Archives For CUUPs

Eight North Carolina clergy, an entire Protestant denomination and several same sex couples seeking to be married filed the country’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage bans claiming North Carolina’s laws blocks them from practicing their religion. In 2012 North Carolina voters approved an amendment to their constitution defining marriage and civil unions as limited to one man and one woman. The lawsuit alleges previous state marriage statutes, when combined with the amendment, impose fines on clergy who bless the wedding of any couple who doesn’t have a valid marriage license issued by state. They further claim this unconstitutionally restricts religious freedom by barring clergy from free exercise of their religion.

Pagan handfasting, photo credit Cara Schulz

Pagan handfastings include gay or straight couples, or groups. photo credit Cara Schulz

Amendment 1 and North Carolina Marriage Laws

North Carolina already had a state law on the books restricting marriage to one man and one woman since 2006. General Statute § 51-1.2 specifically provides: “Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.” Since that law went into effect on June 1, 2006, it has not been challenged in any North Carolina appellate court.

In 2011, after legal challenges in other states overturned similar state laws, the North Carolina House and Senate passed a measure that put an amendment regarding same sex marriage and civil unions on the ballot in the 2012 election.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts. - Text of Amendment 1

North Carolina voters approved the amendment to their state constitution by 61% in favor to 39% opposed. The amendment went into effect January 1, 2013.

Lawsuit is Filed on Religious Grounds

On Monday, April 28, a federal lawsuit was filed claiming North Carolina laws and Amendment 1 violate North Carolinian’s free exercise of religion which is protected by the United States Constitution. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ, along with a Lutheran priest, a rabbi, two Unitarian Universalist ministers, a Baptist pastor and several same-sex couples have joined together to file the suit.

In the complaint they claim, “…ministers and others who are authorized to conduct marriages in North Carolina are expressly precluded by State law from performing any ceremony of marriage between same-sex couples, even if their faith and religious beliefs allow them to conduct such ceremonies and recognize those marriages. . . If a minister conducts any marriage ceremony between same-sex couples, he or she is guilty of a crime.”

Violation of Free Exercise of Religion?

Looking at only a very narrow part of the lawsuit, does North Carolina law say what the lawsuit claims? Does North Carolina state law penalize clergy for performing religious ceremonies for same sex couples and is North Carolina state law violating the free exercise of religion by clergy? The short answer appears to be no.

The longer answer requires looking at three sections of the North Carolina General Statutes regarding marriage and how they interact with Amendment 1. It also requires separating out the requirements of a “civil” marriage from a “religious” marriage or ceremony.

North Carolina General Statute  § 51-1 is key. It outlines what is needed for something to be considered a marriage or to marry and it requires three parts.

1. A freely consenting male and female person;
2. An ordained minister or other person authorized to perform civil marriages;
3. A declaration statement that the male and female are now are husband and wife.

If all three of those conditions are not met, it is not considered a marriage and the officiant has not married anyone. A religious marriage or ceremony is not defined.

North Carolina General Statute § 51-6 says it is unlawful for a minister to solemnize a marriage between a man and a woman unless they have a valid marriage license: “…No minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons…”

North Carolina General Statute § 51-7 lays out a possible penalty for any person authorized to solemnize a marriage who does so without a valid marriage license: “… shall forfeit and pay two hundred dollars ($200.00) to any person who sues therefore, and shall also be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” Some confusion arises because statute 51-7 uses the term “couple” in place of “male and female.” The court will look at the surrounding statutes, and Amendment 1, to determine what couple means in this context.

Amendment 1 limits marriage to one male and one female just as state laws continues the clear and consistent language that define a marriage couple as one male and one female. If there is not one male and one female seeking marriage, according to North Carolina state law, there is no marriage taking place. Period. No need to look further. Which means if clergy were performing a religious ceremony for two males, legally this is not a civil marriage taking place. If there is no “civil” marriage taking place, there is no prohibition limiting what religious ceremony clergy can perform. So there is no fine to impose nor is there any prohibition on the exercising of religion by the clergy or participants involved in the religious ceremony. As of this date, there is no pending prosecution of any clergyman in North Carolina for performing a same sex religious ceremony.

This is, remember, only a look at one narrow aspect of the lawsuit and doesn’t address any of the other civil rights and equal protection arguments made in the complaint. If we are to judge by how federal courts are trending, North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage will be struck down by the courts on those wider, civil rights arguments.

Unitarian Universalist Ministers involved in lawsuit

Two of the clergy members signed onto the lawsuit are Rev. Robin Tanner with the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church and Rev. Mark Ward with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville. UU churches are where many Pagans find a spiritual home. Asheville area Pagan, Laura LaVoie, has been an intermittent Unitarian for many years and has attended services by Rev. Ward, “Rev. Ward is an intelligent, dynamic individual who is dedicated to his congregation. I was delighted to hear that he added his voice to this challenge. I might have to start going back to church just to support him.”

Laura LaVoie, near her home in Asheville. photo credit, Laura LaVoie

Laura LaVoie, near her home in Asheville. photo credit, Laura LaVoie

Ms. LaVoie says the Asheville area is very different form the rest of Carolina and was called the “Cesspool of Sin” by state senator and Republican Jim Forrester while Amendment 1 was being debated. “We’ve since embraced that title and all that it implies. It is heartening to see clergy members from my very liberal city as well as the more conservative areas of Charlotte and Raleigh come together to challenge the issues brought up by Amendment 1. No one can deny that Amendment 1 was fueled by religious belief so why should it be just one religious point of view that sets the moral standards for an entire state?”

Pagans are such an integral part of Unitarian Univeralist churches, there’s even an organization dedicated to networking Pagan-identified Unitarian Universalists and developing Pagan liturgies and theologies. This organization is called The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPs). Rev. Amy Beltaine, President of CUUPs said she applauds the action of the UCC and UU Ministers in North Carolina, “As a Unitarian Universalist, I am called to affirm and promote all loving, stable families. I believe marriage is about loving couples who want to make a commitment to each other, to be committed to working together to create a shared life that will benefit and bless their families, neighborhoods, communities, and faith communities.

Faith communities should have the freedom to choose who they will marry. I am looking forward to having the freedom to marry same-sex couples. Allowing the freedom to marry for all Americans will give our congregations the freedom to live our beliefs by solemnizing marriages for all couples who love each other and want to take on the responsibilities and commitment of marriage. I was born in North Carolina and would hope that when I am there my freedom to solemnize marriages is not penalized.”  Here is a link to Rev. Beltaine’s full statement.

North Carolina Pagan clergy respond

Other North Carolina Pagan clergy agree with Rev. Beltaine. Blake Octavian Blair, a Pagan minister, author, and North Carolina resident, says,North Carolina’s Amendment 1 made state law the denial of equal marriage rights, protections, and recognition and relegates our relationships and marriages to less than equal status. Many push off or downplay the issue by saying, “Give it time, things will change, it is happening…,” while GLBT residents remain in a state of inequality. I have always rejected this complacent approach and feel that the time for equality is always now. I feel we need to support our progressive allies who wish to come together in an interfaith effort, as humanitarians, to fight discrimination in these arenas of Civil and Human Rights. For in these arenas, we are practitioners of different faiths but we have common goals.”

While North Carolina native Rev. Byron Ballard of the Mother Grove Goddess Temple, has a slightly different view of what marriage equality looks like from a Pagan perspective, “The default setting for most things in this country is Christian, or perhaps “Abrahamic.” Marriage is no exception. As we work to broaden its definition to include couples of the same gender, it’s important to remember that we are tinkering around the edges of the same property laws that “traditional marriage” is based on. We aren’t talking about the year-and-a-day commitment called “handfasting” and we aren’t talking about bonding contracts that recognize more than two people. The notion that “marriage equality” will ultimately lead to a more generous view of human bonding arrangements–one that includes a more Pagan worldview–is a long shot, at best. This is certainly a First Amendment/religious freedom issue and I hope the Pagan community is paying attention, getting involved and thinking about its own needs in the pluralism that marks the American spiritual scene.”

This lawsuit is one of three on North Carolina marriage law currently winding its way through the federal courts. Its not clear if any of the three will ever have their day in court. In two weeks a case out of Virginia is scheduled to go before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case concerns Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban and if it is struck down, that would affect bans in West Virginia and North and South Carolina.

 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!

Elk_River_WV_mapSince I’ve started tracking Pagan responses to the West Virginia water contamination crisis, the fundraiser set up by Solar Cross Temple to aid locals has raised over $1100 dollars. Quote: “Since the 15th, Solar Cross has received $1165 in donations for this cause. We will be sending money to West Virginia tomorrow. We give thanks to everyone who spread the word, and to Crow, Ellen, Kristina, Shannon, Christine, Jenya, Samara, Marian, Laura, Helene, Mary, Fortuna, Jody, James, Tony, Sean, Joan, Lily, Karen, Denise, Rebecca, Rosalind, Kimberly, Elizabeth, Jason, Gerald, Lezlie, Kimberly, Justyna, Christine, Rhiannon, Jennifer and Misha.” In addition, organizers of the CUUPs ritual in West Virginia, which drew support from Pagan leaders like Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, said that “the energy surge we felt came from folks all over the U.S., as well as Italy, France, & Australia.” Events and actions in West Virginia, and other affected areas is ongoing. Recent commentary highlighted here from Anne Johnson and Sara Amis give some much-needed perspective as this story progresses. We will keep you updated.

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

Oberon Zell.

Back in December, I spotlighted efforts by Oberon Zell and a coalition of Pagan scholars who are advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” by journalists when referring to the religious movement. Now, Zell and his coalition have sent out a new press release, and are promoting a Change.org petition, which they hope will garner 500 signatures. Quote: “To address this issue, a coalition has been formed of academic scholars in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Their purpose was to create a simple petition to the Associated Press and Chicago Stylebooks to capitalize “Pagan” and “Paganism” when speaking of the modern faiths and their adherents in future editions. The petitions were mailed off to the Stylebook editors on Monday, Dec. 2, with 60 extremely impressive signatures. Many people concerned with religious equality subsequently asked to sign the petition, so to facilitate further signatories, the coalition has created an online master version in Change.org.” You can see the original appeal and signatories, here.

Christine Hoff Kraemer

Christine Kraemer

Christine Kraemer, a scholar and Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com, has launched a new initiative for, quote, “building Pagan intellectual culture face-to-face.” The concept is simple enough, an organized book club with a local face-to-face component. Quote: “Each month, we read a book: popular fiction (dystopian and utopian novels are a favorite genre); literary fiction, like Candide; modern social or historical commentary, like Neil Postman’s Technopoly; or classics of philosophy, like The Symposium (which we actually repeat once a year). Next, we gather in person with a set start and end time – no Pagan Standard Time here. Once gathered, we sit around a table so everyone can see each other, books in hand, pitchers of water in the center, and glasses for each of us. Alcohol consumption and snacks are put off until the formal discussion is finished. To open the seminar, a participant offers an opening question (usually a different person each meeting). And then we’re off!” You can read more about the initiative, and how to participate, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

 

PSG 2014 Logo White Small for Web

  • Hey Pagan Spirit Gathering fans, the popular Pagan festival has unveiled its official artwork for 2014. Quote: “While we have been holding Pagan Spirit Gatherings for over thirty years, each year’s gathering has its own unique character and energy,” said Selena Fox, Executive Director of Circle Sanctuary. “To help guide that energy we give each year has a theme that explores different aspects of the celebration and our community. This year’s theme is ‘Heart and Harmony’ and I’m thrilled our beautiful new logo that so perfectly captures the spirit of that idea.”
  • As mentioned in our latest Pagan Voices, Morning Glory Zell is currently in the hospital due to kidney problems, with doctors re-starting chemo treatments. A new update on her status (which seems to be improving) and a suggested visualization for those wanting to do healing work has been posted on Facebook. Quote: “Please visualize a huge IV bag, larger than the hospital, hanging above the hospital. It is filled with pulsating, rainbow, glittering, swirling vortices of energy. A silver tube runs from the bag to MG’s left arm, where it joins the IV. MG is using this visualization – and is feeling the energy coming from ALL OF YOUR PRAYERS, CANDLES AND RITUALS. MG has asked that I thank everyone who is working on her behalf. She knows you are there.” May her recovery be swift and complete.
  • Just a reminder that the Maetreum of Cybele is still trying to raise funds to fight an appeal of their win in the Appellate court. Quote: “The well pump for the Maetreum died last Sunday and we are still trying to raise the 3000 needed for the last legal fees of our battle. Please contribute if you can via paypal to centralhouse@gallae.com. The contributions stopped over the weekend.”
  • Phantasmaphile has news of an upcoming London exhibition of channelled artworks by Ethel le Rossignol. Quote: “Huge kudos to Mark Pilkington and his Strange Attractor for putting together an astounding-sounding show of Ethel le Rossignol’s channeled paintings.  A spirit medium in the early 20th century, she and her teeming, mystical visions fall into vibratory lockstep with the Hilma af Klints, Wassily Kandinskys, and Emma Kunzes of the era – though hers appear to be decidedly more figurative.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be speaking at the “Life, Death, Near Death and Beyond: An Exploration” event in March. Quote: “Together we will look at the issues of life, death, near death and beyond. All at a gorgeous eco-retreat center and certified organic farm on Maui.” The event headliner is Ram Dass. You can see a promotional video, here.

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

Earlier this week, I noted that a West Virginia-based CUUPs chapter was holding a ritual for the water poisoned by a massive chemical spill, which has still hobbled access to fresh, safe, water in that region.

Elk_River_WV_map

“An emergency meeting of concerned citizens was held in our Unitarian Fellowship (there had been other emergency meeting cropping up throughout the state) to discuss implications and possible actions. A water drive had been planned for the capital with an open mic for residents to express their outrage- and there’s a lot of it. There are other community meetings planned, letter writing campaigns, and pushes to contact representatives; but as a magical person, my instinctual reaction is to couple This World Action with magic and ritual. I met up with a few other local CUUPs members who were also mad as hell and it was decided that a magical working was needed but to fight our polluting Goliaths and the legislators who support them, we’d need help and support from the outside.” – Crystal Kendrick, Co-Vice President, Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington

The truth is that scientists aren’t sure how safe the “cleared” water sources are after the spill.

“Sonya Lunder, a research analyst with the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., told National Geographic that the decision to lift the water ban was based on scant science. “Evidently the one-part-per-million safety level, used to lift the drinking water restriction, is based on an unpublished study of the amount of chemical that killed 50 percent of test animals, a very crude indicator of health concern,” she said.”

Further, the spilled chemical agent isn’t simply staying put in West Virginia, that isn’t how water works. Now, places like Ohio are scrambling to protect their own drinking water sources as the contamination spreads.

“The Ohio Guardsmen are among more than 500 from West Virginia, Tennessee and the District of Columbia responding to the incident, and have been testing water samples from across the Kanawha Valley to determine levels of contamination to the local water supply.”

For those of us in the Pagan community who see our ecosystem, our natural world, as a living sacred force (or interwoven tapestry of sacred lives), this spill is an affront, a blasphemy in a religious culture that rarely utters such an accusation. Some Pagan groups are now stepping up to help raise funds, and give assistance, to those affected by this ongoing eco-crisis.

1521839_10203039292001565_828088099_n“When I first heard about the disaster, my thought was to raise funds to send water shipments to the hardest hit towns. In talking with local Pagan, Shannon Swan, I was pointed to a different need: 

No clean water means that restaurants, cafes and other places many working class people rely on for income are closed, or, as some locals have told me, though some restaurants have re-opened, things like coffee are being made with affected water. Restaurant workers in the US, as we know, rely on tips to survive. A week without work, plus these ongoing conditions, is making life very difficult.

Paul Dalzell of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston writes: “I have worked in, and have many friends in, the food service industry, and I am very concerned for them.  This is an urgent problem for both the minimum wage workers who barely make it in the best of times, and the waitstaff and help who often live from day to day on their tips.”  

These people already live close to the bone. Solar Cross Temple is raising funds to send to the Unitarian church in Charleston, who will get the money to local people in need.

This is a disaster for the trees, the water, the animals, the land, and the people. If you cannot afford a donation, please offer whatever prayers you can, and pass this announcement along. Donations of any amount are welcomed. Donations to Solar Cross Temple are tax deductible.”

For those wanting to help through Solar Cross Temple and the Charleston UU congregation, you can donate via Paypal using the email “solarcrosstemple@gmail.com.” Please note in your donation “West Virginia Disaster” so that the funds are appropriated correctly. For those wanting to donate directly to the UU church, information can be found at Thorn’s blog.

West Virginia resident Kelly Mir, a Reclaiming Priestess and Feri student, noted that she is living in a “sacrifice zone” and this is just the most recent outrage in the “oppression” of this land.

“Thank you for being attentive to this; we {West Virginians) are in a location openly called a “sacrifice zone,” but few are paying attention. I am a Reclaiming Priestess, a student of Feri, a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a long-time active member of the UU Congregation of Charleston, WV, where efforts are being made to help those most harmed by our most recent crisis. I am also a descendent of some of the first Europeans into this area, and of some of the Original People as well. This land is held deeply in my heart, and the oppression of this land and its people goes back many, many generations.”

It is in moments like this, when an ecological crisis becomes acute and impossible to ignore, that a belief in sacred nature, in a nature imbued with life and powers, is truly tested. How do we respond to the spoiling of our own water supply? How do we reach out? Do we reach out? Recently, at Patheos, Rhyd Wildermuth argued that Paganism, that polytheism, was inherently radical in a economic system that treats our natural world as a resource to be exploited and controlled.

“Worlding the earth with the gods and spirits is a radical act in our societies, as is fighting the systems of control and profit which maintain our distance from the earth and our disenchantment (and disenfranchisement). It can seem daunting, dangerous; it will alienate us from some, and the decisions we make may cause us to experience poverty rather than exploit the earth and each other.”

One does not have to be a radical to see the danger in unregulated use of the ecosystem that supports our life, one only has to be pragmatic about what is truly sustainable, and posses the empathy to see how our actions are interconnected. A small, symbolic act would be to reach out now, and help make life a little easier for those in West Virginia, where this spill originated, to help the people who are now feeling the effects of a system that does not care about preserving natural resources for all classes of people and life on this planet. We will keep you updated as this story continues to develop.

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!

Elk_River_WV_mapLast week, a massive chemical spill in West Virginia contaminated the local water supply, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without safe tap water. While de-contamination is ongoing, and some areas are starting have water restored, the crisis is far from over. The CUUPs chapter at the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington is planning a water ritual for this Friday, and that participant’s “intent should be one of justice and bringing an end to these destructive practices.” Crystal Kendrick, Co-Vice President of the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, said that the ritual will help compliment activism and community meetings already happening in the area. Quote: “There are other community meetings planned, letter writing campaigns, and pushes to contact representatives; but as a magical person, my instinctual reaction is to couple This World Action with magic and ritual. I met up with a few other local CUUPs members who were also mad as hell and it was decided that a magical working was needed but to fight our polluting Goliaths and the legislators who support them, we’d need help and support from the outside.” CUUPs chapter member Antinoodorus Atellus added that “the way we live, what we focus on, must change or we will not fare well as the future becomes the present.”

Raven Radio

Raven Radio

After nearly four years Heathen talk radio program Raven Radio has decided to shut down this week, with founder Chuck Hudson saying it is “time now to let the young folks step up and take a swing at this.” Quote: “Well after long thought and taking back and forth. This Sunday will be the last live episode of Raven Radio. We’ve been on nearly 4 years, at least twice as long as anyone else. We did a lot of first for Asatru podcasting. And I am damn proud of it. We were the first live Heathen show on a regular schedule. We have talked with heathens from all over this planet.We have broken ground and brought conflicting points of view about Asatru to the table to at least talk. I have made friends through this station that I would have never been able to meet and they have become life long friends. [...] What can I say. We had a great run. [...] I want to thank each and every one of you, our listeners for making us the group we are. Also thank you all for lettings us have an hour of your time each week.” You can listen to the last episode here.

Aaron Leitch

Aaron Leitch

The best kind of fundraising story is one where the goal is met and surpassed before you even have a chance to write about it. That’s what happened with the medical fundraiser for Aaron Leitch, a scholar and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who has written on several topics of interest to modern Pagans and occultists. In a matter of days, the $5500 goal was met, and is now nearly $2000 dollars over. Quote: “Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support, sufficient funding for Aaron’s surgery was obtained within 48 hours of the first public announcement.  My thanks and gratitide, as well as Aaron’s, are due to you all!” I shared an excerpt from Leitch’s response to his community coming out in support at this week’s Pagan Voices, but I encourage you to go and read the whole thing. Quote: “Any donations beyond the costs of the surgery and associated expenses (like meds) will go directly to the Himalayan Cataract Project.  Steve researched them, and they are top-of-the-line where it comes to your donations actually getting to the people who need help.  So we’re going to make sure that several people get their eyesight back from this. [...] It’s damn hard to have faith in this world, as I’m sure you know.  But I’ll tell you one thing – I’ve got an unshakable faith in our particular corner of it.  If this is who we really are, then I’ve chosen the right life path.” Here’s to a bit of heartwarming community news!

 In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The Temple of Witchcraft fundraiser anthology “Ancestors of the Craft” is now available on Amazon.com. All profits from the sale of the book go to support the Temple. Quote: “Modern pagans are heirs to a rich confluence of traditions from numerous pioneers in the realms of Spirit who have passed beyond the Veil. Ancestors of the Craft honors these ancestors, some widely known, others obscure, but no less deserving.”
  • Also, the Temple of Witchcraft is looking for subjects in a healing case study. Quote: “Would you or a friend like to receive distance healing as an adjunct to your other healing treatment? The Healing Case Study Group of the Temple of Witchcraft is looking for volunteer subjects who have a physical condition or disease to receive this distance healing from its members. For one month, you can bask in the healing light sent to you by the group. For further information, please send a one-sentence description of your ailments to Tim Titus or Stevie Grant.”
  • Paganicon 2014, held March 14-16 in Minneapolis-St. Paul, has announced that High Priestess and author Deborah Lipp will join Oberon Zell as a Guest of Honor, along with featured guest Ivo Dominguez, Jr. Quote: “Our new Guest of Honor is High Priestess and author Deborah Lipp. Deborah became a Gardnerian Witch in 1982 and a High Priestess in 1986, and has been teaching Wicca and running Pagan circles ever since. Since Deborah wrote The Elements of Ritual, The Way of Four, and The Way of Four Spellbook, she’s a natural fit for this year’s Paganicon theme of the elements.”
  • The new edition of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, has been released. Don’t let the 2012 date fool you, they’re just running a bit behind, something that editor Chas Clifton promises will be remedied soon. This issue’s focus is on “Paganism, Initiation, and Ritual.” Quote: “Arguably, initiation and ritual are in many ways central for the understanding of most of the currents studied under the umbrella term Paganism—one need only mention the importance placed on rituals of initiation in the modern Witchcraft movement from the 1950s onwards, or the rituals performed in connection with the seasonal festivals of the year encountered in most forms of Paganism.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has an editorial up at The Shift Network on “changing the narrative.” Quote: “My mission is to promote a new sacred planetary vision through a new narrative that better fits the truth that we have come to know.”

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

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

James L. Bianchi

James L. Bianchi

Earlier this year, I reported on an emergency Pagan conclave in California to discuss proposed regulations by the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) relating to religious items allowed by incarcerated Pagans. This “Religious Property Matrix” would significantly change the way religious materials were handled, and Pagan prison chaplains wrote impassioned editorials both for and against the new guidelines. Now, James L. Bianchi of the House of Danu’s chaplaincy program, who called the initial conclave, has issued a press release on proposed revisions to the property matrix that address many (but not all) concerns voiced by Pagans. Quote: “Though the revisions in the proposed Matrix represent substantial progress, we need to remain vigilant to ensure that the spiritual needs of our people are accommodated as required by federal law, and that Pagans enjoy the same religious freedoms as other religious traditions as required by the 1st, 5th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.” You can see the proposed revisions, here. Public comments on these changes are open until July 16th at 5pm, and can be sent to Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Chalice & Blade

Chalice & Blade

From our “better late than never” department: Pagan band Chalice & Blade, which features songwriter and podcaster Mojo of The Wigglian Way, had one of their most popular songs, “I Hear You Calling,” featured on the US television show “Being Human” earlier this year. The episode “One is Silver and The Other Pagan” aired in February of this year, and is available for rental at Amazon.com for those who’d like to see it. As one might expect, the episode features a Wiccan coven: “In order to begin reconstructing a new life for herself, Sally seeks out Bridget, her old best friend. Bridget is unusually calm about Sally’s sudden reappearance as a flesh and blood human, which prompts Sally to ask a few questions. Bridget, it seems, has taken up with a local Wiccan group.” Due to the renewed interest in their music, Mojo, along with singer Wendy, have re-formed the band as a duo and are now playing gigs again. Chalice & Blade’s last album was 2006′s “Wild Hunt,” available at CD Baby. Congratulations to Chalice & Blade!

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

Glenn Turner

The 2013 TheurgiCon, is coming up this Weekend, July 13th, at the Bay Area Thelemic Temple in Oakland. TheurgiCon was founded in 2010 by Glenn Turner, who also founded PantheaCon, and features discussions on Neo-Platonism and theurgy. This year, featured speakers include Don Frew (who provides a look at the non-Greek Hermetic texts), Richard Reidy (speaking on Iamblichus and divine possession) and T. Thorn Coyle, who will be talking about theurgy in practice. Quote: “Theurgists such as Iamblichus instructed us to work from gross to fine in our operations. But what does this mean? How can we best approach this? There is a simple formulation: Thought. Energy. Emotion. Matter. The contemporary magic worker can use these levels to gauge what is missing from her magic, uncovering how best to approach the Gods and any theurgic operation. This session will include discussion and a diagnostic meditative working.” This one-day intensive costs $40, and includes meals. You can read previous Wild Hunt coverage of this event, here.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.19.50 AMOn June 21st, a new book entitled “Cults and Criminals: Unraveling the Myths” was published, co-authored by Dr. David Oringderff, co-founder of Sacred Well Congregation, and “occult crimes expert” Don Rimer, who passed away at the beginning of 2012. The book claims to take you “beyond the hype” of occult crime. Quote: “There is likely no term that strikes holy terror in the western mind more than “Satanic Cult!” Most cults are not “Satanic.” Most criminals who commit horrific crimes, leaving satanic symbols, often in the victim’s blood, at the crime scene are not “Satanists.” This book takes you beyond the hype, hyperbole, misinformation, disinformation and urban legends of pop culture and mass media that suggest that all cults, cultic and occultic activities are inextricably intertwined with criminal activity. That is a fatally-flawed assumption. The truth is that most criminals are criminal and most cults are cults, and sometimes their paths cross.” The book makes it sound like it debunks the majority of “occult crime,” which would be a welcome narrative within law enforcement. Don Rimer was quoted in 2011 saying that “occult crime happens all over the world and it’s growing,”  so perhaps Mr. Rimer had a change of heart in the last years of his life? Anything is possible, and I certainly respect the work of Dr. Oringderff highly, so I’ll approach the book with an open mind.

 In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

Teo Bishop & Cher

Teo Bishop & Cher

You may remember one year ago when rising Pagan figure Teo Bishop revealed he was also singer-songwriter Matt Morris, a 1990s Mickey Mouse Club alum who has collaborated with Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, among others. Well, Teo Bishop may be the first Pagan who can brag that he co-wrote a song for Cher, and that the song, “Woman’s World,” was performed on the season finale of NBC’s The Voice this week. Teo was in attendance at the taping, and has provided photographic evidence. Regarding this song, Bishop says that “the concept, lyrics & melody came from a Druid from Colorado,” and that he’s “a big believer in this message.” As for meeting Cher, and seeing her perform live, Bishop couldn’t hide his excitement, saying that he’s “on top of the world” and “I could just die and go to Gay Heaven.” As for the legendary Cher, this was her first television performance in over a decade, and is releasing a new album, “Closer to the Truth,” in September.

FishBird

FishBird

Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new band he’s started with Rachel Maxann, former lead singer of Elemental Groove Theory. The project, entitled “FishBird” is hoping to raise $3,100 dollars to finance a tour and recording their first album. Quote: “This summer FishBird will tour, going to Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York, where we will record several concerts to create a live CD. The CD will be professionally recorded, and well mastered, and will become commercially available as an indy recording. We need your help to defray our travel and production costs in order to to get the whole band from New Orleans to New York. There are great gifts for doing this, including hoolah hoops, original artwork, creepy dolls, and our undying eternal devotion.” They describe their sound as “dark jam-rock” and you can listen to some samples, here.

cuupsThe General Assembly (GA), the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) started yesterday in Louisville, Kentucky, and that means it’s also time for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) to have their annual meeting and hold elections. This year, for the first time since 2007, CUUPS will be hosting an official General Assembly Program on Saturday where they will invite GA registrants to a celebration of the Summer Solstice. For UU Pagans interested in attending the CUUPS Annual Meeting virtually, it will be held at 7pm (EDT) Saturday, and can be access via the AnyMeeting service. You can read more CUUPS-related news in their June monthly bulletin.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • A call for submissions has been issued by Beth Lynch to create a prayer and ritual book for the god Odin. Quote: “I am opening up submissions for Prayers to the Allfather (tentative working title), with a current deadline of June 30th, 2014 (though this may change, depending on how many submissions I get by then and how many of them I accept.  Ideally, I would like to have the book out by Martinmas (November 11th) 2014.  I will be publishing it via CreateSpace under the Wild Hunt Press imprint, with a Kindle version available as well.  I cannot offer royalties or free printed copies of the book, however each person whose work appears in it will receive a free pdf (electronic) copy.” You can find guidelines and more information, here
  • The final installment of a wide-ranging interview with Wiccan authors/teachers Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone is now up at PNC-Minnesota (I’ve previously referenced this series here, and here). Quote: “I am one of only five legal pagans in all of Ireland allowed to legally marry people. A legal solemnizer. I am on the health board as a hospital visitor. Ireland is a tiny island, but this is a major break through. Around 1982 Stewart  and I won the first witchcraft case in Ireland and changed the law which had made witchcraft illegal. It went to the high court in Dublin, and was given compensation because when “Eight Sabbats’ (A Witches Bible) came out a journalist called it devil worshiping, porn blasphemy. We won the entire case and were taken out be all the high court judges for a champagne reception.”
  • The deadline is quickly approaching for the matching challenge-gift given to Cherry Hill Seminary. The Pagan seminary announced earlier this month that a donor was willing to match up to $10,000 dollars in donations for a new scholarship endowment that would help students nearing completion of their Master of Divinity, to assist them with the expense of attending their required second intensive. So far $5596 has been raised, and the deadline is July 1st. You can find out more about the gift, including reactions from students and staff, here.  Those who wish to make a gift may do so online, or you can make a pledge of support. For further options, you can send a message to CHS@cherryhillseminary.org.
  • As mentioned in the latest installment of Pagan Voices, Teo Bishop is stepping down from the Solitary Druid Fellowship. However, this new initiative from Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) will not be ending, as Bishop explained in a recent post to the SDF website. Quote: “My stepping aside as the Organizer of the Fellowship allows for a great many other things to occur. There will be new SDF liturgists, and new blog posts about solitude from new authors, and there will be people reflecting on what it means to be part of this congregation in solitude. What has begun will continue, but in a new way. The Good Labor of those who step forward will bring forth new opportunities for reflection, meditation, and contemplation for this community of solitaries.”

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

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

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

Preliminary Australian Census numbers. (PaganDash)

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

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

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed. Oh, and if you’re in the Oakland California area, be sure to drop by Hexenfest on March 9th!

Today I’m going to take a break from my inevitable contribution to the ongoing debate about Christian Dominionism, and instead look at some arts and design-related news that might be of interest.

Dionysus is The Blood: First off, filmmaker Brielle Simone Greenberg’s paeon to the god Dionysus has been making the rounds of the Pagan ‘net. Sannion at The House of Vines says that “this short film comes closer to depicting the god I worship than anything I’ve ever seen before.”

“The Greek God Dionysus does not only stand for revelry. He stands for the oppressed in an uncanny world. This film is dedicated to all those who are oppressed and who are affected by patriarchal society.”

Interestingly, the song used in the film, “You Are the Blood,” is by sung by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, a protestant Christian known for his poetic and emotionally intense explorations of his own faith. The song itself was written by the Castanets (who are on Steven’s excellent Asthmatic Kitty label).

Polytheism and Levis: Also catching attention is a new Levis commerical that uses Charles Bukowski’s “The Laughing Heart” as its backdrop, part of their larger “Go Forth” campaign.

I do have to admit that hearing lines like “the gods will offer you chances” and “the gods wait to delight in you” did produce a certain thrill, even if it was in the service of selling jeans.

Fine Arts and the Tarot: Calvin Tomkins at The New Yorker covers a new exhibit by Naples/New York artist Francesco Clemente at the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence. His latest body of work is a set of tarot card paintings featuring a variety of his famous friends and fellow artists appearing as different cards.

Seven of Disks

“Clemente’s portraits all tend to look alike at first glance—huge eyes, full lips, serious expression—but then you see something that, if you’ve met the person, is exactly right. The playwright Edward Albee, sitting for the Emperor, clasps his haunted-looking face in both hands as he gazes out from beneath a sixteen-pointed star. Fran Lebowitz, as Justice, holding scales in one hand and a sword in the other, regards the viewer with that dour look that sets up the punch line. Salman Rushdie (the King of Swords), Colm Tóibín (the Hermit), Philip Glass (the Judgment), Kiki Smith (the Queen of Disks), Diane von Furstenberg (the Force), Paz de la Huerta (the Wheel of Fortune), Sara Mearns (the World), and numerous others maintain their singularity while assuming new and mythic identities. The portraits were all done in Clemente’s studio, and they took about two hours apiece—he had drawn in the bodies and the backgrounds earlier.”

You can view a slideshow of some of the paintings, here. As someone who has engaged in using the tarot as artistic inspiration, it should be noted that Clemente is part of a long lineage of fine artists creating their own tarot cards. This includes Andy WarholVictor Brauner, and Salvador Dali, among many others. Above is his “Seven of Discs,” which doesn’t feature a famous face, but is one I particularly liked.

Aesthetically Challenged Pagans? Chas Clifton points me to a post by Unitarian-Universalist minister Victoria Weinstein, perhaps better known in the UU blogosphere as “PeaceBang”. In this post Weinstein covers the oft-covered ground of how UU ritual is “so deadly awful, drab, and painfully unbeautiful.” Truly, as someone who used to be quite invested in the UU world (I was once a member of a UU church and worked at a UU community center) these complaints are nothing new, and I quickly learned to avoid most services like the plague. You know what’s worse than having a Pagan sing dull Christian hymns? Having them sing sanitized dull formerly-Christian hymns. But I digress.  In any event, the thing that caught Chas’ attention is in the comments where she takes a swipe at the aesthetics of UU Pagans.

“And not to dismiss the contribution made by the Pagan contingent but when I think “aesthetics” the pagan community is most decidedly NOT what comes to mind. In fact, I believe that the neo-pagan community has done more harm than good by inflicting too many embarrassingly bad rituals, dances and music on our worshiping communities.”

I find it interesting when someone says they don’t want to dismiss someone’s contribution and then proceeds to dismiss it. Not to get into this too deeply, but I question the depth of Ms. Weinstein’s knowledge of modern Pagan ritual, dance, or music. I don’t remember seeing her at any of our big national festivals or indeed, remember any history of engagements on her part with modern Paganism in general. Perhaps all the Pagan rituals, songs, and dances she has encountered in her limited experience have been “embarrassingly bad” but I would also wager that her sample-size is quite small and not representative of our larger movement. There’s no accounting for taste they say, but I hasten to point out that it isn’t modern Paganism that is having a growth and retention problem. So we must be doing something right in the aesthetics department. One wonders how many UU congregations would collapse if they were to remove all traces of the harmful Pagan influence.

A Witch Trials Rock Opera: Finally, I’d like to leave you with a review of “Abigail: The Salem Witch Trials Rock Opera” by Scott Schulz from The Juggler (also reprinted at the Patheos Pantheon blog).

“Abigail The Salem Witch Trials A Rock Opera is a balls-to-the-wall hard rock exploration of the roots of Christian theocracy in America. While last year’s production was a somewhat muddled mess saddled with an awkward venue and abysmal sound system, this year’s production is far more clear and clean. A strong effort has been made to clarify the motivations of the characters, and the multimedia elements have been vastly improved in way that enhances the experience rather than providing a constant distraction. The cast has uniformly embraced the swagger of the music, and so what was once a substantially lopsided confrontation between the Christian Patriarchs of Salem Village and the people that they oppress is now far more equal (at least on a raw, emotional level – the men still have all the political power in the setting). The young Abigail (played this year by CASEY CASTILLE) now stands toe to toe with DANIEL KNOP’s Reverend Parris in a rock and roll confrontation which, in no small way, shaped our nation.”

It’s currently playing in San Francisco, so if you’re in the area, and a fan of rock operas, you should check it out.

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

Top Story: The Religion News Service is featuring a story (alternate link) on the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and whether the shrinking (162,800 members, down 1,400 from last year) creedless denomination can endure for another fifty years.

“For 50 years the UUA has conducted a virtually unprecedented experiment: advancing a religion without doctrine, hoping that welcoming communities and shared political causes, not creeds, will draw people to their pews. Leaders say its no-religious-questions-asked style positions the UUA to capitalize on liberalizing trends in American religion. But as the UUA turns 50 this year, some members argue that a “midlife” identity crisis is hampering outreach and hindering growth. In trying to be all things to everyone, they say, the association risks becoming nothing to anybody.”

Modern Pagans are a vibrant part of the modern UUA, and the article by Daniel Burke starts off the piece with a Pagan member of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore leading a service.

“A recent Sunday service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore ended with an apology. Laurel Mendes explained that religious doctrine had been duly scrubbed from the hymns in the congregation’s Sunday program. But Mendes, a neo-pagan lay member who led the service, feared that a reference to God in “Once to Every Soul and Nation” might upset the humanists in the pews.”

While I’m pleased to see UU Pagans get noticed, I’m less happy with the fact that Burke seems to use this moment to underscore how far the UUA has drifted from its Christian roots. As for the future of the UUA, Burke cites an internal document from 2005 that says the denomination needs to create boundaries, to overcome its “reluctance to proclaim religious tenets.” Current UUA president Rev. Peter Morales sees “amazing opportunity” in the growing number of “nones,” people who don’t claim adherence to any particular faith, the “spiritual but not religious” demographic, but can outreach of this sort compensate for reports that the UUA is losing 85% of its children?

For many years the UUA has served as a haven and home for Pagans, especially in towns and cities that lack an established Pagan community. Many Pagans have fond feelings towards the UUA despite some institutional bumps in the road recently, with some prominent Pagans, like Margot Adler and Isaac Bonewits, having played significant roles within the Unitarian-Universalist sphere. But if those predicting the disappearance of the UUA are correct, if the next 50 years will see their slow fade-out from American life, then modern Pagans invested in the benefits of this denominational body will have to tackle the question of what the UUA provides us, whether we can replicate it independently of the UUA if need be, and what role groups like CUUPs and independent UU Pagans will play in the near future.

In Other News:

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