Archives For Facebook

This past week we witnessed a crescendo of frustration and fury fly from the global Pagan community in the direction of a Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” and a Facebook Group called “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force.”  The rally cries came by way of social media, blogs and email.  At this point, I would include the links but the “pages” were removed by Facebook around 4pm EST on Thursday, August 23 2013.

FB PageThese offending Facebook “pages” advocated for the extrication and burning of alleged witches and wizards throughout the world. Using a Christian fundamentalist context, the moderators repeatedly preached their gospel on the evils of witchcraft while celebrating all attempts to defeat it.  As proof of witchcraft’s existence, the Fan Page displayed a photo of a South African-Zimbabwe sensationalist rag called H Metro Zim with a headline that read something like “Woman gives birth to frogs…daily.”

Let’s first examine the pages themselves and who owned them? The answer is important because it contextualizes the accusations and religious zealotry. The Facebook Group, “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force” appears to have been launched in February of 2013.  It was moderated solely or in part by a Botswanan Pastor named Anthony Matildah, whose own personal Facebook page seems to have also disappeared. The 247 member group communicated in both broken-English and native African dialects including Setswana.  Most of its members were from the sub-Saharan countries of Africa.

The Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” was launched on April 3, 2013 by someone of sub-Saharan African-descent. However, this person confessed to “not [having] been back to Africa in 20 years.” He or she communicated in perfect British English and in at least one other African dialect. Based on my own research, I believe the owner resides in the U.K. as did the majority of the users making up the Page’s 340 likes. In recent years, Scotland Yard has in fact noticed an increase in the number of Witch Hunt cases in the UK and a noticeable growth in popularity of U.K.-based African Christian Churches. It is entirely possible that the page owner was a Pastor or, at the very least, a devout follower.

sapralogoAt first everyone assumed that the two pages had the same owner(s); however, they in fact may have no connection.  Regardless, they were certainly aligned through intent and discourse.  Both advocated for faith-based violence and, in doing so, perpetuated a culture of fear rampant in sub-Saharan Africa. Damon Leff, Director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), coordinator of the Petition to Stop WItch Hunts in South Africa and Founder of Touchstone Advocacy said:

[Witchcraft] accusations occur not only in small impoverished villages…. Accusations occur across economic and social status lines.  Accusations are frequently made by ordinary people, not necessarily Christians, and not necessarily as a result of Christian influence. Traditional African beliefs often drive accusations, where traditional healers do play their role by divining suspects of suspected witchcraft activity…No single African country has been immune to its fair share of witch-hunts. Many of these countries already have legislation that forbids accusations of witchcraft… However [this] legislation does not address or seek to correct the beliefs which motivate accusations.

As suggested by Leff and noted in a BBC article on the subject, witchcraft in these cases is defined by a supernatural practice with clear malicious intent. The beliefs are a fusion of fundamentalist Christianity and traditional African folk beliefs. Some pastors use the fear of witchcraft to extort money out of their congregation and have even convinced parents to abuse their own children. This witchcraft is a distorted product of theological extremism gone very, very wrong.

accusation

As such the witchcraft in these cases is not the same as the Witchcraft practiced within the spiritual or ethical framework of a Pagan or Nature-based religion or any other similar positive folk or healing practice. The verbal attacks made on these two Facebook pages were not anti-Pagan.  As best clarified by Circle Magazine Editor Florence Edwards-Miller, this distinction is not at all dissimilar to the Anti-Defamation League’s differentiation between anti-Semitism (a people) and anti-Judaism (a theology.) The Facebook pages attacked a people, not a theology.

However, as pointed out by Damon Leff:

Witch-hunters will never first ask if their victims are Pagan Witches before attacking, as they are unlikely to draw any distinction between one kind of witch or another, and so it is understandable that Witches everywhere should feel personally offended and threatened.

cog-joint-logoAnd, offended we were. Sometime in April “Witches and Wizzards” and “Witches Must Die By Fire,” began receiving counter posts and complaints from concerned Pagans.  However, the Fan Page went private from April to August during which interest waned.  When the Fan Page reappeared on the scene, an avalanche of protests began which included abuse complaints to Facebook, calls to media affiliates, petitions on Change.org, You Tube Videos and blog posts. Babette Petiot of “News & Liens Paienne” even contacted Interpol which is based in her home town of Lyon, France.

As word spread, Pagan organizations became involved. On August 20, Lady Liberty League issued an open letter to Facebook asking it to “revise [its] decision and disable these and all future pages calling for violent witch hunts anywhere.” On the same day, the Covenant of the Goddess responded by saying, it “cannot condone a public call for the death of any one person or group regardless of religious affiliation or lifestyle choice.”

Pagan FederationIn Russia, Pagan Federation co-coordinator Gwiddon said, “What is surprising to me is the reaction of Facebook staff that seems to be completely ignoring this issue, despite the repeated notifications from witches and pagans.” In the U.K., The Pagan Federation’s Mike Stygal agreed asking “why [should] Facebook allow pages that are clearly aimed at inciting hatred, violence and murder to continue to grace their social network?”

With 100s of complaints being turned away or ignored entirely, there was nothing to explain Facebook’s decision. On Tuesday I was able to reach Facebook’s Public Policy and Communication Department. After several exchanges, they promised to be in touch with an explanation. But the pages went down before I ever got a response. So I contacted Facebook again.  They confirmed that the pages were removed by them.  Then they offered this short explanation when I asked “What happened?”

With over one billion users worldwide, we always encourage our users to report content that they believe violates our policies here and it looks like we didn’t receive any violations [on these pages]…. It could be possible that users may have reported that they violated under different terms…”   

As the moderator of an international free-speech forum, Facebook handles two million abuse reports per week. As Emily Brazelton explains in her book Sticks and Stones, the Facebook system is mostly automated leaving reviewers only seconds to handle each complaint.  If two identical complaints are rejected, any future similar complaints are ignored. (Brazelton, Sticks and Stones, pg 268-269)

By Enoc vt (File:Botón Me gusta.svg)

By Enoc vt (File:Botón Me gusta.svg)

It may be that our voices were, at first, lost in that automated shuffle. However, in the end our mounting pressure broke through and Facebook took corrective actions to uphold its own policies. In reaction, the Covenant of the Goddess together with the Lady Liberty League responded with gratitude urging “the Pagan community to join [them] in expressing [their] thanks to Facebook for listening and making this positive change.” They added:

We hope Facebook will to continue to be a leader in the effort to address violence and hate wherever it festers.

This felt like a win for many of us who celebrated from behind our computer screens.  But was it really?  Should we even be celebrating? What are we celebrating? The notoriety of these pages took us, first world Pagans, to a place labeled “witchcraft” where our nature- spirituality, our ethics, our mythology and our beliefs intersect with something far more horrifying.  While these Facebook pages may not have been directed toward us, in viewing them we reached a point of liminality where distinctions between Witchcraft and witchcraft were no longer made.  That is scary.

Now that the pages are down, we can move beyond that surreal point back into the security of our own world. Unfortunately, the removal of these two Facebook pages created no comfort for those living in the affected regions of Africa or elsewhere. Should this week’s events be a wake-up call for Pagans and Witches worldwide to reconsider our relationship with the accused? Now that the “fire” is put out, should we re-evaluate our responsibility, as a People who claim the word Witch, to those people who are dying because of the word witch?

Never Again the Burning Times??

Courtesy of Flickr's emilydickinsonridesabmx

Courtesy of Flickr’s emilydickinsonridesabmx

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!

Witchesmustdie001jpg-2568309_p9Last week, several Pagans became aware of a Facebook page entitled “Witches Must Die By Fire,” and a group called “Those Witches And Wizards Must Die By Fire By Force.”  While hate speech complaints seemed to initially work, the page is back up, and Facebook is sending back an automated message saying it doesn’t violate hate speech guidelines. A number of Pagan responses have emerged from the controversy as growing numbers of our interconnected community discover the page and group. These responses include a petition, a group on Facebook dedicated to removing hate pages and groups, a call to involve Interpol, and an overview of the issue from South African Pagan Damon Leff, who notes that rhetoric about burning witches shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Quote: Throughout Africa women, men and children frequently become targets for witch-hunters. Incitement to burn Witches anywhere in Africa must be taken deadly seriously and response to such credible threats of violence against Witches on Facebook aught to be immediate and decisive.” As an Atlantic Magazine article published yesterday about Saudi Arabia’s ongoing and deadly hunt for witches and sorcerers illustrates, the global problem of witch-hunts and witch-killings are not merely idle talk, and rhetoric underlying these actions should not be simply dismissed. The Wild Hunt is currently in contact with several Pagan organizations about further responses and constructive paths forward.

The Warrior's CallA call has gone out to Pagans in the United Kingdom to participate in a public ritual at Glastonbury Tor designed to “protect Albion from Fracking.” Quote: “Albion is in peril. Her sacred sites threatened like never before. Chalice Well and the Goddess Sulis (Bath’s geothermal springs) are in danger of becoming toxic. The Great Mother’s flesh is to be cracked open and drained dry, uncaring for consequence to bird and beast, land and life. All those of good intent are summoned hither – regardless of age or gender, color or Creed – to gather at noon on Saturday the 28th of September atop Glastonbury Tor. There, we are to engage in group magickal working for the betterment and protection of this sacred landscape.” One of the co-sponsors of the ritual is Wiccan Marina Pepper, a politician and environmental activist, who has made the issue of fracking a key concern. Pepper’s concern seems well founded, as Heritage Daily has also sounded the alarm over potential damage to the famous wells of Aquae Sulis by hydraulic fracturing. As I mentioned last week, prominent UK Pagans like Damh the Bard and Philip Carr-Gomm have already been protesting fracking operations, and it seems like concern over this issue is only intensifying as Britain’s natural landscape is threatened by this process.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

This past week Pagan activist Peter Dybing, a logistics specialist who works in disaster management, has been in Idaho helping to fight the wildfires raging through Sun Valley, the biggest fire in 25 years. Wildfires are currently spreading throughout the Northwest region of the United States, which has been plagued by drought and dry weather. In a missive posted to his blog, Dybing noted how his Pagan faith, and his work fighting these fires intertwine. Quote: “Today I am back from a fire, in Boise, resting, planning and preparing to respond again. As I reflect on my actions it is clear that the most profound influence my beliefs have had on me are my instinctive actions in crisis. When direct decisions are necessary NOW, they are laced with compassion, internal tears for the destruction Gaia faces in this firestorm and the need to be of service. The most profound expression of my Pagan beliefs and practice shine through most brightly when I have little time for piety.” Our prayers go out to Dybing, and all the brave first responders fighting these fires. May the rains return soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Modern Witch Magazine is now accepting submission for its fifth volume, entitled “Veils and Visions.” Quote: “The theme is centered on working with the other side, ancestors, energy work, and psychic development.” Deadline is September 25th, you can find guidelines and more information, here.
  • Water, the quarterly newsletter of the Pagan Educational Network, has just released its Lughnasadh edition. The publication is for members only, but you can get a membership subscription on a sliding scale.
  • September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,”“weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together…To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunctio of non-opposites.” You can see a lineup of OCCULT workshops and events, here. Artist line-up, here. Presenter bios, here. There will also be a masque.
  • This Saturday, August 24th, Friends of the Gualala River are starting a public action campaign to convince a winery to spare 154 acres of Gualala River’s redwood forest in California. Pagan author and activist Starhawk will be on hand to do a ritual that will (hopefully) turn “wine back into water.” Quote: “I’ve been working with Friends of the Gualala River and representatives from the Kashaya Pomo to help build a campaign to save an important Kashaya heritage site from being clearcut for vineyards.  Artesa, a Spanish company and the third largest wine corporation in the world, is planning this conversion.  It’s the last redwood-to-vineyard conversion planned in California, after the defeat of the huge Preservation Ranch proposal, which thankfully was defeated.”
  • Medusa Coils reports that the Lammas issue of Seasonal Salon, the online publication of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, has been released.
  • On September 22nd, the Stella Natura festival, held in Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness will begin, and will include the Norwegian experimental runic band Wardruna in an exclusive American performance. Meanwhile, Circle Ansuz, a Heathen Anarchist collective, has begun a series of posts digging into the beliefs and past of influential Heathen Stephen McNallen, whose Asatru Folk Assembly is acting as co-sponsor for Stella Natura. I will be following this story in the coming weeks, and will update you on any responses or new information.
  • As I noted previously, the Gerald Gardner documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” renamed “A Very British Witchcraft,” was finally aired in the UK after being shown in a truncated version in Australia. You can see the 46-minute version of the documentary on Youtube, here (for as long as it lasts). Enjoy!

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

After publishing an SEO-optimized post about a great new pin, I tweeted the URL which auto-shared to my fan-page status update. If you don’t mind, could you go and +1 it?

Did you get that? Some of it?  If you are social media junkie, it made perfect sense and you are probably about to head over the Google+.  If not, you might be drowning in the social media frenzy that has taken over the internet.

Desk

Photo Courtesy Flickr’s caribb

Given my background, I frequently get asked questions about social media.  “Why should I use it?” or “How can it help my organization?”  “Which sites should I be on?” and “Is Facebook really a covert CIA organization plotting to replace humanity with cyborg intelligence?” While I can’t answer that final question, I thought I’d spend some time responding to the others as they relate specifically to the Pagan community.

The first and most obvious question is “What is social media?”  According to business marketing experts, Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein:

“..a group of Internet-based applications that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (International Associate of Exhibits and Events

In simple terms, social media is a virtual arena where you, the user, can see and be seen?  Better yet, hear and be heard.  No, that doesn’t work either.  Let’s try this.  It is the modern village festival, the town square, the party line, Usenet, the chat room, and even the text-based MUCKS (multi-user-chat-kingdoms).

facebook logoAs of today, what are the most popular social media sites?  First, we have the behemoth known as Facebook with 61% of worldwide social media market share.  In distant second, we find Twitter, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. To make the on-line party more titillating, there are social media adds-on such as the ever-popular YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Four Square and others.  For those wondering, MySpace, a victim of Facebook’s world domination, was recently re-launched by its new celebrity owner, Justin Timberlake, and is trying to make a glamorous comeback.

Oh yea, and there is also Google+.

Alongside the A-listers, countless special-interest social media sites have appeared on the scene.  Whether you’re a scientist or reader, a cat lover or environmentalist, there’s a second-tier site just for you.  Pagans are no exception.  Sites such as Wiccan Together, Witchbook, and Paganspace are exclusively dedicated to the “magick” of social networking.

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In fact, for some Pagans, these dedicated sites are more than workplace distractions.  They provide a much-needed spiritual community when a real one is not available.  Not everyone lives in Pagan-rich areas complete with festivals, metaphysical stores, and private groups.  Additionally, not everyone is able to be openly Pagan.  Sites like Witchbook and Paganspace are the doorways to like-minded individuals.

Admittedly, I have never used any of the Pagan-dedicated sites.  I simply don’t have time, which brings me to the next question, “Which ones should I use?” The answer for individuals is very different from the answer for organizations and businesses.

twitter logo 2For the individual, the choice is simple.  Pick a few sites that cater to your interests and have fun.  If you love visuals, crafts, and recipes, use Pinterest. If you need a business network, use LInkedIn.  If you prefer to succinctly spew forth your opinions, try microblogging on Twitter.   If you like Justin Timberlake, open a MySpace account.

For organizations, businesses or artisans, the choice becomes a bit more complicated, whether your endeavor is Pagan-based or not.  Without getting into the nitty gritty of social media marketing, I suggest that you answer these five key questions before making any social media plunge:

  1. What is my product or service?
  2. What is my ultimate goal?
  3. Who is my target audience?
  4. Which platforms are they using?
  5. What is my budget?

Once these questions are answered, an effective, stream-lined, integrated social media marketing strategy can be firmly enacted to give your organization or business a solid digital presence.

Now, this all sounds so digitally glorious but there are some major pitfalls.   For businesses and organizations, the biggest hurdle stems from the misconception that a big following equates to a desired return, financial or otherwise.  Just because someone liked your Facebook fan page, doesn’t guarantee that he or she will ever buy one of your hand-crafted ritual robes.

Unfortunately, that’s the nature of social media.  “Likes” and “Follows” are the proverbial carrot in front of the horse.  They just dangle there in front of marketers, enticing them to keep playing the social media game.

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

Regardless, all business and organizations should have a social media presence.  For Pagan entities, a strong presence can aid the quest for social legitimacy while providing a doorway allowing the public access to good information.  Perhaps more importantly, social media can bridge the gap between the generations by connecting older, traditional organizations like Covenant of the Goddess and Circle Sanctuary, to the younger, tech-savvy generations.  Social media could be the broomstick that takes Paganism into the future.

However, there are bigger concerns, legal and sociological, that loom over the entire social media experience.   Who has a right to censor your feeds?  When does social media become public media?  Are you living your real-life just to have something good to post?  And, finally and most importantly, as humans, are we facing a possible disintegration of real-world social skills?

The time we spend sharing, following, and liking takes away from sharing time with friends, following dreams and liking new experiences.  While social media does help build connections in ways that weren’t previously possible, we must not allow it to overtake real life.  That is especially true for Pagans whose spirituality is tied so strongly to the natural world.

SunriseYou can’t watch a sunset on Twitter.  You can’t feel the full moon rise on Youtube.  You can’t hear a friend’s rhythmic drumming during a cold Solstice Eve on Pinterest.  We still need our live seasonal festivals.  We still need brick-and-mortar community centers and energy filled circles. No doubt that social media plays an important and useful role in our lives but it must be intertwined with live experience – capturing it, sharing it but never replacing it.

(Now feel free to click the buttons below to like this, share this, pin this and, while you’re at it, don’t forget the +1)

 

Of the many small occult-oriented publishers Scarlet Imprint is probably one of the most acclaimed, and also one of the most outspoken. Over the years they have taken very public stances on everything from matters  political to piracy; at the same time they have published well-received poetry collections and in-depth thoughtful meditations by authors like John Michael Greer. However, while Scarlet Imprint recently branched out into the digital realm in regards to publishing, it doesn’t seem they have found their experiences in the realm of social media as enriching, and they’ve publicly announced their withdrawal from Facebook.

scarlet imprint leaving

“Magicians should be asking themselves very serious questions about how they relate to technology. We engage in this self-interrogation on a regular basis and have come to the decision to leave facebook, the maw that rapaciously devours online traffic, a memetic infestation which trivialises the numinous and significantly alters behaviour patterns for the worse. Facebook in particular is choking under the weight of content, and awaits the same inexorable fate as myspace before it and no doubt diaspora next. 

As we have previously stated, without Scarlet Imprint we would choose not to have any personal online profile at all. As such we have a duty to Her, the daemons, spirits and our authors to get the work out for the serious participants in the occult community. We will continue to maintain an online presence, as a necessary evil. Our friends are scattered like stars, and online has been essential for us to make these connections. We are fortunate to say that many of the best practitioners we know have no online profile, and would suggest that those who are most vocal online should perhaps have their claims taken with a pinch of salt.”

Scarlet Imprint’s co-publisher Peter Grey goes on to question whether the Internet is making us dumber (an idea that has found some popularity in recent years) and suggests that our magical (and I assume mundane) selves would be enriched by unplugging from it.

“We would suggest that your practice would benefit if you get the hell out of it, or at least minimise your exposure to the cognitive load. This is what we attempt to do, whilst still selling enough books to survive, and making sure that the right people come across our work.”

Perhaps not un-coincidentally this move by Scarlet Imprint comes during something of a mini-revolt by small businesses and brands voiced by the alternative media outlet Dangerous Minds. In a post entitled “Facebook: I Want My Friends Back,” Richard Metzger slams the social media giant for breaking the service in a cheap attempt to generate revenue, destroying the small but significant audiences many smaller brands and artists have built at the service.

Zuck background22

“Summing up, Facebook has taken a pee in their own pool from quite a lofty height, turning vast armies of “influentials” against the company, people who are now making plans—born of necessity—to bolt from that pool and to stop putting any effort there. Furthermore, Facebook’s greedy grab will have the knock-on effect of causing many blogs to simply throw in the towel, diminishing Facebook’s own business ecosystem and Facebook’s value to its own users to the point where only Axe Deodorant, Taco Bell and Nike will be showing up in your Facebook newsfeed, which after all, is pretty much the sole point of Facebook in the first place! They’ve deliberately broken their own product’s biggest selling point. Whose idea was that?”

The sentiments expressed by Metzger were echoed by Anne Newkirk Niven, publisher of Pagan-oriented magazines like Witches & Pagans and Sage Woman.

ann facebook

Which makes me wonder: will Scarlet Imprint’s move inspire occult and Pagan businesses and brands increasingly frustrated by the recent changes laid out by Dangerous Minds? Will a confluence of dissatisfactions spark a trend toward exodus? While I can’t see bigger Pagan brands like Llewellyn Worldwide ever leaving Facebook, it’s very possible that niche and mid-size ones might start looking into viable alternatives. What that viable alternative might be is an open question as Google+ and other services haven’t seemed to gain much traction against the Facebook juggernaut. Who knows, maybe the second coming of MySpace will change everything? In the meantime, I wish Scarlet Imprint luck in their Facebook-less future.

Top Stories:

San Francisco Peaks Update: I have written at some length concerning the battle over a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona creating snow from treated wastewater, what a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations see as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” It seemed to me like Arizona politicians didn’t believe there could be sacred land in their state. Now Indian Country follows up on this story with the latest insult to the beliefs of Native Americans living in Arizona.

“The Forest Service has scheduled a meeting to hear Hopi Tribe objections to wastewater-enabled snowmaking for a ski resort on Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks at the same time it has approved the start of construction on the snowmaking’s infrastructure. A former Hopi Tribal chairman and the grassroots group of which he is a part of hope an upcoming meeting on the San Francisco Peaks (Nuvatuqui) will provide a voice for tribal members who oppose the use of wastewater for the snowmaking at a resort on mountains sacred to a number of area tribes. But at about the same time the Forest Service planned the May 31 “listening session” with Hopi tribal members it also authorized construction to begin on a pipeline to convey the wastewater used to make the artificial snow.”

An emergency injunction appeal to construction was denied, despite there being an active appeal on environmental grounds underway. The “listening session” with the Hopi Tribe will be the only forum at this point that includes Native voices, it looks like Coconino National Forest supervisor M. Earl Stewart won’t be much different from former supervisor Nora B. Rasure, who doesn’t see any issue with desecrating a sacred mountain for the purpose of a prolonged skiing season. As indigenous leaders tell the United Nations that respecting their beliefs will help preserve the environment, the Forest Service in Coconino has seemingly decided that money and politics trump everything else.

Pagans on Wikipedia: Over at PNC-Minnesota (and reprinted at Patheos.com) Cara Schulz writes an editorial concerning a snowballing trend of Wikipedia deleting Pagan-oriented articles. She cites the a policy of goal-post shifting regarding what sources are deemed acceptable. For instance, the Pagan Newswire Collective doesn’t meet guidelines, nor do the published writings of Pagan academics.

“PNC has staff with formal journalism degrees, experience working as a reporters, producers, and editors in mainstream media, and PNC-Minnesota follows an editorial process similar to most any other newsroom in the country.   Yet PNC-Minnesota is dismissed as  “a self-published group blog which isn’t going to meet guidelines for reliable sources.” Discounting sources is a common theme in the Paganistan deletion discussion.  A paper by Dr. Murphy Pizza, an anthropologist who spent five years studying the Paganistan community, is also considered not a reliable source because she is a Pagan. I’m assuming this same standard would then apply to The Pomegranate:  The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Chas Clifton’s book “Her Hidden Children:  The Rise of Wicca And Paganism in America,” and is probably the reason Ronald Hutton will not publicly say he is a Pagan.”

Schulz wonders if there’s a double-standard going on where papers and articles published by Christian academics are accepted as reliable sources on Christian articles or if the work of environmentalist-minded scholars pass muster on climate-related articles. I personally think that much of this problem can be solved by having a more engaged team of Pagan-friendly editors at Wikipedia who are willing to go to bat for these articles, and work to constantly improve them, not just when items are flagged for deletion. The rest of the problem will only be solved once we take our media seriously, and move collectively forward in building institutions and reputations that pass muster.

In Other News:

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!

Rending the Veil Goes on Hiatus: The occult e-zine Rending the Veil has announced that it is going on a year-long hiatus, citing a lack of time and burnout as contributing factors.

“…due to this lack of time and to serious burnout, I am putting the magazine on hiatus following the Autumn issue. I am planning on a year-long break, but it may be shorter than that or I may decide in that year to shut it down. For now, the hiatus is to give me a chance to restore the archives and to work on any other aspects of the site that may occur to me, such as the once-planned art gallery that never got off the ground. I debated about shutting the site down, but several people have urged me not to do that, so the hiatus is the alternative.”

While Pagan and occult e-zines once thrived on the Internet, their numbers have been shrinking. Burnout being a major factor, especially when the budget for such ventures is usually zero. Then again, the current economy hasn’t been kind to Pagan print publications either, leaving many wondering what kind of publishing model will be sustainable in the coming years. As some Pagan magazines test the waters of digital distribution, and other outlets engage with an “NPR” model of funding (all part of a larger discussion on money within our communities), we’ll have to see what our community is willing to support in the longer run. As for RtV, it remains to be seen if they emerge from their hiatus, but I wish them the best of luck.

Pagans Want to Be Handfasted on Facebook: On the popular social networking site Facebook, Chantal Clement is starting a “pseudo-campaign” to have the service add “handfasted” as a relationship status option.

“Having been handfasted to Andrew for almost 5 years now, I feel that we’ve been misrepresenting our relationship on Facebook merely because of an imposed convenience of having limited relationship status options. It’s always bothered me because I feel like I’m totally not expressing who we actually are, but I’ve stayed quiet. I’ve finally decided to do something about it.

Handfasting represents something that does not apply to what most people define as “marriage”. Marriage is a different situation than a Handfasting. It’s a commitment ceremony made between two people whether for “a year and a day” (with a renewal option :P) or “for as long as the love shall last.” It’s about honoring that your lives are bound together, and it’s about celebrating that love and commitment. I’m not saying one is superior to the other, but just that both deserve equal legitimacy.”

This isn’t the first group to ask for something more nuanced than “it’s complicated,” polyamorous groups have long rallied for the ability to list multiple partners, though whether the company is open to any of these proposed changes remains to be seen.

Is Modern Paganism Ready to Accommodate Disability? Pagan author Patricia Washburn (aka “Jane Raeburn”) has started a new blog called “Vulcan’s Sister” about being a Pagan living with a disability; in one of her first posts she lists the problems that a largely outdoor festival-based culture will have as our community grows and its leaders age.

“As the Pagan community grows and its leaders age, we ARE going to have more people among us with disabilities. There may, indeed, be more than we think already – I know more than one Pagan with disabilities who simply stays away from community events because he or she does not feel welcome. That makes me sad – and, because it’s now my problem as well, it makes me angry.”

I’ve long thought that we’ll see more indoor events and hotel-based conventions as the Baby Boom generation hits retirement, and we start to see a significant number of individuals with mobility or accommodation issues. Being welcoming towards Pagans with disabilities is going to be a significant issue in the near future, and I think that Washburn’s essay is a good starting point for conversation regarding how we should move forward.

The Red Lotus Library Begins: P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a contributor and friend to this blog, has announced the publication of a new work entitled “The Syncretisms of Antinous”.

Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE), was syncretized to a large number of deities and heroes in his ancient cultus, and the process didn’t stop when that cultus ended in the fifth century. Archaeologists, scholars, artists, and admirers of male beauty continued to link him to a great many figures from Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology. In this book, you will find out about the familiar as well as the more obscure syncretisms of Antinous, from Hermes to Herakles, Dionysos to the Dioskouroi, Apollon to Apis, Adonis to Attis, Pan to Poseidon, Achilleus to Aristaios, Endymion to Eunostos, Eros to Echmoun, and many more! You will also find resources to guide you in getting to know these syncretisms further, and ideas for devotional practices based upon them.

Lupus is one of the founding members of the Ekklesía Antínoou–a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and I anticipate, based on his past writings, that the book will be extensively researched and well-written. This book is the beginning of the Red Lotus Library, the publishing arm of Ekklesía Antínoou.

Political Survey Results: The Political Pagan blog has published the results of a recent survey on political attitudes in Asatru in America, with a second survey on non-Asatru pagans in America.

“Overall, I think the survey, despite its flaws, does manage to highlight some distinctive patterns. Ásatrú Pagans tend to trend more conservative and/or libertarian, and to be more involved in and supportive of the military, with less support for government programs, interracial relations, and helping the disadvantaged, all of which are in line with the views and values of conservative and libertarian political ideology in the USA. Non-Ásatrú Pagans tend to trend more towards the liberal end of the spectrum, and to be less involved in and supportive of the military, with more support for government programs, interracial relations, and helping the disadvantaged, all of which are in line with the views and values of liberal-leftist political ideology in the USA.”

Blog author Maelstrom calls the findings on racial attitudes within Asatru “troubling”, and a debate has already started in the comments regarding methodology and sample size. It will be interesting to see how accurate the Heathen community thinks his results are, and what, ultimately, will be done with this gathered data.

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

Back in 2001 the British census was rocked by a massive Internet campaign/practical joke, where, for a variety of reasons, 400,000 people listed “Jedi” as their religious affiliation. The Pagan community, though ranking as the seventh-largest faith in Britain with a combined number of nearly 40,000, paled in comparison (Pagan groups, who feel they could actually number in the hundreds of thousands, are organizing to ensure a more accurate count in 2011). While I don’t doubt that there are sincere adherents to some sort of constructed Jedi-faith, it seems more likely that it became a haven for people who don’t like the idea of telling the government their religious affiliation, or even having to decide on a religious affiliation. I bring all this up because the Washington Post is doing a spotlight on faith within the popular social networking site Facebook, and it looks like the return of the Jedi.

“Since then, Facebook’s beliefs box has generated a staggering number of entries. So exactly how many users put down “beer” as their religion? How many “Catholic”? What correlations exist between religion and number of friends? Company spokeswoman Meredith Chin declined to answer such questions, citing user privacy. But Chin agreed to compile a list of the most popular religious identities and offered some tantalizing hints at what a full readout might show. Not surprisingly, the most popular faith professed is “Christian” and the various denominations associated with it. The category is so dominant that for this list, Facebook’s statisticians insisted on combining such other designations as “Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mormon” under the “Christian” label. As a result, the second most popular entry on the list is “Islam,” followed by “Atheist.” “Jedi,” interestingly enough, makes an appearance at No. 10.”

There are so many questions about Facebook’s religion data that aren’t asked or answered in William Wan’s breezy little article. For instance, Facebook statisticians “insisted” on combining all the Christian variations, but did they do the same for other religious groupings? Were all the various Pagan faiths combined as well? If not, why not? Is “spiritual” a catch-all category, or is it just people who listed themselves solely as “spiritual”, and why include a Washington DC top-ten but not one for the USA as a whole?  Why only ten? If it isn’t a violation of user privacy to give us a top-ten list, why not a top twenty or fifty? Further, why did Wan classify “Seguidor del Wiccanismo” (follower of Wicca in Spanish, of which there are 2000 on Facebook) as “offbeat”, did he not bother to run it through a translator? Does the fact that this listing was given as an example of “offbeat” answers to the religion question (along with “Heavy Metal” and “Amish”) in fact prove that Facebook statisticians didn’t bother to gather the modern Pagans into an easy-to-count single grouping?

Instead of doing a real investigation of religion on Facebook, Wan focuses instead on how “hard” it is to fill in that text box, when all you want to do is hook up with some friends.

“It’s Facebook. The whole point is to keep it light and playful, you know?” said Heim, 27, a college student from Dumfries. “But a question like that kind of makes you think.”

Indeed, it does make you think, I just wish the Washington Post were similarly inspired. It’s “interesting” that Jedi came in tenth, but not interesting enough to probe a bit deeper into why it’s the tenth-most-popular faith category on Facebook. If only the The Force could spur some more in-depth journalism on these questions.

ADDENDUM: Get Religion and I seem to be on the same wavelength today.