Archives For Diana Paxson

“That’s why fiction is so important. It strongly affects people in ways they may not be consciously aware of at the time.” S.M. Stirling

ATLANTA, Ga. – Navigating controversies in established religions is challenging enough, hashing them out while the religious communities are still forming and creating their own identities can be downright brutal. Presently, Heathen communities have been discussing the ethics behind the barring of entry based on race, ethnicity, nationality and other similar criteria. The majority reportedly feel this is unacceptable, while a minority still posits that ties to genetic ancestors are important.

Could narrative stories help our communities examine these types of questions? Scientists are finding that we are more receptive to new ideas when they are presented within works of fiction, rather than by factual medium such as a news report. In a recent interview conducted at DragonCon, The Wild Hunt talked with author S.M. Stirling about the unconventional Heathen characters found in his Emberverse series including his newest book, The Prince of Outcasts.

The entire Emberverse series is popular with Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists, because it spells out one particiular collective fantasy: what would it be like to live in a community where our religion was dominant?

Emberverse is a work of post-apocalyptic fiction set in what was the United States. A mysterious event happens across the globe that causes electricity, gunpowder, cars, and all the things that make modern life possible stop working. As a results, 90% of the population dies off within one year due to starvation and disease. Those that survive “The Change,” as the event becomes known, band together in small, isolated groups and form new, surprising cultures. Religion, especially modern Pagan religions, are central to the series and, as such, Pagans take center stage as the heroes. Wiccans, who are the majority in the US, are also the majority of Pagans in the Emberverse. There are also Heathens, Hellenics, and polytheists of other varieties throughout the series.

Two of the main Heathen characters in Stirling’s later books fall outside of the expected character norm. Fredrick Thurston is Black; Doer Godulfson is gay. Both are leaders respected by their communities.

Thurston is the President of the United States of Boise, roughly what’s left of Idaho and a bit of the surrounding states. What makes his character so interesting is that readers are along for the ride during his conversion to Heathenry. He is religiously questing, looking for something that speaks to his spirit. A Wiccan character that he encounters notes that Thurston’s last name means ‘stone of Thor,’ and perhaps he should look in that direction for a spiritual home. Thurston does, causing him to have a direct and powerful encounter with a Heathen deity.

The book allows the character to explore, for a bit, what it means to be a Black Heathen. His experiences and devotion to the Gods, which is reciprocated, leave no doubt that Thurston has found his spiritual home. His religion strengthens him and its ethics guide him during the difficult struggles ahead as he tries to reunite his country and defeat his enemies.

[Courtesy graphic]

US after The Change [Courtesy graphic]

Stirling said that it seemed natural to have Thurston’s character embrace Heathenry, ”The way characters work in my head is that I have an idea of the character and then I think of them doing X, Y, or zed and it will either feel right or feel wrong. That felt right.” The other Heathen characters that Thurston meets also see his religious affiliation as natural.

Stirling added that there’s nobody on earth whose ancestors were all followers of the Germanic pantheons. Like most every other modern day Heathen, Thurston’s mixed heritage means he must decide which heritage he wished to emphasize.

When asked if he has received any negative comments from readers regarding Thurston, he said, “Only comments that it was good to see someone discovering Heathenry, and Diana Paxson liked the character. I consulted her on that stuff a fair bit.”

Not only does Stirling consult with Heathens, such as Diana Paxson, to create realistic characters and not misstep on depicting the religion, Paxson actually created the the character Doer Godulfson and his best friend, Thora Garwood.

“Diana came up with them for the story she wrote for the Change anthology and I was taken with them. So I asked for her permission and she said I could use them,” said Stirling, explaining how the two characters ended up in his novels.

Godulfson is from Mist Hills, a Heathen community in what is presently southern California. He’s a sop, or what might be more commonly known as a bard. He’s as valued for his fighting skills as for his singing and ability to read runes. He’s also gay.

If you’re expecting angst over his sexual orientation, you won’t find it in Stirling’s novels. Godulfson, like Thurston, is comfortable in his own skin and steadfast in his faith. Both characters are accepted within their religious communities without incident or reservation.


SM Stirling [Courtesy]

That view of inclusive, but deeply devout Heathenry, appears to have been another nudge from Paxson. Stirling said that, while he uses the internet or relies on a Heathen friend for day to day information on Heathenry, he goes straight to Paxson for deeper Heathen philosophy.

Recently, Paxson posted her thoughts on inclusive Heathenry and the maintenance of the tribal nature of the religion, on Facebook.  She wrote:

A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends quoted a paragraph by Steve McNallen in which he asked why, if it is all right for Native Americans to reserve religious practices for tribal members, it is not ok for Northern Europeans to do the same. She felt there was something wrong with that stand, but couldn’t find an argument.

I think I may have found one. Just as she was willing to listen to what Mr. McNallen had to say, I hope that those of you who identify as folkish Heathens will consider my reasoning. I welcome polite discussion.

First, a little background. During the 70s, I worked on several projects developing Career Education curriculum materials for Native American students. Our team was a mix of Native Americans and European Americans, and we field tested our materials at reservation and urban schools. Assuming that in most cases the teacher would be European, the approach I came up with was to put everyone on an equal footing by comparing how both the teacher and students’ ancestors used their available resources and technology to solve problems of housing, transportation, etc., with the way that all of us, with modern technology and resources, do today.

Like many others, at the time I was strongly attracted by tribal ways. At the pow wows I saw a number of people who clearly had a lot of European blood who were dancing and participating as accepted members of the tribe. Most of them were, or were children of, people who had “married in”, but not all. I was already married, and I did not feel called to walk “the good red road”. What I really wanted  to wear to the pow wows was my own tribal garb–  my medieval European gear from the SCA.

When we started field testing the curriculum I noticed a difference in how our project was received on the reservation and in the urban Indian centers. In the city, they wanted to know how much Indian blood our team members had. On the reservation, they just wanted to know whether the materials would help their children.

On the reservation the first question to ask a newcomer was “Who are you related to?” and relationship could be claimed through marriage or adoption. This reflected a long-standing tradition among many tribes, who in the old days might adopt especially courageous enemies, or even raid other tribes for people to replace lost population. The focus on blood quantum looks to me like the result of the legal requirements for tribal membership (and rights to land, lawsuit settlements and the like) established by the BIA and other government agencies.  I suspect that using DNA to define identity is a Euro-American idea. While I cannot speak for Native Americans, and certainly do not mean to say that all or even any would agree with me, from the outside, it looks as if tribal identity is much more a matter of personal and cultural connection.

So if adopting genetically unrelated people who are willing to participate fully in your culture into your tribe may happen among Native Americans who are following their tribal religions, then yes, Euro-American Heathens should be able to do it as well.

Going back to the original question: can a work of fiction help communities better examine the questions and controversies that they face? Can the Emberverse series help non-Pagan or Heathen communities better understand these minority religions? And,can it help Pagans and Heathens better examine themselves?

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Review: The latest book in the Emberverse series, Prince of Outcasts was released today, and takes up where the previous two books, The Golden Princess and The Desert and the Blade, leave off. The Outcasts takes place 46 years (and 12 novels) after the first book, Dies the Fire. It features Princess Órlaith, heir to a kingdom that stretches across most of the former western USA and her Knight Heuradys, who stay mostly in the former USA. While Prince John, Doer Godulfson, and Thora Garwood are lost at sea and end up near the kingdom of Capricornia in Australia. There are bad guys, a brewing war, witchcraft, battling Gods, and new cultures and religions to enjoy.

Like all the Emberverse books, The Prince of Outcasts is well-developed and the depiction of Pagan religions is well presented. It is an exceptional view of the daily life of Pagans and Heathens living among thriving communities of co-religionists. The action is enough to keep you going, but develops at a fairly leisurely pace. If you haven’t read any of the series, start with either Dies the Fire or jump to The Golden Princess.

Book:  The Prince of Outcasts
Author:  S.M. Stirling
Publish Date:  September 6, 2016
Sample Chapters
Author’s Yahoo Group
Previous coverage of S.M. Stirling: Author’s Books Change Opinions About Paganism; Review of The Golden Princess

Circle Sanctuary logoCircle Sanctuary has announced the launch of its new membership program. Since its founding in 1974, Circle has been an open organization that has relied predominantly on donations, volunteerism and community support without any form of official membership needed. At Imbolc, organizers officially changed Circle’s traditional structure. In a press release, they wrote, “By creating a more formal membership program, we can open stronger channels of communication; learn from our members about how we can support their spiritual and personal development; and focus on members’ needs now and in the times to come.”

Membership is open to a wide variety of people, limited only by a willingness to agree to “a set of three basic ethical tenets” involving nature, respect and inclusivity. Organizers said, “Circle Sanctuary’s community has always been diverse, including Pagans, Wiccans, Druids, Polytheists,Heathens, Unitarian Universalists, Witches, Humanists, Shamanic practitioners and many other names and paths. Within Circle Sanctuary we come together with a common intention to honor the Divine in Nature and create community together. Our membership program continues this tradition of honoring the diversity.”

Organizers were also quick to add, “Circle Sanctuary will continue to serve Pagans of many paths and places, regardless of membership.” Their events, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering, will continue to be open to everyone. Details on joining and on other Circle programs can be found online.

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trothAfter the Jan 10 posting of controversial statements by Asatru Folk Assembly’s Steve McNallen, a wave of backlash and debate erupted throughout the Heathen world. As we previously reported, Heathens United Against Racism publicly responded with a strong response to McNallen’s comments. And, since early January the issue has not abated, with many Heathens adding to the growing public discussion on racism and the support of fascism within their religious communities.

More recently, on Jan 30, Troth Steersman Steve T. Abell posted a response to the situation on Patheos’ Agora, saying, “We have some colorful characters in the Heathen community.” The article, which calls out several members of the Heathen community by name, set off another round of arguments and more backlash. In response, The Troth as an organization posted a reaffirmation of its mission statement, and Redesman John T Mainer published an official response in an essay titled, “The High Cost of Rhetoric.”

Since that point, Heathens and Pagans alike have been weighing in on the volatile situation, including long time Troth member Diana Paxson. Speaking only for herself, Paxson wrote in a Facebook post, “Heathens are known for the variety and vividness of our opinions, and even those who are members of the Troth do not always agree. But the policies of the organization reflect the will of its members. […] If the Troth is to continue to support toleration and respect for all, all those who oppose racism need to stick with the organization and make their opinions known.”

The conversation is ongoing with many Heathens and others sharing stories and opinions on both McNallen’s original post and the follow-up response by various Troth members. How and if this will affect The Troth as an organization or the Heathen community as a whole is still unknown.

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ArcanaThe Academy of Arcana‘s museum containing “Morning Glory’s 40 year collection of Goddess Statues” is now officially opened. The Museum of Myth, Magick & Mysterie, as it has been named, held its grand opening Feb. 7 at 3:00 pm. Attendees were able to look at 366 goddess statues collected by Morning Glory over the years.

The ribbon cutting event was hosted by curator Oberon Zell and coordinator Anne Duthers, and was followed by a reception and guest presentation by Witch Elder Dr. Zsuzsanna E Budapest on “The Politics of Women’s Myths.” The academy, along with its curio shop and museum, are located at 428-A Front St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060. It is the “first physical campus for the Grey School of Wizardry, offering an educational center with a Museum of Myth, Magick and Mysterie, and a Library of Esoterica.”

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Ägyptischer_Maler_um_1360_v._Chr._001We are currently researching a breaking story in which a Pagan Facebook group was shut down because it “violated community standards.” The group’s name is “Following Isis” and was created for those people who are devotees of the Egyptian goddess. As we have reported in the past, it is not uncommon for the goddess Isis to be confused with Daesh, the terrorist organization more typically referred to as ISIS. We are currently in touch with the Facebook group owners and will follow up as we learn more.

In Other News

  • The Adocentyn Research Library, located in California, has been quietly building its collection over the past few years and is now up to 13,000 volumes. Its goal is to become the “premier Pagan research center in the Western US.” The library is managed by a non-profit organization and relies on donations of both money and materials. The management team recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise more awareness and funds toward the goal of finally opening its doors. Over the weekend, The New Alexandrian Library, a corresponding entity located on the East Coast, donated $250 to the cause with the words “in unity and support of the great work for the community.”
  • PantheaCon gets underway this Friday in San Jose, California. If you are attending, don’t forget to come out and meet The Wild Hunt writers on Saturday, from 5-6 p.m. in the Hexenfest Suite. We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people.
  • Speaking of PantheaCon, the Mills College Pagan Alliance met its fundraising goal in just 6 days and will be able to attend PantheaCon after all. Kristen Oliver called it “a blessing” and said that the group of women attending were extremely thankful for the support.
  • As Valentine’s Day nears, the Huffington Post decided to look into the meaning of Pagan handfastings.The article, titled “Here’s Why Couples Tie Their Hands Together During Pagan Weddings,” contains quotes and photos from both Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox and New York-based Witch Courtney Weber. Fox is quoted as saying, “In many ceremonies, the couple faces each associated direction as I do the blessing, concluding with being at the altar for the blessing of Spirit.” And, Weber, who shared photos from her own recent handfasting, said, “The use of the elementals encourages a balanced, healthy relationship […] When all parts are working together — earth, air, fire, water, and spirit — they created [sic] a holistic world that allows the couple to breathe, move, function and grow together.”
  • Dr. Ruth Lindley, a UK-based historian is looking to interview “women whose spiritual practices focus on, or relate to, ‘the Goddess’, for [her] PhD research on religion and spirituality.”  As posted on the blog Medusa’s Coils, Dr. Lindley, Ph.D, of the Department of History, University of Birmingham said, “[My] will challenge current scholarship on religious change in modern Britain, especially in relation to women’s experiences of faith from the 1960s to the present day.”  She is specifically “looking for participants based in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.” To get involved, contact her directly at
  • The Glastonbury Goddess Temple, which was featured in our report on the legality of handfastings in England, launched a new website for its 21st annual Goddess Festival. The summer event will “honour Goddess as Lady of Avalon, Nolava of the Sacred Land,” and will take place from July 26 to 31. Included in the festival’s activities are presentations, workshops and performances by many speakers, artists, and musicians, including “Starhawk, Carolyn Hillyer, ALisa Starweather, Rith Barrett, Jana Runnalls, Kathy Jones, Kellianna, Katinka Soetens, Luciana Percovich, Lydia Ruyle, and Falcon River”  More information is available at the Temple’s new website.

[Today we welcome guest writer Lilith Dorsey M.A. Dorsey hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I, New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria, also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. Lilith Dorsey is a Voodoo Priestess and is the editor/publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly, filmmaker of the experimental documentary Bodies of Water:Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, author of Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism, 55 Ways to Connect to Goddess, and The African-American Ritual Cookbook, and choreographer for jazz legend Dr. John’s “Night Tripper” Voodoo Show. You can find on her blog Voodoo Universe.]

Possession seems to be all the rage lately, well maybe it always was. People are in awe of the power to connect with the divine. As a Voodoo/Vodou practitioner and priestess for over two decades I have seen many possessions both real and exaggerated. I have seen possession as a way to connect, to heal, to receive blessed messages from the divine, and unfortunately I have also seen people feign trance in an effort for attention.

One particularly powerful ritual I attended many years ago was for Ogou, the Vodou Lwa of Iron and the white hot forge. Ogou is a warrior, and I knew the night was going to be an interesting one. I stepped on a carpet tack fairly early in the evening, and the blood coming from my foot was a “red flag”  for me.

[Photo Credit: Sam Mugraby, CC  via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Sam Mugraby, CC via Wikimedia]

There were several possessions that night. The first, I remember, was from a friend to whom I had passed the ritual machete. He later recalled that he was instantly transported to the trenches of World War I with his life on the line, like he was living out an old film. He felt a great insight into himself and into the past after that moment.

Another incident that I recall from that night was even more powerful. I probably wouldn’t even be speaking of it had it not occurred so many years ago and with such healing results. The next person to wield the machete had been experiencing some powerful transformations the week before. Unknown to most of us, he had tried to take his own life with a blade only days before. As he held the ritual iron, he later said, that he felt not the damage the weapon could do, but only the good. This force had changed for him in that single moment to one of protection and healing. I am happy to say he is still with us today.

I have also been party to many ridiculous possessions. At one Lucumi (more commonly referred to as Santeria) ceremony in Harlem, a few of the women in attendance grabbed their breasts, shouted unintelligibly, and demanded everyone’s complete attention. Attending Santeros and Santeras called these “possessions” visitations by Santa Borraccha  or Saint drunk woman.

Unfortunately, these type possessions are not limited to the Afro-Caribbean pantheon. One fond memory comes from a Pagan event where a friend and I listened to someone perform a session of amateur mediumship and, then, answer questions from the crowd. My friend fell asleep., Then, woke up several minutes later and said out loud, “This is crap.” That was one of the best moments ever – hands down.

These are humorous moments; however, they bring up real questions about spiritual possession. Who are we connecting with? Why? And, how are the safest ways to get there in a genuine and respectful way? Entire books can and have been written on this subject.

In anthropology the phenomenon of possession has been studied almost from its very beginnings. It is an elusive topic however, and how people create magick and meaning from it is always changing as well. Some like to academically classify it by its function, comparing it to a form of group therapy where public witnessing can perform a public good. There is an argument there, but for those who have actually been party to it, it is so much more than that.

Avant-Garde filmmaker, anthropologist and Vodou Priestess Maya Deren called possession the “white darkness,” and positioned it as the ultimate goal of practitioners. It is truly both a fusion and a blessing with and from the divine. For her it is about sacred thresholds and entrances.

As someone who has experienced it first hand, possession is a reciprocal, mutual, and inter-dependent abiding. A genuine blessing for those to watch and experience. Many of my colleagues feel the same, and I am fortunate enough to be able to share their experiences and thoughts about possession, proof, and prophecy with you here.

Lou Florez

Lou Florez [Courtesy Photo]

Lou Florez (Awo Ifadunsin), an internationally known speaker and lecturer of folk magic traditions of the South,  is a deeply rooted spirit worker, priest, medium, and witch. He has studied with indigenous elders and medicine holders from across the globe. Florez shared:

I view the practice less as “possession” and more as form of spiritual incorporation. Meaning that the experience isn’t about the violation of my inner sense of sovereignty, or dispossession, but rather that Spirit and I become incorporated into each other. For a brief moment there is a permeability and a dissolution of the boundaries that signify my individuated sense of self and that space allows for the reunion to occur.

Author Diana L. Paxson, an elder of the Covenant of the Goddess,The Troth and the American Magic Umbanda House, pioneered the recovery of “high-seat” seidh, the oracular tradition of ancient Scandinavia. Paxson has written works on various aspects of Pagan spirituality, including Trance-Portation and The Way of the Oracle and Possession, Depossession and Divine Relationships. Paxson said:

Diana Paxson

Diana Paxson

The fact that possessory experiences are found in every culture suggests that the capacity to experience such states is wired into our brains. What distinguishes possession as an ecstatic religious experience from possession as a personality disorder is the community context. For it to be productive, however, both the medium and the supporting team need training. With practice, it can be a valuable addition to the ways in which we connect with our gods.

Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar, Pagan legends and authors of the upcoming Lifting the Veil: A Witches’ Guide to Trance-Prophesy, Drawing Down the Moon, and Ecstatic Ritual, said:

One of the things that has surprised us most since we went down the path of exploring Trance-Possession is the level of fear that surrounds it; and this is not just coming from people who are new to the pagan path. Often suggestions that what we are teaching is ‘dangerous’ in some way has some from experienced leaders and teachers in the community.

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

We believe that much of this fear stems from the christian culture which many of us have grown up in. As hard as many try, it still bubbles up from our own shadows on occasion when that emotive word ‘possession’ is used. We believe the lack of experience and knowledge gained from exploring this area derives from the Judeo-Christian influenced western occult tradition which has labeled it as ‘left hand path’; as something evil and to be avoided.

To compound this misunderstanding further, film and television has regularly portrayed possession as process of violation where a spirit attempts to ‘own’ us body and soul. The reality is of course very different as anyone who has experienced it knows. It is in fact a deeply spiritual act where the spirit does not so much ‘possess’ the body but briefly makes use of it with the permission of the individual. In over 20 years of teaching Trance-Possession both privately and publicly, we have yet to see any form of genuine possession which resembles anything like the imagery described by the church or the media. But what we have seen is disturbed individuals in a psychological fugue state, which is very different to a genuine case of ecstatic communion with the divine – true possession.


Tehron Gillis [Courtesy Photo]

Tehron Gillis, a poet and New Orleans Voodoo devotee, added:

The term is misleading. Ownership, to who does a body or its actions belong to are irrelevant. Possession is not a physical state of being but a settlement between the self within and the self without on a common goal that neither can accomplish without the grace of the other. The cup is without purpose without water, the water is without form without the cup. Only when they are in service wholly to each other can they accomplish something greater.

Who knows where possession will take us next? At best it is a transformative ride for both the horse and rider, or human and Gods respectively. May your rides be smooth, informed, and lead you just where you need to go.

btw2015logo-tshirt-3_med-2HUNT VALLEY, MARYLAND –When at any single Pagan conference with a robust lineup of workshops, panels, and rituals, a participant might find it difficult to choose what to attend and what to pass on. When two conferences join forces, those decisions become, at very least, four times as difficult to make. Such was the experience for 3-400 people who attended the combined Sacred Space and Between the Worlds conference in Maryland this past weekend.

These two events became one this year through a combination of cooperation and astrology. Sacred Space is an annual conference which is held around this time. Between the Worlds — not to be confused with an identically-named Midwest spiritual event — is scheduled astrologically, and like Sacred Space, takes place on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. This year, the stars aligned so that the two conferences would be in competition for attendees, speakers, and even organizers, as they have long had at least one board member in common. Instead of cannibalizing resources, the decision was made to combine the two into one whopper of an experience.

Between the Worlds won’t happen again until 2020, and it’s unlikely to ever overlap with Sacred Space again. The events have some common elements, which made the mashup manageable. Both have highly selective processes for choosing teachers, and require the content to be intermediate to advanced. Between the Worlds has handpicked teachers, while Sacred Space combines invited headliners with a proposal process designed to highlight local talent for a wider audience.

A harsh winter storm delayed many arrivals on Thursday. However, with only a few minor scheduling adjustments, the conference kept humming along. Friday and Saturday, the two full days, started with a plenary session during which a panel discussed a single topic before the bulk of the attendees. Friday’s topic was “alliances with the spirit world.” On Saturday a different panel discussed the nurturing spiritual communities.

Each panel was nearly two hours long, with a combination of debate, insight, and wit that highlighted the different perspectives of the panelists. Listening to Archdruid Kirk Thomas and respected author Diana Paxson debate why Odin seems intent on recruiting followers captured the Friday audience’s attention. Is he gathering fighters for Ragnarok, or trying to forestall it?

Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Michael Smith, and James Welch at the gala

The next morning’s discussion on community was equally as engaging. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki explained that for all the dysfunction in American Pagan communities, they are far more evolved than what she is familiar with in England, where, “we Brits keep a stiff upper lip,” and don’t see much value in community at all. After identifying herself as the oldest person there, Ashcroft-Nowicki said, “I’m here to learn.”

Just as the days began with a single big session, they ended with the same, but those endings couldn’t have been more different. According to Sacred Space organizer Gwendolyn Reece, both Friday’s main ritual and Saturday’s gala were largely Between the Worlds in origin. Sacred Space does not have a large, main ritual at all, and of the gala, she remarked, “Between the Worlds does that better,” in part, because it costs extra to attend, allowing for live entertainment and plenty of food.

The entertainment came in the form of Tuatha Dea, a band that set the tone by musically calling the quarters and raising the energy in the room to a pitch that was joyous, but not so intense as to be overwhelming. In addition to a deep book of original and lively tunes, this band was able to perform everything from “Whiskey in the Jar” to “White Rabbit” with panache and flair. Their work complemented a silent auction to benefit the New Alexandrian Library, which included an astounding variety of items ranging from original art to gift baskets themed around popular Pagan holidays to ritual jewelry of exquisite beauty.

The main ritual, held Friday night, was a very different kind of energy; one that highlighted the strengths of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. Attendees were encouraged to participate in a preparatory class, during which chants were taught and the layout of the ritual was explained through guided meditation.

The ritual itself began on time, characteristic of an organizational decision to reject “Pagan standard time” out of hand, with the doors being sealed against latecomers. The theme was one of personal transformation as expressed by the “Witch’s Pyramid.” It was built on the astrological significance of the event, which was scheduled during the seventh of a rare series of Pluto-Uranus squares that represent the deep transformation of Pluto coming together with the explosive change represented by Uranus. While much time was spent laying those foundations, when the energy did start flowing, the call to move beyond one’s comfort zone and act for change in the world was unmistakable. By the time the seals upon the ritual gates were opened, this energy could be seen burning in many an eye.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space.

But the choices beyond those big sessions are always difficult. Preparing for possession or oracular work with Diana Paxson? The sorcerer’s tongue or journeying to the phosphorous grove with Christopher Penczak? Deepening understanding of the witch’s pyramid with Ashcroft-Nowicki, or Ivo Dominguez, Jr?

Monika Lonely Coyote tackled the difficult question of differentiating mental illness and spiritual experience in one session, and how to act as a psychopomp for a dying individual in another. There were classes on hexes, breaking curses, alchemy of breath and alchemy of sex. Kirk Thomas offered a class on sacred gifts, which discussed reciprocity with the gods and its relationship to hospitality in ancient cultures ranging from the Greek to the Irish. Byron Ballard’s “Hillfolks Hoodoo” couldn’t have been more different than T. Thorn Coyle’s idea of “Practical Magic.”  However, each teacher brought deep wisdom and displayed a mastery of the craft. Dorothy Morrison offered a class on money magic that was both practical and earthy. In short, when all the choices are beyond “Grounding 101,” every decision is a difficult one to make, an opportunity cost by which one piece of knowledge is gained, and another left behind.

In that way, this idea is similar to a point that Morrison made about magic, and why she does not include “an it harm none” in her spells. She noted that all magic comes at a price.

“If you work a spell to get a job interview, someone else’s resume fell into the trash,” Morrison said. Requiring that a spell harm no one takes away its power, she observed; better to understand that no magic is without consequence. Or, as Coyle put it at one point, “You have to own it.” That’s the kind of lesson taught at this conference: very little in the world is black and white, and the burden of the adept who walks in sacred space is to take responsibility for the many gradations between the worlds.

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!

Cherry Hill SeminaryLearning institution Cherry Hill Seminary, which provides training to Pagan clergy, has announced that they will be offering three scholarships to their 2014 Summer Intensive this July in Missouri. Quote: “Thanks to the generous contributions of many individuals last year to our new endowment fund, Cherry Hill Seminary is offering three scholarships to this year’s summer intensive, Entering the Sacred Grove, July 10-13, in Butler, Missouri. Scholarships are for the registration fee (which covers lunches at the event) and for tuition in the master’s class component (not required).  Individuals who receive a scholarship are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Entering the Sacred Grove will be an unusual opportunity to meet academic leadership as attendees will include Academic Dean Wendy Griffin, Dean of Students Candace Kant, and two department chairs, Bob Patrick and David Oringderff. In addition, the retreat will be the occasion of a wonderful event, the graduation of Carol Kirk, who has just earned her Master of Divinity!” For more information on applying, write to:

tara_morgana_slide_1June 27th at Treadwell’s in London will see a launch party for poet Paul Holman and photographer Paul Lambert’s new book “Tara Morgana,” published by Scarlet Imprint. Quote: “Tara Morgana is a work of pure magical writing. The title comes from the fusion of the Tibetan devi with Morgan Le Fay who is pursued as a mirage throughout this haunting text. Part magical diary, part dreamscape, part Situationist dérive through the landscape, Tara Morgana is an enigmatic record of ritual practice from the poet, whose work has been described as: indefinable … laconic, occultist, and attached to the line of revolutionary and subversive yearnings. This is not a book about magic, rather, it is a magical book. Contemplation of the work reveals a wealth of hidden treasures, or as Holman says: each dreamed text is a terma in the mind. Paul Holman is a lucid poet whose writing, with its concise yet elusive energy, takes us down into the tunnels, ghosts broken urban spaces where decay is overwritten with the ingress of the wild. He encounters denizens of the underworld, the magical subculture and down and outs. It is a work of echoes and memories whose reflections coalesce in dreams that can be recovered and manifest in the present.” The standard edition of the book will be released on June 2nd, paperback and digital editions are forthcoming.

Patrick McCollum at UNAs previously reported here at The Wild Hunt, Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum recently went to the United Nations to participate in an interfaith meeting centered on ending nuclear proliferation. Here’s a brief excerpt from the report on the event McCollum sent us: “This is the first of a series of meetings to strategize and develop a new treaty to end current nuclear proliferation and I will attend all future meetings going forward. Nuclear disarmament will now be an additional official subsection of the mission of the Patrick McCollum Foundation and I will be partnering with several other NGOs and peace builders on this […] I made several important high level connections during and after the meeting and received several other important invitations. I take the responsibility of interacting in these venues very seriously and do my best to represent my community with dignity and honor. This is literally where the rubber hits the road on global issues and the future of humanity is often decided here. I am so privileged to have a voice here and to offer us a place at the table.” You can read the statement he gave at the UN, here. More on this, and Rev. McCollum’s report, soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • On June 1st Fulgur Esoterica will announce the launch of a multimedia art project taking place over a six month period which will explore the concept of the third mind through prolonged dream recordings, online shares and Icelandic folklore. The project, entitled: “The Dreaming Project: Two Artists, Twenty –six Sigils” features artists Jesse Bransford (NYU) and Max Razdow who will attempt to attune their dreams by meditating separately on Icelandic symbols known as magical staves. You can read the whole press release for this project, here. We will be updating you on this project as it progresses.


  • The new issue of Witches & Pagans Magazine, featuring Diana Paxson on the cover, shipped physical copies of the magazine on Monday, and is also now available via digital download. Quote: “This issue guest-stars a pair of notable Pagan writers. In ‘A Priestess for All Seasons’ we sit down with loremistress, fantasy author, seeress and Pagan/Heathen community leader Diana L. Paxson. Diana is best-known for her work on the ‘Avalon’ series (launched by Marion Zimmer Bradley) but has more than thirty novels and non-fiction books to her credit. Discover what inspires her amazing imagination in this exclusive interview. Western esoteric author Josephine McCarthy has been a working magician for over three decades; we discuss how magick arises from the power of the land spirits in ‘Visions from the North Gate.'”
  • Last week, we reported the news that Pagan elder and priestess Morning Glory Zell had passed away. Now, her husband Oberon Zell has posted a moving narrative of the funeral service. Quote: “Yesterday we laid Morning Glory’s body into the Earth, to rest in the bosom of Mother Gaea until she may return again in new flesh. I planted an apple tree over her loving heart, that someday her substance may return to us all as sweet nourishing fruit. It was a small private ceremony, attended by immediate family and about 30 of our closest family friends.”
  • Author, academic, feminist, and Goddess-worshipper Carol P. Christ is running for political office in Greece. Quote: “I live in Molivos and I am a candidate for the Regional Council of the North Aegean in Lesbos with the Green Wind because I love nature and the traditional way of life in the islands. I believe that we must appreciate and protect what we have, rather than destroy it.”
  • Aline O’Brien (aka M. Macha NightMare) has posted a report of Pagan participation in the Marin Interfaith Council Annual Prayer Breakfast. Quote: “What’s a Witch to do when her interfaith council’s 15th Annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, which occurs on the first Thursday in May, falls on Beltane? Well, she sings up the Sun with the Berkeley Morris Dancers at dawn, then hustles across the bridge to Tiburon with her Wiccan (Gardnerian, to be specific) interfaith colleague, Don Frew, to rendezvous with Matt Whealton, a practitioner of Kemetic religion from the Temple of Ra, at his first foray into interfaith activities.” 

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

As was widely reported yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down decisions in cases affecting DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in that state. Both rulings were broadly seen as victories for marriage equality (with the caveat that there is more still to do, and legal hurdles remain). In the immediate wake of the decisions being released I spotlighted several Pagan reactions to the rulings, but I received and read far more than that. So I would like to do another post today highlighting further reactions to these landmark decisions.

Yeshe Rabbit

Yeshe Rabbit

“The past 24 hours have been huge for personal sovereignty in America. Wendy Davis and the women of Texas took a stand and told the GOP, “Hands off my uterus,” and SCOTUS declared DOMA unconstitutional. I am rejoicing in these outcomes, along with many of my Pagan sisters and brothers, because these outcomes represent the triumph of free will in two highly-charged matters: women’s freedom of choice and marriage equality. I celebrate both of these decisions. And yet, it still troubles me that both of these high-level governmental decisions revolved around what takes place in the most private areas of our lives: our sexuality and reproduction. As if it is OK that these things are regulated in the first place. As if we should feel content to have won the right to determine what choices we make about our bodies at a fundamental level. As if we were not free and sovereign in our sexuality all along. As if the law could ever regulate the way one’s heart sings when one looks upon a beloved. May the wheels of change, now with greater momentum, spin faster toward a future of profound sovereignty in our sexual bodies, in our heart’s loving desires, beyond even what this moment of celebration can provide.”Lady Yeshe Rabbit, CAYA Coven

Cherry Hill Seminary's Holli Emore

Holli Emore, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary

“A long twilight of injustice finally sees the light of reason and clear conscience!  That I lived to see this day, after well over 25 years of marching, speaking, contributing, showing up at rallies and challenging narrow minds – this is a day to celebrate and remember and tell to the generations to come.  To those who are cynical or anti-government – this is the American way at its finest, the beauty of justice, the possibility of admitting wrong and making it right.”  – Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary

Diana Paxson

Diana Paxson

“In the Germanic countries in pre-Christian times, although the gods would be asked to bless the union (as they did every other rite of passage), marriage was a social contract between two individuals or more properly, between their families, that changed their status and relationship to the community as well as to each other. Since same-sex couples are as capable of forming long-term relationships, raising children, and functioning as a household in a community as hetero-sexual couples are, they ought to have the same legal status and protections. The Troth has always supported equality, and our clergy have officiated at many same-sex weddings (where legal), and hand-fastings (where not legal yet).” – Diana L. Paxson, Elder, Clergy Coordinator, The Troth

Lord Blackcat

Lord Blackcat

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA is an important victory on the expansion of freedom for all people and pagans in particular. Since the 1990’s, there has been a well documented effort by certain conservative Christian groups to shape American law in accordance with their philosophical and religious views. Opponents of marriage equality repeatedly cite Judeo-Christian reference as a basis for the legal definition of marriage. As pagans, most of us have long recognized our deities as transcending culturally based gender roles.  Most pagans have similarly embraced all aspects of consensual adult love as inherent rights.  Today’s recognition that diverse members of society are Constitutionally entitled to equal access under the law sets an important precedent.  Mob-mentally, majority rule does not trump individual liberty.  It is this individual liberty that allows for minority religions, such as make up most pagan practice, to openly exist.  Whatever one’s politics, religion, or sexual orientation, everyone should celebrate this recognition that religious views of a majority cannot and should not be permitted to squash the diversity which is the basis of life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness, guaranteed by our US Constitution.” – Lord Blackcat, HP, Sylvan Grove, Seattle WA

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

“As a Pagan I am thrilled by both rulings. “All acts of love and pleasure” are the rituals of the Gods. I personally feel that the government should have no say in whether legal consenting adults get married, regardless of their sex or sexual identity. Marriage in this context is a religious institution. How politicos view marriage is as a legal contract. If you are going to view marriage as a legal contract, then any two consenting adults should be able to enter into such a contract. I am a legally ordained and recognized minister in the state of Nebraska, and many other states that recognize my ordination. I have been asked many times to do weddings and handfastings. I’ve not had the joy or the privilege to perform a same-sex ceremony. I have been asked, but things changed in the lives of the couples and the unions did not take place. If I were asked today to go to one of the 12 (soon to be 13) states that have legal same-sex marriage (and the District of Columbia) to perform such a glorious union, I would gladly do so. If I were asked today to do a same-sex handfasting or other such ceremony in any of the 50 states or anywhere else in the world, I would gladly do so. I am now and always have been of the firm opinion that all adults have the right to love who they want and how they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others or place themselves or others at risk of undue harm. There is still a long uphill battle in the United States for marriage equality. The provision of DOMA that allows states without same-sex marriage to ignore the validity of a same-sex marriage from a state that does still stands. SCOTUS declared Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. The rest of DOMA still stands, which means that each state still has the right to define marriage according to its voters or law makers.” – Rev. Philipp J. Kessler, Co-founder and Nebraska Facilitator of the Pagan Alliance Network

Fire Lyte

Fire Lyte

“We’re hoping that our federal government will get a majority of its House and Senate to enact a federal law giving sweeping marriage equality nationwide. DOMA doesn’t give us that. Prop 8 doesn’t give us that. And there isn’t anything in the United States Constitution to challenge in a judicial setting. It is possible that the President could give an Executive Order attempting to force the issue, but this would likely get overturned in Congress, since it’s been found in the past that an Executive Order cannot be used to create law, but rather to clarify or enforce current law. Though, in this Rioter’s opinion, if an Executive Order can be used to go to war, it should be able to be used to give equal marriage rights. But, it’s not like the President doesn’t have enough on his plate right now. And that’s where we stand, folks. There is a lot to celebrate today, but the war is nowhere close to over. And, for folks like me in states where gay marriage still isn’t recognized, today is just another day. I can’t rush out and marry my Partner. I can’t file my 2013 tax return jointly. I can’t receive one of the over 1000 legal rights only married couples receive. I’m just Partner’s roommate for most legal purposes. Bittersweet, definition of.”Fire Lyte, Inciting A Riot podcast

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“This morning, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down both the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. To me, this time, the legal system stood for love and justice. I’ve said before that we ought not to give one set of citizens rights that another set does not have. If we are to have laws, they must be equitable. That said, I think government should get out of the marriage business. I also recognize that my own relationships are much larger and more fluid than this sort of marriage can encompass. Yes, I came out about this last time we were discussing DOMA.  Today the Supreme Court decided in favor of equity and love. Yesterday, the Supreme Court did the opposite. Yesterday, the Supreme Court gutted the Voters Rights Act, an action which threatens to disenfranchise many people who still need the support of things like district elections in order to give themselves a proper voice in a political system stacked toward the privileged. That does not sound like justice. Nor does it sound like love. It sounds like a further separation of us from one another.”T. Thorn Coyle, Solar Cross Temple

Teo Bishop

Teo Bishop

“When I say that this is a small step toward equal treatment under the law, I’m not just talking about us queers here. I’m also talking about moving toward a place of greater gender equality, too. Our society is built within a binary gender paradigm which favors one gender over the other. In many ways, the LGBT rights movement threatens that very paradigm, because jumping on board the gay train requires you to suspend all of your “normal” assumptions about gender roles in relationship. Do that, and you start seeing imbalance and injustice nearly every place you look. LGBT rights are like a gateway drug in that way. Start supporting the homos, and before long you’ll end up a complete social justice activist. (I’ve seen it happen.) It’s good to remind people who may think of LGBT rights as a “fringe issue” that today’s ruling fits into a much larger discussion about personal liberty and equality — two principles which can, with enough political firepower, be jeopardized for even the most mainstream among us. Even hetero-normative folks need to be on the lookout. But not today. Today is a day worth celebrating. I believe that equality is a Pagan value, and equality was upheld today.”Teo Bishop, Bishop In The Grove

I have no doubt there are even more thoughts and responses out there that I have missed. Have you weighed in? Please let me know in the comments. The DOMA and Prop 8 rulings were just one of several major rulings made this term, and I’m also hoping to explore the changes to the Voting Rights Act from a Pagan perspective soon. For now, I’m content to celebrate this step forward for equality. Have a great day!

In 2007, after a decade-long struggle, Pagan and Wiccan organizations succeeded in getting the Pentacle approved for military veteran headstones and markers. After that victory, in July of 2007, a rally was held to start the push for two more symbols: the Druid Awen and the Heathen Thor’s Hammer. Two Heathen organizations, The Troth and the Asatru Folk Assembly, were represented at that rally, and from it a wider movement to get the Thor’s Hammer approved emerged. Now, after a six-year journey which included some inter-organizational tensions within the Heathen community and a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs rule change, it appears the symbol has finally been approved.

Thor's Hammer Emblem.

Thor’s Hammer Emblem.

The updated emblems list is the only place where this addition is noted. There’s no media release, news story, or even blog post that I’ve been able to find about this development. So I have no way of knowing when, exactly, the official approval went through. I have sent a note to The Troth for an official statement on this victory.

The 2007 4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally in Washington DC featuring Wiccan, Druid, and Asatru leaders.

The 2007 4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally in Washington DC featuring Wiccan, Druid, and Asatru leaders. Photo: Witchvox

Until we find out more, here’s a relevant quote from Diana Paxson, an Elder in The Troth, written in the wake of the Pentacle Quest and the 2007 July 4th rally.

“America has always been noted for creativity, in religion as in all else. Each new faith, whether immigrant or homegrown, enriches our culture. Today, when Buddhist temples and Islamic mosques may be found in many parts of the U.S., one might wonder why the VA denied a Wiccan veteran the right to have a pentacle on his headstone for ten years, and the Army has still not hired a Pagan chaplain. Paganism does not seek to replace other religions, but Pagan perspectives can revitalize the ways in which we relate to our history, our ancestors, and especially, in this time of climate crisis, to the environment. Rather than resisting, America should welcome the Pagan contribution to our cultural diversity.”

For now, congratulations to all Heathens and Asatruar on this amazing victory! Forward to the Awen! If you or a loved one are a Heathen veteran and want the Thor’s Hammer for a headstone or marker, you can find ordering information at the VA website.

ADDENDUM: The Troth has released the following statement.

“To our knowledge, current procedure to add an emblem of faith to a military headstone requires that the next of kin for a deceased Veteran request it. Josh Heath, of the Open Halls Project, has requested information in writing from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, but at this time we do not know who the Heathen service member was. In Heathen tradition, we greatly honor our slain warriors and offer Blóts and Fainings to them as the Einherjar, those warriors collected by Odin and Freya to take to their halls in Asgard. We are ever grateful to this fallen service member, both for their sacrifice to our country and for requesting Mjöllnir, or the Thor’s Hammer, for their headstone. We solemnly anticipate the time we can honor this newest of the Einherjar by name.”

PantheaCon Day 3

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 15, 2010 — 6 Comments

My pace at PantheaCon today was far more sedate. I slept in late-ish after staying up late last night, and just barely managed to get to the 11:00am “Towards A Pagan Psychology: Earth Based Spirituality & Therapy” panel. I don’t have the names of the participants, but the conversation was deeply fascinating. A recurring theme was how polytheism allows all of them to be better therapists and councilors, freeing them from a dualism and rigidity in their thinking and approaches to treatment.

After lunch, I attended the Immanion author panel, featuring Lupa, Erynn Laurie, Tony Mierzwicki, Frater Barrabbas, Sarai St Julien, Crystal Blanton, and others. While all the authors were coming from very different places in regards to practice and theology, there was a unifying element in their struggle to create their own paths. It was also mentioned how they were at peace with their “niche” status, and that selling hundreds instead of thousands of books is part of releasing more advanced texts. It was a good panel, and gave a clear idea of that publisher’s identity and mission.

Next, it was another author panel, this time from Weiser Books. Centered around the question “Earth Based Religion: Are We Really”, it featured popular Pagan authors and leaders like Orion Foxwood, Thorn Coyle, Diana Paxson, Z. Budapest, and Lon Milo DuQuette. This time I brought my trusty netbook, and tweeted the entire thing as it happened. While the question of if we are truly “earth-based” faiths wasn’t entirely settled, all the participants had some powerful things to say, the favorite among those catching my tweets was a (paraphrased) quote by Orion Foxwood.

“The Earth isn’t running a democracy. She is calling us all into action whether we like it or not.”

Thorn says the whole thing was being recorded for her podcast, and should be released in a month or so. I’ll give you all a heads-up when it’s available.

To close out my third day, I went to experience the dark and dramatic musical emanations of Pandemonaeon. They had the crowd in the palm of their hand for the entire set, and the dance-floor was jam-packed. Of all the Pagan bands that play the festival/convention circuit, I think they may be the most vital and impressive. I’m very happy to hear that they are putting a new album out soon. You can be sure you’ll hear more about that on “A Darker Shade of Pagan”.

I have to leave pretty early on Monday, so there won’t really be a “Day 4” post, but I may write a longer essay about my experiences here once I’ve had a chance to absorb all I’ve seen and done. It’s truly been a unique event, one that I think all modern Pagans should try to experience at some point. I’d like to thank all of the people who’ve been so kind, generous, and open with me. There are so many contacts made and new ideas to consider that I almost don’t know where to start.

As readers of this blog may know, there was a large Pagan rally in Washington D.C. on July 4th to celebrate the Veteran Pentacle Quest win, and to work towards true Pagan equality within the military.

“Help us voice a further agenda for Pagan Religious Rights: We want a Pagan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. And we need to keep the focus on the Department of Veterans Affairs to accept Thor’s Hammer, religious emblem of the Asatruar, and the Druids’ Awen symbol … While we have won the quest for the Veterans’ Pentacle, the Pentacle is a single victory in the longer campaign for universal religious freedom. We need to hold a clear intent: we want to further the free expression of all religions, Pagan and otherwise. And we need to send that message now, while America still remembers that a department of the federal government systematically denied Wiccan soldiers their full rights.”

In the days that have followed there have been some reports from the event, news stories, and other media of interest to people following this new pan-Pagan effort. First off, Stars and Stripes ran a very nice article about a dedication ceremony for the first Pentacle-incribed headstone at Arlington National Cemetary.

“The Rev. Selena Fox said Wednesday wasn’t the first time she visited a Wiccan’s grave site at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. It was just the first time one was identified that way. “This is the first time the Christian cross and Wiccan pentacle have both been engraved on a tombstone here, and it’s great news for us,” said the senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wisconsin Wiccan community. “It’s recognition we’ve fought for for so long.” On Wednesday Fox, members of her congregation and other pagans held a consecration ceremony at the grave site of Jan Deanna, a Wiccan minister who passed away more than two years ago.”

The Rev. Barry Lynn (executive director for Americans United) interviewed several participants in the July 4th rally for his radio show “Culture Shocks”. Guests included Diana Paxson, Rev. J. Michael Akins, Rev.Selena Fox and Caroline Kenner. You can download an Mp3 of the entire show at this link.

Finally, author and ritualist Diana Paxson has also written an initial post-mortem of the rally on her blog.

“I’m still pretty jazzed by how well the Pagan Religious Rights Rally in Lafayette Square Park (across from the White House!) came off. This was a real pagan interfaith operation, and provided an opportunity to do some extremely useful networking regarding heathen military work…”

She (and AFA head Steve McNallen) are now looking for a relative of a deceased Heathen veteran so they can start the process of applying for the Thor’s Hammer symbol for military headstones and markers.

“I also had the chance to talk to Steve McNallen. One thing we all agree on is that the Hammer should be added to the VA list of faith-symbols, however for that to happen, someone’s kin have to apply for a tombstone. Our gods have been taking very good care of our serving personnel, and I’d like that situation to continue, so what we need is to find the next-of-kin of a deceased veteran who served in an earlier war who is willing to petition the VA for a heathen tombstone. If anyone knows of such a person, I can put them in touch with those who will be able to tell them what to do next.”

So it looks like this rally has given an important start to further activism towards expanding the freedoms afforded modern Pagans within the military (and in general). As always, if you know of any pictures or reports from the rally please post about them in the comments.

This Independence Day, a Pagan rally is being held in Washington D.C. celebrating the recent victory to have the Pentacle symbol approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and to push forward an agenda of true Pagan equality in the eyes of the U.S. government.

“Join us to celebrate a major victory for Pagan Religious Rights, now that we have secured the Veterans’ Pentacle! Help us voice a further agenda for Pagan Religious Rights: We want a Pagan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. And we need to keep the focus on the Department of Veterans Affairs to accept Thor’s Hammer, religious emblem of the Asatruar, and the Druids’ Awen symbol … While we have won the quest for the Veterans’ Pentacle, the Pentacle is a single victory in the longer campaign for universal religious freedom. We need to hold a clear intent: we want to further the free expression of all religions, Pagan and otherwise. And we need to send that message now, while America still remembers that a department of the federal government systematically denied Wiccan soldiers their full rights.”

Speaking at the rally with be representatives from Circle Sanctuary, The Troth, The Military Pagan Network, The ADF, Sacred Well Congregation, Asatru Folk Assembly, and the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This well-orchestrated gathering begins at noon and culminates with a ritual lead by author and Steerswoman of the Troth Diana Paxson that will invoke the Founding Fathers to guard our religious freedoms.

“The people who created this country were pioneers and rebels, risking their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, to establish a nation in which everyone was free to find his or her own path. The least we can do, especially when it is so much to our own advantage, is to carry on the work that they began.”

News of the rally is already starting to spread, and The Washington Posts’ On Faith blog has devoted their July 4th panelist questions to the issues brought up by this Pagan rally. Most interestingly, is the question of if they would vote for a Pagan politician, the answers may surprise you.

“I am less interested in whether a candidate agrees with me on theology than whether he or she agrees with me on public policy. Our founding fathers had a great respect for the Roman republic. I like them would be very tempted to vote for a pagan like Cicero if he were running for office today.”Thomas J. Reese, Jesuit Priest and editor of the Catholic weekly magazine “America”.

“When it comes to choosing candidates, my approach is on the basis of issues, not identities. If a pagan candidate takes stances that I agree with, I would have no hesitation voting for him or her. The same goes for a candidate from any other religion or for an atheist candidate.”Pamela K. Taylor, co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values

Also adding to the discussion is rally participant Diana Paxson, who is a “guest voice” to the On Faith blog.

“America has always been noted for creativity, in religion as in all else. Each new faith, whether immigrant or homegrown, enriches our culture. Today, when Buddhist temples and Islamic mosques may be found in many parts of the U.S., one might wonder why the VA denied a Wiccan veteran the right to have a pentacle on his headstone for ten years, and the Army has still not hired a Pagan chaplain. Paganism does not seek to replace other religions, but Pagan perspectives can revitalize the ways in which we relate to our history, our ancestors, and especially, in this time of climate crisis, to the environment. Rather than resisting, America should welcome the Pagan contribution to our cultural diversity.”

I would love to hear reports from the rally, numbers? Pictures? Personal accounts? Send them to my e-mail address or post about it here in the comments. I would love to do a follow-up of what is sure to be a successful event. Have a happy and safe 4th of July, and let everyone’s freedom ring!