Archives For Circle Sanctuary

standing rock logoCANNONBALL, N.D. – It was announced Sunday that the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. The corps will be researching an alternative route. In response to the welcomed news, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

Chairman Archambault also thanked “everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause” from the youth who initiated the movement, to volunteers who visited the camps, other tribes, and supporters around the globe.

With the help of Pagan activist Casey McCarthy, who has been back and forth to Standing Rock over the past few months, we gathered several reactions to the news. In a Facebook post activist Payu Harris said, “This is a short term delay … nothing…the corps only said they would not grant the easement for the remainder of this administration that means the Trump administration can (and will I’m sure) fast-track the easement as promised.”

Longer responses are in the following links, including reactions from Solar Cross Temple, Union Labor Camp leader Cliff Wilmeng, Lakota Tribe member Tiffany, and Pagan activist Jenn Wedgle.  In her response, Tiffany writes, “I view the Vets who arrived at home on Standing Rock as our living armor, our living weapons. Not weapons of destruction but weapons of peace and safety.” She then begs them to stay,”I ask that out of fear of history once again repeating itself because ETP responded that today’s decision means nothing to them.”

 *    *    *

5810423235_f121e14f28_bGATLINBURG, Tenn. — As we reported Thursday, the city of Gatlinburg was engulfed in flames after a mountaintop fire spread through the mountain resort community. The area is home to many Pagans and other like-minded people, including the popular band Tuatha Dea, and the well-known festival spaces of Dragonshire and Cerren Ered.

As has been reported since, Tuatha Dea is back in business. Band leader Danny Mulliken reported that he was able to return to his home Sunday, saying, ” [We are] back to writing and prepping to pay back with the new CD! Full speed ahead.” He added that the band has already written a song inspired by what happened. It is aptly named, “Appalachia Burning.” Band member Tesea Dawson has raised nearly $2,500 to help the city’s children.

Similarly, the Valley of the Dragons community was reportedly untouched by the fires. However, as priestess Jewels Wyldwomyn reported, a visiting crew of Alaskan firefighters has been patrolling the area, and that helicopters were flying regularly overhead. With gratitude, the owners of Cerren Ered wrote, “The Valley of Dragons remains safe and healthy. Thanks and gratitude to family. This entire experience as shown a great outpouring of love and care for each other. Folks in the VotD have gone out of their way to offer aid to each other, the emergency and forestry service workers, and to others in the local community.”

Currently Gatlinburg is still closed, but they expect to open soon. According to the latest reports, there are 150 people still in shelters; the death toll is now at 14 and the injured stand at 130. The fire burned a reported 1,700 structures and 17,000 acres.

  *    *    *

operation-circle-care-logoBARNEVELD, Wis. — Circle Sanctuary is once again running its annual Operation Circle Care (OCC). This is the 10th anniversary of this Yuletide program, and Circle is looking for assistance. In 2006, the program began as a way to send gifts “to military Pagans stationed in areas where ritual supplies and access to Pagan community were limited.”

This year, in lieu of packages, the organization will be sending out commemorative patches to those on active duty. “This is our way of giving thanks for our Pagan service persons,” said Rev. Fox. To offset the costs of this program, the patches will also be available for purchase.

To assist in the program, OOC coordinators Jeanet and David Ewing as asking that the Pagan community send in the names of those on active duty and, if possible, donate to the program directly or purchase a patch. David Ewing said, “I hope that our community can come together this year and help us send this beautiful token of appreciation to every Pagan currently serving. I know it will mean a great deal to them.” For more information, they direct interested people to the program’s website.

 *   *   *

oakland_sealOAKLAND, Calif. — The city of Oakland was shaken after learning that a fire had broken out in a warehouse during a crowded Friday night party. Investigators are still uncertain what caused this fire, now being called one of the deadliest in U.S.history. The death toll stands at 36, and there are still people missing.

Several members of Come As You Are Coven (CAYA) attended vigils and memorials at the local site. One of its members was interviewed on local news. We will have more on this story in the coming days.

In Other News

  • Hellenion, a US-based religious organization “dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism,” has relaunched its ritual group, or “Proto-Demos,” in Delaware. On its new website, the Delmarva Nikephoros Proto-Demos states, “emphasizes our respect for the Hellenic Deities and Mysteries, our ancestors and our past, the principle of inclusiveness, and an ethical code inspired by the Delphic Maxims.”
  • In associate with his new documentary Call of the Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom of Treesfilmmaker Jeff McKay has launched an associated crowdfunding campaign to raise money and awareness toward the protection of the world’s forests. McKay is the husband of Wild Hunt writer and filmmaker Dodie Graham McKay. His film “features scientist and acclaimed author Diana Beresford-Kroeger as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests.” At this point, the film can only be seen in limited showings throughout Canada, but is available in DVD format through the IndieGoGo campaign. The money raised will fund an educational program in Canada and the U.S. starting in March, 2017.
  • Along similar lines, the newly formed Pagan Environmental Alliance and the Florida-based Palm Beach Pagans group, along with the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, are organizing an environmental conference to be held Jan. 28. The event’s focus will be on spiritual activism in the region. The group is currently looking for keynote speakers and panelists.
  • In late 2015, Lynn and Will Rowan produced a Yuletide music CD with Pagan themes.The CD, titled Sing the Sun’s Return: Wassails and Carols for Yuletide, is back out making the rounds for a second season. “This CD offers an alternative to mainstream holiday music, informed by folk customs, animist spirituality, and the revived worship of ancient deities.”

TWH – Today marks the 17th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Around the world, organizations and individuals will be hosting events, memorials, and vigils to remember those who have been lost due to transgender-related violence. It is a powerful day – one that is part of a larger month-long transgender awareness campaign.

Held every Nov. 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) marks the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered in her Boston apartment in 1998. The case still remains unsolved to this day. However, a year after her death writer, Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil in San Francisco to honor Hester’s life and to bring awareness to the issues faced by transgender people. The 1999 vigil became the very first Transgender Day of Remembrance. Shortly after, other awareness campaigns and movements were launched, including the website, “Remembering Our Dead.”

Seventeen years later, the movement has grown. Throughout November, activities are held, culminating in the Day of Remembrance. The TDoR campaign’s main site hosts a list of not only the worldwide activities, but also the names of people who have died as a result of transgender-related violence over the past year.

transgender-day-of-remembrance

For TDoR 2016, Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary decided to expand its own regular annual memorial observances. Rev. Selena Fox said, “It is important to stand in solidarity with our transgender community members. With transphobia and hate crimes on the rise, it is important that we draw attention to this issue that impacts many in our community and to create a safe and supportive place to share concerns, experiences, perspectives, and support.”

Fox said that Circle has had trans* members since its inception in 1974, and the organization has always worked toward supporting the trans* community’s quest for equality. Four years ago, Rev. Fox began hosting a formal memorial ritual to honor TDoR. This year, that event, which is being facilitated by members Brianne Burne, Jake Bradley, and Nate Metrick, has been expanded to include a candle lighting memorial in the temple room, followed by a sharing circle.

Rev. Fox added, “We recognize that the Divine takes many forms, and that there are many forms of gender expression, all of which are sacred. It is our hope that events like ours will help build a better world where the divinity within each person is honored, and where no one feels afraid due to their gender identity.”

For the 2016 TDoR Wild Hunt forum, we reached out to the coordinators of Circle’s new event, asking them tell us more about living transgender, what this specific day means to them, and how these observance event can help the greater cause. We spoke with Brianne Burke, known as Brianne Raven Wolf or simply Bree. She is a 73-year old gender-fluid trans*woman, who is a member of Circle Sanctuary and a practicing eclectic Witch.

Bree is joined by Jake Bradley, a certified naturalist, death midwife, and doula. Bradley has provided ministry for over 25 years, and designs and manages harm-reduction outreach and shelter programming for people experiencing homelessness. Bradley founded and helped manage the first trans-safe youth shelter in Chicago, and provide training and consultation on LGBTQ competence, trauma-informed care, harm reduction, crisis management, and other topics through their business, Elements Consulting.

In addition to the two Circle event coordinators, we also spoke with activist and minister Katharine A. Luck, who participated in last year’s TDoR forum. Rev. Luck is a transgender woman of mixed racial heritage living in Florida. She is a Neo-Hellenic priestess, minster of Fire Dance Church of Wicca and transgender activist. In 2013, Luck organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Pensacola. The following year, she setup the transgender advocacy group STRIVE of which she is currently the President.

We welcome our contributors, and thank them for taking the time to speak with us.

The first question asked was whether our interviewees have seen or felt any noticeable change in awareness in the mainstream public’s understanding of transgender issues. If there was a change, has that change been positive?

Jake Bradley: The last few years have been an interesting and exciting moment in public consciousness around trans* issues. Between the emergence of some transgender pop culture figures and wider-spread efforts of education and advocacy, it seems that the “average American” is more aware of the existence of trans* people than before, and dialogue about the needs and perspectives of trans* people is much more commonplace. I am especially grateful for Laverne Cox and celebrities like her who highlight the particular struggles and triumphs of trans* people of color and who speak out in issues that others in the LGBTQ community have often ignored, such as incarceration and homelessness.

While we still see misguided transphobic rhetoric about the dangers of inclusion and respect for trans* people, and plenty of deference to the comfort levels of cisgender people over the dire safety needs of trans* people, it’s heartening to see more and more public figures and organizations affirming inclusion. For example, as ugly and hurtful as the “bathroom bill” policies have been, we now are in a moment in history where many businesses and public figures are willing to … rebuke and boycott the jurisdictions where hate and ignorance are currently winning the day. In more subtle ways, we see less common exploitation and ridicule of trans* people in mainstream media, and several media outlets are making a real effort to use people’s correct names and pronouns, and to educate the public on acceptable terminology, etc.

Schools and other organizations are more frequently realizing they need to educate and skill-build with their faculty and staff. Trans* kids in many places are being given more access to competent and sensitive medical care. Support groups and alliances are more numerous and accessible. There have been some important changes in government policy under the Obama tenure that have led to greater education and non-discrimination practices, and I’m hopeful we will manage to protect these as we move forward into the next administration. We have a very long way to go, but we seem to be headed in the right direction!

11947460_634898819947050_4134799355407870099_n

Brianne Burne: I think there has been a noticeable change from what it was a few years ago. I’m involved in quite a few groups, locally and nationally. Around Madison [Wisconsin], I belong to the Madison Area Transgender Association and also LGBT OutReach-Madison. We have quite a few trans* activists here, and the growth has really been coming from social media in my opinion.

Katharine A. Luck: Prior to the recent “bathroom bill,” such as the now infamous HB2 in North Carolina, we were largely ignored by legislation, and we have not suddenly started using public restrooms in the last two years. Instead, as trans* people have become more visible, a side effect of visibility is transphobic legislation from people who think our existence began with their awareness of it.

For the next question, we asked what the biggest threat to the community’s safety was. This is a difficult question, but we asked our interviewees, if they could wave a wand to change one thing that would make the biggest impact, what would that one thing be?

JB: This is a difficult question. Trans* and GNC (gender non-conforming) people are at astronomically disproportionate risk for homelessness, unemployment or underemployment, depression and suicide, being physically and sexually assaulted, negative interactions with police, incarceration, and many other challenges and harms, which are all consequences of cisnormativity and transphobia.

It would be easy to say that ignorance and transphobia are the biggest threat. The fact that police often fail to protect and respect trans* folks, and even frequently brutalize us with impunity, makes the everyday safety of trans* people a thing never to take for granted. Still, there are gradations from relative safety to extreme risk inside the community of trans* and GNC people based on other identity and socioeconomic factors.

Race (and racism) is probably the biggest cause of disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable trans* people from competent medical and mental health care, adequate employment, safe housing, and fair treatment by law enforcement. Institutional racism and white supremacy cause so much more harm to trans* people of color, and especially to black and brown trans women, and also cause division within the LGBTQ community, so that young trans* people of color often don’t benefit from allyship on the part of more affluent or empowered LGBTQ people, nor have their safety and quality of life as positively impacted by gains from LGBTQ activism. My magick wand would eradicate white supremacy and dismantle racism. Then, the most at-risk trans* people would benefit, along with people of color of all genders in this nation.

BB: The biggest threat to the community’s safety may well be the new incoming Republican administration given the far right evangelical Christian attitudes of the VP-elect and others in some state and federal governmental positions. Especially in the southern states, such as North Carolina and Mississippi. The one thing that could make an impact: if people everywhere would realize we are all human beings and, even though the trans* community is different, […] we aren’t a threat to anybody.

KL: This country just elected one of the most outspoken enemies of the LGBTQ community to the office of vice president. Our new president-elect is, frankly, a thinly veiled neo-Nazi, having surrounded himself with champions of white supremacy, like Steve Bannon, and has run on a platform of racial fear, hatred, and proposed separatism. Our vice president-elect Mike Pence has specifically targeted the LGBTQ community. He was responsible for Indiana’s anti-LGBTQ legislation and believes LGBTQ people can be “cured” through conversion therapy. He even tried to divert funds from HIV programs to conversion therapy. While its modern incarnation might not include shock treatment, conversion therapy increases suicides, nonetheless.

At present, I can say without reservation that the greatest threat to the transgender community, LGBTQ people, and likely all marginalized people, is the new administration which will begin in January.

Circle Sanctuary TDoR "Green Face" altar [Courtesy Photo]

Circle Sanctuary TDoR “Green Face” altar [Courtesy Photo]

With that in mind, the third question asked was how can non-trans* people can be the best allies? What should cisgender people do or not do to help raise awareness, support their friends, and eliminate any of the barriers discussed above? 

JB: Here is a handout we made a while ago called “Top 10 Ways to be a Trans* Ally.”

BB: To elevate the barriers. People need to get educated about trans* people through community programs. I am starting to see this in a lot of public schools with programs like GSAFE and adult programs such as PFLAG. We need to eliminate the “fear” that cisgender people have about us.

KL: I consider intersectionality and solidarity to be the key to equality. Every person of conscience in this country and the world must resist the oppression of all people. Trans* people exist in every demographic, and I will do all in my power to advocate for all of them. I ask that everyone else do the same.

For our fourth question, we asked what the Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities could do better in support of their transgender members.

JB: Neopaganism was perhaps founded in part in reaction against patriarchal religious systems that emphasized masculine personifications of the Divine, and Paganism has been revolutionary in its promotion of the Divine as feminine and also as a “balance” or “marriage” of both feminine and masculine. Paganism has made revolutionary contributions to the world in terms of celebrating embodiment, in promoting some feminist ideals, and in sex-positivity. However, for those of us who don’t see our gender as the most essential aspect of our identity, or for whom our gender is not rooted in anatomy or gendered biological life cycles, or for whom binary gendered paradigms don’t fit, there’s still plenty of opportunity for alienation.

Gender constructions are so rampant in most Pagan practice, and are present in so many standard rites of passage. I think lots of Pagan communities (like many in dominant U.S. culture), could become safer for their trans* members by recognizing and celebrating that there isn’t just one way to be a woman or to be a man, that gender doesn’t have to be based on biology, that “maleness” and “femaleness” aren’t mutually exclusive, and that lots of us don’t fit in that binary system in any case. I think that Pagan communities would also find that cisgender members would benefit from the increased freedom and room that recognizing and celebrating gender diversity can offer anyone.

I appreciate the step many groups have made of affirming people’s self-identity rather than projecting gender onto people or having some other qualifying “test” or eligibility criteria for one of the binary identities. The next step might be to question whether rites of passage need to be attached to biological events and gender-based social roles, and to begin to ask people what things are meaningful to them in their passage through life and what symbols there are of these passages, etc., and to begin to develop some non-gender-based rites that affirm the things that are most meaningful to people as they pass through stages of life.

640px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svg

JB (continued): What are the things all of us have in common as we age, regardless of gender or biology? Teenagers are teenagers. Parents are parents. Many of us, if we are lucky to live long enough, have a part of our lives where maybe we work for a living less, and our bodies start to be less sturdy and reliable in ways we might have previously taken for granted. I’m not advocating that cisgender men and women shouldn’t have opportunities to celebrate their embodiment, but just that there be more spaces where gender (and binary-gendered bodies and biological cycles) isn’t the primary aspect of our humanity, and that there be more spaces where diversity of gender identity, expression, experience, role, etc., are embraced more. Finally, I just want to say that I am so deeply grateful for Selena Fox’s leadership and legacy for LGBTQ inclusion throughout her life, and for the efforts made by Circle Sanctuary to embrace and support gender minorities.

BB:  I think the Pagan community is, from what I’ve been involved in, doing a very good job supporting trans* people. I’ve never had a problem with anybody in the Pagan community not making me feel welcome, accepted, and loved.

KL: As Pagans we must diminish the focus on binary gender and become more inclusive. We must have roles in both our society and our practice which can be occupied by anyone, of any gender. If necessary we must be willing to create new roles to suit the needs of the members of our community. We must remember tradition, but we must be willing to adapt. The trans* community has always had a role to play in both pagan religion and witchcraft, and always will.

Next, we asked for words of hope. Often when talking about silenced populations, we focus on the struggle. So, we asked our interviewees to take a moment to share something beautiful about the transgender community or about being transgender: a story or even a moment?

JB: Oh, wow! Thank you for this question! Spaces where gender variance is the norm and where lots of folks under the trans* umbrella are present can be the most beautiful and amazing spaces! There is so much more room for everyone  to be whoever they are, in whatever collection of attributes and expressions they come up with! Trans* people tend to be phenomenally resilient, adaptive, and creative about making family and community across all kinds of difference!

BB: Something beautiful happened earlier this year in Mt. Horeb, Wis. Here’s a little piece: “Last November, at the Primary Center elementary school in Mount Horeb, a transgender first-grader was about to transition.The school administration and staff were fully supportive, and […] had decided that reading the book I Am Jazz. […] Soon the school district and its teachers were threatened with a lawsuit if the book was read and [it] was cancelled. In a show of solidarity, two readings of I Am Jazz were held–one organized by students […] and the other organized by a local mom named Amy Lyle.” [Read the full story]

KL: It is in the struggle and the pain that I find some of the most beautiful moments. It is in the struggle that we find our family and ourselves. I have seen the strongest of bonds formed in the face of oppression. I see hope in a person’s eyes when they walk into one of our gatherings without anyone to call their friend, and they are immediately greeted as family. In the reading of names on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we speak the names many may not have even heard before that night. I am uplifted when I see people mourn the loss of family and friends they never met because they have faced injustice. I gain strength when I see those allies begin to work because the names of those we lost too soon touched their hearts.

12291143 10153825071918179 7039726374850665963 o

Mt. Horeb community reading of “I am Jazz”[Courtesy A. Bledsoe]

To end the conversation, we asked our interviewees what this day, Transgender Day of Remembrance means to them.

JB: In a world where some of us can’t get people to call us by our names and correct pronouns, and where people are invisible (or have to try to be to survive), the reading of people’s names feels entirely necessary; it is simultaneously a frail gesture and one that is revolutionary. Names are commonplace, and they are sacred. We have to call out the names of those who have been casualties of our oppressive and alienating systems. We have to set aside a week for Transgender Awareness, and a day to remember those who have died, so that cisnormativity and cisgender privilege aren’t all that there is, so that trans* folks see that we’re not alone, and so we remind ourselves to keep on working for a world where the numbers of the dead go down from one year to the next.

BB: For me its a very solemn day and has been. It reminds me of all the violence worldwide against our trans* community, more so in other countries. When I hear about the violent murders, beatings, and especially the suicides when a lot of us get so depressed especially when family and friends choose to not love us, or accept us a human beings. That’s where more education will help.

KL: The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a memorial to those we have lost, and it is a reminder of why we must always move forward. It is not only for ourselves that we seek safety and equality. It is in memory of those who came before, and it is for those who will come after. What is remembered, lives.

 *   *   *

Rev. Katharine Luck will be holding a vigil and memorial in Pensacola, Florida through the organization STRIVE. Brianne Burne and Jake Bradley, along with co-coordinator Nick Metrick and Rev. Selena Fox, will be hosting observances in Wisconsin, through Circle Sanctuary.

Bradley noted, “I feel really honored to contribute to [Circle’s event] by helping to shine a light on those impacted by transphobic hate and violence this year, and by helping to celebrate the resilience of the TGNC community. I think events like this are sorely needed, especially at a moment in our national history that feels terrifying and bleak for so many of us, because they help us demonstrate and galvanize allyship.They remind us that some particulars of our stories may differ, but that all those of us who face oppression or marginalization have much in common.”

1450088_506261539477446_410423383353180015_n-1

For those people who are attending organized vigils today or would like to participate in their own way privately or with their own groups, TWH has provided the TDoR list of 2016 victims of anti-transgender violence. There are many others resources on the issues discussed for both trans people and allies. GLAAD provides a short list of legal resources and other support. Now celebrating its second anniversary, the Trans Lifeline is available nationally

TWH – The annual celebration of Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day in 1919 at the end of World War I. It was officially renamed Veterans Day in the United States in order to honor all veterans. Many countries still honor Nov. 11 as a day of remembrance, especially those that fought on the Allied side in World War I.

This is a special year for Circle Sanctuary, as they recognize the 10th anniversary of the Veterans Pentacle Quest. After a long struggle attempting to get the pentacle as an approved device for military headstones, Circle Sanctuary and Selena Fox teamed up with Americans United for Separation of Church and State to file a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs. Assisting in the suit was Roberta Stewart, wife and widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who died in Afghanistan. Nov. 13, 2006 was the day they filed the lawsuit; the VA policy was changed to allow the pentacle on gravestones the following April.

New Operation Circle Care patch on the 10th anniversary of the program.

New Operation Circle Care patch on the 10th anniversary of the program.

Ten years later, attitudes have shifted somewhat within the military, but more so within the VA. For those unfamiliar with its structure, the Department of Defense oversees all branches of the military, while Veterans Affairs is a distinct department.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Operation Circle Care, the support program for active duty Wiccans, Heathens, Druids, Polytheists and other Pagans serving in the military. In honor of the anniversary, Circle Sanctuary has created new patches for active duty members of the military.

While the progress made has been significant and each of veterans interviewed below were proud of their service in their respective branches, they also acknowledged a need to keep pushing for change and recognition within the system.

Reverend Tiffany Andes coordinates military circles for Circle Sanctuary. She figures there are 18 active circles that she works with right now.

“We’ve had some on naval ships, we have some in deployed locations and we have some in more stable overseas locations” in addition to the circles at places like Fort Bragg and Fort Hood, which are two of the oldest, she said.

Now Andes will be adding another achievement, crossing an important threshold for Pagans in the military. She is believed to be the first Pagan chaplain in residence at a VA hospital, and thus the first Pagan chaplain working as a paid employee of the VA.

“I feel it’s a very important process for us as a community. I’m doing the work because it’s the work that I love to do anyway. I feel very strongly about working with veterans and giving back to that particular community, especially because of the effect of being at war for over a decade,” Andes said.

Tiffany Andes

While she does publicly own her Paganism within the military structure, she wants to be clear that she’s not doing it for personal recognition. “I’m doing this because I love the work,” she said.

Another reason is that she doesn’t feel that Pagans get accurate representation within the military. Just by her presence, she’s challenging norms at the Tennessee hospital in which she works, she said.

“The additional challenges that come with my position include a lot of education. It is an active effort to be pleasant, to be loving and to educate every single day. There’s a lot of misinformation and misconceptions and prejudice that we have to move against in the system, to change the system,” Andes said.

“I have airmen, and I have soldiers and marines, they’re deploying or they’re separated from their families and they call me and say, ‘my leadership isn’t supportive of the fact that I’m Pagan, or Wiccan or Heathen or Asatru, I don’t know what to do, because I can’t be honest about my faith, which is what gives me the strength to do what it is I need to do.’ What do you tell them? They’re going off to fight for us, to fight for our freedoms and they can’t have the freedom of religious expression that they’re fighting for,” she explained.

Rev. Andes was honored at Circle Sanctuary’s annual Samhain celebration, and she will be recognized at Circle’s upcoming Veterans Day ceremony and observances, according to a statement from the organization.

“Ministry to veterans, active duty service members, and their families has been an important part of Circle Sanctuary’s work for more than forty years,” said Circle Sanctuary Senior Minister, Rev. Selena Fox. “Her VA hospital work is moving Paganism forward in the ongoing quest for full equality in military and veteran chaplaincy realms.”

Fox said that Circle Sanctuary will be holding a ceremony on Veterans Day at noon.


Currently a civilian employee of the VA, ‘Mick’ is a veteran who asked that we not use his real name out of fear for his job. He claims that while working for a branch of the military in the 1990s, he was removed from an assignment, ostracized, and passed up for an advancement program after speaking openly about his Paganism.

Now, he feels comfortable in the job that he has, but will probably not talk about his faith within the VA.

480px-seal_of_the_u-s-_department_of_veterans_affairs-svg

“My work requires me to work with the media extensively. I also work with dozens of Veterans Service Organizations and the public at large. I’m hoping that things have changed. People are more tolerant. More informed. More loving. But everything I see in the news tells me this is just a dream. It’s a dream that I can’t pin my family’s well-being on again.”

But, he says, his military years were not spent in complete hiding. During a ceremony for reenlistment he had to put his hand on the Bible to take his oath. Mick did so, but went to his commanding officer afterward and informed the man that he was Pagan and felt odd about using the Bible.

“He was taken aback and I assumed I was about to encounter another episode of intolerance. Much to my surprise, my (commanding officer) apologized and admitted he’d never thought about that before. He subsequently began asking sailors who were reenlisting whether using the Bible was appropriate for them. I also was able to assist the base chaplain on several issues that came up involving Wiccan and Pagan sailors on base,” he said.

After the election Mick reached out to say, “I didn’t think Trump would win but this definitely crystallized my anxiety about people doing the right thing.”


Josh Heath of the Open Halls Project said it’s not easy being a member of a non-traditional faith in the military. He said his experience in the army wasn’t terrible, but he did have some difficulties. “There are a lot of Pagans of various sorts in the military and they are making a difference, little by little,” Heath said.

Heath reported that the Open Halls Project had become an incorporated, non-stock, non-profit in Maryland this year, the next step will be to become a federally recognized non-profit. This step will allow them to collect money for the first time in the organization’s existence and fund projects, like providing the Havamal, a poem containing life lessons, or Poetic Edda to hand out to Heathens in the military for free, he said.

Another goal they’re working toward is establishing a yearly retreat for veterans and active duty soldiers. He said he would like it to be a time for military members to reconnect, but specifically to reintegrate into their communities and society as a whole.

Open Halls Project

Heath said he sees Veterans Day as a “time for me to recognize the people who have served and are still trying to make a difference in the lives of other veterans. I like to particularly highlight organizations that are doing great things to support other veterans. Wounded Warrior Project, though they aren’t perfect, are certainly an organization that does a lot to help veterans. I’m part of an organization called The Mission Continues, they do a lot of community project work. For me it’s about remembering and furthering support for veterans.”

Locally, he said that there will be a blöt to Woden this Sunday and as part of that he’ll be honoring veterans.


Alix Wright said that when she immigrated to the United States from South Africa as a teenager, she wanted to do something to give back to her newly adopted country.

“I needed a challenge, and the Marines were both challenging and inspiring,” said Wright, Pisces Minister with the Temple of Witchcraft.

During her service, she said that she was given a hard time for not being Christian, but, “there were many more who were supportive of me, and still more who just didn’t think it was their business. I hope that by standing my ground, it helped move those things forward.”

“The chaplain at my battalion told me I could have Samhain off if I proved to him that it was a sacred day.,” Wright explained. “He was a little stunned when I put a pile of books on his desk with notes sticking out of them marking all the references, (remember this was before Google) but he read enough of them to agree to inform my commanding officer that I wouldn’t be coming in on Samhain.”

Wright said that she doesn’t do a major working for Veterans Day but that she does wear her dog tags on the 10th for the Marine Corps’ birthday and on the 11th she lights a candle to honor all who have served.

“I’m at least fourth generation military by how far back I can trace (my son was also in the National Guard so he is fifth) so it’s also an honoring of my ancestors who served and acknowledgement of all those who are serving now and will serve in the future,” Wright said.

Michael Cantone, the Aries Minister for the Temple of Witchcraft, said that the temple will be doing a ritual on Facebook this year so that those outside of the New Hampshire and Massachusetts area will be able to take part.


Like Circle Sanctuary, Covenant of the Goddess issues service medals to its members who are or have served in the military.

CoG medal

Jack Prewett, first officer of the Covenant of the Goddess and a Vietnam veteran, said that at every yearly meeting, they award veterans submitted by local circles with the Order of the Pentacle. “Paganism has grown a lot since I was in the military, and it’s actually now recognized by the military. When I was in the military that would have been unfathomable. I will say I find it wonderful that we are recognized. There’s now a conduit by which we can have Pagan chaplains, it’s wonderful to see it progressing.”

Prewett advised those thinking about coming out as Pagan in the military to do what makes them comfortable. “The reality is the individual has to take into account his own personal experiences and his own personal safety before he decides he can stand up and say, ‘yes, I’m a Pagan’. I’m hearing that a lot of the military is becoming more and more accepting, so it gives you hope,” he said.


Rev. David Oringderff, executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation, said that, to him, Veterans Day is “a time to honor those who have taken the oath and served to ‘protect the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.’ For that very reason, the U.S. veteran is different from all of the other veterans of all of the armed forces of the world, past and present.”

Oringderff continued on to explain: “We swore allegiance to a document (that the vast majority of veterans hold as sacred and sacrosanct) that establishes and preserves the ideals and vision of the founders when they embarked on a noble experiment in government that the world had never seen before. Those citizen soldiers fought a bloody and bitter revolution to establish the right to govern themselves in a manner that they chose. That noble experiment has endured for 228 years. And yes, it even survived the 2016 presidential election. One of my favorite quotes of General Washington: ‘when we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.’ And when ‘we assumed the soldier’ we became part of that kindred that cannot be fully comprehended unless you are a part of it. That kindred has protected and defended the Constitution from its inception right up to this very day. And so shall it ever be.”


For Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist veterans unable to attend a local event, Rev. Fox said that, following her Nov 15 broadcast of Circle’s Nature Talk radio program, she will honor veterans live on the air with her annual presentation of Military Service Ribbons.

 

[Here are this week’s Pagan Community Notes!  Each Monday we feature events, book releases, and important news stories coming out of our collective Pagan and Heathen communities. If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. We are now at 42% with 12 days left. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a platform for our communities’ important news. Donate today.]

14681113_10157932601725157_3700450731288102924_o

SUMTERVILLE, Fla. – Oberon Zell announced Oct. 19 that his son Bryan David Zell had died after a long battle with multiple health problems, including pancreatitis, diabetes, and liver failure. Bryan was born Sept. 19, 1953,, and grew up in and around his father and eventually his stepmother’s work , just as the Pagan community was beginning to grow. Zell described his son as a “Pagan and a Pirate.”  He said,”Bryan was a magickal child, and he always maintained an altar. He would find interesting-looking rocks and identify them as having magickal functions, such as making rain, snow, or other things he determined from their markings.”

At 18, Bryan joined the Army, after which he traveled and worked with his family. In 2001, he graduated from Mendocino Community College located in Ukiah, California with a degree in geriatric nursing. Shortly after, he moved to Florida and got a job working with the TSA in Orlando, a job that Zell called “miserable.” He believes it contributed to his son’s worsening condition.

By 2015, Bryan’s various illnesses had overtaken him and, in December of that year, he was hospitalized.  As time passed, the situation only worsened.  Bryan was eventually placed in hospice care.  The morning of Oct. 19, Zell posted on Facebook, “We discovered that the consecrated blue ‘Dreamwalker’ candle we had burning for Bryan on the ancestor altar had gone out. I tried to relight it, but the wick wouldn’t ignite. I said to Anne, ‘I can’t seem to relight it.’ She replied, ‘Perhaps you don’t need to.’ And we knew.”

Bryan died peacefully the night of Oct. 18. Zell said that he felt the passing and that Bryan’s “beloved stepmother had come to carry him home.” Zell also recounted that an owl had visited Bryan’s room at the time of his death. Zell believes this to be a family familiar that had lived with them when his son was young. Zell added, “Let these memories lessen grief.”

Pagan priestess Doreen Lavista was able to give him his last rites. Zell said that Bryan will be cremated and his ashes will be present at the Nov. 4-6 Samhain retreat at Annwfn. The retreat will include a memorial service and a telling of stories. Bryan is known among his friends as a kind and loving soul. What is remembered, lives.

*     *     *

WASHINGTON – The Firefly House has been invited to appear as a guest on the ABC affiliate talk and news program Good Morning Washington Oct. 31. Author David Salisbury, co-coordinator of the Firefly House, will be joined by member Caroline Gould. Salisbury said, “The main focus is on modern Witchcraft as practiced in Washington D.C. and also a little bit on how Witches celebrate Halloween religiously, and also perform some type of ritual.” The goal, Salisbury said, is to “educate the masses.”

But that is not the only public relations effort that members of the Firefly House will be making this Halloween season. The group’s annual dumb supper will be attended by local news website the DCist. The organization’s sixth annual dumb supper will be held later that same evening of Oct. 31.

If you want to watch Salisbury and Gould on morning show, the ABC broadcast will be live-streamed through the affiliate’s website, and for those who can’t watch live, clips should be available later in the day.  We will update this story in our next edition of Pagan Community Notes.

*     *     *

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

WISCONSIN –  There are now more Pagans on the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Religious Advisory Committee. This is big step forward for Pagan chaplains working in prison ministry in the state.  According to Rev. Selena Fox, who has been involved in this type work for decades, “[This committee] advises the Wisconsin Department of Corrections on religious accommodation issues involving state prison operations.”  The more Pagans, Heathens, and people of minority religions serving on such committees, the better understood the practice of such religions is, and the more likely accommodations will be considered and appropriately granted.

According to the report, the committee now has three members who follow a Pagan tradition. The members include Fox, Dianne Duggan (Minerva) and Wade Mueller.  Rev. Fox has been serving on the committee since 2001, while the other two were just appointed. While Duggan is a Circle Sanctuary member, Mueller is not; he is a member of the group Deeply Rooted.

Duggan and Mueller have already attended their first meeting, and Rev. Fox said that she is glad to have them on board.

In Other News

  • After the first round of formal decisions went out for PantheaCon’s 2017 presentation selections, there was brief outcry as many regular presenters were not given a space. Speculation as to why was rampant. TWH spoke directly with both PantheaCon founder and director Glenn Turner. When asked about any changes in the decision process, she confirmed that nothing had indeed changed, and that the organization is simply ensuring fresh programming and providing space to new presenters. Turner said, “We have always welcomed new presenters; many published authors have started as PantheaCon speakers. In order to make room for new faces, as we have grown, we’ve needed to rotate out some excellent presenters and welcome them back in future years.” This year PantheaCon will be held Feb. 17-20.
  • The Druid College UK will be opening its application process Oct. 31 for the next set of year one classes, to begin in October 2017. Co-founder, tutor and author Joanna van der Hoeven explained, “We are opening for applications a full year in advance to allow for more flexible payment arrangements.” Now in its second year, the college “provides a three year non-accredited course in studying the tenets of the earth-based spirituality known as Druidry.” It is the sister school of the U.S.-based Druid College in Maine. The college has also announced that it has a new location: classes will be held at Messing Village Hall in the Essex countryside.
  • Blogger, lawyer and tarot reader Benebell Wen has released a new book titled The Tao of  the Craft. According to her website, the book “reveals the rich history and theoretical principles underlying the ancient practice of crafting Fu talismans, or magical sigils, in the Chinese Taoist tradition.” This is Wen’s second book.
  • In other book news, Red Wheel/Weiser has begun its third annual Wicked Wonders Giveaway. The winner receives a “tote bag filled with books by Weiser authors Judika Illes, John L. Steadman, Courtney Weber, Crystal Judy Hall and others. The winner will also receive a galley copy of Love Magic written by author and blogger Lilith Dorsey.” Entries are being accepted through Oct. 31.
  • TWH journalist and filmmaker Dodie Graham McKay was involved in project that resulted in a film titled Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees. As explained on the website, the film is a “documentary featuring scientist and acclaimed author Diana Beresford-Kroeger. [It] follows Diana as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests. Her global journey explores the science, folklore, and restoration challenges of this essential eco-system.” Currently the film is only being screened in Winnipeg and Sarnia. It will be released on a wider scale in the months to come.  Here is the trailer:

Call of the Forest – Theatrical Trailer from Treespeak Films

Did you enjoy what you read? Donate forget to donate to the Wild Hunt Fund Drive. We can’t do this without your support.

UPDATE 10/24 4:06pm: This article was updated with additional information about Bryan Zell as provided directly by his father Oberon Zell. 

[Pagan Community Notes is a feature that appears weekly, highlighting important stories from within our collective Pagan and Heathen communities. If you like this feature, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it all happen. Every dollar helps. This is your community; TWH is your community news source. Donate today and share our link! Thank you.]

pagan federation TWH – The Pagan Federation has continued using the internet to help support those members and others who are unable to attend live Pagan festivals, workshops, and rituals.This past weekend, the organization’s disabilities team hosted a day long equinox event that included online rituals, talks, and more. Prior to the event, the packed scheduled was posting online. Attendees only needed access to a computer and wi-fi in order to participate.

The festival began with a live opening ritual with Jay Anderson. The group also published the transcript online so her words could be followed. The festival continued on from that point with video introductions to the group’s lead team members, discussions on various Pagan topics, music and ritual, and even a word from the new Pagan Federation president Robin Taylor. Nimue Brown and her family joined the festival to share a chant as part of the Disability Voices Project. The entire event wrapped up with Anderson performing the closing ritual. All of the day’s festivities are currently posted on the Facebook event page.

*    *    *

mankeybeskin_atlantisLONDON — Llewellyn author and Patheos Pagan Channel editor Jason Mankey recently made a special appearance at Atlantis Bookshop in London to promote his new book, The Witches Athame. Shop owner Geraldine Beskin introduced the workshop by saying that Mankey’s book is “an important and practical book.”

During his two-hour presentation on the history and lore of the athame, Mankey appeared delighted to be presenting his well-researched material in the basement space known as the “Gerald Gardner Room,” the meeting place for Gardner’s own coven. An open discussion followed the talk, and visitors from Canada, England, and the United States were able to compare notes on Wicca-related topics.

Both Beskin and Mankey generously shared anecdotes about their lives within the Craft. Journalist Dodie Graham McKay was in attendance and said, “In a time where much discussion happens on social media, this event provided a rare opportunity to have such conversations in real time.” Atlantis Bookshop was founded in 1922 by occultist Michael Houghton and, as such, has been serving the Pagan, magical, and occult communities for nearly 100 years.

  *    *    *

Circle Sanctuary logo

RENO, Nev. — Monday Sept. 26 marks the 10th anniversary of the American Freedom Rally, which is largely considered to be the turning point in the Pentacle Quest. Held at Reno’s 9/11 memorial, the 2006 rally eventually led to the inclusion of the pentacle on the Veterans Affairs list of authorized emblems.

Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox was at that 2006 rally, along with Roberta Stewart, the widow of the first Wiccan soldier killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Sgt. Patrick Stewart and Chaplain William Chrystal who, Fox said, “supported the quest for equal rights for Wiccans and other Pagans.”

Rev. Fox will be honoring the work done on the Pentacle Quest as well as marking the 10th anniversary date “with a series of events in coming months.” On Tuesday, she will be speaking more about the quest and the upcoming celebratory events on her podcast.

  *    *    *

tuatha deaGATLINBURG, Tenn. — Reverbnation currently places Pagan band Tuatha Dea at the top of its Celtic music charts worldwide.The band was excited to learn the news but remained modest, saying, “It probably means nothing but it is interesting.” However, their fans and friends demonstrated their excitement over the ranking. Author Alex Bledsoe said, “It means that the word’s getting out about how awesome the band is!”

Some of Tuatha Dea’s music was inspired by Bledsoe’s Tufa series, and the band just finished co-hosting a Tufa Tour weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The weekend promised to help attendees “experience firsthand the magic of the Appalachian fae.” Over the three day weekend, the band performed, participated in a Q&A with Bledsoe, and hosted a drum circle and workshop.

Following Tuatha Dea on the Reverb Celtic charts is the Ogham Stones, the American Rogues, Lexington Field, and Ida Elena.

In Other News

  • Reclaiming will be hosting a special social justice ritual Oct 2. in Los Angeles, Calif. The groups writes, “With the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis as our guide – the great lady of magic – we will summon the element of water to wear down injustice drip by drip by drip.” Reclaiming, originating in San Francisco in 1975, is the same group that initiated the letter of support to the Great Sioux Nation in their work to protect the land from pipeline construction. It is the Los Angeles-based Reclaiming group that is hosting this Oct. ritual.
  • Author and Witch David Salisbury has a new book being released Sept. 30. The title is A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing and, as he explains, it “takes a new approach at the practice of cleansing and clearing.” Salisbury is most known for his book Teen Spirit Wicca and his work in the D.C. area working with a younger generation of Pagans.
  • After more than five years of study and work, Shai Feraro received his doctorate from Tel Aviv University’ School of Historical Studies. Feraro is a friend of the Pagan Federation International and a regular speaker at PAEAN‘s online biannual conference. At past events, he has lectured on topics such as Pagan community-building in Israel. However, Feraro’s focus and academic work were not based on his experiences in Israel. Feraro’s dissertation is titled: The Priestess, the Witch, and the Women’s Movement: Women and Gender Issues in British Magical and Pagan Groups, c. 1888 – c. 1988. He said, “It was an amazing — albeit at times arduous — stage in my journey within academia.” He noted that the dissertation will be available in book form in the near future.
  • On that same note, the Pagan Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be hosting the next conference Nov 7. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 7. This event’s theme is spiritual pilgrimage in its many forms. The keynote speaker is Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern, philosopher, educator, and peace studies specialist.
  • From the blogosphere, Greybeard contemplates the presence of magic in contemporary society as found in mainstream advertising. “Magic has always been part of religion and while some argue that our culture has become more secular over the past few centuries, it could be suggested that the infusion of magic into business and politics balances this, although not usually in a good way.”
  • And, finally, it is Banned Book Week and organizations around the world are celebrating the freedom to read. Take a look at some of the books listed by the Smithsonian in their special exhibit, “Banned Books that Shaped America.” Is one of your favorites on it?

Your community. Your news. If you liked today’s Pagan Community Notes, consider donating to our fund drive. Your support is what makes this article possible. Every dollar helps. Thank you.

TWH – Today marks Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day to honor the many men and women who have died in military service. According to a news report on ABC, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans together state that at least “1.2 million people have died fighting for America during its wars dating back 241 years.” The VA has a breakdown of the losses per conflict since the American Revolution.

In a recent post, blogger John Beckett wrote, “Let us remember our warrior dead. Let us remember those who answered the call to do what had to be done and who sacrificed all they had. It is right and good to celebrate their courage and valor.”

[Photo Credit: Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr]

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists have served and are serving in the U.S. miltiary, and still others are members of military families. Memorial Day has a special significance to them. Veteran and Wiccan Priest, Blake Kirk said,

Memorial Day isn’t about veterans like me, who got to come home and go on with their lives. No, Memorial Day is supposed to be all about the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who came home in caskets or in body bags. Or who never came home at all, like my father-in-law. They paid the highest possible price to defend this nation, and it trivializes their sacrifice not to make their one day a year just about them.

As with those in other religious groups, members of our collective communities have also given their lives in service, and because of the efforts of others, their sacrifices can be recognized and honored within military circles using the religious emblem of their choice, including the pentacle and Thor’s hammer.

[Photo Credit: John C. Hamer / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: John C. Hamer / Flickr]

The year marks the 9th anniversary of the victory of the Pentacle Quest. In 2007, Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox wrote, “Working together, we, at last, have success in this quest – and in the greater quest for equal rights for Wiccans, Witches, and other Pagans in the United States of America and around the world.”

In 2013, when Thor’s hammer was approved by the department of Veterans Affairs, a number of Heathen groups released celebratory statements. The following words came from Hrafnar:

Today, Hrafnar stands with Heathens across the US in pride as the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs has approved the Thor’s Hammer as an emblem to put on the headstones of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. The greater acceptance of our faith anywhere is a victory for all of us, regardless of whatever other differences we may have.

The group also said, “Today, Hrafnar […] stands with Heathens across the US in sorrow: such recognition can only be made after the death of one who has been sworn to that service. The death of one of us is a loss for us all, regardless of whatever other differences we may have. Hail the fallen! Hail the Heathens!”

The modern military experience can be part of the modern Pagan, Heathen and polytheist experience. Those who are wounded and die in service to our country are not an anonymous “other” removed from our society and daily lives. They are us.

We honor our Pagan, Heathen and polytheist brothers and sisters who have fallen in the line of duty. As said by Hrafnar, “The death of one of us is a loss for us all.”

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

In 2011, Solar Cross Temple’s T. Thorn Coyle wrote, “I have inadequate words for those who have died in this endless war humanity is waging upon itself and upon the earth and the other beings of the earth. All I can do is send out compassion in my meditation and my prayers today for those involved on any side…”

The New York Times published an article describing military photographer Andrew Lichtenstein’s journey to capture, or recapture, the meaning behind the Memorial Day holiday, which he felt “has been largely reduced to a day of sales, sleeping in, or go out.”  That article, titled When Every Day is Memorial Day, shares some of his experiences attending military funerals and memorial services.  At the end, Lichtenstein says, “I learned something from the families: The true cost of grief is beyond politics. It was important to realize an individual life had been lost and people were greatly affected. That loss is so much greater than agreeing or disagreeing with [the] war.”

Pagans and Heathens around the country will be observing this day in both private and public spaces. At Arlington National Cemetery, Circle Sanctuary Ministers Jeanet & David Ewing led the 7th Annual Visitation of Pentacle Markers at noon today. And Circle Sanctuary has also created a Facebook page titled Memorial Day Remembrances, inviting people to post remembrances of those loved ones who were killed in US military service.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
– Laurence Binyon, “For the Fallen,” originally published in The Times, 1914

What is remembered, lives!

TWH — Chaplains tend to work in places where religious needs are felt strongly: military bases, prisons, hospitals. In the past, The Wild Hunt has spotlighted some of the work of Pagan prison and military chaplains, but it is the hospital chaplains that most people are likely to encounter at some point in their lives. As the need for Pagan Chaplains grow, more people are doing this very specialized work. Cherry Hill Seminary, a Pagan-specific learning institution, and other interfaith-based seminaries have well-established programs and classes that train people in this area.

We reached out to a number of Pagans who work are working as chaplains in the health care field, and we received responses from four members of Circle Sanctuary. Rev. Selena Fox aired a podcast focusing on hospital chaplains just a few weeks ago, which includes in-depth discussions with several such chaplains affiliated with Circle Sanctuary. Michelle Castle and Tiffany Andes are both studying health care chaplaincy at Iliff School of Theology, and will soon hold Masters of Divinity degrees. Fox’s own experience as a public Pagan minister predates Pagans serving in official capacities, and she’s had to develop a wide variety of ministerial skills as a consequence of being a pioneer. Additionally, we spoke with Cernowain Greenman (Rev. Tim Staker), who is reportedly the only full-time Pagan hospital chaplain who is board certified.

[Photo Credit: youtube]

[Photo Credit: rolensfx / youtube]

The Wild Hunt: Prison and military chaplains have experience in working with specific populations. What is unique about the hospital population, and the needs you’re asked to serve there?

Rev. Selena Fox: I have done ministry service in prisons, at military installations, on campuses, at hospices, and in a variety of healthcare settings as part of my work through Circle Sanctuary. . . . In addition to providing direct spiritual care to those in need in various institutions, part of my work today involves doing diversity education and Pagan religious accommodation training with chaplains and administrative staff in various types of institutions.

Each category of institutional setting has its own types of protocols and considerations. It is essential in doing spiritual care in an institutional setting that you learn about the system and its regulations and that you abide by them.

In doing work in a hospital setting, in addition to providing support to a patient and interfacing with staff, it is common to also connect with the patient’s support network of family & friends. Both the patient and her/his loved ones are usually impacted by the hospitalization and in need of spiritual care. When I do ministry in a prison or military installation, rarely do I connect with loved ones of those there.

Tiffany Andes: Hospital populations are unique in that their needs can vary greatly, but are also almost always directly related to health concerns. Either they are in an inpatient situation of some sort, or they may be receiving long-term treatment for cancer or other similar cases. The questions and concerns that come up around these criteria generally have to do with managing illness, family connections, trauma, and in some cases, moving into hospice and end of life situations. As a chaplain you have to be open to holding space for those discussions and being a companion to patients and their families without judgement during some of the most stressful times in their lives.

Michelle Castle: Hospital chaplaincy is unique in that we are able to be present for individuals, families, and staff during times of physical crisis. Care is variable depending on whether the crisis is acute and emergent, or if they have been dealing with long-term illness. We also are in the midst of all stages of life, being present when life comes into the world and at the end of life.

Cernowain Greenman: By definition, chaplains are clergy to people who have been displaced from their home, whether because of military deployment, illness, prison, education at university, government service, etc.

Hospital chaplains serve the spiritual needs of people who find themselves in medical institutions because of a serious illness or injury. Patients can be lonely, afraid, anxious, frustrated, angry, etc., and often without emotional support. They are sometimes disconnected from their spiritual family as well, missing ritual gatherings and in need of spiritual support. Chaplains are specially trained spiritual leaders who help facilitate the meeting of these needs.

TWH: Given how important it is for a chaplain to be able to serve someone of any religion, how important is it to have Pagan hospital chaplains specifically?

SF: Those serving as a chaplain in institutional settings, regardless of their religious orientation and religious organization endorsement, need to be skilled in communicating with and providing support to those of different religions as well as those who consider themselves spiritual and not religious and those who are humanist, atheist, agnostic and/or freethinkers.

However, it is important to have Pagans in chaplaincy work for several reasons: (1) to be available to share information as needed about Pagan religions/spirituality to other chaplains and staff in an institution that may providing support to Pagan patients and/or Pagan family and friends of a patient and may be interacting with Pagan ministers visiting patient and loved ones, (2) to help Pagans not in the hospital understand effective ways of working with hospital systems as a whole and chaplains and spiritual care staff in particular in getting needs met for themselves and loved ones when the need arises, (3) to diversity and educate the profession of chaplaincy in an increasingly pluralistic world, and (4) to help Paganism achieve equal rights and respect in society as a whole.

TA: Having Pagan hospital chaplains speaks to the higher goal of true interfaith representation within institutionalized ministry. While it can be argued that chaplains of any faith should be able to serve patients regardless of faith orientation, the fact remains that as a minority faith Pagans still feel stigmatized in many common societal settings. Having chaplain representation in such an important location emphasizes equality among faith traditions.

MC: I think that Tiffany answered this question beautifully.

CG: While many chaplains are willing and able to provide emotional support to Pagan patients, if the chaplain is Christian or of another faith, they usually are unable to meet the spiritual needs of a Pagan, since they lack the understanding of Pagan spirituality and ritual. A Pagan chaplain can understand and help meet the spiritual needs of other Pagans much better than non-Pagan chaplains.

The Pagan community has grown to a point where many find themselves hospitalized, sometimes far from home, and in need of spiritual support. Pagan hospital chaplains are needed now, especially for Pagan patients.

TWH: What do you do if you’re completely unfamiliar with the religion of a new patient? Is it different if the unfamiliar religion is a Pagan one?

SF: When I worked as a psychotherapist in a hospital and in an outpatient mental health clinic and had a new patient, I invited the patient to share religious, spiritual, and/or philosophical perspectives and orientation as part of intake. I used the same approach whether the patient was Pagan or not.

TA: In the majority of cases, if a patient has a specific religious request (communion, priestly sacraments, etc) the requests will go directly to the representative of that denomination. In general settings, you may come across a religion that isn’t common, but one that we have received education on and we are familiar with. If I need clarification I always ask the patient how I can best serve them–is it through prayer, reflective meditation, chanting, etc? Would they prefer I put them in contact with a community representative of their own faith? I have yet to come across a Pagan patient that I could not connect with or assist in some way to meet their spiritual needs.

MC: I consider this to be an opportunity to learn, and that even when we are familiar with a specific religion or tradition, that each person has their own unique beliefs and values within the traditions. I love to learn more about how others experience their faith and as a chaplain, I am able to be present to listen to how one processes a crisis and how that intersects with their faith. For me being able to be present to one and meeting them where they are is important and I can find points of connection with any tradition.

CG: When I meet new patients, as I am talking with them, I do what is called a spiritual assessment to determine the patient’s sources of inner strength, how they make meaning of their illness, and what resources they have to help them through this difficult time in their lives. I help them get in touch with whatever it is that strengthens their spirit—which may or may not be religious.

I keep a number of apps on my phone of different religious traditions to help me—from rosary prayers to recitations of the Qur’an to Buddhist meditation timers. For Pagans I have apps that utilize Tarot, Runes, bird songs and Nature sounds, and even one for candle lighting (since most hospitals do not allow real candles to be lit). But I also have battery candles, as well as a collection of healing stones. In addition, I have created printable booklets with words of encouragement for a dozen different faiths, including one for followers of Earth-based religions. If I am unable to meet specific religious needs, I will invite a religious leader from the community to come in to help, with the patient’s permission.

Most importantly, I also offer to be a supportive companion with patients in their healing journey, no matter what spiritual path they are on.

[Photo Credit: Ahs856 / Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Ahs856 / Wikimedia]

TWH: Are you prepared in case you are yourself unexpectedly hospitalized?

SF: My hospital ministry work has helped me prepare for hospitalizations, anticipated as well as unexpected for me and for loved ones. I have been able to take my understanding of healthcare systems to get my needs as a Pagan accommodated, such having a small healing altar in my hospital room & having soothing Pagan Celtic harp recording played during an operation. I also have been able to interface with the spiritual care department at the hospital to make certain that ritual with friends could happen in my room.

TA: I was in fact unexpectedly hospitalized in July of last year for a week. I refused any visits from the chaplain’s office.

MC: I have a great support group, from family and close friends that I can reach out to if I am in need. I feel that being in the healthcare field for many years, that I am uniquely prepared from the medical aspects of care, having a living will and directives. I know how to navigate the healthcare system as well as how to incorporate my specific spiritual needs.

CG: I have an altar at home that can be taken in to the hospital with relative ease, if I were to be hospitalized for a lengthy period. And I have in my contacts phone numbers of local Pagan friends, some who are clergy, for my support. When I have been registered as a patient, I let the hospital clerk know my spiritual preference is Wiccan and ask that my beliefs be respected since my spirituality is my main resource for getting well.

TWH: Could you describe what you’ve done to prepare for your own spiritual wellbeing?

SF: For those of us involved in ministering to others, it is essential that we also do spiritual care for ourselves. For me this includes beginning each day with a series of spiritual practices. I reflect on dreams and I do a Greet the Day Sacred Circle, Sacred Sphere ceremony. I also endeavor to spend time outside each day, usually in the form of a meditative nature walk. And, I take time away from mobile devices, screens, and other technology each day to commune with nature.

TA: Knowing how chaplaincy can take a lot out of you emotionally and physically, it is essential to have a self-care regimen for when you are not seeing patients. I try to rest as much as possible and get plenty of sunshine. I also do reflective meditation, spend time with my family, and exercise. I find it is absolutely true that we cannot be there for others if we have not first taken care of ourselves–and there is no shame in admitting that is a necessary component of the caregiving process.

MC: I think that having core spiritual practices that occur daily is important. My morning prayers and meditation help to keep me grounded and centered. The daily practices keep me connected with the Divine within me as well as without. The importance of self-care and creating space to take care of myself is highly needed. I have developed techniques that build in the time to breathe and to check in with myself throughout the day. This includes taking the time to reground and center before entering a room and after leaving a care conversation. This helps me to discern my own emotions and thoughts that are kept separate from the care-seekers. This also creates space for me to energetically clear and take only what is mine and to release what energy isn’t mine.

CG: In order to be a support to others I’ve found I have to keep a daily ritual time, usually in the morning. I make sure my chakras are in balance before I meet with any patient. I also find reading prepares my spirit, and lately I’ve been reading ancient Gnostic texts and the new biography of Doreen Valiente for inspiration.

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

Over this past weekend, Circle Sanctuary co-sponsored a “Nature Spirituality & Healing event” along with several organizations belonging to the Iliff School of Theology, based in Denver, Colorado. Those organizations included ILIFF Student Senate, ILIFF Seminarians for Reproductive Justice, Wisdom Traditions Student Group at ILIFF, and the Unitarian Universalist Student Organization.

The free, public healing event, held at the First Universalist Church of Denver, included four hours of discussion and panels pertaining to the interrelationship between self-care and nature. The guest speakers were from various religious and spiritual backgrounds, and included: Rev. Selena Fox, Maeve Wiilde, Michelle Castle, Dr. Larry Graham, Dr. Jason Whitehead, Rev. Todd Strickland.

Rev. Fox also offered to the interfaith crowd a “Healing with Nature Workshop,” which “included ways of working with Nature imagery, Nature rituals, and natural areas for renewal, dispelling stress, and enchanting wellness.” This was the first time that Circle Sanctuary has collaborated with IlIFF.  Rev. Fox was pleased with the outcome, saying that there were about 85 attendees from “many Paths: Christians, Unitarian Universalists, Buddhists, Humanists, & other traditions.”

The event concluded with an outdoor healing ritual led by Rev. Fox. This week’s Circle Sanctuary podcast, called Circle Talk, will feature a report on this event, as well as focusing on “hospital chaplaincy as a career.” Joining Rev. Fox will be “Circle Sanctuary Minister Cern (Tim Staker), a full time Hospital chaplain, and Circle Sanctuary Ministers in Training Michelle Castle of Colorado and Tiffany Andes of Maryland, both Air Force veterans and hospital chaplain students at ILIFF School of Theology.”

The show will air live on Tuesday, Apr. 5 at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT.

Circle Sanctuary & Iliff Nature Healing Event, 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Circle Sanctuary & Iliff Nature Healing Event, 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

*    *    *

Cherry Hill SeminaryThis weekend, over in South Carolina, another group of Pagans were attending an event to discuss the environment. But in this case, the event was a weekend-long academic symposium titled, The Greening of Religion, which featured talks, panels and lectures on the intersection of religion and the environment.

This symposium is once every three-year event sponsored by Cherry Hill Seminary in conjunction with the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Attending this year’s event was CHS Academic Dean Dr. Wendy Griffin, CHS Dean of Students Dr. Candace Kant, CHS Executive Director Holli Emore, CHS board member Marla Roberson, ADF’s Rev. Kirk Thomas, blogger and environmentalist John Halstead, Wild Hunt columnist Manny Tejeda-Moreno and others. The keynote speaker was Professor of Religion Bron Taylor.

Halstead said, “I appreciated the contrast of perspectives on the role tradition plays in the greening of religions.” He added, “I was inspired by the creativity and dedication of those who presented at the conference. At the same time, I was sobered by the realization of how much work remains to be done. Bron Taylor spoke about the ‘anemic’ response of religions to the ecological crisis—and he (rightfully, I think) included Paganism in that indictment.”

Thomas said, “How easily everyone meshed together, regardless of religious path, and how obvious it was that we are all on the same page as far as our ultimate goals are concerned.” He called the overall experience “fascinating.”  Agreeing with him was Roberson, who called the event positive and inspiring.

All three noted the good work done by the organizers, but also noted the low turnout. Halstead speculated that it “may have been reflective of a general despair or feeling of hopelessness at the futility of our individual actions in the face of the titanic forces of global industrial capitalism.” Thomas said, “Where was everyone? Why were so few Pagans there? Don’t they believe that there’s a problem in all of our futures?” Despite that disappoint, their overall impression was positive, and they believe there is room and need for this work to continue.

  *   *   *

downloadThe Pagan Pathways Temple, based in Michigan, has embarked on a new adventure to create a Wiccan-based fictional web series. Titled Unveiled, the show will “follow the story of a new Pagan as she explores the community, her faith, and experiences pitfalls both mundane & magickal.”

Located in Madison Heights, the Pagan Pathways Temple is a nonprofit organization with a dedicated temple space. Its “mission is to provide a place of worship and learning for all those who seek enlightenment and universal knowledge; to offer a haven for all faiths and paths which value love, tolerance, and community; and those who seek to empower and enrich our fellow humans. all who seek fellowship and spiritual growth.”

When speaking of the new web series project, temple president and Wiccan priest Stanley Nunn, also known as Nashan, said, “The reason for the show is because, we figured it would be best, since we have the talent and the people and the organization for us as the temple to tell the story of our community from our own perspective.”

The Pagan Pathways Temple has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed for production.

In Other News

  • The Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund is accepting applications for 2016. Once provided by the Tempest Smith Foundation, this unique scholarship is open to all Pagan high school seniors, undergraduate or graduate students who maintain a 2.85 or higher GPA and who live in Michigan. Founded in 2014, “The Pagan Scholarship Fund is a small pagan non-profit organization established by the Midwest Witches Ball and Witches of Michigan to help those who wish to further their education with a Technical College, Two Year Entry College, Four Year College, or other training with an established nationally accredited school.” The application and more information are available on its website.
  • Godless Paganism: A Journal for Non-Theistic Pagans is now available for purchase. The book is touted as the “first ever anthology of writing by and about non-theistic Pagans. The goal of the anthology is to educate others in the Pagan community about both the diversity and the depth of non-theistic Pagan practice.” Edited by John Halstead with a foreword by Marc Green, the journal contains 420 pages exploring the many forms on non-theistic Pagan practice, including “a variety of theological orientations” such as “humanists, naturalists, Atheopagans, animists, pantheists, Gaians, and more.” Godless Paganism is available in both eBook and paperback forms via Lulu.com and through the Humanstic Paganism blog.
  • Is the Prairie Land Music Festival and Campout cancelled? There has been a rumor going around that Prairie Land organizers have cancelled their June weekend Pagan festival. Summer 2016 will mark the Eastern Iowa festival’s debut and, according to the website, the scheduled festivities will include performances by Celia, Mama Gina, Cheshire Moon, Jonny Lipford, Wax Chaotic, Anji Kat, Brian Henke, Ryan O’Rien, and IrishJamBand. Organizer Lynn Williams has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the event and is currently seeking more volunteers, but he did say that rumors are false and the event will be held.
  • Demeter Press has placed a call for submissions for a new “edited collection entitled Pagan, Goddess, Mother. Edited by Sarah Whedon and Nané Jordan, the collection’s purpose “is to call categories of Pagan and Goddess mothering into focus, to highlight philosophies and experiences of mothers in these various movements and traditions, and to generate new ways of imagining and enacting motherhood.” Abstracts are due Sept 1. More information and detailed requirements are available on the Demeter Press website, along with a number of other their calls for submissions.
  • The Temple of Witchcraft has opened registration for its 2016-2017 online class season, including all Witchcraft I–IV sessions. Classes are “offered in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft’s Sagittarius ministry” and include “workshops for the education of clergy and practitioners of all types.” The new sessions are given online only and will begin in fall 2016 and end fall 2017. All applicants must be 18 years or over.
  • And for something different, Polytheist.com writer Segomâros Widugeni shares an “outline for a possible reconstructed Gaulish ritual system, adapted to modern circumstances.” Widugeni is a leader in the Gaulish Polytheism community and has been sharing his experience and his practice regularly on the site.

That’s all for now. Have a great day!

FORT HOOD, Texas — The Fort Hood Open Circle, a non-denominational Pagan group that has been meeting on the military base since 1997 and has had a challenging history has been wrestling with problems such as being locked out of their ritual space and having their concerns dismissed by chaplains for a number of years. This past week, its leader had had enough and vented her frustrations on Facebook. Hundreds of shares and a huge outpouring of support followed, along with extensive meetings to address the short-term problems faced by members of the congregation. Solutions to the longer-term, systemic issues will take far more effort.

Fort HoodMichele Morris has served as Distinctive Religious Group Leader, or DRGL in military-speak, for the Fort Hood Open Circle for six years. Over that time, she said, the amount of support her congregation has received has varied considerably. “The last six years that I have had the privilege and responsibility to serve as clergy for Fort Hood Open Circle have been a dizzying roller coaster of harassment and neglect relieved by brief moments of support and underpinned by the soul killer that we proudly call ‘tolerance,'” she wrote in her Facebook post. “Tolerance is a terrible word,” she told The Wild Hunt, because “we tolerate things that we don’t like.” Instead, she feels, “Everyone who is supportive of people they disagree with makes a difference.”

The abuses she lays out in her very public post are not only disheartening, in Morris’ view; they are indicative of problems faced by Pagans serving in the United States military, and living in the country as a whole.

I am regularly told, by government employees that “you people” shouldn’t be “out there.” I have no problem ignoring them as long as they do their job, to each their own. But when it is a chaplain assigned to support our congregation that prefaces every single conversation we have with, “I don’t agree with what you do, but I’ll do my job,” for two years, that is not in fact support. When the religious education coordinator leaves our classes off of the calendar disseminated to all of the units on post and when questioned replies with the assertion that he did this out of his own pocket so he can put on, and leave off of, what he wants, that is not support.

What precipitated sharing these feelings on Facebook was being locked out of the stone circle that congregation members use for their rituals, something that has happened more than once. However, Morris is of the opinion that the issue is not one of access, or even one that is isolated to Fort Hood. “This is a military problem,” she said. “I don’t believe that chaplains are properly trained anymore,” and they fail to understand that they must serve the needs of all military personnel under their care, regardless of religious affiliation. She has found herself forced to serve as both minister and advocate, and unable to fulfill either role fully. “It’s unfair to have to be both for the same group,” she said, adding that she’s certain that other DRGLs are put into exactly the same position.

On an even larger scale, Morris feels that what needs to be discussed is the issue of Christian privilege. “It’s a huge issue, and it’s not being talked about,” she said. Simply trying to take off for one’s religious holidays in this right-to-work state — if they aren’t the standard Christian ones — is completely impractical, she said. “It doesn’t matter what the law says. People need jobs so very badly they can’t afford to walk away; they might not be able to get another one. They have stopped being able to stand up for freedom.”

The Fort Hood Open Circle is, in Morris’ words, the “oldest child” among military Pagan congregations. It is non-denominational by regulation, and in her estimation, “Neither the Army nor Pagans have any idea what to do with us.” That is because there isn’t a clear definition of what “non-denominational” means. Military parlance leans toward precise definitions, and Pagans are in some sense known more for disagreeing over what even the word “Pagan” means than for sharing any particular beliefs or practices. “The model is hard to find,” she said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m writing a book on it.” In practice, one rule she won’t budge on is, “Absolutely no ‘witchier than thou.’ If you’re growing, it’s probably the right path for you. Stop comparing and competing.”

One source of support for many years has been the people of Circle Sanctuary, who Morris describes as “the only non-denominational Pagan group in the outside world.” Circle’s support extends back many years. For example, in 2009, ministers provided support in the wake of the shootings there. More recently, in 2011, Circle Sanctuary became the official endorser of the Fort Hood Open Circle.

Circle Sanctuary’s founder Rev. Selena Fox was quick to respond to Morris’ Facebook note, along with Lady Liberty League (LLL), Circle’s religious freedom advocacy arm. After extensive work behind the scenes, LLL released this statement last night on the current situation at Fort Hood. It reads, in part:

We are deeply troubled that Michele and members of the Fort Hood Open Circle have been denied access to their designated ritual space. We have been part of problem solving on the situation. We are thankful that a short-term solution for access to the ritual space has been reached. We are also part of the process supporting the development of longer-term solutions so that disruptive incidents do not happen again. We are continuing to provide support and monitor this situation.

That work resulted, in part, in a town-hall style meeting last night, during which members of the Fort Hood circle were able to talk about their concerns with base chaplains face-to-face. Three chaplains and many circle members were attended and, while Morris was not available to provide details as of press time, Fox reported that it went well.

1970647_10152116984554285_1633538525_nFox also explained to The Wild Hunt that the access issues were being resolved by obtaining different locks for the gate to the group’s stone circle. According to Morris, the fence was erected due to issues of vandalism. The gate’s lock is controlled by a civilian employee in the Office of Military Morale, Welfare and Recreation, who reportedly believes that the Pagans “should not be out there” and specifically intended to bar that access. That has had profound consequences, as Morris detailed in her note:

Last night a soldier about to deploy did not get to have one last service before he leaves this coming week. There is not a church of his faith where he’s going so it will be at least nine months before he can worship with a group again and that’s only if he’s fortunate enough to be stationed to one of the handful of bases that offer services. Most still do not.

The fact that Morris decided to speak about her frustrations publicly is in itself an indication of how stressful the situation had become. “The military has a PR issue when things don’t stay in-house,” she said, because keeping problems within the organization allows for the message and perceptions to be controlled. Speaking out goes against “everything I was taught as an Army spouse.” The outpouring of support that her note received has been “overwhelming” and “a little intimidating,” she admitted. “I hope I can live up to wherever this is going. I didn’t plan on being the poster child for change.”

Perhaps to be mindful of that military mindset of nothing being dealt with publicly, the statement released by the Lady Liberty League also urges concerned Pagans to contact its offices, or Morris directly. “At this time, we also ask that the wider Pagan community refrains from contacting Fort Hood officials and/or others within the military about this issue, so that the negotiation and understanding-building process may continue. We ask that people continue to send prayers and energy for a positive, long-term solution to this situation.”

Regarding long-term solutions, Morris thinks that they won’t be achieved unless other Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists step up. “I’m far, far out of the broom closet,” she said. “We need to be open about what we do. We don’t create change by living in fear.” She recognizes that more than fear keeps people being public about their practices. There’s an aversion to proselytizing, and answering questions requires being able to articulate those responses. “The difference between education and proselytizing is that you wait for the ask,” she said. Moreover, “Lots of times Pagans don’t bother to have good answers to questions. It’s harder because we have to come up with our own,” rather than drawing upon settled doctrine that can be found in most bookstores.

However, “most spiritual people have more in common than not,” she pointed out, and a meaningful conversation could very well lead to one more person who doesn’t believe that Pagans sacrifice babies, worship the Christian god of evil, or do whatever it is that ignorant people fear.

“Every time there is a news story which misrepresents Pagans, we get upset. There are more of us than people realize, because we stay in our own little bubbles where we’re comfortable. Change happens outside of where we’re comfortable. We’re uncomfortable here in Fort Hood.”

Circle Sanctuary logoCircle Sanctuary has announced the launch of its new membership program. Since its founding in 1974, Circle has been an open organization that has relied predominantly on donations, volunteerism and community support without any form of official membership needed. At Imbolc, organizers officially changed Circle’s traditional structure. In a press release, they wrote, “By creating a more formal membership program, we can open stronger channels of communication; learn from our members about how we can support their spiritual and personal development; and focus on members’ needs now and in the times to come.”

Membership is open to a wide variety of people, limited only by a willingness to agree to “a set of three basic ethical tenets” involving nature, respect and inclusivity. Organizers said, “Circle Sanctuary’s community has always been diverse, including Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Polytheists,Heathens, Unitarian Universalists, Witches, Humanists, Shamanic practitioners and many other names and paths. Within Circle Sanctuary we come together with a common intention to honor the Divine in Nature and create community together. Our membership program continues this tradition of honoring the diversity.”

Organizers were also quick to add, “Circle Sanctuary will continue to serve Pagans of many paths and places, regardless of membership.” Their events, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering, will continue to be open to everyone. Details on joining and on other Circle programs can be found online.

  *    *    *

trothAfter the Jan 10 posting of controversial statements by Asatru Folk Assembly’s Steve McNallen, a wave of backlash and debate erupted throughout the Heathen world. As we previously reported, Heathens United Against Racism publicly responded with a strong response to McNallen’s comments. And, since early January the issue has not abated, with many Heathens adding to the growing public discussion on racism and the support of fascism within their religious communities.

More recently, on Jan 30, Troth Steersman Steve T. Abell posted a response to the situation on Patheos’ Agora, saying, “We have some colorful characters in the Heathen community.” The article, which calls out several members of the Heathen community by name, set off another round of arguments and more backlash. In response, The Troth as an organization posted a reaffirmation of its mission statement, and Redesman John T Mainer published an official response in an essay titled, “The High Cost of Rhetoric.”

Since that point, Heathens and Pagans alike have been weighing in on the volatile situation, including long time Troth member Diana Paxson. Speaking only for herself, Paxson wrote in a Facebook post, “Heathens are known for the variety and vividness of our opinions, and even those who are members of the Troth do not always agree. But the policies of the organization reflect the will of its members. […] If the Troth is to continue to support toleration and respect for all, all those who oppose racism need to stick with the organization and make their opinions known.”

The conversation is ongoing with many Heathens and others sharing stories and opinions on both McNallen’s original post and the follow-up response by various Troth members. How and if this will affect The Troth as an organization or the Heathen community as a whole is still unknown.

 *    *    *

ArcanaThe Academy of Arcana‘s museum containing “Morning Glory’s 40 year collection of Goddess Statues” is now officially opened. The Museum of Myth, Magick & Mysterie, as it has been named, held its grand opening Feb. 7 at 3:00 pm. Attendees were able to look at 366 goddess statues collected by Morning Glory over the years.

The ribbon cutting event was hosted by curator Oberon Zell and coordinator Anne Duthers, and was followed by a reception and guest presentation by Witch Elder Dr. Zsuzsanna E Budapest on “The Politics of Women’s Myths.” The academy, along with its curio shop and museum, are located at 428-A Front St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060. It is the “first physical campus for the Grey School of Wizardry, offering an educational center with a Museum of Myth, Magick and Mysterie, and a Library of Esoterica.”

 *    *    *

Ägyptischer_Maler_um_1360_v._Chr._001We are currently researching a breaking story in which a Pagan Facebook group was shut down because it “violated community standards.” The group’s name is “Following Isis” and was created for those people who are devotees of the Egyptian goddess. As we have reported in the past, it is not uncommon for the goddess Isis to be confused with Daesh, the terrorist organization more typically referred to as ISIS. We are currently in touch with the Facebook group owners and will follow up as we learn more.

In Other News

  • The Adocentyn Research Library, located in California, has been quietly building its collection over the past few years and is now up to 13,000 volumes. Its goal is to become the “premier Pagan research center in the Western US.” The library is managed by a non-profit organization and relies on donations of both money and materials. The management team recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise more awareness and funds toward the goal of finally opening its doors. Over the weekend, The New Alexandrian Library, a corresponding entity located on the East Coast, donated $250 to the cause with the words “in unity and support of the great work for the community.”
  • PantheaCon gets underway this Friday in San Jose, California. If you are attending, don’t forget to come out and meet The Wild Hunt writers on Saturday, from 5-6 p.m. in the Hexenfest Suite. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people.
  • Speaking of PantheaCon, the Mills College Pagan Alliance met its fundraising goal in just 6 days and will be able to attend PantheaCon after all. Kristen Oliver called it “a blessing” and said that the group of women attending were extremely thankful for the support.
  • As Valentine’s Day nears, the Huffington Post decided to look into the meaning of Pagan handfastings.The article, titled “Here’s Why Couples Tie Their Hands Together During Pagan Weddings,” contains quotes and photos from both Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox and New York-based Witch Courtney Weber. Fox is quoted as saying, “In many ceremonies, the couple faces each associated direction as I do the blessing, concluding with being at the altar for the blessing of Spirit.” And, Weber, who shared photos from her own recent handfasting, said, “The use of the elementals encourages a balanced, healthy relationship […] When all parts are working together — earth, air, fire, water, and spirit — they created [sic] a holistic world that allows the couple to breathe, move, function and grow together.”
  • Dr. Ruth Lindley, a UK-based historian is looking to interview “women whose spiritual practices focus on, or relate to, ‘the Goddess’, for [her] PhD research on religion and spirituality.”  As posted on the blog Medusa’s Coils, Dr. Lindley, Ph.D, of the Department of History, University of Birmingham said, “[My] will challenge current scholarship on religious change in modern Britain, especially in relation to women’s experiences of faith from the 1960s to the present day.”  She is specifically “looking for participants based in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.” To get involved, contact her directly at RML033@bham.ac.uk.
  • The Glastonbury Goddess Temple, which was featured in our report on the legality of handfastings in England, launched a new website for its 21st annual Goddess Festival. The summer event will “honour Goddess as Lady of Avalon, Nolava of the Sacred Land,” and will take place from July 26 to 31. Included in the festival’s activities are presentations, workshops and performances by many speakers, artists, and musicians, including “Starhawk, Carolyn Hillyer, ALisa Starweather, Rith Barrett, Jana Runnalls, Kathy Jones, Kellianna, Katinka Soetens, Luciana Percovich, Lydia Ruyle, and Falcon River”  More information is available at the Temple’s new website.