Archives For EarthSpirit

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Wielding signs and drums and offering chants and dance, Pagans joined the nearly 400,000 people who jammed the streets of New York City for the People’s Climate March on September 21. Scheduled to take place just ahead of the United Nations 2014 Climate Summit, the event was the largest in a worldwide series of protests that may have brought out more than half a million people calling for action.The Wild Hunt spoke with several of the participants about how they organized, what they were trying to accomplish, and what may come out of this historic event.

The march couldn’t have come at a better time for Courtney Weber, High Priestess of Novices of the Old Ways and member of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York City (PEC). Weber said the PEC was “a baby group that just started in March” when she and others “realized there needed to be a Pagan group in the work to make New York, and New York City specifically, an environmentally viable place.” Talk of “a big rally or march” was bouncing around on various activist email lists as early as May, and it seemed like a natural fit for the new group. She said:

“It started with us agreeing that we would be going to the march, then we were talking about organizing it, then it turned into organizing an entire weekend, and bring Pagans from out of town and house some of them, and getting some big speakers and making sure there’s a Pagan presence, and it turned into something really large.”

PEC’s efforts included a crowdfunding campaign to pay the travel costs for several Pagans who wanted to join the event. Seven people had their expenses covered so they could participate in the march. “That doesn’t seem like a lot to members of other religions,” Weber said, “but to have seven Pagans march with us thanks to the support of the community is a very special thing.”

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit:  Groundswell Movement)

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit: Groundswell Movement)

On the night before the march, PEC held a ritual and fellowship-gathering in Central Park, during which participants were encouraged to share how climate change had impacted their lives. What emerged, Weber said, was, “a message of deep concern. People spoke about droughts in their area and, for the New Yorkers, Hurricane Sandy was on our minds. We had a group coming down from Canada, which has been working really hard to fight the pipeline construction up there. We showed up as a community of faith, to say that this was a spiritual calling to be part of this march, because we regard the Earth as sacred and divine, and it was important that we be there and lend our presence and witness.”

Across the Atlantic, the Pagan Frontiers of London  organized its own presence for that city’s march. Dr. Vivianne Crowley joined the group for the event.  She said, “We thought it very important that there should be a Pagan presence at the pre-march multi-faith meditation, as well as at the march itself. We wanted to show that this was an issue that united faiths and we were delighted to say together (with a small Pagan adaptation) Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s prayer.”

Back in New York City, Andras Corben-Arthen offered an invocation for approximately 5,000 people just before the march began.

 

In the Spirit of the Earth, we are coming together;
in the Spirit of the Earth, we are one…” *
We come from the north, and we come from the south;
we come from the west, and we come from the east.
We gather from all directions
to march for this living planet
who is our home, who is what we are.
But we do not march only for ourselves,
we march for all beings of the Earth.
And so we call to sun, to wind and rain;
we call to mountains and glaciers;
we call to all who walk and crawl, who fly and swim;
we call to our ancestors, both seen and unseen;
we call to oceans and streams,
to trees, and grasses and stones
to guide and bless every step we take,
that we may once again live in harmony
with our Mother the Earth.
As it was, as it is, as it ever shall be;
with the flow and the ebb, as it ever shall be.

© 2014, Andras Corban-Arthen
*© 2000, Deirdre Pulgram-Arthen

Corban-Arthen also participated in the Religions for the Earth interfaith conference, which was held in conjunction with the march. He and members of the EarthSpirit community joined the interfaith section of the march alongside PEC.

Another Pagan organization in attendance was the Pagan Cluster, whose members gathered further north on the route. Here’s their account of the interplay between the two Pagan groups:

The group [Pagan Cluster] decided to participate in the ‘We Have the Solutions’ part of the march, bringing the earth-based energy to the midst of the food justice and big NGOs section. Another contingent of pagans organized by the Peoples Environmental Coalition marched as part of the faith block. Midway through the march the pagan groups ran into each other, played with each other’s energy a bit, but ultimately brought different energies to the streets and separated out again.The Pagan Environmental Coalition had a boisterous, high-energy vibe dominated by drums.The Pagan Cluster intentionally brought an energy deeply grounded and expressed through chants, carrying the sacred woad-dyed cloth of the Living River that has been at countless actions over the past 15 years. Both energies were needed in the march and valued by those around them. At the end of the march the Pagan Cluster, having been on their feet for over eight hours and 2.5 miles of pavement, ended with a spiral dance, bringing in bystanders and raising sweet energy to feed the work needed to fight climate change.

Courtney Weber of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York

Courtney Weber of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York (credit:  Charles Beisser)

In the interfaith section, Pagans were “wedged between the Universalists and Humanist Jews,” Weber recalled, where “Jews marched to the sound of drums and Pagan groups followed close behind.” At one point, in what she called “a perfect moment of interfaith action for the planet,” their musical talents combined:

“Our chants were quickly adopted by members of other faith groups because they’re earth-centered, inclusive, and easy to learn. At one point, while we were singing the ‘Air I Am’ chant, a Jewish guy in a bicycle cab next to me started playing along on his clarinet.”

In London, Crowley experienced the same kind of solidarity, noting in her statement, “For us, one of the outstanding aspects of the march was the diversity of those who came. It wasn’t only dedicated environmentalists and Pagan Earth Warriors. It was all ages from 0 to 90, demonstrating a solidarity for the Earth that cut across divisions of faith, class, race, and politics.”

Historic as the Climate March was, what comes next is more important still.

“We’re all very, very tired, and there’s a sense that we want to take a break,” said Weber, “but I think that would be the worst thing we can do.The march had a carbon footprint of its own, so we have to make this count for something so that carbon we put in was not wasted.”

Credit:  Charles Beisser

Credit: Charles Beisser

Crowley had similar sentiments, writing, “Climate Change marches have impact if they are linked to events like the UN summit that help give them high profile – political and business leaders are sensitive to public opinion. But marches are showpieces. It’s the actions we take every day to lessen our impact on the planet that also make a huge difference, and what we spend our money on. Consumer choices can make ‘People Power’ real.”

The summit itself was full of rhetoric but short on action, which was widely predicted. Weber reacted afterwards with a statement saying, “The words were encouraging, but what was missing were the concrete plans. President Obama pushed the need to reduce carbon emissions yet his administration is railroading the construction of dozens of liquefied natural gas export stations along both US coastlines. Natural gas is worse! Its extraction belches methane into the air which is a worse greenhouse gas than even carbon. It felt synonymous with the march in many ways: encouraging and hopeful. But like the march, the summit is a failure if specific action does not follow. I personally don’t want to hear any more leaders talk about the need to reduce climate change pollution. I want to hear specifically what they plan to do about it.”

Pagans don’t appear to be ready to rest on their laurels. New groups have emerged, such as Pagans Defending the Earth, and there are events on the horizon that can be used to continue the momentum, like the Global Frackdown on October 11. While the earth-centered religions are not able to force lightening-quick change, they are at least demonstrating the relentless pressure of a tectonic plate.

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!

William Kiesel of Ouroborous Press and Catamara Rosarium of Rosarium Blends.

William Kiesel and Catamara Rosarium of the EBC.

The 2014 Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle is coming up this September, and the event has now put out its call for submissions. Quote: “Speakers are encouraged to submit talks touching on historical or contemporary esoteric subjects. As the specific focus of the EBC is on Esoteric Books, presentations that relate to esoteric book[s] in particular or coincide with a new or recent release are given preference in determining the line up of guest speakers. We are after presentations as opposed to practical workshop submissions. Talks should be 45 minutes in length including time for questions. A short abstract describing the talk and its title should accompany your contact information. The conference features an Art Show each year and artists are encouraged to submit art related to the esoteric field. In addition to the showcased artists, whose work is shown in a gallery format, the conference also features a selection of fine art prints by other esoteric artists.” Applications forms can be found here. The event will be held at the University of Washington this year. Here’s an overview of last year’s event.

TFST-Channel-Art_BI want to start by pointing to an update on “The Fifth Sacred Thing” film project, based on Starhawk’s novel of the same name (Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars through Kickstarter in 2011 to help fund a pitch-reel). Quote: “In December Starhawk and I were back in the car on the way to Los Angeles again for a host of meetings and her annual Solstice Ritual.  We had a truly crazy schedule of four plus meetings per day (yes, that is completely nuts in LA) with producers, distributors, lawyers, production companies, special effects houses, and assorted friends and allies. And now in January, we start the new year with new investors coming online, a new budget, ROI projections and comps ready to go, the revised screenplay, video teaser, and pitch all ready to make our next steps possible.  We are grateful for your ongoing support, and look forward to updating you in the next exciting developments for this project.” So, things seem to be moving along. You can read all of my updates on this project, here.

116cover300The latest issue of Circle Magazine (#116) is now shipping, and available for order at the Circle Sanctuary store. The theme for this issue is “Our Sacred Environment.” Highlights include an article on “glamping” by Cara Schulz, and article on what to do when you think your religious rights are being violated, Savanna restoration at Circle Sanctuary, and an interview with Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future.” For those of you interested in being published in Circle, the deadline for issue #117, “Healing and Wellness,” is March 18th. Quote: “Techniques for spiritual and physical healing and wellness; Meditations for health and healing; incorporating exercise, mindful eating and other wellness practices into your Pagan lifestyle.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The Imbolc 2014 issue of Pentacle Magazine, “the UK’s premier independent Pagan magazine,” is now out. Quote: “Articles featured in this issue of Pentacle include: Anahita: Ancient Persion Goddess and Zoroastrian Yazata, By Spellbook and Candle: a Guide to Cursing, [...] Green Man: Albion Fracked! – environmental news and ponderings…”
  • EarthSpirit Community’s Rites of Spring festival is coming up in May, featuring musical performances by Kulgrinda, Honey Circuit, The Bardo Brothers, and more. Quote: “The EarthSpirit Community and Tamelin Productions invite you to join us for the thirty-sixth annual Rites of Spring — a gathering open to all who celebrate the sacred nature of the Earth. At the end of May, every year since 1979, our community has re-emerged as 500 participants from all over the United States and abroad come together to live and learn, work and play in a setting apart from our everyday lives.”
  • Moon Books has published a Paganism 101 book written by 101 Pagans. Quote: “Paganism 101 is an introduction to Paganism written by 101 Pagans. Grouped into three main sections, Who we are, What we believe and What we do, twenty topics fundamental to the understanding of the main Pagan traditions are each introduced by essay and then elaborated upon by other followers and practitioners, giving the reader a greater flavor of the variety and diversity that Paganism offers. With introductory essays from leading writers such as Emma Restall Orr, Mark Townsend, Brendan Myers, Jane Meredith, Alaric Albertsson and Rachel Patterson and with supporting vignettes from those at the heart of the Pagan community, Paganism 101 offers a truly unique insight.” The ebook is currently on sale for $2.99 at Amazon.
Patrick McCollum and Ram Dass

Patrick McCollum and Ram Dass

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

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!

Songs-560px-385x480Fulgur Esoterica has announced the publication of “Songs for the Witch Woman,” which features the work of rocket scientist Jack Parsons and his artist lover, Marjorie Cameron. Quote: “Songs for the Witch Woman is a project born from this turbulent love story. A series of poems written by Parsons reveal his feelings toward his often absent lover. And beside these words are images from the hand of Cameron, illustrating and echoing the intimate themes. After Parsons’ tragic death in June 1952 we find the notebook in which this work was recorded continues, as a bereaved Cameron keeps a diary of her magical working in Lamb Canyon, California. In the dark desert her words become a raw lament as she attempts to gain contact with her Holy Guardian Angel. And throughout the working, the memory of Jack is never far from her mind. Now published more than sixty years after it was written, Songs for the Witch Woman stands as a testament to lasting power of love and loss.” Find out more, here.

Altar of the Holy Place of the Elves Gálgahraun lava field IcelandThe Norse Mythology Blog has an excellent in-depth examination of a recent “news of the weird” story about elves in Iceland delaying a road project. As you might expect, there’s more to the story, and the blog reprints a correspondence with a leading expert on elves in Iceland. Quote: “There you have it, gentle readers. Make up your own minds about the original story, the critiques, the letters and the photographs. I simply thought that the professional journalists on both sides of the issue could use a bit of reminding about original research, speaking to sources and following up on a story as it develops after the initial AP report. My faith in modern journalism keeps getting lower as, for example, I repeatedly catch reporters in the mainstream media who are writing articles by literally cutting and pasting from Wikipedia articles.” Do check out the entire article.

Isobel ArthenThe EarthSpirit Community shared a photo by Jenna Pope of EarthSpirit member Isobel Arthen at a student-led peaceful action in Washington DC this weekend against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Hundreds were arrested at that action, including Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Quote: “Isobel Arthen, a member of EarthSpirit since she was born, takes a stand, putting her spirituality into action to protect our sacred Earth at the student-led XLDissent action in Washington DC on Sunday.” Photographer Jenna Pope added, quote, “people zip-tied themselves to the White House fence during a Keystone XL protest today. Thousands of students from around the country marched through DC, and hundreds of them sat down in front of the White House or zip tied themselves to the fence in an act of civil disobedience.” Jenna Pope’s official website can be found here. More photos from the action, here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • A formal fundraiser has been launched for author Donald Michael Kraig, to help with medical expenses while he battles cancer. Quote: “Many, many of you around the world have sent healing energies, magick and prayers. They are all appreciated and felt. In order to help offset the bills, we’re asking your help to raise funds for his medical bills.” More on this, here.
  • Next year, two East Coast Pagan/esoteric conferences, Between The Worlds, and Sacred Space, will become a joint shared event. Quote: “The attendees will get to have the benefit of having full access to two conferences for the cost of one. Both conferences are designed to meet the continuous growth and needs of intermediate to advanced practitioners. And for 2015 both conferences chose to cooperate with each other, taking advantage of that synergy of purpose instead of engaging in destructive competition. The two organizations will move forward with the future of both conferences intact, and will also leave a legacy of an example of cooperation amongst pagan/magickal organizations.” 
  • Musical duo Frenchy and the Punk, who have played at many Pagan events, are holding a Kickstarter to fund their next album. Quote: “We are itching to get back into the recording studio and we are scheduled to start in April so time is of the essence! We need your support so we can get in there and record a brand new CD! We will be touring in May – November all across the U.S. and in Europe and we want you to have the new CD. Pre-order the CD, combine it with other cool rewards and YOU become part of the process.”

20140225205821-72dpi_Burning_Serpent_Cover__and_Deck

  • An IndieGoGo campaign for a new oracle card set, The Burning Serpent Oracle, has already surpassed its goal, but if you like the look of the deck, now’s the time to jump on board and secure a copy for yourself. Quote: “The Burning Serpent Oracle deck, including the set of 40 cards by Robert M. Place (creator of The Alchemical Tarot) and 260 page book by Rachel Pollack (author of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom), is ready for the printer. To make this happen we need to raise $9000, and so we are launching this campaign.”
  • The full-length version of Margot Adler’s new book, “Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side,” is now out! Quote: “Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived. Would the long view allow us to see the world differently, imagine social structures differently? Would it increase or decrease our reverence for the planet? Vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury.”

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

“May the road rise up to meet you in blessing, Grand-Father of our nation.”Damon Leff, South African Pagan, Penton Independent Pagan Media.

On Thursday, news agencies reported that former South African President, and legendary anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela, had passed away at the age of 95 after a prolonged illness. Immediately tributes to, and reflections on, Mandela’s life and work emerged.

In his lifetime, Mandela had already passed into a place of history, though he spent his post-Apartheid years working towards peace, reconciliation, and human rights at home, and across the world. Few were left untouched by his work and legacy, including groups and individuals within the modern Pagan movement. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, saw Mandela speak in 1999 at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in South Africa, and participated in a ritual for peace at the island where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. Fox says she has “powerful memories of an amazing person.”

“Remembering Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ‘Madiba.’  Thankful to have been among those at his inspiring talk at the 1999 Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Cape Town, South Africa which received a rousing standing ovation.  Celebrating him, his life, his work with peace and reconciliation, freedom and human rights, environmental preservation and interfaith cooperation.  May he continue to inspire humans everywhere now and in generations to come to continue these endeavors.” – Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Members of the EarthSpirit Community, who were also at that peace ritual in South Africa, describe the experience.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Pagans processing in South Africa, 1999

Pagans in South Africa, 1999

“Many religious leaders had prepared blessings for the pole, but, due to time restraints, a bishop from Johannesburg gave the official blessing for all. He blessed the pole with incense and water and asked that everyone there go forward to the pole before they left, place their hand — or even better their two hands — on the pole and fill it with their light, to bring it to life, so that it would not be a dead piece of wood, but a living beacon of light, of hope and of peace for all who come to that place. It was a beautiful blessing and, even though he was strongly based in his own tradition, he was very inclusive in his language – not only blessing in the name of Jesus, but in the name of all of the “great ones” of every tradition.

He was followed by a traditional African priest who made an offering and blessed the pole in the name of his ancestors and in the name of all of those who suffered and died on the Island. The pole was then officially given to the Island by Africa Msimang, the South African director of the Parliament. At the end, before we returned to the boats, all of the pagans there went to the pole and made our own blessing together.”

Andras Corban-Arthen of EarthSpirit, on learning of Mandela’s death, said that he was feeling “sadness, gratitude and admiration toward this truly great man, whose life will continue to be a source of strength and inspiration for a very long time.” The Covenant of the Goddess, another organization represented at the 1999 Parliament where Mandela spoke, released this short statement on the news of his passing.

Covenant of the Goddess joins the world’s tribute to honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013). We are humbly thankful for Mandela’s humanitarian vision, his perseverance in the face of adversity and his personal sacrifice in the name of freedom for all.  Although his initial efforts were aimed at atrocities found in his own country, Mandela’s message knew no boundaries and inspired millions across the globe. May his spirit live forever in the memory of his life and the legacy that he has left.”

Crystal Blanton, a member of COG, left a more personal tribute at the Daughters of Eve blog.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“Today Nelson Mandela passed away and moved on to rest in the land of the ancestors, in the arms of the divine. And as I am sad today, it is hard to be sad when his life reminds me of the incredible sacrifices others have made for me to be able to be who I am today. It is on the shoulders of the ancestors that I stand, and I am so very honored to live in a world that cultivated the incredible spirits of people like Nelson Mandela, Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Joy DeGruy, Michelle Alexander, Little Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seal, Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, Malcolm, Martin, and so many more that are known to us and unknown; the slaves with no name, the activists, and the revolutionaries. What a beautiful thing to look back upon the faces of the brave, and know that I have been gifted this chance at life because of those who’ve been willing to lay their lives in front of the bullet for justice. A celebration of life is the gift that Mandela left, a gift he often was not able to enjoy for himself because he was too busy changing the world.”

Another tribute came from author, teacher, and activist T. Thorn Coyle, who shared a memory of how Mandela’s imprisonment inspired her to stand up against collaboration with the apartheid South African government.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“One day, the floor was going crazy. Paper was flying. Men were shouting. Blood pressure was rising. One of my Market Makers called me over to his trading pit and shouted an order for me to buy Krugerrands – the South African currency minted from gold. I looked at him and said, “No.” He stared at me. I stared back. His face flushed red, then purple, color rising from his neck up to his forehead. His mouth pinched. He threw his trading cards down and stormed out the of pit to buy the gold himself. Word spread around the floor like wildfire. At the end of the day, after the last bell had rung, I was collecting reams of paper for recycling – this was in the days before recycling was commonplace, I and another woman gathered the paper and carted it away. The lone African American trader crossed the floor, held out his hand, and said, simply, “Thank you.” Today, I say to Nelson Mandela: you were a giant in our minds. You were an inspiration. Your life was a clarion call goading us toward freedom and justice. Mr. Mandela, today, I hold out my hand in thanks.”

Pagan activist and first responder Peter Dybing said of Mandela that he “stood as the ultimate example of the struggle for human dignity in the face of oppression, confinement and political intrigue.”

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing

“For those of us in the U.S. his struggle represented an ideal.  In our deepest thoughts and desires we aspired to emulate this great man who was able to engage his oppressors with dignity, honor and true courage. Many of us believed by his example that a new world ethic of mutual respect, peace and cultural understanding was not only possible but also achievable. If Nelson could defeat the abomination that was Apartheid with love and compassion then all things were possible. For activists world wide, his example lead to a well spring of young idealists willing to engage in the great struggle for universal human dignity. It may be decades before the world realizes how profound his influence has been on international events. [...] Today we can imagine him being welcomed to tea by Gandhi, seated next to Dr. King, and engaged in conversation with Mother Teresa. It is a portrait that needs to be painted,; a legacy that will not be diminished.”

Quaker and Witch Stasa Morgan-Appel, notes that Mandela’s life was a gift, and that his death does not diminish what he gave to the world through his work.

“How many of us are sad to learn of Nelson Mandela’s death is likely not countable. We all die. Death is part of life. Mandela died at the end of a long and amazing life. He gave South Africa and the rest of the world the gift of his life and his service, and we are tremendously enriched by that. His death in the fullness of time is sad, yes — but it is not tragic. His death cannot make us poorer, cannot take away all he has done for his people and many peoples, cannot take away what he has given us. His legacy goes on. Who is remembered, lives; may his memory be a blessing. And a goad to work for justice.”

 I have no doubt that across different faiths, cultures, and nations, Mandela’s legacy is being honored. He has shown that peace can emerge from chaos, that reconciliation can emerge from hate, and that no system of oppression is inevitable or unchangeable. His memory, his legacy, will continue to watch over those who he worked to free. Our deepest respects go out to him.

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

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

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

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

In Other Pagan Community News: 

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

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

[The following is a guest post from Andras Corban Arthen. Andras Corban Arthenis the founder and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, an international religious and educational organization, established in 1977, which is dedicated to the preservation and development of Earth-centered spirituality, culture and community with a special focus on the indigenous European pagan traditions. He currently serves on the executive committee of the board of trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the oldest and largest interfaith organization.]

Andras_and_Jonas

Jonas Trinkūnas & Andras Corban Arthen

EarthSpirit recently sponsored a series of performances in Massachusetts and Vermont by Kulgrinda – the ritual performance group of Romuva, which is the name given in modern times to the revived ethnic pagan religion of Lithuania. Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva – who took part in those performances – is an old friend, someone I’ve known and respected very highly for some twenty years. Jonas attended Rites of Spring back in the nineties, and I have visited him, his family, and his community in Lithuania. In 2008, when the Parliament of the World’s Religions put me in charge of finding representatives of the indigenous spiritual traditions of Europe to attend the upcoming Parliament in Melbourne, Jonas’ name was the first on my list.

A few days ago, on 6 July, Jonas had the distinction of receiving the prestigious Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas, one of Lithuania’s top civilian honors. The award was personally bestowed by Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania, who praised Jonas for his involvement with the underground resistance against the Soviet regime which ruled Lithuania for over forty years, as well as for his work in preserving traditional Lithuanian religion and literature.

(l. to r.) Inija Trinkūnienė, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Jonas Trinkūnas

(l. to r.) Inija Trinkūnienė, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Jonas Trinkūnas

Lithuania was the last country in Europe to officially become Christian – a change which took place mainly for political reasons, and which was not completed until the beginning of the 15th century. The pagan religion co-existed with Christianity for a very long time beyond that, and continued to survive even after Catholicism became dominant and gradually attempted to assimilate and eradicate the remaining pagan practices. But paganism still lived on in the countryside: a large sector of the peasantry, though nominally Catholic, kept alive their traditional pagan spiritually which was deeply ingrained in their everyday lives. A very strong folkloric movement which began in the 18th century helped to keep alive, in the urban centers, an awareness of Lithuania’s pagan roots.

Kulgrinda

Kulgrinda

Jonas Trinkūnas immersed himself from an early age in the myths and folklore of his native land, and by the time he’d finished his university studies in the early 1960s, he had published a number of articles as well as a dissertation on pre-Christian Lithuanian religion. He became a researcher and professor of literature and ancient cultures at the University of Vilnius, and during that time he founded a very popular folkloric organization which presented a variety of traditional folk music and dance events; he also began making extended visits to the countryside, to learn directly from rural villagers what still survived of the original pagan traditions.

Jonas’ activities brought him afoul of the Soviet authorities, who feared that his religious and folkloric pursuits were fomenting nationalistic sentiments which could lead to acts of sedition. He was interrogated by the KGB, and subsequently dismissed from his teaching position at the university, and forbidden from holding any kind of teaching job; for many years, he was forced to do various kinds of menial work in order to support his growing family. His folkloric organization was officially suppressed, and he could only engage in his religious practices clandestinely.

Romuva and President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Members of Romuva and President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Finally, with the loosening of Soviet government controls brought about by glasnost and perestroika in the late eighties, Jonas was able to resume his public activities and to bring Romuva out in the open. Since 1990, when Lithuania achieved its independence from the Soviet Union (the first of the former Soviet republics to do so), Romuva has grown steadily and has achieved a strong presence in Lithuanian culture, though it has not yet managed to gain official government status as a traditional religion.

It may have been an unprecedented event for a pagan leader to be awarded a high honor by the president of his country – it’s certainly something that should make all pagans around the world very proud. Let us hope that the bestowal of the Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas upon Jonas Trinkūnas signals a growing willingness by the Lithuanian government to grant Romuva the official status it has long deserved.

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

The Passing of Danelle Dragonetti: On December 16th Danelle Dragonetti, also known as WinterHawk, died after a prolonged battle with cancer. Dragonetti was well known in many Pagan circles as a musician, producer, and founder of the Wiccan Pagan Broadcast Network (WPBN), an Internet streaming radio service that prefigured the vibrant Pagan radio and podcasting community we now enjoy. Pagan podcasters Sparrow and Mojo of the The Wigglian Way dedicated their most recent podcast to Danelle, with Sparrow noting that “it weren’t for Danelle we probably wouldn’t have our show.” Witches’ Voice co-founder Wren Walker also noted Dragonetti’s influence in the world of Pagan podcasts.

“The Witch/Wiccan/Pagan communities have lost a guiding light and a vibrant voice. Danelle Dragonetti (Winterhawk) opened the door and set the bar for many of the podcasts that we enjoy today. Danelle wasn’t afraid to aim high or to take on a challenge. Good journey, Danelle. Thank you for speaking your mind and singing your song.”

In addition to her work within the Pagan community, Dragonetti was also a much-beloved figure within the Vampire subculture in her home of Denver, this included being dubbed the “Queen Vampyre Of Denver.” An outpouring of love, sorrow, and remembrances from friends and acquaintances have appeared at her Facebook profile. A memorial service and wake is scheduled for January 15th in Denver. My condolences go out to Dragonetti’s family and friends, may her spirit find rest and return to us again.

Justice for Kathy Dempsey: Nineteen years ago in Lexington, Massachusetts Kathleen Dempsey, 31, was stabbed to death in her home by an unknown assailant. Now, her killer, already serving a life sentence for another murder, has stepped forward and admitted his crime, bringing some sense of closure to her friends and family. Among those friends and family were the local Pagan community, as Dempsey was one of them, a member of EarthSpirit and their ritual performance troupe MotherTongue. One of Kathy’s acquaintances from that time, Peg Aloi, writes about the killing, how it affected her friends in the Pagan community, and how it feels to finally see her killer brought to account.

Kathleen Dempsey

Kathleen Dempsey

“I remember KD as a kind, funny, sweet, talented woman: always friendly, always upbeat. She loved animals, did not consider cleaning a priority, loved to dance, and seemed to think the best of everyone unless she had a reason not to. I saw her for the last time a mere three weeks before she was killed. Her smile, glimpsed in a hallway, still haunts me. I recall the Earthspirit Samhain gathering that year: the tears and wails of loss during the ritual as we named those who had passed that year. I don’t know who it was but one male voice screamed out “Kathy!” after a number of other names were recited. It was a soul-shattering moment I will never forget.”

I would recommend reading the entire post at Peg’s blog. My deepest sympathies go out to Kathy’s friends and family, I hope these events bring some measure of solace.

A Pagan Organizer at Occupy Eugene: One of the longest-running Occupy movement encampments has been the one happening in my own home town of Eugene, Oregon. There, a unique alliance between homeless tribes, anarchists, veterans, labor unions, college students, faculty, and Baby Boom generation activists who helped give Eugene its unique cultural stamp managed to create a community that was actively working to build new solutions to the problems brought on by economic disparity and injustice. Now, as we speak that encampment is being dismantled, and many Occupiers are claiming that local police engaged in sabotage tactics and psychological warfare to make it happen.  One of the main organizers of Occupy Eugene, who has acted as a go-between with city officials and police, is Alley Valkyrie, a longtime member of the Pagan community who originally lived on the East Coast and was a part of festivals like Brushwood. Valkyrie has been in the local media a lot lately, and she is featured in the Eugene Weekly’s cover story about the end of Eugene’s Occupy encampment.

Alley Valkyrie. Photo by Rob Sydor.

Alley Valkyrie. Photo by Rob Sydor.

“I don’t sleep here,” Valkyrie said, laughing. “I’m up all night.” She said in recent days the crackdown on fires had made the camp colder, and the stadium lighting the police put up and increased patrols were “psychological warfare.” [...] According to Valkyrie, one of the extraordinary things Occupy has done is bring the street families together and let street kids learn from older activists, and the activists in turn learn from the street families. “A Ph.D. stands next to a homeless kid and they both have an equal say and an equal vote,” she said.

I’ve been honored to get to know Alley in recent days, and have sat down to talk with her about Occupy Eugene and its future. I’ll be running a future story here at The Wild Hunt that will feature an interview with Alley Valkyrie, and discuss the unique spiritual culture of Eugene and its Occupy movement. In the meantime, keep an eye on Alley Valkyrie as I think she represents the shape of our future leaders and organizers: passionate, engaged, and more concerned about building community than taking credit for building community.

Other Community Notes:

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

For those of you enjoying the wide-ranging discussions about Pagan identity that have emerged in the wake of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (specifically the categories of “Traditional/Indigenous”, “Reconstructionist”, and “Neopagan”), I’d like to quickly point you to some explorations of this topic going on elsewhere. First, Pagan scholar Chas Clifton explores the politics that underly terms like “indigenous”, and whether they can apply to contemporary Pagans.

“So are today’s revived and re-created Pagan traditions “indigenous.” I think not—not because they lack ancient roots, but because they are not generally connected to land claims and other current political issues.”

Meanwhile, at the Pagans at the Parliament group-blog, T. Thorn Coyle has posted a three-part reflection (part 1, part 2, part 3) on Nature Religion, and Paganism as an indigenous religion, while on the road in Tasmania. Thorn wonders if applying “indigenous” labels to certain contemporary Pagan groups might become problematic in the longer run.

“In these conversations about which Pagans are “indigenous” and which are “neo-Pagans” how long is it before indigenous comes to equal authentic and authentic comes to equal pure and pure comes to equal superior?”

I urge my readers invested in this current discussion/debate to read and comment on all of the linked entries, because I think they have some important insights and wisdom to convey. Also stay tuned to the EarthSpirit Voices blog, where Andras Corban Arthen promises a report on the “The Revival of the European Pagan Traditions” Parliament panel that seems to have sparked much of this discussion.

While Saturday is just beginning for us in America, it is already finished in Australia, and a large influx of updates and reports from the Pagan delegations at the Parliament of the World’s Religions have appeared. Let’s start with Dave Linton of Circle Sanctuary’s report of Patrick McCollum’s Saturday-morning ritual at the Parliament.

“Today started with the Solstice Sites and Celebrations program and ritual, which was held outdoors at 8:00 am under a sparkling blue sky, next to the Yarra river, and outside the massive glass walls of the Melbourne Convention Center. Patrick McCollum started the session with a discussion of the combined Northern Hemisphere Winter Solstice and Southern Hemisphere Summer Solstice celebration. This led to how Solstices have been celebrated through the ages, and sacred places where these celebrations have been held historically, and are today.”

But that wasn’t the only Pagan observance happening at Parliament, EarthSpirit’s blog brings us an account of Friday afternoon’s “Peace at the Heart of the World” ritual, co-facilitated by Deirdre Pulgram Arthen, Andras Corban Arthen and Angie Buchanan.


Peace ritual procession. Photo by Moira Ashleigh.

“In the ritual many Pagan presenters offered a spoken piece including T Thorn Coyle, River Higginbotham, Drake Spaeth, Anna Korn, Don Frew, Patrick McCollum, Sue Curewitz Arthen, Kaye Hughes Kittredge, Chris LaFond, Moira Ashleigh and several of the Queensland Pagans. The sacred waters of the worlds were brought to bless everyone as well as the sacred symbolic rattles by Julee Higginbotham. MotherTongue led several chants and closed with a Gaelic Blessing.”

Meanwhile, Don Frew from COG gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the chaos sometimes involved in putting such a ritual together. In fact, the COG Interfaith Reports blog has been refreshingly candid about the frustrations and hectic-paced nature of an event of this magnitude. I’m amazed at how often they’ve been able to update. According to a communication I’ve had from author and Cherry Hill Seminary teacher Michael York, there’s barely time to breath, let alone eat, due to the oft-times frenzied pace. Perhaps that’s why Thorn Coyle wisely decided to share short vignettes in her latest update, rather than even attempt a longer narrative.

“Saami in embroidered clothing. Orange robes. Grey robes. Business suits. Saris. Brown robes. Golden robes. Celtic patterns. Jeans. Turbans. Hijab. Bare heads. Skin of many hues and hair of many textures. Many, many smiles.”

As for local Pagans, they shared their hospitality at Friday’s Parliament Local Community Night, where the Melbourne Reclaiming group organized a ritual and local Pagan rock-star Wendy Rule (among others) performed. There hasn’t been much written about it (yet), but I’ve heard nothing but good things from the folks who’ve been in contact with me.

Turning briefly to mainstream coverage of the Parliament, Pagans haven’t been mentioned all that much, save for a brief aside in an article about the items for sale in the exhibitor’s hall.

“The sceptics are the only ones missing in action. But the pagans have set up shop with a contingent of about 50 from the United States. At their stall they sell celebratory music for the winter solstice – a bargain at $20.”

I suppose our lack of impression on the global media (so far) is understandable considering the many religious (and political) heavy-hitters presenting and giving talks at the Parliament. This state of being lost in a sea of religious voices only underscores why it’s important for Pagan organizations and journalists to work together in getting the word out, something that I think is starting to happen with events like this.

As always, stay tuned to the Pagans at the Parliament blog for more updates, I expect we’ll be hearing from more folks as the paces starts to slow down a bit, and attendees have a moment to collect their thoughts and report in. I’m still arranging audio interviews, so more on that as it happens.

The oldest and largest interfaith organization in the world, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, has elected two leaders from the Pagan community to serve on its executive council. The Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, and Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, a director of the EarthSpirit Community.

“Two well-known leaders of the Pagan community were elected to executive positions by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR), in Chicago, Illinois this past weekend … Since its founding, CPWR has sponsored major international interfaith conferences in the USA, Africa, and Europe, and is preparing for the next conference to be held in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. On October 22, 2007, Rev. Angie Buchanan was elected for a three-year term to the Office of Secretary for the Board of Directors of the Parliament and will also serve on the Executive Committee … In addition, Rev. Andras Corban-Arthen, serving as a member of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees since 2006, was also elected to serve on the Executive Committee as a “Member at Large” at the same meeting this past weekend.”

It was at the 1993 Parliament in Chicago (the first in 100 years) that the growing Pagan community “came out” to the larger religious world for the first time*.

“The Pagan presence at the Parliament was historic. The fact that this Parliament included Pagan group sponsors, speakers, and delegates in the first place was noteworthy, since Nature religions were excluded from the first Parliament. At this Parliament, however, there was inclusion, respect, and support. In addition to Wiccans and other Pagans, there were those from a variety of traditional Nature wisdom paths, including Winnebago, Navajo, Hopi, Yoruba, Maya, Santeria, Lakota, Cheyenne, and others. Pagan and Native American participation received widespread positive media attention. Some reporters commented that just as the first Parliament served to introduce Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions to the realm of religions in the West, this Parliament served to bring Pagan and Native American spiritualities more fully into the community of the world’s religions.”

Since then modern Pagans have been an active part of Parliament-related interfaith forums and activities. Becoming a valued and respected part of its organizing council. Pagan participants are expected to be a valuable voice in the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where issues of aboriginal reconciliation, sustainability, and global climate change, will be explored through the lens of indigenous spiritualities.

The fact that modern Pagans have risen to places of leadership in the global interfaith movement in less than fifteen years is extraordinary, and is a credit to our collective movement. One can only hope that this is a positive sign for the future, and that modern Pagan and Heathen organizations from across the world will step up to make their own voices heard in our global community in the coming years.

* The sponsoring Pagan organizations at the 1993 Parliament were Circle Sanctuary (Circle), Covenant of the Goddess (COG), EarthSpirit Community, Fellowship of Isis, and Lyceum of Venus of Healing.