Archives For Crow Women

Imagine for just a moment giving up life as you know it. You put your career on hold, sell most of your possessions, and move thousands of miles away to a remote world as foreign as anything could be.  Scary?  Exciting?

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That is just what Alane Brown did. In the summer of 2012, she sold or gave away most her possessions, rented out her home, took a leave of absence from her job at Fort Lewis College and joined the Peace Corps. Alane was sent to Peru and has been living high in the Andes Mountains ever since. During this time she has taken Spanish language classes, struggled through cultural adjustments and adapted to the unique Peruvian climate situated in an entirely different hemisphere.Today she says, “I’m content, settled in, enjoying my life.  And every day I wake up and I’m in Peru.”

Alane Brown

Alane Brown

Prior to leaving Alane had a full life here in the Unites States. She is a social psychology professor with a PhD from Princeton University. Her research focused primarily on music and its effects on well-being.  In addition, Alane is an accomplished musician who writes and performs with the Pagan group Crow Women. She is a Dianic Wiccan and a long-time member of Covenant of the Goddess.

In 2011 she and a friend began to entertain the possibility of joining the Peace Corps. Now in her 50s, Alane no longer had children “in the nest” or other similar responsibilities. She had the freedom to make the necessary sacrifices that would be required by such a commitment. She said:

I didn’t really think I’d go into the Peace Corps.  [At first] it was more a way of supporting my friend… But as the process continued and I learned more about Peace Corps, I fell in love with it. I read a lot of volunteers’ blogs and I could picture myself in their lives. After a while, I became strongly committed….I wanted to do something different for a while, be someone different, live somewhere different.

On New Year’s Eve 2011 Alane submitted her online application. In June 2012, after what seemed like endless interviews, tests and examinations, she received a formal invitation to Peru.

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Alane didn’t get to choose her assignment. The Peace Corps operates in over 70 countries and she could have been sent to any one of them.  However, she was hoping for Peru. In fact, Alane molded her application in such a way that suggests she’d be a match for that territory. In 2012 she worked with llamas and began incorporating “Pachamama (the Peruvian Earth Mother)” into her magical work.

As the departure grew closer and the goodbyes were looming, Alane never had second thoughts. She recalls, “My energy was all in the direction of leaving. It wasn’t a hard decision.” The final two days were spent in Washington D.C. at Peace Corps orientation after which the staff put her and the other volunteers on a plane to their destinations. In September of 2012, Alane arrived in Peru.

For the first few months Alane lived and trained in the city of Chaclacayo.  She took Spanish classes, cultural lessons and trained for her specific assignment – environmental clean-up, education and preservation.  She said,

I learned how to build a tree nursery, what tree species to use for forestation in Peru and how to plant them, how to set up a recycling program, how solid waste management works, how protected areas work in Peru, how to teach environmental education in the school systems here etc.

After ten weeks of exhaustive training, Alane and the other volunteers were sent to their permanent locations. Alane recalls:

The staff could assign us to the desert coast, the lower mountains that are covered with jungle or the very high mountains of the Andes. On the day the assignments were revealed, the atmosphere in the training center was close to hysteria. They had us play a game that ended with us finding our assignments posted around the grounds of the center. I discovered that my assignment was Junin high in the central Andes.

Alane now lives with her host family in the small town of Marco. Her Peace Corps unit is currently the highest operating group at 11,000-13,000 feet above sea-level.

Alane's Street in Marco

Alane’s Street in Marco

Living at that altitude has taken some adjustment and so has living in the southern hemisphere in general. The seasons are reversed. Alane has had to adjust her internal clock, so to speak, and being Pagan makes that adjustment a bit more challenging.  She explains:

I’ve chosen to do the solstices and equinoxes according to the Southern Hemisphere. Right now it’s spring. But I do the cross-quarters in synch with the north, so I am heading toward Samhain. It’s kinda a screwy combination, but for me it honors the earth I walk on while keeping me in synch with my pagan community back home.

Aside from climate and language, Alane was confronted with hundreds of other challenges, some big and some small.  These included things like “food, the slang, the way women are treated, the alcohol abuse…”  She must take things day by day and reflects:

In a place like this, you can make plans, but things may or may not happen. A lot of the time I don’t really understand what’s going on, but I just have to hang in there and let things unfold. For a take-charge person like me, it’s a big lesson in letting go and letting things flow and accepting imperfection.

This is the first time that the Peace Corps has stationed volunteers in this specific area.  Part of her project is to learn the customs and assess the willingness of the local people to work with the Peace Corps. Over the last ten months, Alane has gotten to know the villagers and their vibrant world.

This is Deep Peru. The older generation dress and live in the same way they have for hundreds of years. The town is a sea of handmade adobe buildings capped with Spanish tile, although cement is making its incursion. The main traffic on most of the roads is people taking their cows, sheep and burros out to graze in the fields.

Most of the people are Catholic with both Spanish and indigenous ancestry.  Their modern culture is a blend of European and folk customs.

There is a growing movement to honor and preserve Andean cosmology. I think that’s why it’s been so easy for me to find the ‘pagan’ community here. Activists are reclaiming these spiritual traditions. There are ceremonies, conferences, and spiritual centers springing up.

Winter Solstice Ceremony

Winter Solstice Ceremony

On her blog Alane recounts a beautiful Winter Solstice experience.  She says “This is where I am, so I honor this land by respectfully participating in the spirituality of this place.”  A few weeks ago she participated in a Spring Equinox ritual. She recalls,

We lit a small fire of palo santo (an aromatic wood). We offered a drink called chica to the Pachamama and shared the cup around the circle. Everyone said what was in their hearts. I offered the greetings of the eagle of the north to the people of the condor and asked the blessings of the Pachamama on our environmental projects in the Yanamarca Valley.

She then remarks “it was so beautiful my chest hurt,” adding:

This valley specializes in music and traditional dances. It is very common that there’s a holiday that involves a procession in traditional clothing and masks with at least one orchestra playing. I get pulled into dances and handed beer to share.

Alane will be spending another fourteen months working and living in the region – another fourteen months of being pulled into dances and sharing libations.  When not in celebration, Alane and the other Peace Corps volunteers will be helping locals clean-up the environment and establish a functional eco-tourism industry with geo-caching. Why?  She explains:

The idea is that tourism development motivates preservation of natural resources and environmental activism. It is already working. For example, the prospect of bringing in tourists has motivated trash cleanup projects and has revitalized reforestation.

This revitalization project is funded primarily by the local Peruvian governments but they need an “infusion of cash to get the project off the ground.”  Alane has set up two website sites (listed below) to share her work and illustrate the need for donations. Her friends and family in New Mexico have already donated over 700 dollars – about ¼ of the funds needed to finish the project.

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With all this education, personal growth and environmental work, Alane appears to be taking in far more than she ever dreamed.  It is the so-called “adventure of a lifetime.” However, there is one other piece of the story that has yet to be been mentioned.That piece is music.

As Alane lives through this journey, her fans  will benefit from the inspiration she finds high within the Andes Mountains as it settles deep within the rhythms of her new songs.  So far she has written two songs and her favorite is Somos la Luna Nueva (We are the New Moon).  It was recorded on a hand-held device and sent it to Crow Women who will be performing it this fall.  By the end of her trip Alane hopes to have enough material for at least one full album. She says:

I’m experiencing the days, being awake, savoring as much as possible…I’m donating two years of my life to Peru. If everyone took a few years out of a lifetime to live in another country, really in the country, as part of the community, helping the community to meet the goals it has set for itself, well, that would bring us closer to world peace.

To continuing following Alane on her journey, donate to her project or find out more about joining the Peace Corps, go to her websites:  Blog Pachamama or at tourism site Keteka.

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

conference-logo-transparent-background1The Conference on Current Pagan Studies has announced that author (and Wild Hunt columnist) Crystal Blanton will be one of the keynote speakers at their 2014 conference this coming February. At her official Facebook page, Blanton asked followers which of three topics they would prefer she address with her keynote; the effect of racism within the Pagan community, the different forms of axiology within ethnic cultures and how that applies to the assessment of value within the Pagan community, or understanding cultural sensitivity and the need for collective healing for healthy racial integration within Paganism. Each of these topics would fit in well with 2014’s theme of “Relationships With The World.” Quote: “What is our relationship as contemporary pagans with the rest of the world at this point in history? What is the nature of our relationship with ourselves? With others? With the Divine? Who do we reach out to? Who do we support? What kind of communities are we building? As we ask for acceptance, who are we accepting? Who do we reject? Who do we love? Who do we make the enemy?” The deadline for paper proposals is September 15th.

booktitleProlific indie esoteric filmmaker Antero Alli has a new movie coming out called The Book of Jane that explores mythic themes and the idea of fate. Quote: “Alice, a Professor of Comparative Religion, is writing a book exalting the ancient values of pre-Hellenic goddess mythologies and Feminine deity worship. One day she meets Jane, an enigmatic older woman who roams the university campus, sleeps under a bridge, and rattles Alice with her disturbing insights. At home, Alice is the muse to her partner Colette, an artist who is painting a series of goddess portraits. When Colette hears about Jane, she encourages a reluctant Alice to invite her over for dinner. “The Book of Jane” is a story of three women bound together by fate to advance the values of an ancient culture into contempory life — at a deep cost no one expected.” Making an appearance as the goddess Morrigan is artist, teacher, and spiritual worker Morpheus Ravenna. You can watch a clip featuring her embedded below, or simply click here.

pcThe Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation have announced that they will be holding a one-day Witchcraft conference in honor of Patricia Crowther on April 6th, 2014, in Nottingham. Quote: “We are continuing our series of ‘A Day For . . ‘ events and this year we will be honouring the achievements and contribution to the Witchcraft and Pagan community of Patricia Crowther. Patricia is one of the few remaining contemporaries of Gerald Gardner and has to be considered one of the true Elders of the Craft. She was initially reluctant to allow us to hold a day in her honour but we have persuaded her that the Craft and pagan communities deserve their chance to pay her their respects and celebrate her so we are very pleased to announce that all being well she will be our guest of honour on the day. We will also present talks by Vivianne & Chris Crowley, Rufus & Melissa Harrington, Philip Heselton and Patricia’s good friend and astronomy expert, John Harper.” You can purchase advance tickets now. You can also download and share a flyer if you wish. If I were in the UK, I would love to attend this, so don’t miss out!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Initial guests and bands have been announced for FaerieCon West in Seattle, including German Pagan-folk band Faun, and authors John Matthews (see our recent interview with him), Raven Grimassi, and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi. The event takes place February 21-23rd (the weekend after PantheaCon), and has moved to the Seattle Doubletree Hilton. For those on the East Coast, FaerieCon East in Baltimore is coming up November 8th – 10th, and also features a lot of wonderful guests. Full disclosure: I work for the company that produces these events, but I think their quality stands up even if you account for my conflict of interest.
  • An IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign has been launched for a new online magazine called Limina. Quote: “Limina is an online magazine of women writing about faith. The word Limina means ‘she who is standing on the threshold.’ We hope to explore matters of faith, culture, politics, and arts from that position. We are diverse and inclusive, representing many religions, spiritualities, and faith traditions, as well as atheists and agnostics. We take our voices seriously, we take our position seriously, and we honor the work of those who came before us and made what we do possible. But we can be irreverent at times. We’re here to engage readers, and to make them think, and occasionally, to prod them into action.” I’ve spoken with one of the organizers, and she says they are planning to include several Pagan voices. I’ve embedded their pitch-video below.

  • Funds are currently being raised to create an Avalon. Quote: “Thanks for taking the time to visit our JustGiving page.  We’re fundraising to create a sacred grove in Avalon, in a small but beautiful privately-owned field right on the slopes of Glastonbury Tor.  It’ll be formed of a circle of twenty-four trees, mostly Apple, with Rowan marking the four entrances and Oak standing as guardians around the space.  Aromatic herbs on the ground and evergreen plants  all around will give atmosphere and privacy.  It’s still a mystery what will go in the centre – perhaps a small pool, perhaps a fire dish: it’ll become clear as the project unfolds.” One of the co-organizers of this project is author Sorita d’Este.
  • Alane Brown, Witch, and composer for the musical group Crow Women, is currently in the midst of a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Peru. She’s been keeping a wonderful blog of insights and experiences that I think many of you might enjoy. I think her post about celebrating the Winter Solstice is particularly good.
  • Aidan Kelly has written a remembrance of Allan Lowe / Demian Moonbloode, a NROOGD Elder who played a key role in the formation of the Covenant of the Goddess. Quote: “He was very involved in the creation of the Covenant of the Goddess, designing the original masthead for the COG newsletter and serving as a local and national officer during its first years. He went on to found Silver Star [...] one of our more radical and liberal covens, and it became the ancestor of about 90 percent of the NROOGD covens that have existed since then.” What is remembered, lives.

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

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

Pagan Spirit Gathering Breaks Registration Records: Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), one of America’s oldest and largest Pagan festivals, begins in less than a week. On Saturday, Selena Fox, senior minister and high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, the organization that sponsors PSG,  announced that they will set a new record for attendance at the event.

Selena Fox holding 1000+ "spirit bundles" for PSG attendees.

Selena Fox holding 1000+ "spirit bundles" for PSG attendees.

“Breaking News! Pagan Spirit Gathering 2012 is going to be the most attended PSG yet! Just learned that we now have over 1000 people (all ages) registered. [...] This is the first time we have had more than 1000 people at a PSG!”

This is a remarkable achievement for the event, which has been held since 1980, and in several different locations over the years. A testament to the sense of community built during the 10-day-long festival. This year’s featured presenters include Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon,” Crystal Blanton, author of “Bridging the Gap,” and chaplain/activist Patrick McCollum. There will also be musical performances by Damh the Bard and Arthur Hinds, among others. Representatives from the Pagan Newswire Collective will be there, and I have no doubt we’ll be hearing much, much more about the event in the weeks to come.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride: June is LGBT Pride month in the United States, and Pride parades and marches are happening across the country. This past Saturday was the 2012 Boston Pride Parade, and in addition to local politicians and local celebrities, several religious groups also took part.  One Pagan religious group marching in the parade was the Temple of Witchcraft, an organization that was co-founded by author Christopher Penczak.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

“Many thanks to all those who came out to march behind the Temple of Witchcraft banner in the Boston Pride March — our largest group of Pagans ever! — and thanks to those who supported us (and continue to do so) from afar!”Steve, Gemini minister

The Temple, founded by gay men, marched to proclaim that “All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Our Rituals.” You can find more pictures and commentary on their participation at the Temple of Witchcraft Facebook page. Later this month the Temple will be holding their own TempleFest gathering in in South Hampton, NH.

Witches & Pagans Magazine Adds Bloggers: In recent months Witches & Pagans Magazine, a publication that emerged from the merger of PanGaia and NewWitch, has been stepping up their web presence. The Pagan periodical has been reprinting older articles to their website, hiring new columnists (like Raven Grimassi), and now adding a fleet of Pagan bloggers to their site.

Screenshot of W&P's "PaganSquare" blogs.

Screenshot of W&P's "PaganSquare" blogs.

“I’m pumped up by our new bloggers at WitchesandPagans.com. My DH Alan had to drag me kicking and screaming (sometimes literally — the screaming, I mean) into doing this for our magazines, but now I’m as jazzed as he is. There’s been a lot of ego-stripping going on around here, but I believe it’s all to the good.”Anne Newkirk Niven, Executive Editor, Witches & Pagans Magazine

Active bloggers at Witches and Pagans Magazine include Cat TreadwellDiotima Mantineia, Kenaz Filan, Selina Rifkin, Tess Dawson, and WitchDoctor Joe. In addition, if you look at their contributors page, it seems like they have more bloggers coming soon. I’m happy to see W&P take this step into providing exclusive, regularly updated, content for their site. A healthy Pagan media is one where several outlets thrive, interact, and yes, compete. As such, I wish Anne and the W&P team every success, and look forward to following their output.

In Other Community News:

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