Archives For Ed Hubbard

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. Pagan Community Notes is just one of the many regular features The Wild Hunt brings you to help keep you informed about what’s going on in our interconnected communities. If you appreciate this reporting, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the nearly 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, on to the news…

TCE-frontcover-med copyJournalist Beth Winegarner, who moderated a panel on Pagans and the press at the 2013 PantheaCon in San Jose, has a new book coming out in December that explores how different teen pastimes got “caught in the crossfire” after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Quote: “‘There are stories in The Columbine Effect from teens who got themselves through horrific incidentsincluding severe burns or parent who might dieby listening to heavy metal. Other teens told me about discovering themselves and finding a network of friends through Wicca or Satanism. And there’s research to back them up,’ Winegarner says.’The Columbine Effect’ highlights the voices of academics, authors, legislators and others whose work supports the idea that some of the most demonized pastimes are actually good for kids. From Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to pagan author and NPR reporter Margot Adler, the book is filled with experts who see no harm in letting teens explore these interests.” It should be a thought-provoking work, and I’ll be lining up an interview with Winegarner in the near future to talk about Paganism within the context of her book’s thesis. For now, you can see a promotional video and read a sample chapter of “The Columbine Effect” at Winegarner’s official web site.

spiralheartSpiralheart, a community within the Reclaiming tradition, is launching Alchemeet, a once-a-month “Pagan meeting-of-minds that takes place online and is available to anyone who would like to join.” Quote: “The views presented in Alchemeet are designed to spark creative discussion in a safe environment and may be controversial by nature. These views do not represent the Spiralheart community as a whole and indeed may not even be the opinion of the host. Instead, the topics are meant to be edgy mental exercises in spirituality and to foster online community each month. Our hope is that you may feel infused or inspired to take these discussions and allow them to influence your daily practice—or not. It’s up to you.” The first talk will be held on November 5th, hosted by Boneweaver, on “The Necessity of Cutting Off One’s Legs In Spiritual Work.” Quote:  “I’ll explain my symbolic missing legs and what I’m willing to sacrifice for my deep work—and why!—and then I’d like to hear from you. Are you willing to be brave for the spiritual realizations you seek?” Details on how to join the Google Hangout-based discussion/symposium can be found, here.

10279415704_0dda6c8066_mGuatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun, who got quite a bit of press a couple years ago debunking the 2012 Mayan calendar “doomsday” hype, recently visited Oakland, California where he led a Mayan Fire Ritual for a gathering of the People of the Earth Community. M. Macha Nightmare published her impressions of the event back in September. Quote: “What appealed to me was the obvious care and reverence with which everything was brought together and performed, the sense of fellowship I felt, the beauty of the surroundings, both natural and human-made, the quiet filled with actions but not with talking, and the flames.  I’m grateful to have had this opportunity.” Now, photographer Gregory Harder has posted his photoset from that event to Flickr. For those clued into the California Bay Area Pagan scene, you’ll see several notable folks, including Luisah Teish, Don Frew, Gus diZerega, and more. Below I’ve included one of the photos, from the ritual in progress.

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

In Other Pagan Community News:

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to bring you reporting from our interconnected communities!

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!

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!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at PanDianic.org by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!

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.

Modern Pagan religions are growing, this is a fact backed up by surveys and census data, and many believe that we are growing even faster than these somewhat imprecise methods can track. Historian Ronald Hutton has estimated that there may be as many as a quarter of a million Pagans in the United Kingdom, far more than the figure of 40,000 from the 2001 census, and Pagan groups in Australia and Britain have engaged in campaigns that they hope will bring in census results closer to their own estimates. That said, until we get better figures, better surveys, we have to go by what we have. That means around 40,000 Pagans in the UK, around 30,000 Pagans in Australia, around 22,000 Pagans in Canada, and recent Pew Forum and ARIS data that places modern Paganism hovering somewhere around a million adherents (give or take a hundred thousand or two) in the United States.

Not going to become the 3rd largest religious group any time soon.

Not going to become the 3rd largest religious group any time soon.

However, even if we grant that the larger estimates by friendly scholars and movement insiders are more accurate (and I’m hoping 2011 census data will bear our larger estimates out), that would still only mean around 3-5 million modern (ie “neo,” revivalist, and reconstructionist) Pagans worldwide. We are far from taking anything over, despite our advances and achievements. Yet the mere idea of Paganism’s return has sparked some atavistic fears within certain segments of Christianity, and has caused them to use shoddy estimates to falsely bolster our numbers in order scare their audiences into buying products. Many are gloomily predicting that Wicca will soon be America’s third-largest religion. Naturally, what scares certain conservative Christians excites some Pagans, leading them to use these explosive estimates to their own ends.

Wicca is America’s Fastest Growing religion, and it is anticipated by some Christian religious experts that it will become the third largest religion in the United States early in the 21st century, behind only Christianity and Islam. Just this week, a press release for the new book God’s Ghostbusters, by Defender Publishing quoted editor Thomas Horn “In the United States alone, there are now more than two hundred thousand registered witches and as many as 8 million unregistered practitioners of ‘the craft’.”

Witch School Co-Founder Ed Hubbard recognizes that the statements and numbers put out by Horn are similar to his own viewpoint. Hubbard offers “There is such a rapid spiritual reorientation in America occurring, that the need for thousands of Wiccan teachers over the course of the next decade will be required to meet the demand for basic teachings. Because of Wicca’s liberating beliefs and useful skills, people want to understand and embrace it, and learn how to awaken their inner abilities.”

That’s from a brand-new press release issued by Witch School, using these largely invented figures to sell their product. In fact, Witch School co-founder Ed Hubbard knows Horn’s figures are overblown, because he told me so right here at The Wild Hunt.

“I know how they got the 8 million. It has to do with a series of articles from 2005. Basically if we had doubled every eighteen months as we did in the beginning, we would be facing 8 million. I know much of where this is coming from. I can give the strange math if you ever want it.”

In fact that there is a “spiritual reorientation” going on in the West, but it isn’t really about modern Paganism. The numbers point to growing numbers of the religiously unaffiliated more than anything else. That may be good for us societally speaking, and may even spark some growth, but we aren’t the primary recipients of this shift into post-Christianity. Witch School may have had over 200,000 people take classes with them, but I highly doubt they’ve managed a 100% retention rate of students who stuck with Wicca or some other form of modern Paganism over the years.

Speaking frankly, I think it does our movement no favors to peddle misinformation and wishful thinking in order to self-promote. Spreading inaccurate narratives, no matter how positive they may seem, actually harms our attempts to establish ourselves. Muddying waters with “strange math” simply sets us up as opportunistic self-promoters instead of building the bridges we need in areas like chaplaincy, intrafaith, and interfaith work. I’m disappointed that a popular Pagan service would validate the Christians who want to see us as a encroaching menace, even if may flatter our conceptions of rapid growth. The narrative of explosive growth does us no good, I hope that Pagans will drop it in favor of statistical data that will support our claims.

Just a few quick news notes for your Saturday.

Thorn Coyle Launches New Video Series: Pagan author and mentor T. Thorn Coyle has announced the launch of a new subscription video teaching series entitled Fiat LVX. For $20 dollars per month subscribers will have access to two professionally produced instructional and informational videos featuring T. Thorn Coyle each month.

“The first installment will examine a different spiritual idea as it directly relates to our lives; the second video will guide you through the steps of putting that concept into direct experience. A forum led by Morningstar Mentors and Thorn will enable you to ask questions, delve into your experience with other participants, and hopefully inspire us all to keep practicing! Twice monthly practice prompts will support and further the work.

Topics include: Becoming the priestess, able to mediate the space between the Twin Pillars of yes and no, push and pull, light and dark. The power of Integrative Magick that enables us to bring all parts of life to bear on our great work. Aligning the parts of our soul, connecting our animal, human, and divine natures. The series will grow and expand over time, facilitating our own growth and expansion.”

Funds raised through Fiat LVX will go into covering production costs, with any remainder being funneled into the non-profit Pagan organization Solar Cross. While there have been Pagan instructional videos in the past, and a growing number of Pagans are utilizing Internet video and communication services to conduct classes, I believe this is a unique service, particularly considering the professional production values.

Ten Years of Fort Bragg Open Circle: Today, Fort Bragg Open Circle, one of the longest-running Pagan military groups in the United States, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Attending and speaking at the event is Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who had this to say about this milestone in the group’s history.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

“The Fort Bragg Open Circle is one of the oldest and longest running Pagan military groups in the United States of America. Also known by its original name, Bragg Pope Open Circle, it has been providing ceremonies, education, and other support for Pagans at Fort Bragg since its founding in 2001. It was among the Pagan military groups that took part in the successful quest to have the US Department of Veterans Affairs add the pentacle to its list of emblems of belief that can be included on veteran gravemarkers. I look forward to being part of the Fort Bragg Open Circle’s 10th Anniversary activities on Saturday and celebrating this milestone for this group — and for Paganism as a whole!”

The Fort Bragg Open Circle was formed not long after some conservative politicians, specifically former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr,  tried to institute a ban on modern Pagans in the military. That uproar in 1999 would echo for another decade, denying military Pagans the full honor and respect they deserve. So here’s to the Fort Bragg Open Circle for standing up and being out during a time when it truly was risky to do so. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary!

The Young Witches of Salem: Tonight sees the premiere of “The Young Witches of Salem,” a reality web series produced by Ed Hubbard of Witch School that follows a group of young Witches living in Salem, Massachusetts during the city’s busiest month of the year.

“October 1st, 2011 With the cool fall winds of fall and we enter the month of October, America turns to Halloween, seeking out fun and entertainment. Starting Saturday Night, October 1st, the world will be able to visit the Halloween Capital of the World, Salem, Massachusetts, aka The Witch City and follow the exploits of real live Witches during the Haunted Happenings Season. The Young Witches of Salem will begin broadcasting their own web series and sharing their lives as part of the season. The series will follow The Young Witches Lexi Renee, Caitlin Rose, Peter Murphy and Danielle Young as they learn their craft from Salem leaders and Witch Elders, while dealing with the daily reality of their jobs, school, and personal lives. They are inviting the world to become part of the celebration known as Haunted Happenings, as seen through their eyes.

The cast members are not actors, but real members of the Witch community, a community that extends far beyond Salem itself, and they each have a different way of looking at the world. The web series will allow each of the Young Witches to have their individual voice and will allow the audience to have a voice as well with the inclusion of interactive video.”

I believe all the videos in this series will be posted to the MagickTV Youtube account for those who’d like to follow it there. It should be interesting to see how this develops, and who gets involved. Good luck to the Young Witches!

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

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

International Pagan Coming Out Day: It is less than a week to Pagan Coming Out Day, May 2nd, and PNC-Minnesota has a story up about a local IPCOD celebration that will feature a screening of the documentary “American Mystic”.

The event takes place May 2nd at the Sacred Paths Center and is open to all Pagans and Pagan allies, no matter if you have been ‘out’ for ages or are not yet able to be open about your Pagan spirituality.  It directly follows the usual Monday night Pagan Potluck and the event is offered as a free gift to the community.  An opening Hellenic-style libation to Hestia, a Goddess that strengthens the bonds of family and community,  kicks off the evening, with champagne cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks and desserts to follow.  Once everyone has their treats, the movie American Mystic will be screened for the first time in the Twin Cities area.  The documentary opened at Pantheacon to rave reviews.”

Meanwhile, David Salisbury at PNC-Washington DC/Capital Witch mentions the DC-area IPCOD event sponsored by the Open Hearth Foundation.

“Sponsoring DC’s event is the Open Hearth Foundation who just announced that our location will be at the back gates of the White House. Really, if you’re going to come out as anything, it might as well be right on the President’s doorstep! Participants should gather at the sidewalk area in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue at 7:45pm. A public coming out ritual will being at 8:00pm, followed by walking to a local restaurant for community sharing and celebration. In addition to the gathering itself, the OHF will also have support volunteers on-site to help those who might find the coming out process difficult or emotional.”

You can see a full list of scheduled IPCOD celebrations, here. Follow IPCOD on Facebook, here. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve in an advisory capacity on IPCOD’s executive board. I’m working with this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD, and help spread the word. Addendum: Here’s more on IPCOD from Patheos.com.

Calling Ourselves Pagan: Since we just talked about “coming out” as a Pagan, perhaps we should also talk about the label of “Pagan” itself. In a recent guest-post for Patheos.com, Scott Reimers advocated finding a different word for our diverse movement. In response, author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle wrote a two-part essay discussing some questions and one possible answer to the issue of calling ourselves Pagan.

What do I think is this thing that ties such diverse ways and means of practice, experience, and belief together? We all have a sense of “Divine with us on earth.” The Gods are not just far off in Asgard, they are in our gardens and our homes. Goddesses don’t just live in some distant place, they help us run our businesses, and teach our children. And these Gods and Goddesses have their own agency, too. Paganism(s) and systems of magick – as they exist in contemporary religious expression in this loosely knit group of practitioners – hold theologies of immanence in common, whether this is directly acknowledged or not. Magick would not work without direct divine connection. Rituals would be meaningless or simply psychological exercises if there was not some strong, direct sense that whatever sacred energies or forces we work with were not here with us, right now.

That is what drew me to Paganism in the first place: God was not off in some distant and transcendent place. God Herself, and individual sacred expressions such as trees, ocean, stars, this particular God or that particular Goddess… were all moving, flowing, acting, resting, and directly making up the cosmos(es) right now. And so was I. If this was not the case, our magic would be simple begging and supplication. Instead, our magick, for those of us that do it, becomes a way to help create the world. Those of us who don’t do operative magick celebrate the realization that this sacred expression is with us every day. And for this, we give thanks: we dance around Maypoles, we raise horns of wine and beer in honor, we light candles to draw us deeper into contemplation, we make love as a way to draw closer to our Gods, knowing that often our Gods are as close as the breath of our lovers.

I anticipate that we are collectively stuck with “Pagan” for the foreseeable future. Perhaps a day will come when the various religions, traditions, and groups under our wide umbrella get big enough to not see (or need) the agency in being part of something larger, but I don’t think that day will come in my lifetime. However, for now, solidarity and collective effort is still needed to safeguard our basic rights, and advocate for equal treatment. To build basic religious services, and to gain the attention of the wider world. Even when we do reach the point where Wiccans, Druids, Asatru, and other faiths no longer need to be thrown together for various political reasons, we may find that we are all still attending the same parties.

The Correllians Get a New First Priestess: The Correllian Nativist Tradition have announced a restructuring and expansion of their Council of Elders, and have named a new First Priestess to replace the now-retired M. Rev. Krystel High-Correll.

“In addition M. Rev. Krystel High-Correll, First Priestess of the Correllian Tradition, has already been in retirement for several years now. As Retired First Priestess Lady Krystel does and always will enjoy the same level of respect and dignity that she has born for the last three decades of her imperium. Now, after much consideration, we are pleased to announce an Heir to the office of First Priestess: Lady Krystel and the entirety of the Council of Elders are pleased to name Rt. Rev. Traci Logan Wood as Heiress and Acting First Priestess, in accordance with the Rules of Succession of the Correllian Tradition as outlined in the Tradition bylaws. May the Blessing be upon the Acting First Priestess!”

In addition to naming Traci Logan Wood as First Priestess, a lifetime appointment, Ed Hubbard was also named as the new First Elder of the tradition and several new members of their Council of Elders were named in order “to fulfill the duties and offices needed for a Tradition that has become truly global.” My congratulations to to Wood, Hubbard, and the new Elders.

In a somewhat related note, congratulations to Pagans Tonight, which is quickly approaching its 500th episode.

More on Pagans in Prison: The PNC-Minnesota special series on Pagans in prison continues today, featuring an interview with Emrys Anu, a Wiccan Minister volunteering for the last six years at Rush City Correctional Facility.

“I work with mainly 20 – 40 year olds, and we work always within a ritual circle. Whatever work we plan for that day, we do in that circle. We create that as sacred space, and we consider what we do in there as our sacred work. We may have a lecture, a meditation, a reading, a ritual, or we may just talk. We just finished a ‘lecture’ on ‘what is Wicca?’. The history, and Paganism will be coming up. (Laughs, “It always comes up, “Do you worship Jesus, too?”) They often are asking for some kind of healing work. Typically some kind of energy work. We do a lot of different blessings. Blessings for impending court cases. When people leave we do a special blessing that always ends with “DON’T COME BACK! ”. We sometimes play games and do fun things. We play Wiccan charades, or ‘Wiccan Hangman’ and ‘Wiccan Hangman in Theban’. We have a fantastic energy sensing werewolf game that we play. We may discuss a book or do ritual planning. A few weeks before a Sabbat we talk about ritual in general, and what we will do for this one. How does it connect to nature and what is going on inside of us. It may be a full moon or dark moon. These might have some simple spell work within it. We meet once a week for two hours.”

Read the entire interview, here. In the next installment, Nels Linde will feature transcribed letters from prisoners and some editorial thoughts on the issue. This has been some excellent coverage on the issue, and I highly recommend heading over to PNC-Minnesota and reading the entire series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Patheos Interviews of Note: I just wanted to close with some quick links to two interviews of note over at the Patheos Pagan Portal. First, Galina Krasskova interviews author Melitta Benu, a practitioner of  Alexandrian Reconstruction. Then, the Staff of Asclepius blog interviews Pagan author and lecturer Janet Callahan. Both are thought-provoking and worth checking out.

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

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

American Mystic Director on Pagan Centered Podcast: The Pagan Centered Podcast has just posted its latest episode, featuring an hour-long discussion with Alex Mar, director of the new documentary “American Mystic”. You can download the program, here.

“The PCP Crew interviews Alex Mar of American Mystic, the first movie branded as a Pagan movie to be released to the general public in theaters! The crew discusses their thoughts about the movie with Alex and we all explore the movie at a greater depth. Don’t worry, even though we screened the full movie, we were able to negotiate the right to release the trailer to you as part of this episode so you will have some idea about what we are talking about. Special thanks again to Alex Mar and Empire 8 for making this happen on such short notice!”

Alex and “American Mystic” has been making the rounds of Pagan media lately, doing interviews with The Modern Witch Podcast (not to mention The Wild Hunt), and receiving positive reviews from a number of national Pagan outlets. The DVD will be available for sale at PantheaCon, and will be distributed exclusively to the Pagan community for a few months, before going “wide” this Summer on Netflix and iTunes. This year’s Pantheacon will feature a special screening of “American Mystic”, which will be followed by a Q&A led by me with the director, Morpheus Ravenna, and members of Stone City Pagan Sanctuary.

Witch School Names New President: The Internet-based WitchSchool has named Rev. Anna Rowe, Head of School for Europe and the UK, as the learning institution’s new president.

“Towards the end of January Ed Hubbard CEO of Witchschool asked me to consider the position of President of Witchschool. Ed has said that he has faith and trust in me to do the job so therefore I accepted. I have an extensive knowledge of how Witchschool works from the bottom up as I have been a member of Witchschool since it was originally just the Daily Spell going out via email. […] I hope that every member of Witchschool will support me in our continued effort to provide anyone, anytime, anyplace with a Magical, Pagan and Wiccan Education. Witchschool is a valuable and growing aspect of the Pagan and Wiccan community and we are open to anyone who wishes to become a member and participate in our peer to peer learning.”

CEO Ed Hubbard commented that this move shows “that Witch School can develop global Pagan leadership.” While WitchSchool has drawn quite a bit of criticism and controversy during its existence, it has also developed a truly global network of students and practitioners, boasting ties from India to Brazil. Will the appointment of a president outside the United States denote a new focus on its international students? How will this affect their Salem campus? I’ll be paying attention as these issues develop.

A (Witchy) Romanian Valentine For You: The Canadian Press notes that a number of Romanian witches, led by Witch Queen Mihaela Minca, have performed a public ritual to help you find love on this Valentine’s Day.

“Joined by a handful of apprentice witches, queen witch Mihaela Minca led Monday’s outdoor ceremony, casting spells with peacock feathers and rose petals. The witches wore colorful, glittering robes in freezing temperatures to perform the ritual in the lakeside village of Mogosoaia.”

In addition to these amorous actions, Minca has been vocal lately in opposition to Romania’s new laws regulating witchcraft and fortune-telling. An issue I’ve covered quite a bit recently. Under proposed new regulations, could she be penalized if you fail in your romantic pursuits? It seems a silly thing to conceive of, but that’s exactly the road Romania’s been traveling down lately.

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

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.

Considering the fact that my initial entry last week about the language used to define (or not define) the various Paganisms at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne is edging near 200 comments, I think we can safely say it struck a few nerves. At the heart of the discussion was Ed Hubbard’s quotation from EarthSpirit founder and Parliament Board of Trustees member Andras Corban-Arthen that seemed to imply that some forms of Paganism were, well, not quite Pagan.

“Andras Corban-Arthen points out that Wicca, for example, cannot be seen as an indigenous Pagan faith practice and is instead a modern syncretic movement. Under this description Wicca therefore would not fall under the definition of Pagan, and would be squarely a New Religious Movement, while British Traditional Witchcraft could be considered a Pagan and Indigenous faith tradition.”

From the start of this discussion, I have urged my readers to await word from Corban-Arthen and the other trustees on this matter, before we jump to any conclusions.

“…there is always the chance that comments were misconstrued, or misunderstood. So we should await official word from the Pagan members of the Parliament Board of Trustees before we accuse anyone of trying to drive wedges between different Pagan groups. Context is king, and I don’t want to start any flame-wars for an off-the-cuff idea or mis-stated opinion.”

Now, we have some of that clarification. Andras Corban-Arthen has sent me a statement from Australia, clarifying his statements and positions. I am reprinting the statement in-full below.

On representing, defining & speaking for all pagans:

I am nobody to define “paganism” for all pagans, much less presume to speak for them. Neither is anybody else, for that matter. It would be absurd and laughable for anyone to seriously try to assume such a role. Paganism (however anyone defines that term) is far too wide and complex a topic to fit neatly within any one person’s definition. Whenever I talk publicly on the subject, particularly in front of non-pagan audiences, I start by mentioning that fact, and continue by saying that my views represent only myself, and, to whatever general degree, those in my immediate community who’ve given me permission to represent them. I said this at the Parliament prior to each of my presentations; so, for that matter, did my pagan co-presenters and colleagues on the Parliament’s Board of Trustees.

On the “redefinition” of paganism:

Not to split too fine a hair, but for there to be a “redefinition” of paganism, there would first need to be an accepted definition, and there simply isn’t one — there are many, and some of them substantially contradict each other. Some of the more alarmed comments from your readers seem to have been in reaction to the idea that someone would attempt to “redefine” paganism for all of them. This is not something that I or any of the other speakers at the Parliament ever proposed to do; in fact, I don’t believe that any one of us even used the word “redefinition” once. It was Ed Hubbard who started talking about “redefinition” in his blog, and while he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, his opinion does not accurately represent my own views nor, I daresay, the views of other speakers at the Parliament (more about this below).

On the definition of paganism in relation to “indigenous European spirituality”:

This is by no means a new definition of paganism — some of us have been using it for at least 25-30 years or longer, and it is fairly common among many pagan reconstructionist groups. If it is new to some pagans, then perhaps that is an indication that they’re not as well-informed as they could be regarding some important conversations and perspectives that have been developing in certain sectors of the pagan movement for quite some time, as well as an incentive to get better informed.

On the role of the Parliament:

Perhaps because in the U.S. we’re mostly used to hear the word “parliament” in reference to legislative bodies (e.g., the British or Australian Parliaments), there may be an incorrect and unrealistic weight being given to what happens in the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The word “parliament,” in its basic sense, means “conversation,” and that’s precisely what the PWR is and does — an ongoing conversation (or series of interrelated conversations) on topics that have to do with religion or spirituality. It is not a governing body of any sort, nor an accrediting institution or bureau of standards. It is not about to try to define paganism for pagans, nor decide who’s a pagan and who is not…

On the distinction between “Indigenous Spirituality” and “New Religious Movements”:

In the interreligious community, there are several different categories under which various religions are grouped. This is done for the sake of understanding better the nature of & relationships among religions, the categories are not cast in stone, and there is often a lack of consensus as to which categories certain religions belong to. Indigenous traditions are generally those associated with a specific culture, ethnicity, and geographical region and which predate the arrival or development of a larger, more “organized” religion (examples are the Lakota, Yoruban, or Wurundjeri spiritual traditions among many others). New Religious Movements tend to be those formed since around the middle of the 19th century which have a character uniquely their own, or which derive, but are significantly distinct, from older and more established traditions. These are generally considered to include, for instance, the Bahá’ís, the Christian Scientists, the Mormons, the Brahma Kumaris, the Hare Krishnas, the Pentecostals, the Theosophists, the UUs, various New Age sects, etc. It is simply not true, as some have suggested, that the interfaith movement bestows more emphasis or credibility on the Indigenous over the NRMs. There are some interfaith leaders who (usually in private) dismiss indigenous groups as regressive, theologically unsophisticated, and lacking anything of value to offer the modern world (I strongly disagree, of course). On the other hand, the Bahá’ís, for example, are hugely respected among interfaith people, and Dadi Janki, the international head of the Brahma Kumaris, was one of the speakers at the Parliament’s closing plenary, a role which many covet as a status symbol. Modern pagan groups are typically categorized as NRMs, and rightly so, in my opinion. But I, for one, have long been arguing that *some* forms of paganism which still can be found today more properly qualify under the Indigenous category, and this year, for the first time, that argument was finally seriously considered and, to whatever degree, accepted. I would add that while this perspective may indeed help other religions to look at us differently and thereby gain us some added acceptance & credibility, that is not at all the main reason (or at least not mine) for proposing this categorization.

On the question of Wicca not being “pagan”:

This statement, made by Ed Hubbard on his blog (and not by me or any of my fellow panelists), seems to have aroused the most controversy. For the record, here are the definitions which I used in my “Introduction to Paganism” which was widely distributed at the Parliament:

“Paganism is a term that refers collectively to the Indigenous, pre-Christian cultures and spiritual traditions of Europe, some of which have survived into the present, while others are being reconstructed or revived in modern times.”

Beyond that, I proposed three main categories of pagan approaches:

“There are three main general categories through which paganism can be defined. Traditional paganism represents the survivals into modern times of Indigenous European beliefs and practices among, for instance, the Celts, the Balts, the Basques, the Slavs, and the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. What has survived of traditional paganism is typically found in small, isolated rural communities in regions of Europe which retain strong ethnic identities and in which the ancestral languages have not been lost. Reconstructionist paganism is a modern attempt to recreate traditional forms of paganism through the study of literary, historical, linguistic, and archaeological sources; it includes such practices as Ásatrú (Norse paganism), Celtic Reconstructionism, and Hellenic Ethnikoi. Neopaganism is a mostly urban and syncretic effort to develop modern forms of paganism within mainstream Western culture, including Wicca, Neodruidism, and Celtic Shamanism.”

I fully understand that this definition is narrower than what a lot of pagans would use, and that many pagans (including some of my co-panelists) might well disagree to one degree or another with various aspects of it, and that’s just fine with me. Such a definition is not meant to be the final, absolute statement of what paganism is (again, no one can really do that), but a brief, working statement to serve as a foundation for further discussion & clarification of who we are. I don’t even agree with all of it myself because there are gray areas between the categories that just can’t get addressed by its brevity (for example, some forms of Ásatrú really fall more properly under “Traditional” than “Reconstructionist”).

All of this is by way of clarifying that this “controversy” comes from a misrepresentation of the above in Ed Hubbard’s blog. Ed writes: “Andras Corban-Arthen points out that Wicca, for example, cannot be seen as an indigenous Pagan faith practice and is instead a modern syncretic movement.” So far, mostly correct, though what I actually said was that Wicca didn’t belong under “Traditional Paganism,” but under “Neopaganism.”

Ed goes on: “Under this description Wicca therefore would not fall under the definition of Pagan, and would be squarely a New Religious Movemen…) I said no such thing; if Ed had left the word “Traditional” before “Pagan” there’d be no argument (though there probably also wouldn’t be any controversy). Finally, he writes: “…while British Traditional Witchcraft could be considered a Pagan and Indigenous faith tradition.” Again, not only did I not say that, but the term “British Traditional Witchcraft” did not once cross my lips during the entire Parliament. It is entirely Ed’s extrapolation & misrepresentation of what I said & wrote.

I don’t know Ed Hubbard; as far as I am aware, I only just met him at this Parliament, where he introduced himself to me as a pagan journalist. Since I don’t know him, I’m not in a position to judge whether this was an honest misunderstanding and thus inaccurate reporting on his part, or a deliberate misrepresentation meant to generate controversy for ulterior motives. I’d like to think it’s the former, especially in the light of other statements Hubbard made in Melbourne which would indicate a tendency on his part to jump to hasty conclusions without fully understanding what’s involved. If that’s the case, it might be useful for all of us to reflect on how easily a tempest can be stirred in the pagan teapot by the omission of just one key word.

I hope this sheds a little more clarity on some of what we discussed at the Parliament. In case anyone’s interested, I will be posting more about all this, including the pagan participation at the Parliament’s Indigenous Assembly, on our EarthSpirit Voices blog .

Thanks,

Andras Corban Arthen

So there you have it. Problems and controversies solved? New ones created? Was this merely a tempest in a tea-cup? Feel free to respond to the statement in the comments section.