Archives For David Salisbury

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

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

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

  *    *    *

Circle Sanctuary logo

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

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

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

  *    *    *

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

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

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

In Other News

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

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

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Ender Darling, whose legal name is Devon Marie Machuca, is charged with several counts of trafficking in human parts and burglary of a cemetery. The charges come after a January raid on Darling’s home yielded human bones.

Darling, a practicing Witch, caught the attention of authorities after a Facebook post offering to send human bones to other Witches went viral to the point that the story got its own hashtag #bonegazi. By some accounts, Tumblr alone showed were well-over 40,000 notes and shares on a single mention.

Screen capture of original post

Screen capture of original post

The July arrest warrant issued stated Darling denies digging up any remains from the Holt Cemetery, but admitted to collecting bones which surfaced after rainstorms. Darling also denies selling the remains, saying that reimbursement for shipping costs was all that was requested. According to computer records seized in the raid, at least one other Witch appears to have purchased human bones from Darling.

Timeline of events

16 November:  According to police reports, Darling sent messages through Facebook which indicated that they were obtaining bones from a nearby graveyard.

11 December: Darling posts on Facebook about having human bones for use in Witchcraft and offering to send bones to other Witches if they cover the cost of shipping.

12 December: Fellow New Orleans resident Desier Deja Galjour shares Darling’s post on Facebook and asks people to spread the word. They do.

14 December:  Local media picks up the story

17 December: Tumblr users try to find out identity and location of Darling.

18 December: Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Ryan Seidemann says he has ordered an investigation into the possible removal of human remains from Holt Cemetery in New Orleans.

28 January: After 6 days of surveillance, Police search Darling’s home. Authorities confiscate a laptop, cellphone, and at least 11 bones and four teeth. They also issue a summons for Darling and roommates for possession of marijuana.

Early February: Darling moves away from NOLA to Florida, saying that they feared for their safety.

17 June: In response to public outcry,  the “Louisiana Human Remains Protection and Control Act” is signed into law. It stiffens penalties for removing human remains from cemeteries. A first-offense violation is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or a year in prison. A second offense is punishable by two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

15 July: After a forensic lab confirms the bones removed from Darling’s home are human, an arrest warrant is issued. Darling is taken into custody Tampa, Florida.

27 July: Darling is transferred to the Orleans Justice Center

 Queer and Trans youth attracted to Witchcraft

Darling’s friend, Kristy Casper-Saxon says the outrage is less over Darling picking up bones off the ground and has more to do with religion, ethnicity, alternative appearance, sexual orientation and gender. Darling identifies as a transgender genderqueer person of color.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Casper-Saxon said, “I think this is targeting a member of a racial minority and sexual minority. Everything about [Darling’s] identity questions the status quo, and that’s what we love about them.”

According to an article in VICE, there are a growing number of queer and trans youth practicing Witchcraft. A younger queer Witch told Vice “the capacity for Witchcraft to accommodate alternative expressions of gender is what makes it appealing to a new generation of Witches.”

David Salisbury, author of Teen Spirit Wicca and LGBTQ activist, believes that queer youth have been coming to Witchcraft for decades, but their expertise with social media is making it more visible. Salisbury told The Wild Hunt, “And as the old gender norms of Wicca are being reexamined by the masses, queer people are becoming more comfortable in talking about why they’re attracted to it. I think that can only grow.”

He also thinks finding a place of welcome as a trans or queer person is a fabulous reason to embrace Witchcraft, “Queer people are particularly suited for the Craft because we know what it’s like to be between or outside of the norm. Witchcraft requires that we slip into those “between” spaces to bring about change.”

Ethics of using human bones in Witchcraft

“This is where I go to find my human bones for curse work and general spells that require bone. I find human bones are easier (to) work with for me rather than animal bone. I can relate and work with the energy they carry if that makes any sense.” Darling wrote in the Facebook post that ignited the controversy.

[Photo Credit: MusikAnimal / Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: MusikAnimal / Wikimedia]

Darling’s use of human bones has had Pagans and non-Pagans alike asking why modern Witches use human bones while practicing Witchcraft and wondering what are the ethics in obtaining and using such bones.

David Salisbury said that working with bones is similar to working with stones and crystals, “My experience with bones is that, like crystals, they carry the energetic memory of their experiences. While stones carry the current of the land, bones carry the current and memory of the human experience, ancestry. Bones can help open the way for stronger contact with the spirits for that reason.”

Salisbury added that the skull is a valuable bone to work with because it holds the current of human thought and expression. He noted that it’s very rare for a Witch to use a human skull due to the cost and legal obstacles to obtaining one. Instead, he makes an accomodation, “I’ve performed many successful workings with my resin substitute.”

Darling picked up bones that were visible on the ground. In an interview with The Advocate, Darling said that they don’t think they did anything illegal or unethical, either by removing the bones from the cemetery or sending them to other Witches for their use.

“This is me passing along something I feel nature has given me,” Darling said.

Salisbury explained that the ethics around obtaining human bone use would preclude removing them from a cemetery. “I would not use found or taken bones from cemeteries. They can be purchased online from people who donated their bodies to science and art who knew that their remains would go to some type of human use,” he said.

“Cemeteries to me are resting places and I wouldn’t want to carry the ethical burden of taking something that was intended to be laid to rest.”

We were unable to reach Darling directly for comment.

Darling appeared in court Friday and was charged with burglary as well as the possession of marijuana. They pled guilty to all charges. They were fined and sentenced to five years probation on the theft charge, and “15 days on possession with credit for time served.” A probation hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11.

TempleFest, the annual summer festival of the Temple of Witchcraft, was held the weekend of July 29-31 in South Hampton, New Hampshire. The festival was hosted on a privately-owned farm deep in the hills of southern New Hampshire, and on a property guarded by red, white, and black masks of Hecate. Her guardianship seems completely appropriate in this place, which feels like a true crossroads between the everyday world and the world of all thing magickal.

Masks of Hecate guard the Crossroads at the entry. Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Masks of Hecate guard the Crossroads at the entry. [Photo Credit: T.Titus]

TempleFest’s theme is “Spirit, Community, Education,” and there was plenty of each on display throughout the weekend in the form of powerful rituals, mutual support for attendees of all experience levels, and an excellent array of classes and workshops. Approximately 370 attendees from the TempleFest community came together along with special guests to learn and grow, and to also have fun while challenging their minds and hearts.

This was symbolized magickally by the Web of Community – a web of yarn which stood near the center of the grounds. According to Robbi Packard, one of the designers of the web, “The intent behind it is to have a visual representation of how we give and receive from community. To show how we are all connected no matter where we attach ourselves to the web. Each of the cards the participant is to put on one side what it is they give to community, and on the other side what it is that they received from community. As the elements bless the web so are we blessed.”

The Web of Community Photo Credit: Tim Titus

The Web of Community. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

As a featured guest and first-time attendee, David Salisbury was impressed with his experience from the beginning. “I’ve been to Pagan festivals in every region of the country, and my first year at TempleFest truly stood out,” said Salisbury. “As a guest teacher, I was very impressed with the care to detail that the organizers took with every detail.”

Those details began with the very first ceremony. Friday night’s opening ritual was presided over by the Temple’s Aries Minister, Michael Cantone, and his deputies. The leaders cast a circle of protection around the property to ensure safety for all attendees. Deputy Aries Minister Fred Isom evoked the protection of Archangel Michael, and then the sacred fire was kindled.

Representatives from each of the Temple of Witchcraft’s 12 ministries, one representing the archetype of each zodiac sign, charged a log with the blessings of its archetype and placed it into the pit. Participants charged a red crystal point with protection, and the crystal was placed in a cauldron near the sacred fire to send its charge out to the grounds and the people. Additionally, near the end of the ritual, attendees were reminded that the weekend was a spiritual event. They were encouraged to enjoy themselves, but also to keep in mind the sacredness of the weekend, and to use this time as a refuge from this year’s nasty political scene.

The fire crystal [Photo Credit: Brenda Titus]

Then a full slate of classes began. From the beginning, it was clear that the education options were both varied and robust. Friday’s first session included offerings on the triple shadow by author Ivo Dominguez, Jr., as well as sessions on advanced rune technique, Salisbury’s book Cleansing and Clearing, spiritual alchemy, and Faery Tradition teacher Storm Faerywolf’s alignment with the 13 Planes of Progression.

Perhaps selfishly, I attended my wife’s session on “Digging Down to the Roots” through hypnosis, in which she helped her guests identify and explore some of the lesser known roots of the difficult issues in their lives. Judging from the number of people who stayed to ask questions afterward, the session was very effective.

Friday’s second session included a sound medicine journey, a chanting circle led by temple co-founder and Virgo Minister Adam Sartwell, and a mediumship class in which instructor Danielle Dionne taught how techniques from her Spiritualist roots could be used by Witches to communicate with those who have crossed over.

The beautiful Labyrinth Room of the farmhouse, which you really do have to see to believe since it indeed contains a full-sized labyrinth on the tile floor, was packed in a circle three-deep for Dionne’s presentation. She discussed techniques for linking with ancestors on the other side as well as how to provide both “evidence and essence” of the deceased’s presence. She also discussed ethical issues in the practice of mediumship and cautioned that, just because the advice comes from a spirit does not mean it is correct. “Know your dead people,” Dionne cautioned.

The final event of Friday evening was “The Procession of the Fallen Light,” a poetic ritual connecting the stories of three mythological “falls” which allowed the Three Rays of Love, Will, and Wisdom to descend to the Earth. In the dark of night, we made our choice and followed one ray by the light of a lantern to a new circle, claiming the power and light of one of those rays within ourselves.

Three Lanterns of Love, Will, and Wisdom Photo Credit: Brenda Titus

Three Lanterns of Love, Will, and Wisdom. [Photo Credit: Brenda Titus]

“I particularly enjoyed the fact that this was a very Witch-specific festival, which was a fun change from the usual pan-Pagan environment I’m used to while travelling,” said Salisbury. “While the festival had a specific focus, the diversity of workshops and rituals seemed to hold something for everyone. It was also nice to see offerings that held a deeper focus for experienced practitioners, which is hard to find at public festivals.”

Saturday’s slate of offerings began with a talk by temple co-founder Christopher Penczak on the Mysteries of the Seven Stages of Bread. Penczak led his large audience through the seven key stages of creating bread, and he connected those stages to a progressive process of personal and spiritual evolution. Although he acknowledged that this was a rather advanced concept for some listeners, Penczak also noted that the nature of the mysteries is that one gets from them what one is able to see and process at the time. “Preserve the mysteries. Reveal them often,” he quipped.

After this lecture, the educational program broke back out into sessions. There was more to choose from. I ended up attending Winifred Costello’s presentation of the “Three Realms of the Major Arcana.” Costello is clearly a tarot expert, and she presented her personal method of looking at the Major Arcana as a division of physical, mental, and spiritual portions of the Fool’s Journey. Costello encouraged her attendees to “leave their comfort zone” and always look for new ways to examine the cards.

Saturday was a long day, filled with sessions and rituals.  It was punctuated by keynote speaker Judika Illes’ brilliant and humorous presentation entitled “Saints: The Powerful, Generous Dead.” Especially for a person not raised in a Catholic context, Illes knowledge of the saints is both wide and deep. She made a powerful case that saints existed before Christianity, and despite the Catholic Church’s desire to claim them for their own, she emphasized that “Christianity does not own the saints.” Illed detailed a number of them who exist outside of the Christian context and provided an overview on how and why to work with saints, then gave tips on choosing the right saints for particular needs.

Illes enjoyed her time and her audience at TempleFest. “TempleFest was a revelation,” she said. While she arrived somewhat unsure of what to expect, Illes added that, “What I discovered was an amazingly well-organized conference filled with passionate, committed, open-minded, loving people. I felt so incredibly welcomed.”

Prayer flags were available to the community. Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Prayer flags were available to the community. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

An interesting part of Saturday was a counterpoint between two sessions denoted as “cafes.” On Saturday afternoon, Scorpio Minister Elsa Elliot and one of her deputy ministers, Danielle Dionne, hosted a “death café,” in which folks simply sat down and talked about death over cakes and cookies. Complete with a stuffed, plush Cerberus utilized as a “talking stick,” the conversation proved to be challenging, illuminating, and refreshingly honest.

That evening, the other Deputy Scorpio Minister, Wrentek McGowan, led a “sex café,” with the same basic goals, but with the topic changed to sexuality. Together, the two cafes provided a fantastic experience of talking openly and honestly about two topics which are often considered taboo, but which many Pagans and Witches find sacred.

As a light rain fell on Sunday morning, the day’s highlight was a lively panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism. Moderated by Penczak, the panel included Illes, Dominguez Jr., Salisbury, Sartwell, and author Courtney Weber. The controversial topic has been discussed around the Pagan blogosphere recently, sometimes leading to anger and insults. This fact made it all the more helpful to have a panel of experienced Witches speaking candidly and sometimes disagreeing politely with each other.

The discussion was full of the complexity and nuance one would expect when wise people come together to discuss a difficult topic. Weber called it “our obligation as citizens to work against injustice.” Yet, she also suggested that it may be better to hex a policy that creates the problem rather than the person who committed it. Salisbury reminded us that justice is “a process,” and just because we can’t see it working does not mean it is not occurring.

The panelists discussed their own ideas of justice. They went deep into the controversies surrounding the casting of hexes, sometimes criticizing the large public calls to send hexes in some cases while often ignoring other instances of injustice. It was one of those situations, much like the two cafes, where everyone knew that some people were made uncomfortable, and yet the airing of ideas and opinions — especially those which conflicted with preconceived notions — both challenged and benefited everyone involved.

Illes cautioned that Witches who seek to curse should take the time to examine their own motivations and the degree of injustice they are battling. “If you think being uncomfortable is suffering, you are so lucky,” she said. “A lump in the throat is not the same as a lump in the breast.” Warning against revenge for revenge’s sake, Dominguez advised that a potential curse should “leave an opening for the person to change and grow.” The target may suffer, but there should be a chance for them to improve as a result.

The panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism Photo Credit: Nathan Oididio

The panel on Justice, Hexing, and Activism [Photo Credit: Nathan Hall]

Reactions from those who attended were very positive. Chandra Williams, who traveled from Virginia to attend the festival for the third time, said “This has been my favorite one so far. This year was packed full of so many wonderful choices of workshops that it was hard to choose which to attend.” Another attendee, Karen Ainsworth, who came from the United Kingdom for the second consecutive year, called the it “a truly awesome and magickal experience,” adding that, “My heart is so full of love right now!”

Melisande, who drove to New Hampshire from Prince Edward Island, Canada, “felt very welcome and comfortable. She appreciated the chance to “experience the energy of the rituals,” and the “variety of workshops,” adding that she particularly enjoyed Illes’ keynote speech, calling it “Very engaging as well as informative as she shared some of her knowledge with a good dash of humor.”

Debbie Stellhorn, a Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School student who came in from New Jersey, very much enjoyed a lesser known aspect of the TempleFest: The consecration of mystery school students on Thursday night. She says it was a “chance to meet other temple members and elders in our community and through them I’ve formed lasting friendships. The consecrations themselves are so powerful,” said Stellhorn, “I would make the trip up just to take part in them.”

J.T. Mouradian, who came in from Massachusetts, stated emphatically, “TempleFest 2016 was a profound event. Drumming and dancing with the people I love was empowering. Learning from so many wise people was enlightening. Sitting and talking with the people I love was a priceless blessing.”

TempleFest ended Sunday afternoon. The Web of Community was gathered, blessed, and committed to the fire to send out its blessings as participants said their goodbyes until next year. “At the end of TempleFest, we gather the energy that has been flowing through the web to the center of it, and Alix and Christopher carry it to the sacred fire where is burned and released,” explained Packard. With the magickal work complete, the festival was over for another year.

Closing Ritual Photo Credit: Tim Titus

Wright and Penczak commit the Web of Community to the sacred fire in the closing ritual. [Photo Credit: T. Titus]

Nicole, the Temple of Witchraft’s Libra Minister and one of the organizers of TempleFest, said that next year will be a new experience. The festival has outgrown its current location and will be moving to a new venue. “We will be moving to a new location, a nature-focused conference center in southern central New Hampshire,” said Nicole. She added that “We are also starting to get requests for invitations to present at TempleFest, so we know the word is out that we put on a good event.”

Attendees agree. Mouradian told the story of his mother coming to one day of the festival. “On the way out,” he explained, “she hugged and thanked me. She said very plainly, ‘You all love one another, J.T.’”

After her first experience with TempleFest, Illes said, “I recommend TempleFest wholeheartedly to anyone with an interest in Witchcraft and Paganism, whether or not they belong to the Temple of Witchcraft. I can’t wait to return.”

Mouradian concluded poetically:

“This weekend I celebrated Life
This weekend I celebrated Love
This weekend I celebrated Magick
This weekend I celebrated Music
This weekend I celebrated Community…
I am proud to call myself a Witch.”

 *    *    *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

[The Wild Hunt is pleased to welcome Tim Titus to our monthly team. Titus’ column will appear on the first Saturday of every month, beginning in August.  He will be sharing his own perspective on life, community and religion. Check out his full bio for more on his work and interests.]

The notions of freedom and personal spiritual authority are driving factors that bring people into the practice of a Pagan religion. Many modern Pagan practitioners are fleeing the older, more dogmatic and hierarchical forms of religion offered by the mainstream in favor of seeking a spiritual practice that speaks to them and is controlled by them.

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

Sacred Harvest Festival Brush Oak Grove

In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler specifically cites “freedom” as one of the major attractions that a Pagan path holds for modern people, writing that people often become Pagan “because they could be themselves and act as they choose, without what they felt were the medieval notions of sin and guilt” as well as a refusal to honor “rigid hierarchies and institutionalization” (23). In Paganism: An introduction to Earth-centered spirituality, authors Joyce and River Higginbotham specifically list “A pronounced religious individualism” (4) as a major tenet of their Pagan religion. Pagans, it would seem, seek their own paths rather than membership in any leader’s flock.

Yet leadership is still necessary, even for such an individualistic group of people. Although Pagans may not follow a shepherd’s crook as their ultimate beacon of hope nor any one sacred text as an infallible set of rules, we still look to those who have blazed trails to help us down the path that best suits our needs. If everyone hacked their own way through the woods, all the trees would be dead and the underbrush trampled.

[Courtesy Photo]

John Beckett [Courtesy Photo]

Druid and Patheos blogger John Beckett cites a number of roles that leadership still plays for the Pagan community. First, writes Beckett, is the more mainstream idea of “leaders as decision makers.” While there is no ultimate authority, “decisions have to be made based on an understanding of what the group wants to do.” This can be done through consensus or democratic process rather than an authoritarian style, but, “knowing which method to use for decisions is a key part of leadership,” explains Beckett.

Beyond that traditional leadership role, Beckett also sees Pagan leaders as teachers, managers, and visionaries. In the role of teacher, he emphasizes the necessity of strong communication skills. And, the role of manager is necessary because, while any group has a set of goals that drive it, “someone has to make sure all this gets done.” In the visionary role, leaders are needed to “articulate a vision and inspire people to do what’s necessary to make it a reality.”

Without leaders, our vision of the future can be difficult to see and even more difficult to attain. It is vital to the health of Pagan communities to produce strong, ethical people who are willing and able to perform these leadership functions.

Photo Credit: Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Courtesy Photo]

Now, it can be a daunting task to step out from the comfort of your own private spiritual practice and into the more public world of community leadership. However, many Pagan leaders have found it rewarding both personally and spiritually. To take those first steps into a new role, author and blogger Shauna Aura Knight advises a “model of apprenticeship and increasing responsibility” to help new community leaders get their feet wet. Knight regularly blogs and teaches a variety of leadership skills in the Chicago area. She further explains that this apprenticeship model can apply to anything from ritual facilitation to “event planning, leading meetings, and many other aspects” by “building the emerging leader’s confidence.”

Christopher Penczak, author and co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft, says that this is how he became involved in leadership. “Each time I got the call to take on a little more responsibility,” he writes, “I thought that would be as far as it would go. Yet every few years, the call to go deeper would happen.” Although he did not seek a leadership role, “each time there was a need, and I found myself asked to step into a new and uncomfortable role.”

David Salisbury, an author and co-facilitator of The Firefly House in Washington, D.C. echoes this process, saying that, “I like to think that I tripped, stumbled, and fell into leadership.”

Photo Credit: Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak [Courtesy Photo]

Whether they intentionally sought out leadership or “stumbled” into it, there are certain personal qualities that help new leaders succeed. Knight believes that self-reflection is vital. “If you’re not actually looking into the mirror,” says Knight, “you’re going to keep making the same mistakes and wonder why your group’s falling apart and never realize your own role in it.”

Penczak states that communication skills are indispensable. “While you can’t please everyone all the time, and really can’t even try,” he says, “you have to understand what people are saying to you and be able to convey what you can and cannot do, and why.”  Alix Wright, the Lead Pisces Minister in the Temple of Witchcraft, agrees, noting that, “You can’t expect people to do what needs to be done, if you can’t tell them in a manner that they understand.” Wright adds that, “Since everybody hears and understands in different ways, you have to be able to communicate in a style and manner that matches each person you’re working with.”

Knight also recommends “the ability to hold paradox.” She writes, “Some issues are not just the binary of black and white, good or bad,” and explains that, “many leaders get stuck in being a know-it-all obsessed with being right, and that causes a lot of conflicts.” Salisbury echoes this when he advises young leaders to “remain humble and open to listening to your community.”

David Salisbury [Courtesy Photo]

There are always issues that can hold a new leader back. “Fear,” states Penczak, “is the biggest problem with new leaders.” This includes “Fear of losing control. Fear of not getting something done. Fear of not being worthy, and an effort to hide all these fears rather than acknowledge the process.”

Wright and Salisbury agree that doing too much at once is a major obstacle for new leaders. Wright emphasizes that, “One of the lessons I needed to learn was that it’s okay to say no, and when I do say yes, then it’s okay to ask for help and delegate.” Salisbury cautions against “trying to be everything to everyone all at once” because “burnout is a major leader-killer.”

Knight fears that, when new groups or events begin to form, those in charge “never stop to talk about what their goals are,” and she warns that, “most conflicts come from assumptions.” She advises “direct communication” to unravel those conflicts.

She also warns against another pitfall of leadership: “egotism.” “Many leaders desperately want to be ‘the person with the good idea,’ or ‘the one who’s right’ or, more broadly, ‘the savior.’ ” This, she says, leads to poor boundaries and poor choices, and it brings her back to stating her top quality for leadership: self-reflection.

“Know thyself.”

Perhaps this ancient wisdom is the single best piece of advice. As John Beckett stresses, in the end “leaders are servants.”  Leaders serve those whom they lead, providing them with spiritual experiences and practical direction, sometimes at their own expense. “Good leaders do that work,” concludes Beckett, “because they want to serve the Gods, their groups, the Pagan community, and the world at large.”

TWH – Over the past year, issues related to transgender rights have crested in mainstream social discourse. The most recent national debate has centered around the passage of North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (also known as House Bill 2 or HB2) that, among other things, “blocks local governments from allowing transgender persons to use bathrooms that do not match the biological sex.”

The collective Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, as diverse microcosms of the greater whole, are not free from similar debates, discussions and, at times, serious conflicts on the subject of transgender inclusion. While never fully disappearing from the culture’s meta-dialog, there are times when a particular event or action rekindles the conversation with renewed fervor, pushing it to the forefront of communication.

640px-Transgender_Pride_flag.svg
And that is exactly what has happened over the past month, reaching a fever pitch last week. Transgender inclusion became a focused topic in a conversation at the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) in Tennessee and, similarly, the subject became the focus of online protests due to a newly proposed anthology edited by musician, author and priestess Ruth Barrett.

While some of the dialog was offline, most of it appeared in digital forums. Those people who do not use social media regularly or not all, may have seen or heard only bits and pieces of the conversation. Through interviews and public postings, The Wild Hunt has put together a look at just what happened and why.

“I guess this all started three weeks ago at Pagan Unity Festival. I was a VIP and sat on a panel to discuss topics of Paganism on Thursday afternoon,” explained Heathen author and craftswoman Gypsey Teague in a message to The Wild Hunt.

“When my turn came I called out some of our female elders in the Pagan community for being sexist and exclusionary due to their philosophy of gender versus sex. I stated that it was insane to tie someone’s religious following to what does or doesn’t appear between your legs or in your genetic DNA. Unfortunately there are still some women out there that not only believe that but force it on their line and their ilk that follow her.”

After that event, Teague was interviewed by  the hosts of the Tree of Life Hour at Pagans Tonight Radio Network. As advertised, the two-part radio show was focused on the “transgender issues that are coming up again and again in our community and how we as a community should respond to folks who have a different gender expression than the binary male/female cisgender.”

Teague said, “By the end of the event it seemed like everyone was talking about transgender exclusion and how I was ‘pissed’ at the discussion; which was not true. What I believe is that if you tie your religion to a penis or a vagina you don’t deserve to be in the religion. We have too many examples of gender fluidity in our paths to still believe or accept this.”

Around that same time, author, musician, witch and Dianic priestess Ruth Barrett was launching an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for her new anthology titled Female Erasure. Barrett explained to The Wild Hunt, “Female Erasure is an anthology that celebrates female embodiment, while exposing the current trend of gender-identity politics as a continuation of female erasure as old as patriarchy itself […] Female erasure is being enacted through changing laws that have provided sex-based protections.” The unedited interview in its entirety is available here.

46a057_409a6d70f6e444d6ba6574c128f36445
The IndieGoGo campaign was launched June 4 with a goal of raising $25,000 toward editing, design, legal and technical fees. After only eight days, the campaign has reached 50 percent of its goal. Barrett said, “Our contributors want radical societal change – freedom from oppressive gender roles, not from our sex. We want a world free of the so-called gender stereotypes of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity.’ We want a world where the ideal of diversity is not abused to oppress and erase 51 percent of humanity. We want a world in which everyone’s biological reality is honored, our sacred bodies are celebrated, and where sex-based violence and enforced gender roles become obsolete.”

Despite Barrett being the editor, the anthology is not a Pagan-specific project. Its projected audience is far broader and most of its contributors do not fall under the Pagan, Heathen or polytheist umbrella. With that said, the project does include several Pagan voices, such as Ava Park and Luisah Teish, and essays that discuss the proposed issues from a Pagan perspective. One of Barrett’s own offerings is titled, “The Attack On Female Sovereign Space In Pagan Community.”

For Barrett, the project is linked to spirituality in that she has been “assisting women in the often painful process of coming into awareness about how male-centered cultural and religious views and institutions have been foundational in their very personal sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and how patriarchal socialization powerfully influences their self-perception.”

While a few of the unpublished anthology’s essay titles evoke what some might consider a feminist spirit consistent with many Pagan practices, other titles raised immediate concerns, resulting in a fierce wave of backlash. Along with that spirit, there is also an expression of what is being called “transgender exclusion” and “transphobia.” In our interview, Barrett said that “transgender politics dismisses biological sex differences as irrelevant, while suppressing critical conceptual examinations of gender itself, ignoring the history of female class oppression, enforcement, male domination, sexual violence, personal suffering, and social and economic inequality.”

The first protest came in the way of a June 5 call-to-action blog post by activist and author David Salisbury. He wrote in part, “As a leader of the largest witchcraft tradition in Washington DC, I refuse to sit in silence. As an author and teacher of Goddess spirituality, I refuse to sit in silence. As a queer person, I refuse to sit in silence.” After Salisbury, the online, written protests only grew in number through both the blogosphere and social media, including posts from Peter Dybing, Vanessa Blackwood, Estara T’Shirai, Yvonne Aburrow, and Susan Harper.

After reading the funding campaign explanation and exploring the work of various authors, Pagan transgender activist and vice president of STRIVE Rev. Katherine A. Jones said, “I find it disheartening that so many women are so mired in a combination of transphobia and internalized misogyny that they are willing to blatantly attack their fellow women in the name of this exclusionary false feminism they have created […]The obsession with so called ‘biological sex’ is an indicator of women who see themselves as nothing more than vaginas. Just like the patriarchal men who oppress them. Unfortunately it seems to be common even within the Pagan community.”

Barrett said that she fully expected the backlash. When asked specifically about transgender exclusion and the erasure of the transgender identity within the scope of the book, she said, “While it is well-documented that physical and sexual violence against women and girls is on the rise globally, so-called progressives and the transgender lobbyists are acting to silence, disrupt, and legislate against our ability to name, gather and address the issues of our own oppression. This is female erasure.”

She added that the anthology addresses “concerns about a very profitable and growing transgender medical industry targeting well meaning parents, vulnerable children and adolescents, with no other options discussed other than transitioning that results in sterilization and a lifetime of dependence on pharmaceuticals and with no long-term studies of the health impact, are silenced. In this industry young lesbians and gay boys can be “normalized” by transitioning them. The possibility that homophobia is playing out in this issue seems to be too taboo to discuss.”

Arguably the most public outcry came from activist and writer Alley Valkyrie via Facebook.* On June 7, Valkyrie posted an “Open Letter to the Pagan Community,” which was shared over 250 times in that forum alone. The letter read in part, “As a pagan and a cis woman, I cannot and I will not remain silent on this matter, and I will not stand by in the face of violent targeting that is being enacted in my name.”

facebook logo

Valkyrie clarified later that, while she does not support the anthology or Barrett’s work, her letter was actually aimed at attacks reportedly being launched at some of the bloggers who had previously spoken out against Barrett’s anthology. In the letter she said, “I also recognize that by posting this, I will also likely become a target.”

Shortly after the publication of her open letter, the post was removed along with other similar ones. Then she was locked out of her Facebook account for 24 hours. Other Pagans were reporting similar occurrences around that time. Valkyrie’s letter can be found in its entirety here.

Valkyrie and others have accused Barrett of being “complicit in this violence” due to her close association with those suspected of enacting what is being labeled as “doxing.” Barrett said she knows nothing of these attacks and hasn’t been following the online backlash.

But that is not where the story ends; it is where it gets more complicated. In her open letter, Valkyrie addressed Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) due to its continued relationship with Barrett. The letter reads, “I am calling on Cherry Hill Seminary to publicly disassociate with Ruth Barrett immediately.”

Within twenty-four hours of hearing about letter, Barrett resigned saying, “I believe very strongly in the mission of Cherry Hill Seminary and their academic commitment to diversity in their faculty and the free exchange of ideas. Rather than let my participation endanger the future of Cherry Hill Seminary, it made the most sense for me to respectfully remove myself. While some doors have closed to me, I will continue to teach as I have been doing all along.”

ResignationletterRB
In an interview CHS director Holli Emore told The Wild Hunt that Barrett tried to resign last fall when similar issues rose the surface, but the CHS governing board would not accept the resignation. Emore explained, “The work of a seminary is to prepare people to facilitate healing and build bridges. The work of higher education is to expose students to as many ideas as possible and to develop critical thinking skills.”

At the time, the seminary stood behind its commitment to academic freedom. However, Barrett did cancel her fall rituals course and, as has been revealed, hasn’t taught any class at CHS for four years even though she is listed as faculty.

This time around, the school accepted the resignation.

“Cherry Hill Seminary has never and would never condone violence against anyone and most certainly supports the full rights of transgender individuals,” said Emore. “The kind of attacks of unbridled animosity against Pagans on issues like this is indicative of a deeper need. It is clear to me that CHS is needed more than ever.”

CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh took to Facebook, saying, “Although I find the events disheartening and depressing, I keep returning to a single question: what do I have to offer that can aid in the process of resolution? The answers were simple. I can listen. I can enter into dialogue. We can have a discussion on the matter. This ability to enter into dialogue is, in my opinion, one of the hallmarks of leadership.”

Albaugh added that, since the issues came to light, nobody had reached out to him personally and that “demands have been posted on the Internet, strewn across Face Book and re-blogged ad infinitum.” He said, “No wonder this is off the rails. Everyone is shouting and no one is listening. So this, then, becomes my invitation. Contact me.”

While issues, reports of attacks, and conversations continued to circulate online, Witch and blogger Pat Mosley took a different approach to action in support of transgender rights. Like Barrett, Mosley is now spearheading an anthology project, but this one gives voice specifically to “Queer, Trans, and Intersex Witches.” The proposed book Arcane Perfection, was first imagined as a coven-based “zine” but, as Mosley explained, “recent events” have changed its direction.

tumblr_o8mcm5Sjkz1s5uz29o1_400

“HB2 was probably the biggest one. We really snapped into this mindset of needing to be there for one another — a lot of us can’t be out to our families or at work, so our coven is really our sanctuary,” explained Mosley. “Hearing that a Pagan community leader was editing a new anthology which, in part, appears to be discussing trans civil rights as an attack on women’s rights inspired our decision too. Both of those things affect more than just our coven.”

Mosley went on to say that many “Queer, Trans, and Intersex people find power in Witchcraft” and that will hopefully serve as a point of solidarity “regardless of specific tradition, and regardless of the geographic distance between us.” Another objective, as Mosley described, is to address “the way Wiccans talk about gender.”

“We want to see that [discussion] evolve,” Mosley said, “Most Wiccans and other Pagans these days seem to want LGBT+ people to feel included. Often that looks like adapting a hetero-centric framework to accommodate other perspectives. Our intention with this zine and now the book is to have Queer, Trans, and Intersex people define and talk about Wicca, Paganism, Witchcraft, etc, rather than positioning cis/het Pagans as the owners of traditions with the authority to include or exclude us.” The deadline for Mosley’s new anthology is set at Aug. 1.

Neither Mosley’s or Barrett’s anthology have a set delivery date yet. However,  they are both in production and moving forward.

Returning to Barrett, in reaction to what has happened this week, she added, “Everyone is entitled to their sense of identity. What often goes unexamined at a deeper level is the contextual influences and cultural norms (including enforced gender stereotypes) that informs consciously or unconsciously how a person arrives at their identity. This is explored within the anthology in many ways. ”

The current debates, arguments and the reported attacks may not yet be over. Time will tell.

But the subject is certainly one that will persist, as it always has, into the future at both public gatherings, like PUF, and online through blogs and social media.

Looking over the entire situation from beginning to end, Emore said, “When respectful dialog is silenced by threats, we are all diminished.”

In a blog post, author Yvonne Aburrow offered a different type of community call-to-action, saying, “Gender essentialism and separatism is the mirror image of patriarchy. We reject the patriarchy and the kyriarchy. […] Let us magnify and glorify the images of divinity within ourselves and each other. Show forth love and beauty and creativity; celebrate the radiance of the many-hued multiplicity of gender expression, sexuality, and the human body.”

  *    *    *

* [Editorial Note: The Wild Hunt always aims for balanced news reporting. However, as a community-based source, there are times when our writers are affiliated, in some way, with aspects of a story. In those instances, we make a decision on how to ethically handle the story. Today’s article was such a case. Our managing editor currently teaches a class at Cherry Hill Seminary, and one of those quoted above is a Wild Hunt columnist. Our editorial team reviewed this article carefully to ensure a clear presentation of the issues.]

The land has its own magic. The whispers of the rolling hills of Northern California speak in a different tongue than that of the long flat lands of lower Alabama. The spirit of place can greatly contribute to the culture, presence and practice of magic in any one regional area.

Northern California [Photo Credit: Nigelpepper / Wikimedia]

Northern California [Photo Credit: Nigelpepper / Wikimedia]

There are different terms, traditions and beliefs that encompass concepts of regional magic or spirit of place. Different cultures relate to it in unique ways; yet there is continued historical significance to the practices of cultures and of people who have a reverence for the specific magic of local lands and regional areas. The spirit of place often refers to physical characteristics of a location, and can also reference attributes that have to do with myths, history, ancestors, spirits, art, stories, communities, superstitions or even collective memories. The energy and associations changes from one regional area to another.

Today, many modern magic practitioners work with regional magic as a part of their normal practice.

The pulse of the land tells many stories. People of many different Pagan, Polytheist, Heathen and earth worshiping traditions tap into the mysteries of place, looking for the soul of the space in which they work. The regional stories of particular areas can be a significant link between spirituality, home, worship, and belonging. These regional differences often contribute to rituals, observances, practices, and cultures all of which, as a result, are very personal to the specific area or a specific group of people.

I became increasingly fascinated with what I refer to as “regional magic” after my own trip down south to the birthplace of my mother. The magic I felt there was unlike anything I experienced at home in California; the magic of the land in Alabama was vastly different. when I touched and worked with the soil in my mother’s hometown, I was able to connect to such a sense of survival, history, culture and intense historical significance. The magic in the land moved me immensely, and I made a point to touch and collect a piece of it throughout the city while I was there. This brought up a lot of questions about my relationship to the land, the way that regional connections impact practice, and how the spirit of a place can connect to us in ways that we cannot always anticipate.

Photo by Crystal Blanton

[Photo Credit: C. Blanton]

How does the spirit of place influence magical practice? I reached out to a few others who have varied traditions and are from different places in order to see what they thought.

Many polytheists of revived religions honor spirits, gods, and other divine beings tied to particular places. I, and many other polytheists, worship Old Man Mississippi, the nymph of Cold Water Springs, and the good spirits of our particular neighborhood. – Cara Schulz

I’m blessed to live in Michigan, home of the Great Lakes. These are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, containing more than a fifth of the world’s surface fresh water. The inland of Michigan contains about 11,000 lakes, 300 rivers and more than 12,000 miles if fresh water trout streams. Michigan is water, and water is a primary sacred medicine in my magical path.

Protecting water is an essential part of the magic I do. There are many threats to Michigan’s fresh water. This sacred resource is threatened by agricultural runoff, large scale factory farming, hydraulic fracturing (fracking)/injection wells and privatized water companies to name a few. I chant songs about the water, offer up prayers with a Pipe, offer my thirst and sweat in the Lodge and put my boots on the ground when it’s time to stand up and be heard. I do all this practical and esoteric magic in the name of water.

I am also blessed to live on the Chippewa River, where the sounds of water and the life it sustains are abundant. Next to the river, a large patch of sweetgrass grows each summer.  Sweetgrass is another sacred medicine to me and it is heavily dependent upon water. Harvesting it to give-away and sell at spiritual gatherings is a yearly ritual that ties me to the people, land and water. Michigan’s bountiful waters have guided my path much like the banks of the river guide the flow of sacred water to the sea. Water connects us all! – Jim Esralian

Chippewa River [Public Domain]

Chippewa River [Public Domain]

We celebrate the Pachamama in Argentina and we do offerings to her such as fruits, grains etc. I think this is one of the reasons why I love connecting with Mother Nature and a great part of my practice has that orientation. For me is important because it connects me with my roots and my ancestors by continuing connecting with the land. When I go back, I usually bring back soil and water to use in my magical work here in USA. The Spirit of the place is very powerful and very different from the spirit of the place I live here. My magic does not seem impacted but the support and the vibrations are different. There is more than one way to lead you to rome so the destination may be the same but the way you get there is different. – Carolina A. Amor

Outside of First Nation’s Spirituality there is not really any kind of regional based magick in my local area, although Canada is quite vast and depending on where one lives, experiences can be quite diverse. Seeing as Manitoba is located in the bible belt of Canada and Winnipeg is primarily land locked (Minneapolis is the closest major centre), magickal practices are slow moving in coming to the area, which is one of the major reasons why serious local magickal practitioners tend to travel.

In my local community you have two choices for regional based magic: First Nation’s Spirituality or the surrounding land itself becomes the source of magick and spiritual inspiration. Being acutely conscious of not wanting to contribute to colonization and mis-appropriation of First Nation’s Spirituality, the land becomes hugely important in my personal practice and in the practice of my working group. Last year, I spent the entire summer building an outdoor temple space with a cairn that acts as a permanent altar and shrine for the local land spirits. While I do have an indoor temple space, the outdoor space allows for a connection to the land and spirits while still being located in a heavily populated core area of Winnipeg. It truly becomes a world between worlds.

Photo of a cairn by Dominique Smith

Photo of a cairn by Dominique Smith

Winnipeg is located where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River (called The Forks) and for centuries was a major trade centre and Aboriginal meeting place. The land has seen much; is rich with history and energetic presence, in the end, most of the magickal practices here are imports that are superimposed or assimilated into the landscape that creates a patchwork quilt of experiences for the individual practitioner.

The influences of the land  and the events that have occurred in the area have affected everything about my personal magickal practice. It has created a strong need for environmental and anti-racist activism. It has also allowed room for much healing work, which extends to myself personally, to others and to the land. The Winnipeg magickal community is still quite young and still trying to find itself. This unfortunately means that my explanation on regional magick doesn’t come in a nice neat bow. – Dominique Smith

For lack of a better explanation, I am a city priestess. I connect to the energies of land, human history, and geologic/meterological history in densely populated places and use it to weave connective tissue between city and citizens. To me magic happens in several different spheres. But to truly prosper you must do your best to become symbiotic to your environs. This can take a long time and is an imperfect process.

As the connection to a city deepens, it reveals more of its secrets and mysteries. San Francisco is bombastic – wants to show you everything all at once. Minneapolis has trust issues and offers a little bit more at every gesture of curiosity. It isn’t quite the same as land magic as we usually know it because to some degree you accept the environmental damage and try to make it into a greater good rather than trying to heal it into its original form. A little more repurpose and recycle, though reduce still has its place. It also involves seeing all politics as a system of illusions – even my own. To part the veil of the city is to see through its history, to understand its fights, and thus to see its heart. – Diana Rajchel

As an activist, my regional magic is focused on creating societal change. As a nexus point of change for this country, working magic like that allows me to tap right into the core of decision-making in this country. Most witches in DC take our role as stewards of positive change, activism, and healing very seriously because of that.

DC’s spirit of place is very complex and working with it is challenging. Historically, there is much misery connected with this place. All around me I see land that for so long was poisoned with slavery, systemic economic depression, and unfair labor conditions. But it also holds a spirit of hope, opportunity, and democracy. This requires magic-workers here to both hold space for the injustices that continue to occur here while also doing what we can to push the needle towards fairness. This land requires an acknowledgement of history if one is to work with it with any success. – David Salisbury

Photo of Alabama land by Crystal Blanton

Lands of Alabama [Photo Credit: Crystal Blanton]

People all over the world have different associations with the land, and the interpretations of the spirit of place is vast. The spiritual implications of a particular place, how it contributes to practice, and people’s association with regional spirituality is complex and often layered. Working within the elements and needs tied to a region can bring forth a myriad of specific magic and connection that only make sense within the context of its location. Working with the magic of the land to heal from the drought makes a lot of sense in California, where it does not make sense in Minnesota.

Whether in the politics of Washington D.C., the dry lands of California, or the waters of the Great Lakes, the land talks and has many stories to tell. Our connections to where we are planted will help to dictate our response to our communities and how we see our responsibility to local needs. It also helps us to shape who we are, and where we are in our spiritual practice and our personal sense of self.

How does your physical location impact or influence your magic or practice? Thinking about our relationship to regional magic and the spirit of place within our own regional communities can give us critical information about culture, spirits and what influences mold our personal practices.

Over the weekend, the east coast was hit with record snow falls, blizzard conditions, white-outs, thunder snow and more as a Winter Storm “Jonas” came in for a visit. According to The Weather Channel, who began naming these winter storms in 2011, Jonas is the “largest snowstorm on record for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; and JFK Airport in New York City, with all of those locations receiving over 2 feet of snow.” As far south as Georgia through New York, the snow fell in varying degrees, and Pagans and Heathens took to social media to report the conditions at their locations. We reached out to a number of them to get a better idea of the conditions.

Tweeted from Space Station [Courtesy NASA]

Winter Storm 2016 as seen from the Space Station [Courtesy NASA] www.nasa.gov

Hardest hit was the New Jersey, Washington D.C. and New York City metro regions. Author David Salisbury reported going out to stores in preparation for the storm event and seeing goods lying on the floor and empty shelves. He said, “It looked liked a Walking Dead supply run.” Salisbury lives in the D.C. area and reported that he hadn’t seen a blizzard warning like this for six years. After making his own preparations to be stuck inside for several days, he posted the following public announcement on Facebook:

I’ll be stuck inside until at least Sunday so we might as well make the best of it! I’m offering deeply discounted rune and tarot readings until ‪#‎Blizzard2016 is over.

On Saturday, he did venture outside and took the following photo of adults and children enjoying the snow:

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

Not far away in Delaware, author Ivo Dominguez Jr. was watching the snow come down near his home. Dominguez is one of the founders of the New Alexandrian Library, located in Georgetown, Delaware.  He said that the library was safe, adding, “This was nothing. Hurricane Sandy went over it with zero damage.”  He shared this photo of his home at Seelie Court:

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

Farther north in central New Jersey, Elder Priestess Lady Pythia was watching the snow fall from the comfort of her home. She said poetically, “Noreaster sweeps. Cats eyes widen at ephemeral windy prey just out of reach, and we Witches toss herbs into the small cauldronfire, sip cinnamon creamed coffee, joke about animating shovels to tackle hip-high arctic drifts rendered in A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Pythia shared these photos as the snow piled up on her back deck:

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

Lady Pythia added, “A Witch sends out safe vibes for all in the storm’s path, with awe at the Mother’s wild Full Moon brushstrokes.”  As she and many other Pagans have pointed out, January 23 at 8:46 pm ET marked the full moon. NASA satellites captured the beauty of the moon’s light on the storm in this photo:

[Courtesy NASA]

[Courtesy NASA]

Over in Pennsylvania, Robert Schreiwer of the Urglaawe Kindred was also watching as the storm dumped more than 30″ of snow in his yard with sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph. Taking a spiritual look at winter’s process, Schreiwer said, “Many of us hail those associated strongly with snow: Skadhi and Holle. Being an Urglaawer with Holle as my patroness, I look at the snow blowing in the whirlwinds as a reflection of Her power. She has shaken her featherbed for over a day here, and the land is covered in the down. Although small, the first hail of the new year has fallen.” He shared this photo taken from his window:

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

Not missing an opportunity for some traditional religious work, Schreiwer added, “Per Deitsch tradition, I have collected some of it. One little stone I added to my drink; another I have retained for luck. The hail represents luck and opportunity for transformation and change. In the Deitsch healing and magical practice of Braucherei, the focus during this early time of the new year is on fixing that which needs repair, conserving the resources we have for last year, and planning and organizing the changes we need in order to make our lives better throughout the year. While we hail the snow, we also honor those who put their lives at risk to ensure the safety of others in this weather. Hail!”

Also in Pennsylvania, Priestess BrightFlame said that she was “snowed in” with  about 30″ of snow on the ground. But the resultant downtime caused by the weather has allowed BrightFlame to rest her sprained wrist and “reread The Fifth Sacred Thing ahead of allowing [herself] to indulge in Starhawk’s sequel, City of Refuge : the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing.”  This quiet time has also offered her the opportunity to prepare for an upcoming workshop that she is hosting in New York City with Starhawk,on February 20. BrightFlame shared this woodland photo from her home:

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

In New York City, Priestess and author Courtney Weber reported having a “perfect snowday.” She said that she also spent Saturday, “catching up on reading, writing the next book, and doing it all in pajamas because real Witches know how to multi-task. And do things better in pajamas.”  She shared this photo taken from her apartment window as the snow fell:

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

The storm’s reach stretched down the east coast forcing a number of governors to declare states of emergency and warning against travel. New York City shut all bridges and tunnels down through Sunday morning. Even as far south as Georgia, offices and schools closed early on Friday in preparation for the worst. And this wasn’t an unnecessary act. As the news has reported, at least 18 people have died in the wake of the storm with most of the deaths caused by slick roadways.

Star Bustomonte, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, has been stuck inside due to the weather. Although her area was not hit as hard as the coastal mid-Atlantic region, Bustamonte did report that she had over a foot of snow. She also said, “I’ll be several hours digging out once it starts to warm up. But I’m not even starting until it gets about 30 degrees.” She’s spent the weekend, like many, watching television and hanging out with her cats.

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

Due to this reportedly historic storm, there have been many store closures and event cancellations. For example, Asheville’s Raven and Crone was closed yesterday and has canceled today’s workshops. Brooklyn’s Catland Books was also closed yesterday with plans to open today. However, Sunday morning owners posted on Facebook, “BROOKLYN! Take another day to build snow altars and leave offerings for blizzard spirits – we’ll see you on Monday, and back again next month for Black Mirror Salon!”

We contacted EarthSpirit, the organizers of Feast of Lights to see if they were at all concerned that this mega storm would damper attendance at next week’s conference. EarthSpirit co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen said, “No.”  The event takes place in Amherst, Massachusetts which was not in the storm’s path. However, he did say that they are watching weather, adding “Living in New England, we have to do that every year. So far, things look pretty good for next weekend, and in the 18 years we’ve been putting on Feast of Lights, we’ve never had to cancel once.”

Back in Washington D.C., Salisbury looked out of his window on Sunday morning. The storm had passed and the skies were clear. He shared this photo of his courtyard:

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

Over the next few days, as the weather warms above freezing and the snow begins to melt, the east coast will get back to its normal activity with schools back in session, businesses open and travel schedules on track. Until then, much of the east coast will be gathering by fires, digging out and finding ways to enjoy the quiet of a winter’s storm.

bucklandIt was announced on Aug. 4 that author Raymond Buckland had suffered a “large heart attack” and was battling pneumonia.The brief announcement explained, “[Buckland] was life-flighted to a main hospital [where] he was in incubation for three days.” He also developed a case of pneumonia.

After a week long stay in the hospital, Buckland was able to return to his home and is reportedly getting stronger every day. His spirits are up and his strength is returning as he fights off the illness. Buckland’s family and close friends expressed their thanks for the healing energy, well wishes and prayers being sent his way.

Raymond Buckland is the author of over fifty published books and is the founder of the Seax Wicca Tradition. He arrived in the United States in 1962, and published his first book A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural, in 1969. His most well-known work is arguably the big blue Buckland’s Complete Guide to Witchcraft, originally published in 1986. More recently, Buckland has been working on fiction. His most recent novel, Dead for a Spell, is the second in a series called “A Bram Stoker Mystery.”

Buckland is expected to make full recovery, and his family has said that he will be returning personal messages when he is able. They will be posting health updates on his Facebook page.

*   *   *

Covenant of the GoddessCovenant of the Goddess (CoG) will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend in sunny Ontario, California. CoG was founded in 1975 by “a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions, all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft.” The bylaws were ratified in the summer of that year, and the organization was registered as a nonprofit in California by October 31. CoG has been continuously operating ever since, making it one of the oldest Wiccan and Witchcraft organizations in the United States.

Today, CoG has expanded its reach outside of California, with local councils and members living in all regions of the country. First Officer Kasha said, “40 years is an exciting-and daunting-landmark … So much has changed since 1975, but part of the struggle remains. I honor those who founded this organization, some of whom remain active members, for their vision and tenacity. I’m excited to see where the next few decades will take us.”

The 40th anniversary MerryMeet celebration is being hosted by Touchstone Local Council based out of San Bernardino. MerryMeet is the organization’s annual conference, and this year’s theme is “Celebrating Our Voices.” As is typical, the event includes workshops, vendors, and the official business meeting called Grand Council. But this year’s conference is special, as it marks the anniversary. Part of that celebration will include a “History” panel, where various elders and longtime members sharing stories from the organization’s early days and beyond. Touchstone Local Council has the full schedule of events posted on its website.

*   *   *

mythopoeticIn June we reported that author Sarah Avery was selected to be finalist for the 2015 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in the category of adult fiction. The award is administered by the Mythopoeic Society, and given to “the fantasy novel, multi-volume novel, or single-author story collection for adults published during the previous year that best exemplifies ‘the spirit of the Inklings.‘ ”

During the recent MythCon46 held in Colorado, it was announced that Avery had won the 2015 award. The winning book, Tales from the Rugosa Coven, consists of a collection of novellas and is published by Dark Quest Books. In a blog post written just after receiving the honor, Avery said, “Every time I tried to write acceptance remarks just in case, I found myself drafting congratulatory emails to the finalists who aren’t here … Fortunately, Dora insisted that I should prepare some remarks, because you never know.” As it turned out, she needed those words. During MythCon, Avery was presented with the Aslan Trophy by author and former winner Jo Walton. Congratulations to Sarah Avery!

In Other News:

  • Activist and Witch David Salisbury will be making an appearance on ABC’s evening news magazine 20/20. Salisbury was interviewed last week concerning the death of Cecil the Lion. Salisbury said, “When I got the call asking for the interview, everything happened so fast that I didn’t have much time to be nervous about it. I knew I had to immediately go into extra research mode to make sure everything I wanted to say was accurate and up to date. On the day of the interview, I found the correspondent Deborah Roberts to be warm and friendly, which helped put me at ease and act naturally.” Producers said that the report will most likely air this coming week. However, at that time, they were still waiting to capture more footage and interviews in Africa, and could not confirm the exact air date. They said that the decision to air would be made last minute, and advised interested viewers to look for updates on the 20/20 website.
  • Deepta Roy Chakraverti has written and published her first book called Bhangarh to Bedlam: Haunted Encounters. As noted by the Hindustan Times, the non-fiction work describes Chakraverti’s “experiences in the realm of the supernatural and the practice of Wicca.” She is the daughter of India’s well-known Wiccan Priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, and was raised with and around her mother’s practice. Ipsita, herself, wrote the book’s introduction, while the rest of the content is from Deepta’s own experiences with the “spirit realm” over the years.
  • As we reported last fall, money was raised to honor Margot Adler with a bench in New York City’s Central Park. Over $11,000 was donated; enough to dedicate both a bench and a tree through the Park’s Women’s Committee. The location of Margot’s bench was specifically selected to be near the two that she had previously dedicated to her husband and mother in law. Due to construction in that area, the dedication didn’t officially happen until spring 2015. If you are in Central Park, you can visit Margot’s bench (#09067) and her tree, a Kwanzaan Cherry growing alongside the reservoir next to light post #9323. Both are just inside the 93rd Street entrance on the west side of the park. Now, if you happen to be in Washington D.C., you can also visit a Margot Adler memorial bench and tree. This site, shown in the photo below, is located in front of NPR’s D.C. headquarters at 1111 North Capitol St NE.
margot bench

[Courtesy Sylvia Poggioli, NPR]

  • Pagans are helping to raise money for Raul Mamani’s trip to the upcoming Parliament of the World Religions in Salt Lake City. According to the fundraising page, Mamani “is a native Jujuy of Argentina. He lives in the far northwest, where Argentina borders Chile and Bolivia. He has been at the heart of indigenous organizing.” Over the years, Mamani has been working with interfaith representatives of CoG and with the United Religions Initiative. As the campaign page explains, in 2009 the Spirituality & the Earth Cooperation Circle raised money to help Mamani attend the Melbourne Parliament. As it turned out, “he was the only indigenous representative from South America …his voice was crucial to the sharing that took place in that gathering.” The 2015 fundraising campaign will help allow Mamani to return to the Paraliament again.
  • Amaranth, a new “eclectic” marketplace, is now up and running after Etsy’s policy changes negatively affected metaphysical shops and the sale of magical items. The site went live on June 26 with the intention on serving “displaced members of Etsy.” As described by the owners, “The site supports international selling, multiple payment gateways and several familiar to Etsy user functions for listing and creating markets. Policies and categories are still being made on an as need basis.” Dedicated to metaphysical, magical, spiritual, Pagan, Occult and similar communities, Amaranth is crafting a marketplace model that will allow it to be owned and operated by the sellers and buyers. Owners say, “It is not about us.” At this point, Amaranth Marketplace is still growing and tweaking its systems. But they hope, in the end, to simply provide “a stable, honest, environment with a staff that can understand needs and not judge.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), in a landmark decision, legalized same sex marriage in the United States of America. On Friday, June 26, SCOTUS issued its 5-4 opinion on the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Kennedy delivered the opinion, opening with, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.”

10996762_10153465784993281_5945380181211759427_n

Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 2015 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Through that opinion, SCOTUS reversed the decision of the lower Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which had upheld same sex marriage bans in four states: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. SCOTUS ruled these bans unconstitutional, saying:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

The Court’s opinion also made it clear that marriages performed legally in one state had to be officially recognized in other states. As SCOTUS ruled:

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

Within the opinion, Justice Kennedy offered an historical perspective, saying that marriage has been central to the “human condition” for “millennia and across civilizations.” While he acknowledged that most of the historical references speak of opposite sex unions, he goes on to say that “The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.”

Justice Kennedy was joined by Justices Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomeyer. Dissenting opinions came from Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito. Roberts wrote:

This Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be … Today, however, the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening.

While there are those who directly oppose same sex marriage on religious or philosophical principles, there are others who, like Roberts, feel that the process should have been left to the states and the vote of the people.

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

Priestess signing legal documentation for a same-sex married couple in Alabama [Courtesy K. Privett-Duren]

As the news flooded the internet, we gathered some reactions from Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists around the country. Here is what they had to say:

Dianne Duggan is a Pagan Priestess who worked for the US government for decades and practiced law. Last year in her in Illinois, she was finally able to legally marry her wife. Duggan said, “Given that marriage is a legal contract, sanctioned by government, I’ve never understood the faith-based arguments against it. Even marriages that take place under religious circumstances must be sanctioned by government through licensing .. Rights are rights. That is that.” Read Duggan’s full comment

Another legal expert, Dana Eilers, author of Pagans and the Law, said that SCOTUS had “affirmed the great American Experiment, which is the separation of church and state.” She went on to say, “Critically, the majority of the Court found that the opponents of gay marriage had failed to provide any foundation for the dire outcomes which gay marriage opponents so often assert. This, to me, is crucial: there was, apparently, no proof offered to support the awful predictions made by the opponents of gender equality in marriage. Proof and evidence are not yet dead in American courts.” Read Eilers full comment.

Heading south, Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren, also known as Rev. Seba O’Kiley, is a Priestess of the Gangani Tribe in Alabama, a marriage equality battle-ground state. Same sex marriage was legalized in February 2015, but state and local officials have been fighting ever since. Privett-Duren said that it “takes the efforts and courage of many to change any inequities in the world.” She added that this impulse to enact change should be a “human one born of the need to set things right.” Privett-Duren added:

I am saddened at the responses of some of my Southern friends and family to the SCOTUS ruling.  However, this is only a small faction of our South and will, inevitably, become only another archaic echo of a culture’s growing pains. ….  My tribe and I hold firm that we can be both Southern and progressive.  And while my neighbors are truly heartbroken at the SCOTUS decision, it is my hope that they will one day see that any oppression to any people oppresses us all. Read Privett-Duren’s full comment

Wizzard Rodney Hall, a transgender and pansexual Pagan from Alabama, said, “It has been a long march from … Stonewall riots to the marriage equality decision by SCOTUS … Though I told my partner after SCOTUS struck down DOMA … that this was a landmark decision and we were on a downward slope toward equal marriage rights, I had no clue that it would move this fast.” Like Privett-Duren, Hall knows that there will be some conflict within the state, saying “In Lee County AL, where I live, our courthouse was closed today until they review the SCOTUS decision. There is also Alabama Senate Bill 377 still pending, which seeks to replace marriage licenses with a contract process … Though we still face obstruction from bigots and the ill-informed religious right, I feel that we are on the upswing.”

From Georgia, two Pagans shared their thoughts. Blogger Sara Amis said, “I think it’s important to emphasize the religious equality angle. Pagans, who by and large are happy to recognize same-sex unions, should not be constrained by the beliefs of other faiths in this matter. And now we won’t be.” Amis went on to say that for bisexuals, like herself, “not being invisible matters. Social recognition matters.” Then she added, “And speaking as a Pagan, symbols matter. Rituals matter.” Read Amis’ full comment.

And, Benratu, a Witch and native Georgian, agreed, saying, “I am thrilled to see our leaders make the right decision!” He lamented that for so long he has been unable to “share the same rights and privileges as the rest of the country.” Benratu said “[It]is now possible. I felt a great sigh of relief.” Like Hall and Privett, Benratu also expressed a concern that the ruling may trigger a backlash and increased incidents of homophobic violence. However, he added, “My hope is this will bring our country together and user in more acceptance of different viewpoints.”

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

Friday Celebrations in Midtown Atlanta [Courtesy S. Amis]

California-based author and activist T. Thorn Coyle took a more radical position, saying, “I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call ‘gay marriage’ or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger.” She explained, “..allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course. I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.” Read Coyle’s full comment

Also hailing from California, Rev. Patrick McCollum shared his thoughts, saying, “As one who has worked for gay rights for more than thirty years, I am elated that one of the fundamental rights that we’ve all fought for so long has finally come to be.” McCollum tied the ruling’s importance to his beliefs. He wrote, “Just as we speak of the interconnectedness of all things in a spiritual context, we must also realize that the same principles apply in our mundane lives. How we make space for everyone and how we honor the sacredness of diversity speaks directly to who we are as a people.” Read McCollum’s full comment.

Like McCollum, Rev. Selena Fox has been an longtime activist working for LBGQT equality and religious rights. When Friday’s ruling was handed down, Fox called for a celebration, saying, “I am glad that the USA has now joined the 20 other countries in the world that have legalized same sex marriage — and it is my hope that there will be marriage equality in every nation on this planet.” She said that she has been performing same sex handfastings since the 1980s with the first one in 1983, and assisting with the first legal handfasting at Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2014. Read Fox’ full comment.

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Jumping the Broom. Sparky T. Rabbit and Ray 1984. One of the first same sex marriages at PSG [Courtesy PSG Archives]

Finally, in Washington D.C., we caught up with witch and activist David Salisbury, who works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). He said:

This enormous victory really speaks for itself. For years I’ve been involved with fighting state-by-state and we’ve seen many victories and some losses. Now that marriage equality is the law of the land, I can’t wait to shift my focus on the other important areas where LGBT people are still not equal. In most states, you can now get married on Sunday and fired on Monday. We now need employment and housing nondiscrimination as soon as possible. But for now, I will celebrate here in DC with the many people involved in this movement, and in spirit with many others around the nation. Love won, and that deserves a celebration.

Agreeing with Salisbury, Circle Sanctuary minister Vic Wright from Kentucky said, “It is a blessed day when the Supreme Court chooses to uphold the law … Now on to the next issues.” In her reaction statement, Fox also looked forward, saying, “We need to be vigilant and take action to counter attempts by bigoted forces that already are planning to undermine this victory under the guise of ‘religious freedom.’ ” Of course, she is referring to the RFRAs, which could potentially be used to counter this ruling. Whether that happens or not is up for debate

California-based Heathen Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir also expressed the need to keep pressing for rights by offering this call-to-action, “The fire is hot, the iron is stoked and burning bright, let’s strike at other issues that affect the lives of the rest of us who live under the “rainbow umbrella … Let’s keep the pressure on our legislators to provide the protections and dignity that we deserve in every facet of our lives; queer, trans, bi, however one chooses to identify.” Read Odinsdottir’s full comment.

The HRC, as an organization, also agrees that there is much work to be done. After issuing its celebratory statement, it turned its focus immediately to remaining problems by sending out a second statement that called for all “state officials to remove obstacles to marriage equality immediately.” These obstacles, for example, include such things as the closed Alabama courthouses noted earlier by Hall, and the public response by Louisiana’s Governor. Just after the SCOTUS ruling, Gov. Jindal issued his own opposing statement, going as far as saying, “Let’s just get rid of the court.” Louisiana is one of the few states that didn’t issue licenses on Friday.

However, not all the remaining 13 states, which prior to Friday’s ruling didn’t issue same sex licenses, were opposed. Georgia reportedly issued the very first same-sex license after the ruling was issued. In Texas, people lined up to get married. Along with the ceremonies, celebrations have happened and will continue throughout the weekend.

11265266_10153465789638281_6655521690623930719_n

Celebrations outside courthouse June 26 [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Kasha, a Wiccan Priestess from Florida who is currently serving as National First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, called for a moment of remembrance. She said, “I … hope we pause during our celebrations to honor those involved in this struggle that did not live to see this day – those that inspired the fight, endured persecution and violence, and lived and died with secrets.” Read Kasha’s full comment.

And, Jesse Hathaway Diaz, proprietor of The Wolf and Goat, shared this advice going forward, “I’m a firm believer in the ladder principle – if you are going to ascend the ladder, you must bring someone up to your current rung, or you backslide. Nature abhors a vacuum. Let the ‘victory’ of today similarly be a tool. Bring others to the current rung – what we envision should be a reality. Do not be complacent. Share the success. Advance others….. Help others understand why it’s worth sharing. Help others be able to share it with us someday.” Read Hathaway’s full comment.

Ritual leaders [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

Ritual leaders [Courtesy D. Salisbury]

On  June 6,  The Firefly House, a pan-Pagan organization in Washington D.C., organized a ritual on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States. Spokesperson David Salisbury explained that the ritual’s goal was “to channel energy from the goddess Columbia, which [they] used to cast a spell upon the nation for love and justice, in advance of a decision on marriage equality.”

Salisbury is referring to the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which was argued on April 28. As we reported, the case has the potential to “effectively, make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states without eroding each state’s right to regulate marriage laws as their citizens’ see fit.

Of this past weekend’s ritual, Salisbury said, “We focused objects of power to send the energy: Justice cards from the tarot, a rattle to shake up change, a rainbow flag for hope, a shield to protect against bigotry, a wand to manifest the desire for equality, and a quartz stone to anchor the dawning of a new equality era.” He also added that, while they were there, the had a “fun chat with capitol police who were very excited and interested.”

*   *   *

Cherry Hill Seminary

Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) has just announced the creation of a new military chaplaincy program to enhance its masters program. In a press release, CHS said, “Just as the military is a unique subculture of our greater society, military chaplains are a unique subset of the greater society of professional chaplains. While all chaplains are charged with providing care and support in an interfaith environment to all of those under their pastoral care, military chaplains face an additional set of unique challenges. To assist those students who aspire to become military chaplains, we have established a program to help prepare them for that role.

As the military opens it doors and welcomes minority chaplains, more and more trained people will be needed to specifically address those “unique challenges” and serve that community. CHS is looking to fill that gap. The new track will consist of 15 semester hours that are added to its regular MDiv. program. Some of the classes include:  “War, Ethics and Religion,” “Grief, Loss, Trauma and Recovery,” “Chaplaincy and Religions Freedom,” and “Ministry to Military Families.” The new classes are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015.

*   *   *

tuatha deaTuatha Dea just released a new video called “The Hum and Shiver.” It is based on the first book in the Tufa series by Alex Bledsoe. When the video was released, Bledsoe said, “I had the pleasure of watching it with them when it first arrived from the video producer.”

Named one of the best fiction books of 2011 by Kirkus, Hum and Shiver begins the story of a Tufa people, who live in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. The second book in the series is titled, Wisp of a Thing, and the third, which was just released, is titled A Long Black Curl.

Written into all of the Tufa novels is a cultural and magical emphasis on music. Both Tuatha Dea and Bledsoe call Tennessee home, and the new video captures that Appalachian spirit found in the books. In 2014, Tuatha Dea, so inspired by the series, released an entire album called Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae. Recently, Bledsoe explained to the Wisconsin State Journal, “If you wanted to create a band to come out of my books, [Tuatha Dea] was it.” In fact, the band makes an appearance in the newest book Long Black Curl, for which they have already released a song and video.

Tuatha Dea is currently touring the country and will be appearing next week at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

.In Other News:

  • Folk singer Lon Milo Duquette released his latest album Sweet Baba Lon on June 6. The new CD includes “18 of Lon’s most popular recordings from earlier releases.” Plus, he introduces 3 new tracks, including: ” ‘Don’t Write Me Off,’  ‘I’m Scared,’ Lon’s wicked take on American gun culture, and ‘At Club Père Lachaise,’ a cute paean to the French celebrity cemetery.” Duquette, now 66 years old, has been performing since he was 14 years old. He is also the author of “numerous books on Western mystical traditions.” In a recent press release, he said “I’m a pool of ancient wisdom,” and he stressed that he has no intention of slowing down.
  • Morpheus Ravenna’s The Book of the Great Queen has been released and is now available for purchase. Published by Concrescent Press, The Book of the Great Queen is “an in-depth study of the Morrígan and her cults of worship, ancient and modern.” Ravenna explained that the work is the “culmination of twenty years of study and practice as a dedicant of the Morrígan.” The book’s artwork was done by the talented Valerie Herron, and production was funded by a 2014 IndieGoGo campaign. This summer and fall, Ravenna will be making book signing appearances in between her other travels and speaking engagements. Her next stop will be at The Book Vault in Endicott, New York on June 10. For a complete schedule and more information, go to Ravenna’s website: Banshee Arts.
  • Who is T. Thorn Coyle? PNC Minnesota has published an interview with the Pagan author, activist and magic worker. PNC writer Nels Linde caught up with her at The Heartland Pagan Festival in May. Linde writes, “This started out as an interview, but Thorn was so fascinating to talk to, and such a good listener it turned into a discussion.” In the article, she talks about her social justice work, inspiration and writing.
  • For those who speak French, two reporters for the online site Street Press visited a Wiccan ritual held in France’s “forêt de Vincennes.” They spoke with some of the attendees and published an article on the experience. The ritual itself was staged by Cercle Sequana, a Wiccan group that is part of the Paris-based Ligue Wiccan Eclectique. The two journalists intervewed participants of different ages about their practice. One of Cercle Sequana’s organizers, Xavier Mondon, was there, and we have reached out to him directly to get a more detailed look into the experience.
  • Author and filmmaker Jo Carson has produced a new book, Celebrate Wildness. It is the first in a series of books that will “introduce the magic, practices and lore of Feraferia.” In a press release, she explains that, “With the art and inspiration of Fred Adams, [this book celebrates] a love culture for wilderness, a liturgy of holy wildness, and a religion celebrating the Magic Maiden.” The self-published, hardbound book, containing lore, illustrations and techniques, is only available through Carson’s website: Feraferia.
  • CORRECTION: On Saturday, we published columnist Rhyd Wildermuth’s essay “A Time of Your Life” and accidentally left off the sponsorship tag line. We apologize to Hecate Demeter for this mistake. Hecate, a longtime supporter of The Wild Hunt, directly sponsors both Wildermuth’s and Alley Valkyrie’s columns. As the sponsor line states, she is an ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth, and a writer of her own blog Hecate Demeter.
  • And, finally, here is some exciting news from the editor’s desk. We are proud to announce that The Wild Hunt is now independently incorporated with non-profit status through California-based Independent Arts and Media. In addition to our fall fundraiser, we have added a donation PayPal button to our site for use all year. We are 100% reader funded, and all donations are tax-deductible. Thank you to all our readers, writers and supporters!

And, don’t forget to check out our new Instagram account, with photos and visuals coming from our articles and inspired by them! 

That is it for now. Have a great day!