Archives For Don Lewis

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!

Pagan Studies Journal The Pomegranate Releases New Issue: At his blog, editor Chas Clifton announces that issue 13.2 of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies is now available online. There are number of interesting pieces, including two free review articles, one from Tamara Ingels on shamanic artist Joska Soos, and one from historian Ronald Hutton entitled: “Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History.”

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“During the past few years, a series of heated arguments have broken out among Pagans across the Western world, but much more particularly in North America and Australia, about the historical context of modern Paganism. This has been provoked by extensive scholarly revision of the traditional portrait of that context, which has caused dismay and anger among some Pagans. Their reactions have in turn produced similar emotions among some of their co-religionists and professional scholars (the two groups often overlapping). This review essay is intended to clarify the issues that are being debated; to examine the potential for Pagans to write their own history; to look at points at which the arguments may have provided useful historical insights; and to suggest a likely outcome for the controversy.”

I can already hear the partisans regarding Hutton preparing their talking points, but I do hope everyone reads the article first, as Hutton attempts to explore the recent trends of revisionism and counter-revisionism in Pagan history, notes places where he has changed his thinking, and suggests a way forward for all parties. He also, if I may indulge my ego for a moment, name-drops The Wild Hunt.

For those not terribly invested in the ongoing debates regarding Hutton’s work, let me urge you to subscribe to The Pomegranate, as subscribers also get access to fascinating articles like: “Robert Cochrane and the Gardnerian Craft: Feuds, Secrets and Mysteries in Contemporary British Witchcraft” by Ethan Doyle White,  “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult” by Mogg Morgan, and more. This is the beating heart of Pagan Studies, and we should treasure the work they do.

Witch School International Welcomes New Leadership: Popular online learning hub Witch School International has named a new leadership team. The new team includes  Lindsay Irvin, Director of Operations, David Moore, President of Tarot College, and Chief Technician Mike Ferrell will become Witch School’s new CEO. Outgoing CEO Ed Hubbard praised Ferrell’s skills, and said that “he has a deep understanding of how the Internet works, as well as working with global members. He will also be able to implement the move into other forms of interface such as tablet and mobile. WSI, Inc. is facing a wonderful future; Michael is the individual who will lead that effort.” In addition, Rev. Don Lewis announced that he was stepping down as Chancellor  of Witch School, though he will still take an active role in developing content for Witch School in the years ahead.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO is second from the right.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO Mike Ferrell is second from the right.

“Some people are asking if I will still be Chancellor of Witch School. The answer to this is no. This last year has necessitated many changes, and I have found that I cannot effectively be Chancellor of both Witch School and Chancellor of the Correllian Tradition. Witch School is independent of the Tradition with widely different duties best handled by Michael and Lindsay. I will however continue to be highly involved with Witch School. I will be continuing to provide content for Witch School, Tarot College, and Magick TV, and I am very happy in that role. In particular I have spent much of the last year working on the long-anticipated Correllian video lessons which will be making their debut soon, and which I feel will be a revolutionary development in their way. I am also working on a variety of other instructional materials for the future.”

As for Hubbard, who with the Rev. Don Lewis helped shape Witch School, he will, quote, “act as a support consultant, to ease the changeover to new leadership.” He will also remain active in the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. We wish them the best of luck during this time of change and transition.

Pictures from Patrick McCollum’s India Trip: For those of you who enjoyed my article about Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum participating in the Kumbh Mela, the Patrick McCollum Foundation has started to post photos of his experiences there.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

“We must be the example of what we want to see.  If we want our brothers and sisters to honor our planet, we cannot walk on flower petals and drink milk and honey.  We must instead choose the filthiest example of what we want to change and get down in the mud and clean it up.”Patrick McCollum, in a statement to Indian press about mucking trash in the Ganges River.

For more updates stay tuned to the Patrick McCollum Foundation blog and Facebook page.

In Other Community News: 

  • Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple are hosting a devotional blood drive at this year’s PantheaCon in San Jose. Quote: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” Interested parties should register, here, and use the sponsor code “PCon.” More here.
  • The excellent Invocatio blog announces that the Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) has launched their new website, AncientEsotericism.org. Quote: “The website is designed as a one-stop resource for pretty much every thing you might want to study in antiquity. (Seriously, the amount of things we have collected in one place is massive!) Even more, it is hoped that through the contributions of others working in the field the website will continue to grow.”
  • CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism, and Neo-Nazism, have issued an official statement of solidarity with the Idle No More movement. They also counsel non-Native/Indigenous/First Nations peoples against appropriation or hijacking the movement from its primary focus. Quote: “We urge our members and supporters of CAORANN to support Idle No More if their conscience leads them to do so. But we ask that non-Natives attend Idle No More events to support the Indigenous people, and to follow their guidance – to be there in solidarity, not to try to lead, and to listen more than they speak. We stress that this is a movement led by Indigenous women, and we are committed to making sure that remains the case.”
  • Ethan Doyle White at Albion Calling has posted the most recent interview with Pagan Studies scholars, this time with Caroline Tully. Quote: “Most Pagan Studies scholars seem to be in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, history and archaeology. I didn’t go to university in order to be a Pagan Studies scholar specifically, but to study ancient pagan religions and to compare them with modern Paganism.”

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

On April 21st, Katrina Kessler, known by many in the Pagan community as Foxglove, passed away after a car accident in San Diego, California. An up-and-coming figure in our community, Kessler worked at the World of Witches Museum in Salem, starred in, and helped produce, “The Young Witches of Salem,” did reporting and production work with MagickTV, and hosted the video series “Foxglove’s Lost and Found.” Shortly before her death she was working with a community service organization called The Circle in California.

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

“Katrina had left the Museum and moved on to California, where she was part of a group who traveled around to help Pagans in need. Katrina and I still spoke frequently and were still working on collaborative projects. We last spoke just a few days ago, which all the more grateful for now, and in that conversation she spoke about being very happy with her new life and the directions it was taking her in. That is how I will always remember her, not as the omni-competent Museum Manager, nor as the gifted video artist, but as a passionate and idealistic young woman hurtling into a bright future that truly excited her. Her soul’s journeys will take her to a different future now than we spoke of that night, but one that I pray will be just as bright and as exciting to her in its own way.” Rev. Don Lewis, The Correllian Tradition

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

“I am thankful that I was able to spend time with Katrina Kessler on several occasions, including as part of my speaking engagements in Salem, Massachusetts in 2010, and most recently at PantheaCon 2012 in San Jose, California this past February.  Katrina was bright, caring, creative, & dedicated to helping others.  Like a shining comet, she brought a beautiful brilliance to this world and was gone too quickly.  May we take comfort in knowing that she lives on in the cherished memories of those of us who knew her, in the lives she enriched with her service & wit, & in her creative works.  Blessed Be.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“In our community, leaders emerge in each generation that make a difference. In Katrina was that wonderful balance of compassion, intelligence and drive that made her a effective young leader. Her goals were to help organizations that would make a difference, and she was learning from the leadership directly. Even though she had her life cut short, as the Goddess so needed her elsewhere, she had already been a major force for creating a movement for Young Pagans, through her video and her actions. She is an example that the next generation of Pagans can be and are truly amazing. I will truly miss her physical presence and honor her spirit for what she taught me.”Ed Hubbard, Witch School International

Author and prominent Salem-based business-owner Christian Day said that “she was a warm, kind, and magical person. Those closest to her have been blessed with a most wonderful guide in the realms of spirit.” Terry Milton, “The Stone Lady,” who worked closely with Kessler, adored her “enthusiasm for life, and her ability to inspire others.”

“During the fall, Katrina did daily postings of the “wisdom of the elders” on Facebook, and collected words of inspiration or advice or wisdom from you and I, Therese, Phaedra and “elders” associated with the museum. I often thought it was ironic that Katrina was asking for our “wisdoms”  when she appeared to have  so much more wisdom in her short years than all of the “elders” combined.”

There will be a wake at the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home in Canton, MA, on Sunday from 4 – 8. The Memorial service will be at 10 AM on the morning of Beltane Eve. There is a page at the Dockray site where people may leave condolences for Katrina’s family. There will also be an on-air memorial for Katrina on Pagans Tonight Radio on Friday, May 4, at 8 PM Central / 9 Eastern.

Speaking personally, it is always a great loss when our future leaders, activists, and thinkers are struck down prematurely. Sometimes, I think that there is such an emphasis on our elders and “big name Pagans,” and who will inherit their mantles in the next ten or fifteen years, that we sometimes don’t see the young people in their teens and twenties who are absorbing our teachings, attending our talks and rituals, and volunteering for our efforts. The men and women who will represent us to future generations. I had heard from Ed Hubbard that Foxglove had very much wanted to meet and speak with me at PantheaCon 2012, and I now very much regret that this never happened. We always assume that with the young there will always be more time; years, decades, of time to make a connection, to pass the torch, but fortune can be fickle, and we can lose our brightest sparks in an instant.

If there is a lesson in the tragic passing of Katrina “Foxglove” Kessler, it is to always honor the contributions of the young, to make passing the torch a daily occurrence, and to ensure that “Pagan community” is always a multi-generational endeavor. May Foxglove rest in the arms of the gods, and return to us again.

Last weekend saw the World of Witches Museum in Salem, Massachusetts permanently close its doors. Opened in the Summer of 2010, the museum represented “a coming of age for the Witch movement, which allows us to recognize that we do have a history worthy of sharing” according to Rev. Don Lewis, Curator of the Museum, and chief executive officer of the Correllian Nativist Tradition. However, due to a string of  misfortunes, staying open was no longer a viable option. In a statement sent to The Wild Hunt, Rev. Don Lewis recounted the many challenges the museum faced, and the health problems that  finally made him decide that closing was the best option.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

“This last Halloween season was especially hard for a lot of Salem businesses. The whole season was somewhat slow, but the snowstorm on Saturday of Halloween weekend, which would be anticipated as the biggest shopping day of the season, was devastating. I had hoped that this winter would be better than the previous one and it turned out to be as mild a winter as the previous year’s winter had been severe -but in a town geared to a single holiday off season business was just as hard and slow with a mild winter. A number of Salem businesses have found it necessary to either close or move to new locations this spring, especially in the Pickering Wharf area.

At the beginning of the March I found myself in the hospital with cardiac problems exacerbated by stress and exhaustion. It was made clear to me that I needed to make some changes in my life and could no longer sustain the workload I had been carrying. Although there were people I could trust and rely upon to help in the short term, and they did help tremendously, there was no one available that I could see as a long term manager for the Museum. Closing the Museum was a very hard choice, but it is one I felt I had to make.”

The World of Witches Museum is the second Witch-related business in the Pickering Wharf area to close its doors in recent months. In January, Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official Witch, announced that she would be closing the doors of The Official Witch Shoppe at the end of that month, bringing to an end Cabot’s 42-year run of owning and operating Witch-related stores in Salem. Some observers, including Salem business-owner and promoter Christian Day, noted that in addition to a weak Halloween season in 2011, tourist foot traffic has shifted somewhat away from the Pickering Wharf area towards the renovated Peabody Essex Museum and the Bewitched statue.

“I think there are a constellation of issues keeping the Wharf in the situation it’s in. As Ed [Hubbard] pointed out, my own marketing of my shops on Essex Street has probably contributed to the shift in foot traffic to that area but I have, over the years, hosted events there in hopes of spreading around the work that I do but it was hard to make it work due to the space limitations of venues. A huge factor in the popularity of Essex Street is the 2002 renovation of the Peabody Essex Museum, which created an enormous buzz around the street. The Bewitched Statue brought people even further down, which is what inspired me to put HEX at it’s slightly off-the-path location. As a member of Destination Salem, we’ve often discussed ways of encouraging that area to help market itself better but it was hard sometimes to get buy-in. My own opinion is that the landlord needed to do a lot more as the owner of the space to brand it more clearly as a shopping and dining destination. Laurie Cabot has, perhaps, the most recognizable brand of all of us, including the Peabody Essex Museum, and she had trouble at the Wharf as well. I think, though, that the largest factor is probably the economy. With so many people unemployed and money as tight as it is, I think people are spending more carefully. We’ve had at least two closings on Essex Street recently so the downturn is effecting people there as well. While both my shops and Crow Haven Corner are doing well, both Lorelei and I have had to spend quite a bit of money in advertising to maintain that success. It’s a hamster wheel that’s not easy to keep running on but we’re determined. That said, I don’t think I could make it work at Pickering Wharf myself.”

One obvious question is how this closing will affect the larger Correllian Tradition, and Witch School, the successful Internet-based learning program that has been closely intertwined. According to Ed Hubbard, a Correllian Elder and CEO of Witch School International, the closing would make no difference in the day-to-day operations of the school. Meanwhile, many of the museum’s Correllian-oriented artifacts and exhibits are being moved to the Sacred Sea Temple in Georgia, overseen by Stephanie Neal, Temple Head and Arch Priestess within the tradition. Neal expressed that she felt the museum, ultimately, was a good idea that moved the Pagan community forward.

“Even though the World of Witches Museum had a relatively short life span, it greatly advanced Pagan thought, to the wider community and its influence continues to reaffirm it was a good decision to open the Museum.”

While Salem has become the epicenter of Halloween in America in recent years, that’s no guarantee of success, especially in these uncertain times as we slowly crawl our way out of one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. New businesses are especially susceptible to failure, and just one factor not going right can make things unsustainable. The World of Witches Museum faced many challenges, and in the end, the smarter move was to walk away than lose money or further risk the health of the curator. No doubt the Correllian Nativist TraditionWitch School, and other related projects like Pagans Tonight will continue their impressive successful track-records, learning important lessons from this experience. I wish them all well, and hope that Rev. Don Lewis makes a full recovery.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new 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 Celtic Temple in Minneapolis: PNC-Minnesota reports that on September 18th a temple constructed by the Old Belief Society in Northeast Minneapolis will be consecrated and opened to the public.

September 18 heralds a new piece of Minnesota Pagan history: a Celtic Pagan temple,  in Northeast Minneapolis, opens to the public. Andrew Jacob, priest of the Temple of the River,  (TOR) will lead a purification ceremony in the Mississippi River. After the ritual, participants can dry off in the new temple, also called the Irish Cottage Building.

The temple is the first official structure of the Old Belief Society, a community intended to train Celtic priests by combining academic and spiritual teachings. Temple of the River, a smaller subset of that society led by Jacob, formerly occupied a space in Dinkytown before moving their meeting space to his home in Northeast. He conceived of building a physical temple after helping construct a Native American style pavilion in 2006. “We made it a priority to have a physical temple in a permanent space – because a welcoming meeting space is one of the first things you need for community.”

While there are many instances of Pagan-owned lands, Circle Sanctuary, for instance, Temple of the River priest Andrew Jacob claims this is the first temple of its kind in North America. Considering the fuzziness of the term “temple” within our communities, it’s hard to gauge if this claim is true. If you know of any other free-standing structures that are solely dedicated as Pagan temples and open to the public please drop a note in the comments. Whether unique or not, this is a remarkable accomplishment, and one that will no doubt benefit Pagans in the Twin Cities.

Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Reception: Founded in 1985 by Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, the Lady Liberty League is one of the most active and effective Pagan-run religious freedom organizations in existence today. On September 15th in Washinton DC, at the Universalist National Memorial Church, they will celebrating their 25th anniversary.

“This special evening includes networking, refreshments, and remarks by Selena Fox of Wisconsin, Lady Liberty League’s Founder and Executive Director, and Patrick McCollum of California, LLL Chaplaincy Affairs Director and among this year’s recipients of the Hindu American Foundation’s Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism.

The evening will include an overview of the history and accomplishments of Lady Liberty League, including its origins in September 1985 in the networking that defeated federal anti-Wiccan legislation. Lady Liberty League activists and Circle Sanctuary ministers from across the country will be helping with the reception. Among the national Pagan leaders already planning to take part in the reception are Marci Drewry of Virginia, Director of Military Affairs, Sacred Well Congregation and Holli Emore of North Carolina, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary.”

This event is free and open to the public. To find out more, check out the LLL reception page on Facebook. PNC-Washington DC reporter David Salisbury is planning to be in attendance and will be covering the event. Congratulations to Lady Liberty League on their 25th anniversary, here’s to 25 more!

Patrick McCollum at HAF’s Capitol Hill Reception: Since the Circle/Lady Liberty League press release has given it away, I assume it’s now safe to announce that the Hindu American Foundation will be honoring Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum with the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism at their 7th annual Capitol Hill Reception on September 14th.

“Join us as we honor Congressmen, government officials and individuals for their commitment to promoting understanding of Hindu American issues, pluralism and tolerance.”

A prominent Hindu organization honoring a Pagan chaplain and activist is a big deal, and could signal a new era of cooperation and communication between American Hindus and Pagans. I’ve been in contact with HAF concerning this, and will be bringing you more on this story after the ceremony.

Wendy Rule Plays for a Pagan Nonprofit: Australian singer-songwriter and Pagan Wendy Rule is currently on a American tour to promote her latest album “Guided By Venus”. In addition to playing at the Pagan music-heavy StrowlerFest (as reported here previously) on September 10th and 11th, Los Angeles Pagan Examiner Joanne Elliott reports that she’ll be wrapping up the tour with a benefit concert for the Temple of the Goddess on September 15th.

“Australian singer-songwriter Wendy Rule – a self-proclaimed witch – will make the sole Los Angeles area appearance of her 2010 U.S. tour at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15. Rule has agreed to make this a benefit concert for Temple of the Goddess (TOG), a nonprofit religious organization committed to the spiritual well-being of the Los Angeles and world communities. TOG will also sponsor this intimate, 60-seat, open air twilight performance under elder oaks at a private residence in Pasadena.”

For more on the concert, including information on purchasing tickets, click here.

Return to Stoudtburg Village: Some of you may remember the drama last year over a Pagan group holding a small festival at the tourist-trap Stoudtburg Village in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Several Christian-owned businesses, offended by Pagans holding a gathering at the village, boycotted by shutting down their stores in protest. The situation soon made national news, and gained the attention of prayer warriors and Pagan organizations like the Lady Liberty League. Ultimately, the event happened, a few businesses shut down, and things were largely peaceful and productive. Now, the Reading Pagans & Witches are holding the event again, expanding it to two days, September 11th and 12th, and having Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox speak at the event.

“At 10 am on Saturday, Selena will open the festival with a blessing that includes the ringing of a memorial bell to coincide with the bell ringing at the Flight 93 National Memorial (www.honorflight93.org) in Shanksville in western Pennsylvania to honor those who heroically died when the plane crashed there at 10:03 am on September 11, 2001. At Noon, Selena will facilitate a Circle of Freedom and Remembrance. This 9th anniversary September 11 memorial ritual is a remembrance for all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on America that day. The rite also focuses on healing as well as will include an honoring of Freedom and America’s religious and ethnic diversity. Pagan first responders and Pagans in the US military – present and past - are invited to be part of the procession that begins this rite.

At 1 pm, Selena will give the Festival Keynote: Earth Spirituality & Religious Freedom. She will give an overview of Paganism across time and cultures and speak about ways Pagans of many paths can work together for greater religious freedom in society.”

The event is free and open to the public. You can find out more about the event, here. This whole situation shows how religious freedom and acceptance can happen if we don’t back down in the face of opposition and protest, congratulations to the Reading Pagans & Witches for making this happen.

Happy Anniversary Witch School: In a final note, today is Witch School’s 9th anniversary. Here’s an excerpt from a statement by co-founder Rev. Donald Lewis on the occasion.

“Today is the Ninth Anniversary of the founding of Witch School!! Witch School was founded on September 4, 2001. Co-founders Ed Hubbard, Don Lewis, and Lisa Tuit created Witch School as a response to the tremendous success of the Daily Spell e-zine, which had been offering the Correllian First Degree teachings. The school was initially run out of Rev. Don’s kitchen. With its philosophy of an “Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere online Pagan and Magickal education” the school grew rapidly, filling a void created by the lack of accessible teachers. Witch School was and is a revolutionary educational system utilizing peer-to-peer teaching and the power of the Internet to bring Pagan religious and magical education to people around the globe. The Witch School system was able to reach people in remote geographical areas who were otherwise unable to connect with teachers, and to provide training in an extremely flexible and effective way. Today Witch School has students on all seven of the Earth’s continents (yes, even Antarctica) and is the most trafficked Pagan site in the world. We are very proud of our school and its students and salute each and every one!”

Rev. Lewis goes on to explain the significance of the Sept. 4th debut, and connections between Witch School and the Correllian Tradition. While Witch School has certainly been controversial during its years of operation, few can deny that it has become a prominent Pagan organization, and looks to be around for a long time to come. Congratulations to Witch School on their anniversary.

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

On April 14th U.S. Marshals arrested Waco “White Wolf” Tohausen in North Carolina on rape and pandering charges involving a five-year-old Ohio child in 2007.


Waco “White Wolf” Tohausen

“In the early evening hours of 04/14/2010, Waco “White Wolf” Tohausen, 37 years old, was arrested by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department in Murphy, NC. Tohausen, indicted for Rape and Pandering Sexually Oriented Materials involving a five year old victim. The crimes, which were committed back in 2007, where recently indicted back on December 21, 2009. Tohausen is associated with a Wiccan Group known as the Temple of the Crystalline Star and the Lustration of the Ancestors.”

The group Tohausen is associated with, the Temple of the Crystalline Star and the Lustration of the Ancestors, is a Correllian Nativist Church Mother Temple. I contacted the Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell, First Priest and Chancellor of Correllian Nativist Tradition, who issued a statement that confirmed Tohausen’s clergy status within the organization, and that he has been suspended pending the outcome of the trial.

“I cannot too strongly emphasize how seriously the Correllian Tradition takes charges such as these. Our law is the Wiccan Rede –Do As You Will But Harm None. And our clergy are especially charged with upholding this ideal. For clergypersons to be charged with doing harm to children is a matter of the utmost importance and greatest concern to our Tradition and its people.

It is our established policy that any clergyperson charged with sexual abuse of a child must be immediately suspended from clergy status and from any position of responsibility until the charges are resolved. If the clergyperson is found guilty all status with the Tradition must be revoked.

It is the desire of the Correllian Tradition to cooperate fully with the police who are investigating this matter, and to assist them in any way we can. The Tradition will be holding an internal investigation as well to determine whether Tradition policy was properly followed and whether all appropriate actions have been taken.”

No further details have been released in this case at this writing. Tohausen is being held on $750,000 bond, and is being extraditied back to Hamilton County to face the charges against him. Needless to say, these are extremely serious charges that if true raise some difficult questions concerning Tohausen’s interactions with the Pagan community over the years, and his role as a Correllian clergyperson. I will post further updates once more information comes to light.

News media in East Central Illinois have been following the case of Andrew L. Thomas, a youth minister and track coach in Rossville, Illinois who’s been charged with the rape of 16-year-old boy he was mentoring.

“Andrew Thomas made his first appearance in court today. He’s been the youth minister at Rossville Church of Christ for three years, according to court records. Prosecutors say he had sex with a 16 year old boy he was mentoring. They say it happened over the last few months. The victim came forward to police. Thomas was arrested last night. If convicted, Thomas faces up to 15 years in prison. His friends, family, and church community are standing behind him. Prosecutors say more charges could be filed. They are investigating whether he may have child pornography on his computer.”

While these accusations against a Christian clergyman seem sadly pedestrian in an age of massive abuse scandals, this case draws special attention for our community. For while Thomas was allegedly abusing young boys, he was also leading an anti-Pagan crusade in order to drive Witch School out of Rossville, Illinois.

“Andy Thomas, youth minister at the Rossville Church of Christ, said residents had a spiritual responsibility to drive the witches out. If they didn’t, he said, young people were in danger of being pulled off the Christian path …”

The bitter irony of a man trying to protect “young people” from Witches while allegedly abusing them hasn’t escaped the folks at Witch School (since relocated to Salem, Massachusetts), who have released a statement concerning the matter.

“Pastor Andy Thomas, which claimed superior rights has now been arrested for Criminal Sexual Assault against a minor, and will face trial for them. He is alleged to have had sexual encounter with a 16 year old boy under his mentorship, and is under investigation for child pornography. He is still innocent until proven guilty, these are serious charges that question the intentions and his moral standing in the community. Our heart goes out to his alleged victim and there families, as this must be very difficult to deal with. We feel for the Rossville community, which trusted this man to give them clear spiritual advise, and instead betrayed them, in this case with their own children. In truth, he abused their trust as well, when he led them in vigorous protest against Witch School, which had never once involved in any activity to harm the community. Pastor Andy Thomas worked hard to assure the community and the nation knew how awful it was that Witch School was, while he was the individual who was bringing real harm to the community.”

You can see further reactions from Witch School at Rev. Don’s Vlog.

While his church community claims to be standing behind him, one has to wonder how many in Rossville are now questioning the past actions of this pastor, and if his obsession with driving out the “harmful” Witches wasn’t an externalization of the same deep seated psychosis that allegedly drove him to abuse children. Did he believe that by driving out the “other” he could also drive out the same demons that haunted him? Or was his religious zeal all a smokescreen for a deep-seated abusive nature? In any case, no matter what the ultimate outcome, this Witch-hunter has fallen.

I have a few items of interest in my daily scan of the news, starting with a profile of practicing Witch and Australian singer-musician Wendy Rule. Rule is coming to Florida to perform, and the Daytona Beach News-Journal explores her Wiccan identity, and how that influences her songwriting.

A Sydney native who calls Melbourne home, Rule says, “It’s not such an unusual thing for music to have a magical and spiritual purpose. All the ritual music of traditional cultures — Aboriginal Australian and Native American shamans, folk music from across the globe, Gregorian chants and gospel music — share this same goal: to alter our consciousness and bring us in contact with the divine.” But, she adds, “I’m no more a Wiccan songwriter than I am a Scorpio songwriter, or an Australian one, or a female one. I’m just living and writing and singing and exploring my heart and soul — and I happen to be an Australian Scorpio Witch.”

While it’s nice that the paper decided to give some ink to Wendy Rule’s upcoming shows in America, you’d think they would bother to do more than simply cut-and-paste from her web site while implying they interviewed her. Maybe a long-distance phone call was too expensive for their operating budget? After all, these are hard times for newspapers.

If you want to brag once and for all that you’re as smart as (or possibly smarter than) Oberon “Grey School of Wizardry” Zell and Don “Witch School” Lewis you’ll get your chance at the upcoming St. Louis Pagan Picnic. According to a press release, they will be holding a trivia contest about “all things magical” open to all comers.

“Oberon Zell of Grey School and Don Lewis of Witch School have agreed to a trivia contest about all things magical to test their students and all comers. They plan to meet on June 13th & 14th at the St. Louis Pagan Picnic, held at Tower Grove Park. The St. Louis Pagan Picnic is the largest Pagan gathering in the Midwest, and brings together thousands for a weekend of friendship, fellowship, entertainment, teaching and merchants. The Wizards and Witches Trivia contest will be just one of the many parts to this wonderful event, but for the students of Grey School and Witch School, it is a highly anticipated one.”

The winners will receive unspecified “prizes”, one hopes that it isn’t a gift certificate to their respective schools. After all, would the winner of such a contest really need such a thing?

In a final note, workmen in Florence, Italy, while digging a hole for a new water cistern in the courthouse, stumbled across a temple to Isis.

“Workmen inside Florence’s courthouse have stumbled across a spiral column and hundreds of multicoloured fragments that experts believe may have belonged to a Roman temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.  According to Roman news agency ANSA, the remains, dating back to the second century AD, were discovered as the men dug a five by three meter hole, barely four meters deep, for a new water cistern for the courthouse’s anti-incendiary system … the remains were “comparable” to others found over the last three centuries in the immediate area that have also been attributed to the temple of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility who was later adopted by the Greeks and Romans.  The location of the temple is unknown, but it is believed to have been built just outside the Roman part of the city, near the current courthouse building…”

Florence’s archeology superintendency is currently overseeing the discovery, no announcements have been made as to what will ultimately be done with the find. Interesting that a courthouse was unwittingly built over the temple of a goddess that the Book of the Dead calls She who seeks justice for the poor people”.

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

The Chicago Sun-Times wins the prize for being the first mainstream paper to explore the “mini-rise of the Wiccans” indicated in the recently-released American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) data. Too bad it’s so sloppy and lazy in its execution. First there’s the rookie mistake of referring to Wicca as “Wiccanism” (I mean really, in 2009?), then religion-beat reporter Mike Thomas starts off  with the hoary and groan-inducing “real Witches aren’t fantasy witches” bit that we all love so much.

“They don’t toil over bubbling caldrons or cook lost kids. They have no use for flying monkeys. And their spice racks are more apt to contain ginger or paprika than eye of newt.”

Then there is the matter of interview subjects.

“…there’s even a Witch School. An outgrowth of the nationally popular and long-active Web site witchschool.com, the Downstate Rossville-based organization currently offers three monthly courses and returned to town earlier this month after a five-year absence. Local classrooms include the Occult Bookstore in Wicker Park and the Life Force Arts Center in Lake View. [Rev. Don] Lewis said there’s talk of expanding to St. Louis and “a number of different regions.” [like Salem?] On a recent Friday night, Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard visited the Occult Bookstore to talk on the topic of “Magick for the Masses.” Few people attended, save for a handful of employees and one drop-in, but the show went on.”

Now I’m not bagging on the Witch School folks here, they are a (relatively) high-profile organization located in Illinois, so it’s only natural a journalist would contact them. I’m just troubled that the reporter went to exactly one source for this piece. That might fly when your doing a write-up of a metaphysical store in rural Michigan, but not in Chicago where there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of potential interview subjects. Nor does Thomas interview someone with the ARIS study to get a better sense of the growth of new religious movements, or attempt to contact any academics who study Pagan religions for insight into modern Paganism’s growth.

Using the ARIS data to merely write yet another tired “meet the Witches” piece, complete with the usual patina of superciliousness, seems an utter wase of journalistic space. Franky, if the Sun-Times doesn’t feel that Wicca’s continued growth is worth more than calling one organization and a drop-in at the local occult shop (for a talk lead by the same group) then they should just not bother. There are several interesting stories to be told spinning out of this ARIS data, and I’d rather wait for them to emerge slowly than bide my time with inconsequential filler like this. Honestly, I’d rather read yet another piece on how well psychics are doing during the recession than this mad-libs-style approach to religion reporting.

Thanks to Juliaki for tipping me off to the fact that you can now watch the entirety of the recent indie documentary “Hoopeston” online for free. The film, directed by Thomas Bender, looks at the struggling town of Hoopeston, Illinois, and the conflicts that emerged when Witch School (and the Correllian Tradition that runs it) moved in.

Hoopeston – Trailer from Synydyne on Vimeo.

“Because buildings are so cheap in Hoopeston, a Witch School moved there from Chicago in 2003. The directors of the school faced stiff opposition from religious conservatives (Hoopeston has over a dozen churches—its other nickname is “The Holy City”). But the Witch School is now a fixture in Hoopeston, one that forces the town to ask whether its future lies in traditional industry or internet wand sales.”

For all previous coverage of this documentary, click here. You may also be interested in perusing the last couple year’s worth of The Wild Hunt’s Witch School coverage. Enjoy the documentary! Feel free to post reviews in the comments.

The upcoming 15th (and final) annual New York Underground Film Festival will be hosting the international premiere of the documentary “Hoopeston”. The film looks at a formerly prosperous Illinois town as it deals with a declining economy, drugs, and the controversy caused by Witch School (and the Correllian Tradition that runs it) moving in.

Hoopeston – Trailer from Synydyne on Vimeo.

“Two and a half hours south of Chicago near the Illinois- Indiana border, once the global capital of sweet corn production, Hoopeston, according to residents, went from a town of “overachievers to underachievers in the span of just ten to fifteen years.” Church. Meth. Republicans. That’s about what’s left when town officials, hoping to create jobs, start offering to give away prominent downtown buildings to anyone with a business plan … but – whoops – guess who’s coming to dinner: a displaced Wiccan sect shopping downmarket for a good spot to open the “nation’s first witch school,” Witch School. A beads industry mover and shaker from Virginia Beach; a pagan CEO with a checkered romantic past; the Orson Welles-esque leader of the Corellian Tradition, since age thirteen… take a trip with these egos to the dork side.”

While the NYUFF description is somewhat mocking, the filmmakers seem quite sincere in wanting to impartially tell the story of the conflicts that emerged between Witch School and the heavily Christian town.

“The directors of the school faced stiff opposition from religious conservatives (Hoopeston has over a dozen churches – its other nickname is “The Holy City”). But the Witch School is now a fixture in Hoopeston, one that forces the town to ask whether its future lies in traditional industry or internet wand sales. Hoopeston tells the story of the former Sweet Corn Capital through the lives of its residents. A laborer struggles to find work, a young entrepreneur buys the only motel in town, the police chief battles a drug epidemic, and the Correllian Chancellor lays plans for a vast Crystal Web.”

The Hoopeston story doesn’t have a happy ending for Witch School. Due to a number of factors, including the ongoing lack of acceptance by locals, the school (and the Correllians) moved to the even smaller town of Rossville, Illinois to make a new start of building a “Salem of the Midwest” (a plan that seems increasingly unlikely, as Rossville seems even less enthusiastic than Hoopeston at Witch School’s presence). “Hoopeston” should be an interesting exploration of what happens when religious cultures clash outside the (mostly) tolerant (and secular) urban areas most Pagans flock to.

The New York Underground Film Festival runs from April 2nd through the 8th at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City’s East Village. “Hoopeston” is scheduled to screen on April 3 at 8:45 PM, with a repeat showing on April 8 at 9:30 PM. No word yet on other festival appearances or a DVD release.