Archives For Devin Hunter

coruSAN FRANCISCO – Members of the Priesthood of Coru Cathubodua and its allies attended the city’s pride event to offer assistance with medical aid, safety escorting, and spiritual protection. Wearing their distinctive red priesthood shirts, the members were stationed throughout the event with first aid kits and other “parade-related accessories.”

Communications chief Scott H. Rowe said, “In a time when the currents of hatred and intolerance have been permeating our national and cultural consciousness, events like Pride, which uplift and celebrate diversity, are more important than ever. In order that the LGBTQ community are free to celebrate safely, it is particularly important for community members who are able to do so to offer protection and support.”

Coru Cathubodua is often found assisting at similar events around the Bay Area. Along with Solar Cross Temple, the group also sponsors an annual blood drive at PantheaCon. The front page of their website displays the priesthood’s continued commitment to hospitality, safety, equality and justice. With regards to the weekend’s pride events, Rowe said, “The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood remains dedicated to supporting their LGBTQ friends, allies, and members with both spiritual and practical needs.”

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13435330_994220324031940_2673996563045981439_nTWH – After the tragedy struck in Orlando, many Pagans and Heathens throughout the world asked, “What can we do to help?” A group consisting of Pagans from both Italy and the U.K. came up with an idea. They call it “Wands up for Orlando.” As noted on the site, “[The project] aims are to support the LGBTQIA community and celebrate our connection as the answer to hate by sharing ceremonies, artistic contributions, poetry, photos, songs, etc.”

For their first task, the group is currently encouraging people to join with them in a ritual to honor those who died in the Orlando attack. A ritual was jointly written and translated into six languages for use by any groups or individuals. It is also not tradition- or practice-specific. The organizers explain, “We want to emphasise that, as many of the dead may have been Catholics or have had an ambivalent relationship with religion, we are being respectful of that. We performed divinations to check that the ritual would be welcome and needed.”

Where did the name come from? Fans of the Harry Potter franchise might recognize the gesture. Group co-founder Salvatore Caci explained, just as Hogwarts students raised their wands to sweep away an evil curse, “we want to sweep away the curses of intolerance and violence with the light that shines from our hearts and hands joined together and in support of one another.” Caci and the other founders hope that this ritual is only a beginning.

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imagesUK – In a vote that shocked much of the world, the United Kingdom opted to exit the European Union. The vote was close, and the subsequent reactions have been mixed. But the story does not end there, as this historic vote has left many uncertainties it its wake. Our UK news correspondent Claire Dixon has spent the weekend talking with U.K. Pagans about the vote, their concerns, and their predictions for the future. Tomorrow, she will bring us that report, along with a broader look at the situation from an insider perspective.

In Other News

  • The Bay Area Pagan Alliance was another Pagan group in attendance at this past weekend’s San Francisco pride events. Along with enjoying the festivities and supporting the LGBTQ community, the alliance also setup a donation booth through which volunteers helped bring in funds that would ultimately support their own popular annual May festival. The Alliance’s Facebook page shows photos of volunteers working at the booth and also enjoying the day. The alliance did say that, in the end, the money raised will take care of a good portion of the festival budget, but they will still need more fundraising before spring 2017.
  • New York Pagans are getting ready for their annual summer event. The 5th Annual WitchsFest USA is a popular “street faire” held in the heart of Manhattan’s West Village on Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette. The faire includes presenters, performers, vendors and more. Last year’s WitchsFest was attended by Vice reporter Farah Al Qasimi, who shared colorful and dazzling photos of many of the attendees.
  • T. Thorn Coyle continues sharing her voice successfully through her fiction writing. One of her short stories, titled Salt, was recently selected to be included in an urban fantasy book bundle along with nineteen other books that explore the “hidden magic in everyday life.” Coyle’s story, about “a ghost-talking, magic-wielding, leather daddye,” was originally part of her “free fiction” series supported by her readers through Patreon. Coyle is also the author of the novel Like Water as well as several non-fiction book on Witchcraft, spirituality and daily practice.

salt-cover-214x300

  • The Many Gods West conference is coming up in just over one month. It is in its second year and one of the few annual indoor conferences held over the summer. It bills itself as a “gathering for polytheists.” This year’s event features Marcella “Allec” McGuire, Sean Donahue, and L. Phaedrus. There will be no keynote speaker, as the organizers explain, “We have forgone the keynote speaker model in order to encourage the event to grow as a gathering of peers.” Many Gods West is held in Olympia, Washington from Aug 5-7.
  • Starhawk announced that she will be giving away two special edition autographed copies of her new book City of Refuge. To enter the drawing, fans only need to “like” the post and post a quote from any of her books into the comments section. The two winners will be drawn and announced on July 1. Starhawk has also listed all the rules and regulations on her website.
  • Speaking of summer reading, Lewellyn Publishing will be releasing two new books in July, both of which may be of interest to many of our readers. First, Witch and priestess Lasara Firefox Allen shares “a new system that embraces the powerful, diverse, and fluid nature of the lived experience of women today” in her book Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality. Second, Devin Hunter’s The Witch’s Book of Power explores “the secrets to unlocking the Witch power within you.” He includes exercises, meditations and practices.
  • If that is not enough to fill your days, Weiser published Judith Illes how-to guide called The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic that Works.  And, Moon Books has just released Morgan Daimler’s Fairycraft: Following the Path of Fairy Witchcraft, and Rachel Patterson and Tracy Roberts’ book titled, Arc of the Goddess. 
  • Lastly, Treadwell’s conference exploring the 1980s Satanic Abuse panic is coming up Tuesday, July 5. With the help of six speakers, attendees will explore the history and psychology behind the moral panic that gripped the UK and many other parts of the world.  Discussions will also include “what it was like for Pagans, and then how it ended after researchers and investigative journalism got involved.”

Our society often equates popularity with worth or with power. The status system created by celebrity culture is not something new, and it exists in many societies. One of the unfortunate side effects of living in a modern day celebrity culture is that it often separates people from the humanity of one another. We see this with celebrities within popular mainstream culture, and we also experience this in the much smaller segments of our own interconnected communities.

Dancing the maypole (courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

(Courtesy EarthSpirit Community)

Modern Pagan communities have their own definitions for popularity status. There are even varying categories that distinguish where people fall on the continuum.Author, Blogger, Ritualist, High Priest(ess), Artist, Musician, Academic or Leader. All of these are not only functional roles within the Pagan and modern Polytheist world, but they are also titles that come with expectations, a bit of status, and some relative privilege. The common use of the internet within Paganism makes it that much easier to know who people are, who is doing what, and where people will be at any given time. Articles go viral in our community, and it can be one of the most effective ways that someone’s name gets recognition.

What does this carry-over of culture mean in our community though? How does this kind of celebrity culture challenge true connection within such a small, overlapping grouping of individuals?

This past weekend several thousand Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists convened once again to the west coast for the annual PantheaCon convention. It is a time where people get to meet, learn and experience the teaching and the works of artists and leaders from around the country. This year’s con embodied many of the people, activities and things that most of us go there to experience. Author and Priest Devin Hunter explained this well in saying:

Pantheacon 2016 was powerful, drama free, and really fun. We were a bunch of Pagans and Witches getting together to share our work and support our common goals as modern mystics. My tradition, Black Rose, hosted a suite all weekend and we presented a deep ritual working on Friday night (The Sacrament of Hecate Triodia). I got to discuss some of the amazing things the Temple Of Witchcraft (Salem,NH) has been doing with their founders, meet fellow authors from all over the country, and host two amazing parties. Only at Pantheacon can you manage to do all of this! This was my fifth consecutive Pantheacon and my favorite!

This was very much like my own experience. It was a wonderful time of meeting, engaging and sharing with others that I would not normally have the opportunity to do so with. But in all the business of the weekend, I continued to think about how the many ways in which we support each other also serve as barriers to equity in voices and genuine relationships with those who are in different places on the continuum. Do we really get to know one another, or are we just familiar with what each person does, or what they stand for?

Lack of genuine connection with the people behind the names can lead to misconceptions about who they are and project unattainable expectations on these leaders, authors and artists. Social media and the workings of the internet make it easier to know a face or a name, but not the person behind those things.

Since I find that I have had to confront some misconceptions about myself, I thought it would be interesting to reach out to several different people within the community to see what misconceptions they often face from others.

Christopher Penczak

Christopher Penczak

Probably the biggest misconception about me and pretty much many of my peers is misconceptions of motivations and just because you are deemed successful what success looks like and how it translates into everyday life. When someone takes the leap to be an author, teacher, healing facilitator, reader, artist or pagan minister, it’s because we feel a call to it from a deep power. We feel a great love for the teachings, the gods and the community and often against our personal preferences and desires, feel guided to act upon it and do.

While there are great rewards and blessing, and I treasure my life and opportunities, there are also hardships.No one really enters this world to make easy money. I could make more in a regular office job with health insurance and vacation time. I’ve gotten a lot of freedom on one hand but miss out on time with friends and family and a lot of the regular security I crave. When folks are off and free I’m often working. Travel is fun but also gets tough when you are away a few times a month. It’s only through the many hats that I wear that I can make a full time vocation and it takes a lot of planning and juggling. When I switched from my first publisher to a larger publisher, I was accused of “selling out” and someone made comment that I bought a house with the advance for that book. The advance could barely cover a month’s rent. And my first publisher rejected the book while my new publisher was interested in a five book series with CDs. But those are critiques I hear directly and indirectly often about well know teachers and authors. – Christopher Penczak

Niki Whiting

Niki Whiting

If I am well known, then I assume it is because of co-founding and putting on Many Gods West. I think people assume that I am the sole person behind this event and that isn’t true! There are others working behind the scenes, but Syren Nagakyrie is a strong force keeping us on track. I have no desire to be the “voice” of polytheism – I don’t think that is even possible! I just want to encourage and support our communities, and by extension find the support and camaraderie I need as well.” – Niki Whiting

Well, I think that the biggest misconception wouldn’t be about me (people don’t really know me personally that much) but about our company. A lot of folks think that we are a) a coven/circle/commune-based community or b) a huge corporate behemoth. We are actually a small family business run entirely by me, my husband, and our kids. – Anne Newkirk Niven

Beverley Smith

Beverley Smith

I’d say that some of those who have known me as a long-time Druid priestess are surprised by my passion for social activism. They are somewhat taken aback to see that I’m very involved in civil and human rights causes. They are sometimes put off by the idea that I actually care. It always surprises and irritates me that many people prefer their spirituality easy and watered down: Witchcraft Lite. And because that’s how they roll, that’s how they expect me to approach my spirituality also.

I don’t believe that we separate our spiritual lives from other aspects of our reality. I don’t feel that sitting in sacred space, smudging, anointing myself with oils, meditating or participating in rituals are any more uplifting or inherently sacred than bringing awareness of injustice, standing in solidarity with the marginalized, and protesting in the street. My sacred space is the space I’m holding as we chant “no justice, no peace”. Nothing can be more sacred to me than to fight for a fellow human’s rights and stand up to evil together.

I am a Pagan. I am a priestess. I am a child, a daughter of the Earth and social justice is my creed. And yes, I am unabashedly, fearlessly, and unapologetically Black.- Beverley Smith

Devin Hunter

Devin Hunter

I think the largest misconception about me is that I am competitive. Competition has it’s time and place in life but I think being a comrade is much more important. I don’t view other practitioners, teachers, or leaders as competition, I view them as members of a big team of people who are on a journey with both shared and separate paths. I think those that know me know that I will bend over backwards to help when I can, especially when it comes to professional advice. I am a pretty simple guy, if you’re my friend I’m always there, if you’re someone I have never met from the internet, chances are I am not going to give you the same degree of energy as those I am close with. That doesn’t mean I view you as competition, I just don’t know you that well. – Devin Hunter

I’m an initiated Witch and a former First Officer of CoG. I am Pagan theurgist. I am a Thelemite, a member of Ordo Templi Orientis and ordained priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. The connections between these systems make them compatible; I’ve dubbed this connection “Western Traditional Magic.” However the increasing tendency to pigeonhole practitioners leads people to know my work in only one silo. Witches don’t know my work in O.T.O., Thelemites have no idea I am a Witch. So it’s hard to talk to them about the whole of my work and how the several parts feed each other.

Brandy Williams

Brandy Williams

I’m also seeing the effects of ageism. “In your day that was true, but now…” We associate people with the era of their early adulthood and reject their continuing contributions at right about my age. The Pagan community has just as marked a tendency as the dominant culture to devalue accumulated experience. The local Suquamish tell me “we honor our elders” while Pagans tell me “we don’t need elders.” I find myself longing to be as honored by my own people as my neighbors are by theirs.

It’s especially frustrating to be dismissed as a “second wave feminist.” I’m quite proud that I was active in feminist community as a very young woman and that reforms I fought for have made women’s lives better for decades. Third wave feminism has taught me the importance of intersectionality, especially that that feminist progress depends on confronting racism. Presently the development of feminist thought is framed as generational antagonism –  third wave feminists are “daughters” of the second wave, fourth wave their “granddaughters”, rejecting the feminism of their “mothers” to form their own ideas. This framework hampers our ability to accumulate power over time by building on each other’s work. I don’t see the “waves” as generational but as a sequential development of critical thought structures. I am a feminist who will never stop learning! – Brandy Williams

If we had a chance to get to know one another without the filters of status, or the preconceived notions that we have about our various positions, what would we know about one another? What would we want others to know about us? Here are some answers from those in the community.

Anne Newkirk Niven

Anne Newkirk Niven

One thing for people to know about me as a person? I guess that I care deeply about our many communities, and I don’t have any kind of delusions of grandeur. Honestly, I don’t think of myself as a “well-known personality” at all. But I hope that the work we do is well-known, and, occasionally at least, well-regarded. – Anne Niven

In truth, despite my hard practiced ability to teach and lead ritual in front of groups, I’m a homebody and an introvert. I find big groups overwhelming. I like smaller quiet socialization. I can be social and in groups due to my musical performance and magickal training, but it takes great effort, so if I seem less friendly at the end of the night at an event it’s usually because I’m at the end of my energetic reserves and want some quiet alone time. People are often shocked about that but it’s true.” – Christopher Penczak

Lasara Firefox Allen

Lasara Firefox Allen

I have invisible illnesses. I don’t always have the ability to interact gracefully. Sometimes I just need to be able to chill out. I don’t want people to take it personally if I don’t have the bandwidth for an interaction. Something that will make me warm to someone is when they ask for consent for an interaction. Maybe even making sure there’s space to sit down if we are going to talk for more than a few minutes.

At PantheaCon this year my body was being very cranky and demanding. I had limited time out in the Con because I had to take so much downtime to maintain myself. That made it so that my time was very precious to me. I had to teach and take care of my other duties, and still fit in time with my family, and try to see some friends. Honestly I ended up missing out on most friend time, which bummed me out. – Lasara Firefox Allen

It is most important to me to be kind. My feminist and social justice work is about advocating for increased kindness. To be kind is not to be weak but to be fiercely honest and strong. When people talk to me I want them to feel that they are heard and respected. I celebrate the courage and success of the people around me. It makes me happiest to hear people say “you would be proud of me!” – Brandy Williams

I am really dedicated to helping people find their power, whatever it is. The drive to help others is behind everything that I do.” – Devin Hunter

My older brother is a dancer and grew up attending his classes, recitals, and competitions. I took classes as well and I think in a different version of my life I would have continued. Sometimes at night I think about the possible realities where I am the dancer, perfumer, lawyer, or biochemist; and reflect on how those experiences continue to inform my work.- Lou Florez

Lou Florez, invokes the ancestors, during the interfaith service. [photo credit Clark Sullivan]

Lou Florez invokes the ancestors during the interfaith service. [Photo Credit Clark Sullivan]

We operate in a world where profile pictures are one of our primary ways of identifying who we virtually rub shoulders with in the world. Likewise, we often see one another through the small lenses of roles, jobs and titles instead of human beings with much more in common than not. Our ability to decrease the multidimensional layers of humanity into a two-sided depiction of a person fits right into the fame game of modern society but does not allow for us to sustain meaningful connections.

When people see me in the hallways of a convention or read my article online, they may not know that I get anxious in front of crowds or when I publish an article, and that I am very driven but also very sensitive.

The persona of a person is often seen before the personality; sometimes a name travels further than we imagine. But our ability to see the person behind the name or the title might be the most magical thing we can do for one another.

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This column was made possible by the generous support of the members of Come As You Are (CAYA) Coven, an eclectic, open, drop-in Pagan community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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

Margaret Mahy (Photo: David Hallett)

Margaret Mahy (Photo: David Hallett)

That’s it for now, have a great day! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note 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!

A Pagan Library Opens in Washington DC: PNC-Washington DC reports on the Open Hearth Foundation community center’s launch of the OHF Pagan Library this past Saturday. PNC reporter Maria Aquila notes that this was “the culmination of over 10 years of effort of fundraising, collecting and organizing books, and safely storing them until a physical space could manifest.”

Views of the OHF collection.

Views of the OHF collection

“Since signing a lease for the space in October 2011, volunteers have logged over 1,500 hours organizing the collection, as well as preparing the physical space–painting, moving furniture, assembling shelves, and installing lighting. “None of this would have been possible without a dedicated group of volunteers who carried boxes, built shelves, sorted, searched, catalogued, numbered and shelved thousands of books,” OHF Library Trustee and Library Volunteer Coordinator, Aderyn Benvenga. […] “We have designed the OHF Library according to professional principles and best practices for a community library with full searching capability available online,” said OHF Librarian, Eric (Fritter) Riley.”

You can peruse the collection at: library.openhearth.org. It should also be noted that in addition to the local PNC bureau’s coverage of the event, the new library was also reported on by the Lez Get Real blog. Congratulations to the Open Hearth Foundation on this amazing milestone!

Northern Dawn Local Council Discusses Its Future: At PNC-Minnesota, Nels Linde reports on a recent town hall meeting to discuss the possible closure of the Northern Dawn local council of the Covenant of the Goddess (NorDCOG).  The Covenant of the Goddess, formed in 1975, is a consensus-based religious legal umbrella organization for Wiccans and Witches that has engaged in important work for the rights of modern Pagans. Regional councils, like Northern Dawn, are how many people engage with and interact with the organization. Formed in 1982, NorDCOG serves Minnesota and Wisconsin, and has a long history of putting on public rituals and acting as a contact for local media and law enforcement. However, lately, the council has been moribund with several unfilled positions, leading to its current uncertain future.

Northern Dawn council logo.

Northern Dawn council logo.

The immediate cause for the meeting was the lack of participation that has become a crisis in functioning as an organization. Several board positions are unfilled, including a ritual officer, so no public rituals have been planned. Meetings have been unable to meet quorum standards, and this has prevented NorDCOG to conduct business or consider active solutions to be considered and enacted, including possible changes to the bylaws. As a local of the national organization, mandates of operation are also in place that may pose a conflict in some considered changes within the organization. […] Tim, NorDCOG first officer, offered this summation of the meeting, “We had a wonderful meeting with members of the community who came together  to help Northern Dawn figure out what we need to do to survive and remain viable in the future.  I think it was wonderful that we had so many diverse people show up tonight. We will be working on scheduling a followup meeting ”

In a closing commentary, Linde offers two scenarios for survival, the council can modify its bylaws and work at becoming more inclusive, or break away from COG entirely and reform as a general-purpose Pagan organization for the region. Looking at recent conversations at their Facebook group, it seems like both options have their proponents. COG is a vibrant organization that is doing important work in the Pagan community, and beyond, and it could be seen as a step backward for the national body if they were to lose a local council in what is commonly considered a thriving hub of Midwestern Paganism. What happens next is uncertain, though another meeting is scheduled for the Summer to discuss proposals. Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for future developments.

Z. Budapest Wants “Theft” of “We All Come From The Goddess” to Stop: Dianic elder Z. Budapest has issued a statement calling for an end to alternate versions and unlicensed recordings of her chant “We All Come From The Goddess,” saying that, quote, “It is my intellectual property. it is NOT a folk song, which by the way is the fate of many composers whose songs are stolen.” Budapest further stated that to “steal my song from now will have consequences. You put men into the song, like God, a hex will be activated.”


“Theft is theft. I cannot be everywhere, but i have experienced women making up new words,attaching it to my song that NEEDS NO attachments. Have you ever heard a man writing a song about the gods, and then put females in it?? Never. So stop you generosity attacks with my songs, write an original .Men who had Mozart and Schubert amongst them,surely will come up with their own songs .  Women like to give away and include but please do it with your own intellectual property.  I wrote that song for the Goddess worshipping women. Its gone around the globe. I don’t mind you singing it, only selling it and not giving me credit. Its a sacred song, and i will protect it! Speak up when you hear this song abused, and write to me. Blesssed be!”

When asked for clarification, Budapest said that she “wanted the song to be OUT there and reach everybody. The Goddess includes all of us. Just don’t try to ad on ‘god’ stuff.” So I assume she means alternate versions like “We All Come From the Horned God” that have been created over the years. Does this “hex” also include “Hoof and Horn,” a chant often intertwined with “We All Come From the Goddess”?  Certainly it is her right to assert copyright and demand fair credit, though I wonder if the toothpaste can be pushed back in the tube when it comes to variants and performances of them in the Pagan community.

Other Community Notes:

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

In the interests of keeping my readers abreast of the conversations centered around the 2012 PantheaCon in San Jose, where debate, protest, and controversy emerged around a scheduled “genetic women only” ritual led by Dianic elder Z. Budapest, I have rounded up a number of statements and meditations on the subject. I will start by sharing essays and posts by those who were at the 2012 PantheaCon, and then move to opinions and commentary by interested parties who were not in attendance.

  • Jonathan Korman of Solar Cross has penned an open letter to Glenn Turner and the other organizers of PantheaCon. In it he runs through the issue as he understands it, and ends with a call for an apology from PantheaCon, an apology and recantation from Z. Budapest if she wants to continue participating in that convention, and a clearer policy statement regarding what’s appropriate for restricted attendance rituals.
  • David Shorey, who participated in the silent protest led by T. Thorn Coyle, shares his experiences of that evening. His post begins with a quote by Howard Zinn: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”
  • Crystal Blanton, writing at Daughters of Eve, offers a mediation on discrimination. Quote: “We judge one another in order to define who is Black enough, spiritual enough, Pagan enough or oppressed enough and we miss the mark on the true gift of our community.  The best gift that we can give is to love more, understand more, empathize more , show more, give more, listen more, connect more and even identify more with those who have experienced this here journey called life.”
  • Sexuality educator Charlie Glickman pens an open letter to Z. Budapest. Quote: “When you told us that you are not the enemy of transgender people, I wanted to take you at your word. But I see your actions and I see a disconnect between the two. If you want me to not see you as the enemy of transgender people, then I invite you to not do the things that their enemies do. I invite you to use language that doesn’t rely on seeing transgender people as abnormal or deviant. I invite you to use language that reflects the genetic diversity that complicates our cultural notions of sex and gender. And I invite you to model that for your communities so that gender equality can flourish.”
  • Devin Hunter, who was part of the inclusive ritual held at the same time as Z’s ritual, and who held space between those sitting in silence, and those attending the ritual, writes about his experience of that evening. Quote: “After the ritual we came out to find several people who were not only upset with us for showing up at Z’s space before her statement but condemning us for doing so- shouting, “Liars” and “Biggots” at myself and temple members. One trans woman even felt the need to cuss me out as I tried to explain that we were not there in support of Z or anyone else but to be there in support of change. “ I was there!” she shouted “ So was I!” I responded.”
  • Tim Titus at The Juggler notes that there was unity in diversity at PantheaCon, and that for many, this debate wasn’t on their radar.
  • Draeden Wren shares her experiences at PantheaCon, including a discussion with Z. Budapest.
  • Storm Faerywolf, who was part of the inclusive ritual, and was also part of the contingent “holding the center,” shares his perspective of that evening, and of the issues surrounding it. Quote: “What is the answer in this? I know only of the first step: listening. It is a theme that has come up for me again, and again. In order to truly heal our wounds we need to be heard, we need to know that our feelings have been truly witnessed. I was there to bear witness… to Z… to the protesters… to those who chose to participate in Z’s ritual. I was there to witness them all… and to them all I send my love. I will not choose the road of hate. While that is an easy road to follow I know all too well where it leads. I choose the road of love.”
  • Teo Bishop from Bishop in the Grove, who sat with the protesters, has written up his experience of the evening. It is matter-of-fact, and essential reading for anyone who is interested in what exactly happened.

For more conversations from con participants, you may want to check out the PantheaCon Facebook Group.

Considering the nature of this discussion, and the prominence of those involved, it’s natural that many other Pagans who weren’t at PantheaCon would have an opinion about the ritual, the protest, and Z. Budapest’s words. Here are some of the more notable instances.

There’s even more out there, but I think this gives a pretty good picture of the conversation that has developed so far. If you have written something and would like me to include it in future roundups, you can either email me, or leave a link in the comments. As I’ve said previously, I want The Wild Hunt to be a space where all voices can come to be heard, in hopes of encouraging productive dialog and working towards understandings that collectively enrich us.

I’d also like to note that I will also have coverage of other events, talks, and panels that have taken place at PantheaCon 2012 coming up, but that this conversation has become so wide-ranging and intense that I felt it irresponsible to not do an update. I will do future updates on this as needed, in addition to working on sharing other important developments that emerged from the past weekend. I’d also like to remind everyone to keep comments here civil, as they have largely been, and to be generous in interpreting someone’s else’s words.

Back in October I reported on the formation/reformation of the American Council of Witches (aka the Council of American Witches), a body initially founded in 1973 by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, shortly after his initiation into the American Celtic tradition of Witchcraft by Lady Sheba. This new council, according to a press release, would update the Thirteen Principles of Belief (aka Principles of Wiccan Belief) for military and prison chaplains, and “engage in an interfaith dialogue to identify and address the legal and social needs of members of our religions”. However, almost from the beginning questions and concerns were raised about the goals, structure, and purpose of this renewed US American Council of Witches. The main Pagan media outlet investigating and reporting on the issues raised was The Modern Witch Podcast, hosted by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, who questioned the new council’s founder, Kaye Berry, about concerns raised by the wider Pagan community.

“As the council does not have a website with the appropriate information, the community has been directed to e-mail the organization, or to visit the Facebook page for the council. As community members began to ask questions on the page via posts or comments, these questions were deleted and members banned without their questions being addressed. Screening comments for profanities and ill-will is one thing, but why ban and delete the posts of pagan community members, press, and leaders who are asking for clarification?”

Now it seems like the US American Council of Witches has truly collapsed under scrutiny. The Facebook presence for the council has disappeared, as noted by a watchdog group formed by those with questions and concerns, and two of the most high-profile names associated with the council, Oberon Zell and Kenny Klein, have issued a joint statement cutting ties with the group, and recommending that all work on it be abandoned.

“Considering the controversies and ill-will that this project has engendered within the Pagan community, it is our joint opinion that the US American Council of Witches can no longer be regarded as a viable enterprise, and we strongly recommend that the entire project be abandoned at this time and the USACW be dissolved.”

You can read the entire statement here, or here. Rowan Pendragon, who was one of the more visable Pagan media members asking questions, and who signed on with the public statement put out by Zell and Klein, had this to add.

“Also, understand this, because this is something that I have been slammed for in all of this.  I am not at all against the vision of an interfaith Pagan organization to help foster positive and productive interactions between Pagans and the greater community.  In fact I have always embraced such endeavors and have been involved in a few myself.  The problem with USACW was how it was handled, how it attempted to get off the ground, and how its leader chose to interact with the very community she was claiming to help.

There is no ego or power trip here on my part, as has been suggested.  I don’t want to head anything like this myself (been there, done that, and I know how hard it is).  And again, I have no personal vendetta against anyone involved in the Council or the Council itself.  I am all for furthering our community with positive and sincere organizations and actions.  This, unfortunately, was not that.  I do think it’s unfortunate to see the whole thing become lost, but that’s just how this has panned out for now.  The project and its vision are certainly worth saving and considering under the right type of leadership.  One day that may happen, but that day is certainly not today and that lead is certainly not Kaye Berry.”

As a somewhat distant observer to the rise and fall of the US American Council of Witches, I think it provides an object lesson in how much our community of interconnected faith traditions has changed since the 1970s. Simply put, there’s a far greater expectation of transparency, ongoing communication, and engagement than in the past. The days of semi-obscured leadership councils is over, if indeed they were ever sustainable to begin with. I think it is telling that one “council” that has weathered the years is the Covenant of The Goddess, which operates by consensus process, has clearly defined goals, and is transparent about its workings (indeed, reporters have been welcomed to observe their last two Grand Councils). The resistance to openness by this new council may have doomed it from the start. What was once an initiative to restart a part of Pagan community history has instead become a cautionary tale of how not to start a pan-Pagan (or pan-Wiccan) organization.

Earlier this evening a live Google+ video interview/”hangout” with GOP Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and members of the Pagan media was held. Pagan media organizations participating in the Q&A with the former New Mexico Governor included Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota, Star Foster of Patheos.com, Devin Hunter of ModernWitch Podcast, David Salisbury of PNC-Washinton DC, Crystal Blanton of PNC-Bay Area, and myself. In addition, Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American Foundation also took part. The conference was streamed and recorded by Keith Barrett, and you can watch the entire press conference embedded below (or at this link).

There was also a post-conference podcast hosted by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon where participants shared their thoughts on the event.

A number of issues were discussed, including religious freedom, the rights of minority religions, LGBTQ rights, drug policy, education, taxes, and much, much, more. Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota in the coming days for more details.

Aside from the political issues discussed, I think this is a big step forward for Pagan media on the Internet, and does much to establish ourselves as a community with serious concerns that deserve to be addressed on a national level. My thanks to Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota, who did a marvelous job moderating, for making this happen.

ADDENDUM: The story has been picked up by The Hill.

The former New Mexico governor spoke with members of the Pagan Newswire Collective, ModernWitch Podcast, and Patheos.com, among others. He said it was important to reach out to voters that fall outside the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, while slamming his own party for being too beholden to the Christian right. “I think the world looks down on Republicans for their socially conservative views, which includes religion in government,” Johnson said. “I think that should not play a role in any of this. When Republicans talk about values – you know what? I bet you and I have the same values.”

So it looks like talking to Pagans will gain you some attention.

ADDENDUM II: You can now read a full transcript of the conference, here.

“You know all I have is my own experience and my own experience would be having been Gov. of New Mexico two terms I did not get the social conservative vote in New Mexico in the primary. I ended up getting the social conservative vote in the general election because then it seems like all the Republicans took on their second most important issue which was dollars and cents. And I really thought .. I really think I excelled in the area of dollars and cents. As Gov. of New Mexico it just wasn’t an issue ever. It wasn’t an issue when it came to filling my cabinet, filling the heads of agency. It was never an issue when it came to filling boards and commissions. It just wasn’t an issue. And I don’t expect it to be different as President of the United States. It’s just not a consideration. It’s just not something I ask of people and for the most part most people don’t volunteer it. All though there are those that do. It’s not something that I consider in my actions my appointments.”

A big thank-you to Masery at the Staff of Asclepius blog!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note 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!

Top Story: Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has recently returned from the first International Conference on Transforming Conflict in Amman, Jordan. The event centered on dialogues with youth and adults from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries, for which McCollum served as a speaker and facilitator. “It is clear to me that the younger generation in particular, has a clearer vision of what it means to be a global citizen, and it is this shift, in my opinion, that gives us hope for a better future” said McCollum, praising the Arab and Israeli youth who attended the conference. During the conference McCollum also met and spoke with Sharif Zeid Bin Hussein, the cousin of King Hussein the II, and former Jordanian Prime Minster Taher Nashat al-Masri.

Patrick McCollum with Taher al-Masri

“His Excellency was very gracious in his invitation to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussions. Over the course of the evening, we touched on US-Arab relations, the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the part youth has played in the Arab Spring revolutions and beyond, and new ways to move forward toward peace.”

In addition to his work at the conference, McCollum also met with local Bedouins, and visited the famous sacred sites Petra, Mt. Nebo, and one of the possible sites of Jesus’s baptism by John. In summing up his trip and experiences, McCollum said that “it is clear to me that I will return once again to the Middle East, not only to Jordan, but also to visit Palestine and Israel. And I look forward to once again to be present in the company of the many new friends I’ve made in each of these countries. I firmly believe that drawing on the touchstone of our common humanity, rather than focusing on the age-old narrative of our geographical and cultural differences, is the key to world peace.” The Patrick McCollum Foundation blog is now posting his daily thoughts from the trip if you’d like to know more about his experiences in Jordan, and the work of the conference.

In Other News:

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

 

Our modern society is both fascinated and repulsed by the practice of polygamy (multiple-partner marriages), particularly the practices of fundamentalist Mormons, who allow polygyny (one husband, many wives), and who have been given both sympathetic (Big Love, Sister Wives) and critical (any number of documentaries and news reports) treatment by mainstream media. While the custom of monogamy has been called “ridiculous” by some, and perhaps even unnatural by others, non-monogamous relationships have been generally been portrayed as either lurid fantasy, inherently abusive, or yet another step on a slippery slope towards cultural ruin (particularly within the context of the same-sex marriage debate). Recently, Mormon polygamists have been fighting to decriminalize what they see as a consensual relationship model, arguing that allegations of abuse within these structures should be dealt with separately from the issue of multiple-marriage. In Canada a high-profile decriminalization case is currently before the British Columbia Supreme Court, and now the multiple-partner family behind  Sister Wives has filed suit to challenge Utah’s law against bigamy.

“Attorney Jonathan Turley told the Associated Press that he believes the family’s case represents the strongest challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in federal courts. It builds on a 2003 case in which the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws as a violation of privacy. “We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Brown said in the attorney’s statement.”

As this issue over polygamy, and whether or not it should be decriminalized, heats up, some Pagans are wondering how these developments will affect our interconnected communities, and whether our general acceptance of non-monogamous relationship models will cause reverberations we can’t predict. While polygamy is not a common practice within contemporary Pagan religions, polyamorous groups can often be found. Polyamory is a consensual multiple-partner relationship model that rejects the patriarchal, and sometimes abusive, forms of traditional polygamy that most people envision (polyamory widely values transparency and honesty, along with what’s known as “compersion”). Several prominent Pagans are polyamorous, including Oberon and Morning Glory ZellRaven Kaldera (author of “Pagan Polyamory”), Phaedra Bonewits, and her late husband, the author Isaac Bonewits. Around 30% of poly families identify as Pagan according to one survey conducted in 2002. So as polyamory gets drawn into the polygamy decriminalization battles, it seems likely that poly Pagans will play a role, whether chosen or not. Already, Pagan families and clergy in Canada have filed affidavits of support in the decriminalization case there, and Craig Jones, lead attorney for the B.C. Attorney General’s office, made very clear that polyamorous families would be treated like polygamous families in the eyes of the law.

When multi-partner, conjugal relationships are like “duplicative marriages,” Jones said they are criminal regardless of whether the individuals are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Although he said ‘duplicative marriage’ need not be “exhaustively defined in advance,” Jones said all conjugal relationships involving more than two people are criminal if they go beyond “mere cohabitation” and have some form of imposed consequences related to entering or remaining in the relationship.”

In talking with several polyamorous Pagan individuals for this article I found some apprehension and mixed emotions about being seen as allied with polygamous Mormon groups. While some, like Natalie Smith, think that if “people on the ‘outside’ were to see two opposite groups like Mormons and Pagans working side-by-side towards a common goal, it is more likely to help someone think.” Others, like Jonathan Korman, feel conflicted about making common cause with polygamists.

“I can conceive of legal efforts which serve both groups’ interests, but I have difficulty imagining it politically. The movements have different cultural aims and have different relationships with the society at large. People in each movement tend to find the practices of the other distasteful, making any alliance fraught. Both groups would hesitate to focus only on tactics which support both groups. Both groups may fear that it will compromise their efforts if the public foresees benefits to the other group.”

That said, all the polyamorous Pagans I talked to supported decriminalization, and were in favor of creating a legal framework for legal multiple-partner marriages. Storm Faerywolf, an initiate of the Feri tradition of Witchcraft, noted that “adult individuals should have the right to enter into whatever contracts they choose,” while Pagan podcaster and metaphysical shop manager Devin Hunter emphasized that “in a perfect world this would not even be a question. The rights of a minority group should never be in the hands of the majority. Plural marriages should absolutely be legal within the system, and at the very least it should become decriminalized.” While none of the individuals I talked to held much credence with the slippery slope arguments put forward by figures like Archbishop Timothy Dolan, one respondent, David Shorey, did point out that the “dominant paradigm still revolves around a polar perspective,” and “those who have adopted the polar perspective will see two men or two women fitting into that.” In short, any relationship that exceeds two partners breaks the mold many are comfortable with.

Shorey’s musings on the “polar perspective” seems to tie into some further comments made by Korman, who broached the question of if this issue of multiple-partner marriages touches on a much larger question of the current legal limitations in defining relationship models outside what some may be accustomed to.

“The law currently supports a very limited vocabulary of personal relationships with enforced rights and obligations. We have legal rules for blood relations, for adoptive parents, and for married couples, but almost no other legal support for personal relationships. I believe that many people sense that this gives us too limited a vocabulary for dealing with the complexity of people’s lives but lack a framework for thinking about it. Many people who reach for same-sex civil unions as a compromise may feel open to more sophisticated ways of thinking about how the law addresses our relationships.

Polyamory constitutes a direct confrontation with questions about how we define our relationships. It says that we should not accept that our loving relationships must conform to a single standard. From that rejection of the cookie-cutter relationship standard follows hard personal and cultural questions about how we want relationships to work. Cultural conservatives find these questions frightening; without the standards they know and recognize, they fear that we would have no ethical standards at all. But many other people feel that the conception of marriage offered to them does not serve their needs but cannot imagine alternatives. Perhaps same-sex marriage has opened the door to more people thinking about these questions, creating an opportunity for a broader cultural conversation about the cultural and legal implications of polyamorous families. We may see a growing fascination with poly families coming, as people respond to them as a way to talk about the questions they encounter in their own relationships.”

As this conversation moves forward, can polyamorous Pagans bring more complexity, nuance, and new ideas to the table? So far, the lion’s share of attention has been on contrasting monogamy with abusive forms of polygamy, but shouldn’t there be room to consider that there are other models of multiple-partner families, and that blanket laws against polygamy also impact their lives as well? In defining polyamory, the poly Pagans I talked to described it as “the admission that honesty is more important than monogamy, “ that “each individual member among the relationship shares in responsibility equally,” and is “focused on the individual and their ability to have mutiple loving relationships.” This seems a far cry from the abusive compound narrative often presented when talk of decriminalizing polygamy comes up, and should not be ignored as this debate continues to gain attention.

Whether Pagans wish it or not, the coming polygamy decriminalization fight will have ramifications that will need to be addressed. Many Pagan clergy members bless multiple-partner marriages, many polyamorous families are Pagan, and in Canada, it has been made clear that distinctions between polygamy and polyamory won’t be recognized should the relationships evolve beyond mere “cohabitation.” While the Utah “Sister Wives” case may be something that Pagan communities in the United States can largely avoid, that is no promise the issue will remain dormant, especially if the Canada legal case ends up in the Canadian Supreme Court and results in polygamy being decriminalized. Many of the polyamorous Pagans I talked to said that the time for more vocal activism on this issue was now, for Devin Hunter “the time has come to become even more vocal, “ while Natalie Smith, when asked about being vocal, said that “the road to equality lies through the fields of visibility.” The question is whether Pagan leaders, clergy, and organizations will be willing or able to join them on that road.

If one topic dominated the Pagan web this week it has to be repercussions over the exclusion of transgendered women at a public women-only ritual during this year’s PantheaCon, and the subsequent discussions between Dianic Goddess worshipers, transgender advocates, and eventually, Pagans of all stripes, that emerged from it. When I first mentioned the matter on Sunday, only a few sites were addressing the issue, that ballooned by Tuesday, grew further the next day once official statements were released by CAYA Coven and PantheaCon organizers, and has now gone truly viral in scope. One of my entries relating to this discussion has garnered around 400 comments, and the topic is buzzing on Pagan blogs, social networks, e-lists, and message boards.

I’m going to provide a fresh round-up of voices on this issue, but first I wanted to quickly touch on why this one incident, clearly not intended to cause hurt or offense by CAYA organizers, has grown into a far larger conversation than many could have foreseen. In short, CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.

Here are a new batch of links relating to this discussion:

We are at a crossroads now with this discussion, and despite a few sour notes, most of exchanges I’ve seen have been reasoned, open, empathetic, passionate, and willing to create a dialog that is inclusive and productive. I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. I think the future that Foxfetch demands will become a reality far quicker than any of us might realize, and that modern Paganism, a movement so ready to accept change, challenges, and differences, yet still remain identifiable and vital, will ultimately benefit from it. The collective maturity and willingness we’ve displayed so far in these discussions is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this time they will say “this is when transgendered Pagans began to receive the full embrace and respect of their coreligionists.”