Archives For Delaware

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

6a00d83454ed4169e201901ee8f344970b-500wiThe Occult Humanities Conference: Contemporary Art and Scholarship on the Esoteric Traditions will be taking place October 18th-20th in New York City, hosted by Hosted by Phantasmaphile, Observatory and the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions. Quote:  “The conference will present a wide array of voices active in the cultural landscape who are specifically addressing the occult tradition through research, scholarship and artistic practice […] The presenters at the OHC represent a rich and expanding community of international artists and academics from multiple disciplines across the humanities who share an exuberance and excitement for how the occult traditions interface with their fields of study as well as the culture at large. The small scale of this conference (approximately 100 attendees) will give ticket holders an intimate look at the presenters and their views.” Participants include Robert Ansell of Fulgur Esoterica, Pam Grossman of Phantasmaphile fameIthell Colquhoun expert Dr. Amy Hale, and author Gary Lachman, among others. If I had the budget for it, I’d be there in a heartbeat! If you’re in New York, you should check it out!

wp27cover1bIssue of #27 of Witches & Pagans Magazine is scheduled to be released on October 15th, and features an interview with Teo Bishop, conducted by T. Thorn Coyle. Quote: “This issue guest-stars a triplet of fascinating Pagan notables. Paranormal and detective novelist Alex Bledsoe sold his first magickal “Lady Firefly” story to PanGaia in 1998. Catch up with his journey in this conversation with Deborah Blake; then listen in as the inimitable T. Thorn Coyle talks with Pagan blogger, mystic, Druid and musician (aka Matt Morris) Teo Bishop; and visit with Renaissance woman, writer, and community leader Tish Owen.” Meanwhile, the rest of the issue is water-themed. Quote: “What would it be like to experience water viscerally? Susan Harper teaches us to become conscious of the sacral nature of this ubiquitous element in her article ‘Sensing Water.’ Loremaster P. Sufenas Virius Lupus writes about the ability of water ­ and even of drowning ­ to assist in the apotheosis of humans in his fascinating look at classical Greek and Roman paganism ‘Deification by Drowning.’ Leni Hester introduces us to the Lady of Fresh Water, Ochun, in ‘No One is an Enemy to Water.'” You can pre-order the issue, here.

The Warrior's CallLast week I reported on an upcoming Pagan-led public ritual in the UK to protect the land near Glastonbury Tor from the practice of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing to extract oil an gas from the earth). Since then, more Pagan leaders have stepped forward to weigh in on the topic. Author and activist Starhawk said it was “almost unbelievable” that the UK government “would threaten the purity of Chalice Well in Glastonbury, a site sacred to both Pagans and Christians!” So far, over 1000 people have committed to attending the ritual, with many more promising energetic work in solidarity. In addition, Druid leader John Michael Greer writes at length about the false promise, and dangerous effect of the practice. Quote: “The increasingly frantic cheerleading being devoted to the fracking industry these days is simply one more delay in the process of coming to grips with the real crisis of our time—the need to decouple as much as possible of industrial society from its current dependence on fossil fuels.” Could fracking become a new rallying point for Pagans drawn to environmental activism? We’ll keep you posted as this issue develops.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • “Tales of Albion,” an 8-part web-based film series follow-up to the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion,” has posted several production pictures taken over the Summer. Quote: “We are now scheduling like crazy for the next few shoots which will see us tackle a legendary outlaw and the once and future king. We will travel to an 11th Century monastery, the Bronze Age and even Neolithic caves. We will see two world wars, the 95thRifles and a priest with writer’s block! It’s going to be quite a ride…”
  • The Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC has a library. Here it is in six seconds.
  • October 11-14th will be Twilight Covening, a yearly event held by the EarthSpirit Community. Quote: “Twilight Covening is a three-day institute of Earth spirituality held within a continual three-day ritual. It is a time for exploring ways to deepen Earth-centered spiritual practice and a time to develop our collective wisdom in a shared sacred space as we move into the dark time of the year.”
  • Friday, September 20th will see the launch party for Abraxas Issue Four, at Treadwells in London. Quote: “A night of partying,  40 minute session of speeches, short presentations and a few words from each of the contributors who can join us.  When you’ve finished looking at the art on the walls we will serenade you wtih three short readings. Think of it as a salon for magic and the imagination. Join us, meet the contributors, and revel in the delight of magic and the imagination.”
  • The Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival in Delaware happened yesterday. They had symphonic gothic metal band Cassandra Syndrome play, which you have to admit is pretty hard-core for a Pagan Pride Day event.

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

[The following story is reprinted from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s Washington D.C. bureau (aka Capital Witch) and was reported/written by David Salisbury and Maria Aquila.]

More than 60 people gathered in Georgetown, Delaware yesterday, as the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel hosted a Ground Breaking Ceremony for the New Alexandrian Library. This historic project aims to build a modern, state of the art library, physical structure to house a research and reference library.

NAL Groundbreaking Ceremony (PNC-Washington DC)

NAL Groundbreaking Ceremony (PNC-Washington DC)

All the materials have been acquired and permits issued. Construction is planned to begin on Monday morning.

The event began with host, Michael Smith, an Elder in the ASW, welcoming participants to the event and explained a brief history of the project stating that the library is “is dream whose time has come now!”

Smith also explained the grand vision for the library that will be a structure that endures and grows through the generations.

He then introduced ASW Elder, Ivo Dominguez Jr. who talked more about the project and how it is more than just collecting and preserving books, special collections, and artifacts. It is also about the Pagan community’s need for roots and infrastructure.

“As much as I and many of you like the internet, or their kindle or their iPad, there is no substitute for having rooted in the physical plane storage, special materials and more importantly, a catalyst for interaction,” stated Dominguez. “Where there have been great libraries, and libraries are as much the center for creation and presentation of culture, you have a crossroads where you have interaction between different people doing scholarly work. There is a place to point at and say, in this place we actually have the maturity and perseverance as a community to make something happen that stays.”

There is no Kindle, no electronic version that will ever be the same as actually being in the precsence of a book that was owned by a particular author. Each of these books is like a Book of Shadows. Each is filled with the essence and the energy of the people who have worked with it. So there is something that can only be held in the physical realm.”

Next, NAL Program Manager Jim Dickensen talked about the actual physical construction of the structure that will be a concrete encased dome that will help ensure the security of the by providing a structure that will withstand time, the weather, including hurricanes. Using AI Domes, the building will be sealed with layers of concrete and shaped in the way that accounts for the aerodynamic flow of wind that passes around it.

“This structure is the beginning, we foresee adding Dome 2, and Dome 3, and Dome 4, as time goes on and adding additional facilities as lecture halls that can be linked to universities and other learning institutions…This building will be constructed in a magickal way, with magickal objects, offerings, and implements.”

Participants were then lead to the construction site where Smith lead an invocation with others, calling upon the spirits of the land to bless the site.

“We who stand here today, we who are manifest and walk in the world call upon the spirits of this land; the ancestors and the fey, the spirits of the depths, the spirits of the heights. Be present in this space, be present with these people and this community. The tools of manifestation, the offerings of our selves, the offerings of the manifestations of creation. Bless this work, bless this library, bless this land and all who come here.”

Other attendees approached the space and delivered a series of blessings from various traditions. As the cold air sang through the trees of Seelie Court, it was easy to envision the site that the space will become; a home for esoteric and magickal lore both new and old.

More information on the project, and how you can contribute, can be found at sacredwheel.org/nal

[For a selection of photos from the groundbreaking, please see PNC-Washington D.C.. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the New Alexandrian Library Project, here.]

The New Alexandrian Library, overseen by the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, is a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and the “history of our magickal communities.” Based in Delaware, the NAL broke ground earlier this year on the domed buildings that will house their growing collection. Last week, the library was gifted with four paintings created by the legendary 20th century British occultist Dion Fortune, author of such works as “Psychic Self-Defense”“Mystical Qabalah”, and “The Sea Priestess”.

Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki with donated Dion Fortune paintings.

“This previous weekend Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki gifted the NAL with paintings of the four Archangels painted by Dion Fortune that were used in Dion’s first ritual room and in Dolores’ first ritual room. We are very grateful.”

The paintings were donated by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki, director of Servants Of the Light, a Hermetic order descended from Fortune’s Society of the Inner Light, and herself a widely regarded author and occultist. Caroline Kenner, a supporter of the New Alexandrian Library, said she was “deeply inspired” by the artworks, and that they will be “appreciated in perpetuity by people who understand their power.” The gift was made at a recent fundraiser on behalf of the library that featured Ashcroft-Nowicki as a speaker.

This is a high-profile gift for a library project that is still in its early stages, one that no doubt reflects well on its governing board. For ongoing updates on the New Alexandrian Library check out their Facebook page.

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

New Alexandrian Library Project Prepares to Break Ground: Yesterday in Georgetown, Delaware, building materials were unloaded for a dome kit that will form the New Alexandrian Library’s home. Overseen by the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, the NAL project hopes to create a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and thehistory of our magickal communities.”

Unloading building materials for The New Alexandrian Library.

“Today was a momentous step forwards towards the New Alexandrian Library Project breaking ground. By forklift and by hand, twelve dedicated volunteers unloaded a huge truck laden with building materials. The barn is full to the rafters and the field has several tall and tarped bundles. The trees have been marked for clearing in the woods where the library will stand and the general contractor will soon be taking over the bulk of the physical work. This dome is the first of a long term plan of five domes that will make up the New Alexandrian Library.”

A fundraising event connected to the official ground breaking ceremonies will be announced soon. In the meantime, an urgent appeal has been sent out to supporters to cover the cost of renting the forklift. If you’d like to donate to NAL, you can find contact information, here. You can also follow NAL’s progress at their Facebook page.

Updates on Patrick McCollum’s Thailand Trip: As I’ve mentioned previously, Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has been traveling in Thailand at the invitation of Dhammakaya temple in the Pathumtani Province, where he will be honored as a World Inner Peace Ambassador, and share Pagan rituals and practices with local Buddhist practitioners. McCollum will then travel to the renowned temple at Borobudur on the Island of Java with Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, of the World Peace Foundation. At the Patrick McCollum Foundation website, Patrick has posted several updates about events from his journey, including doing ritual in the Khou Yi jungle.

“The sounds of the jungle at night are like nothing I’ve ever heard before. There are huge frogs croaking as loud as bass drums, and dozens of other smaller ones that sound like a chorus of children. Elephant’s screams pierce the night, and the sounds of large animal hunters seeking prey can be heard intermittently. My rational mind says I’m crazy for venturing out so, with tigers and poisonous snakes and who knows what? I have no weapons or any way to defend myself, and yet the moon guides me forward without fear. After about an hour I find a perfect clearing to do ritual. It’s circular and about 30 feet in diameter. I can see huge colorful flowers high in the trees and hanging vines everywhere filled with tropical fruits and spiny pods. I call the quarters and invoke the Goddess and find myself completely immersed. I did prayers for world peace and for human rights, everywhere, and I asked for blessings on my community.”

Patrick will no doubt be sharing further reflections about his trip with us when he returns. To keep track of Patrick’s journey be sure to follow the Patrick McCollum Foundation’s blog, and the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Damh the Bard is Ready For His Close-Up: Peg Aloi at The Witching Hour interviews producer-director Gary Andrews about his upcoming film The Spirit of Albion, a story inspired by the music of Damh the Bard.

“…the 3 main characters are young, modern people with the kind of problems that are very real today. One, Esther, is working in a high powered, pressured job with no real life outside of work and has reached breaking point. The second, Annie, is a damaged young woman who works in a job she hates (animal testing) and has taken refuge in drugs and casual sex rather than face her reality. Finally we have George, an anti war activist who is fighting the guilt that his soldier brother was killed in Afghanistan and the last time they spoke they had a fight about their life choices. All 3 of them, on the same day (Oct 31st) have a meeting with a stranger who turns out not to be what they first appear. Added into the mix is Annie’s brother, a Christian priest who is having doubts about his vocation. All of these characters are given a chance to see things a different way, through the filter of the Pagan perspective and all of them have a life-changing experience, although not everything turns out as you might expect!”

The film originated as a stage play, thematically structured around 10 Damh the Bard songs, and was recently performed at Witchfest International in November of 2010. Once complete, a direct-to-DVD release is planned. Updated will be posted to the official The Spirit of Albion site. As for Damh, a truly excellent human being and musician, he recently released a live CD, and has a new single coming out soon entitled “The Sons & Daughters (of Robin Hood)”.

When to Participate in Press Opportunities: Joseph Merlin Nichter, a volunteer minority faiths chaplain for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, discusses his recent participation in a local interfaith vigil, and the process he went through in deciding if that participation was a good idea.

“This past Wednesday I was contacted by an enthusiastic community organizer who was trying to manifest an interfaith prayer vigil ad hoc. He explained what he was trying to do and asked if I would be willing to speak publicly on the matter along side other religious community leaders. I told him I needed to conform my availability and would call him back shorty. I knew my availability, but didn’t want to make an ad hoc decision because there would be media coverage. I sought counsel before calling him back and agreeing to participate.”

Nichter references my recent participation in a panel at PantheaCon and the Charlie Sheen “warlock” media controversy to make the point that sometimes press attention isn’t what you want or need. However, in his case, it seemed to go well, and his speech is well worth the reading.

Christian Day and the Binding of Sheen: Speaking of the Charlie Sheen “warlock” issue, Salem Warlock Christian Day has posted a video of the ritual to “heal and bind Charlie Sheen.”

The ritual was covered by the press, both local, and national. As for the use of the term “warlock,” an issue that has sparked quite a bit of conversation lately, Day has issued a $1000.00 reward to anyone who can find source material “prior to 1950 that designates the word Warlock as someone who betrays a coven to the Witch hunters, or betrays a coven at all.” No doubt some scholars (amateur or otherwise) in need of some cash might want to take up his challenge.

Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn Expels Founder: The Second Order of the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn have voted to expel founder/leader Robert Zink due to a laundry list of charges that span from misusing his power to misappropriation of funds.

“It is come to the point where we of the Second Order have to take the unfortunate action of deposing former G.H. Frater P.D.R. (Robert Zink) of his highly influential position and expelling him from the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. He received the grievances from the Adepti of the Second Order, but was still given a great deal of time and opportunity to reform his ways. In response to this, he persists to hold himself above accountability and has gone to great lengths to secure his own position through surreptitiously ensuring as much of the Order’s assets were under his sole control as possible.”

However, as Frater Barrabbas notes, it may not be possible to expel him due to the way the bylaws of the organization are written. So we may soon see two competing Esoteric Orders of the Golden Dawn. He notes that this is just another peril of creating (or joining) organizations that aren’t built on democratic principles and consensus-based decision making.

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

A few quick news notes for you on this Wednesday.

About That Wall of Separation: This election cycle in the United States has brought forward an old argument, is there a “wall of separation” between religion (“church”) and our government (“state”)? While many argue that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution decreeing that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, and years of subsequent legal precedent, make such a separation very plain, certain factions of Christian conservatives claim that the Establishment Clause was only meant to prevent denominational favoritism among Christians, and that ours is a Christian country. This division in understandings was in full display in a recent debate between Delaware Senate candidates Christine O’Donnell (who has gotten too much coverage from me already) and Chris Coons.

In a debate at the Widener University Law School, Ms. O’Donnell interrupted her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, as he argued that the Constitution does not allow public schools to teach religious doctrine. “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Ms. O’Donnell asked himaccording to audio posted on the Web site of WDEL 1150 AM radio, which co-sponsored the debate. The audience at the law school can be heard breaking out in laughter. But Ms. O’Donnell refuses to be dissuaded and pushes forward. “Let me just clarify,” she says. “You are telling me that the separation of church and state is in the First Amendment?”

O’Donnell has been roundly mocked in the press for this latest gaffe, but it’s very representative of a certain understanding of the US Constitution, and many feel she was sending “dog whistle” signals about her stance on church-state issues. Far more explicit was Minnesota Republican Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson, who spoke plainly what O’Donnell only alluded to.

Quite often you hear people say, ‘What about separation of church and state?’ There is no such thing. I mean it just does not exist, and it does not exist in America for a purpose, because we are a Christian nation. We are a nation based on Christian principles and ideals, and those are the things that guarantee our liberties. It is one of those things that is so fundamental to the freedoms that we have that when you begin to restrict our belief and our attestation to our Christian values you begin to restrict our liberties. You simply cannot continue a nation as America without that Christian base of liberty.

This is the same sort of viewpoint that drives Christian groups like WallBuilders, who claim that modern Pagans have no expectation of Constitutional protection under the religion clauses. Separation of Church and State isn’t just about Christmas displays on public lands, it’s about the very character and nature of our country. If we swing too far into an understanding that would please Severson or O’Donnell, it could jeopardize the free exercise and equal treatment of religious minorities in the United States. We would go beyond sanctioning “moments of silence” and see reinvigorated battles over teaching Christianity in our public schools.

Is James Arthur Ray Hurting Sedona? Chas Clifton links to a New York Times article about a decline in tourism at the New Age hub of Sedona, Arizona. Is it the bad economy, or “negative energy” from the James Arthur Ray sweat-lodge deaths?

“It was a very unfortunate and sad situation that could have happened anywhere,” said Janelle Sparkman, president of the Sedona Metaphysical Spiritual Association, who attributes the woes that New Age practitioners are experiencing to a lack of disposable income for spiritual needs and not what happened that awful afternoon. “It was not indicative of Sedona or Sedona’s practitioners at all.” But sweat lodges are now far less common, with the authorities shutting some down to avoid further trouble. And the spiritual association is pushing the importance of ethics among spiritualists.

Could this controversy, along with the economic downturn, bring some reforms to the New Age movement? Or will it be business as usual once this controversy fades and the economy picks up? As for James Arthur Ray, his trial over the sweat-lodge deaths is scheduled to start in mid-February. You can be sure I’ll be following it here.

Spirit Day: Today is Spirit Day, an effort to show support for those who have taken their lives due to anti-LGBTQ bullying. While much of the Internet is rallying to turn their profiles purple, some LGBTQ Pagans, like author and academic P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, are questioning how useful the day, and the message of “it gets better”, really are.

“Which leads me to the second point: “it” doesn’t get better; you just learn to put up with it more, and as you grow stronger in your own sense of self and identity, it bothers you less that other people think these things, say these things, and could potentially threaten you with physical violence and worse (as happened recently in New Jersey to several people)…but, you push through it and you don’t let them frighten you or bother you or dissuade you from living your life the way you want to live it. Every time I step into an LGBTQI event, or a march, or a gathering, it is possible some homophobe with serious insecurities and some religiously-inspired foolish notions may come in and decide to attack me or my friends. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I prepare for the contingency that it might. And as far as I’m concerned, they can bring it all they want–they will not get me without a damn good fight.

So, yes, one hopes that it does get better, but I cannot assure that it will for everyone or that such is the case everywhere in the world. Giving the message to teenagers that you just have to put up with it and tough it out (and that one is possibly deficient if one doesn’t feel up to it or can’t do it) is not a good thing, in my estimation–it seems like blaming the victim to me, and I am totally against that.”

Lupus suggests finding strength and solace in prayer and spiritual work, and has provided a spell against homophobia, and a prayer against persecution. What do you think? Is Spirit Day a worthwhile endeavor that will change opinions, or is it merely a purple-colored band-aid on a much deeper problem? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

ADDENDUM: For another Pagan perspective on Spirit Day, check out T. Thorn Coyle, who is taking up the call from two powerful goddesses to go into battle and teach power and respect.

“I want to see us teaching power and respect. I want to see us supporting each other to stand tall, rather than cutting the tallest person in the room down to a more comfortable size. Many people I know are teaching this to their teens and children, and trying to do this in their communities. This Samhaintide, can we all commit to doing a bit more? Can we examine the ways in which we – personally or communally – are acting out of disrespect, fear, force, or powerlessness?

Last year, some of us made a pledge to the Morrigan to help each other grow strong. For myself, I have done more work getting body and soul to a place of health and fitness than ever before. I have gained muscle and am gaining weight. My core is bigger. I’ve trained. I’m back studying hand-to-hand combat with a teacher who is even more skilled than the one I had before. I know that others have been training, too. This Samhain, my community is honoring our promise by teaching and learning basic self-defense. This starts with physical posture and extends to our energy bodies. The presence of centered pride in our midst immediately ratchets up the presence of self-respect in the room. That is where we will begin. From there, we will learn to move, to defend, to break out of locks and set ourselves free.

My hope is that this workshop, this simple introduction to self-defense, will be able to be taught in multiple places. It feels important enough to my partner and I that we have submitted a proposal to teach it at Pantheacon and I am already planning to take it to Houston. We don’t have any certificates saying we are qualified to do this. All we have is our own training, a push from two powerful Goddesses, a call from community, and this need. This need arises from the images of every youth who committed suicide this year. If parents, children, and friends all carry a sense of internal power and help foster that in each other, everything in the world changes.”

Feel free to share other Pagan perspectives on Spirit Day in the comments!

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

Delaware Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s recent Hail Mary pass of a political addirectly confronting accusations of “witchcraft” that surfaced after an old clip where she admitted to “dabbling” in the practice and having lunch on a “Satanic” altar as a teenager, isn’t having quite the intended humanizing effect on several Pagans. A growing Youtube response meme has Pagans reminding O’Donnell, and America, that “I’m you” includes Witches. Here’s a run-down of the videos posted so far.

Star Foster, Pagan Portal manager at Patheos.com, was one of the first, and her video gained the attention of USA Today religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman.

Right around the same time COG First Officer-elect Peter Dybing (acting as a private citizen and not as a COG representative) also posted a video response.

From there the phenomenon has seemed to take on a life of its own. There are videos from Angela from the Pagan Mom Blog, Kei Dallmer, and Rebecca Chow so far.

No doubt more videos are being made and posted as we speak.

In addition, this revival of “dabble-gate” has spurred even more coverage and interviews with modern Pagans. Time Magazine has a very good interview up now with Delaware-based Wiccan Priest Michael Smith, a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, and a Cherry Hill Seminary Board member.

“There was a lot of eye rolling. It obscures the actual issues involved [in Wicca]. Who knows what she did or dabbled in when she was in high school. I doubt very seriously that she knows what it was. Certainly I do not think that she has any concept about what witchcraft, Wicca or paganism actually is. I doubt very seriously whether she has any concept of what Satanism actually is.”

Meanwhile, some mainstream media has become so over-the-top and theatrical in reporting this story that comedian Jon Stewart has to act as the voice of reason on this whole issue.

“You know, I feel like again, this woman, Christine O’Donnell, she may be qualified. She may not. I’m not all that impressed with what’s in the Senate right now. But the last thing that I would suggest is that her witchcraft or masturbation stance is what we should be even thinking about or focusing on, and I think that’s an enormous mistake that the Democrats will make.”

Again, if O’Donnell is indeed elected, what actual worrisome things about her will we miss because the media is having so much fun dressing folks up, interviewing Wiccans, and vainly trying to contain their smirks? I’m glad that Pagans are taking the initiative to use this media storm in a positive way, and I’m also glad that we are getting some more thoughtful coverage in some mainstream outlets, but I wish the mainstream media, and those who consume it, would demand more from their journalism than this ongoing spectacle.

Committing one of the classic blunders in politics (right up there with starting a land war in Asia), embattled Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell repeats the “dabbling” charges against her in a brand new campaign ad.

“…if you’re Christine O’Donnell, you turn to an advertising guru called Fred Davis, a veteran of many past Republican races, and you get him to make you a 30-second TV advert. The new slot has O’Donnell speaking to camera with a large, homely smile on her face. “I’m not a witch,” she says, which as an opening line to a political advert is pretty grabby. “I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you.” A tinkling piano plays in the background and the lighting is soft and welcoming. It has the feel of one of those washing-up liquid ads from the 1970s.”

Since O’Donnell’s  “dabbling” comment came to light it has virtually dominated all coverage of her campaign, including a high-profile SNL skit. But is beginning a new campaign ad with “I’m not a witch, I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you” really a good idea? If she’s positioning herself afresh as an everywoman candidate, is starting off by excluding what “you” means going just cause her more trouble? After all, Delaware Pagans and their allies aren’t too thrilled with her already.

No matter how Democrats treat the issue, it seems unlikely that Wiccans will turn out for O’Donnell at the polls. “Her inability to separate anything non-Christian from Satanic is going to be an issue not just with her potential pagan constituents but with any other non-Christians or Christians of a flavor that does not match hers,” said Michael Smith, the Wiccan IT analyst who hosted the meet-and-greet the governor visited. “A couple of my local politician friends say she’s losing the Wiccan vote,” said [Ivo] Dominguez. “Well, I said she never had the pagan vote for the most part to begin with.”

Distancing herself from witchcraft isn’t too shocking, but I wonder what Tea Party-aligned and conservative Pagans will make of this new direction for O’Donnell.

“If this witchcraft admission affects her or not depends on how she handles it. I would like her to come out and explain what happened, not denigrate witchcraft, and then move on. If it was some guy who wanted to get into her pants, that’s what I think happened, she should say so. Ideally she would talk about the difference between Paganism and 1980?s and 90?s style Plagans. I doubt that will happen. A mage can dream, right?”

According to recent polls O’Donnell  is trailing badly, so a risky ad might just work in her favor. It’s also likely that the stream of mockery against her could backfire, and she could end up ahead. Several pundits have noted that it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for her to win. If that happens, we’ll suddenly be confronted with several new questions about O’Donnell, questions that could affect modern Pagans in Delaware and across the country. Questions like: Is she a believer in Satanic Ritual Abuse? There’s growing suspicion that she might be, but there’s no way we’ll be able to separate fact from fiction in the media circus that has developed since “dabble-gate” and the other kooky things she’s said that has been leaked to the press. The feeding frenzy of media around Pagans may be over in this story, but this may not be the last time we’ll have to confront O’Donnell’s legacy.

I hope you enjoyed the day off yesterday, because I have yet another round-up of reactions, insights, and opinions regarding the Christine O’Donnell “dabble-gate” witchcraft comments. This will hopefully be the last, since it seems the issue is running out of steam in the mainstream press. Let’s start with more Pagan voices within the mainstream press. First, Pagan author and Washington Post On Faith panelist Starhawk weighs in.

“Witchcraft deserves the same respect accorded to any other spiritual tradition. And O’Donnell deserves the same respect as any other politician: that we judge them by their record, their abilities and their policies, not by stupid, offhand remarks they made decades ago.”

The rest of the panelists cover the thorny issue of if the Tea Party movement itself is religious, with the usual variety of answers that run the gamut of “yes” to “no”.

Meanwhile, at the CNN Belief Blog, Circle’s Selena Fox, who was already interviewed by the Huffington Post, expands on concerns regarding this media feeding frenzy.

“It’s an opportunity to get some correct information out there. That’s how I see it,” says Fox, who is the high priestess and senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church near Barneveld, Wisconsin, that serves Pagans worldwide. “There’s comedy about it, hot debate about it, lots of pundits weighing in. But one of the things that really hasn’t gotten through is how ridicule and defamation can harm people.”

Fox also talks about the ongoing battles Pagans have waged for equal treatment over the years.

On the local level, some Salem Witches are interviewed by The Salem News, and they aren’t pleased.

“She’s obviously very ignorant about witchcraft,” said Teri Kalgren, director of the Witches Education Bureau. “To say she dabbled in it — what is dabbling? And how do we know people she was hanging out with were really witches?”

Oh, and the mainstream media (CBS News) did finally get around to interviewing a Satanist.

Diane Vera, the founder of a group called “NYC Satanists, Luciferians, Dark Pagans, and LHP Occultists” added today that O’Donnell’s anecdote also misrepresents Satanists. “As far as I am aware, no serious practitioner of any variant of either Wicca or Satanism would have a picnic on one’s altar,” Vera said in a press release. Vera also cited a 1997 Washington Post op-ed O’Donnell wrote as head of the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth (SALT). O’Donnell wrote about proselytizing to concert goers in the Washington area. “Walking through the crowd I also noticed more pentagrams than crosses around the teenage necks,” she wrote. “‘Satanism is the religion of the ’90s, I was told.” Vera responded that O’Donnell “has a tendency to confuse Satanism with not only Wicca but also rock fan culture.”

As for Christine O’Donnell, she’s done doing national television appearances, except for an outgoing interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, who gently brought up the whole “witchcraft” issue. Here’s what seems to be her final say on the matter.

“”In my 20s I had a newfound faith and, going on these shows, I looked at it as a ministry opportunity — that was what I did in my 20s. But that was a long time ago. My faith has matured … Who didn’t do some questionable things in high school, and who doesn’t regret the ’80s, to some extent? I certainly do.

I have some regrets from the 1980’s but I don’t think they’re the same ones she has. So what, as the media starts looking for the next shiny object, is the consequence of all this coverage? Wicca is turned by many into a punchline, it has inspired some rather tired satire, and some commentary that probably should have been satire.

“Once again, the Left’s tolerance and diversity mantra rings hollow. Who knew that witches had fallen out of favor with the Left? You have to wonder if it’s O’Donnell’s dabbling or denunciation that’s piqued the pagans. If the Left continues to link witchcraft and paganism to “crazies,” Obama could end up on the wrong end of the mystics’ magical broom…”

Both Wes Isley at the Huffington Post and University of Illinois graduate student Joseph Vandehey seem to grasp that, barring a few notable exceptions, we were simply grist for the mill that was grinding up Christine O’Donnell.

The media could have talked about the impact that Wiccans have in our society (there’s more Wiccans in the Air Force than any other non-Christian demographic). The media could have talked about the plight of Pagan political figures, since the O’Donnell frenzy connotes that Paganism makes you ineligible for public office. The media could have talked about the difference between covens and the eclectic practices that O’Donnell seemed to have dabbled in. The media could have talked about the fear some Pagans have with talking about their beliefs in public — the so-called “coming out of the broom closet” — especially in the wake of recent attacks on Muslims. The media could have talked about public perception issues, when the average persons’ exposure to Wicca comes from bookstores crammed full of “Spells to make him fall in love with you” trash that has as much to do with Wicca as Fred Phelps does with Christianity. But no, it all got swept under the rug in exchange for an Obama bumper sticker parody: O’Donnell in a pointed hat and the phrase “Yes, Wiccan.”

I can’t help but think that this “dabble-gate” coverage, while it will die down as the media grows tired of the subject, and as Bill Maher releases more embarrassing clips, it may well color our traditional Halloween/Samhain rush of coverage this year. Making the usual efforts to tamp down sensationalism in the yearly glut of “real Witch” stories even more difficult. Or maybe, since this rush happened so late in September, this is the October rush, and our role in this media tempest will stand in for more in-depth explorations of Pagan faith. Whatever the outcome, we have our work cut out for us to push past the easy jokes and to remind the world that we are a mature, multi-generational, community of faiths who have spread around the world and are fighting against the prejudices and ignorance that in many cases denies us equal treatment and access.

ADDENDUM: Want some more? Blogger Daniel Nester at the Times-Union in Albany interviewed Rev. OakLore on Tuesday, and today interviews Witchvox media coordinator Peg Aloi and her partner Todd Hulslander.

Apparently this story isn’t going to just go away. I expected some mainstream coverage, maybe even some attention in the 24-hour news cycle, but this amount of attention seems far out of proportion to its actual importance. Joining ABC News and the Huffington Post in quoting Pagans about Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s teenage “dabbling” in “witchcraft” comes USA Today’s Faith & Reason blog (quoting Star Foster at Patheos), a Washington DC CBS affiliate interviewing local priestess Katrina Messenger, and The Daily Beast, who actually interviews some Delaware Pagans.

[Ivo] Dominguez said that the surfacing of O’Donnell’s past comments is particularly unfortunate for Wiccans because it comes near “our least favorite media cycle,” the run-up to Halloween. “My biggest concern is that we will be receiving negative depictions on one side from the people that traditionally don’t like us, which are folks that believe the only thing that is a valid spiritual path is a narrowly defined kind of Christianity, and on the other side people that are progressive that we would normally see as our friends but who will be using the witch angle as a way of attacking a conservative candidate.”

I’m very glad to see these comments from Ivo Dominguez because I think a lot of people aren’t grasping the deeper meanings to this tempest in a tea-pot (no pun intended). Yes, some religious conservatives are pulling out their “devil” card for this occasion, but it’s the added mockery from the left that is really setting us back. The implication that dabbling in any faith outside the mainstream is toxic to winning elected office in America.

“Pagan faiths are sent the message that while they may enjoy some perks of mainstream acceptance, they, like other minority faiths, are not fully welcome into the halls of political power. Those trying to use this clip as a political club to hurt her candidacy may not realize that it is also damaging the advances of modern Pagans trying to work for equal treatment and an end to unspoken litmus tests.”

While we stick to the “it’s not Satanism” talking points of old, a larger narrative, and one harder to easily refute is taking shape before our eyes. That any taint of Paganism, of Witchcraft, of the occult, is political suicide. That we are a joke and nothing more. Grist for satirists and a boon for political opponents. While some claim we are “undoubtedly reaping the benefits of the spotlight”, I don’t think that’s the case. We have to think about what the lasting message will be two, five, or ten years from now. Will it be “Witches aren’t Satanists”? Something tells me it will be “crazy anti-sex witch candidate”.

What does this mean for our Pagan politicians already in office? Would Dan Halloran stand a chance in a Senate race in such a climate? Would ? If a solid Christian conversion narrative makes you too wacky for primetime, what does it mean for someone who is actually a practitioner? How about Pagans trying to fight for equal treatment in adverse situations, how will this affect them? This has not been a good news cycle for our faiths, despite all the interviews, and it will present problems down the road.

It doesn’t take a genius to predict that, barring some substantial new information, the mainstream press would go seeking out modern Witches and Pagans for their take on Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s unearthed comments about once “dabbling” in witchcraft while in high school. Though I’m a little surprised on how quickly it all happened. Sam Stein from the Huffington Post seemed to be the first out of the gate with an interview with Circle’s Sanctuary’s Selena Fox.

“Any political candidate that is going to equate witchcraft with Satanism is ill informed and is not likely to get the support of people involved in nature religion,” she said, noting that the pagan community was “multi-partisan.” “I’m concerned,” she said. “I’m concerned that 25 years of work that the Lady Liberty League and other Wiccan and pagan civil rights and religious freedom groups have been involved in… that there will be more misinformation as well as ridicule and disrespect. We are living in politically turbulent times.”

Stein also included a comment from Diotima Mantineia at The Witches’ Voice, a Delaware resident who refuted any connection between Satan, bloody altars, and Wicca.

“So I don’t know what Ms. O’Donnell is talking about. I wonder if she knows what she was talking about.”

Then we have ABC News, who spoke with Sylvia T. Webb, the first officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, who called O’Donnell’s comments “bizarre”.

Webb scoffed at O’Donnell’s claims. “It’s very hard to worship something you do not believe in and Satan is a Christian concept,” she said. “Wiccans don’t have Satanic altars.” While they don’t have Satanic altars, they do have altars, but “there would be no blood,” Webb said. “She might have had a date with some … want-to-be goth child who was into thinking he was Satanic or something,” Webb said. “There are a lot of misinformed young people trying to be wild.”

Even the AOL blog Parent Dish gets into the act while interviewing Lillitu Shahar Kunning from the Witch Mom blog.

“Oy! I don’t want to claim Christine O’Donnell. It’s kind of like when Sen. Larry Craig was caught in that airport bathroom. No gay person wanted to claim him, either. Actually, I haven’t seen the old footage from Bill Maher, but from what I understand, she was a dabbler, not an actual witch with religious principles.”

So what about actual Pagan Tea Party folks in Delaware? Individuals who may actually want to vote for O’Donnell? What do they think? Cara Schulz from the PNC blog Pagan+Politics has interviewed two Pagan Tea Party members about their reactions to the O’Donnell witch-revelations.

“If this witchcraft admission affects her or not depends on how she handles it. I would like her to come out and explain what happened, not denigrate witchcraft, and then move on. If it was some guy who wanted to get into her pants, that’s what I think happened, she should say so. Ideally she would talk about the difference between Paganism and 1980?s and 90?s style Plagans. I doubt that will happen. A mage can dream, right?

I haven’t seen anyone in the Tea Party throw a fit like they have in the media. When people make fun of her for dabbling in witchcraft they are making fun of us. I’m seeing Pagans do that, too. They are so interested in making a Republican candidate look bad that they are willing to hurt our own path. But no, I’m not seeing the Tea Party get too upset over this. They are saying that it doesn’t matter and is an attempted distraction, don’t fall for it.”

The whole interview with “C” and “D” is well worth reading, and should give some greater insight into this story. Thanks to Cara for doing the legwork and getting their perspectives.

On the whole, I wish the mainstream coverage had been a bit more nuanced. I think there are larger issues to confront than “Witches don’t worship Satan” involved here, and I’m disappointed that we may have lost our chance to raise them before the media machine moves on to the next controversy. Still, I suppose it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that representatives from several organizations and traditions were contacted by the mainstream media for our thoughts.