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“I didn’t really set out to be a priestess for a living . . . that’s what happened.”  — Selena Fox

Indeed, that’s what happened. Selena Fox is the High Priestess for Life at Circle Sanctuary, a legally recognized Shamanic Wiccan church that will be marking its 40th year this Samhain, October 31 and is celebrating with events and online reflections all month. The Wild Hunt spoke with Reverend Fox and several longtime members of Circle, as it is alternatively known, to get a sense of what Paganism looked like in 1974, and how Circle Sanctuary has participated in its evolution.

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle is aptly named, as circles are particularly significant in Wiccan theology, serving as both the border of sacred space and a metaphor for the repeating cycles of life. Over the past four decades, the group has focused a lot of its energy on the beginnings and endings of life. Its Lady Liberty League was instrumental in efforts to get the pentacle approved as a religious symbol on military headstones; the group’s retreat center now includes a Pagan cemetery; and Reverend Fox has performed dozens of baby blessings, including one for this reporter’s long-since-grown stepson. The church’s calendar begins each year at Samhain, around which time some of the most significant milestones in its history tend to congregate.

In late October 1974, Fox “had a vision of starting Circle Sanctuary, the name and logo came to me, as well as the concept of having a rurally-based center that would help humans of different nature religion paths connect with each other, as well as the circle of nature of which we are all a part.”

Before the explosion of online social media, Paganism was a very different group of religions. How diverse the religions were under the Pagan umbrella is difficult to say. Solitary practitioners were very isolated, while some people practiced together in circles, covens, and groves. In the days before Drawing Down the Moon and The Spiral Dance, books were rare and publications, such as Green Egg, were the best source of knowledge. Fox had been traveling and working with Pagans around the country, “but it was not very public,” she recalled.

CIRCLE Magazine's incarnations over time

CIRCLE Magazine’s incarnations over time

With a vision clear in her mind, Fox put an ad in the Witches’ Almanac, inviting like-minded individuals to write to her at a Madison, Wisconsin post office box. From those early responses she formed a core group that rented some land and lived together. Networking locally wasn’t quite enough to satisfy her desire to connect across traditions.

So Circle began publishing a two-sided, typewritten newsletter and, together with her partner at the time Jim Alan, Fox became one of the earliest traveling Pagan musicians in the United States. She said:

Now it’s common for Pagan musicians to travel, and for there to be festivals, but in the 70s there was not much in the way of face-to-face communication across traditions. We felt called to do that.

There were other calls, as well, and other things for which Circle found itself at the forefront. Fox’s chants became a songbook, for which there was an incredible demand. They experimented with radio and television before most other Pagan groups, and still produce podcasts today.

First edition of Circle Guide

First edition of Circle Guide

But 1979 was the year that Paganism in general — and Fox in particular — got pulled into the public spotlight. It was the year that Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon was published on the east coast, and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance was released in the west. Circle began putting out the Circle Guide to Wicca & Pagan Resources to help Pagans find each other. It was also the year that Time magazine set out to write about Paganism for its religion page, which was a significant departure for the staid publication. To that end, Time staffers went to the Pan Pagan Festival in Indiana to learn more.

“I happened to be doing a handfasting, and that got their attention,” Fox said. “Maybe it was the broom.” A picture of Fox, holding the broom aloft, accompanied the Time piece on Paganism, and led to her being “bombarded with media requests,” including an interview in People magazine. The coverage was largely positive, and “really positive things came out of it.”

While the seventies were a time of change, no change comes easy. After four years in the same place “with no problems,” Circle’s landlord decided to evict the group due to the media interest. The eviction came from the sheriff right after Samhain, and they were faced with finding a new place with the Wisconsin winter looming before them.

With her typical optimism, Fox explained what went through their minds when dealing with the big pile of lemons that life had dealt them. She said, “Sometimes, you really just have to make lemonade. We found an opportunity to rent month-to-month, and we moved up the timetable to buy our own land.”

CSNP Prairie, Barn, House overviewAcquiring land for Pagan use was also a new idea. But in 1980 Circle Network News evolved from a two-page newsletter to a newspaper, and carried in it the announcement of the ambitious project. The network of Pagans, who had been corresponding through Circle’s network and meeting at the occasional festival, responded with half-throated support. “There were a lot of different opinions about that,” Fox said. A vocal portion of the Pagan community raised concerns about adopting an institutional model. Circle had incorporated as a church just two years earlier, and acquiring land raised a red flag for some. But several years later, in time for Samhain 1983, those who supported the idea had their way, and the land, destined to be the Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, was bought by the organization.

Circle Sanctuary bought their land in 1983, and by doing that Circle transformed the community and their organization: people put down roots here, and some portion of the organizational energy flow shifted toward maintenance and stewardship of the land. That exerted a powerful stabilizing influence.– Bob Paxton, a 20+ year Circle member

That stabilizing influence allowed the organization to start focusing on helping people whose problems stemmed from being Pagan. “It does help to have some kind of institution when you’re fighting for Pagan rights,” Fox explained. The land allowed Circle to ramp up holding festivals of its own, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering, and use those events to fund other activities, which included public education and assistance for those being discriminated against.

That work was increasingly needed as this was the time when the United States was gripped by a “Satanic panic.” In Fox’s mind, it also led to what happened next. But the events she described are complex, so it’s not easy to draw clear lines of cause and effect.

  • 1983:  Circle members began remodeling buildings on their new property, including the conversion of a barn into the church’s headquarters. “In the 1980s, people were running businesses and non-profits out of barns . . . it seemed to be common practice,” Fox said.
  • 1984: A zoning administrator from the county came by to inquire into the work being done. “He starts asking questions, So I ask him some back,” Fox recalled, such as, “Are you asking people having boy scout meetings in their homes?” She adds, “I was polite, but it was really clear somebody was opposed to us having a Pagan center on that land. The administator couldn’t find anything to charge us with, so we did not hear for awhile.”
  • 1985: Circle applied for — and received — the necessary permits to do additional work, to remodel part of an old, historic barn into offices. “We had no building inspectors in that rural area back then, and started remodeling,” Fox said.
  • 1985: In September, three amendments were circulating through Congress with the aim of stripping tax-exempt status from organizations that “promote witchcraft.” One of these was attached to a tax-reform bill by unanimous voice vote of the Senate. Originally introduced by North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms to an appropriations bill for the postal service, the bill got the attention of many Pagans including those in Circle. “We got very involved in battling that,” Fox said. “We sent out thousands of fliers, urging people to contact their congress people about this.”
  • 1985: Just in time for Samhain, the amendment was laid aside in joint conference, having been deemed “not germane” to the bill.
  • 1986Local zoning officials sent Circle a notice of violations that could result in fines of a hundred dollars a day. In Fox’s words, “The zoning wars began. We got an attorney, went to the first meeting, which should have been a discussion of traffic patterns and sound, but it wasn’t — it was about religion. Government officials were attacking our religion in a government meeting. The room was packed with people riled up and concerned.” She later learned that much of that concern came from an earlier meeting, held without notice in violation of open meeting laws. In that meeting, attendees were shown a Geraldo Rivera special about Satanic crime in America, spliced in with some footage of Fox on the Phil Donahue and Today shows.
  • 1987 An “intense religious battle” continued to be waged with the press reporting on discrimination, while Circle Sanctuary was subjected to trespassing and threats of violence and death. Reverend Fox called this: “close encounters of a problematic kind.”
  • 1988:  The “zoning wars” ended when Circle Sanctuary received the church zoning designation that local officials had said it needed. Fox attributes the success in large part to the network of Pagans and others who rallied to support the church. But, in the end, the ACLU attorney working on the church’s behalf was able to secure a settlement without going to court, “when [local officials] realized we knew they were doing illegal things.”

Whether the “zoning wars” were directly connected to the fight against the Helms amendment can’t be corroborated either way, but it felt that way to Fox. That time was also a test for the nascent Lady Liberty League, which Circle had formed in the wake of that federal fight to defend Pagan rights. “In its earliest days, it was involved in our own Pagan rights cause,” Fox said.

The reason the land purchase was, and still is, so important to Circle’s success, is because it established a place where shared activities could occur and collaborative activities could occur. Over the many years I have been involved with Circle, it has become plain to me that people working together on projects, helps people form bonds. The more passionate people are about the work and the results of the work, the stronger the bonds. Wherever I go now, that is one of my primary mantras; collaborate together on projects that deliver real consequences in our own lives and to the benefit of the many outside of our own selves. — Nicholas Sea, Circle member since the 1970s

The first Pagan-Christian VA marker was placed in 2007.

The first Pagan-Christian VA marker was placed in 2007.

The years since have been perhaps less turbulent, but no less active for Circle Sanctuary. Its cemetery project began in 1995, after the land was paid off, and now has about 25 people interred on the grounds. Lady Liberty League led the charge to get pentacles onto military headstones to honor the Wiccan fallen. Although Fox’s role is enshrined in the by-laws, the organization includes its members in decision making. It recently completed developing a strategic plan that sought input from all community members, and is now surveying users of its lands for their input into the nature preserve’s future.

And Circle is active in interfaith dialogue, including that which takes place within Paganism. “Our world is not a monoculture,” Fox said, “and neither is Paganism. It’s a beautiful diversity. Everyone can be enriched by being part of a larger community. We do have to problem solve around issues having to do with language in different traditions, there are some challenges  but it’s still a really exciting thing.”

Rev. Selena Fox may not have set out to be a full-time priestess, but as High Priestess for Life at Circle Sanctuary, Selena Fox has had close encounters of the historic kind. For four decades, Paganism has unfolded around this organization, much of which is not included in this remembrance. On Oct 22, Circle Sanctuary will have a call-in radio show celebrating its anniversary, providing another opportunity for interested readers to hear more of Circle’s story.

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. If you enjoy this series and our other recurring entries, please consider donating to our 2014 Fall Fund Campaign. Your support and donations make it possible for us to keep sharing the news and these important stories with you. Now let’s get started! 

Blake Kirk

Blake Kirk

The Interfaith Mission Council (IMS) of Huntsville, Alabama has announced that Wiccan Priest Blake Kirk is scheduled to offer an invocation before the Nov. 6 city council meeting. In June, Kirk was removed from the schedule due to complaints from local residents. After much discussion, the Huntsville city council opted to maintain its inclusive prayer policy prayer rather than removing invocations entirely. The executive director of IMS, the local organization charged with coordinating invocation speakers, Jeannie Robison told AL.comWe [IMS and the city council] want to honor Huntsville’s commitment to being an Inclusive City and to meet Constitutional standards regarding freedom of religion.”

This past Thursday, the council demonstrated its commitment to diversity by inviting an Atheist to speak. Following that meeting, IMS announced that Kirk had been invited back. In response to the city’s actions, Kirk said, “I think it’s an extremely positive development for Huntsville, and it suggests that people have learned something from the unfortunate situation in June, and are really trying to do better.” You can watch Kirk’s invocation live on Nov. 6 through Huntsville’s live streaming site

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

On Sept. 28, Oberon Zell-Ravenhart posted a call on Witchvox for information about “Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials.” He wrote, “Since Morning Glory’s death, I have been inspired (nay, “assigned!”) to co-author a handbook for Pagan Final Passages—including green burials.” In the spring, the Church of All Worlds’ sacred land of Annwfn was legally-secured as an “officially-recognized cemetery for full body burials.” Morning-Glory was the first to be buried on that land, and Oberon is thankful to those who helped make that possible. Now he wants to turn his experience into, what he describes as, a “how-to manual.”

To accomplish this work, Oberon is looking for input from anyone who maintains Pagan land, a green cemetery, or anyone who is planning to build a cemetery space. He adds, “Previously, virtually all members of the modern Pagan community who have died (at least in the United States) have been cremated, as this seemed to be the only option other than the impossibly expensive and distasteful mortuary practice of embalming and burial in a fancy coffin in a concrete vault. But for many of us, cremation is a repellent choice, as we remember the Burning Times, and have no wish to consign our flesh to the flames yet again!”

10171120_828816003799940_5240040217082249423_nPagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be holding its 2nd online conference on October 9, 2014. The event is held in coordination with the Pagan Federation International (PFI) and is focused on “a variety of topics around the subjects of Paganism and Witchcraft.” This October’s theme is “The changing of Magic: Modern and Ancient Witchcraft.” There will be two panels on the following subjects: “Ancient Witchcraft and its adaptation” and “Western Esotericism practices and the academy.”  

The online PAEAN conference is held twice a year, in the spring and fall. Coordinators hope that the unique online platform, which allows a diversity of people to engage in dialogue and interaction, will “increase learning, understanding and developing from the combined discussions.”

Spelcastor [Courtesy: EMLC]

Spelcastor [Courtesy: EMLC]

On Sept. 20, the CUUPS chapter of Fort Lauderdale, Florida presented local Pagan Spelcastor an award for “his long time service of 19 years as the gatekeeper and facilitator” of Pagan Pride Day held at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Spelcastor is now officially retired but, as CUUPS organizers said, “he will long be remembered for keeping the flame alive.” In response, Spelcastor remarked, “I am deeply honored by this outpouring of gratitude and reminded how persistent service to the Craft year after year pays off.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

That is all for now.  Have a great day!

 

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. 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!

CPWR Logo.

CPWR Logo.

In a Tuesday news conference, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions announced the site for the long-awaited 2015 Parliament. The first U.S. Parliament in 22 years will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15-19 2015. The announcement was delivered from the Salt Palace Convention Center where the event will take place.

Salt Lake City was chosen for a variety of reasons, one of which is its natural beauty. The organization’s press release describes the terrain as “stunning the eye and moving the heart of all to protect the only earth we have.”

The mountain town certainly provides a majestic backdrop to a world interfaith event. However natural beauty wasn’t the only reason for the selection. Board trustee Andras Corban-Arthen is the chair of the site-selection committee. He explains,

Our site-selection criteria had to be pretty flexible and, more than anything, pragmatic. Since we lost Brussels (our previously designated host city) as a result of the European economic downturn a couple of years ago, we’ve been searching for another city that would provide us with the opportunity to organize the next Parliament as quickly as possible  … while still enabling us to maintain the level of autonomy, as well as the quality of organization and programming … When Salt Lake City contacted us, we felt it was a good fit for us to meet a lot of our main objectives. While it’s very true that Utah is the Mormon stronghold, Salt Lake City itself has a much more diverse population.

That diversity includes interfaith groups as well as individual practitioners of a variety of minority religions. He adds, “Bringing the Parliament to Salt Lake City will encourage the further development of interreligious dialogue in the city. It should also provide a much more pluralistic outlook on important, controversial topics such as same-sex marriage and the ordination of women to the priesthood within a context that won’t be dominated by the dogma of any one religion.”

The Council has not yet decided on a main theme or focus for the 2015 Parliament. However, Corban-Arthen says, in general, the event will reflect contemporary concerns including “environmental destruction; poverty and economic disparity; violence; the erosion of human rights; racism; gender and sexual discrimination; the destruction of indigenous cultures.”

Tuesday’s announcement was made by a number of speakers, including Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid; Executive Director Dr. Mary Nelson; Arun Ghandi, Parliament trustee and grandson of Ghandi; Andres Himes, Executive Director for the Charter for Compassion and Sande Hart, North American Chair for the United Religions Initiative. Present at the ceremony were two local Salt Lake Pagan religious leaders.

Corban-Arthen says, ” I would love to see a large pagan turnout in Salt Lake City. The Parliament has been very good to us: it was the first major interfaith organization to not only open its doors to us, but also to actually invite us to sit at the table.” He encourages Pagans and Heathens of any and all traditions to attend.

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit's Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

MotherTongque, EarthSpirit’s Ritual Performance Troupe, at 2004 Parliament in Barcelona [Courtesy of A. Corban-Arthen]

CoG Interfaith Representative Aline “Macha NightMare” O’Brien is hoping to attend. After hearing the announcement she said, “Having been involved in the interfaith arena for some years, mostly locally and regionally, I’m thrilled that the Parliament will be convening on this continent…Until now, I’ve watch international interfaith mostly from afar, so I’m eager that there’s now a possibility for me to experience it up close and personal.”

Corban-Arthen encourages Pagans and Heathens to attend, not just those engaged in interfaith work, and he advises for all “to go with open hearts and minds, and to listen and to engage.” He says:

There’s an awful lot any of us can learn at a Parliament, not just about the teachings of other religions but, maybe more importantly, about living our spirituality and manifesting it in the world, about finding common ground, about confronting and transcending prejudices, theirs as well as ours. Many of us have found that the Parliament has been a life-changing experience; I certainly have.

Registration is now open and programming information will be available over the next year.

In Other Pagan Community News:

10580267_10152436881229285_2188509621727164930_n

  • The Toronto, Ontario Pagan community has been gripped with grief over the discovery of remains that may belong to a missing member of their community. Quote: “In an interview last week on CBC’s Metro Morning, Currie’s older sister, Jennifer, said she suspects her sister may be in a state of emotional distress. She also said her sisters suffers from paranoia. She is an avid cyclist and a member of Toronto’s Wiccan community.” A positive identification has yet to be made. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends, family, and community members of Kit Currie.
  • The Pantheon Foundation has undertaken the creation of a Pagan events calendar for the Bay Area of California (and beyond). Quote: “At the recent All Pagans Organizing meeting held August 16 in the East Bay (other locations coming soon!) the Pantheon Foundation volunteered to take on the responsibility for establishing and maintaining a calendar of events for Bay Area Pagans, and anyone else who wishes to have their Pagan (broadly construed) events listed. The primary maintainer of the Calendar is Molly Blue Dawn, who will be converting her regular event list email into this new tool and moderating the submissions so we are not flooded with spam.” You can find this new resource, here.
  • Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Pagans have announced the launch of a revisioning process, which will include internal discussions, analysis, and public surveys. The organization says that its goal is to create a “mission and vision” for the next ten years. John Beckett is heading up the revisioning team and writes,”Our goal is to produce a mission and vision statement that will set the high-level direction for CUUPS and for building a shared sense of identity and purpose. We want to include all our stakeholders: CUUPS members, UU-friendly Pagans, and Pagan-friendly UUs – if you have an opinion on what CUUPS is and what it should be, we want to hear from you. The first public survey is online here.

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

[Correction: Andras Corban-Arthen and Phyllis Curott were not in attendance at the PWR ceremony on Tuesday. However, two local Pagans representatives were there among the other local religious leaders.]

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr's timetrax23

Photo Credit: Flickr’s timetrax23

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Flickr's Sonear

Photo Credit: Flickr’s Sonear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit:  Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

Photo Credit: Circle Sanctuary, Circle Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

William Kiesel of Ouroborous Press and Catamara Rosarium of Rosarium Blends.

William Kiesel and Catamara Rosarium of the EBC.

The 2014 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle is coming up this September, and the event has now put out its call for submissions. Quote: “Speakers are encouraged to submit talks touching on historical or contemporary esoteric subjects. As the specific focus of the EBC is on Esoteric Books, presentations that relate to esoteric book[s] in particular or coincide with a new or recent release are given preference in determining the line up of guest speakers. We are after presentations as opposed to practical workshop submissions. Talks should be 45 minutes in length including time for questions. A short abstract describing the talk and its title should accompany your contact information. The conference features an Art Show each year and artists are encouraged to submit art related to the esoteric field. In addition to the showcased artists, whose work is shown in a gallery format, the conference also features a selection of fine art prints by other esoteric artists.” Applications forms can be found here. The event will be held at the University of Washington this year. Here’s an overview of last year’s event.

TFST-Channel-Art_BI want to start by pointing to an update on “The Fifth Sacred Thing” film project, based on Starhawk’s novel of the same name (Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars through Kickstarter in 2011 to help fund a pitch-reel). Quote: “In December Starhawk and I were back in the car on the way to Los Angeles again for a host of meetings and her annual Solstice Ritual.  We had a truly crazy schedule of four plus meetings per day (yes, that is completely nuts in LA) with producers, distributors, lawyers, production companies, special effects houses, and assorted friends and allies. And now in January, we start the new year with new investors coming online, a new budget, ROI projections and comps ready to go, the revised screenplay, video teaser, and pitch all ready to make our next steps possible.  We are grateful for your ongoing support, and look forward to updating you in the next exciting developments for this project.” So, things seem to be moving along. You can read all of my updates on this project, here.

116cover300The latest issue of Circle Magazine (#116) is now shipping, and available for order at the Circle Sanctuary store. The theme for this issue is “Our Sacred Environment.” Highlights include an article on “glamping” by Cara Schulz, and article on what to do when you think your religious rights are being violated, Savanna restoration at Circle Sanctuary, and an interview with Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future.” For those of you interested in being published in Circle, the deadline for issue #117, “Healing and Wellness,” is March 18th. Quote: “Techniques for spiritual and physical healing and wellness; Meditations for health and healing; incorporating exercise, mindful eating and other wellness practices into your Pagan lifestyle.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The Imbolc 2014 issue of Pentacle Magazine, “the UK’s premier independent Pagan magazine,” is now out. Quote: “Articles featured in this issue of Pentacle include: Anahita: Ancient Persion Goddess and Zoroastrian Yazata, By Spellbook and Candle: a Guide to Cursing, […] Green Man: Albion Fracked! – environmental news and ponderings…”
  • EarthSpirit Community’s Rites of Spring festival is coming up in May, featuring musical performances by Kulgrinda, Honey Circuit, The Bardo Brothers, and more. Quote: “The EarthSpirit Community and Tamelin Productions invite you to join us for the thirty-sixth annual Rites of Spring — a gathering open to all who celebrate the sacred nature of the Earth. At the end of May, every year since 1979, our community has re-emerged as 500 participants from all over the United States and abroad come together to live and learn, work and play in a setting apart from our everyday lives.”
  • Moon Books has published a Paganism 101 book written by 101 Pagans. Quote: “Paganism 101 is an introduction to Paganism written by 101 Pagans. Grouped into three main sections, Who we are, What we believe and What we do, twenty topics fundamental to the understanding of the main Pagan traditions are each introduced by essay and then elaborated upon by other followers and practitioners, giving the reader a greater flavor of the variety and diversity that Paganism offers. With introductory essays from leading writers such as Emma Restall Orr, Mark Townsend, Brendan Myers, Jane Meredith, Alaric Albertsson and Rachel Patterson and with supporting vignettes from those at the heart of the Pagan community, Paganism 101 offers a truly unique insight.” The ebook is currently on sale for $2.99 at Amazon.
Patrick McCollum and Ram Dass

Patrick McCollum and Ram Dass

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

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

Circle Magazine

Circle Magazine

The latest issue of Circle Magazine (#115) is now at the printers, and available for order at the Circle Sanctuary store. Quote: “This issue features inspiration to honor our families, from birth, through childhood to departed ancestors. Also in this issue, connect with the season with rituals, crafts and songs for the Solstice, Yule and the New Year!” Lady Liberty League, Circle Sanctuary’s religious freedom advocacy arm, also notes that there are many items in this issue of interest to their mission. Quote: “Lots for Lady Liberty League fans in the new issue of Circle Magazine, shipping to subscribers and online now! Get the final report on all the collaborative work LLL did to address religious violence on Facebook & read the LLL End-of-Year Statement from LLL Case Manager, Minerva Thalia. ALSO look for ‘Advocating for Pagan Children in the Public School System’ by public school teacher Aurora Lightbringer, and read her ‘6 Key Strategies to Address Religious Discrimination in Schools.’ You won’t want to miss this on!” So check it out!

cropped-PconBanner13aHey there PantheaCon watchers! The largest indoor Pagan conference in the United States has just released its 2014 programming schedule, featuring a dizzying array of talks, panels, and workshops. Quote: “The PantheaCon 2014 schedule is now available, and we are again offering you two ways to view it!  First, you can click here to see the list of presenters and events by room.  If you would like to see presenter biographies and event descriptions, you can click here to access our improved Personal Schedule tool – it also allows you to to customize your schedule by selecting only those events that you want to attend. You will need a valid email address to use this tool.  Email programming(at)pantheacon.com if you experience any issues.” Some early highlights: the band Woodland playing at PantheaCon for the first time ever, a formal panel on privilege within modern Paganism moderated by T. Thorn Coyle, a panel discussion on sacrifice hosted by Coru Cathubodua, Lupercalia with Ekklesia Antinoou, and much, much, much, more! So check it out, and keep in mind that this schedule could change depending on additions or changes in attendance. Also, schedules for hospitality suites aren’t posted yet, so that’s another aspect to keep an eye out for.

1425710_10201953836920156_1475050013_nWitches of Michigan and the Michigan-Midwest Witches Ball have issued a statement saying they would being taking over the Tempest Smith Foundation’s scholarship program, after it was publicly announced that the advocacy organization would be closing down. Quote: “As everyone may/or may not know, Tempest Smith Foundation is closing their doors very soon. We (Witches of Michigan and Witches Ball) have joined forces to continue with TSF’s scholarship program. Met with the lawyer yesterday, to form a Non Profit and apply for 501c3 by the end of the year this will have been accomplished. I like to thank those who donated money to the cause, we raised enough for the 501c3, and generous donations from WOM and MWB paid for creation of the Non-profit. Starting on 1/1/14 we will accepting applications for pagan high school seniors for $500 scholarship.” The new scholarship will be called the Michigan Pagan Scholarship, and the nascent organization has started a group on Facebook. The Tempest Smith Foundation has been “a voice for diversity tolerance in its Michigan community and an advocate of anti-bullying campaigns,” and it looks like Michigan Pagans are going to make sure its legacy lives on.  We will report more on this story as it develops.

In Other Pagan Community News:

Adela Leibowitz "Isis and the goat-fish of Ea (Enki)" 2012

Adela Leibowitz “Isis and the goat-fish of Ea (Enki)” 2012

  • Esoteric artist Adela Leibowitz has opened a new show this month at hpgrp Gallery in New York, with pieces focusing on Mesopotamian and Egyptian Mythology. Quote: “Unlike earlier series such as Fairytales of the Macabre (2004) and The Cassandra Prophesies, (2006), which focused on Western tales, Leibowitz turns to Eastern religions and mythologies in “Mesopotamian and Egyptian Mythology.” In this exhibition, she continues her explorations by re-animating gods and goddesses, chaos demons, sages, protective deities and mythical hybrids. She places them in lush, tropical landscapes that represent a primal world where humans, animals and nature co-exist together in harmony. In essence, she creates utopias.” Also, check out the Phantasmaphile write-up. The show runs through December 21st.
  • Just a reminder that the New Alexandrian Library’s short crowd-funding initiative to continue the ongoing construction on their future physical space in Delaware has less than a week to go. So if libraries run by Pagan and esoteric interests is something you value, be sure to visit their IndieGoGo page and add your support. For all of my coverage of the New Alexandrian Library, click here.
  • In other crowd-funding news, as I mentioned on Monday, Starhawk has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings. Quote: “A small investment in Earth Activist Training has a huge ripple effect. Any amount you can donate will help diversify the environmental justice movement, bring new perspectives and insights into the permaculture movement, and give activists and community leaders the tools they need to build that beautiful world of the future we know is possible!”
  • Treadwell’s in London is hosting a one-person play about artist and occultist Austin Osman Spare on November 30th. Quote: “Set in the artist’s studio at the Elephant and Castle on the night  of a Blitz bombing, it shows Spare growing old in poverty, yet fiercely committed to his vision. In the course of the night, a rogue sigil unleashes unpredictable consequences. This ‘play conceived as an act of magic’, performed by the author, is both an homage to AOS and a playful exploration of Constable’s own esoteric work to ‘set us free from ourselves.’ John Constable is a poet, playwright and magical practitioner best-known for The Southwark Mysteries, and for his acclaimed stage adaptation of Gormenghast.”
  • I’m always a big fan of crowd-funded tarot and oracle decks, and the Kickstarter for the Tarot of Delphi looks rather nice. Quote: “Curated with fine art from the late 1830s to the early 1910s, the Tarot of Delphi is like a mini-museum. You can wander through this captivating deck – exploring the imagery, absorbing the colors and light, envisioning the lives depicted – and imagine yourself within its mythic narrative.”

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

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

2013-EBC-SaleThe 2013 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, Washington is coming up on September 14th and 15th, this year marks its 5th anniversary. Quote: “The Esoteric Book Conference is an annual international event to bring together authors, artists, publishers and bookmakers working in the field of esotericism. In addition to presentations by notable authors and scholars, the conference opens it doors to publishers and booksellers showcasing new & used books as well as rare and hard-to-find esoteric texts. For two days the conference hosts the largest selection of esoteric books under one roof. Contemporary esoteric publishing, finepress book arts and antiquarian texts are offered to augment the libraries of readers, scholars and collectors alike.” Featured presenters this year include M. Isidora Forrest, author of “Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols,” Dr. David Shoemaker, Chancellor of the College of Thelema of Northern California, Chaos magician and ritual designer Joshua Madara, and many more. Of course a main selling point of the event is esoteric books, and lots of them, including book launches. You can get updates at their official Facebook page.

template-2panel revised [Converted]Hexenfest, an annual one-day mythic music and art festival held in the Bay Area of California, has announced Ego Likeness as their headliners for 2014. Quote: “Ego Likeness was created in 1999 by artist Steven Archer, a DC native, and writer Donna Lynch in Baltimore, Maryland. Taking their name from Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel ‘Dune’, the band combines dark electronic/ dance music with heavy rock and striking poetry. They have released several albums, and have toured extensively trhoughout the US and Europe in the company of Voltaire, Rasputina, Peter Murphy, The Cruxshadows, and many ore. They are regular performers at DragonCon, the largest comic convention in America.” Joining Hexenfest will be Pagan tribal-fusion-rock band Pandemonaeon, with further announcements forthcoming. Hexenfest co-producer Anaar Niino said that “we are very pleased to announce that Ego Likeness will be our headliner for Hexenfest 2014″ and that folks should save the date of April 26th, 2014. For future updates, you can follow their official Facebook page. You may also enjoy looking at photos from last year’s Hexenfest.

spring2The White Spring temple at the base of Glastonbury Tor in England has put out an urgent appeal for funds to stay open. Quote: “The White Spring in Glastonbury needs your help. There is a real risk that we will be forced to close unless we get more support! The owner is no longer able to generously support financially towards the annual costs as he has in previous years. Over the next year the current custodians are needing to step back to start focusing on other projects.” According to the appeal, they need to raise £600 by the end of October. The temple is open to all faiths and spiritual traditions. While the White Spring works to remain open, Pagan anti-fracking activists are working to ensure the water beneath Glastonbury is not tainted by the controversial extraction process (as reported on previously here at The Wild Hunt). Jonathan at the Barefoot Anthropology blog gives a good overview of Pagan resistance to fracking, and ponders if this is a key moment in history for modern Paganism. Quote: “As an anthropologist, it is hard to predict what impact The Warrior’s Callwill have. Nevertheless, as a practitioner, there does appear to be a sense of destiny about it, as though something has been set in motion that will be truly significant. If as many people join in as is predicted, then The Warrior’s Call will certainly be unprecedented in scale, but not unprecedented in intent.” We will keep you updated at these stories continue to develop.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

Ab4 Paperback Cover online

  • Speaking of images and permissions, Fire Lyte at Inciting A Riot gives an overview of recent controversies regarding images being used without attribution or permission by Pagan pages on Facebook (and other social media outlets). Quote: “What brought this topic up again, was when I noticed that several well-trafficked pagan-related pages on Facebook make it a regular practice to post pretty pictures for dissemination without attribution. Even going so far as to include their own watermark on a piece that didn’t have one, or to further delete an existing watermark in order to add theirs.” Fire Lyte has done a lot of legwork on this story, and it is an important piece worth reading. Don’t miss out.
  • Circle Magazine is currently seeking submissions for their next issue. Quote: “Circle Magazine is seeking submissions both of art, articles and poetry of general interest to the Pagan community and for the forum on ‘Lineage and Family Traditions.’ Forum articles could include subjects such as raising Pagan children, magical linage, ancestors, passing on traditions, nontraditional family rituals, becoming a teacher, chosen families and more. For this issue we are also looking for Pagan themed art drawn by children, as well as art, articles or poetry by youth. Help us celebrate the diversity of ages within our community and explore the way that our ideas and legacies are passed down to seekers of all ages.” Deadline is September 12th, though that may be extended. Submission guidelines and forms can be found at their official web site.
  • Our condolences to the Circle Sanctuary community on the loss of Peggy Hall, a member of their organization since 2011. A natural burial service was performed on September 4th at Circle Cemetery. What it remembered, lives.
  • As US military involvement in Syria seemingly inches ever forward, recent commentaries by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus and M. Macha Nightmare are both timely and worth considering. I think our reporting this year on the death of a Pagan in Syria underscores just how complex the conflict truly is, and how simple solutions won’t be coming any time soon. I echo Lupus on the need for prayer at this time. Quote: “I hate to say it, but one of the only things I think we as responsible pagans and polytheists can do is pray, and preferably to the very old gods of Syria, who are yet alive and active and interested in the well-being of the people and the land in which they once thrived.”

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

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

An invocation is offered by Indra Neelameggham of Utah's Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple at the beginning of the Jan. 7 inauguration ceremonies for Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell inside the rotunda of the Utah Capitol. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

An invocation is offered by Indra Neelameggham of Utah’s Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple at the beginning of the Jan. 7 inauguration ceremonies for Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell inside the rotunda of the Utah Capitol. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

  • Deseret News reports on Indra Neelameggham, the first Hindu (and first woman) to ever give an opening invocation at a Utah governor’s inauguration. Quote:  “It is a prayer for peace, happiness, harmony and contentment, Sen. (Orrin) Hatch and (former) Gov. (Jon M.) Huntsman both told me after the ceremony that they thought my prayer was inspiring, so I guess it went pretty well […]  So many people believe that in Utah we are just a Mormon community,” she said. “Certainly that is the predominant religion, but we are so much more than just that. And I think they wanted someone to represent that diversity.” Neelameggham is a member of the Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah, and a pivotal figure in Utah’s Hindu community.
  • So remember last week when I reported on a theistic Satanic group in Florida (The Satanic Temple) that’s planning to hold a rally on January 25th in solidarity with Gov. Rick Scott’s support of a school “inspirational messages” law? At the time I said that “I have no idea if this is serious, or if someone is engaging in some next-level trolling.”Well, it turns out it was the latter:  “[Lucien] Greaves is listed as the casting director of a feature film called …wait for it…The Satanic Temple. […] The casting call said the movie was a mockumentary about the “nicest Satanic Cult in the world.” It was seeking actors for eight speaking roles “to play minions” and 10 featured extras.” So there you go.  It’s a would-be mockumentary.
  • The U.S. Forest Service has found a relationship between the loss of trees and a downturn in human health and life expectancy.  Quote: “The “relationship between trees and human health,” as they put it, is convincingly strong. They controlled for as many other demographic factors as possible. And yet, they are unable to satisfactorily explain why this might be so […] there is something fascinatingly mysterious about the entanglement of our health with that of nature. The suspicion that this may be so, of course, is seen well outside of the scientific literature on the topic […] Henry David Thoreau, writing in The Atlantic in June 1862, said, ‘I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.'”
  • John Beckett, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and Vice President of CUUPS National, has joined the Patheos Pagan Portal as a blogger. Quote: “This blog is part of my spiritual journey. Sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life. Sometimes I write about what’s in the news or what’s abuzz on the Pagan internet. There are some recurring themes: the nature of the Universe, the origins of religion, developing relationships with the spirits of nature, with our ancestors, and with our gods and goddesses. Spiritual growth. Magic. Building vibrant religious communities. And perhaps most importantly, how to combine all that into a spiritual practice that builds a better world here and now.” Congratulations to John, Patheos is lucky to have you.
  • Radio Netherlands profiles 18-year-old Adrien Adandé of Benin, a High School student by day, and a Vodun priest by night. Quote:  “As soon as he gets home from school, 18-year-old Adrien Adandé slips out of his high school uniform and into his voodoo priest robes. A large crowd is already queuing outside for consultations. Adandé took over the practice from his father, who initiated him into the Voodoo rites before his death. ‘As a child, I was my father’s only son who was interested in what he was doing at the convent,’ the teenager recalls. ‘Along the way, he taught me things and showed me the secrets.'” It’s an interesting piece, featuring several perspectives on Vodun in Benin.
  • The Telegraph in India check in with  Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, India’s most famous Wiccan. Quote: “Draped in a black cloak, Chakraverti put 70-odd students of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, under a spell on January 9 as she spoke about ghosts and planchettes and decoded Wiccan symbols. “Black is a witch’s favourite colour. It stands for enigma and dignity in Wicca. The broom signifies a woman being liberated from household activities and flying away in search of identity. The conical hat is a symbol of concentration and free-flowing thought,” she explained.”
  • Think Africa Press notes that blaming traditional African belief systems for witchcraft-related crimes and persecutions ignores that most of these harmful and violent manifestations are modern inventions, and that Pentecostal and evangelical churches have had a large influence in their development. Quote: “Today’s witchcraft beliefs and practices are as much products of modern dynamics as they are informed by long-standing tradition. Witchcraft beliefs are not remnants of ‘pre-modern’ cultures but contemporary phenomena embedded in, and partly constituted by, specific and current cultural and socio-economic contexts.”
Seen on Wednesday is all that remains of the controversial Santa Muerte statue located at the San Benito Municipal Cemetery. (Photo: San Benito News)

The remains of a controversial Santa Muerte statue located at the San Benito Municipal Cemetery. (Photo: San Benito News)

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