‘descent’ in the sense of either direct family line or direct cultural transmission.

The Stonehenge protests – well, Stonehenge is the best known prehistoric site in Britain, so it is an obvious target, especially with the new visitor centre developing its displays after the much-promoted recent excavations. There is a related issue about what promises were made before the excavations started, when reburial of possible new finds was discussed (the three sets of remains on display are not from the recent excavations however). I do think that this issue has to be sorted out but there may be less confrontational ways to do this! Groups such as Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) have been working in association with archaeologists and museum curators for quite some time, but positions seem suddenly to have become much more rigid. It’s worth reading what HAD has to say about the visitor centre exhibits – and indeed I plan to be raising some of the issues of ‘ancestors’ in the course for Cherry Hill Seminary.

041525650X.01.LZZZZZZZMoving on to your Spring 2014 class at CHS, “Heathenry: Altered states and non-human people,” it seems like the class is centered in your study of oracular seidr. Could you talk a little bit about the class, and why seidr is important to explore within modern Heathenry? What purpose does this reconstructed practice serve today?

Well, first, it isn’t so much centred on seidr as using the development of seidr to explore worldview, cosmology and culture. These various things that I said above, issues of ancestors, other-than-human people, and so forth, will all be part of the course. It’s a matter of what is central to Heathenry; so, the world tree Yggdrasil, the various being (and worlds) that are on or under the Tree or which it connects, and the possibility of knowing about this cosmology through spiritual practice. And this starts with the connections and relationships that we’re part of, relationships with other-than-human people as well as with human friends and relatives.

Many Heathens don’t make seidr, and those that do don’t necessarily do the ‘oracular’ kind or follow the various ritual forms that have been developed. To me and to other Heathens to whom I’ve spoken, seidr is a way of effecting some kind of change – for instance in health, in knowledge, little tweaks if you like to the strands of Wyrd which connect us.

So, seidr and how Heathens today do this will be part of the course but not its totality. And, the purpose isn’t to develop students as seid-workers, but to equip them with an understanding of the connections that make seidr possible, and communities in which it’s being developed. Seidr is important for Heathen communities because it shows the importance of these relationships – we can ‘know’ things or ‘change’ things through respectful interaction with other wights, that is, with the other beings with whom we share space and time. Most Heathens aren’t seidworkers; those that are, are valued within their communities – just as a musician, an artist, a craft-worker, a gardener are valued.

More broadly, there have been noticeable points of difference, and even tension, between modern Heathenry, and modern Paganism. What do you think the two camps have to learn form each other? What is our common ground?

I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding about Heathenry, and that there is indeed much to be learned and shared. A few weeks ago I was giving a talk to the Pagan moot in Dundee, the city where I now live, and the talk was basically an overview of the material that will be addressed in much more depth in the Cherry Hill course. The people there were quite fascinated and much of what I said was very new to them – the basis in the Eddas and Sagas, the concept of Yggdrasil as the connection within and between worlds, the ideas of an Animist approach to landscape and to these wights, connections with Siberian shamanic practice and so on. And there were quite a few points of connection, particularly with how the concept of Wyrd gave a focus on taking responsibility for one’s actions, developing self-knowledge in order to create better relationship with others.

Finally, to return to Cherry Hill Seminary, moving forward, what do you see as your role within that learning institution? What does working with CHS bring you that a more traditional secular institution cannot? What are your feelings on building institutions like CHS within a Pagan context?

First, institutions such as Cherry Hill Seminary have different roles in different part of the world – the British context is very different to Cherry Hill Seminarythat in the US, or in Canada where I lived for a good while, and in the UK there is much less focus among Pagans (and particularly Heathens) on formal organisations. But having said that, I do see the importance of building places (virtual or physical) where Pagans can share and develop their understandings. I hope that I will be able to share some of my knowledge and at the same time learn more about ways other Paganisms are developing. In particular, though, I’d like to keep coming back to the ideas of place and landscape and time, ‘where people are’ and how this creates spiritual practice.

And what does CHS bring me – it enables an overt exploration of spirituality within a critical practitioner context. In a traditional secular organisation explorations get done in other ways, and in teaching there’s still the ‘methodological agnosticism’ that comes in when talking about religion. Of course, some anthropological theory has strongly critiqued this and some research foregrounds practitioners ways of knowing – Researching Paganisms is a contribution to this literature, and so is my book Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic. But for the CHS teaching my purpose is to help students develop their appreciations of Heathenry, landscapes, wights and worldviews, and so I can get into areas that would be difficult in a secular organisation.

Final note – there’s a book that came out in 2011, The Wanton Green, edited by Gordon MacLellan and Susan Cross, in which various Pagans discuss landscape, place and meanings. One chapter is mine – and the book is a demonstration, I think, of what can be shared and what we as practitioners of different spiritualities today can learn from each other.

I’d like to thank Dr. Blain for taking the time to answer my questions. She will be teaching “Heathenry: Altered States and Non-Human People” at CHS starting this month. Registration is still open, but will close on January 8th, so sign up now if you want to participate.

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!

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

Early this morning Pagan singer-songwriter S.J. Tucker posted a public note on Facebook announcing that she would no longer use the word “Gypsy” in songs, or in reference to her lifestyle, due to growing awareness of the word’s misuse, and history as a racial pejorative. Quote: “I am breaking up with the word Gypsy. It does not mean what I and many other poor fools wish it did. I am so very sorry.  I have done wrong, and I repent of my ignorance. [...] I want you all to know that I am not doing this to get attention.  I am not doing this to gain any increase in public opinion, number of likes/subscribers/followers/what-have-you.  I am doing this because I feel that it’s right, and I should have done it years ago.” Tucker will be re-recording four songs that use the term, using different lyrics, and has suspended sales of those songs until that process is done. Here’s a recent NPR piece on why the term is hurtful to the Romani people. Quote: “The word “gypsy” itself is an “exonym” — a term imposed upon an ethnic group by outsiders. When the Roma people moved westward from India towards the European continent, they were mistaken to be Egyptian because of their features and dark skin. [...] The effort to substitute the word “Roma” for the far better-known term “Gypsy” may strike some as futile, but few other groups carry the burden of such heavy stereotypes with so little reprieve.”

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas

Rev. Kirk Thomas, Archdruid of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, yesterday posted a response on what a Druid’s response to ecological calamity should be. It was in reply to someone who is concerned about the Fukashima Daiichi Nuclear power plant disaster, but the message is universal in scope. Quote: “We, as devout Pagans, are not helpless. Our everyday actions can either help or hurt the Earth. It’s up to us. The Clergy Council discussed this issue recently, and agreed that we feel the Earth Mother’s pain and that additional steps should be taken to remedy it, as best we can. Druidry is a religion of ‘doing’. As such, it’s not enough to sit and wring our hands when the Earth Herself is at stake.” Rev. Thomas goes on to suggest a two-pronged response to environmental concerns, involving living in a religious “reciprocity with the Earth,” and involving yourself in activism. Quote: “As Druids it behooves us to join and support environmental organizations, to volunteer in the field, and to give of our time and money. Many of these folks work at the front lines of the movement, and know the ins and outs of the situation. By supporting them we support the Mother.” Thomas also pointed back to the ADF’s founding vision document, written by founder Isaac Bonewits.

Patrick speaking at the International Conference on Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis.

Patrick McCollum

Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum recently had the honor to spend the holidays at the Royal Windsor estate on the Welsh-English border, and posts an update to his foundation’s web site detailing his time there, and how it intersects with his work towards social justice. Quote: “During my stay with the Windsors, I had the delightful opportunity to attend several special holiday parties filled with English nobility, and made several important contacts and partnerships for projects going forward.  One such partnership was with a Member of Parliament, the Honorable MP Bill Cash. Raising the status and rights of women, especially in third world countries, is one of the key goals of the Patrick McCollum Foundation and it is my firm belief that we shall never achieve world peace until all women have full equality and equal opportunity worldwide. In any case, MP Cash has proposed a revolutionary bill to the English Parliament to elevate the status of women, and I am joining him going forward in that effort.” McCollum also references and upcoming trip to India, where he says he’ll “meet with officials and world spiritual leaders to address the issues surrounding child marriage worldwide, and the status of widows in India, to lay the groundwork for several programs that I am putting together.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • Tomorrow (January 3rd) is the last day to apply for a scholarship to Cherry Hill Seminary. Quote: “Thanks to the generosity of donors who gave nearly $4,300 during a fall drive, the “Bow Tie Campaign,” Cherry Hill Seminary will award: 1 master’s class to each of 2 different students, 1 certificate class to each of 2 different students, 1 Rhizomes package of 5 classes to 1 student or group (plus, 1 full Pagan Life Academy series to a previously-selected recipient.)”
  • Be sure to check out the Yule 2013 edition of ACTION, the official newsletter of the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN). Featuring interviews with publisher Anne Newkirk Niven, Heathen elder Diana Paxson, CUUPs co-president David Pollard, and more!
  • Goddess-centered news site Medusa Coils is changing they way it conducts coverage. Quote: “I will attempt to give you notice of larger events related to Goddess and other spiritual feminisms–no matter where in the world they are being held. [...] I would like to have more coverage on this blog of what is going on at the increasing number of Goddess temples, “houses,” etc., worldwide that meet in specific physical/geographical places.”
  • Chas Clifton notes that Denver’s Isis Books got some local press coverage, and gives a bit of background. Quote: “‘Makeshift Egyptian temple’ is not quite right, though. The building used to be a mortuary with columns out front (where the limos used to pull up) that lent themselves to an Egyptian-inspired paint scheme. The store started in Denver on East Colfax Avenue, not far from Hubcap Annie’s, the used hubcap store, which gives you a sense of the neighborhood.”
  • In honor of their Facebook page reaching 100,000 ‘likes,’ Witches & Pagans Magazine is giving away a free download of issue #21 of the periodical. The offer is good through January 6th. It’s the “garden” issue of that sways you in any particular direction.

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

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!

AncestorsCoverThe Temple of Witchcraft and Copper Cauldron Publishing have announced the publication of a new anthology title: Ancestors of the Craft: The Lives and Lessons of Our Magickal Elders. First copies of the book were made available at the Temple’s annual Yule ritual, and will soon be made available at Amazon.com. Retailers can order copies through Copper Cauldron Publishing. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving. A wide range of authors have contributed looks at important figures and elders in the history of the modern Witchcraft and Neo-pagan movements, some four dozen in all [...] Authors include Jimahl di Fiosa (Talk to Me), Storm Faerywolf (The Stars Within the Earth), Elizabeth Guerra (Stewart Farrar: Writer On A Broomstick), Raven Grimassi (The Cauldron of Memory, Old World Witchcraft), Galina Krasskova (Exploring the Northern Tradition), Deborah Lipp (The Elements of Ritual), Shani Oates (Tubelo’s Green Fire), Gede Parma (Spirited), Christopher Penczak (The Temple of Witchcraft, The Mighty Dead), Matthew Sawicki (Witch and Famous), Kala Trobe (The Witch’s Guide to Life), and many more.” Should be an interesting read!

Grey_School_of_Wizardry_-_crestThe Grey School of Wizardry has opened a virtual world campus incorporating the Second Life platform as a part of its online magickal education program. “The implementation of a virtual campus was driven by student feedback and demonstrates our commitment to provide an engaging, inspiring learning environment for the magickally-minded. It provides us with new ways to share our knowledge, and offers a more personal, interactive, and magical setting for our students,” said Stacey Aaran Sherwood, Campus Director at the Grey School of Wizardry. “This new program is supplementary and purely voluntary, and does not in any way alter the web-based system of instruction that our faculty and students are accustomed to using.” Students who elect to enroll in the optional program benefit from real-time interaction with participating teachers and fellow students.  The Grey School of Wizardry is a tax exempt organization, and was founded in 2004 by Oberon Zell, a founder of the Church of All Worlds. You can read the entire press release, here.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

I’ve mentioned Stonehenge’s new visitors center a couple times now, looking at what it wants to transmit to visitors of the famous stone circle, and the pushback from some UK Pagans over their decision to display human remains. Now, Pagan musician Corwen Broch has visited the new center, and shares some reflections at his blog. Quote: “I personally am not opposed to the display and retention of human remains providing they are displayed sensitively. In fact I’d go so far as to say I am in favour of the display of human remains as I feel they can be a tangible link to the lives of our ancestors in a way nothing else can. All that said however the remains at Stonehenge are not displayed sensitively. They are in the same cases as antler picks and reconstructed arrows which seems to symbolically reduce them to the status of inanimate objects rather than what was once the remains of a thinking feeling human being. One person’s bones in particular are wired together and displayed upright fixed to a board in a way that made me viscerally uncomfortable. It is extremely saddening to me that English Heritage did not take a middle way with these remains and at least abide by HAD’s best practice guidelines. The current lack of sensitivity seems almost calculated to prolong the controversy and the protestations and plays into the hands of those most opposed to the display of human remains whilst making it difficult for those of us in favour of display to defend English Heritage.” Despite these concerns, Broch says the structure has “vastly improved” from its previous iteration, and has no concerns apart from the manner in which human remains are presented.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

The Circle Sanctuary Winter Solstice Pageant

  • Solstice songs! T. Thorn Coyle has uploaded a new (free) song for the season, called “Invictus (Solstice)” to her Bandcamp page. Quote: “This is once again my Solstice gift to you. It started out a poem, but wanted to simplify into a song. Just me and GarageBand, baby. Pay what you will. All money supports Solar Cross temple and our justice work.” In other Solstice song news, Damh the Bard has a song up for you too!
  • Performer Lyra Hill, daughter of Anne Hill (you may know her through her work with Reclaiming), has been featured in the People 2013 issue of the Chicago Reader. Anne Hill says of her daughter that “Lyra’s exploration of dreams through art challenges me to keep looking for new ways to bring the power of dreams into waking life. I hope she inspires you, too.” 
  • Cherry Hill Seminary is seeking an artist in residence. Quote: “Cherry Hill Seminary, provider of distance education for Pagan ministry, seeks candidates for an Artist in Residence. Candidates working in any medium and who wish to be directly engaged for a period of two years in support of the CHS mission of distance education for leadership, ministry and personal growth in Pagan and other Nature-Based spiritualities may obtain full details or apply at this link.” Compensation? “Visibility,” promotion from CHS, and a quarterly feature in the official newsletter.

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

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!

PFI PhilippinesIn the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which has wreaked havoc and destruction through the Philippines, the Pagan Federation International in Philippines has started raising funds to aid in providing food, water, and shelter to those directly affected by the storm. Quote: “Let us help ease the burden of our friends from Northern Cebu by helping with our mission to give aid to the Northern Cebu Typhoon Victims such as Daan Bantayan and Bogo. Pagan Federation International is needing volunteers and donations.” Vivianne Crowley, a longtime member and organizer within the Pagan Federation, added, quote, “many of you will have seen on news programs the devastation in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). The Pagan community in the Philippines seem to all be safe, but some have lost their homes and many people are lacking food, water and shelter. Our friends in Pagan Federation International Philippines are appealing for help.” The Wild Hunt’s Heather Greene is currently following up with PFI Philippines on this effort, and we hope to bring you a more in-depth report this Sunday. I have embedded a poster created by PFI Philippines below, which lists contact information and a list of needs.

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Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

Meanwhile, Pagan activist and disaster relief first responder Peter Dybing has issued a challenge to our community to give during this time of crisis. Quote: “Here is the challenge. I ask that every individual identifying as part of our community do the following things. 1. Select a relief organization that is doing work in the Philippines and donate what you can. 2. Post a link to the organization and call on everyone you know to take a similar action. 3. When the disaster fades from the news show support for the idea of a Pagan lead disaster relief organization. I have never directly asked you to share my blog posts. Today I am, please share this challenge far and wide.” Dybing added on his Facebook profile that “The American Red Cross has an outstanding record of being of assistance in small local disasters. Their record in large scale disasters is however, marred by very poor performances in responding to disasters like Katrina and Haiti. Millions of earmarked funds unspent years later. Better to donate to the local Philippines Red Cross directly.” A link to the Red Cross in the Philippines can be found, here. I’ve also provided a link to Doctors Without Borders, here.

worldwide heathen census asatru norse mythology blog norsemythBack in October I mentioned the launch of the Worldwide Heathen Census, a project of the Norse Mythology Blog that is attempting to “establish an approximate number of adherents through an anonymous survey with only one item: a pull-down menu where the respondent selects his or her home country. It is hoped that the anonymous nature of this census will attract responses from heathens who may not want to put their name on an official form from a governmental agency or research institution.” According to Dr. Seigfried, the census was in part sparked by frustration over Heathens being “mostly invisible in major surveys of religious affiliation,” and seeks to remedy that. Below, I’ve embedded a graphic from a November 9th update on the census, which will run through December of this year. So far, the United States seems to hold an overwhelming majority of contemporary Heathens, with Germany running a distant second, and the UK and even more distant third. Regarding the UK number, we do know that the census of England and Wales counted nearly 2000 Heathens (with another 150 or so in Scotland), so that number should climb a bit if participation increases. I’ll keep you posted on the final results once the census closes.

November 9 Worldwide Heathen Census 2013 Results by Country Norse Mythology Blog

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Several Pagans, reconstructionists, and polytheists have spoken out over a stunt “God Graveyard” put up by atheists in Wisconsin. Sannion has rounded up many of those voices at his blog, here. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus noted that “they [atheists] are so concerned with evidence and proving things and making sure everything they say is factual, that they get to ignore all of religious studies, history, real people and traditions that are occurring today, and other matters that might shed light on anything that has to do with religion since all religion is unreal/false/nonsense, etc.” At Baring the Aegis, Elani Temperance adds that the atheist group’s stunning lack of ethics in this matter undermines their argument for unbelief, quote, “ethical behavior is not religious, but social, and the AHA would do well to remember that.” Or, as Sannion puts it in a follow-up, “it’s a dick move to tell another person that their god is dead; doesn’t really matter whether you’re laughing while you do it or wielding a knife.”
The "God Graveyard" in Wisconsin.

The “God Graveyard” in Wisconsin.

  • Last week I mentioned Operation Circle Care, a program that sends care packages to active duty Pagan soldiers serving overseas during the holidays. This week, OCC wanted to add that they are urgently looking for names of individuals who want/need this service. Quote: Service members can submit their own names, or those here at home can submit their information. We keep all contact information absolutely confidential. To submit a name we’re asking people to send the full name, rank, branch of military service, country where serving, postal address, email address, and spiritual path for the Pagan service-member, and also include your own name and contact info, plus your relationship with the service-member. We keep contact information confidential to circle@circlesanctuary.org with cc to: occ@circlesanctuary.org.” For more information, see Operation Circle Care’s official page. So if you know someone who needs this service, please get in touch!
  • Publisher Bibliotheca Alexandrina has announced that they are lowering the prices of all their titles effective immediately. Quote:  “Bibliotheca Alexandrina has lowered the prices on nearly all of our print titles. In general, books with a page count of 0-199 pages will be $10.99 US, 200-299 pages will be $12.99, and 300+ pages will be $14.99. There are a few exceptions, as some books have higher production costs, but we plan to stick as close as possible to this pricing scheme moving forward.” They also add that the new prices are effective immediately on their CreateSpace store, but will take a couple of weeks to migrate to places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There are some excellent titles in their roster, so stock up!
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund a trip to India where he has been invited by Sri Tathata to help facilitate the MahaYaga. Quote: “Sri Tathata, a great spiritual leader in India, has asked Patrick to be one of the primary facilitators at the MahaYaha, a 6-day event of rituals and prayers designed to create world peace. The intention of this ritual is to shift the course and consciousness of our planet.  This is a revival of an ancient and sacred Hindu ritual called the MahaYaga, which is written about in the Vedas and goes back many thousands of years. This ritual was stopped a couple thousand years ago and is only now being re-created. In addition to facilitating the ritual itself, Patrick has been asked to be a keynote speaker both as an individual and at a round table with some of the foremost religious and political leaders from around the world where the topic is world peace, women’s issues and planetary sustainability.” Patrick is trying to raise over $10,000 dollars for the trip, and has less than a month to do so.
  • In a recent update sent to supporters, Cherry Hill Seminary puts the spotlight on Dr. David Oringderff, Chair of the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Chaplaincy, and co-founder of the Sacred Well Congregation, for ten years of service to the Pagan learning institution. In the piece, Dr. Oringderff stresses the importance of accreditation for CHS. Quote: “Because I work a lot with the military, and we’ve got a lot of fine young military people who want to become military chaplains, and of course, it’s a very rigid procedure to be accepted as a chaplain in the military. The biggest hurdle is the educational requirement. And so they’re stuck. They have to go to a traditional seminary, or they have to go to a traditional seminary; there’s just no alternative.  Yet.  Until we reach that point.”

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

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!

Cherry Hill SeminaryPagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced their Fall Scholarship Drive for 2013, which will help fund tuition scholarships in January. Quote: “‘I can’t imagine a world without Cherry Hill Seminary,’ said Executive Director Holli Emore.  She also emphasized the efficient operation of the nearly 15-year-old school.  ’Fortunately for our students, cash to keep the lights on translates directly into vibrant, rich learning opportunities.  That’s why an end of the year gift to the Bow Tie Campaign will allow us to give real scholarships out in January.  CHS operates on a cash basis – no debt! – so we need your help to finish the year.’” The institution’s goal is to raise $5000 dollars between now and Yule. When the goal of $5,000 is reached, Cherry Hill Seminary will announce a process for applying for a one-course scholarship.  More about the fund drive can be found here. I’ve embedded their fundraising video below.

Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers

Another fundraising initiative has recently launched, this one to create a tabletop role-playing game based on The Fellwater Tales, a fantasy book series authored by Brendan Myers, a Quebec Druidic Humanist and Philosophy Professor. Quote: “‘The Fellwater Tales’ features characters who are caught in a conflict between rival factions of a secret society, whose members are descended from ancient gods. While dealing with their own personal problems, they also struggle to protect Fellwater Grove, one of the last remaining places on earth where the magic of the Mythic Age still survives. The ‘Secret People’ of the ‘Hidden Houses’, as they are called, compete with each other for control of such places, just as political factions in the real world compete for control of sea ports, oil fields, and markets.” If funded, the project will involve several artists, including Morpheus Ravenna. The campaign seeks to raise $10,250 dollars in a month. Perks include copies of the game, copies of the books in the Fallwater Tales series, and the opportunity to have your own character included in the game.

AdflogoThis Samhain marked a special anniversary, the 30th year since Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) was founded. ADF Archdruid Kirk Thomas issued the following statement in commemoration of the event: “At a Samhain rite at the Winterstar Symposium held in 1983, Isaac Bonewits, a scholar, visionary, and teacher, announced the formation of a new religion, Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF). Issac’s idea for ADF was revolutionary for its time. His path-making vision was to see ADF certified clergy in every major city and be recognized as a true world religion. The letter that announced the forming of ADF and what it was all about was written it the first “Druids Progress.” In it, he outlined his concept of ADF as a fluid and dynamic religion, evolving and adapting ancient Pagan faiths in a modern context for his generation and continuing to evolve with the ones to follow. This Samhain marks our 30th Anniversary! Today, ADF is thriving, as generations of members grow up in the path, and are passing it on to the next generation. From it’s humble beginnings, there is now a solid core order of worship. There are currently 26 certified ordained clergy; 74 groves (congregations) in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Brazil with members on 6 continents; and numerous festivals held all around the United States and Canada every year. Happy Anniversary, ADF!”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • A Hellenic Revival Festival in Louisiana is being planned for 2014. Quote: “Hellenic polytheists to invade South Louisiana! Thessaly Temenos, located in the Bayou Regions of South Louisiana has announced its sponsorship of a Hellenic Revival Festival to be held on their ritual grounds. The date for the festival is set for November 8th and 9th of 2014 and is being promoted as an exclusively Hellenic event – not a pan-pagan gathering.” You can find more information, here.
  • Operation Circle Care, sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, is underway once more. Quote: “At Yuletide and throughout the year, Circle Sanctuary sends care packages with Pagan books, magazines, CDs, and other spiritual resources to Wiccans and other Pagans on active duty who are currently serving overseas (both on PCS and Deployment). You can help this effort by sending us donations of new and nearly new items as well as funds to cover air mail postage.” Donation and contact information can be found, here.
  • Pagan photographer Greg Harder has a ton of cool photos up from Day of the Dead celebration at the Oakland Museum of California. Check it out!
  • This weekend is FaerieCon East in Baltimore, featuring Pagan authors Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi, along with a large number of amazing mythic authors and artists. Of special interest will be a Sunday panel on creating tarot and oracle decks featuring Raven and Stephanie, Julia Jeffrey, Caroline Kenner of Fool’s Dog, and Gary Lippincott.

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

Yesterday, Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary announced the launch of a new program, Pagan Life Academy, a series of low-cost lessons designed to bring Pagan values, ethics, and ritual to incarcerated Pagans. In explaining the rationale behind this new initiative, Executive Director Holli Emore said that “the prison experience can be a cauldron of transformation for many” and that they “hope that the newly-launched Pagan Life Academy will inspire others to design additional lessons and contribute to the series.”

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“For years and years, incarcerated Pagans across the country have been writing CHS to ask, no plead, for instructional materials.  About three years ago I was talking to Patrick McCollum about prison ministry and he suggested that one of the best things we could do as a learning institution was to create a set of lessons.  He advised that they should be printed to mail and be very low cost (most inmates work, but make only cents per hour and must buy most of their own toiletries).  Meanwhile, the letters continued to come. 

Several of our faculty raised their hand when I inquired about interest in working on such a project.  This would be a labor of love, and it would mean learning about culture and systems largely unfamiliar to most of us.  Several times we thought we were close to releasing a series, then were advised by someone closer to the penal systems to make changes.  We are greatly indebted to Selina Rifkin, who created the concept for eight written lessons and wrote each of them, and who formally transferred her copyright to CHS as a gift.  We also owe deep gratitude to Candace Kant, who began the process initially, to Annie Finch, who contributed a number of ritual chants, and, especially, to Wendy Griffin, who spent many hours as editor and advisor.  Thank you, all, for your caring, and for contributing your talent to this growing, though out of sight, need in our community.”

Each lesson and ritual costs $5, and is structured around the 8-spoked Wiccan/Pagan “wheel of the year.” Though the lessons are written so that they can be adapted to as wide a range of Pagan traditions as possible.

Academy-300x82

“Contemporary Paganism is really a family of religions, the most popular of which are Asatru or Heathenry, Druidry, feminist Goddess worship, Wicca, non-Wiccan forms of religious witchcraft and reconstructionism (the attempted recreation of ancient religions such as those of Greece and Egypt). Of these Wicca is the largest. Because there may be different kinds of Pagans in any prison, we have attempted to create a Pan-Pagan prison program that includes elements from these traditions and emphasizes some of the values they have in common.”

Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum, who has done extensive work advocating for Pagan inmates, said the initiative was “very much needed” and that Cherry Hill Seminary was, quote, “changing the world and also making history.” Chaplain Sandra Harris, who was awarded Cherry Hill Seminary’s first Masters of Divinity, added that this was a “great step forward in Pagan prison ministry.”

“I know that there are many, many Pagans all over the United States serving time that we’re not aware of, and [who] could really use some support. And without a Pagan volunteer, they probably aren’t going to get any from their prison. And I think that our Pagan values are good values to share with people in the prison setting, too.”Holly O’Brien, Pagan chaplain and Cherry Hill Seminary Student

Many professional chaplains within the American prison industry feel that the number of Pagans behind bars is growing. As that growth occurs, the need to find ways of accommodating their spiritual needs without the impressive infrastructure of Catholic and Protestant Christian faith traditions can be an ongoing challenge. These materials are a step towards finding ways of getting materials to Pagan inmates in a cheap and effective way. Here’s a list of the existing Pagan Life Academy materials.

Pagan Life Academy

“These first eight lessons are the beginning of a dynamic, growing and changing response to the needs of Pagan inmates.  If you are inspired to create additional lessons which may increase the breadth and depth of the Pagan Life Academy, we welcome submissions.  Note that the Pagan Life Academy is our gift to the community, with no payments or royalties going to writers.  Cherry Hill Seminary reserves the right to edit copy as needed, or to decline use of a submission.”

Contact information, and more details, can be found at the Pagan Life Academy page.

Several weeks ago I was contacted by Audrey Galex, an Atlanta-based freelance producer, asking if I could help with some of her upcoming programming. She currently produces and hosts a news program called AIB Metro for the cable station Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters. In her recent episodes Audrey has included a short piece on faith and food. This October she planned to feature harvest foods and felt it was a great opportunity to incorporate a Pagan voice into the show.

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For Audrey, the interfaith experience has been more than just a career path. She was raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian town.  She remembers celebrating traditional religious holidays with friends of many different faiths. As an adult she lived in Egypt, attending American University in Cairo, and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East as both a student and as a journalist for CNN. She comments, ‘Interfaith has been part of my life, like the air I breathe.’

565025_10151625816027057_459023840_nHer freelance work at Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) is an extension of that personal experience.

I feel obligated to engage in interfaith dialogue and initiatives because we all live on one planet. The well-being of Mother Earth is our shared destiny. We must learn to live together, to celebrate our very lives together, to survive.  We need to understand each other so that we will not fear each other, because fear leads to mistrust and mistrust leads to hatred and violence.  

Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) is an excellent outlet for her work. The forty-four year old non-profit television station produces “programming that promotes interfaith and community dialogue.” The station’s history, from one man’s outlandish idea to the producers of Emmy winning programming, is explained on the AIB web site:

Determined to accommodate the ever-growing and diverse religious communities of Atlanta, [Presbyterian Minister] Rev. John H. Allen had a progressive idea to unite people from ALL communities and faiths to share their thoughts with the public.  Although this idea was seen as controversial by many, three clergy members joined forces and Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters was born… [In May 1969,] Rev. Allen’s vision to promote dialogue between those of different faith, socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures was up and running.

Today Pagans are being included in that dialogue. Over the past several years Audrey has invited various Pagans to appear on her program AIB Metro as well as other shows.  She recalls:

I … had a chance to interview a Pagan leader for a program I did for AIB a number of years ago on “The Mysterious Roots of Easter.”  I’ll never forget that interview. “Easter bunny… ours. Easter Egg .. ours.”  I believe that’s what really opened my eyes to Paganism. Plus, I always knew there had to be some meaning for the items on the Passover seder plate that pre-dated Judaism.

Since then she’s been calling on the Atlanta Pagan community to participate when appropriate. Audrey remarked:

I feel that, if someone is working for an interfaith media entity, the pagan community must be included as one among many faith traditions and spiritual paths in every project, to the extent that is possible. It is a religion. Its teachings and theology are part of the rainbow of traditions in our pluralistic culture and world.  

While she openly admits to often forgetting to include a Pagan voice, she is striving to make that correction. She has done just that with her new spotlight on food and faith through which she seeks to explore how traditional foods are prepared and used within a spiritual setting.

Holli S. Emore during the shooting of AIB Metro's Faith and Food feature

Holli S. Emore during the shooting of AIB Metro’s Faith and Food feature

For the October edition, she invited Holli S. Emore, the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, to be the on-camera talent. As an active member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and a strong proponent of such work, Holli jumped at the opportunity to become involved with interfaith television programming, specifically in the South. Holli says:

Pagan spirituality is a beautiful path; it’s high time we let people in on the secret.  No, I don’t mean recruiting; I just mean being open about who we are.  Fresh air and sunlight are essential to growing a healthy garden.  Why not share with others when they ask, as I was?  What I have found, in the course of my interfaith work the past few years, is that all kinds of people are curious and very supportive.  In the spirit of interfaith, we accept that we simply want to get to know each other.  Shows like AIB Metro help us do that.  …  This is how we build a peaceful world, one person at a time. 

AIB Metro Producer Audrey Galex with Cameraman Nick Bach

AIB Metro Producer Audrey Galex with Cameraman Nick Bach

When Holli arrived in Atlanta, she joined Audrey and cameraman, Nick Bach for an on-location shoot in Audrey’s own kitchen. During the first portion of the filming, Holli shared a family recipe for Pumpkin Pudding. While preparing the dish for the camera, she interjected information about the meaning of the harvest within her own Pagan Tradition, Osireion.

After placing the pudding in the oven, the shoot and the conversation moved outdoors.  With the camera rolling and the smell of cinnamon wafting from the kitchen, Holli and Audrey discussed Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and all things in between.  Audrey remarked:

[Holli] is deeply committed to the spirit and scholarship of Paganism. She is knowledgeable about a variety of traditions beyond Paganism, personally and professionally, and expresses thoughtfully and engagingly.

Holli was a natural in front of the camera showing a graceful ability to answer complex questions with sensitivity and openness. Her experience in interfaith circles has given her the language to communicate the beauty of Paganism within a framework understood by people of any faith. Holli noted:

Many Pagans mistakenly think that the purpose of interfaith work is to educate others about Paganism to dispel the ugly myths about us.  That certainly happens, but there is so much more!  There are other religions who feel the same way – they want us to understand and accept them.… Pagans are not the only minority religion in America.  My Muslim friends want me to know that they have fun and are not offended by my liberal attitudes even if they don’t share them.  My Sikh friends empathize with Pagan fears of bias and discrimination.  My Christian friends are glad for me to see that not everyone is a literalist or evangelical.  The Unitarian Universalists and I just high-five each other!  There is a rich world out there and Pagans are part of it.  We have just as much to learn from those on different paths as we do from each other.

After a few laughs during the shoot, Audrey echoed her own passionate commitment to interfaith work by adding: “I love miniature golf and would like, someday, to create a miniature golf course in which each hole represents a different faith tradition. At the end, the ball goes to the same place …” She hopes to continue weaving Pagan voices “as a regular part of programming” at AIB.

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October’s edition of AIB Metro is now in post-production. Audrey confirmed that Holli’s segment will be one of the “featured” pieces for the upcoming show. It will debut Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30p and then re-air over the entire month on Tuesdays at 10:00am, Thursday at 6:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 12:00pm. The show can be watched on local Atlanta cable channels. For those outside the Atlanta Metro area, the show will be available via internet streaming directly from AIB’s website.