Archives For Christine Hoff Kraemer

[Today The Wild Hunt welcomes back religious studies scholar, author and instructor Christine Hoff Kraemer. In November, she, along with other Pagans, attended the American Academy of Religion’s 2016 meeting in Texas, and she has joined us to share her impressions. ]

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The American Academy of Religion held its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas from November 19-22. The meeting is held concurrently with the Society of Biblical Literature, and the two organizations combined bring together nearly 10,000 educators and scholars of religion for a packed weekend of lectures, workshops, and events.

AAR’s Contemporary Pagan Studies Group has been in existence since 2005. This year saw the induction of two up-and-coming younger scholars as co-chairs of the group: Dr. Shawn Arthur of Wake Forest University, and Dr. Amy Hale of Helix Education. Hale and Arthur will be taking over from Dr. Chas Clifton and Dr. Jone Salomonsen, influential Pagan Studies scholars who have provided long-term leadership and service in this fledgling academic field.

American Academy of religionsAAR presenters strive for unbiased analysis of the history and current trends in contemporary Paganism. The academic tone of the papers, however, could not conceal scholars’ concern for the future of scholarship and the Pagan movement after the 2016 presidential election. Underlying the thoughtful, measured discussions was a grave sense of responsibility, and a commitment to finding truly effective responses to national and global crises.

A Pagan Scalability Crisis

Many of this year’s papers focused on challenges to Pagan communities created by the movement’s growth, the current political and economic environment, and/or the realities of climate change. Dr. Gwendolyn Reece (American University) gave a paper entitled “The Scalability Crisis: Contemporary Paganism and Institutionalization.” Reece suggests that there is an under-acknowledged element to Pagan institutionalization controversies: namely, that the growth of the Pagan population in the United States has strained the movement’s non-institutional resources to their breaking point.

Reece based her work on a large-scale national survey she conducted from 2011-2012, as well as an analysis of 69 blog articles by Pagans on institutionalization. As with similar studies, Reece notes a large percentage of solitary Pagan practitioners in the United States (52% in her study, 79% in a recent study by Helen Berger). Reece’s data indicates that most of these practitioners are not solitary by choice. Her analysis suggests that around 60% of solitary Pagans want a group but cannot find one given current conditions.

Reece argues that this situation is caused by the non-scalability of the “house church” model used by many Pagans. In a “house church” model, groups meet in a member’s home and all leadership services are provided on a volunteer basis. However, these groups are inherently unstable, as they are easily impacted by leader burnout or unexpected life events on the part of the host. Other challenges include the necessity of hiding Pagan practice due to neighbors’ prejudice, limited space for worship, and lack of funds to support aging volunteer leaders.

Due to its inability to serve the majority of self-identified Pagans and its instability, the house church model is failing on multiple fronts. As a result of this unmet need, Pagans are being pushed toward greater institutionalization despite their ambivalent feelings about organized religion. It is unclear, however, whether Pagan communities have either enough density or cohesion to provide the services that Pagans desire.

From left: Patricia E ‘Iolana, Lee Gilmore, Jone Salomonsen, Leigh Ann Hildebrand, Gwendolyn Reece [Photo Credit: C. Kraemer]

From left: Patricia E ‘Iolana, Lee Gilmore, Jone Salomonsen, Leigh Ann Hildebrand, Gwendolyn Reece [Photo Credit: C. Kraemer]

In a last-minute addendum, Reece also noted the additional urgency around legitimization and protection of legal rights triggered by the 2016 presidential election. She remarked, “I expect organized anti-defamation to again increase in importance. Because these are external threats that do not make a distinction between the variety of Paganisms, it is possible that this will increase the solidarity among Pagans in resistance.”

Pagan Legitimization Strategies

Strategies for forming Pagan identity and legitimizing Pagan traditions in the eyes of the public were a major thread in this year’s presentations. Both Dr. Patricia E ‘Iolana (University of Glasgow) and Dr. Lee Gilmore (San Jose State University) grappled with the belief that an unbroken line of religious practice is what makes a religion legitimate. This belief has often been problematic in Paganism, leading Pagans to cling to outdated historical research because it seems to support their hopes for their religious communities.

Gilmore explored how the desire for unbroken lineage has influenced Pagan use of the term indigenous at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. She notes that there is no universal consensus about the meaning of indigenous. It is contested wherever it appears.

However, when white North American Pagans use the term indigenous in order to legitimize their religious practices, they obscure the economic and environmental desperation of indigenous communities of color. Gilmore states that Pagan use of the word indigenous “purchases political legitimacy for Pagans on the interfaith stage, but does very little to give back to generationally traumatized and impoverished indigenous peoples.”

Gilmore also notes that narratives of unbroken lineage often tie religious authenticity and identity to blood ancestry. This is a legitimization strategy used by far-right white supremacist groups, and it is associated with concerns about “ethic purity”—concerns that in the past have justified violent campaigns of ethnic cleansing. Gilmore encourages white Pagans to “try to get ahead of [this dangerous rhetoric] by allying with indigenous peoples and other communities of color [and] remaining attentive to the differences and intersections of power in these relationships.”

Responding to these remarks, Dr. Shawn Arthur questioned the desirability of narratives of “unbroken lineage” for any religion: “Do we really believe the old is better than the new? …Upon reflection, I think we can see many of the… ideological positions addressed here today are not particularly helpful for strong or unifying identity development. Nor are they particularly useful for… good community relations, especially when these perspectives unknowingly support existing webs of power and authority.”

Dr. Sabina Magliocco (California State University, Northridge) noted that North American Pagans are not alone in their attraction to ancient and pre-modern cultures. The desire to reclaim cultural and religious traditions, she explained, is a characteristic of a post-colonial world: part of a global movement, not in any way restricted to North America.

She stated additionally that narratives of victimization, such as the narrative of The Burning Times for Wiccans and Witches, are also part of a wider pattern. Since the 1950s, narratives of oppression have been part of the way groups claim identity, and that pattern is now part of the way groups must position themselves in US discourse to be seen as legitimate.

This paper session raised the question: if myths of unbroken lineage and political oppression have negative consequences for our North American Pagan communities, what alternative strategies for legitimization and identity-formation can we pursue instead? This complex question is too large to answer at a single conference, but the second Pagan Studies paper session suggested ways Pagans might alter their existing strategies to be more effective.

An Inclusive Future from an Imagined Past?

In a joint paper, Barbara Davy and Stephen Quilley (University of Waterloo) examined some of the problematic consequences of some Pagans’ desire to dismantle the modern state and return to a smaller-scale, tribal society. Many Pagans indicate that they are willing to accept trade-offs in quality of life in exchange for the community cohesion, lessened ecological impact, and potential spiritual benefits of such a shift. In her presentation, however, Davy noted that the modern state is what protects individual human rights. Without an overarching state that organizes and governs smaller communities, many barriers to the xenophobic behavior that has historically been a component of small-scale agricultural societies would be removed.

From left: Barbara Jane Davy, Thomas Berendt, Sabina Magliocco, Christopher W. Chase, Amy Hale [Photo Credit: C. Kraemer]

From left: Barbara Jane Davy, Thomas Berendt, Sabina Magliocco, Christopher W. Chase, Amy Hale [Photo Credit: C. Kraemer]

Although our society is already torn by systemic inequalities, small-scale societies could be worse, not better, for people with marginalized identities. As Davy and Quilley state, “In the absence of effective nation states, societies would be likely to experience greater violence, intolerance of diversity and an inability to sustain modern health care systems. Existing patterns of institutional care for the disabled and elderly would break down as would the established provision of all manner of public infrastructures.”

Unfortunately, Davy notes, whether or not we have fully accepted the consequences, climate change is likely to cause a collapse of the global economy and force us back to a smaller-scale society whether we find it appealing or not. This research challenges Pagans to re-evaluate their romantic ideas about small-scale pre-modern societies and to more realistically envision the challenges presented by climate change.

Dr. Amy Hale emphasized the need for Pagan religion to be truly responsive to the historic moment, rather than simply reactive. She states, “A lot of anti-modernist rhetoric… is a Romantic expression of privilege, given that conditions of the past were not exactly favorable to women and people of color… Pagans very explicitly look to a past that probably never was, to try to find inspiration for a better, more tolerant and inclusive future.” The past, real or imagined, may not be the best place for Pagans to find strategies for facing environmental and economic crisis.

As right wing, white nationalist political parties gain power in governments around the world, more than ever Pagans must create robust structures to support diverse but harmonious communities. Mr. Thomas Berendt (Temple University) presented on the diversity of Pagan communities in the Philadelphia area, and he particularly highlighted the prevalence of multiple religious and sexual identities among Pagans. This embrace of diversity and hybridity, he suggests, is a strength of the Pagan movement.

In the ensuing discussion, Berendt and Dr. Christopher Chase both spoke passionately about their efforts to create safe community spaces for students fearing harassment and violence. Magliocco also noted a positive aspect of Pagan narratives of historical oppression: these sacred stories, she says, tell us that “We must be in the first line of fire to protect.”

Relating her own family’s experience with sheltering friends and neighbors during the Nazi occupation of Rome, Magliocco reminded the audience that there are many forms of resistance, some as simple as opening one’s home to those in danger.

Additional papers in these sessions were given by Lee Ann Hildebrand (Graduate Theological Union) and Christopher W. Chase (Iowa State University). A complete listing of titles can be found in the 2016 AAR program book. For members of the public who are interested in future Pagan Studies sessions at AAR, the American Academy of Religion annual conference is accessible with the purchase of a registration. Many of the papers presented at AAR Pagan Studies session are later published in The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies or may be available by contacting the author directly. The 2017 annual meeting will be held November 18-21 in Boston, Massachusetts.

[About the Author: Christine Hoff Kraemer is a religious studies scholar specializing in contemporary Paganism, sexuality, theology, and popular culture. In 2008, she completed her PhD in Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University. Christine is an instructor in the Theology and Religious History department at Cherry Hill Seminary. Her books include Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies and the collection Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy (edited with Yvonne Aburrow). She is also the proud parent of an extremely high-energy toddler.]

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

TWH –After a high-profile campaign that lasted far longer than many Americans might have preferred, Donald J. Trump won the U.S. presidential election yesterday. While Pagans and polytheists held widely divergent views about who they wanted in the White House, it is now time to consider what a Trump presidency means to members of minority religious groups.

[Wikimedia Commons]

[Wikimedia Commons]

Before turning to the national election,  we look at the local level, where politics begins and where many candidates are tested and vetted. The Wild Hunt has been following the campaigns of two members of our collective communities: Heathen Matt Orlando, who was running for a seat in the House of Representatives, and Cara Schulz, a Hellenic polytheist (and Wild Hunt reporter) running for the Burnsville City Council.

Orlando, running in Michigan’s ninth district, was not successful. In a statement released on his Facebook page, he wrote, “While I did not win a seat in the house I do not consider the campaign a total loss. We were able to reach more people this election, and show them that the Libertarian Party has so much to offer those that love freedom and that are tired of the big overreaching federal government.”

Schulz, on the other hand, was victorious in her second attempt to join the Burnville, Minnesota city council.  She said, “I am so thankful to the residents of Burnsville for supporting me, donating to my campaign, putting one of my signs in their yard, and for voting for me. The trust they have placed in me is deeply humbling and I’ll work hard to be worthy of it. I’ve made a commitment to serve all residents in as open, honest, and transparent way as I’ve run my campaign.”

She also noted, “Not once during the race did any of my opponents or their supporters attempt to use my faith in an appeal to bigotry. This was attempted in my last run for office, but residents here firmly rejected bigotry as a campaign tactic. I encourage those who feel called to public service and happen to be Pagan to run for office. Run, be open and honest, and trust your neighbors. If you aren’t elected the first time, run again.”

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Now, we move to the national election. Below a number of Pagans and polytheists share their views on the results. The statements are a collection of early thoughts from a variety of people who fall under — or near — the Pagan umbrella about the future under a Trump presidency. Some of these passages express strong emotion.

Christine Hoff Kraemer

The election of Donald Trump lets us know that the recently-won rights of women and racial, sexual, and religious minorities are extremely fragile. Based on polls I saw last night, some voters cast their ballots for Trump even while claiming that his treatment of women and minorities bothered them. Even more frightening is the thought that many voted for Trump because of his racism and misogyny, rather than despite them.

This election comes at a time when we need decisive government action to address climate change. If the United States continues to exploit our last remaining fossil fuels instead of aggressively pursuing clean energy and protecting our air and water, the economic and environmental impact of climate change will be much more damaging. Americans have apparently elected Trump in the hope that, despite his callous disregard for working-class people in his business dealings, his administration will recreate traditional working-class jobs. But pollution, food crisis, and the failure to create jobs in important new energy industries will cause enormous suffering among the very people who have rallied around him. This is a dark day for us, and especially for our grandchildren, who will wonder what madness caused the United States to elect a leader so obviously intent on . . . abusing the powers of the presidency.

Yet, looking at history, our ancestors all survived conditions that are now difficult for most Americans to imagine: epidemics, wars, and disasters that destroyed the very fabric of societies. We can survive Trump and a Republican Congress. But to cope with climate change, there is no more time for internet polemic, no time to fight among ourselves, no time for business as usual. Gather your loved ones and neighbors to make shelter: the first drops of rain are falling; the coming storm is here.

Jose Adastra

I’m mostly feeling nauseated. It’s hard to really think clearly through all the fear and worry. When I’m not feeling scared I’ve felt pretty upset. Puerto Rico was thrown into poverty by those seeking to profit from the natural resources on the island, and those wishing to use it as a tax haven.

Understanding why we came from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts is difficult enough. It was difficult to transition but my family figured it out. We made our new home and we adjusted. But now the country that took my birthplace (by force) as a territory and that has effectively stifled trade and installed business legislation that allows people to benefit from the poverty of Puerto Ricans has just finished electing a President that has expressed aggressive policies for deporting immigrants, and that has displayed on various occasions that his respect for women and people of color is completely lacking.

I love Puerto Rico, but we left because the economy was completely destabilized and there were more opportunities in the states. But now after watching my birthplace be taken advantage of and ripped apart by corporate interests for years, I fear that we will be completely abandoned to our current chaotic state. Although I have made my home in Massachusetts now, it is concerning that someone might try to make me leave this home. I must be feeling what a lot of displaced immigrants are feeling right now. America wages wars and claims territory, and then people are displaced. To displace a group of people and then not feel responsible for providing them with homes and a solid support system is completely backwards. We as a country have been displacing people for an absurd amount of time.

We just so happened to, as a country, elect a misogynist, white supremacist, anti-immigrant President. It must feel like a slight to everyone who has already had to start their lives over again. The threat of being deported and having to do it all over again when you have already reestablished your home is unacceptable, and inhumane. While I am optimistic, and enthusiastic about establishing grass root movements to counteract the hate, it is worrisome that there is so much of that hate to counteract.

Lisa Roling

I am truly concerned about the immediate and long-term ramifications of this election. How many people will die as a result of repealing the ACA? How many women will lose their already-limited access to safe abortions, will lose their voice in standing up to sexual violence, will lose the battle for equal pay? How many gay and lesbian couples will see their marriage licenses dissolved and see their rights to their non-biological children threatened? How many religious minorities will face intimidation, deportation, and be forced underground for their (our) own safety?

I’ve been told that I am overreacting, that my fear is unfounded, that change is slow and this President-elect will not be able to pull off the promises for which he was elected. That this is simply a rebuke of the status quo in politics, not a rebuke of the values that I depend on for living freely and safely. Goddess, let that be the case. Let me wake in four years and look back to see you having mangled, beheaded, and devoured us today as an act of destruction that opens the door of creation. And let us be better for it.

[Pixabay]

[Pixabay]

Aline Macha O’Brien

I served as an election worker yesterday. It was a long day (6:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m.), one in which we were surrounded by voters, ballots, and voting apparatus, yet not permitted to speak of the election at all.  […] Some voters spoke to us clerks sotto voce about their anxieties and fear for the future. I’m sure they weren’t feeling that way any more than I was. I’ve seen the sun’s annual return for more than seven decades now, and never, never since the first election in which I was eligible to vote –- voters had to be 21 back then –- have I sensed among the people I encounter, and within myself, such anxiety about the election and beyond.

For the first time in the many elections I’ve worked, we had men –- no women did this — coming in expressing distrust of the voting process, certain that their vote wouldn’t be counted. This is offensive to the elections office and all the many workers who strive to conduct the polls with integrity.

I live in a rarefied environment where the voter turnout tends to 80-90%. My fellow Mariners voted nearly 78% for Clinton, but we weren’t worried about Marin; we were worried about the country. We were worried about the future. I worry about what kind of world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. I can only hope they have the ingenuity to meet the challenges of climate change, social disruption, cynical disengagement.

To the question of what the results might mean for us as American citizens, or as Pagans, I can only say dread. I fear for the reversal of the many programs and policies implemented over the last fifty years. I fear for the health and well-being of all kinds of minorities: ethnic, sexual, religious. I fear for women. We have a few generations of women who have never not known reproductive choice, whereas in my young womanhood safe, legal abortions did not exist. Acceptance of single parenthood didn’t exist. I am appalled at the level of misogyny surrounding this entire election season.

I fear for the health of our planet. I fear the day when we might have no government regulations on toxic emissions. I fear losing clean water. I fear reductions in spending and quality education for all. An educated public benefits everyone.

I sympathize with today’s young parents who try to teach their children kindness and good social skills when they see so-called leaders regularly bully, intimidate, and humiliate other people. I fear that the dystopian society that the incoming President describes in his speeches only serves to further alienate young people. It feeds disengagement and mistrust among a cynical citizenry.

I have an investment in this country that’s given me a comparatively lavish life, an education, health. My ancestors and yours died so that we could enjoy such luxuries. This is our home, one that should show hospitality to others. Our bounty is to be shared.

I am not normally a pessimistic person, but this election gives me pause. If this country manages to survive the incoming administration, if it hasn’t caused irreparable damage to environment, economy, human rights, international relations, then I console myself with two certainties: a lot of these fearful conservative older white men are, and will be, dying off. (So might I.) The other is that those younger citizens who follow will be more colorful and diverse. Minority populations will increase and our country will have no single majority, rather a rainbow of diversity. They are our hope.

Dr. Bones

A massively corrupt technocrat ran for the highest office in the country. According to leaked emails, her team decided to “puff up” the most repulsive enemy combatant they could find, a mulligan of a competitor so vile America would have no choice but to elect her to save themselves.

They focus-grouped almost every issue, had paid internet shills call people anti-woman if they dared not toe the line, and exposed every bit of material they could proving their opponent was a rapey, racist misogynist. He didn’t deny it. And he won.

The United States is a nation of barbarians, a warlike people full of gun-toting madmen high on meth and college intelligentsia that prefer airborne robots do their killing for them. The fatal flaw was the Democrats could never admit they were just as war hungry and greedy as the Republicans, that they were cut from the same stock. They tried to pretend Obama didn’t bomb Libya, didn’t fund Nazis in the Ukraine, even tried to deny that the US created Daesh. They broke the con-man’s only rule: never believe your own bullshit.

The United States will be ruled by the Republicans for the next four years and liberals of all stripes will be forced to confront the grim reality that they have no idea what country they live in. They sold their soul and a movement that was openly socialist to a neo-liberal devil and they came up empty handed. They were worse than stupid and deserve to be punished, and I won’t shed a single tear for them.

There are silver linings here: we can now freely admit a revolution cannot depend on someone’s gender alone, we have seen that the United States is still a gleefully racist country that has no problem backing killer cops, we have learned the “lesser of two evils” doesn’t mean jack when the greater evil can at least admit to being evil, and we have learned that real change is not going to come out of a ballot box.

You want to keep people safe? Start forming solidarity networks. You want to keep emboldened racists from getting froggy? Buy a gun. You want to radically change the structure of the country you live in? Get organized, start conspiring, and make insurrection great again.

Kenya Coviak

To my fellow Americans, I say to you this: I am deeply disappointed in you. But I believe in the goodness of the human soul and heart and it will prevail. I will hold space for all of us, and ask you to do the same and keep us safe as we move forward in the vision of alchemizing the next four years. We are the children of the revolutionaries, always have been, and surviving is what revolutionaries do best.

Be the revolution you want to see. Be the love you want to receive. Be safe, be good to each other, and blessed be. [Coviak published a full editorial at PBN]

Rapid Cabot Freeman

Right now I am so grateful to my god the lord Woden, to all my Pagan & Heathen brothers and sisters at American Pagans For Trump, and all the honest, hardworking Americans that voted for this good and courageous man, Donald J. Trump, who will protect this country I love by making sure no one comes here that doesn’t show good will and an honest desire to be a contributing citizen that respects our laws and customs.

Mr. Trump will put America first by making sure any trade deal we enter into is fair and protects the American worker and American jobs. He will the protect Second Amendment and thus every American citizen’s inborn right to protect themselves & their families. For the first time in awhile I feel very optimistic [about] the future our country will offer to my godson Zakk & all young Americans like him. The first 100 days of Mr. Trump’s good works, I believe, will bear fruit that silences any naysayers. As a proud son of an American combat vet[eran], I hope he passes a law protecting the American flag from being stomped upon and burned because this disrespect to those that serve/served our country I personally find . . . to be revolting and unacceptable.

Replica Oval Office [Wikimedia]

Replica Oval Office [Wikimedia]

Mark Green

What we saw last night is that for nearly half of voting Americans, character doesn’t matter. Bigotry and misogyny don’t matter. Even basic human decency doesn’t matter. All that matters is self-interest, and rage.

Many progressives helped to do this to themselves, promulgating right-wing lies about Hillary with glee. And they are left with exactly the ashes in their mouths that Nader voters tasted in 2000.

The most qualified person running was defeated by a human dumpster fire, and now all the things we thought we had secured in the name of progress are on the chopping block. Way to go, America.

Star Foster

Between Sanders and Trump, the American people have made it pretty clear they are sick of both major parties and politics as usual. I was hoping it was a Lincoln election, but Giuliani had it right: this is Andrew Jackson all over again.

Also, tonight was a pretty clear sign that our democracy works, because the nation exercised its right to elect someone that no one in establishment wanted.

The role of media in this election is fascinating, but they didn’t just get it wrong, they were crafting the narrative rather than reporting the reality. Very embarrassing election for mainstream journalism.

Unlike in 2000, the third party impact probably didn’t swing the election to either candidate. Stein was statistically unimportant. Johnson drew votes pretty equally from both sides, and theoretically should have hurt Trump more than Clinton. McMullin’s major impact was in traditionally-conservative Utah.

I spent the Saturday before election with Pagans all voting for Clinton, Johnson, or Stein, in that order of popularity. I think it is safe to say that most folks in the greater Pagan community are unhappy with the election results, and that vote-shaming of third party supporters already seems to be taking place. I expect the already pronounced emphasis on liberal politics in modern Paganism to become stronger in the next four years, and it will be interesting to see if the theological/worldview schism in Paganism deepens in the next four years if moderates and conservatives no longer feel welcome under the big umbrella.

Byron Ballard

Some people are afraid and shocked at this outcome. Others are relieved, feeling they — at last! — have some agency in their lives. Everyone is on edge because these are challenging times. But here’s the truth: all of us are stronger than we know, and this is an opportunity to break down all the imposed barriers and build the world we want and need. That will take courage and hard work and resilience.

A political savior is not coming, and we can’t wait around for that. For a decade I’ve been writing about Tower Time and the fall of patriarchy’s toxic systems. It is writ large today; our longing and fear and need. These are the times we were made for. We’re rolling up our sleeves and creating a new way to be. Per ardua ad terra.

Elena Rose

I am so scared, and so angry, and so sad. This election was a referendum on the people I love, on whether or not we deserve to live and exist as human beings, and I have been watching those percentages of our neighbors pile up, and it is hard not to succumb to that collapsing feeling that lets me know it will be people I love with our backs first against the wall. There is no unlearning this, un-confirming this thing I already knew, about this place I live.

I am at a loss, friends. One way or another, we will make it through. One way or another, we will be looking after each other.

Those of you they won’t come for first: I hope you’re ready to watch out for those of us at the top of the list.

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The conversations will continue as the government transitions, and the election day fog lifts. This 2016 election may continue to bring controversy and even stories yet unwritten. Media channels, such as NPR, are now reporting that Clinton lost the election, but won the popular vote; she would be the fifth candidate in U.S. history to lose in this fashion.

As in this case, the Electoral College results can vary widely from the popular vote, because most states award all electoral votes to the winning candidate.  While electors are pledged to vote for a particular candidate, so-called “faithless electors” have occasionally abstained or voted for someone else entirely.  However, they typically act alone, impacting only one election in 1836.

The electors will cast their votes Dec. 19, and the ballots will then be counted January 6, making the 2016 election results official.  The new president takes the oath of office Jan 20.

 

[Today, The Wild Hunt welcomes author Christine Hoff Kraemer. Over the year, The Wild Hunt welcomes guests, like Kraemer, to share unique viewpoints and practices. Doing so is an important part of our overall mission. If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a world platform to a diversity of voices, and we’ve got four more fantastic writers scheduled over the next three months and more coming in early 2017. The Wild Hunt is your community news service. Donate today.]

befunky-design2I’m nine years old, and it’s a sunny summer day. School’s out and there’s nowhere to be, nothing I have to do. I say goodbye to my mother, grab my bike and ride to my best friend’s house. “Can Lisa come out and play?” We walk in the woods near the playground. The sunlight filters down through green leaves and dances across the wet-weather creek where we go to hunt for frogs. Birds are singing, and distantly I can hear shouts from the kids spinning the merry-go-round at top speed. My friend has walked ahead, following the creek, and for few moments, I’m alone with the sound of my breath.

Does this sound like your childhood? If you’re my age—thirty-seven—or older, it may. Most children raised in the United States in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s spent a great deal of time playing unsupervised outdoors, often in the company of a mixed-age group of other children.

My childhood experiences of encountering the natural environment on my own, without direction or interference from an adult, are part of the bedrock of my Paganism. The quiet of the woods helped me learn to listen and connect to the land around me. Outdoors, by myself, was the first place that I felt spirit. Being out with other kids also helped make me self-reliant. We knew which houses had trusted adults in them if we needed help, and we knew how to find our way home. Those senses of interconnectedness and of my own personal power are part of what ultimately made me a Witch.

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

Today, it is the rare child that spends much, if any, independent time outdoors. Some of this shift is because so many homes now have streaming television and video game systems—engrossing entertainment that discourages kids from going outside to seek fun. But why are parents no longer kicking their kids outdoors for some healthy exercise, far away from these hypnotic screens? The explanation lies in a generational change in American parenting culture.

“You Can Never Be Too Safe”—Or Can You?

Since the 1990s, constant supervision of children has become the norm, especially in urban and suburban areas. American parents have embraced safety as the top priority for their children, to the extent that even minor risks have sometimes been deemed unacceptable. As a result, many of the useful skills that were part of my childhood—small things like learning to use a sharp knife or operate the oven—have been actively discouraged. Today, many parents (as well as police, social services workers, and other authorities) assume that pre-adolescent children are essentially helpless. Children are commonly not permitted to play outside unless an adult can be present.

Journalist Lenore Skenazy was unexpectedly catapulted to national fame in 2008 when she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway by himself. The media picked up the story, and Skenazy suddenly found herself being decried as “the world’s worst mom”… and invited on talk shows. Skenazy used the opportunity to write a book, found a website, and ultimately start a movement: Free-Range Kids.

Skenazy’s book Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) advocates strongly for independent outdoor play as soon as the parent judges that the child is ready. It also reflects on an important question: Why are American parents so obsessed with the idea of safety when we are, in fact, living in incredibly safe times? Skenazy rolls out statistic after statistic: after a peak in the early 1990s, crime rates are down to where they were in the early 1970s and are still falling.[1] Yet there are widespread perceptions that American society is much less safe for children than when today’s parents are growing up.

Skenazy argues that this is due to a media culture of fear-mongering that has made parents unable to calmly and rationally evaluate risk, especially when it comes to “stranger danger,” the possibility of child abduction by a stranger. Journalists say that “If it bleeds, it leads”— stories about tragedy and violence draw viewers and, therefore, make money. This is especially true for news stories about strangers preying on children. These tragedies routinely receive national coverage and are then recycled into true-crime shows and made-for-TV movies.

The painstakingly detailed, terrifying coverage of crimes against children gives the impression that child abductions by strangers are common. In reality, they are incredibly rare. As Skenazy reports, stranger abduction is so unusual that children are 40 times more likely to die in a car accident than they are to be kidnapped and killed by a stranger.[2] 2,000 American children die in car accidents every year, yet it is the rare parent who hesitates over strapping a child into a car.

[Public Domain / Pixabay]

[Public Domain / Pixabay]

Is Skenazy arguing that allowing kids independent outdoor play is 100% safe? Not at all—but she argues that in most cases, it is safe enough considering the benefits. In Free to Learn, educational psychologist Peter Gray writes that free play is the primary way that children develop emotional resilience, learn to solve problems, and develop social skills—and that to develop these skills, outdoor play with friends is ideal.[3]

Being able to explore freely outdoors gives kids opportunities to explore their world, make up creative new games, and build community through befriending their neighbors. Play unsupervised by adults encourages self-reliance and gives a sense of competence. Children who run their own errands or can spend an evening alone are learning the street smarts and self-care skills that they will need as adults—and today, cell phones means they can do it with their parents only a quick call or a text away.

It’s probably no surprise for Pagans to hear that being outdoors is also hugely beneficial to our health, but this fact is now becoming well-known in mainstream culture. Recent studies suggest that time spent in natural settings improves short-term memory and concentration, increases energy, encourages creativity, reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, and more.[4] Too much indoor time can actively harm one’s health as well: dangers include vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of diabetes and depression.[5]

The Free-Range Parenting Movement in the Courts

The right to raise our children with our religious and spiritual values should be fundamental. Pagans who want their children to spend time in nature independently, however, need to be prepared to educate disapproving neighbors and deal with suspicious law enforcement. Because of today’s overprotective parenting culture, parents who allow their children to walk to school or play outside unsupervised may find themselves being interviewed by Child Protective Services or even arrested.

In 2014, Debra Harrell was arrested and jailed for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to play at a park while she was at work. According to news coverage, the daughter had a cell phone and a key to her house, which was a brief walk away. She had asked to go the park as an alternative to what she had been doing for most of the summer: playing on a laptop at the McDonald’s where her mother was employed.

Skenazy documents this and many similar cases on the Free Range Kids blog. Fortunately for Harrell and her daughter, however, Skenazy was not the only one taking notice. Media outlets as large as CNN picked up the story, noting potential racial bias against a “mother of color.”[6] Harrell received pro bono legal assistance to secure her release, keep her job, and restore her custody of her daughter. Happily, in the summer of 2016, a Facebook group formed to help raise legal funds for the Harrells reported that the jury had declined to indict and that there will be no further action taken against Harrell.[7]

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[public domain]

It is exciting to see that as such cases receive more media attention, government decisions are often coming down in favor of families’ right to give children more freedom. In 2015, the Meitiv family of Silver Spring, Maryland were repeatedly harassed by local authorities after allowing their six-year-old and ten-year-old to walk together in their neighborhood.[8] After the Meitivs announced their intention to sue, Maryland officials clarified that so long as there is no specific and substantial threat of harm, children walking or playing outside unsupervised do not require the attention of Child Protective Services.[9] This statement is a tremendous victory for the Meitivs and may help protect families with free-range parenting philosophies in the future.

Free-Range for an Uncertain Future

As reports from government agencies and scientists mount, we can no longer be in doubt: climate change is already causing volatile weather patterns, rising temperatures, and flooding. These shifts are impacting agriculture, clean water supplies, housing and more in ways that will ultimately affect us all. For those of us in the United States, our grandchildren—perhaps our children—may need to learn how to live in a lower-tech, less comfortable environment than we enjoy today. Some may be at the mercy of the elements in a way most of us have never experienced.

When my husband and I discuss the education of our son, now just a toddler, this global reality is never far from our minds. We want to encourage our son’s independence, resilience, creativity, and persistence. We want him outdoors as much as possible, learning to use his body and forming relationships with the animals and plants he finds there. We want him to feel supported and loved, but we also want him to be able to take care of himself.

Because there is so much pressure to keep kids indoors and supervised at all times, we’ve realized that if we want our child to be competent, self-reliant, and comfortable in nature, we will have to create opportunities for independent outdoor play deliberately. When I imagine my son at twelve years old, I see him able to ride his bike to the store to buy milk; I see him able to catch, clean, and cook a fish over a fire he made; I see him able to mow a lawn, operate a smartphone, care for a dog, and bandage a burn.

We’ve started out by putting him in a nature preschool where the children play in the woods and learn to recognize animal signs and identify plants. I hope that in the future, we will continue to find support for our parenting with other free-range parents, alternative schools, scouting, and Pagan groups.

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

[Photo Credit: H. Greene]

What Can I Do?

Are resilience, self-reliance, and love of nature some of the Pagan values you want your kids to have? Want to protect your parental rights and form communities of support for free-range parenting? Here are some positive steps to take.

  1. Educate yourself. Read the Free-Range Kids blog at freerangekids.com, or check out the work of Daniel Pimentel, a professor who is writing about parenting philosophies and the law.[10]
  2. Get to know your neighbors, and make sure the people around you know that your child is permitted to play outside independently. You can even download a “Free-Range Kid” membership card that your child can give to other concerned adults.
  3. Join the National Association of Parents at parentsusa.org. This nonprofit group works to protect the rights of parents to raise their children as they choose.
  4. Educate your community. To head off neighbors’ concerns, offer to give your neighborhood association or community group a presentation on the benefits of free-range parenting. Distribute safety statistics, and arm sympathetic friends and fellow Pagans with them too.
  5. Organize a Free-Range Kids Project in your Pagan group or at your kids’ school.[11] FRK Projects provide support for kids to do something new on their own. Parents connect with each other around their worries and hopes, and the community as a whole gets to discuss parenting philosophies and form new friendships.

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Notes:
[1] Skenazy, Lenore. Free Range Kids (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009), 182-183, or for updated statistics, check Free-RangeKids.com
[2] Skenazy. pp. 228. [For citations, see “Strangers with Candy” 209-210.]
[3] Gray, Peter. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2013).
[4] Friedman, Laura F. and Kevin Loria, “11 scientifically proven reasons you should be spending less time in the office,” Business Insider 30 June 2015.
[5] Skenazy. pp. xx-xxi.
[6] Wallace, Kelly. “Mom arrested for leaving 9-year-old alone at park.” CNN.com 21 July 2014.
[7] Support Debra Harrell group, Facebook.com 30 July 2016.
[8] Williams, Mary Elizabeth. “A ‘free range’ family fights back: ‘The police coerced our children into the back of a patrol car,’” Salon.com 15 April 2015.
[9] St. George, Donna. “Md. officials: Letting ‘free range’ kids walk or play alone is not neglect,” The Washington Post 11 June 2015.
[10] Pimentel, David. “Criminal Child Neglect and the “Free Range Kid“: Is Overprotective Parenting the New Standard of Care?,” Utah Law Review (2012).
[11] For more information, see Skenazy’s article, “The Simple School Project that Sets Kids Free,” published in The Huffington Post 7 Oct 2013.

[About the Author: Christine Hoff Kraemer is a religious studies scholar specializing in contemporary Paganism, sexuality, theology, and popular culture. In 2008, she completed her PhD in Religious and Theological Studies at Boston University. Christine is an instructor in the Theology and Religious History department at Cherry Hill Seminary. Her books include Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies and the collection Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy (edited with Yvonne Aburrow). She is also the proud parent of an extremely high-energy toddler.]

In recent years, there has been growing public discourse surrounding something called ‘consent culture.’ It has led to the institution of laws and policies, the creation of workshops and launching of public actions in mainstream communities around the world. The prime objective is to confront and end the near passive acceptance of what is termed ‘rape culture’ and to replace it with the promotion and enforcement of positive personal interactions initiated through mutual consent.

[From the Institution for Women]

[From the Institution for Women]

For example, The University of Georgia’s Heath Center joined the “Consent is Sexy” college advocacy campaign. Their website includes a clear definition of what is and isn’t consent. In 2015, the Scottish Police launched a “We Can Stop It” (#wecanstopit) public awareness campaign that featured billboards, press packets, and a clear reminder of the 2009 Sexual Offences Act. In 2013, a number of American advocacy groups launched the “No More” campaign, which gained notoriety when a number of NFL and College football players appeared in a #nomore television commercial.The No More organization,which speaks out about domestic and sexual violence, also sponsored a public service announcement that aired during the XLIX Super Bowl in 2015.

These are only three very visible mainstream examples of a much bigger movement; one that has touched all facets of society, both small and large. And, the collective Pagan, Heathen and Polytheist communities are not exempt from the conversation, becoming increasingly vocal on the topic in recent years.

This past last week, co-editors Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow released their anthology Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy. Published by Asphodel Press, Pagan Consent Culture contains 503 pages of essays, personal stories, and resources on the topic of ‘consent culture.’

Kraemer has a Ph.D. in Religious and Theological Studies from Boston University. She is an instructor in theology at Cherry Hill Seminary, a licensed massage therapist and the former editor of Patheos Pagan Channel. Kraemer has authored several books, including Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies and Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake. Kraemer believes that the editing of this book was a natural flow out of her previous work.

Aburrow holds a master’s degree in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities from Bath Spa University. She is a poet, and the author of a number of Pagan books, including All Acts of Love and Pleasure: inclusive Wicca. Aburrow felt that “it was time to do something to promote consent culture.”

PaganConsentCultureAnthologyCover_MediumWe caught up with both women to talk about the book, its place within the global conversation and why it was “time to do something.”

Kraemer said, “Pagans are no different from our wider society when it comes to our struggle to honor each other’s boundaries and treat each other as whole people rather than as objects.” Aburrow added, “​Pagan communities often feel they are immune from the ills that beset the overculture, and we congratulate ourselves on being enlightened about sex and sexuality, but just as much sex-pressuring, slut-shaming, prude-shaming, and gaslighting goes on among Pagans as it does anywhere else.”

Kraemer first stressed the need for creating clear definitions of the various “emotionally loaded” terms used within these conversations.The book’s introduction makes this effort. Kraemer summed it up, saying,”‘Rape culture’ is a culture in which we consider widespread sexual violence to be inevitable. It’s also one in which we dismiss many smaller, daily boundary violations as a normal part of social life.” She added:

Consent culture is all about the practice of respecting others’ autonomy — their ability to make choices for themselves — as well as claiming the right to make one’s own choices. It’s about respecting “yes” as well as “no,” and it’s about far more than just sexuality. Consent culture is about helping a community develop a more robust concept of personhood, and about normalizing behaviors that protect that personhood. It’s about celebrating individual sovereignty, while also exploring how to balance individual sovereignty with community, and honoring each others’ needs.

Pagan Consent Culture is broken up into three sections that contain a total of 33 essays written by an impressive diversity of writers. Aburrow said, “Most of the writers involved had a pretty clear idea of what consent culture is and ​why it is important – after all, a human being is a human being with the same needs for autonomy and respect. What was really interesting was how the contributors relate consent to their own religious, spiritual, mythological, and professional backgrounds and experiences.”

Kraemer agreed, saying, “I think our writers are so acutely aware of differences in expectations based on background and religious tradition that we all advocate for explicit verbal negotiation when it comes to establishing boundaries, especially around touch.”

After an introductory chapter, the first section, titled “Developing Pagan Philosophies of Consent,” leads with essays discussing “Pagan philosophies of consent and tackling complex issues.” The writers contributing to this section include John Beckett, Brandi Williams, Yeshe Rabbit, Helix, Sophia Sheree Martinez, Julian Betkowski, Theo Wildcroft, Raven Kaldera, Grove Harris, A. Acland, Thenea Pantera and Sebastian Lokason.

In the second section titled “Responding to Abuse and Assault,” writers share “personal narratives of abuse and healing.” The contributors include Sarah Twichell Rosehill, Cat Chapin-Bishop, Jason Thomas Pitzl, Shauna Aura Knight, Katessa S. Harkey, Kim and Tracey Dent-Brown, Lydia M. N. Crabtree, Lasara Firefox Allen and Diana Rajchel.

The final section is titled “Building Communities of Autonomy and Empathy.” Along with the included appendix, it provides “resources for teaching and practicing consent culture.” The writers offering insight here are Staśa Morgan-Appel, Tom Swiss, Nadirah Adeye, Zabrine Gray, Sarah Whedon, B.B. Blank, Sable Aradia, Raven Kaldera and Jo Anderson.

[Photo Credit: pixababy.com]

[Photo Credit: pixababy.com]

Aburrow said, “Consent is much the same in the different cultures, but how it plays out in Heathen, Druid​, Wiccan, and Polytheist settings will have different challenges and issues due to the different custom and practice in these traditions.” When asked if, in the editing process, they found any culturally-based differences between themselves, with Aburrow being from the U.K. and Kraemer, from the U.S., Aburrow said yes and she described the nuance:

The UK has a different relationship with Christianity ​(less than 10 percent of the population attends church, though about 70 percent regard themselves as “C of E” according to the census). Since much of Western culture’s attitude to sex is strongly influenced by the Christian obsession with it, I think the U.K.’s attitude to things like nudity, polyamory, kink, and casual sex is very likely to be different from that in the U.S.. The legal framework is rather different too.

As she noted, the U.S.’ age of consent does vary between 16-18. Like the U.K., Canada and Australia both hold 16 to be the age of consent. Even with that distinction made, Aburrow added, “We have Pagan camps and events in the U.K., and it would be great if they took a more robust approach to promoting and supporting consent culture.”

She did go on to say that she was pleased that the Pagan Symposium,”an umbrella group of all the different Pagan organisations in the UK,” endorses a Code of Conduct that supports ‘consent culture.’ Similarly, in recent years, many U.S.-based groups, such as Covenant of the Goddess and Coru Cathudbodua, have instituted organizational consent policies. And conferences and festivals, such as PantheaCon, are tackling the issue as well. That trend is only increasing.

However, the ‘Consent Culture’ movement and the campaigns have been criticized, even by advocates. For example, some feel that, in their simplicity, the mainstream campaigns fail to recognize the complicated entanglements of moral and social constructions that have given rise to ‘rape culture.’ Such campaigns, as illustrated above, are focused specifically on sexual interaction and are gendered, assuming a male attacker and a female victim.

Kraemer remarked that ‘consent culture’ is not only about sexuality. She said, “[It] is about helping a community develop a more robust concept of personhood, and about normalizing behaviors that protect that personhood. It’s about celebrating individual sovereignty, while also exploring how to balance individual sovereignty with community, and honoring each others’ needs.” She added:

For women and minorities, simply being out in the “wrong place” in public can be seen as violating social norms. Violence and the threat of violence are used to try to keep social hierarchy in place. These inequalities can make it very difficult to secure enthusiastic consent to many kinds of interactions.

The issue, or its solution, is more complex than simply “yes” and “no.” And, through the diversity of experiences and religious backgrounds of the included writers, Aburrow and Kraemer attempted to capture the many nuances embedded in the broader and very complicated discussion. Aburrow said:

There are a unique set of issues confronting Paganism – because we are both different from the mainstream, but we arose out the mainstream, and sometimes we are reacting to it, and sometimes we are just echoing it. We need to create communities that don’t replicate or perpetuate the abusive patterns of the overculture. We also have survivors of abuse coming into Paganism from elsewhere who needing healing and welcoming.

When asked if it was difficult to edit a book that handled such a personal and emotionally charged topic, they both emphatically said no. Kraemer said, “I find working with this material to be very heart-opening. We don’t look away from the stories of abuse — we have included some personal narratives, as well as some excellent articles from professional therapists and counselors about how communities can help guard against abuse.” Aburrow agreed, saying, “​It actually felt really great to be doing something positive and worthwhile about this issue.” ​

Pagan Consent Culture is primarily aimed at “Pagans in positions of leadership” but can be useful, as Aburrow noted, to “anyone who is interested in consent​ culture, and in grounding consent culture in a set of ethics and stories.” Kraemer also said, “I hope the book will also be eye-opening for leaders in other religious traditions, who may want to understand more about Pagan ethics in general and Pagan sexual ethics in particular.”

Right now, there is no follow-up book planned. However, Aburrow and Kraemer will, on occasion, expand the material for those “individuals and groups who want to delve more deeply into the topic.” They are also developing a list of “Pagan consent culture consultants — educators who are willing to make themselves available to anyone who needs support around these issues, or who wants to arrange a consent culture training in their area.”

In addition to the text itself, Aburrow and Kraemer have provided a companion study guide. Both the guide and the book are available in digital and paper format through their website and Lulu.com.

11169720_10153214795797427_1682418998575965254_oOver this past weekend, Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists from around the country met in Detroit, Michigan for ConVocation. Held annually since 1995, the conference was reportedly once again a huge success. ConVocation is run by the Michigan-based Magical Education Council (MEC), who also sponsors a June Pagan picnic and the “Beyond the Veil” event in October.

Along with its usual merchants room, art show, drum circle and guest speakers, the 2016 event included a number of unique workshops and talks. For example, author and publisher Taylor Ellwood “co-facilitated the Pagan leadership workshop with Annika Mongan and Shauna Aura Knight.” This workshop was inspired by the new Pagan Leadership Anthology edited by Ellwood and Knight, and published by Immanion Press.

Rev. Kirk Thomas and John Drum were both in attendance, offering two different ADF rituals. Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox presented her Brigid Healing Ritual, including a special part dedicated to those communities affected by the water crisis in Flint. Similarly, Witchdoctor Utu of the Dragon Ritual Drummers created a sacred altar “to honour and bring forth the spirit of Doctor John Montanee” and led a “Voodoo Rite” for healing and purification. These are only a few of the many diverse offerings at ConVocation.

In retrospect, Utu said, “It can be easy to become jaded among some of the pagan events, especially if you travel to so many of them, but every once and a while we again see a community that is doing it all right and for all the right reasons. I can’t say enough about the staff and support crew of Convocation, for its size it’s a very well put together and organized event. They also find ways to makes sure the event brings all the attendees together, and keeps it cohesive as opposed to scattered, which makes its a lot of fun on top of everything else they provide.”

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This past month, a new group was formed called the Polytheist Death Guild. Its purpose is to open a “broad conversation in polytheist communities about death, dying, and the specific issues they present for polytheists.” Organizers said that they “intend also to provide resources for death preparation and funeral planning, and a library of articles and rituals for polytheists of many traditions.”

The Polytheist Death Guild was founded by Rebecca Lynn Scott, author of A Litany to the Many DeadScott lives in Seattle and has been helping to write “death rituals for the Hellenic Orphic Bacchic tradition known as the Starry Bull.” On the new website, she explains,”Preparing for the deaths of ourselves and our loved ones, mourning, and assuring that our deaths and funerals are what we want them to be: these are important issues that need to be addressed within our communities of faith.”

As of now, the Polytheist Death Guild has a website with a blog, which also includes contact information. The Guild can also be followed on Twitter @polytheistdeath. For those interested in this work, Scott said that they “plan to hold open chats on the first Tuesday and third Friday of the month, starting in March.” Contact the group directly for more information.

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Cover_ConsentCulture

Asphodel Press has just released a new anthology titled Pagan Consent Culture: Building Communities of Empathy & Autonomy. Edited by Yvonne Aburrow and Christine Hoff Kraemer, the book is broken into three parts and offers essays from over thirty different writers.

Aburrow and Kraemer said, “Although many Pagans see the body and sexuality as sacred, Pagan communities still struggle with the reality of assault and abuse. To build consent culture, good consent practices must be embraced by communities, not just by individuals—and consent is about much more than sexuality.” In part one, “writers develop specifically Pagan philosophies of consent, tackling complex issues.” In part two, the writers offer “personal narratives of abuse and healing,” including ways to prevent such cases. Finally, part three “provides resources for teaching and practicing consent culture.”

Pagan Consent Culture is now available in electronic formats or paperback directly from Asphodel Press via LuLu.com.

In Other News:

    • While the Feast of Lights, ConVocation and PantheaCon are now over, there are still other conferences just over the horizon. Sacred Space is the next big event. It will be held Mar 10-13, at the Hunt Valley Inn in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Its featured presenters include: Ian Corrigan, Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. For up to the minute information on conference details, follow the conference on Facebook.
    • Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) has announced a May Day event to take place “worldwide.” This event is called “Light the Beacons” and follows the tradition of fire-lighting in order to bring people together. Organizers explain, “On this coming May Day we call on all Heathens around the world who stand for inclusive, tolerant, and diverse practice to light a beacon in solidarity with all other Heathens who stand for these values in our spirituality.” They are asking people around the world to light a candle or even a bonfire on May 1 at any time during that day. After the event is through, they welcome photos of these lights on the event page.
    • After news was announced of John Belham-Payne’s death, the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation were overwhelmed with an outpouring of community support. Since The Wild Hunt memorial tribute was published, the trustees of both organizations have set up a special John Belham-Payne Memorial Facebook Page to act as a gathering place for people to share photos and stories. And, in the wake of all those memories, John’s legacy has definitely proven that it will live on. This weekend saw the official launch of the book Doreen Valiente – WITCH.
    • Witch School International has announced that it is now offering “the Correllian First Degree in Spanish.” The course material was translated by Rev. Harwe Tuileva Primavera and uploaded to the school’s site. CEO Charlynn said, “In the coming months we will also be adding other new course materials.”
    • The Dragon Ritual Drummers has announced the release of a new single called The Riders of la Santa Muerte. Witchdoctor Utu said, “With one of our members Flint, being diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, we immersed ourselves in the mysteries of death, with her impending visit soon to arrive, we began to record most of our upcoming CD Dancing with the Dead which haled shortly before his passing.” Utu noted that they have now returned to that music project and decided to release the single in advance. He added that several members do personally venerate Santa Muerte, and often the group will dedicate a piece of music to a “spiritual or tangible force as an offering.” The Dragon Ritual Drummers can be found at Reverbnation.

 

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

On Thursday June 18, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a “teaching letter,” also called an encyclical, on the environment. This highly anticipated document will most likely become big news of the week as the Pope enters the debates on climate change. A recent New York Times article suggested that, through this work, he is “seeking to redefine a typically secular discussion within a religious framework.” Many activists, around the world, stand ready to applaud his efforts to publicly engage in the global Earth Stewardship conversation and, thereby, hopefully increase pressure on communities, businesses, organizations and governments to enact change.

To some Pagans and others, who already position the Earth or a connection to natural systems of place, at the center of their spiritual practice, the need for such a document might seem superfluous. However, the team who created the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment did a very similar thing. They made a public statement that clearly positions environmental protection within a spiritual framework.  Now, many Pagans view the pending encyclical as an opportunity to demonstrate, in a concrete fashion, that people of different religious beliefs can stand together for one cause. Writer John Halstead said:

I wonder if the timing of the publication of ‘A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment‘ and the papal encyclical on the environment might be an opportunity for the beginning of a rapprochement between Pagans and Christians. No doubt this will be difficult for both, as we tend to define ourselves in contrast to each other … It can be difficult to see this when we are immersed in our own distinct paths. But when we suddenly find those paths intersecting, as they are at this moment, perhaps we can reconsider whether we — and all other life on Earth — would be better served by emphasizing our similarities, rather than our differences.

As for the Pagan statement itself, it is now has 6, 272 signatures, coming from people all over the world and many religions.

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In the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, there is a small metaphysical store called Raven and Crone. Although the store has only been around a short time, it has been making headlines in one of the city’s local magazines. In a recent article in Capital at Play, writer Roger McCredie featured the store in an article titled “Raven & Crone: Asheville’s Most Bewitching Retailers: Wiccan Make This Work.”  McCredie writes, “In recent decades a saying has arisen that there are probably more Wiccans in the woods of Southern Appalachia than there are rabbits. The sentiment may be fairly new, but the fact it addresses is as old as human habitation of these mountains.” He refers largely to the traditional magical practices and spiritual beliefs found within the Appalachian region.

The store is owned by Lisa Svencicki and Kim Strobel. In the article, McCredie, who is not Pagan, interviews them both about their backgrounds, the decisions that led to the store’s birth and how they are doing. He writes, “Lisa and Kim saw the runic writing on the wall and decided the time was right to create a retail source that could serve the whole spectrum of Asheville’s growing alternative religion communities and also to cross-market to the general public.” The entire article, originally published in print, is available online. Raven & Crone, which bills itself as “the only only “Old Age” metaphysical supply store,” is located on Merriman Avenue near the University campus.

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Christopher Lee at the Women's World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

Christopher Lee at the Women’s World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

On June 7, actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015) passed way at the age of 93. Lee is remembered for a number of roles, including Dracula in group of Hammer Horror films and the Man with the Golden Gun in the James Bond film franchise (1974).  However, younger movie goers will recognize him as Count Dooku or Darth Tyranus in the Star Wars series (2002-2008), or as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2012-2014). And, many Pagans will also recognize him as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Lee was born in London in 1922; in the early years of the film industry. During WWII, he served as an “intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces.” He returned to London in 1946 and began his illustrious acting career. After sixty-three years of work, Lee was knighted in 2009 for his contribution to the arts.  Known for his deep voice, Lee was also a singer and recorded a number of operas during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, at the age of 88, he recorded a symphonic metal album called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and Cross” and then in 2013 “Charlemagne: the Omens of Death.”

Lee’s career was extensive, full and long-lived. Through his artistic legacy and the characters he brought to life, he will continue to entertain generations to come.  What is remembered, lives.

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In Other News

  • Twin Cities Pagan Pride has just released details about its Paganicon 2016 conference. The theme for its 6th year will be “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions & Voices” and the guest of honor will be T.Thorn Coyle. Organizers said, “We walk this world together; we have different spiritual ways of interacting with our deities, our ancestors, our families, and our rites, but ultimately we share many similar traditions and techniques of relating to the sacred.” Next year’s event will celebrate and honor this diversity. Submissions for programming will be accepted later this week.  In addition, organizers are currently holding a related T-Shirt design contest. Entry rules are posted on the website. Paganicon 2016 will be held from March 18-20 at the Double Tree Park Place in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Lydia M. Nettles Crabtree’s book Family Coven: Birthing Hereditary Witchcraft has just been released. Crabtree has been researching and writing this book for over ten years. She calls it a “comprehensive guide to developing a family oriented spiritual practice … covering the basics of communication, relationship building, finances and parenting.”
  • Coming in October is Cernnunos Camp, a five day festival devoted to the Horned God. Organizers say, “Come and feel the antlered mysteries and abandon yourselves in a celebration of wild unfettered worship of Him with hand, tooth, claw, hoof and feet. Bring your bodies, your drums and rattles, antlers, masks and other ceremonial tools.” Cernnunos Camp will take place from October 14-18 in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Over at Patheos’ The Agora, Dana Corby recalls the making of the album “Songs for the Old Religion.” As the story begins: “In 1973, a friend of mine returned to Southern California from a visit to a Wiccan gathering in the Bay Area telling me about a musician he had met by the name of Gwydion Pendderwyn who had a songbook full of wonderful music … “  Corby then goes on to describe the process and spirit that led to actual recording of the music.  She writes, “We didn’t know we were pioneering anything, or that there would soon be a booming cottage industry in self-produced Pagan music. We just wanted to “show ‘em how it should be done!” This post, which is marked as part one, provides a nice look into some of the early history of the modern Pagan movement in the United States.

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  • On June 5, a writer for Motherboard published an article called “Pop Culture Pagans Who Draw Power From Tumblr.”  The article discusses the use of Pop Cultural icons within magical and religious practice, as well as the controversies surrounding it.  A number of Pagans were quoted or interviewed for the discussion, including author Christine Hoff Kraemer, lawyer and witch Emily Carlin, and editor Taylor Ellwood, who has published a number of books on Pop Culture Magick. In the Motherboard article, Carlin explains, “For those of us who grew up stewing in pop culture, using those ideas in magick seems only natural.” In addition, Carlin has published the writer’s full interview on her own site.
  • Organizers of the upcoming 2016 Pagan Music Festival have recently announced some changes to the spring event. Originally the festival was to be hosted by Dragon Hills in Bowdon, Georgia. However, those plans fell through. Organizers have successfully relocated the festival to Cherokee Farm in LaFayette, Georgia, which is only 2 hours north of its original location. In addition, the event has been renamed to The Caldera Pagan Music Festival. Organizers did add that programming ha not changed; more than 20 bands are scheduled to perform over the 4 days from May 26-30. More information can be found on their website.
  • Tomorrow, Ardantane Learning Center will begin a new “Teaching intensive with Ina White Owl and Amber K.”  The four week course will instruct students on how to “teach more powerfully and effectively,” including “creating lesson plans, working with psychic energies in classrooms, communicating on multiple levels, evaluating your own strengths as a teacher, and handling various other challenges.” Teacher and author Amber K is the executive director of Ardantane, which is located in the deserts of New Mexico. The teaching intensive will be held Tuesdays at 7 pm from June 16-July 7. Registration is now open.

That’s all for now,  Have a nice day!

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. The widely celebrated secular holiday is one that honors mothers, mothers-to-be and any mother figures in our lives. For some, this may include grandmothers, aunts, teachers, guardians, Priestesses and anyone that has taken on that maternal role. Last May, Starhawk wrote:

On this Mother’s Day, let us also remember the many, many types of mothering: stepmothers, wicked and otherwise, adoptive mothers, birthmothers, mothers who have lost their children, mothers of projects, plans, movements and creative ideas, aunties and mentors and advisors, mothers of fluid and changing gender, and of course, that mother who sustains and nurtures us all, our Mother Earth! What will it take to create a world that truly honors mothering, nurturing, caring in all its forms?

In past years, The Wild Hunt has reported on the holiday’s fascinating birth story, which began in the late 1800s. Early in that history, the Mother’s Day celebration succumbed to excessive American commercialism, which drove one of its founders, Anna Jarvis, into isolation and depression. And, that commercial appeal has not waivered over the last century. Stores across the United States and online have been happily advertising sales on everything from jewelry and shoes to plane flights and alcohol. All in the name of mom!

Slide1 - bDespite this fact, the holiday does have roots that are far deeper and more soul stirring than the simple niceties of white carnations and overpriced orchids. Mother’s Day was originally born out of the early Feminist and Women’s Rights movements. It was fueled by American women’s need to stand against destructive political powers, while simultaneously uplifting the role and value of women in society. As written in The Wild Hunt 2013:

After seeing the horrors of the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe, a suffragist, abolitionist, writer and poet, began an aggressive campaign for a national Mother’s Day. On the second Sunday in June of 1870, Howe made a passionate plea for peace and proclaimed the day Mother’s Peace Day.

Howe was specifically pushing for a national peace day, asking women to take a stand against the patriarchy or what she termed “irrelevant agencies.” Mother’s Day was first born from the horrors of war and, then, propelled for ten years by women activists. In the original Mother’s Day protest letter, Howe wrote, “Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.” To modern ears, the phrase almost has undercurrents of Twisted Sister’s rock anthem “We’re not gonna take it.”

[Photo Credit: Grandma-S  / DeviantArt]

[Photo Credit: Grandma-S / DeviantArt]

This spirit and this voice can be heard today in the cries of many women living in both the Unites States and around the world. It is a primal defiance, living at the root of motherhood, in order to protect the future.

Mother’s Day’s radical beginnings have largely been lost in time and buried under pounds of tulle and floral bouquets. Despite the aggressive commercialism, some Americans do find ways to connect with a deeper meaning. For many families, it is simply a day to come together and honor the contributions and sacrifices of the mothers in their lives; to say, “Thanks.”

For others, it is also a day to take stock of how motherhood has changed their own lives. Just as the celebration itself was born of radical intent, motherhood is often accompanied by radical personal transformations.

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Blogger Niki Whiting, a student of the Anderson Faery tradition and Tantra, explained how giving birth and motherhood drastically altered her life. She said:

My first pregnancy grounded me in surprising ways. My theology was no longer abstract and mental gymnastics – it was rooted in my body and physical being. I grew a human being and the mystical understanding of the line “in you we live, move, and have our being” unfolded for me.

Birthing, even my uncomplicated, straightforward births, was a walk between the worlds, an edge-walking that opened my senses to the mystery of life and death that is ever present.

Whiting has as three children, a nearly 7 year old son, and two daughters, 4  and 1. She said that, since having the children, her priorities have been “refined.” She added:

My spiritual practices take new shape, but still exist. I stopped working with one deity, because she was not amenable to children; I have found that other deities that love children and some don’t care one way or the other. I also have to walk my talk in a new way. What I really believe about the world – about trees, spirits, ghosts, spiders, you name it – is reflected in how I teach my kids about those same things. They watch what I do, they hear what I say. 

Author Christine Hoff Kraemer is a practitioner of religious Witchcraft and mother to one nineteen-month-old. Like Whiting, pregnancy and motherhood have significantly shifted her priorities and daily focus. Kraemer said:

For me, mothering is all about the mysteries of flesh. I mean that literally — my days are all about dealing with a tiny person’s bodily fluids while making sure he eats, drinks, and gets enough exercise. But it’s profound, too, to be so close to a new consciousness that’s encountering the world for the first time — and no one shapes his environment as profoundly as I do. It’s a huge responsibility.

I find I’m not able to do much spirit or psychic work in this phase of my life, because I have to be so focused on the present moment and on what’s materially in front of me. And also, I can’t overstate how much becoming a mother has changed my priorities, even changed my interests. Parenting is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done, so everything else in my life has had to make room for that focus.

Rayna Templebee, a Witch and mother of two boys ages 17 and 19, commented on the powerful connections made when becoming a mother. She said:

I was a Witch before becoming a mom, but motherhood deepened my connection to spirit in so many ways. First, just the birth experience itself–knowing how many cultures around the world and through time have honored the creative force of the female body to bring forth life gave me extra determination to have my babies born naturally at home…I built altars to all the mothers in my ancestral lines and called on them to help me birth healthy, happy babies …

As the boys have grown up, it has been amazing fun to share the wonderment of nature together, and eventually to do ritual together as part of our Pagan community. Parenting is a deeply spiritual growth process …

Like Templebee, Jessica Mortimer, a Wiccan member of the Willow Dragonstone Community, was a Witch prior to having her two daughters ages 5 and 8. Mortimer said:

I always knew I wanted to raise my family with an open mind and heart to all paths. Once I had my first daughter it was clear to me what my purpose in life was – to be a mom and make a difference in the world by teaching them to have that open heart and mind.

In the last two years my practice has changed from just a personal practice to a family coven path … our life style has changed in a way that we live and breathe our path each day from having dinner together to our involvement in the Pagan community, to bedtime stories of the very different religious paths.

While the process of becoming a mother and the experiences of motherhood are deeply spiritual in many ways, only one of the women said that her Mother’s Day celebration includes any religious-specific observance. Mortimer explained that her family performs a small ritual to honor the Mother Goddess, during which everyone has to give thanks. Her young daughters typically express thanks for trees, animals, food and family.

In addition, Templebee did note that she observes a unique Mother’s Day tradition, albeit non-religious, “to drink a margarita with as many other mothers as [she] can, and toast [their] collective accomplishments.”

Motherhood is a journey shared across time and even species, which can radically alter one’s life many times over. And, at the same time, motherhood or mothers can influence and even radically change society through both subtle and overt methods. Howe wrote, “Arise, all women who have hearts … Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.” She adds, “Let [mothers] meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace…”

In recent years, there has been ample discussions about rewilding our lives, rediscovering the radical elements in our religions or the Craft and unleashing the unbound nature of humanity. This push is not limited to the collective Pagan, Polytheist and Heathen movements, and can be found in others sectors of today’s society. Mother’s Day and its radical history provide yet another opportunity to embrace this philosophy as it applies to an otherwise commonplace, secular, annual event. Along with the cards, flowers and even Motherhood Margaritas, this celebration offers the space needed to consider the radical nature of Motherhood, both at the personal and social level. Because within the essence of its history and near to its very core, Mother’s Day is as much about revolution as it is about roses.

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262458_129183977172876_1231043_nOn Feb. 7, as we reported, Green Egg Magazine had announced that it would be abandoning its traditional format and developing a full-time, online blog-style presence. However, after hearing from disappointed fans, the Magazine decided to shift gears once again. On Feb. 22, Green Egg’s publishers announced that they would be keeping with the original quarterly e-zine format and abandoning regular blog publishing.

In addition, they announced that “Hollis Taylor is no longer publisher. The position of publisher will be co-managed by Sylveey Selu, long-time webmistress for Green Egg, and Ariel Monserrat, the magazine’s publisher for the past 8 years.”  Monserrat was planning on retiring but, after hearing the overwhelming response from the readership, she decided to return as co-publisher. The team also has plans to bring back the The Green Egg Radio Hour and expand the magazine’s website. The first issue will be Ostara, for which they are currently asking for submissions.

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Mark Kay Lundmark

In February, Minnesota’s Pagan community lost one of its beloved members, Mary Kay Lundmark.  A tribute to her life was recently published in PNC-Minnesota. As writer Nels Linde said, “Described as a most loyal and caring friend and priestess, Mary Kay chose to avoid the lime light. She took a major supportive role in many peoples craft and online spiritual paths, and was known to many who never met her in person.”

The article quotes a number of Mary Kay’s friends and students. Through their words, they share Mary Kay’s personal history, her love of the Craft and of life. One of these quotes is from Thea Sabin, who also published an entire blog post about Mary Kay. In that post, Sabin described a woman who was passionate about her religion and the Craft, dedicated to her students and honest with herself. Sabin wrote, “Perhaps most important, Mary Kay loved with her whole heart, without reservation, and in a way that was utterly authentic”  When Mary Kay died, she was surrounded by her husband and loved ones. What is remembered, lives.

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10858593_10153030684777552_6867534241222027502_nAfter a three year hiatus, the Bay Area Pagan Alliance will be, once again, hosting The Pagan Festival in Berkeley, California. The event will be held on May 9 in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. In celebrating the event’s return, this year’s theme is Spirituality Through Service. Organizers wrote: “2012 Keeper of the Light T. Thorn Coyle will pass the staff to the 2015 Keeper of the Light Crystal Blanton. Our Master and Mistress of Ceremonies are Shay Black and Diana Rowan.”

The day-long event includes “altars, rituals, stage performances, speakers, Authors Circle, Druid Story Telling Pavilion, and vendors and information booths in the Pagan Market Place.” The organizers are excited to bring back this well-attended and popular festival. Local Priest Storm Faerywolf created new flyer art, giving the Festival a fresh look. More information can be found on the Bay Area Pagan Alliance’s Facebook page.

In Other News:

  • Bates College in Maine has begun a public lecture series titled “Unusual Positions: Controversial Approaches to the Study of Religion and Sexuality.” Co-sponsored by the religion studies department, women and gender studies program and the humanities division, the five-part series runs into April. It finishes on April 8 with a lecture by Cherry Hill Seminary’s Christine Hoff-Kraemer on “Eros and Touch from a Pagan Perspective: Loving Touch as Divine Birthright.”
  • The Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its annual “Spring Mysteries Festival.” This year’s event will feature “a two-day psychodrama, recreating the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece. Participants will get to see priests and priestesses representing the Gods and Goddesses as they recreate one of the most sacred rituals of ancient Greece. Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to commune with the Gods individually.” In addition, Rev. Selena Fox will be there to speak about her many years working alongside ATC Pete Pathfinder, founder of ATC. This year, ATC’s Spring Mysteries will be held from April 2-5.
  • This year, MythicWorlds was held in Seattle from Feb 20-22. During the three day event, Jason Thomas Pitzl “moderated a panel discussion featuring Orion Foxwood, Grimassi Raven, and Stephanie Taylor.” The panel subject was “walking between the worlds.” He recorded the conversation and posted it on SoundCloud.

  • The American Council of Witches 2015 updated its site as promised on March 1. Although not fully finished, the site now lists many of the councils members with extensive bios, as well as the group’s overall mission and stated tasks.
  • Coming up at the end of the month is the 3rd online international conference of the Pagan Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN). The all-online conference is comprised of a number of panels held throughout the day. Attendees and speakers come from all over the world with a diversity of expertise and religious backgrounds. As a whole, the conference’s main focus is “the different aspects of the future and development of contemporary Pagan culture and Witchcraft practices.” PAEAN’s event is open to the public and will be held on March 31.

That’s it for now. Have a nice day.

PatheosLogoDarkBG_bioOn Feb. 20, it was announced the Christine Hoff Kraemer was stepping down from her position as Managing Editor of Patheos’ Pagan Channel. She wrote, “With a mix of excitement and sadness, I am writing to announce my resignation as Managing Editor of the Patheos.com Pagan channel. I will very much miss the way this job brought me into daily contact with such thoughtful, dedicated people—both Pagans and people of other religious traditions.”  She added that she plans to dedicate her new found free time to her family.

Raise the Horns Blogger Jason Mankey will be taking up the reins as the channel’s new managing editor. In his own announcement, he wrote, “I hope I can continue the good work Christine’s done as the channel manager here. One of the reasons I love Patheos Pagan so much is that it’s mostly a positive place. I think we tackle big issues and involve ourselves in the big conversations, but I think we do so in a respectful manner.” Mankey doesn’t expect to make any changes to the channel’s direction. He also added that he will still be posting to his own blog, but with less frequency. Kraemer will also continue blogging on occasion at Sermons in the Mound.

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10690138_780594125329471_257600577171379898_n-334x500The beloved missing statue of Manannán mac Lir  was finally found exactly one month after it disappeared. According to the Derry Journal, on Feb. 21, the 6 ft. sculpture was located “by ramblers” who then “advised members of A company 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment soldiers.” Together with police, they were able to recover the statue. As told to the BBC, the statue had been lying among rocks of the same color, making it very difficult to spot from a distance.

The statue did sustain some damage to the back of its head. Regardless, the local community and others across the world are happy to know that the quest is over and the statue is in one piece. Local photographer Mari Ward, founder of the popular Facebook fan page Bring Back Manannán mac Lir the Sea God and a representative from the local police (PSNI) were interviewed by BBC radio about its return. Ward said, “I am completely over the moon about it.” Local officials now plan to consult the statue’s creator and discuss a re-installation.

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PantheaConOver the past week, there has been continued discussion on the controversy that erupted at PantheaCon 2015. As we reported last week, blogger Jonathan Korman published an open letter to the creators of a satirical flyer called PantyCon. In that article’s comments, the anonymous writers issued an apology. In addition, Glenn Turner, the founder and organizer of PantheaCon, offered her own public response to all related recent events as well as an apology for any pain caused during PantheaCon. She said, “With the dawning of a New Civil Rights movement this is the question for our times. I’m glad this issue is front and center.”

Since our report last week, there have been a number of additional blog posts discussing these events and others. One of these posts was the recording of the “Bringing Race to the Table” panel, during which the controversial flyer was brought to public attention. This panel discussion can be heard through T. Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcasts.

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On Feb. 13, the Akron, Ohio Pagan community lost one of its members. As reported by the local news, 22 year old Brian Golec was fatally stabbed outside of his Akron home. His father is now accused of the crime. After his death was made public, there was quick and viral media response in which Brian was identified as a trans woman. However, that fact was later proven to be inaccurate. Golec’s gender identification was eventually clarified by close friends and family, and was proven to have nothing to do with his murder. Unfortunately, the media frenzy only added additional pain to an already tragic circumstance.

The family, the community and Golec’s fiancee have requested privacy in order to mourn his loss. In our initial investigations, we were able to speak with several area Pagans who knew Brian. They called him “likable, easy going, highly spiritual and helpful.” He was a regular at Cleveland Pagan Pride and attended local Pagan community events. Carrie Acree, the owner of Dragon’s Mantle metaphysical shop, said that many people have been buying supplies for memorials, rituals and other workings in Brian’s honor. There is also, reportedly, a benefit planned for May. In addition a close friend has setup a GoFundMe campaign to help off-set the family expenses and a Facebook memorial page to honor his life. What is remembered, lives.

In Other News:

  • Author John Matthews has begun a new project to tell the story of the “the iconic Scottish bard, Robin Williamson.” The proposed film Five Denials on Merlin’s Grave will follow Williamson around “in his 50th year as a storyteller, singer and musician, performing his beloved epic poem about the legendary history of Celtic Britain.” This will be reportedly the first time that the epic poem “Five Denials” will be filmed “despite its thunderous import within our poetic tradition.” To fund the project, there will be an Indiegogo campaign. It’s progress and all updates can be found on a Facebook fan page and on twitter @fivedenials.
  • It was announced yesterday that documentary filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky had died at the age of 58. Sinofsky is best known for his work on Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996), a film that tells the story of the West Memphis Three. Over at Patheos’ The Witching Hour, Peg Aloi shares her thoughts on the Sinofsky’s work, his influence on the West Memphis case and offers a tribute to his life.
  • Along with a new managing editor, Patheos Pagan Channel also announced the edition of a new blog titled “Energy Magic.” Writer Katrina Rasbold said, “This column will explore the dynamics of magic using the movement of energy, both from a spiritual and a scientific perspective.” She will be updating the blog twice a week beginning today.
  • This past weekend, ConVocation was held in the Doubletree Hotel in Detroit Michigan. ConVocation is an indoor Pagan conference that has been bringing people together from many mystical and religious backgrounds since 1995. As the week goes by, organizers and others will be pulling together photos, posts and retrospectives on this year’s event and festivities.
  • Witches and Pagans Blogger Natalie Zaman announced that Llewellyn Worldwide will be publishing her book Mapping The Magic about [the] sacred sites in America. She wrote “[It] will explore the magic of Washington, D.C. and the states of the Northeast: Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine–as you can see it will hopefully be the first of four books, each covering a different area of the country.” To celebrate, Zaman is hosting a giveaway of either her book or a 2-year subscription to Witches & Pagans Magazine.

That’s it for now! Have a nice 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. Our 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!

10690138_780594125329471_257600577171379898_n-334x500According to the Londonderry Sentinel, “the Limavady Borough Council is considering” replacing the missing Manannan statue with one that “would be made of mild steel and would stand two-to-three times as tall as the original.” The paper reports that Development Services Officer Valerie Richmond reported, “In all probability, despite extensive searches it is unlikely that the sculpture will be returned. Council’s views are sought on how they would wish to progress.”

Speaking to the Derry Journal, councilman Gerry Mullin said that he would ” ‘absolutely’ be supporting a proposal to replace the iconic statue of Manannán Mac Lir.” But he added that he doesn’t believe it needs to be 2-3x the size. The issue will be discussed tomorrow at a Feb.10 Council Meeting.

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Solar Cross Temple

The Solar Cross Temple, based in California, has announced that it no longer is seeking to create an urban temple space. As the Board explained, the economic downturn “dried up” the fundraising efforts for several years. As a result, the Board put the entire project on hold. After several of years of waiting and watching, they have concluded that the community “doesn’t really want to support a physical structure.”

However, as written in the announcement, “[Their] work continues, and temple members study and honor the Gods in their own homes, and gather together monthly in backyards and rented spaces.” Any money raised in previous years will either be returned to the original donors, if requested, or will be given to the New Alexandrian Library and used for special Solar Cross projects.

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Druid College UKOn Feb. 6, the Druid College, originally founded in New York, announced the opening of its UK branch. The new location will be led by Joanna van der Hoeven and Robin Herne. Together with its sister site in Maine (U.S.) the Druid College will host a “three-year, intensive study” for those interested in taking their spiritual studies further.

In a press release, organizers said, “We saw a need for a programme for people who desire to go deeper, for those who wish to be in service, to fill the role of priest for their community and the land they dwell in.” The college accepts people of “all walks and intent” into their first year studies program. The Druid College is not accredited and offers no degree program.

In Other News

  • Green Egg has announced that it is now under new management and will no longer be publishing in a print format. In a recent press release, new editor Hollis Taylor and
    Ariel Monserrat said, “Hollis plans to modernize Green Egg bringing the magazine into the new millenium. Green Egg will not be publishing printed issues, as in the past, but will have a large team of volunteer writers who will be contributing to carrying on the legacy of Green Egg.” Once up and running, they hope to publish an article every day.
  • Documentary filmmaker Sam Carroll has produced a 66 minute film that tells Wiccan Priestess Darla Wynne‘s story. The film, titled Bedevil: Never Back Down, details the horrific challenges that Wynne faced after moving from Alaska to a small town in South Carolina, and how she eventually overcame her fear and stood up to the city council. Bedevil is entered in the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and will be screened on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 9 p.m.

  • Shekhinah Mountainwater’s popular book, Ariadne’s Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magic, is now available in digital format for the Kindle. This release is part of a larger project to capture and share “Shekhinah’s wonderful legacy … music, writings, creations of any kind.” The organizers of this project are asking anyone who might have such things to contact them at shekhinahmemories@gmail.com.
  • The Pagan Educational Network has published the Feb 2015 edition of its newsletter “Water.” In its pages, PEN makes a call for books to assist in its Prison chaplaincy work. While the organization welcomes any book donations, it is specifically looking for copies of Raymond Buckland’s The Complete Book of Witchcraft and Christopher Penzack’s The Sons of the Goddess.
  • Patheos has started a new blog series focusing on art and religion. Christine Hoff Kraemer, Pagan Channel editor, explained further, “In this interfaith series, writers explore how visual art may persuade, proselytize, or reveals truth. Pagan contributors include visionary painter Paul B. Rucker, Zen Pagan Tom Swiss, and mixed media artist Aaminah Shakur.”
  • PantheaCon, the largest such conference in the U.S., begins this Friday, Feb. 13 and runs through Monday, Feb. 16 in San Jose, California.

That is it for now. Have a nice day.