Archives For Christian Day

SALEM, Mass — An October court hearing found Christian Day facing allegations of harassment by his former business associate Lori Sforza. Due to the timing, this brewing conflict must have felt like a golden opportunity to someone at the Associated Press (AP). Leading up to Halloween, the “Witch Sues Warlock” angle proved impossible to resist, and the story achieved viral status in short order. What Sforza, who goes by the business name of Lori Bruno, actually wanted was a simple restraining order, claiming that Day had been harassing her online and over the phone.

Downtown Salem [Photo Credit: MO Stevens]

Downtown Salem [Photo Credit: MO Stevens]

Some of Sforza’s more recent allegations surprised Day. After the Oct 28 hearing, “the world’s most famous warlock” told local reporters that he would give $10,000 to anyone who can prove that he made these particular harassing calls to Sforza from an anonymous number. It is this specific allegation that then led a judge to sign the restraining order against Day, forbidding him from any contact with Sforza over the next year.

The Wild Hunt spoke with both of the litigants, as well as a non-legal mediator, to understand how a falling out between former friends could lead to a court hearing.

What both parties agree on is that Sforza worked in one of Day’s shops, performing psychic readings, from 2009-2012. Day charged nothing to Sforza for the use of the space. However, they have quite different recollections as to why this was the case. “He begged me to work in his shop,” said Sforza, while Day maintains, “I was doing her a favor.”

No matter his motivations, their business relationship — which had included plans for a reality television show — ended, and Sforza opened a competing business. That’s apparently when the former close friends allegedly started going at it hammer and tongs, including (if the accusations they each level against the other are true) through proxies and on the internet.

The Complaint for Protection from Harassment, which Sforza signed on September 28, lists abuses she said had been heaped upon her by Day. These abuses included “cartoons depicting me in a vicious way,” ethnic and racial slurs, allegations of organized crime involvement, and “calling me the ‘c’ word.” Sforza is Italian, and identifies herself as an hereditary witch. She told The Wild Hunt that Day had also maligned one of her ancestors.

Day downplays — but does not deny — what he characterizes mostly as “snide comments” about Sforza, and said that the judge agreed that it fell under free speech. However, in an additional affidavit signed on October 13,  Sforza alleges that for the past three years, Day has been “calling my home phone up to 3 times a week from a private number” between 2 and 3 in the morning. The most recent of the calls, which were comprised of threats and obscenities, had occurred on September 29, Sforza wrote in the document.

[Twitter: @LoriBruno]

[Twitter: @LoriBruno]

Sforza’s attorney, Fiore Porreca, said that his client was more concerned with what she called disparaging “cartoons” — memes, really — that had been posted on Facebook. They used publicly-available pictures of her, with captions suggesting she is a liar or not a legitimate practitioner of the Craft. “They were out there for millions to view,” Porreca said.

He went on to explain that the phone calls only came up once he was retained by her, because he recognized that it was important. “My client has never been in court before . . . it’s not like she’s filed a million harassment orders.” Massachusetts law makes these proceedings informal, with no need for an attorney, so she didn’t use one to help her complete the initial paperwork. Once he learned of them, “I told her the calls were an important factor.”

According to Porreco, the judge directed them to file a supplemental affidavit on the day of the hearing, Oct 13. However, the actual hearing was then rescheduled to Oct 28, because Day could not be in Salem on that earlier date.  He now resides in New Orleans.

According to Day’s account of the proceedings, it was the phone calls that ultimately convinced the judge to sign the restraining order. That morning, the warlock’s attorney called in sick. As a result, he had to hire a new one right in the courthouse because no further adjournment would be granted. “All [this new lawyer] was able to do was rebut the plaintiff’s allegations, but not to prepare me to testify,” he said. “In retrospect, I wish I had taken a chance and done so, because the judge said he gave no weight to my side.”  However, he does not think the judge was in error. Day said, “He had 20 television cameras pointed at him, and a little old lady. What was he going to do?”

Regarding what befell Day’s original attorney, Sforza said pointedly, “I certainly did not cast a spell. He had the right to speak, as I did. He did not.”

Day said that he understands that his public persona may make it easier to presume him guilty, but that no evidence was presented. He freely admits to having made “saucy” remarks and said that he even drew an unflattering cartoon of Sforza once. But, Day said that the work shown in court was not his. More importantly, Day said, “Even my haters realize I am not the anonymous-phone-call type.” Calling himself “the Donald Trump of witchcraft,” he acknowledges that he’s “said a thing or two that people don’t like.” That includes an online spat last year that enraged many Pagan bloggers. “I never denied the mistake,” he said. “I own up to things.”

That’s how Witchdoctor Utu sees it. Utu is one of the “hundreds of mutual friends” Day said he and Sforza share. Utu once agreed to mediate between them, because their dispute was causing ripples in the community. He said that “they were inseparable” before the business disagreement. This can be seen in the many, varied public photos and media accounts of the two witches practicing together.

Christian Day

Christian Day [Courtesy Photo]

Over a period of time, Utu recalled speaking to each of them, hearing their specific grievances. He eventually secured an agreement from Day to stop posting about Sforza, which Utu said that Day has honored since July. However, Sforza “was less than cooperative, yelling and screaming” during phone calls which took place over a period of months. “All of these issues she had with him … from years ago.” And not once, Utu said, did Sforza ever mention the late night harassing phone calls. “If she had, I would have done my best to make it stop,” he said. Utu questions why she never mentioned them and never filed any police report about them.

But Sforza has remained steadfast in her position and claims.

Utu added that, he believes Sforza “doesn’t care about collateral damage,” including abuse heaped on people who appear at Day’s events. Utu understands that Day’s outrageous behavior causes him problems, but he said, additionally, “in the end people make [stuff] up about him. He’s the first to admit all his faults.”

There are many unanswered questions about this situation, but it is clear that its genesis is in a personal dispute between two people who, in Witchdoctor Utu’s words, “once loved each other very much.” Because the court action was seeking an order of protection, it was not a “trial” in the normal sense; the rules favor the alleged victim out a sense of caution.

As for how it may have impacted the lucrative Halloween business in Salem, Day himself expressed worry. But also said that his stores and books do better each year, whether the attention on him is negative or not. “Attempts like these never undermine my success,” he said. Nevertheless, he’s hoping to have a new hearing on that restraining order, and unless it comes around on the docket next October, it’s unlikely that his day in court will be picked up by the Associated Press.

wild hunt buttonToday we are starting off with a big thank you to everyone who supported the 2015 Wild Hunt Fall Fundraiser. Whether you donated, shared our link, told people about the service or any other effort, the Wild Hunt team is grateful to each of you.

It came down to the last few hours but we managed not only to reach the goal but to exceed it. While we do not have the final figures at this point, the total raised is pushing $20,000. That number is higher than previous years.Thank you deeply to everyone for making it possible for The Wild Hunt to continue its service with room for new growth.

What can you expect in the coming year? First…more of what you have come to expect. Our columnists will be returning on their regular days to explore and discuss the issues of the day. We currently have a full lineup of weekend writers including, Rhyd Wildermuth, Manny Tejeda-Moreno, Eric Scott, Lisa Roling, Dodie Graham-McKay, Cosette Paneque, Christina Oakley-Harrington, Crystal Blanton, Alley Valkyrie and our newest columnist Heathen Chinese. Both Valkyrie’s and Wildermuth’s columns will continue to be sponsored by Hecate Demeter, who has been supporting their work for over a year. And, new this year, Blanton’s column will be sponsored by CAYA Coven, whose organizers wrote, “In celebration of the wisdom and achievements of Pagan Women of Color, CAYA Coven is proud to sponsor Crystal Blanton’s Wild Hunt column this year.”

Also returning will be our two hard-working weekly journalists: Cara Schulz and Terence P. Ward. They will continue to cover the news as it happens, as well as broader news topics. Additionally, we welcome Yeshe Matthews as our Strategic Planning Director. We are thankful to her for running our 2015 Funding Drive and look forward to her continued work as a member of the Wild Hunt team.

But what about the growth? As always, we welcome news voices and interesting stories for our guest columns. We will continue that tradition and invite writers to submit pitches and stories. We also welcome press releases, letters to the editor and news tips. Outside of that, we will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the year and will announce any exciting changes in that process as they happen.

For now, we are taking a moment to pause hold this space and simply say thank you.

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1272196_1504315986498225_3499266264717747598_o-e1417450132408-500x447In Sept, Niki Whiting announced that Many Gods West (MGW), the Polytheist conference held in Washington State, would be returning. This week Whiting announced the event dates would officially be August 5-7. Additionally, the key address will be delivered by Sarah Anne Lawless, a professional artist, writer, folk herbalist and sole owner of the new shop Fern and Fungi. Whiting said, “[Lawless] approaches polytheism through animism, herbalism, and witchcraft. It will be an interesting contrast to last year’s excellent keynote.” The well-received 2015 address was given by Morpheus Ravenna.

It was also clarified that the MGW conference will be held at a different hotel than last year. Organizers say that it is “bigger and better.” But the location will still be Olympia, Washington, which is located approximately 60 miles south of Seattle. As reported earlier, the opening and closing rituals will be hosted by Rynn Fox of Coru Cathubodua. Registration and tickets go on sale Tuesday of this week. Whiting also added that further details are coming soon. For those interested, follow the Many Gods West Facebook page.

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As reported in several mainstream news sources, psychic witch Lori Sforza, also known as Lori Bruno, was in court this week to request a “protective order” against Christian Day. According to the reports, Sforza has accused Day of repeatedly harassing her via the phone and in social media. Day denies these allegations calling the conflict a “business dispute” gone wrong. Outside of the courtroom, he told reporters that Sforza is lying and has repeatedly called him names in public spaces.

The judge, who was reportedly was “dismayed by the volume of late night calls,” granted Sforza the protective order. But Day has vowed to appeal the decision. And, as stated after the hearing, he offered $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he had made all of those calls. The local television news was at the hearing and posted a short clip. We are currently working on this story and will have more details in the coming week.

In Other News…

  • Starhawk will be doing a book tour February and March 2016. She will be working through a speakers’ agency called Aid and AbetThe tour will happen just a few weeks after the official release of her new novel City of Refuge. Starhawk said, “If you have connections with an institution that might want me to come, or if you think you might want to organize something in your area, please contact Jen Angel:” Starhawk added that she prefers small bookstores and university settings.
  • The Luna Press has released its 2016 Lunar Calendar “dedicated to the Goddessin her many guises.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of the calendar’s publication. The first one was produced in 1975 and has continued ever since. Today’s edition includes 23 artists, poets, and writers. Publisher Nancy Passmore said, “The art for this year’s 40th cover is about keeping ones’ moon boat afloat …” and was created by Jamie Hogan. Older covers and ordering information are on the publisher’s website.
1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

1989 Cover Art of the Lunar Calendar

  • Many people within our communities were interviewed by mainstream media during the October month. In article for Broadly Magazine, Ashley Mortimer, who is a Doreen Valiente Foundation Trustee and Director of the Centre for Pagan Studies was asked to comment on the work of Margaret Murray. The article, titled “The Forgotten Egyptologist and First Wave Feminist who Invented Wicca,” discusses Murray’s life, her influence on Gardner and the problematic place her work in Wicca’s history. Mortimer concludes, “It actually does not matter whether, or to what extent, Murray was right or wrong or that Gerald Gardner made it up or not … The system that was developed works for its purpose, which is religious and spiritual development. And that, in itself, is enough.”
  • Wild Hunt columnist Eric O. Scott authored an article for the religion news forum On Faith. This article, titled “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Wicca,” was published on Oct 30. Scott is a second generation Pagan, who was raised in a Wiccan family. He writes, “The Halloween season invites many questions from people outside of Wicca about the nature of our religion. Some of those questions are things that even I didn’t have a good answer for, despite having been involved with Wicca since the day I was born.” Scott goes on to detail ten points about Wicca and its religious culture. The piece is unique in that it not only presents an un-sensationalized view point on Wicca within a mainstream media forum, but it was written by someone who has practiced the religion, as he said, “since the day he was born.”
  • Are you having Halloween withdrawl already? Go to Timeout‘s website and look over the dramatic photography from “Edinburgh’s Celtic Halloween ritual Samhuinn.” The twenty images show the Beltane Fire Society’s re-enactment of traditional rituals. As the report says, “Samhuinn is a riot of tribal drumming, pyrotechnics, body paint and symbolic, often violent street theatre.” The Beltane Fire Society is a “a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.” In 2012, writer Rynn Fox looked at the society and how they create these community rituals.
  • Finally, Pagan singer Misha Penton published her most recent music video, titled “The Captured Goddess.” Penton’s voice is classically trained and, in this video, she is accompanied by a solo piano, a viola, and the music of Dominick DiOrio. The song is inspired by the 1914 Amy Lowell poem of the same name.

That’s it for now! Have a great day!

NEW ORLEANS – In two weeks, HexFest 2015 is scheduled to kick off its magical event in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. The event begins Friday, Aug. 21 with a Riverboat ride and ritual hosted by Priestess and Voodoo Queen Bloody Mary. Up until Friday, the opening ritual was to be held on the Steamboat Natchez. However, after a phone call early morning, HexFest organizers found themselves scrambling for a new location. The Natchez had canceled their contract due to what was initially described as “religious reasons.”

hexfestIn a conversation with The Wild Hunt, Ty Siddiqui, manager of HexFest, explained that she was awoken Friday morning by a call from Natchez sales director Deirdra Edwards and was told, “We are not going to be able to do your event on the Natchez.” According to Siddiqui, it was further explained that the owner had just “come back into town from being away” and hadn’t known about HexFest. After looking at the website, he said that he didn’t want anything to do with Witchcraft and Voodoo. “He didn’t want it on his boat.”

Siddiqui immediately called Hexfest co-owner Christian Day, who is on his Honeymoon in the U.K., and broke the news. Together they contacted Edwards again, and she reiterated the reason. According to Siddiqui, she and Day offered modifications, including eliminating the entire ritual and drumming. She said, “We were willing to work with them … [but] there was nothing we could do.”

Day added that “the whole thing is just incredibly disappointing.” He went on to explain that the Natchez knew right from the beginning what HexFest was and what they were planning on doing. On May 9, 2014, Day and co-owner Brian Cain officially announced the event dates on a newly launched Facebook page. By early June, they publicized a list of tentative presenters, a rough schedule, a new website and were selling tickets. Then, June 27, 2014, a day after signing the Natchez contract, organizers announced that the opening ritual would be held on the riverboat.

In a Friday letter sent to the boat’s owner, Day wrote, “We had explained everything that was going to be going on to Deidra on the phone and even referred to components such as drumming and voodoo in emails back and forth, none of which she expressed concern over…”

After the initial phone calls, the Natchez reportedly stopped communicating with Siddiqui. She said that she was informed that Edwards was in a meeting with the controller “and others” and could not talk. In the meantime, Siddiqui was able to secure a new riverboat, The Creole Queen, for the opening ritual event. The new boat’s port is farther form HexFest’s main location at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, but the Creole sales team has reportedly been helpful and accommodating.

Then, late on Friday, Siddiqui got another call from the Natchez. She was informed that the HexFest event was actually canceled due to breach of contract, specifically citing two points:

  • It is understood and agreed that the Charterer shall not participate in any ticket sales other than to members of its own organization, unless consent to do so is granted herein.
  • Charterer shall not stage any “exotic” dancing, entertainment or singing without Owner’s prior written approval.

Day told The Wild Hunt, “The sales director of the Steamboat Natchez knew from the beginning that we were a ticketed weekend event and she knew that we were having the Dragon Ritual Drummers onboard. … We explained what we were in the beginning and she said the membership didn’t apply to us because we were not a membership organization.” Day added that he has an email trail proving some of these points.

In addition, he noted that the company had accepted a contract for HexFest 2016. That contract is dated July 7, 2015. It was signed and submitted only one month ago. What changed over the past thirty days?

[Credit: © 2014 Robin Stevens]

[Credit: © 2014 Robin Stevens]

What puzzles organizers even more is that Bloody Mary has been a presenter on the boat in the past. Bloody Mary herself said that she was very “perplexed.” She told The Wild Hunt, “I suggested I do [the] river blessing voodoo ritual on that the boat … I have been called on to work for that company directly, sent many of my groups to them for years … and although I knew they were not necessarily believers in mysticism, they do tours and events on subjects of voodoo, paranormal, seance and such. It seemed they were open to the ideas.” Mary added that she would no longer be recommending the Natchez or any of its sister tourist companies, and is drafting a formal letter of complaint.

According to Day and Siddiqui, it was the owner, Gordon Stevens, who canceled the contract because he wanted “nothing to do with” HexFest, Witchcraft or Voodoo. Stevens is president, CEO and co-owner of the New Orleans Steamboat Company and Gray Line New Orleans. He is also part owner of “Café Beignet and Frostop Restaurants, and is President of the real-estate agency M.G. Stevens Corporation” In his bio, he describes himself as being “guided by the strong Catholic traditions he was raised with.” Along with donating to a number of Catholic charities, Stevens serves as president on the Board of the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. As this suggests, he himself may not, in fact, be a “believer in mysticism.”

While New Orleans has always been somewhat of a progressive city in which Catholicism, magic, mysticism and other spiritual practices intertwine, Louisiana is currently considered one of the most conservative states in the country. Siddiqui said, “Ever since this wave of conservative religiousity hit Louisiana, it has opened the door to allow people to discriminate against each other.” She is referring specifically to Governor Jindal (R) who, in May, issued an executive RFRA order after the state Legislature did not approve a similar bill. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed suit against Jindal for overstepping his authority as Governor.

In response to Jindal’s order, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu penned his own executive order that reads:

I am issuing a clarifying call to the nation that New Orleans is an accepting, inviting city that thrives on its diversity and welcomes people from all walks of life with open arms … In New Orleans, we believe religious liberty and freedoms should be protected and discrimination prohibited, and we have passed our own laws to reflect that principle. This executive order is an important, symbolic affirmation that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated in New Orleans – and it should not be tolerated anywhere in Louisiana.

And, religious discrimination is just what Day, Siddiqui and others now believe is behind the Natchez canceling their event. Presenter Sandra Mariah Wright told The Wild Hunt, “I am shocked. There is no precedent for this.This is New Orleans.” Wright, herself from Salem, Massachusetts, likened the situation to a similar case ten years ago. She was organizing an event in a local Knights of Columbus hall, a location that had hosted Witchcraft gatherings for years. She said, “Even Laurie Cabot had held events there.” Then someone contacted the state’s Knights of Columbus office, who turned around and threatened to pull the local group’s charter if the event was allowed to continue. With two weeks to go, Wright was left scrambling for a new location.

Like Bloody Mary, Wright said that she’ll never use the Gray Line touring company again. She also added that the “timing seems a bit suspect” considering the recent news out of Pensacola. Siddiqui agreed, saying that, while its probably not directly linked, “it’s too coincidental.”

At this point, the Natchez has refunded HexFest its initial deposit of $5768.75. However, Siddiqui said that they are still owed over $5,000 and have incurred a number of new expenses in the ritual’s rescheduling. Siddiqui also added that they are already speaking to lawyers.

Since the news was announced, various presenters and attendees have been weighing in on the situation. Raven Grimassi wrote, “One of the primary problems I see here is the setting of a precedent. If this matter goes unaddressed to the company, then we are allowing a momentum to build that can be a real problem for us all in the long run.” Grimassi, as well as Day and Cain, are calling on attendees and local Pagans to complain to the company and to the city’s tourism board. Siddiqui said that she has been in contact with both the Greater New Orleans Pagan Pride Day Project and the Louisiana Alliance of Wiccans.

The Wild Hunt reached out to The New Orleans Steamboat Company for a statement and further explanation, but has yet to receive a response.

While HexFest coordinators are still in shock and are confused by the Natchez decision, they still have an event to run. HexFest 2015 will continue on as planned with the Friday evening opening ritual on the Creole Queen. Details of all changes are listed on the event page and main website.

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!

Patrick McCollum

Patrick McCollum

The Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates (ACFSA) international conference in Reno Nevada is this week, and Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum will be addressing them to give guidance about requests for special diets from Pagan inmates. Quote: “Rev. McCollum will share information about basic Pagan practices and beliefs, and the give guidance to the Association on how to accommodate religious diets for Pagans. In the past, Pagan traditions have not been considered legitimate religious practices in correctional facilities and as a result, Pagans have not been been afforded equal accommodation in this area. Many practicing Pagans are vegan or vegetarian, but are forced to eat meat while other mainstream faiths are offered alternatives. The ACFSA has decided to utilize Rev. McCollum’s expertise in this area to change prison policies worldwide to be more receptive to Pagan beliefs. This is a huge step forward toward equality for Pagans, and bodes well for a better future for all minority faiths.” According to McCollum, this is the first time that a Pagan has addressed this body. Here’s hoping this will lead to a better understanding of our diversity, and the valid needs of Pagan inmates. You can find all of my coverage of Patrick McCollum, here.

41SC-bWNDqL._SY346_Professor Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon” and “Blood and Mistletoe,” has a new book coming out in November of this year in the UK ( and February of next year in the United States) from Yale University Press entitled  “Pagan Britain.” Quote: “Britain’s pagan past, with its astonishing number and variety of mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artefacts, bloodthirsty legends and cryptic inscriptions, has always enthralled and perplexed us. Pagan Britain is a history of religious beliefs from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity. This ambitious book integrates the latest evidence to survey our transformed – and transforming – understanding of early religious behaviour; and, also, the way in which that behaviour has been interpreted in recent times, as a mirror for modern dreams and fears. From the Palaeolithic era to the coming of Christianity and beyond, Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism. Woven into the chronological narrative are numerous case studies of sacred sites – both the well known Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge and Maiden Castle, and more unusual far-flung locations across the mainland and coastal islands. Celebrating the powerful challenge and stimulus offered to our imagination by relics of Britain’s deep past, this rich book reveals much about archaeological and historical endeavour and our modern quest to know.” Hutton was host of the recently aired documentary about Gerald Gardner entitled “Britain’s Wicca Man,” and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy last month.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

The process of hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas, infamously known as “fracking,” isn’t only controversial in the United States. Fracking operations are underway in Britain, and several Pagans, including musician Damh the Bard, participated in a protest against a well in Balcombe, Sussex. Quote: “This afternoon’s visit is not a happy return to a childhood stamping ground, but rather a way of supporting brave people in their fight against the madness of greed. What can I do? Add myself to the numbers, add my voice by taking my bouzouki with me and playing Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) at the top of my voice!” Other Pagans of note at the protest were Druid leaders Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. At his blog, Philip Carr-Gomm penned an open letter in opposition to fracking. Quote: “The same story is repeating itself with fracking. Although people like money, when the chips are down they don’t want their countryside ruined, their roads clogged with lorries, their water and air risking pollution. They want to protect their country – if necessary from the government who promised to be the ‘greenest ever’. Remember your party has 130-177,000 members, the National Trust has 3.8 million. People really care about the countryside.” You can watch a video of Damh the Bard performing at the Balcombe, Sussex protest, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The annual Festival of The Dead in Salem, Massachusetts is coming up! That includes the official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, and presentations by authors and teachers like Christopher Penczak. Quote: “The Witches of Salem honor this time with Festival of the Dead, an annual event series that explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories, and strange rituals. Presented by Salem Warlock Christian Day and hosted by the foremost authorities on the spirit world, Festival of the Dead beckons guests to step through the veil into a realm where spirits await.”
  • The fist issue of the Melbourne-based magazine The Green Man Quarterly is now out and available for order. Quote: “The Green Man Quarterly is a new project based in Melbourne, Australia that aims to present an in depth exploration of Pagan, Witchcraft and Occult issues. Our ambition is to produce an affordable, high quality resource that is able assist in the promotion and growth of our diverse community.”
  • Speaking of magazines, a Starwood 2013 themed issue of the venerable Green Egg has been released. A direct link to the free PDF is here. In the introduction, the editor has announced they they plan to finish scanning all the back issues of Green Egg, to make them available as a resource. Quote: “When all the issues are put up, hopefully by one year from now, if not sooner, I plan to send out a mass email mailing to university departments and teachers about a wonderful resource for them and for their students. And it’s free!”
  • Congratulations to the Covenant of The Goddess Facebook page on surpassing 15,000 “likes”! 
  • Pagan Pride Day season is fast approaching, and press releases from local events are starting to be sent out. Here’s one from Philadelphia Pagan Pride, being held August 31st. Quote: “Entry to the event is free, but we do request the donation of a canned food item or other provisions for our beneficiaries. This year, our beneficiaries are the food bank at the Mazzoni Center, Forgotten Cats, and In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.”
  • Speaking of Patrick McCollum, the issue of American Jails that he contributed an article to won an award for journalism! Quote: “The issue that Patrick wrote the featured title article: Keeping the Faith – Religious issues in Jail, just received the Apex Award for Journalism, the top award for a print magazine in 2013!” You can read the article he wrote, here.

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

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

Publicity still from "Britain's Wicca Man".

Publicity still from “Britain’s Wicca Man”.

The hour-long documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man” has had a long, strange, trip to getting aired. A look at the life of Gerald Gardner, hosted by scholar Ronald Hutton, the program was commissioned by Channel 4 in Britain and initially scheduled to be aired sometime in 2012. That didn’t happen, and eventually a truncated 27-minute version popped up on Australian television earlier this Summer. Now, it seems the long journey is over, and the full documentary was finally aired this weekend in the UK under the new title of “A Very British Witchcraft.” Quote: “The extraordinary story of Britain’s fastest-growing religious group – the modern pagan witchcraft of Wicca – and of its creator, an eccentric Englishman called Gerald Gardner. Historian and leading expert in Pagan studies Professor Ronald Hutton explores Gardner’s story and experiences first-hand Wicca’s growing influence throughout Britain today.” Considering how rare it is for these short-form documentaries to get a DVD release in the United States, we will most likely have to wait until someone has taken the law into their own hands and posted it to Youtube, or made it available for download via BitTorrent in order to see it (not that I’m advocating piracy, simply communicating the realities of modern distribution). In any case, I look forward to seeing the whole work.

The-ConjuringBack in July I looked at the problematic thematic underpinnings of horror film “The Conjuring,” and why this “true story” could spark trouble. Since then, the film has gone on to gross more than a 100 million dollars, and the film’s insistence that they were conveying dramatized facts has already sparked some troubling results. Quote: “The author of the books that inspired the new movie “The Conjuring” is asking for help after a local gravestone was damaged in the village of Harrisville […] Local residents are upset by the vandalism. ‘I mean it’s upsetting that anyone would vandalize a grave, because I think it’s very disrespectful,’ Sara Indish, Burrilliville.” Salem Witch Christian Day, who spoke out previously about the historical revisionism of the film, noted that the “film is having an impact and it isn’t a good one.” Talks of a sequel and possibly even a movie franchise are already underway, also based on the demon-hunting exploits of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and thus, even more opportunities to muddy the waters between fact and fantasy. I can only imagine that the emergence of “real” (Christian) exorcists as reality show stars will only fuel this trend. In any case, I hope this pop-exorcism fever breaks, and breaks soon.

The Weird Sisters from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' After Henry Fuseli (1741-1825); mezzotint by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

The Weird Sisters by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

Earlier this month I posted an item about Witches & Wicked Bodies, an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which had just opened (highlights of the show can be found, here). Now, the reviews are pouring in, all considering the portrayal of the witch, and the practice of witchcraft. Laura Cumming at The Guardian wonders if “these male artists ever met a woman who looked anything like such visions in reality? Not one of these figures is the classic old hag of medieval literature, the reclusive village spinster forced to endure the ducking stool or the stake because she was thought too weird in her ways, too sharp in her observations, too active with the herbs, or simply because she muttered to herself.” Meanwhile, Arifa Akbar at The Independent notices the strong sexual element running through the show. Quote: “These images of lewd sexual disinhibition and obscene corporeality (the women are invariably naked, open-legged, farting and with masculine features such as beards or penises) all arise from ancient fears that have surrounded women’s sexual desire, as well as the even graver fear of its ability to emasculate men.” Finally, Rebecca McQuillan at the Herald Scotland notes the recurring fear and animus towards older women in the figure of the witch. Quote: “The bile directed at ageing women in the 21st century contains unpleasant echoes of the sinister misogyny of the witch trial era. And that is deeply disconcerting.” 

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

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

Laura Wildman-Hanlon

Laura Wildman-Hanlon

“Attention adult children of Pagans! Regardless of your current beliefs, we want to hear from you! We are conducting a study of those who were raised to adulthood within the Pagan Community or had a form of Paganism practiced within their homes during their formative years. The survey asks question of religious and spiritual self-identity and how these world views are expressed as an adult. It also considers the importance and differences between spiritual beliefs, religious practices and organized religious structures in association with social identity. Please either follow or copy and past the link below to the information page where you can take, or see more details on, the study. And please forward the link or post to wherever is appropriate. Thank You!” – Laura Wildman-Hanlon, announcing the “Spiritual Beliefs and Social Identity” survey for adult children of modern Pagans. Here’s a bit more on the survey from the explanation page: “Prior research has found the vast majority of this target group self-identifies as being spiritually Pagan but hold no religious allegiance. This survey investigates how this group manifests their beliefs in the greater world and the degree spirituality, without the encouragement of religious structure, can act as a motivating force for their participation in societal or global change.”

Christian Day

Christian Day

“I’ve always been a little peeved at the devil-hunting legacy of Ed and Lorraine Warren, but this movie took their bigoted beliefs to an entirely new level. It’s bad enough they’re always looking for Satan in every child and demons under every bed, but now their great big bad was, as it is in so many other misguided stories throughout history, the Witch […] Like the Amityville Horror, another story that originally involved the Warrens before it made it to Hollywood, this film has the potential to have a real legacy. That famous film was about a house that, many years after it was first shown, still inspires terror, while the legacy of this film could be worse because it’s about people. The last thing I want to see is for this film to inspire fear about Witches in the way that the Amityville Horror did for the house on Ocean Avenue for so many years. The film even ends with a wink and a nod to Amityville. That it purports to be a true story and that everyone portrayed in the film are real people gives this story, and its antagonist, a gravitas that takes it out of the realm of b-movie horror flick. The Conjuring was especially upsetting to me as a resident of Salem because it desecrates the memory of the Towne sisters, Mary Esty, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Cloyce, two of whom were hanged as so-called “Witches” in 1692 Salem. By claiming that the big bad Witch was descended from Mary Esty, they’re making quite an obvious implication one doesn’t have to reach far for. The Towne sisters were almost certainly not Witches. They would have had no idea what a real Witch was, beyond what the hateful Reverend Paris told them, but it crushed these ladies to be cast out of the Christian faith they held so dear. To cast them as devil worshippers was the final insult. Perhaps my greatest concern about this film is that the paranormal is really popular these days. This movie could lead many of today’s paranormal investigators, particularly those new to the field, to develop terrible views of our ways. I truly hope that the paranormal community does not embrace this film and see it as a factual way to view Witches.”Christian Day, co-owner of The Salem Witch Walk, writing a critique of the new horror film “The Conjuring.”

Carl Neal

Carl Neal

“Our community benefits from all kinds of people. Our diversity is possibly our greatest strength yet we so often take steps to squash that diversity rather than benefit from it. Those who work well in groups are crucial to the future of the Pagan community in America. One or two individuals simply can’t create the large, organized events that we occasionally get to enjoy. We NEED those who can work with and effectively lead groups of Pagans. They are a huge part of how we can draw closer and bring our energies together. I just hope that if you’ve read all the way to the end of this article that you can now see that YOU as an individual can do a great deal to build and improve our community. Solitaries, Traditional Pagans, and those in-between or beyond those limits can all contribute to making ours a stronger, better-connected community. Solitary individuals have far more ability to positively impact the Greater Pagan Community than most of us have thought in the past. We Solitaries owe a big debt to those organizations that have worked so hard to create events over the decades. Now we Solitaries need to step up and do our part to help this community connect and grow. The great news is that we can do this while remaining true to our Solitaries paths. We need not try to work within organizations that run counter to how we function in order to be part of the community and to positively contribute to its growth.” – Carl Neal, host of The Pent O’Clock News, exploring how solitary Pagans and Witches can help build community at The Witches’ Voice.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“So far we have discussed the intellectual and pastoral training of a minister. In Protestant religious space, the intellectual work feeds directly into liturgy, meaning sermons, and while Protestants are very good at public speaking, there is not much ritual knowledge there. Pagans would have to supplement. The intellectual education also enables the minister to provide thought leadership and institutional guidance. The Pastoral role is clear: caring for the emotional and spiritual needs of the population. Together, the knowledge of religious thought and history along with other-centered care leads to the last major role of the minister, the Prophetic. Once meaning “speaking-for” the Deity and ultimately derived from that authority, although not usually meaning channeling these days, it is the task of critique and persuasive correction of the people. It is the often unpleasant and rarely thanked job of telling people where they are wrong. It is easy to lead when everyone wants to follow you and they agree with you. But when they don’t, when in your judgement they are making some kind of error, it is the duty of the minister to get up and use persuasion to change the people’s hearts and minds, their words and deeds—even at the risk of losing your job, which may be supporting your family. This requires courage and conviction, and is best backed up by education and compassion. I believe we need more Pagans trained in this way. We need to be as good at this, even better than Christian and other ministers because we are fighting an uphill battle for acceptance. Like Ginger Rogers, we need to be able to do this “backwards and in heels”. We need to know the world’s range of theological positions, as well as the entire western lexicon of spiritual thought.” – Sam Webster, discussing Pagan ministry, and the importance of prophetic ministry within modern Paganism.

Julian Betkowski

Julian Betkowski

“Many Pagans’ primary access to community is through the internet, and I have been concerned for a while about how that shapes the way that we relate to community. It has been noted before by various people that the internet allows for a wall of anonymity, and that people will behave online in ways that they never would in the outside world. I have to wonder, then, how that affects people whose faith community is largely virtual: what is appropriate behavior, and how do we relate to the idea of community when we do not have to worry about the repercussions of our actions or the effect that we have on those around us? When we can simply insulate ourselves in groups of like-minded people, when we can build up little virtual echo chambers, how do we know that we are actually engaging with the community, and not just forming high school cliques? Indeed, it is this clique mentality that I find so unsettling. The internet, combined with insularity, allows us to artificially inflate the members of any given community. We can feel as though we are speaking for the whole of Paganism, make broad claims about the definition and usage of that term, because our little corner of the internet all agrees with us. But then, we really do not have any way of actually knowing just how many people we are speaking for, or who they really are. On top of that, if we are unwilling to tolerate critique, then we are even further slicing ourselves off from true community experience.” – Julian Betkowski, on how social media and the Internet build “echo chambers” instead of communities.

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried

“On Thursday, “The World” aired a short follow-up story. Between the two of us, Josh and I had spent nearly three hours on the phone with [producer Nina] Porzucki. In multiple emails, we had sent her background information, contacts, sources and images. The final piece was two-and-a-half minutes, with a few seconds from each of us. There was no apology given on-air or on the website. The online story has been “updated,” but still features the chubby guy in the movie costume – and no apology for the disrespectful original story. Porzucki specifically asked me to talk on the recording about the symbolism of Thor’s hammer, which was the crux of what the original PRI item purported to be about. I didn’t expect that there would be an extended feature on “The World” about this, but she only used one sentence of a twenty-minute discussion. She didn’t use any of the images or source material that she asked me to send her for the website. I’m not surprised by any of this. I’ve written before about public radio’s poor coverage of minority religions (as part of an article on “Obama and Ostara”). What did surprise me was the amazing response to my call for a letter-writing campaign. There a lot more HOPI (heathens of positive intent) out there than even I thought, and they are ready to call out the media when their religion is misrepresented. This is a wonderful thing.” – Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried, author of The Norse Mythology Blog, about a follow-up interview/story PRI’s The World did with him and Josh Heath after many Heathens took issue with the frivolous and poorly sourced nature of the original segment.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Isis has much to offer contemporary Pagans. Isis in the classical Pagan world was a multicultural Goddess, worshipped in Africa, Asia Minor and Europe, and peoples far apart in culture could find meaning in her. Today, as in earlier Pagan societies, Isis can bring together those of different races and faiths. The Goddess as Queen of Heaven is not associated with a particular place, time or culture. The arc of heaven unites all beings – human, animal, plant, and all life forms within the universe. She can also be a bridge to those of other faiths.  Many of Isis’ titles were absorbed into the veneration by Catholics of the Virgin Mary and her image survived into Catholic Europe in the form of Black Madonna statues, with cults of healing that were some of the most powerful pilgrimage sites of medieval Europe.  The worship of Isis has been hidden, but has never truly died. Let us honor Isis in the Dog Days of the year, a  Goddess for the world in which we now live, a global interconnected village united under the vault of the Heaven’s Queen.” – Vivianne Crowley, author, Jungian psychologist, and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, on the goddess Isis as a multicultural deity perfect for “a global interconnected village.”

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!

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!

On April 21st, Katrina Kessler, known by many in the Pagan community as Foxglove, passed away after a car accident in San Diego, California. An up-and-coming figure in our community, Kessler worked at the World of Witches Museum in Salem, starred in, and helped produce, “The Young Witches of Salem,” did reporting and production work with MagickTV, and hosted the video series “Foxglove’s Lost and Found.” Shortly before her death she was working with a community service organization called The Circle in California.

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

“Katrina had left the Museum and moved on to California, where she was part of a group who traveled around to help Pagans in need. Katrina and I still spoke frequently and were still working on collaborative projects. We last spoke just a few days ago, which all the more grateful for now, and in that conversation she spoke about being very happy with her new life and the directions it was taking her in. That is how I will always remember her, not as the omni-competent Museum Manager, nor as the gifted video artist, but as a passionate and idealistic young woman hurtling into a bright future that truly excited her. Her soul’s journeys will take her to a different future now than we spoke of that night, but one that I pray will be just as bright and as exciting to her in its own way.” – Rev. Don Lewis, The Correllian Tradition

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

“I am thankful that I was able to spend time with Katrina Kessler on several occasions, including as part of my speaking engagements in Salem, Massachusetts in 2010, and most recently at PantheaCon 2012 in San Jose, California this past February.  Katrina was bright, caring, creative, & dedicated to helping others.  Like a shining comet, she brought a beautiful brilliance to this world and was gone too quickly.  May we take comfort in knowing that she lives on in the cherished memories of those of us who knew her, in the lives she enriched with her service & wit, & in her creative works.  Blessed Be.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“In our community, leaders emerge in each generation that make a difference. In Katrina was that wonderful balance of compassion, intelligence and drive that made her a effective young leader. Her goals were to help organizations that would make a difference, and she was learning from the leadership directly. Even though she had her life cut short, as the Goddess so needed her elsewhere, she had already been a major force for creating a movement for Young Pagans, through her video and her actions. She is an example that the next generation of Pagans can be and are truly amazing. I will truly miss her physical presence and honor her spirit for what she taught me.”Ed Hubbard, Witch School International

Author and prominent Salem-based business-owner Christian Day said that “she was a warm, kind, and magical person. Those closest to her have been blessed with a most wonderful guide in the realms of spirit.” Terry Milton, “The Stone Lady,” who worked closely with Kessler, adored her “enthusiasm for life, and her ability to inspire others.”

“During the fall, Katrina did daily postings of the “wisdom of the elders” on Facebook, and collected words of inspiration or advice or wisdom from you and I, Therese, Phaedra and “elders” associated with the museum. I often thought it was ironic that Katrina was asking for our “wisdoms”  when she appeared to have  so much more wisdom in her short years than all of the “elders” combined.”

There will be a wake at the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home in Canton, MA, on Sunday from 4 – 8. The Memorial service will be at 10 AM on the morning of Beltane Eve. There is a page at the Dockray site where people may leave condolences for Katrina’s family. There will also be an on-air memorial for Katrina on Pagans Tonight Radio on Friday, May 4, at 8 PM Central / 9 Eastern.

Speaking personally, it is always a great loss when our future leaders, activists, and thinkers are struck down prematurely. Sometimes, I think that there is such an emphasis on our elders and “big name Pagans,” and who will inherit their mantles in the next ten or fifteen years, that we sometimes don’t see the young people in their teens and twenties who are absorbing our teachings, attending our talks and rituals, and volunteering for our efforts. The men and women who will represent us to future generations. I had heard from Ed Hubbard that Foxglove had very much wanted to meet and speak with me at PantheaCon 2012, and I now very much regret that this never happened. We always assume that with the young there will always be more time; years, decades, of time to make a connection, to pass the torch, but fortune can be fickle, and we can lose our brightest sparks in an instant.

If there is a lesson in the tragic passing of Katrina “Foxglove” Kessler, it is to always honor the contributions of the young, to make passing the torch a daily occurrence, and to ensure that “Pagan community” is always a multi-generational endeavor. May Foxglove rest in the arms of the gods, and return to us again.

Last weekend saw the World of Witches Museum in Salem, Massachusetts permanently close its doors. Opened in the Summer of 2010, the museum represented “a coming of age for the Witch movement, which allows us to recognize that we do have a history worthy of sharing” according to Rev. Don Lewis, Curator of the Museum, and chief executive officer of the Correllian Nativist Tradition. However, due to a string of  misfortunes, staying open was no longer a viable option. In a statement sent to The Wild Hunt, Rev. Don Lewis recounted the many challenges the museum faced, and the health problems that  finally made him decide that closing was the best option.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

“This last Halloween season was especially hard for a lot of Salem businesses. The whole season was somewhat slow, but the snowstorm on Saturday of Halloween weekend, which would be anticipated as the biggest shopping day of the season, was devastating. I had hoped that this winter would be better than the previous one and it turned out to be as mild a winter as the previous year’s winter had been severe -but in a town geared to a single holiday off season business was just as hard and slow with a mild winter. A number of Salem businesses have found it necessary to either close or move to new locations this spring, especially in the Pickering Wharf area.

At the beginning of the March I found myself in the hospital with cardiac problems exacerbated by stress and exhaustion. It was made clear to me that I needed to make some changes in my life and could no longer sustain the workload I had been carrying. Although there were people I could trust and rely upon to help in the short term, and they did help tremendously, there was no one available that I could see as a long term manager for the Museum. Closing the Museum was a very hard choice, but it is one I felt I had to make.”

The World of Witches Museum is the second Witch-related business in the Pickering Wharf area to close its doors in recent months. In January, Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official Witch, announced that she would be closing the doors of The Official Witch Shoppe at the end of that month, bringing to an end Cabot’s 42-year run of owning and operating Witch-related stores in Salem. Some observers, including Salem business-owner and promoter Christian Day, noted that in addition to a weak Halloween season in 2011, tourist foot traffic has shifted somewhat away from the Pickering Wharf area towards the renovated Peabody Essex Museum and the Bewitched statue.

“I think there are a constellation of issues keeping the Wharf in the situation it’s in. As Ed [Hubbard] pointed out, my own marketing of my shops on Essex Street has probably contributed to the shift in foot traffic to that area but I have, over the years, hosted events there in hopes of spreading around the work that I do but it was hard to make it work due to the space limitations of venues. A huge factor in the popularity of Essex Street is the 2002 renovation of the Peabody Essex Museum, which created an enormous buzz around the street. The Bewitched Statue brought people even further down, which is what inspired me to put HEX at it’s slightly off-the-path location. As a member of Destination Salem, we’ve often discussed ways of encouraging that area to help market itself better but it was hard sometimes to get buy-in. My own opinion is that the landlord needed to do a lot more as the owner of the space to brand it more clearly as a shopping and dining destination. Laurie Cabot has, perhaps, the most recognizable brand of all of us, including the Peabody Essex Museum, and she had trouble at the Wharf as well. I think, though, that the largest factor is probably the economy. With so many people unemployed and money as tight as it is, I think people are spending more carefully. We’ve had at least two closings on Essex Street recently so the downturn is effecting people there as well. While both my shops and Crow Haven Corner are doing well, both Lorelei and I have had to spend quite a bit of money in advertising to maintain that success. It’s a hamster wheel that’s not easy to keep running on but we’re determined. That said, I don’t think I could make it work at Pickering Wharf myself.”

One obvious question is how this closing will affect the larger Correllian Tradition, and Witch School, the successful Internet-based learning program that has been closely intertwined. According to Ed Hubbard, a Correllian Elder and CEO of Witch School International, the closing would make no difference in the day-to-day operations of the school. Meanwhile, many of the museum’s Correllian-oriented artifacts and exhibits are being moved to the Sacred Sea Temple in Georgia, overseen by Stephanie Neal, Temple Head and Arch Priestess within the tradition. Neal expressed that she felt the museum, ultimately, was a good idea that moved the Pagan community forward.

“Even though the World of Witches Museum had a relatively short life span, it greatly advanced Pagan thought, to the wider community and its influence continues to reaffirm it was a good decision to open the Museum.”

While Salem has become the epicenter of Halloween in America in recent years, that’s no guarantee of success, especially in these uncertain times as we slowly crawl our way out of one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. New businesses are especially susceptible to failure, and just one factor not going right can make things unsustainable. The World of Witches Museum faced many challenges, and in the end, the smarter move was to walk away than lose money or further risk the health of the curator. No doubt the Correllian Nativist TraditionWitch School, and other related projects like Pagans Tonight will continue their impressive successful track-records, learning important lessons from this experience. I wish them all well, and hope that Rev. Don Lewis makes a full recovery.

Top Story: Though still small religious minorities throughout the world, contemporary Pagan groups have increasingly involved themselves in charitable campaigns, and created charities of their own. In Kansas City, Missouri Gaia Community, a Pagan Unitarian-Universalist congregation, raised a half-ton of food at the 2011 God Auction, which was donated to Harvesters Community Food Nework. It was estimated that the food raised was enough to provide for 795 meals.

Food raised by Gaia Community

“…one of the reasons we schedule this fund raiser in the summer is we know it’s a time when donations to Harvesters tend to be low, while demand for food is high with children out of school.” – David Reynolds, Gaia Community member

You can read more about Gaia Community’s efforts by downloading the press release for the event, or visiting their website. While Gaia Community raised food for an already existing charity, in Australia the Community Church of Inclusive Wicca Inc. (CCIWI) has started their own food pantry, which was just granted full tax deductibility status. The first Wiccan group, though not the first Pagan group, to achieve this. Founder Amethyst Treleven said that she was “very proud” to have her charity receive “the same recognition as other religious based charities which have traditionally been Christian organised.” CCIWI’s food pantry was founded so that Pagans in need could find aid without feeling pressured to “accept the faith of that charitable body,” and won’t have to “compromise their spiritual and religious beliefs.”

Those are just two examples of how Pagans are helping each other, and reaching out to help the communities we live in. Every year Pagans collect tons of food for charity though the annual Pagan Pride days, while several Pagan organizations engage in outreach, fundraising, and volunteer efforts. Back in 2003 Jim Towey, then-Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, questioned the charitable instincts of Pagan groups. Since then Pagans in the United States, and around the world, have worked to show that though small in number, we have a true commitment to charity and helping others.

In Other News:

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