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TWH – Pagans across the country continue to join protests organized against the Dakota Access Pipeline and in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Water Protectors in North Dakota.

Tuesday, Nov. 15 was a nationally coordinated day of action against the pipeline. The protests went ahead despite the Army Corps’ postponement of any decision on whether or not to let the pipeline construction proceed – an act which many viewed as a partial success.

In San Francisco, there was a march and protest held outside of the Army Corps of Engineers office. It was organized by local indigenous people, Idle No More Bay Area, and interfaith leaders, including representatives from Reclaiming and the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood.

Claire “Chuck” Bohman of Reclaiming and The Temple of the Waters said that there were several thousand people who gathered for a successful day of action.

Indigenous leaders from Tohono O'odham nation and other tribes leading the march.

Indigenous leaders from Tohono O’odham nation and other tribes leading the march in San Francisco. [Courtesy C. Bohman]

“The prayers and action was powerful and effective, and the US Army Corps of Engineers was forced to close their offices for the day,” she said.

Bohman added that, as people who have a deep spiritual connection with the earth, Pagans need to take action and join in indigenous-led efforts.

“Simply doing magic and praying is not enough. Magic is the food that will sustain our spirits. We must push ourselves out of comfort zones and join together with people of different beliefs who also care about the earth and are committed to stopping this pipeline and moving towards sustainable energy,” Bohman said.

In the nation’s capital, Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd, defending the sovereign rights of Native Americans, water quality for the nation’s citizens and affirming the reality of climate change.

“The idea that at this moment in history, when the scientific community is crystal clear that we need to transform our energy system, that at this moment we have the fossil fuel industry pushing for more pipelines, for more dependency on fossil fuel, is totally insane,” Sanders said.

Among the crowd was Gwendolyn Reece, who said she was happy to see Sanders at the rally but she was just as happy to read about the 300-plus cities that took part in the action and the thousands of people who came out.

The issue of protecting the environment seems to be intrinsically tied to the pipeline fight.

“This issue, the environment, should be non-partisan, and most Pagans, the vast majority of Pagans believe in the sacredness of the planet and we believe in the sacredness of water,” Reece said, who heads the Theophania Temple of Athena and Apollon, Sacred Space Foundation, and is a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.

With an incoming White House administration who has reportedly received more than $100,000 of support since June from chairman and CEO Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind Dakota Access, the issue seems to be anything but bi-partisan.

For Reece, the results of the election are a setback, but she said that it has only forced her to change focus and tactics.

“To me the pipeline in addition to being something that is a social justice concern, because it’s of the incredible continuing exploitation of native people, it is also one of the clearest demarcated battle grounds for the environment and the environmental activism including for climate change right now,” she said.

Reece added that she sees the battle at Standing Rock as a part of our nation’s miasma, tied to humans’ treatment of the environment, First Nations, and African American people.

The goal, she said, “is trying to heal the miasma, which is when we’re out of right relationship with the gods, ourselves, the planet. As far as our national consciousness, this exists from the beginning of this nation. ”

Sacred Stone Camp [Courtesy Casey McCarthy]

Sacred Stone Camp [Courtesy Casey McCarthy]

MaryAnn Somervill, a CUUPs member in Asheville, North Carolina, said that she organized a rolling thunder ritual to coincide with the supermoon. The ritual allows people to remotely lend their aid and is so-called because participants join in at a fixed time, regardless of their timezone. If it occurs at 8 pm in the eastern time zone, an hour later it will occur at 8 pm in the central time zone, and so on.

A few hundred people joined in to cast a cone of protection on the camps near Cannon Ball, ND, the water defenders, and their supporters. Somervill said that this event really moved her to take action.

“This is something that made me step up in a way that I hadn’t before. I haven’t been on the front lines of any protests or anything like that,” she said.

At Standing Rock, Linda Black Elk has been there since the beginning. Black Elk, of the Catawba Nation and teacher of ethnobotany at Sitting Bull College, has two children enrolled with the Standing Rock Sioux, recently stated on Facebook that she sees a paradigm shift at work with Standing Rock right at the epicenter. She sees the presidential election as a reaction to that shift.

“(People are) scared out of their minds because change is uncomfortable, and shifting away from fossil fuels, a culture of consumption, and ultra convenience is annoyingly uncomfortable,” Black Elk said.

“We just have to be gentle, loving, patient, and understanding …but we must also be strong, powerful, brave and unshakable. Walk with power. Respect eachother (sic). Listen to the women in your lives.”

The camps, meanwhile, are growing in size and scope, and their needs are changing with the seasons. As snow and cold fronts move into the northern plains, protestors and water protectors are preparing for a long winter.

Dusty Dionne and Belladonna Laveau of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church are among the countless number of allies who have made the trip to North Dakota to show their support. From their home in Index, Washington, Dionne and Laveau received enough donations to buy a cord of wood, which they transporter by trailer from Washington to North Dakota.

Wood is one of the many supplies that are hard to find and very expensive. That might be unexpected, until you take into account that in the grasslands of North Dakota there aren’t very many trees to be found.

Dionne describes a very militarized, intimidating scene as you approach the camps. Countless numbers of police line the perimeter, with vehicles that are outfitted with satellite dishes and radio towers, and “Volkswagen-sized halogen lamps” lining the country side.

Standing in opposition to that is a makeshift barrier made of scrap wood and metal and barbed wire. But once you get inside, the atmosphere completely changes.

[Photo Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr]

“I was really moved with how many people were showing up to help and just the sheer energetic power. It was very inviting, not intimidating,” Laveau said.

“They’ve got a big circle of flags and you pull up to Oceti (the camp set up by the Native American water defenders) and it’s just teepees and teepees and teepees and you’ve got buses creating walled off areas for mini-camps and corrals with horses,” Dionne added.

They both describe being overwhelmed by how many people were there.

“I was really afraid that when I showed up there was just going to be a couple of people, not a lot of supplies. (But) this is organized,” said Laveau.

She says that seeing the size and organization of the camps gave her hope that they might win the fight.

“It is a huge area that they’ve made their encampment, it’s the size of a small town,” Dionne said.

In fact, a small town is exactly what the goal is at the Sacred Stone camp, where supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux have begun setting up the infrastructure to support a community, including building a root cellar and a school.

“They need building supplies, they need firewood, they need subzero sleeping bags, canvas tents. They’re building a town, so they need builders. They need people to swing hammers,” said Laveau.

Corey Moore, a Pagan from Kansas City, MO, also brought a trailer full of supplies collected by friends and family to Standing Rock this week.

“We brought lumber left over from a family’s deck project, a few coats, blankets, medical supplies including bandages, milk of magnesia, eye wash kit, and hand warmers. There were also food stuffs and even a few guitars specifically requested by the Rosebud youth camp. In addition we brought nearly $1000 in cash and gift cards to Lowe’s and Menard’s,” he said.

Moore also reported that they helped build the covered root cellar at the Rosebud camp for winter food storage.

“The indigenous people at Standing Rock are sacrificing themselves, their health, their bodies, their livelihood, to protect the planet and the water that feeds us all. The waters they are protecting serve the entire center of this country,” he said.

Moore said everyone who goes to the camp learns to stay oriented toward “prayerful respect.”

He said that, in the face of infuriating actions, it is very important to maintain that approach.

In spite of the forward momentum of the movement and growing awareness of the issue, Dakota Access and the police protecting the pipeline construction are not backing down. As recently as Sunday night, an action to open a bridge that has been blocked by police for month resulted in authorities firing rubber bullets, tear gas, and a water canon on protesters despite below-freezing temperatures.

Democracy Now reported that a team of legal observers noted 20 mace canisters launched into a confined area within 5 minutes, causing those targeted to vomit and lose bowel control. Angel Bibens, a laywer with the Red Owl Legal Collective, said that the water canon had been mixed with mace, so that even medics and observers were impacted. Medics also reportedly revived an elder who suffered a heart attack. On Monday it was also reported that at least 17 people had been hospitalized, a majority for hypothermia after the actions of police and security personnel.

Actions like these have made some Pagan community members question what our future will look like, and what the role of the Pagan community will be.

“We’re all worried about robots rising up and taking over the world in some kind of distant future but right now corporations have taken over the world and they’re not people. The only thing that they value is profit and that is a real fight right now to take the world back from soulless, mindless companies that do not value human life,” Laveau said.

“What kind of ancestors will we be for the descendants? Will there even be descendants of humanity? All of this is at stake and each of us is needed to turn the tides,” Bohman said.

For those interested in contacting local authorities in the area Yes Magazine has put together a comprehensive list with phone numbers, addresses and more.

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[UPDATE 11/23/ 11:22am: The embedded video showing protesters being sprayed with water was removed or blocked at its original source and can no longer be viewed. We removed the embedded bad link. However, the video can still be seen at various online sources, including The Guardian. ]

13900162_1171081342964773_254502616375191286_nGLENWOOD, Mass. — EarthSpirit Community announced that co-director Andras Corban-Arthen and member Donovan Arthen have traveled to North Dakota in an effort to help the protesters at Standing Rock camps. According to a press release, EarthSpirit “sent its delegation in response to a call to religious leaders from Chief Arvol Looking Horse.” While at the camps, the delegation “met with some of the organizers of the camps and [performed a] ceremony with some of the indigenous Elders.”

Additionally, they carried EarthSpirit’s own statement of support as well as documents of support from the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the European Congress of Ethnic Religions. Corban-Arthen gave all of these solidarity statements to the elders personally. EarthSpirit’s own statement reads, in part, “The EarthSpirit Community expresses its solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation as its people who defend and protect their sacred lands and water. […] We ask for a halt to construction, for the demilitarization of the police force in the area and for a peaceful solution that respects both the Sioux Nation and our mother the Earth.”

Corban-Arthen serves on both the council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the board of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions. The PWR statement reads, in part, “The desecration of sacred sites, for profit or otherwise, is both an unjustifiable practice and a violation of the basic human right of religious freedom. This desecration is especially unacceptable when, as in this case, it is perpetrated against peoples who have weathered a long history of abuse for the sake of material wealth, land, and resources in both the recent and distant history of the United States.” The ECER statement begins, “The Dakota Access Pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to occur.”

EarthSpirit is the most recent in a long line of Pagan organizations to publicly respond to the Standing Rock call for assistance. Corban-Arthen told The Wild Hunt that he is currently en route back home, and that he will share his reports publicly in the coming days.

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14963255_1300630256648495_2912948511722442464_nPENSACOLA, Fla. — Rev. Katharine A. Luck, an ordained minister at Fire Dance Church of Wicca, published a post-election article at the Huffington Post.  Luck is not only a Wiccan minister, but also the president of STRIVE, a local transgender advocacy organization. In her article, Luck begins, “Listen up, y’all. Not a damn thing that matters has changed,” and then she goes on to say that the problems showing themselves now through the election, existed prior.

On Saturday, Luck organized and spoke at local rally. She told The Wild Hunt that, immediately following the election, she spent much of her time counseling people who were frightened. “There’s a great deal of fear in the trans community in the wake of the election,” Luck said. “There has already been an increase in violence against various minority groups. We will remain strong in the face of adversity and support one another as we always have. We will overcome.” This was her weekend message.

The Huffington Post article ends on a similar positive note, saying, “I call upon my fellow healers, protectors, and advocates. You are hurting, but I know you are strong, and you are needed more than ever. Uplift those around you, especially those who for so long have done the same for others. Support one another, and we will thrive as we always have. I’m not sitting down, I’m not hiding, and I am not leaving. I intend to fight for as long as I’m able.”

Luck is now preparing for a local vigil to be held Sunday, Nov. 20, Transgender Remembrance Day.

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map_of_killeen_txKILLEEN, Texas — It was reported that,on Nov. 2, a member of the local Killeen Pagan community had been the victim of vandalism. After coming home from a Wed. evening class, she found the words “Exodus 22:18” scrawled in marker on her front door. The Pagan woman, who asked to remain anonymous at this point in the investigation, lives alone in her duplex apartment and was surprised by the vandalism. She immediately contacted the local police to report what she considers a “hate crime.” However, the incident was recorded as “criminal mischief,” despite the implied message in this particular scripture. Exodus 22:18 is the verse expressing the infamous phrase: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Prior to the Nov. 2, she had experienced only one other similar incident. On Oct 29, while the woman was attending a Pagan retreat, someone slung mud on her front door and covered it with boot prints. Neither she nor the police know if the two acts of vandalism are connected. Local officials told The Wild Hunt that there are currently no suspects and no one is in custody.  We are following this story and will have more as it becomes available.

In Other News:

  • Aquarian Tabernacle Church archpriestess Belladonna Laveau and high priest Dusty Dionne reported that they made a successful supply run to Standing Rock. The two delivered a trailer filled with firewood to the camps on their way to Ohio. Laveau and Dionne reported on the experience over Facebook live as they drove out of the area. The video report is available to the public.
  • Since the election, mainstream news reports have been filled with post-election demonstrations and rallies. Adding to that story, Salem Witch and elder Laurie Cabot reportedly published a post-election call to action. Through social media, Cabot allegedly asked all Witches to use magic to help “neutralize” the incoming administration. According to the now popular Facebook post, she said, “We as a group need to neutralize Donald Trump and Mike Pence immediately! Especially before the full moon…”  Cabot then goes on to provide a spell with complete directions. Near the bottom, she added, “I am reminding everyone, we do not wish/do harm to anyone.”
  • Cró Dreoilín and the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans at Jefferson Unitarian Church announced that they will be hosting their annual Paths and Traditions Fair Jan. 14, 2017. The fair is a “day-long open house for those who are new or seeking info on Pagan and Polytheist paths to come and meet representatives of various traditions.”  The organizers are currently looking for “Pagan and Polytheist groups or individuals who are interested in making connections with new people or who would like others to know more about their traditions.” This includes the leaders of  “covens, kindreds, groves, or other groups, teachers of classes or workshops, organizers or managers of Pagan or polytheist groups or anyone starting a new Pagan or polytheist group, path, or tradition. The event will be held at the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado.
  • Canadian Pagan and Wiccan Chaplain Samuel Wagar has recently been appointed as “scheduler for the new Multifaith Prayer and Meditation space” at the University of Alberta. He said that this new expanded role will benefit Pagan students studying on campus. Along with this position, Wagar said that he will be hosting a “Tarot Table […] as a way of reaching out and meeting new Pagans on campus, and will be supporting the continuation of interfaith discussions on campus.
  • The New York Times published a video report Nov. 8 called the Historic & Emotional Vote for Women.  A familiar Pagan face leads the Times report. As it opens, Rev. Selena Fox stands at an altar, holding a wand. She says to the viewers, “Be informed. Be empowered. Vote.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

1930212_1044474605610182_2135655129642865778_nDENTON, Tex.– Eight months after a fire damaged its building, Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship came together in a newly constructed space to celebrate and recommit to its mission. As we reported in December, the Denton church was repeatedly vandalized by a single teenager, who eventually set fire to the building. At the time, Rev. Pam Wat said, “The damage from the fire is significant, but not overwhelming.”

Since that point, members were invited to hold their services in the First Christian Church, located across the street. As noted by Denton CUUPS chapter coordinator John Beckett, “They displayed the best of Christianity.” Specifically, the CUUPS group was able to hold regular Sunday meetings at the facility as well as seasonal events, including its “Imbolc, Ostara, Summer Solstice, and Lughnasadh circles.”

Meanwhile, the damaged building was being rebuilt. Construction was completed just in time for the annual “Ingathering Service” that the church uses to “kick off its year.” Beckett was an integral part of Saturday’s event, helping to “compose two of the liturgical elements” for the service, as well as delivering a “colloquy as the Act of Reconsecration” together with Rev. Wat. Beckett, who wrote in a blog post, “It was a perfect example of collaborative ritual, and of how a UU service can be truly multi-faith without being bland and soulless.” The colloquy is posted in full on his blog.

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cuupsSALEM, Mass. — In other CUUPS news, this weekend marks the start of Convocation, the organization’s annual gathering. This year’s conference event, themed “Awakening Our Tribe,” will be held at the First Church in Salem, Massachusetts. CUUPS organizers have scheduled three full days of workshops, rituals, lectures, and entertainment, inviting people to join them “for this special gathering as we return to the roots for inspiration.” The current schedule and guest speaker list is posted on their website.

Additionally, with the event being held in the “Witch City,” organizers have built time into the plans for attendees to get out and stroll the streets or take self-guided historical tours. Rev. JK Hildebrand will speak on the subject. “Why are there so many of us [in Salem]? When and how did it all come to be? What have been some of the lessons of religion vs. commercialism? How does CUUPS fit in?” There will also be a discussion and viewing of the documentary With Love, from Salem, which focuses on the practice of modern Witchcraft in the historic city.

Convocation runs from Aug 26-28.

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afa-logo

The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) is stirring up controversy on social media after newly-selected Alsherjargothi Matt Flavel posted a short statement on AFA’s Facebook page. Sunday night, Flavel wrote:

“Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning.”

While the post has generated some visible support for the organization and its new leadership, there has been a growing wave of protest and, simultaneously, calls to publicly denounce the AFA. One Facebook user asked for clarification, “Am I misunderstanding the message here or does this mean that if someone wasn’t white or if they were queer they wouldn’t be welcome in the AFA?” Flavel responded in part, with “You are not misunderstanding.”

No official reactions have come out yet from other Heathen or Pagan groups, or individuals, by the time of publication; nor has the AFA made any further comment. We will continue to follow this story and report as needed.

In other news

  • As noted in late July, the court case for musician Kenny Klein was due to start on Aug. 15. However, it has once again been delayed. According to the latest report, defense attorneys have hired a professional to analyze Klein’s computers and provide a report. They are also asking for copies of the photographs. However, prosecutors will only allow them to see the originals, rather than provide them with copies. With all the various motions on the table, the trial date has been pushed back to Sept. 29.
  • Hellenion, a US-based religious organization “dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism,” has opened a new ritual group, or “Proto-Demos” located in Southeast Michigan. The new group, called the Apple Blossom Proto-Demos of Hellenion, was formed in late spring and held its first ritual July 16 at the Pagan Pathways Temple in Madison Heights. Apple Blossom joins eleven other such Hellenion groups located around the US.
  • A new metaphysical store is coming to Oregon. The Sacred Well, located in the Bay Area, announced that it will be opening a second location in Portland this October. The Sacred Well employs and serves Pagan, polytheist, and Witchcraft practitioners with readings, ritual supplies, temple events, and classes. The new store will open at 7927 SE 13th Ave in the Sellwood neighborhood. To follow their progress, go to the Sacred Well Portland Facebook page.
  • Don’t forget it is Pagan Pride season. Denver Pagan Pride kicks off its local festivities on Saturday as do many others around the country. Pride events associated with the Pagan Pride project are listed on its website.
  • Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC), the Florida-based affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess, released its 24th seasonal podcast. The 2016 Lughnasad edition contains music by Emerald RoseGinger Doss, and Mama Gina. Members discuss everything from tarot tips and Nervine Tea to “getting inebriated at festivals.” The regular seasonal podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, or on the EMLC website.

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CORRECTION (8/24/2016 12:50 pm): The original article stated that an online exchange between a user and AFA leaders had been deleted. At the time of original publication, that short exchange was not publicly visible and assumed to have been deleted. However, it has since reappeared and is publicly accessible on the organization’s Facebook site.

Indiana-StateSeal.svgWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Two members of Indiana’s Heathen community were arrested last week on child molestation charges. David Hindsley and Nicole Leffert are being held “on felony charges including child molesting and conspiracy to commit child molesting.” Local news reports state that neighbors overheard the couple talking about “sex acts with children” and contacted the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department. After an investigation, the arrests were made on the evening of May 10.

Hindsley and Leffert are both known within the local Heathen community as artisans and the makers of specialty kilts. Hindsley owns the Etsy shop and Facebook page Heathen Spirit. In a 2014 article published in Purdue University’s student newspaper The Exponent, Hindsley was interviewed about the health benefits of wearing kilts. Both Leffert and Hindsley are listed on Odin’s Children, attend local Pagan events and participate in online Pagan and Heathen communities. The Wild Hunt has also learned that the Hindsley and Leffert were trying to start a new kindred in the Lafayette area. We reached out to several local Heathens, all of whom were declined to comment at this time.

According to reports, “prosecutors are not yet identifying the victims in the case.”  The bond amount is listed at $500,000 for each arrest, and both have court dates set for May 19. We will bring you more on the story as it develops.

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[Courtesy Photo]

STOCKON, Calif. — It was announced this weekend that Scott Symonds, a regular and well-known vendor at PantheaCon, had died. Scott was originally diagnosed with cancer in January 2015.  As he wrote himself, “I was rushed to the hospital, bent over, all day, in pain.”  The doctor’s assumed that he had diverticulitis and pancreatitis, but after a colonoscopy, they found tumors. He endured many months of difficult treatments. Then, in November 2015, Scott was diagnosed as terminal.

Several weeks ago, Scott asked friend Eleina Ridolfi to set up a GoFundMe campaign to help his wife Amber after he was gone. He said, “I would like to build a fund that Amber can pull from as needed for the first so many years on a monthly basis to help cover costs that I am no longer able to cover.”  To date, the campaign has raised nearly $20,000 over a short nine-day period of time.

Along with donations, people from Scott’s various communities have been reaching out to post words of support for his family, express love, and share memories on his Facebook page. Chris Sanchez wrote, “Scott Symonds you will be forever in our hearts and thoughts. You will missed my friend. Thank you so much for your courage, your strength, and your inspiration to make us all better human beings. I wish I could find the words…..”  What is remembered, lives.

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11141331_129118137493653_3811564180993915340_nTWH – A new anthology, edited by author Dr. Mary Canty Merrill, is due to be released in June. The book, entitled Why Black Lives Matter too, is a multi-author work that includes a diversity of voices from around the country. One of the voices chosen for this work was Pagan blogger and activist Cat Chapin-Bishop. She said, “The writing I’ve done against racism, for the book and at my blog, has been from a spiritual root. It’s not an intellectual drive, the drive to speak out on racism–it’s coming from spiritual leadings (of the sort Quakers talk about, but which Paganism first taught me to follow).”

On her website, Dr. Merrill writes that the book is due to be released on what is known as Juneteenth—a holiday commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African American slaves throughout the Confederate South.  She added that all proceeds will “benefit the Sentencing Project, a leader in the effort to bring national attention to disturbing trends and inequities in the criminal justice system through the publication of groundbreaking research, aggressive media campaigns and strategic advocacy for policy reform.” Chapin-Bishop is passionate about the effort and the book’s launch, saying, “I really, really want this project to do well. The Sentencing Project is [an] important tool in the fight against systemic racism.”

In other news:

  • On Friday, May 13, Leigha LaFleur, a Wiccan practitioner based in Portland, led a public ritual to offer support to the Bernie Sanders campaign. The story caught the attention of mainstream media, who expressed both curiosity and skepticism. The L.A. Times wrote, “There are lots of ways to support a political candidate, from making phone calls to donating money. Some turn to prayer, Christian or otherwise. Add Wiccan rituals to the list.”  According to the article, there were as many observers as their were participants. LaFleur, not deterred by the media’s attention, has planned a second ritual event, scheduled for Monday, May 16 at 5:30. As with the first one, the Ritual for Bernie Sanders 2 will be held in Woodstock Park in Portland, Oregon.
  • “Heathen at the Helm.” Wild Hunt writer and Norse Mythology blogger Karl E. H. Seigfried was elected to be the new president of Interfaith Dialogue at the University of Chicago. Seigfried said, “I’m not sure how many interfaith organizations at major institutions are headed by a practitioner of Asatru, but I’m guessing not many.” As noted on the website, “Interfaith Dialogue at the University of Chicago is an organization that hosts discussions on religion and spirituality, presents guest speakers, visits local places of worship, studies different religious traditions, and produces an interfaith journal.”
  • Normal People Productions has launched the trailer for the upcoming theatrical production Doreen Valiente: An English Witch. Based on the recently published biography, the play will run Nov. 21-27 at the Marlborough Theatre in Brighton. Tickets are now on sale.

  • Three Drops from the Cauldron, a U.K.-based publisher, is putting together an anthology on, as it says, the “best writing we receive on Witches, rituals, and spells.”  The deadline for submission is coming up May 29.  The anthology will be called Full Moon & Foxglove (An Anthology of Witches & Witchcraft), and will be published in paperback. Not a practicing Witch? Three Drops has several other calls for submissions with deadline and requirements posted on its website.
  • And, from the blogosphere, Alison Leigh Lilly discusses the Shaman & Priest: How America’s Cultural Landscape Shapes Its Religious InstitutionsOn Nature’s Path, the Patheos blog dedicated to Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Lilly writes, “In a culture that still clings to the social traditions of agricultural society and dismisses hunter-gatherer lifestyle as inherently “primitive” even while adopting some of its characteristics, Druidry can find a place of balance and harmony, acknowledging everything priesthood and shamanism have to offer.”
  • The Wild Hunt is currently accepting submissions from Pagan, Heathen and polytheist writers from outside of the United States for its Around the World monthly column. For more details, contact editor at wildhunt [dot] org.

Send us your news tips and story ideas.

12795549_10207087385915921_6600200379585657996_nIt was announced yesterday that Senior Druid A.J. Gooch had died suddenly upon arriving at Sunday’s Winterstar Ball, a yearly fundraising event to honor the legacy of Jeff Rosenbaum. A.J. was a longtime member of the Rosenbaum’s Starwood Community, as well as the Barony of the Cleftlands, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). A.J. was also member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and the Ohio-based Stone Creed Grove. He regularly attended Cleveland Pagan Pride.

Along with his many community roles, A.J. devoted much time to his position as “the Senior Druid of Stone Creed Grove, and was serving as the Assistant Senior Druid at the time of his death.” Friends and family have been posting photos and stories on his Facebook page to commemorate his life and share the ways in which A.J. touched the community. Cleveland Pagan Pride organizers posted, “Our positive thoughts are with his wife and children in this time of mourning. Journey well our brother to your ancestors that await you in the Summerland. Blessed Be!”

Stone Creed Grove (SCG) is planning a memorial service and will post more details on its own website as plans are finalized. SCG Officers added that if anyone would like to offer assistance to A.J.’s family, contact them directly. They wrote, “We know that AJ touched many lives in the many groups he was involved in. He will be remembered with honor as he joins the Mighty Dead in the summerlands.” What is Remembered, Lives!

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Falcon CircleOver the past week, a number of conservative media outlets have been replicating a story originally posted by Judicial Watch, entitled, “Air Force Academy Uses Chapel Tithes and Offering Fund to Pay for Cadets’ Attendance at Festivals Celebrating Witchcraft, Faery Magick, and Voodoo.” The original report criticizes the Academy for using donated funds to send cadets to Pagan religious events, citing both Beltania and the Denver Witches’ Ball. Judicial Watch based its article on a number of receipts and documents obtained directly from the academy.

Since Judicial Watch published its initial report, it has attracted the attention of mainstream media sites as well as smaller conservative outlets. Additionally, a number of concerned Pagan organizations have gotten involved and are speaking out in defense of the Air Force Academy and the local Denver Pagan community. Rev. Joy Burton and Jo Butler, directors of Living Earth Church, published a statement on their website in response to Judicial Watch. In that statement, they said that nobody from Judicial Watch ever contacted them about these concerns. Living Earth Church hosts the annual Beltania retreat cited in the story. Rev. Burton told The Wild Hunt, “Living Earth has respect for all faiths and appreciates those who answer the inflammatory words with calm, reasoned responses.”

In addition, Lady Liberty League has gotten involved. Rev. Selena Fox stated that the organization “supports fair and equal treatment of those of the many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies serving in all branches of the US Military. We are thankful that the Air Force Academy supports the rights of its members to practice their religion or no religion at all.” Members of LLL’s Military Affairs Task Force have been working with Living Earth Church, the Sacred Well Congregation, and the Pagan Circle at the Air Force Academy, and others who have been or may be directly affected by the Judicial Watch article.

To thank Lady Liberty League for its support in Denver and elsewhere, Living Earth Church board members voted last night to donate “5% of Beltania Festival 2016 proceeds” to the LLL. Rev Burton said, “May these unkind and dismissive attacks never dissuade us from building bridges of understanding. May the ignorance and negativity only remind us of the need for greater learning and love. Beltania 2016 will be our most open-hearted and welcoming festival ever, and we invite all to join us this coming May to show support for our cadets and help build community.”

 *   *   *

Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

Publisher and author Taylor Ellwood posted a third “Open Letter to Pagan Convention Organizers and to Pagan Presenters” on his blog. The post, dated Feb. 24, opens with: “Back in December of 2015 I wrote 2 open letters to Pagan Convention Organizers. In the first letter I explained that I no longer wanted to present at events where I was expected to pay to present and no compensation was offered for my efforts. In the second letter, I called for transparency on how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected.”

Ellwood went on to share several bloggers’ responses to his initial calls to action.Then he thanked convention organizers, renewed his request for transparency, and clarified his position. He wrote, “I’m not [selling out] … I’m just accepting that there are certain realities to putting an event together that involves a lot of expense and moving parts. I get that […] but I want what I have to offer acknowledged and valued.”

Finally, Ellwood announced his plans to host a virtual conference. He said, “It’s going to take a while for me to do it, but I will do it […] More importantly, I promise that you will have the potential to make money.”

In Other News: 

  • Artist and Author Lupa will be launching her second Tarot of the Bones crowdfunding campaign. The original IndieGoGo campaign was started last spring and ultimately raised $10,148 dollars toward the deck’s production This next campaign will cover “printing costs for the completed deck and book set.” The campaign will launch March 1 and will run for 60 days. Lupa said, “Campaign backers will be able to choose from a variety of perks, ranging from The Tarot of Bones deck and book set to original assemblage pieces used for the card art. Previous campaign backers and new supporters alike will be able to choose standalone perks like prints and limited-edition bone jewelry, as well as perk packages including The Tarot of Bones deck and book.” More information is on the Tarot of the Bones official website.
  • Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) has posted details about their upcoming summer event. The CUUPS board said, “We are very excited to announce that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will host its Convocation on August 26-28, 2016. All CUUPS members, UU’s and those interested in UU Paganism, Earth and Nature Centered Spirituality are invited to register and attend.” It will be held at the “First Church UU in Salem has roots dating back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” This year’s speakers include, John Beckett, Byron Ballard, Silver Branch, Gypsy Ravish, and Rev. Shirley Ranck. More details on the event and the registration process are located on the CUUPS Patheos blog site.
  • The Wild Hunt is proud to announce the addition of a new columnist. Karl E. H. Seigfried will be joining the TWH monthly writing team. Seigfried is known for his dedicated work at the Norse Mythology Blog, which has been recognized as one of the top blogs on the topic. He will be joining us to share his expertise in Norse Mythology, comparative religion and media. His first Wild Hunt article will be published at the end of March.
  • Looking for some new music? Sencha the Vate has released an album called Mists on the Mountain. It is described as featuring “soothing Native American flute and guitar compositions.” Details are available on Sencha’s new website.

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[Pagan Community Notes is a weekly feature that highlights short stories and notes originating from within our collective communities. If you like reading this dedicated news every Monday, please donate to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive today. We are now 49% funded. Help us raise that number! All of our articles take time, research and money to produce. It is you that makes it all possible! Share our IndieGoGo link. Donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

Over the past six months, Witchita State University (WSU) quietly renovated and expanded of its Grace Memorial Chapel. The pews and small altar were removed to give the interior worship space the flexibility to cater to a number of various religious traditions. More specifically, WSU wanted to accommodate the needs of its growing Muslim community. According to WSU President Jim Bardo, the chapel was originally gifted for use by the entire university community, regardless of “creed and race.”

Although work began in May, the renovation was only recently announced, setting off protests and backlash from predominantly alumni and off-campus locals. A taste of that backlash and the ensuing public debate can be found in the comment section of the Bardo’s Facebook announcement. Due to these protests, the community decided to hold a Friday evening service called “Prayers for Support,” and one local Pagan community stepped forward to help.

Bruce Blank said, “I felt it was important for Pagans to have a voice in assisting healing for Inter-faith community.” Blank belongs to Ma’at’s Temple of South Central Kansas. The group submitted a prayer for use in the multi-faith service. The prayer began, “As from the Infinitely Vast to the Infinitely small – We are all part of the Center…”  The Pagan presence were so well-received that chapel administrators invited Blank to participate a “future symposium at W.S.U. to represent pagan perspectives on inter-faith issues.”

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9780374291372Alex Mar‘s long-awaited book, Witches of America, is now available for purchase. In this book, Mar includes both her research into Witchcraft practices and her personal experiences interacting with a number of modern Pagan communities. A Harvard graduate, Mar is best known for her 2010 documentary film American Mystic.

An excerpt from Witches of America is published in New York Magazine. In this short segment, Mar details the preparation and experience in her first Feri circle. She writes, “Just a couple of hours ago, this was the living room of a conservative New England family, complete with grand piano, love seat, and plush Oriental carpet— but all that’s been moved aside for our intended use of the space this weekend.”

To date, a few mainstream news sites have published reviews including NPR, whose reviewer found “the cultural research aspect of the book more engaging than Mar’s personal journey.” While no Pagan writer has published a review yet, there have been some rumblings and expressions of concern from within the collective Pagan communities. Several Pagan bloggers have indicated that they will be reviewing the book soon. Look for those reviews over the next few weeks.

Mar’s book Witches of America was released Oct. 20 and published by Sarah Crichton Books / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

*   *   *

cuupsThe Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans has announced the results of its September board election. The new trustees include: Angela Brown as VP for Development; Catharine Clarenbach as VP of Ministerial Relations; Debra Gilbert asSecretary; and Peter Dybing as VP for Membership.

VP Communications J. Hildebrand said, “The Board thanks all of the members who took the time to vote and speak their conscience. Member commitment to the organization is honored.

In addition, CUUPS members voted to “stand in solidarity with the Unitarian Universalist Association” with regard to two global issues: social justice and environmental protection. The two new organizational statements support the UU’s “Commit2Respond statement on Climate Change” and “Showing up for Justice” #BlackLivesMatter.”

The environmental justice statement simply “affirms and supports” that which is expressed in the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment. The #BlackLivesMatter statement begins, “The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Inc., affirms the intention of all members and friends to be in solidarity with those seeking justice and an end to violence…” and offers suggestions on further steps to take within this effort.

In Other News

  • Michigan Pagan College Fund has just announced that it has two new sponsors. Coventry Creations and the Candle Wick Shoppe have together pledged $500 a year to the fund. According to the organization, 100% of all money raised goes directly to the students to not only help them “go to college, but also graduate.” The Michigan Pagan College Fund was initially “established by the Midwest Witches Ball and Witches of Michigan” after the Tempest Smith Foundation (TSF) closed its doors in 2014. Organizers didn’t want to see this monetary support disappear and took up the reins when TSF disbanded.
  • Everglades Moon Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess has announced that its Samhain podcast is now available for download and listening. The organization creates seasonal podcasts to help bring its expansive Florida-based community and membership together. In addition, the organization has announced the opening of registration for its “Turning of the Tides” festival held annually in December in south Florida. The event is open to anyone wanting to get to know the local EMLC community. The festival will be held Dec.11-13. Register online from now through November.
  • God & Radicals, the paper journal, is due out soon. Editors announced that this first edition will be “120 pages and contains the work of writers and artists from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, 32 Pagans, polytheists, witches, magicians, environmentalists, Druids and activists.” The forward is by Peter Grey of Scarlet Imprint. Writers include “Silvia Federici, T. Thorn Coyle, Nimue Brown, Jonathan Woolley, Margaret Killjoy, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, James Lindenschmidt, Lia Hunter, Max Oanad, Lorna Smithers, Christopher Scott Thompson, Al Cummins, and more.” The journal will be available in mid-November.
  • With the Parliament of the World’s religions now over, many people will be posting and sharing Parliament reviews, reflections and writings.The Wild Hunt will be doing our our post-Parliament wrap up and reflections in the coming days. But kicking off such work is blogger Annika Mongan at Patheos’ Born Again Witch. In the post titled “Overwhelmed by the Parliament,” Mongan writes, “I look out of the window as we ascend over the salt flats and ponder how to write about the Parliament. And that’s when the tears come. They take me by surprise, for I am not someone who cries easily. And they keep coming.”
  • Similarly, Selena Fox and Circle Sanctuary’s PWR delegation discussed their experiences on Tuesday’s edition of the Pagans Radio Tonight show Nature Magic. Fox talks to a number of people about why they attended, what the weekend meant and what they are bringing back with them to their daily lives. This portion of the show began at 8pm, which is approximately half way through the program.

That’s it for now! Have a nice day.

Feature-Sean-Trayner-Wicca-in-the-Real-World-1-720x405 (1)Samuel Wagar, a Wiccan Priest with the Congregationalist Wiccan Assembly of Alberta, begins his second year as a Wiccan Chaplain at the University of Alberta. He selection last summer marked the first time that the University has appointed a Pagan to serve its student population.

Wager, who is a Britsh Trad Wiccan and an active participant in the local Pagan community, said, “I had wanted to go back to school, because I love the academic environment, like to work with young adults, and I had thought that outreach for our Temple to the University would be a really good idea.” He prepared his CV with the support of his community and was then interviewed by the University’s interfaith chaplaincy group and was eventually selected.

In his first year, Wager’s presence was minimal and limited. However, he says that now that will be changing as the new school year begins. He plans to increase his visibility on campus; host sabbats and “weekly lunch-ritual-and-discussion meetings” and serve any counselling needs. Considered a visiting scholar, Wager said that the University as a whole supports the multifaith chaplaincy group by “recognizing the value of our work, particularly when crisis strikes – we are part of the first responders when suicides happen, and are generally recognized as a valuable component of the student support services.”

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haxanThe HÄXÄN Film Festival has announced the lineup for its August 2015 event in Oakland, California. The film festival will offer screenings from 22 different artists, including: “onyinye alheri, Ale Bachlechner and Olivia Platzer, Stephanie Barber, Gina Basso, Gina Basso, Flatsitter, Penny Van Hazelberg, Lyra Hill, Damian Lebiedzinski, Kayla Lenberg, Arnont Nongyao, Kathleen Quillian, Nowhere Mountain, Grace Nayoon Rhee, Iqrar Rizvi, Leyla Rodriguez, Sarah Rooney, Linda Scobie, Nazare Soares, Alexander Stewart, Natalie Tsui, and Julieta Triangular” 

In addition, HÄXÄN has scheduled several other related performances as well as Tarot readings and vendors. Haxan is in its second year and is billed as a “film festival focusing on local filmmakers exploring psychic and mystic connections through experiments in video and film. Celebrating witchcraft and the Personal Occult.”  It will be held August 28-29 in two different locations in Oakland.

*   *   *

Jeff Rosenbaum

Jeff Rosenbaum

It has been announced that Jeff Rosenbaum’s family will be holding a traditional tombstone unveiling ceremony on August 9. Rosenbaum died on August 31, 2014. He is “best known as the founder of the Association for Consciousness Exploration (ACE), the Chameleon Club, the Starwood Festival, and the WinterStar Symposium.

On Sept 1 2014, writer and friend Ian Corrigan wrote a tribute to Rosenbaum’s life, detailing his many adventures. Corrigan said, “Jeff’s life can serve as a lesson that a devotion to ideas, to manifesting dreams, to serving a community can be fulfilling, and leave a lasting legacy. The Starwood Festival will continue, rolling on the solid chassis of Jeff’s old bus. The enchantment he helped to weave is only made the wilder by Jeff’s transition from at-the-desk manager to his new life in story and memory.”

It has now been nearly one year since that time. As is common in the Jewish tradition, something Rosenbaum never abandoned, his family will hold a tombstone unveiling ceremony. The Cleveland Jewish News reports,Rabbi Zachary Truboff of Oheb Zedek-Cedar Sinai Synagogue will conduct the informal headstone unveiling service on Aug 9, 2015 at 2 p.m. at Mount Olive Cemetery, 27855 Aurora Road, Solon, OH 44139, Section 300, Row A, Grave 32. Please bring stories and memories to share.”

In Other News:

  • The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans is preparing for its upcoming conference called Convocation with the theme “Awakening Our Tribe.” This will be the first Convocation in a decade. Special guests will include Jon Beckett, Rev. Shirley Ranck, Gypsy Ravish, Jerrie Hildebrand and music group Silver Branch. Organizers write, “It’s time to awaken the spirit of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.”  The three day conference will be held at the First Church Unitarian, in Salem, Massachusetts from Aug 26 – 28.
  • Several weeks ago we reported on the growing interest in Pop Culture Magick. In that article we mentioned the upcoming book by Taylor Ellwood, Pop Culture Magick 2.0. Ellwood is now reporting that this book will be available as early as September and can be pre-ordered. He writes that the new book “explores how pop culture magic has continued to evolve.”
  • In other publishing news, Heather Freysdottir published a new book that has been on the Amazon best seller list under the category of “mysticism.” Freysdottir’s book, Beyond Reason, is devoted to Loki and is described as “part memoir, part love song to the Divine within and without,” exploring Pagan mysticism and the Divine. Freysdottir is a blogger and “Polytheist nun who worships the Norse Gods in sunny Florida.” Of the book’s popularity, she said in a blog post, “When I wrote the book I tried really hard not to consider sales or reviews because once a book is done, I’ve written it the best that I could, and so it’s none of my business what people think of it. What I do hope that people get out of these sales stats is that the public seems more ready to learn about Polytheistic mysticism.
  • The World Goddess Day initiative has kicked off.  Scheduled this year for September 6, World Goddess Day was initially a project of Brazilian Priest and Author Claudiney Prieto. The goal is reportedly “to grant to the Goddess one day of visibility to share Her many myths, stories and worship diversity.” Last year, the event attracted over 50 scheduled events worldwide. This year, organizers are hoping that number increases. Local events will be posted on the World Goddess Day website as they are registered.
  • In May, Pagan band Sentinel Grove released its first CD. The band has been making regular rounds on Pagan internet radio stations and at live events over the summer. Sentinel Grove describes itself as a “band with our own flare of Celtic, pop, traditional, blues, and drum filled goodness.” They are based in the Quad Cities and are made up of “two girls and a few drums.” You can find their music on You Tube, United Pagan Radio, and Facebook.
  • And lastly, Heathen authors have a new dedicated place to go to publish their works. Based in Canada, Saga Press is described as the “first fully dedicated heathen press for books by heathens for heathens.” Owner Larisa Hunter launched Saga’s independent site in the spring, and the Press has been churning out books ever since. It’s most recent release is Pagan Child by Warwick Hill Jr

That’s it for now. Have a nice day.

Seekers TempleThe Seeker’s Temple, based in Beebe Arkansas, has announced that it is closing its doors. In a Facebook statement, High Priest Bertram Dahl said, “The city of Beebe has not only managed to make things too difficult to stay open here, but are also attacking us personally and threatening the life of our family.” Tonight will be its final public meeting.

As we reported in June 2014, Dahl, with his wife Felicia, had moved to Beebe, where they re-established the Seeker’s Temple. After some time, the Dahls found themselves at the center of a local controversy due to ongoing conflicts with both the town and a neighboring church. As noted by the Temple’s announcement, those problems never ended. In a recent post, Dahl reports that many of his outdoor statuary were vandalized.

Despite the closure of the Beebe temple, Dahl did suggest that his days as a High Priest are not over. After the Dahl family relocates to South Carolina, he will reopen the Seeker’s Temple. In addition, he and his wife will be “appearing” at Tennessee’s Pagan Unity Festival and, as he noted, the “online pages will remain the same (Beebe can’t stop that).”

*   *   *

NepalThe Patrick McCollum Foundation has provided further detail on its work to help victims of the Nepal Earthquake. Rev. McCollum said that the group has “forwarded all donations made so far to our team members in the area” where relief is in progress. “All monies are being used to purchase tents, blankets, medical supplies and food. The process of delivering these to the remote mountain villages is difficult, but we have people in place that are able to do so.”

More specifically, the Foundation has partnered with the Helambu region and is one of the only NGOs providing relief to this particular area. Rev McCollum explained that most organizations are focused on Kathmandu where there are “armies of aid workers and supplies.” The remote villages are less likely to be served or served quickly. Rev. McCollum goes on to say, “Helambu is a difficult to reach region of numerous remote villages and they have been hit exceptionally hard.” The most recent death toll for the entire country is now over 7,000, of which 500 are estimated to be from the Helambu region alone.

*   *   *

cuupsThe Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) has announced that it is reviving its annual “Continental Gathering.” This summer the organization is sponsoring its first convocation since 2004 and the theme will be “Awakening Our Tribe.” As noted in The Nature’s Path, a blog devoted to UU-Paganism, “It is time to awaken the spirit of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.”

Convocation will be held in Salem, Massachusetts and hosted by the First Church Unitarian, a 377-year old congregation with a wealth of history. Organizers announced, “Our guest speakers include people who have been long-time and new UU voices in Paganism and local voices in the New England region who bring new energy to the mix.” Those speakers include Rev. Shirley Ranck, John Beckett, Gypsy Ravish, Jerrie Hildebrand, as well as musical guest Silver Branch. Convocation will be held on July 24-26.

In Other News

  • Polytheist Priest and spirit worker Anomalous Thracian has announced the purchase of over 3 acres of land, situated in a private wooded area not far from the New Hampshire border, on a small river, within Essex County, Massachusetts. The goal is to rebuild “a permanent polytheist Temple and oracular serpent sanctuary.” Thracian said that, in time, the space will host community rituals and be available for educational events and retreats. He also emphasized that the land “will see full-time religious use, with future opportunities for students-in-residence, guest priests, and visitors.” For anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the temple project, contact him at nomadicwisdom at gmail (dot) com.
  • Wyldwood Radio has announced a fundraising campaign to purchase new equipment to cover more festivals and events. With new equipment, the station can grow and expand its media presence within the country. They said, “Our dream goal is to be able to raise enough to also cover the costs of buying suitable transport” to get their teams to and from the various locations. Wyldwood Radio is an “independent Pagan radio station based in the UK.”
  • Beltane’s ACTION is out. In this issue, Blackwell interviews Pippah Hall, Lilith Dorsey, Sylveey Dawn, Crystal Blanton, Jay Bearden, Lou Florez, and Lady Sky Dancer.
  • Everglades Moon Local Council, Covenant of the Goddess has published its Beltane Podcast. The Florida-based local council has been using podcasts for several years to share the experiences and talents of its members. The latest podcast includes several songs, tips for reading tarot, information on medicinal spices and more. Additionally, podcast creators included a recording of a workshop given at the brand-new Florida spring gathering, Equinox in the Oaks. The EMLC podcasts are typically published at every sabbat.
  • Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) will be hosting its first ever midsummer camp-out event. The goal, as stated on the event page, is to gather “as a community not only comprised of Heathens that are united against racism, but as a wider Pagan community coming together to discuss what goals we’d like to achieve, and how we will continue to make our visions of safe space within our communities a more common practice.” Sponsored by Solar Cross Temple, the HUAR event will be held at Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California on June 19-21.

That is it for now. Have a great day.

DES MOINES, Iowa. — Wiccan priestess Deborah Maynard has been invited to give the opening invocation to the Iowa House of Representatives on April 9. Priestess Maynard is a Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagan (CUUPs) leader at the People’s Church Unitarian Universalist in Cedar Rapids.

This will be only the third time that a Pagan has been asked to give an invocation at a state legislature. The first time was when Cleda Dawson offered the opening prayer before the Oregon state senate on May 10, 1999. Text of the invocation can be found here.

Cleda Dawson leads an invocation at the Oregon State Senate, The Stateman Journal, May 10th, 1999 [credit Tigris, facebook]

Cleda Dawson in The Statesman Journal, May 10th, 1999 [Photo Credit Tigris Sky, Facebook]

The second time was on Oct 27, 2009, when Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary gave the opening invocation for a session of the Wisconsin State Assembly. In recent weeks, Rev. Fox has been assisting Maynard with rules and details associated with giving an invocation at a state legislative body, and Maynard said that she appreciates the assistance.

Rev. Selena Fox at Wisconsin Capitol 2009 [Courtesy of Circle Magazine]

Maynard was invited to give the invocation by Rep. Liz Bennett (D), her representative in the Iowa state legislature. Maynard said that she had previously met Rep. Bennett at a church fundraiser. Bennett remembered her and contacted her approximately a month ago to see if she was willing to provide a blessing.

When Rep. Bennett was reached for comment, she sent The Wild Hunt this statement:

Each morning, a local religious leader gives an inclusive prayer to the Iowa House. I believe that the Iowa House belongs to the people, and that all people should be welcome. As a State Representatives it is not our role to endorse one religion over another, rather to represent our constituents. Deborah is a constituent who is Wiccan, and an active member of a local Unitarian Universalist faith community. She is happy to join us and give an inclusive prayer from her faith tradition. Why should the House not be as open to her as it would be to anyone else?

Some people might ask why I would invite a non-Christian. I would ask them why we should exclude a non-Christian.

There is room for all Iowans under the dome of the Iowa House.

Maynard started out as an eclectic solitary Pagan, but then studied with a few teachers from Celtic traditions. Eleven years ago, she became the leader of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist PaganS (CUUPs) in Cedar Rapids. She now describes herself as a Cabot Witch, as she was initiated by Laurie Cabot’s coven a few years ago.

Priestess Deborah Maynard [photo from facebook profile]

Priestess Deborah Maynard [Photo facebook profile]

Maynard said that she’s excited about the opportunity, yet concerned about the response she’ll receive from the greater Pagan and Christian communities, “I know that I cannot please everyone, but in trying to represent our faith and be inclusive to the rules of the invocation, I know I will need to make compromises.”

She said that she hopes people understand that she’s not trying to make a political statement, but to promote tolerance and acceptance. “I’m hoping that the general public can learn tolerance, inclusion, and respect for other beliefs that are difference from their own. I want them to learn the UU principal of the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

Another concern is for her children. She said that, while the reaction to her upcoming invocation at the capitol has largely been positive, she worries what other kids will say to her children and how their parents will react.

Along with Maynard’s 11 year-old child, some members of the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids CUUPS groups and friends from Iowa Pagan Pride will be joining her at the capitol to hear the invocation. She added that some of her non-Pagan friends are also planning on attending.

The Wild Hunt will post a video of the invocation, as one becomes available.

katwoodhouse1 On Feb. 16, tragedy hit Katwood, a 40-acre Pagan sanctuary and sacred retreat nestled in rural southern Virginia. The homestead and all its contents were completely burned to the ground, leaving its full-time occupants, Priest Daniel and his wife Sue, without a place to live. Katwood has been the couple’s home for decades. Daniel, now in his 60s, is the founder and priest of Oak Tree Clan, a group that considers Katwood Sanctuary its spiritual center.

With the help of neighbors, Daniel and Sue moved into a motel and then a friend’s home. However, they miss Katwood, and do plan to rebuild. After the fire, several members of the Oak Tree Clan set up a GoFundMe campaign and a Katwood Rebuild Facebook group to help support the process. One member, Belinda, told The Wild Hunt, “These people are my family, and they have been for a good many years. This place is my spiritual home … I pray that I shall live to see the day I can return there and spend time with them. In the interim, I’ll be planning on visiting my people… my CLAN… in other locations until Katwood is restored.”

Yesterday, it was announced that progress has been made. Friends and neighbors will soon be installing a temporary home on the land so the couple can return by the end of Summer.

*   *   *

[Courtesy Photo]

From Moonspell, Shekhinah.net

The Shekinah Mountainwater Memorial Fund has officially launched its website and program. This fund has been established “to ensure that … women are able to complete the work that calls to them during their lifetime.” The spirit of the mission comes straight from the group’s namesake, Shekinah Mountainwater. Organizers explain, “Shekhinah Mountainwater (1939 – 2007) is a foremother of the Womanspirit movement … Shekhinah struggled with financial support during her lifetime. She died envisioning a world in which women were supported for their skills and gifts.”

The memorial fund will be managed by a council of 3-7 women, who either knew Shekhinah or hold true to her vision and work. The founders are currently looking for volunteers to serve on the council. Money raised will be administered through an application process and be used to “support self-identified women doing the spiritual work that calls to them. Projects may include research, publications, events and rituals, music and art, spiritual activism, or anything that provides service or education to enrich the Goddess community.” The application and directions will be posted on the website by late summer.

*    *    *

Judy Harrow

Judy Harrow

On March 13, Judy Harrow will be honored by The Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ) division of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Harrow was nominated in January by Michael Reeder LCPC, a holistic counselor and therapist. In his submission, Reeder had to demonstrate how Harrow’s work fulfilled the award’s requirements. As noted by CSJ, a recipient’s work in counseling must “affirm diversity and advocate for social justice in the spirit of nine elements of the indigenous Hawai’ian concept of ‘Ohana or extended family,” which include “Malama: Caring, Aloha: Unconditional Love, Ha’aha’a: Humility, Mana: Spiritual Power, Na’auuo: Intelligence, ‘Olu’olu: Courtesy, Lokomaika’i: Generosity, Koa: Courage, Kupono: Integrity, Honesty.

Reeder detailed the many ways that Harrow fulfilled the requirements, including her devotion to Wicca, teaching, counseling, and the Pagan community, as well as her bravery in confronting religious bigotry, her perseverance and her roles in various socio-political movements. He also noted that she had founded her own Wiccan tradition and authored “the best book on pastoral counseling.”

On Feb. 12, Reeder received notification that Harrow had been accepted to receive the 2015 ‘Ohana award. Harrow and her work will be honored this Friday “at the ACA conference in Orlando, Florida from 11:00am to 1:00pm at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.”

In Other News:

  • Paganicon begins this weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Organized and run by Twin Cities Pagan Pride, the event is now in its 5th year and includes “workshops, panels, discussions, social space, live music, a ball, vendors and more.” Rev. Selena Fox is the 2015 guest speaker. In a special Sunday ceremony, Fox, assisted by others from Circle Sanctuary, “will be honoring Pagans who have served and are serving in the U.S. Military” with Circle’s Pagan Military Service Ribbon. Paganicon will be held in the Doubletree Park Place hotel from March 13-15.
  • Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Pagans has announced its “Second Sermon Contest.” This year’s theme is “Re-enchantment.” The Winner receives $500. According to the announcement, “you do not need to be an ordained minister or a seminary student, nor do you need to be a member of CUUPS” to enter. However, it goes on to say, “you do have to have deliver your sermon, live and in person, to a UU congregation between October 31, 2014 and October 31, 2015.”
  • In other CUUPS news, the organization has relaunched its popular Podcast after a winter hiatus.
  • The new journal Walking the World is still seeking submissions for its next issue. The theme is: “Building Regional Cultus.” As noted on the website,”What does this mean to you? Why is it important to polytheism today? How does one go about doing this? How are you personally maintaining cultus? What problems can arise and how can they best be met? What does it mean to restore and build cultus in the modern world?” The journal premiered at beginning of January with 13 articles focused on the theme of “Ancestors and Hero Cultus.” Submission guidelines for issue 2 can be found on the website.

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  • Author and teacher, Shauna Aura Knight has expanded her writing to include two more blogs. Along with Pagan Activist, Knight will be contributing to a new Agora column, called Seeking the Grail,  published at Patheos’ Pagan Channel. Additionally, she will be blogging about Leadership and related subjects at Pagan Square.
  • In Florida, Pagans will be gathering for a brand new outdoor festival, Equinox in the Oaks, to celebrate the return of Spring. This new event is being held on private land about 30 minutes west of Ormond and Daytona beaches.Organizers have put together four full days of workshops, classes, speakers, rituals, drumming and entertainment. Pagan Bard and folk arist Mama Gina is performing Thursday night and a firewalking event will be held Friday night. Equinox in the Oaks begins March 12 and runs through noon on March 15.

That’s it for now. Have a nice day!