FREDERICK, Md. – A collection of nearly 3,300 Pagan books and items have found a new home. The collection was once housed in a Washington D.C. Pagan community center. After the center closed in 2014, the collection was put into storage. Now it has been donated to the Unitarian Universalist Congregational Church in Fredrick.
The collection’s estimated value is $37,800 and contains mainly books and tarot cards spanning a wide range of Pagan paths. It includes difficult to find and out of print books as well as more recent publications.
History of the collection
In the Fall 2011, the Open Hearth Foundation (OHF), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned Washington D.C. Pagan Community Center. The goal of this new space was to provide an open space for local Pagans.
By early 2012, OHF had installed an extensive library as well as an art gallery, and in the years that followed, several public events and private group meetings were held at that new community space.
Then fiscal hard times hit the Pagan community center and, in February 2014, news broke that the community center was closing.
The library was packed up and moved to a storage unit. Then, it was moved to a basement in a private home, then into a different climate controlled storage unit.
Finally, in August 2015, the collection was moved to the home of former OHF board member Eldritch. He set the collection up on shelves in his home in an attempt to allow regular access to the books and tarot cards.
He was also on a mission to find a permanent home for the collection.
Eldrich says the OHF board had created a criteria for him to use while looking for a prospective place to house the collection. He says the facility couldn’t be a private home, and it had to allow the items to be properly shelved and easily accessible. The collection had to be maintained in a climate-controlled building, and its keepers had to be willing to revitalize the collection and add to it.
Former OHF Chair Sherry Marts says, “Eldritch almost single-handedly kept this collection intact and safe, and bent over backward to find a permanent new home for them.”
Marts says that Eldritch looked at several possibilities over the years, but until he found the Frederick UU church, none of them worked out. A few of the organizations that he talked to were the New Alexandrian Library and Circle Sanctuary, she says. In Circle Sanctuary’s case, they were interested in the collection, but didn’t have a climate controlled place to house it.
Then early this year, Eldrich contacted the the CUUP’s Chapter at the Frederick UU church.
The Collection’s New Home
Irene Glasse, chairwoman of the CUUPS board of directors, says they were excited to be contacted, “The opportunity to offer a Pagan research library along with all our other events and gatherings was very exciting, and a wonderful way to serve the needs of our growing community.”
She says that the Pagan community at Frederick CUUPS is a large and thriving one. She says this year’s Frederick Pagan Pride Day drew over 500 people and their rituals consistently see anywhere from 50 to nearly 200 attendees.
“Our community consistently wants to learn, to expand its knowledge and to deepen its spiritual connection,” says Ms. Glasse.
Glasse says that the library proposal was first submitted to the minister of their congregation, Reverend Carl Gregg.
“He was very supportive of bringing the library to the UUCF and helped guide the process of submitting the proposal to the board of the congregation,” says Glasse. During the voting process for approving the acquisition of the library, support for the library was unanimous, she adds.
By August, the collection was approved for acquisition and volunteers were boxing up the books and cards for transport.
Glasse says that they hope the library will be open to the public in late October or early November. Currently, they are inventorying the collection and developing a classification system. They are also creating an online, searchable database.
The library will be cared for by members of the Frederick CUUPS community who volunteered to assist. Glasse says that those volunteers include some systems administrators to help with the digital side and a few librarians. Others, she says, are volunteers who love books and are excited to help provide this resource to the local community.
Not only did CUUPS acquire the books, but also the shelving and other important furnishings.
Although Eldritch says that he was happy to care for the books during the last four years and is pleased they have a new home, he says he has one regret, “That this collection has lost four years of momentum by being in boxes and virtually inaccessible. I expect that in a few years and with a few book drives it can deepen and grow.”Glasses says Frederick CUUPs isn’t currently accepting any book donations, but expects that to change as soon as they get the collection opened to the public.
“We do plan to host book drives and accept donations in the future. Frederick CUUPS media will definitely carry those announcements when the time comes,” says Glasse. She says they are, however, accepting monetary donations. Those donations will go towards maintaining and expanding the library.
“We are so incredibly grateful to Eric Eldritch and the rest of the Open Hearth Foundation for entrusting us with the care of this beautiful collection. Words cannot do justice to our gratitude for and admiration of the OHF’s benevolence. We are so excited to offer this resource, and feel blessed beyond words to take on the mantle of care. We are also grateful to our UU community for its constant and unwavering support of the local Pagan community.”