Archives For Elysia Gallo

In my late teens and early twenties I worked at a couple different book-selling chains, and after that I was a regular visitor to, and prodigious buyer at, a number of different bookstores. Throughout those years I remember often voicing a common complaint: “Why are books about Pagan religions shelved next to crystal healing and channeled hidden masters instead of in the religion section where they belong.” I felt, as many others did, that it created a two-tiered hierarchy: “real” religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and those religions relegated to what was once known as the “occult” section. Now, my complaint has seemingly been answered, as Elysia Gallo at Llewellyn explains in her excellent run-down of the Book Industry Study Group’s (BISG) new BISAC Subject Headings List.

A partial listing of BISAC codes in the Body, Mind & Spirit category (Image: Llewellyn.)

A partial listing of BISAC codes in the Body, Mind & Spirit category (Image: Llewellyn.)

“Obviously much has changed in American society at large. These are recognized religions in the eyes of the IRS. They are religions in the eyes of the US Army Chaplain’s Handbook, and, since 2007, the Veteran’s Administration. These are religions in the eyes of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Pagans are taking an increasingly larger role in interfaith efforts, working at legitimizing our various paths or religions even if we continue to operate as decentralized, individual groups with no organizing body or imposed tenets, tithes, institutions, hierarchy, or dogma.

So here’s the news – Wicca, in the eyes of the book selling industry, is now a religion. It crossed over from OCC026000 Body, Mind & Spirit / Wicca and Witchcraft, to two separate BISAC codes. One remains in the occult section – OCC026000 is now simply Body, Mind & Spirit / Witchcraft. But Wicca itself is now REL118000, or Religion / Wicca. [...] there’s more. The BISAC code that used to be OCC036020 Body, Mind & Spirit / Spirituality / Paganism & Neo-Paganism (a relatively recent addition on its own) is also now listed in Religion, as REL117000, or Religion / Paganism & Neo-Paganism.”

I have often pointed at links here at The Wild Hunt and told you to go read the whole thing. This time, let me emphasize, Elysia Gallo is the first person in the Pagan community to write about this development, and you really should take the time to give her work its due and go read her entire post before continuing on here. She has an insider’s understanding of these developments, and no one should move forward in commenting on this matter without hearing what she has to say.

This is clearly a momentous decision, one that, as Pagan scholar Chas Clifton points out, comes after the Library of Congress moved books on Wicca out of “Abnormal Psychology” and into “Other Beliefs and Movements” back in 2007.

“In 2007, the  news was that books on Wicca were re-categorized by the Library of Congress from BF (psychology, abnormal) to  BP 600, a sort of catch-all for “other beliefs and movements.” A new Dewey Decimal number was assigned as well, for libraries using that system.”

So the occult section (hence the “OCC” prefix code), which in time became known as the “New Age” section, and finally, the “Mind, Body, Spirit” section, will soon see an exodus of Wiccan and Pagan books to the religion section. For most of us who still visit brick-and-mortar stores that most likely means your local Barnes & Noble (or possibly Books-A-Million) will soon be seeing some changes. How quickly these changes will happen remains to be seen, and it may take some time as stock rotates in and out of the stores. In addition, Elysia points out some sticky problems with the new codes moving forward into this new era.

Interior of a Barnes & Noble store. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Interior of a Barnes & Noble store. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

“Let’s not even stop to think about what a headache it will be for me to decide whether any given book should go into the occult “Witchcraft” end of things or the religious “Wicca” end of things. Sometimes this distinction is made crystal clear by its author or its content, but much more often it’s a very blurry line. [...] There is still no code anywhere for Druidry (we usually use Body, Mind & Spirit / Spirituality / Celtic) and no code for Heathenry or Asatru, which will just be lumped together with Paganism. These things might not matter much to book buyers, but they matter to the end consumer.”

Elysia also wonders if some Pagans will balk at their books being put in the religion section, but I think her most salient concern will be the effect religion-section buyers might have on the range and quality of selections. What if the buyer knows nothing about Paganism? What if they are actively hostile to Wicca and Paganism? These aren’t unheard-of scenarios. Additionally, simple economics might push Pagan titles out of stores in favor of religions with more buying power. 

“If the Religion buyer has only X amount of budgeted dollars to spend across their entire category, they will choose to spend it on mainstream religions, because hey, there are simply more of them, and more potential for greater revenue. It’s a business, folks. And yes, I can see how that could be potentially disastrous for book sales. If we were pushed out of the chain stores, we’d still have independent metaphysical shops to fall back on, but not everyone has access to one and they operate on very limited budgets, meaning we simply wouldn’t be selling enough books to survive. Amazon and ebooks would become our main lifeline if chain bookstores stopped buying our books.”

So my teenage (and twenty-something) dreams have come true, but the victory could turn out to be Pyrrhic in nature. Pagan religions take another step towards being normalized, but at the potential cost of us seeing even fewer Pagan books in physical book stories. The destabilizing effects of Amazon and the growing ebook market (currently around 22% of the book market) mean that the future of Pagan publishing is only going to become more uncertain. Still, even with the circumstances, this is an important moment in our history, one that could have far-reaching ramifications.

Links:

Over at Llewellyn Wordlwide’s official blogElysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Witchcraft, Wicca, Pagan, and magickal books, lists seven ways in which you can support Pagan community. I heartily agree with all her recommendations.

“So now, as we pull into the harvest season, let’s start thinking about ways to give back to our vibrant and wide-reaching community. I have a few brilliant ideas (as usual!), some of which will hit you up for cash, others of which only take some time and mindfulness.”

Among her suggestions, Elysia lists supporting the New Alexandrian Library’s fundraising effort (more on that here), helping to send Patrick McCollum to the Awakened World Conference in Italy, and supporting a brand new Pagan Living TV initiative.

Almost all of her suggestions, including volunteering at Pagan Pride, throwing a party for Cherry Hill Seminary, and shopping at Pagan-owned businesses, are about building Pagan infrastructure. It’s about putting our resources back into that which we say we value. Too often our responses to needs within modern Paganism are ad hoc and reactive. This is not to say there aren’t visionaries among us who envision a different way of doing things, but these efforts aren’t well-funded, and are often overwhelmed by the needs they encounter. We are still at a point where simply having physical locations is somewhat novel.

“A Memphis Wiccan group now has a building for worship, becoming one of the first Wiccan groups in the country to do so. The Temple of the Sacred Gift is a local chapter of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, based out of the state of Washington. They have official non-profit status with the IRS, making them just like any church in Memphis. [...] The temple holds worship every other week and often puts on festivals. About 40 people attend each worship, while hundreds can show up at some of the festivals. Participants include local policemen, lawyers, and business owners.”

Infrastructure, physical spaces, institutions, social services, it’s all about taking care of our own. If we are to be able to cross the threshold into being a movement that can support itself, grow into having the land, temples, libraries, and advocacy organizations many of us dream about, we need to re-think how our interconnected communities work. A problem that the late, great, Isaac Bonewits wrestled with in the years before his death.

“Establishing Pagan charities, or even just creating a culture of generosity inside Pagandom, requires us to face all our individual and group attitudes towards money and fund-raising. Being a Pagan shouldn’t be about just taking the goodies that others have to give, but also about returning our gifts to others, thus passing the good karma along. Among the ancient tribal peoples so many of us seek to emulate, “hosting” and “guesting” involved giving and receiving in complex systems of reciprocal relationships. In fact, those words come from the same Proto-Indo-European root, ghosti, which is also the root of the word “ghost,” referring to a family spirit who must be shown proper respect and be fed with offerings.

Yet the Christian Dualism that saturates our mainstream culture, combined with left-over anti-money ideals of the 1960s counterculture, leads many to assume that money is “profane,” that spiritual people “don’t need” money, and that anyone asking for money in a religious context is “just like” the televangelists (whom we view as dishonest and greedy) or whatever mainstream religion we were brought up in. In an “us vs. them” worldview, remember, anyone who has something about them that resembles anything about someone else we consider evil, is of course, just as evil–or at least comfortably ignorable. These attitudes, of course, justify hanging on to our money rather than sharing it with those in need. Indeed, it usually takes a major disaster to shake us out of our complacency.”

These issues seem more present to me now because I believe we are at the threshold of a great shift. I think we are ready to do things differently, to move in directions we didn’t think were possible. I think we are capable of claiming the very things we say we long for, to shed our sub-cultural cocoon and emerge as a religious movement to be reckoned with. Until then, our activists, clergy, and leaders continue to do the work. For example, while Patrick McCollum is trying to raise money to take part in a global interfaith initiative, he’s also meeting with local politicians to end religious discrimination against minority faiths in the California prison system.

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

“Rev. Patrick McCollum met this week with California State Senator, Mark DeSaulnier to discuss religious discrimination issues and policies directed toward minority faiths within California’s state institutions.  The institutions discussed included the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Developmental Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The meeting went well and Senator DeSaulnier, who is known for government reform, has agreed to investigate further into the policies and issues affecting our community and others.  Reverend McCollum will have follow up meetings with the Senator, and has agreed to provide additional documentation.”

Every day, in ways we don’t see or notice, there are Pagans working to build our future. If we want to see that future become a reality we need to support them in their work, and show that we’re collectively ready to build the movement many of us say we want.  That support doesn’t have to break your bank, but it can mean working to make sure your local community is thriving, to make sure your elders aren’t in danger, to make sure the people who serve you can do so without the wolf at their door. Support is simple, and it allows visionaries the room to help collectively build our Pagan future.

Welcome to a new supplemental feature here at The Wild Hunt, The Wild Hunt Podcast (you’re dazzled by the unique name, I can tell). This (hopefully) weekly podcast will take a deeper look at stories, links, and personalities that I feature in my daily updates. In this first episode of The Wild Hunt Podcast, we interview Elysia Gallo, Senior Acquisitions Editor for Llewellyn Worldwide, and Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota about the Minnesota Pagan convention Paganicon, now in its second year. In the second segment, we interview Caroline Tully from the University of Melbourne about her recently-published paper “Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions.”

Elysia Gallo with her husband Tamas at Paganicon 2012. (Photo PNC-Minnesota)

Elysia Gallo with her husband Tamas at Paganicon 2012. (Photo PNC-Minnesota)

You can listen to, and download, the episode at Archive.org.

Segment Listing:

  1. Intro
  2. “Naiades” by Monica Richards from her new album “Naiades.”
  3. Interview with Elysia Gallo and Cara Schulz about Paganicon
  4. “Nereides” by Monica Richards from her new album “Naiades.”
  5. Interview with Caroline Tully about her Pomegranate article.
  6. Outro

Relevant Links:

I hope you enjoy the show, stay tuned for next time where I’ll discuss fascism and Dan Halloran’s potential run for Congress (not necessarily in that order).

One thing that may escape casual observers of the modern Pagan movement is that we are now truly global in scope. Pagan revivals and reconstructions are happening across Europe, in South America, Lebanon, South Africa, Russia, and there are even Wiccans in India. Far too often our focus is on what’s happening with Pagans in English-speaking countries, forgetting that there are daily struggles by Pagans outside that paradigm. Recently, a major upheaval in the country of Hungary places a spotlight on the plight of Pagans in that nation, and gives a stark warning concerning the consequences of giving too much political power to one party or faction.

Hungarians protesting the new constitution.

Hungarians protesting the new constitution.

On January 1st, 2012, Hungary’s new constitution went into effect. Voted on and approved by the dominant conservative political party Fidesz, who currently control a super-majority in the Hungarian parliament, the sweeping changes were made without the input or cooperation with the minority parties, and has been criticized by the United States and the European Parliament. Tens of thousands of Hungarians took to the streets last week in protest of the changes. Princeton’s Kim Lane Scheppele, who has done extensive field work on constitutional issues in Hungary, says she is “alarmed at the state of both constitutionalism and democracy in Hungary.” Of particular interest for my readership here are the enshrining of conservative Christian values into the constitution, and the mass-deregistering of 348 faith organizations from state recognition by a new law.

“The new constitution also accepts conservative Christian social doctrine as state policy, in a country where only 21% of the population attends any religious services at all. The fetus is protected from the moment of conception. Marriage is only legal if between a man and a woman. The constitution “recognize(s) the role of Christianity in preserving nationhood” and holds that “the family and the nation constitute the principal framework of our coexistence.” While these religious beliefs are hard-wired into the constitution, a new law on the status of religion cut the number of state-recognized churches to only fourteen, deregistering 348 other churches.”

The 14 recognized churches are Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, and a few Protestant groups only. Hindu, Islam, Buddhist, Pagan, and most Christian protestant groups, now have to re-apply for recognition with a number of high hurdles. A 2/3 majority vote in the Fidesz-controlled Parliament is ultimately required for every group to receive recognition and tax exemption. If that doesn’t seem too oppressive, imagine if a super-majority vote were required in the United States congress, or British parliament, to gain official recognition for any faith (and that those legislative bodies were controlled by conservative Christians). I have a feeling that there would be zero legally recognized Pagan groups in either country today under such a policy. Still, at least one Hungarian Pagan organization, the Celtic Wicca Tradition Keepers’ Church, is attempting to gain recognition.

“In order for the Celtic Wicca Tradition Keepers’ Church to be able to continue to operate as a church, 1000 adult Hungarian citizens’ signatures are required. I ask everyone who agrees that we should be able to continue our operation in the form of a church [religious organization] to print out the attached register, and deliver it, signed, with as many signatures as possible.

  • a) by post to the following address: Kelta-WICCA Hagyományőrzők Egyháza 1034 Budapest, Nagyszombat u. 25. 1/52
  • b) in person during business hours (M-F 10-6pm, Sat: 10-2pm) at the Old Oak Treasure Store or “The Bookstore” both of which are located at 1062 Budapest, Andrássy út 86.

By signing the register, the undersigned only expresses his/her support and consent that our organization should be able to continue its operations in the form of a church, and by signing does not undertake any other responsibility, or membership.”

That group runs www.wicca.hu, and was founded in 1998. By all accounts, it looks like they might not qualify even if they garner the appropriate signatures, and I don’t have high hopes that two-thirds of the current Hungarian parliament will be eager to approve them. There are several Hungarian Pagan groups currently active, though I believe almost all of them will be discouraged by the new rules. Hungarian-American Elysia Gallo, a Senior Acquisitions Editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, isn’t optimistic about Paganism gaining legal recognition under the new constitution.

“I find it ridiculous that religious organizations need to jump through these hoops after years of legitimate operation just to ensure/regain their tax status as a religious organization. Here in the US, organizations do have to jump through some hoops to get religious tax exempt status, and these can vary from state to state, but there’s probably not a single state that would require you to provide 1,000 signatures. The real test will be to see what the Hungarian government does when it is presented with thousands of signatures from the various organizations that have been de-listed — will they follow through on their word and grant these faiths their equal privileges, or will they act as our own VA did for years, kicking the can, procrastinating, and offering vague excuses on the veteran pentacle memorial issue? Let’s just say that the leaders in Hungary appear to be far more right wing than Bush ever was (especially because they currently have a super majority), and unfortunately it seems that most approval bodies in these cases take their cues from their leaders.”

What happens next is uncertain. The Fidesz government is trying to cement its new power grab as quickly as it can, and tensions are mounting as to what, exactly, the European Union is willing and able to do. There are so many issues of concern at play here, including media freedom, economic stability, and authoritarian slide, that it’s very likely the plight of minority religions may get lost in the shuffle. I will try to keep you abreast of this issue as it develops, and I’d like to thank Elysia Gallo for her input and translation skills in writing this post. I hope that our Pagan leaders involved in international interfaith will speak out on this issue, and help keep the spotlight on how these policies are affecting Pagans in Hungary.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

On Tuesday PNC-Minnesota reported that Sacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), had unveiled a new national public ancestor shrine and sacred spirit altar. Open for just over two years, Sacred Paths has been seen as one possible model for creating Pagan-centered and dedicated space within a local community. Their journey was profiled by PNC reporter Cara Schultz  in a special video series produced earlier this year (part 1, part 2).

However, just days later, Sacred Paths Center posted an urgent message on their website saying they were out of capital, and that the center is in danger of closing down unless they can raise $7,500 immediately.

“Sacred Paths Center, the Spiritual/Pagan Center, open to all, first of its kind in the United States, is broke. “What, AGAIN?” Yes. “Now why?” Simple: lack of YOUR support. This message will reach thousands and thousands, but how many of you will care enough to do anything? A physical banner has been put in the ground here, proclaiming this area as sacred to us; SPC is that banner. “Pagan Community”, “Paganistan”…it seems they are just words. There are thousands of us here in the Twin Cities metro, and among us all, we can’t give $3000 a month to keep that banner standing open. What does that say—really say—about “Pagan Community”? Less than a dollar each, and yet… Less than a dollar each, and yet… There will be no plea running pages and pages; no dog and pony show; no Benefit Event. If you can’t step up, Sacred Paths Center closes. We need $7500 now, right now for a reasonable chance at a future.”

That statement, posted by memebers of the SPC Board, bluntly highlights that this crisis comes from a lack of local fiscal support. As a member-supported, non-profit community center, recurring donations are vital to their long-term health and viability.  Now, it looks like the “next chapter” of this community center’s story depends on the locals of Paganistan.

“We donated today when I saw it. It’s a valuable, necessary resource and the community needs to put forward the money so that we can keep it going.” - Shelly Tomtschik, Sacred Paths Center volunteer

Cultural anthropologist Murphy Pizza, a Pagan scholar who lives in Minneapolis, says that the Twin Cities boast “the second largest contemporary Pagan community in the US, “ and that there is a “unique Minnesotan Pagan culture.” I was able to speak with two local Pagans who are part of this unique culture to see what their views and reactions were on this development. For Nels Linde, an editor at PNC-Minnesota, the main question is if the Sacred Paths Center can broaden its support at this urgent crossroads moment.

“The Sacred Path Center has been funded by, and the center of activity for, a relatively small but active section of our community. Many wonderful events, services, and concerts, as well as the Ancestor Shrine have been hosted there. The Center appeared to be burdened with high overhead at this location from the start, and now may be also threatened by extended light rail construction and possible gentrification inflation after completion. It has rallied once already, but it remains to be seen if a much larger number of the thousands of area Pagans value it enough to support it on a monthly basis. Without grant funding, or a continual fundraising effort, consistent moderate donations seem the Center’s best hope.”

Elysia Gallo, an employee at Llewellyn Worldwide, the world’s oldest and largest independent publisher of metaphysical books, located in nearby Woodbury, Minnesota, wonders if they tried to do too much, too soon.

“It would really be a shame if Sacred Paths Center were to close down, because so many Pagans have held it up with pride as an example of what a strong and sustainable community we have here in the Twin Cities… but if people aren’t supporting it monetarily, then we’re all just kidding ourselves. We have metaphysical bookstores which also serve as community hubs and meeting spaces, but they’re not putting on concerts and things like that, they’re more constrained in their usages. I just wish Sacred Paths Center would finally figure out a sustainable model of growth, which would include them figuring out what the community values enough to pay for, and keeping their expenses trimmed to just sustain those things until they’re strong enough to deliver the whole enchilada. I think they tried to go for that far too soon.”

Both responses seem to boil down to what the local Pagan community in the Twin Cities is willing and able to support. The issue of money and funding for Pagan organizations, community centers, temples, and service-based initiatives within our interconnected communities is still largely unsettled. Jonathan Korman, Secretary of Solar Cross Temple, a non-profit religious organization based in California, thinks there are two roadblocks to creating a culture of fiscal support: That many modern Pagans are still “deeply anti-institutional, and regard the lack of institutions as a feature, not a bug” and that “Pagan institutions are below the critical mass where Pagans are able to see the benefit of the institutions and the need for their financial support.”

Can Sacred Paths Center, located within a large Pagan community, reach that critical mass? For now we are left with the question asked by the SPC Board in their appeal: “Does it end here? Or does SPC go forward with your help?” For those interested in giving some support to Sacred Paths Center, you can find donation information at their website. Or you can contact them via email.

ADDENDUM: PNC-Minnesota has posted an interview with Sacred Paths Center board member CJ Stone.

“The immediate needs to keep the doors temporarily open were covered. The Center needs 7500 dollars to continue to operate through this month. The Board has decided that 12,000 was what we needed by midnight of July 30thor we will close the facility. If we can secure that 12k dollars, we can pay our bills to zero and have a positive balance to keep the center open and by able to steer the Center in a direction that will be financially viable.”

Read the whole thing for insight into what the center’s plans are, what they need, and why they got into trouble.

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!

Pagan Japan Relief Project Reaches Finish Line: The initiative started by Peter Dybing for the Pagan community to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has almost reached its conclusion! As of this writing, there is less than 1,400 dollars left to raise, and the hope is that this goal will be reached by the end of the weekend.

“When disaster strikes, it means that the Earth is finding Her own balance. But it is our job to feel compassion, lend aid, and support our fellow creatures that they may survive this terrible time and regain wholeness. And while we do this, let us also remember that it is this life that matters – the next will take care of itself. So as we come to the aid of our fellow beings on Mother Earth, let us live as though each day is our last, and let every day be a blessing.”Rev. Kirk Thomas ADF Archdruid

Today, there is a joint Patheos and Pagan Newswire Collective (via PNC-Minnesota) article up interviewing various Pagan leaders about the initiative, and why the success of this project is so important. If you haven’t donated yet, and wish to show that serious fundraising for worthy causes can happen among our interconnected communities, please head to the Pagan Japan Relief project FirstGiving page. I’m hoping that before Monday I’ll be able to post about our collective success in meeting our fundraising goal!

Paganicon Opens Today: The first ever Paganicon conference near Minneapolis, Minnesota starts today, and PNC-Minnesota has interviewed Elysia Gallo from Llewellyn Worldwide, one of the sponsors of the event, and Guest of Honor John Michael Greer.

“There are two ways you can take a talk about Paganism and the future. One is what is going to be the future of Paganism, the other is how is Paganism going to deal with the broader future, that is breathing down our necks at this point. I will be talking about both. We are moving into a future that a lot of people are going to find very challenging, especially if they have bought into the attitude, that “Our ancestors were stupid. We are smart, and we are going to go zooming off to the stars.   We know the truth, and no one else has ever done so.”

Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for more updates from the conference.

Independent Pagan Film Shooting: Morrighan Films in Canada is shooting a new film “99% made by Pagans” entitled “Our Pagan Heart.” After a small article ran in a local paper about one of the actors, film producer Laurie Stewart contacted me with a short synopsis and some stills from the production in progress.

Still from the film.

“Our Pagan Heart is an independent film, being shot over the course of a year.   It follows a village outside of time (neither truly Norse nor quite Mad Max) over the nine sabbats followed by my Druid group.  We added the ritual for Fallen Warriors at Remebrance Day (Veterans Day) because so many of us are military, ex-military or base rats.  Each 10-12 minute episode not only tries to show the reason for the sabbat, but also to explore one of the nine virtues of Celtic-Norse tradition.

As the villagers face challenges ranging from the death of their only healer, to a radical change in leadership and the resulting change in priorities, we see the heart of our faith.  What does it mean to live these virtues, these beliefs, the result of believing in ever-present, personally committed Gods who touch every aspect of your life.  There are real struggles for meaning, real questioning of their faith in the face of devastating loss.”

You can find more film stills and information, here. Between “Our Pagan Heart,” “Dark of Moon,” “Tarology,” and other independent film productions with Pagan and occult themes, it almost seems like a small grass-roots industry is emerging. It could be a trend worth exploring as it develops.

In Solidarity with Madison: Pagan singer-songwriter Sharon Knight, a member of the excellent band Pandemonaeon, recently participated in a gathering of Oakland, California musicians to record a song showing solidarity with the Madison, Wisconsin labor protesters.

“This week I joined a group of my fellow musicians to create a music video in support of the protesters in Madison, Wisconsin. The song, “Madison”, was written by my friend Mark Vickness of Glass House, and spoken word artist PC Munoz. It was produced start to finish at EMB Studios, the studio Winter and I share with Paul Nordin. I was proud and honored to be a part of this project and thought I’d share it with you all here. Enjoy and may it bring you hope and good cheer!”

Thanks to Sharon for sharing this with the Pagan community. For more on Pagan participation in the Wisconsin labor protests, click here.

Health Updates: I have an update on the condition of Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum, who underwent surgery on Wednesday. I spoke with him on the phone yesterday, and while he’s (understandably) experiencing some pain, is mobile, alert, and active. He says that there won’t be word on test results regarding what was eating the tissue in his jaw until early April. He also expressed his thanks to everyone who has been sending prayers and energy his way. Meanwhile, Selena Fox has an update on Circle member Ed Francis, who recently suffered a stroke.

“Ed Francis is doing better & has begun speech, physical, and occupational rehabilitation at a hospital in St. Louis. Please continue to send healing to him & support to his partner Linda & other caregivers. Share words of encouragement for his rehab at this Healing page. Thanks much!”

Circle has also set up a healing page for Patrick McCollum as well. Please continue to send both your healing thoughts and prayers for their swift recoveries.

Theologies of Justice: In a quick final note, I’d like to point my readers to an essay just posted by T. Thorn Coyle about developing and acting on “(poly)theologies of justice and connection.”

“If everything is holy – imbued with divine power – how do we relate to that holiness? We pay attention. We find connection. We give back. One definition of sacred is “set apart and dedicated to a deity.” How do Heathens act in ways that are dedicated to Thor or Ing? How do Thelemites act in concert with the energy of Nuit? How do Celtic Reconstructionists honor the ever abundant cauldron of the Dagda? I could go on, but the implications of these questions should be clear: we bring everything in our lives into alignment with our worship and our practice. We can give food to the hungry as an act of devotion to the Dagda. We can offer protection to the weak, in Thor’s honor. And we can remember: Nuit is everywhere, the circumference of all that lives.”

There’s a lot there, so I hope you’ll read the entire essay, and use it to spark discussions on your blogs, social networks, and within your communities. As modern Pagans start to act within the world in an increasingly prominent and public manner, how our theologies drive and inspire our actions is something that we’ll need to hold close to our thoughts.

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

(guest post by Elysia Gallo)

I’m committed to becoming another brick in the wall – one that makes it stronger – rather than becoming another sucker who punches a hole in that wall. What wall am I talking about? The wall of separation between church and state.

The Establishment Clause provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” Jefferson later famously referred to this clause in a letter as having built “a wall of separation between church and state.” Like all walls (the Gaza wall, the US-Mexican border, the Great Firewall of China), this wall is not impermeable. It protects us from being forced by the government to join or financially support a church, but it does allow in streams of personal religious expression – the other right we hold so dear. The Constitution ensures that religious expression on a personal level is acceptable, as long as our government does not endorse one religion over another. However, there are many times when it does just that, whether purposely or simply because the majority thoughtlessly and naively sees itself as the default mode.

For example, when a crèche turns up in front of city hall, minority faiths who want equal representation in the public sphere often have to ask for inclusion after the fact. In many cases– in Wisconsin and Washington state, for example – the consequent opening of the door to all faiths is quickly followed by a swift slamming of it when too many requests flood in or the displays cause too much controversy. Baby Jesus and a menorah are one thing, but a Wiccan pentacle? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? The Festivus Pole? The mainstream can’t take it!

A poll last year found that “83% [of respondents] say a nativity scene on city property should be legal, but only 60% say a display honoring Islam during Ramadan should be legal. Overall, 58% of all Americans feel both should be legal, while 15% feel both should be illegal.” If the majority of Americans are for the nativity but only slightly more than half would open up that space to all faiths regardless of their personal religious views, you have the majority effectively suppressing the minority’s religious expression. We need to put a stop to this practice altogether, or else this stream could become a flood that washes away our Constitutional protection against such state-sanctioned oppression. The Constitution is supposed to protect the rights of minorities, not strengthen those of the majority – that’s what the Civil Rights movement was all about.

While not all Christians are trying to push their religion on us, not all non-mainstream religions are without ulterior motives of their own…

Should we support proselytizing by non-mainstream religious groups?

You may remember Jason blogging about the case of a fringe religious group called Summum trying to get its Seven Aphorisms erected in a city park in Pleasant Grove, UT, on equal standing with the Ten Commandments already displayed there.

However, Summum had challenged another city for the same reasons – the city of Duchesne, UT. While the Pleasant Grove case proceeded to the Supreme Court, Duchesne instead reluctantly moved its Ten Commandments piece to a cemetery to avoid further litigation. Surprisingly enough, this was not seen as a victory in Summum’s eyes; in an article published after the monument had been moved,

“We are saddened that the Ten Commandments monument has been removed from the city park in Duchesne,” Summum President Su Menu said.

“Summum has never requested that religious monuments be removed from government property. We have only asked that all religions be given equal access,” Menu said. “Just as the citizens of Duchesne have benefited from the display of the Decalogue, so, too, would they have benefited from the display of our Seven Aphorisms.”

So was Summum ultimately just trying to win converts, or did they believe that all beliefs could peacefully coexist if everyone had equal access to them? Would we ever want to erect a statue of the 42 Principles of Maat, or the Nine Noble Virtues, or the Wiccan Rede in a public park simply because others “may benefit” from its display? Proselytizing is not a central tenet of any Pagan faith I can think of, but does that mean we should bar others from doing so? If we are all for tolerance and acknowledging the validity of an infinite number of other paths, why would we be intolerant of a Ten Commandments statue in a park or courtroom?

And if we went to all the courthouses of the nation to dismantle any Christian-themed decorations, then what of Pagan decorations like Lady Liberty? Would you get rid of Moses yet keep Confucius? What of Mars in front of the US Capitol, or the Three Fates and the four elements in front of the Supreme Court building? Obviously we live in a society where religious expression is not easily extracted from the public sphere; indeed, in many cases it makes our lives richer.

Conversely, if tolerance is one of our core beliefs as Pagans, how can we tolerate intolerance and religious aggression? Wiccans say “An’ it harm none, do as ye will” – so the question then becomes whether Christians are actually doing harm by erecting the Ten Commandments in public places, placing nativities on City Halls, and so forth.

Pagans and Atheists – strange bedfellows?

Unfortunately what may have once been the simple, well-intentioned decorating of buildings and parks in the past is now being pushed as part of a malicious and divisive political agenda. That fits the definition of “harm” well enough for me. You can see this again and again as part of the “Culture Wars” that fundamentalist Christians believe they must wage to stop the secularization of America. In the words of Green Bay City Council President Chad Fradette, who placed the nativity on government property, “I’m trying to take this fight to the people who need to be fought. I’ll keep going on this until this group imposing Madison values crawls back into its hole and never crawls out.”

Because of people like Chad, I’m more inclined these days to crawl into bed with the atheists – to stop, or at least to impede, the progress of the Christian right juggernaut that is hell-bent on tying up taxpayer’s money in long, drawn-out court battles revolving around their supposed “persecution” by a secularized America. I realize that in not supporting religious displays on public land I’m in a small minority of Americans – but what else is new?

It’s not just Chad fighting to get us back in our hole – many Christians are organizing to be more proactive in thrusting their nativities into the public sphere, to deliberately inflame others. The response of setting up a Wiccan pentacle is just feeding into that – a retribution against having the nativity on government property. And then that pentacle gets trashed, which is just more revenge visited upon retribution. Does it make any sense? Can’t we just nip it in the bud by saying no to everyone before it gets ugly? Can’t religious displays be simply relegated to private homes, churches and temples? Why bring it to city property or schools in the first place?

A huge chorus of secularists saying “no” to these displays will probably be heard more loudly than one or two minority faiths’ disjointed efforts to fight these assaults or gain equal standing on their own.

One atheist organization, the Secular Coalition for America, has been lobbying Washington of late for initiatives that Pagans may also support, such as eliminating faith-based policies that impose mainstream religious tenets on the rest of us through discriminatory hiring, weakening science-based education and health services, and proselytizing through charity. They are also urging more atheists to come out of the closet; this article about their lobbying efforts reveals that of 23 privately self-proclaimed atheists in the House and Senate, only one was willing to go public with it! Ultimately they, too, fear PR damage on the basis of the mainstream American belief that only Christians can be moral or ethical and that atheists are necessarily evil, deluded, liberal or untrustworthy. (Sound familiar? Such labels are often applied to Pagans, too.)

As Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition, wrote to me in an email,

“Our mission is twofold: to promote non-theism and work for the separation of religion and government. We are on your side on just about all cases. […] I think it is a good idea for all of our groups to work together on the main issues and also to work for the visibility and respectability of our constituencies. The more Atheists and Pagans come out of their closets, the better off we will all be.”

Besides the Secular Coalition and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, there are more inclusive groups fighting for the same ideals (because believers of any faith can be secularists, too), such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State – the very same organization that helped Roberta Stewart and Circle Sanctuary with the pentacle quest.

What do you think? Do you want to join the atheists and other secularists to ensure that minority rights don’t get trampled by keeping faith out of the public sphere, where we still can? Or will it be more effective to fight for better minority faith inclusion in the long run? How should we respond when “culture warriors” provoke us to action?

There are times when you just can’t get to the computer for several hours per day to blog, one of those is when you’re trying to pack and engage in a cross-country move. This week I’ll be pulling up stakes and moving from the Midwest (Milwaukee) to the Pacific Northwest (specifically, Eugene, Oregon). But don’t despair! While I’ll be driving through Montana with my wife and two cats (two, upset, angry, cats), The Wild Hunt will be featuring a wide assortment of vibrant, challenging, and innovative voices from within (and occasionally from without) modern Paganism while I’m gone. Here’s the run-down of The Wild Hunt’s amazing guest bloggers!

July 14thBrendan Myers

Dr. Brendan Myers, Ph.D. is the author of several critically acclaimed books on the subject of ethics and philosophy, environmentalism, Celtic and European mythology, folklore, society and politics, and spirituality. They have been used as inspirational and educational resources by college professors, social activist groups, interfaith groups, Celtic cultural associations, and even humanist societies, in many countries around the world. Brendan’s work has appeared in numerous magazines, podcasts, and radio shows (including America’s NPR). He is the 2008 recipient of OBOD’s prestigious Mt. Haemus Award for recent research in Druidry.

July 15thElysia Gallo

Elysia Gallo is an Acquisitions Editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, the oldest and largest independent New Age publisher in the United States. She acquires books for publication in such topics as Witchcraft, Wicca, Paganism, magic(k), herbalism, and the paranormal. She lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband and two cats.

July 16thCat Chapin-Bishop

Wiccan since the late ’80s, Cat Chapin-Bishop has also been Quaker since 2001. Cat’s essays have appeared in Laura Wildman’s “Celebrating the Pagan Soul”, “The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies”, the Covenant of the Goddess newsletter, and “Enchante: The Journal for the Urbane Pagan”. In addition to her work as a Wiccan HPs, Cat is the former Chair of Cherry Hill Seminary’s Pastoral Counseling Department, and she currently serves on the Ministry and Worship Committee of Mt. Toby Quaker meeting. Cat and her husband maintain Quaker Pagan Reflections, a blog dedicated to exploring the connections between Pagan spirituality and Quaker practice. They reside in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they attempt to live peacefully in the midst of chaos.

July 17thLupa

Lupa is the author of “Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic” and “A Field Guide to Otherkin”. She’s also the co-author of “Kink Magic: Sex Magic Beyond Vanilla” with Taylor Ellwood, and a contributor to the “Magick on the Edge” anthology and “Manifesting Prosperity: A Wealth Magic Anthology”. Additionally, Lupa works as an associate editor, layout tech, and nonfiction publicity/promotions manager for Immanion Press/Megalithica Books. Lupa uses the term pagan for simplicity’s sake, though more accurately she describes herself as a totemist, an animist and a pantheist. She has been studying pagan religions and magical topics for twelve years and practicing for ten years. Currently she is developing and training in therioshamanism.

July 18thJohn Morehead

John Morehead is a researcher, writer, and speaker in intercultural studies, new religious movements, theology and popular culture. He has an M.A. degree in intercultural studies from Salt Lake Theological Seminary which included a thesis on Burning Man Festival. He also has an avid interest in aspects of pop culture, particularly myth and archetype as well as the social, cultural and religious dimensions of fantasy, sci fi,and horror. John lives in the greater Salt Lake City area with his wife and two children. Be sure to check out his excellent TheoFantastique blog!

July 19th - Caroline Kenner

A longtime Washington D.C. activist in in feminism and environmentalism, Caroline Kenner now uses her skills to advocate for modern Pagans. In 2006 and 2007 Kenner called pan-Pagan rallies in Washington D.C. to demand religious freedom and equality. The 2007 rally was particularly auspicious as it celebrated the recently-won right to place the Pentacle, equivalent to the Cross, Star, or Crescent, on military grave markers. The event united several large Pagan organizations working to establish Pagan military chaplains and the approval of other specific Pagan symbols worn by Pagan and Heathen veterans. In addition to her activism, Caroline is a graduate of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies‘ Three Year Program in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing. Caroline also holds an A.B. from Bryn Mawr College and a M.S. from Boston University. She has practiced shamanism since 1989.

July 20th - Chas Clifton

Chas S. Clifton has been blogging since 2003, when he converted his Pagan magazine column, “Letter from Hardscrabble Creek,” into a blog. A widely published Pagan writer, he is the author of “Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America”. He also edits “The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies”.

July 21stJames R. French

James R. French has been interested in Magick and Paganism since adolescence. He is an Adept of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn and a Reiki Master. (Mr. French wants us to understand that “Adept” and “Master” are titles within these respective lineages. They do not necessarily indicate anything beyond that.)

July 22ndThorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle is a magic worker, mystic, musician, and author of “Evolutionary Witchcraft” and “Kissing the Limitless.” She teaches internationally. Her blog can be found at yezida.livejournal.com or http://www.thorncoyle.com/musings.html.

July 23rdSannion

H. Jeremiah Lewis, also known by his religious name Sannion, is a Greco-Egyptian polytheist who has been actively honoring the gods since around 1993. He has lived all over the country, including Alaska, Nevada, New York, Montana, Washington and Oregon (where he currently resides), and has worked the standard assortment of odd jobs that every aspiring author needs to get by with. Mr. Lewis divides his time between an insanely intense religious practice, writing, research, helping to organize the activities of Neos Alexandria, and directing the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. There isn’t much time for anything else.

July 24thPeg Aloi

Peg Aloi is a Pagan and a scholar who works in both the academic and popular arenas. She is a writer on Paganism and the media for Witchvox, is the co-editor with Hanna E. Johnston of the new volume “The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture” (Ashgate, 2007), and is currently co-authoring a book with Hannah titled “The Celluloid Bough: Cinema in the Wake of the Occult Revival”.

Please give all of them a warm and hospitable welcome, I’m certain they will all contribute something special to The Wild Hunt. The gods and my new DSL service willing, I should be back to my regular posting schedule by July 25th. Make sure to keep things respectful and polite in the comments while I’m gone, the assorted hells hath no fury like a vacationing blogger who has to log in to a WiFi spot in Idaho to engage in some blog moderation.