Archives For Fellowship of Isis

Local papers in Geyserville, California are reporting that Lady Lorean Vigne, founder of Isis Oasis Sanctuary, passed away on July 15th at the age of 82.

Photo: Geyserville Press Democrat.

Photo: Geyserville Press Democrat.

“Lady Loreon Vigne was a successful business woman who brought an animal sanctuary, Egyptian Temple and retreat center to the agricultural town of Geyserville.  She brought new ideas and welcomed all to be a part of her journey by opening Isis Oasis one Sunday a month to visitors. A local Geyserville personality, Vigne opened her Isis Oasis home to the community for many years.”

Lady Lorean Vigne founded the Isis Oasis Sanctuary in 1978, and it was officially recognized as a church in the state of California in 1996. Dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, they followed the principles of the Fellowship of Isis, as stated at their website.

“We generally follow the principles of the Fellowship of Isis, out of which our temple was born. The FOI was established by Lady Olivia Robertson and her brother at Clonegal Castle, Enniscorthy, Ireland, which has thousands of members in over 80 countries. Those who are members of the FOI are connected only by their love for the Goddess as each practices in whatever way they wish. The idea is to create balance by incorporating the feminine in deity. We all need the nurturing, forgiveness, and compassion that the Great Mother provides, as we seek to integrate and strengthen both our lunar and solar qualities. Those who become Priestesses and Priests of Isis, within this Temple, pledge to honor all life and commit to help the earth and her people’s not only for her preservation but to bring to our lives and the lives of future generations more light and wisdom.”

286087_10150352604262317_4806791_oLady Lorean Vigne, in addition to overseeing the temple, was an artist and craftsperson, and was married to the Beat-era experimental filmmaker Dion Vigne. A larger than life personality, she was known for her famous pet ocelots, and patronage of the arts in Geyserville. The Temple of Isis at Isis Oasis Sanctuary released the following statement on her passing.

“It is with sad tidings that we announce today the passing of Lady Loreon Vigne into her journey beyond the veil on July 15th. As she enters the care of Anubis, on her journey to the land of Osiris, we have been holding her noon ceremonies and vigils here at Isis Oasis HQ. She has taught and touched many, and continues to do so with her spirit, within the Temple of Isis and beyond. As co-hostess of this Symposium, Loreon had a hand in creating each and every aspect of it, and we will continue her work throughout the event, being true to her spirit and zest for knowledge, and the sharing of that knowledge. In addition, we will have a special High Holy Ceremony honoring the life and work of our Great Lady, celebrating her life and artistry. This formal ceremony will be a precursor to a second honoring at our Annual Convocation, where new Priestesses and Priests are ordained into the Temple of Isis and Fellowship of Isis.”

A formal ceremony honoring Lady Lorean Vigne will be held at the Temple’s annual Inner Sanctum Symposium at the end of August.

“I am sad to hear the news of the passing of another Great Soul, but I know that Loreon knows the way home. Her life was such a blessing to so many others. I met Loreon at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago so many years ago now, yet it feels just like yesterday and though we never had the opportunity to meet again, her work and achievement remain an outstanding inspiration. Thank you Loreon, for blazing the trail that others might follow in your footsteps.”Naomi Ozaniec

For more on the life of Lady Lorean Vigne, she wrote an autobiography entitled “The Goddess Bade Me Do It” that’s available for purchase through the temple. May she rest in the arms of her goddess. What is remembered, lives.

In recent months, a controversy has been brewing around the name and the acronym for the militant Islamic group Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (DAASH). The most common English translations of that name are The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. More commonly, the militant group is referred to in the media as ISIS. Both the translations and the common acronym have caused significant frustration for many, including Pagans.

A  New York Times article, dated June 18, explained the problem from a linguistic perspective. The Arabic name, Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, is not effectively expressed in the most commonly used translation: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The jihadists’ mission, as reflected by their Arabic name, is to create a caliphate that incorporates a far larger region than the modern countries of Iraq and Syria. The translated name, and its acronym ISIS, do not clearly relay the group’s intent.

By NordNordWest, Spesh531 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons] Red indicates areas controlled by ISIL; Yellow indicates areas claimed by ISIL

By NordNordWest, Spesh531 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons]
Red indicates areas controlled by ISIL; Yellow indicates areas claimed by ISIL; White indicates the rest of Iraq and Syria

The New York Times writer suggests that “the already familiar ISIS abbreviation could simply be said to stand for The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.” The Arabic word al-Sham defines that larger region, not limited by modern national borders. The area includes Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and southern Turkey. Using the Arabic term al-Sham accurately pinpoints the group’s intent. However, this word is unfamiliar to the casual English-speaking reader and, consequently, does not solve the problem of masked intent.

Additionally, even with this minor adjustment in translation, the acronym ISIS is still viable. Either way, it is regularly being used in mainstream media reporting, including major outlets such as the BBC, The Huffington Post, CNN, NBC, The Los Angeles Times and others. The Washington Post writes:

[We have] been referring to the organization as ISIS, shorthand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is how most news organizations that operate in English began identifying the outfit when it emerged as a dangerous fighting force two years ago, launching terror strikes and carving out territory amid the Syrian civil war.

While the Times suggestion solves one issue, the continued use of the acronym ISIS itself poses an entirely different problem for Pagans and Heathens who venerate the Egyptian Goddess of the same name. The Fellowship of Isis (FOI), a worldwide organization, made this public statement:

We are a multi-faith organisation dedicated to the feminine aspect in all religions, and have a priesthood whose manifesto is one of peace, tolerance and respect for all spiritual expression … It is disturbing and confusing to our members and the general public who know of our organization when media use the acronym ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militia.

On June 20, the Huffington Post UK reported that the Pagan Federation sent in a letter asking that the news outlet stop using the ISIS acronym. The published letter reads:

We are writing to you on behalf of our members to express concerns over the use of the acronym ISIS which is currently being used when mentioning the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Greater Syria) militia, and would request that the acronym ISIL, which has established usage elsewhere in the world be used.

The reason for this request is because the acronym ISIS is likely to form an inadvertent association in the minds of hearers between Sunni jihadists and followers of the goddess Isis, with the potential for harm to innocent people from a completely unrelated religion.

Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary and writer at Patheos’ Wild Garden blog, is the founder and Priestess of the Osireion Temple in South Carolina.  Emore says that she is “disinclined to feel alarm at the acronym ISIS being bandied about in the mainstream news this summer.” She adds:

It is a bit disconcerting to hear the name of one of my goddesses regularly repeated in the international news, and such terrible news it is!  And yet I note that “Isis” as a name or acronym is found in lots of places.  There is isis-online.org, the Institute for Science and International Security, and isis.org, home of the International Species Information System.  Many university campuses use an online student network called ISIS which stands for the Intercampus Student Information System.  Interestingly, here in South Carolina there is a Department of Education system-wide database called Osiris. 

Like the names of many ancient deities, Isis is found as a designator for many organizations, products and activities. Emore adds:

What all of this tells me is that the great mother goddess of ancient Egypt, whose worship stretched to all parts of the Roman Empire (a piece of a temple of Isis has been found in the Thames River), is a ubiquitous archetype in the mind of at least the western world.  The Mistress of All Magic has so infused our imagination that those who never had a thought for Pagan religion feel it natural to adopt her beautiful name…

However, in this particular case, the organization is a terrorist group with violent intent based on religious extremism. Its mission to create a caliphate has no connection, symbolic or otherwise, to Ancient Egyptian mythology. It is just happenstance. In fact, the group itself and the local communities use the acronym DAASH.

The goddess Isis.

The goddess Isis. [Public Domain Image]

As noted by the Pagan Federation’s letter, there is a third translation option. Some agencies are now calling this group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Like al-Sham, the somewhat-antiquated word Levant refers to the larger Middle East region making it a better translation of the original Arabic. As such, the group’s acronym becomes ISIL. Currently the U.S. State department, President Obama and other governments worldwide are using this translation and its corresponding acronym.

The Associated Press has itself opted to use ISIL and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in its own work. It also recommends that particular translation and usage in its AP Stylebook. However the change overall is slow in coming. Many writers and media outlets have adjusted to using “the Levant” but still use the acronym ISIS. In its press release, the FOI has put out a call out to editors asking:

We respectfully request that your organization from this point forward refer to this group by its other accepted name, I.S.I.L., Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and require that your correspondents and guests do the same. 

Despite the continued discussions and declarations of name translation changes, the extremist group is still most readily recognized and now even marketed with the acronym ISIS. Recently several companies, mostly out of Indonesia, have begun selling clothing and paraphernalia, over the Internet, that display the militant organization’s logo with the acronym ISIS. According to a CNN report, one of the shirts reads: “We are all Isis.” The same article quotes Delma Institute researcher Hassan Hassan as saying, “Using merchandise to market itself as ‘cool’ is a one of the common propaganda tools ISIS uses.” Facebook has been removing these sites but sales continue elsewhere.

Art and Photo by Lady Pythia.  It was posted publicly online as part of her call-to-the-media to stop using the acronym ISIS.

Art and Photo by Lady Pythia. This was posted publicly as part of a call-to-the-action to stop using the acronym ISIS.

Because the group and its supporters appear to have embraced the acronym themselves, the debate over the name extends well-beyond simple media usage. As for members of The Fellowship of Isis, the Pagan Federation and other individuals who are unsettled by use of the acronym ISIS, this struggle may be more difficult than originally expected. Emore is trying to look at the situation differently and toward a brighter future. She says:

A fragment of Osireion liturgy (which derives from the ancients) is the line “we know you, we know your names.”  A name is sacred and powerful, but it seems to me that the media does not know Aset’s name, nor her strength.  May she soon work her magic to bring calm to the turmoil of the Levant.

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.

I want to begin this week’s edition of Unleash the Hounds with a quick announcement. Columnist Teo Bishop will be stepping down from his position at The Wild Hunt effective immediately. I sat down to speak with Teo personally on Tuesday, and we both agreed that his spiritual journey had changed his relationship with modern Paganism, and that it would be best if he concentrated his writing at his personal site, and on the Huffington Post. I count Teo as a personal friend, and I truly wish him the best in his journey, wherever it may lead him. I thank him for a year’s worth of thought-provoking and insightful columns.

Now then, on to the links.

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

  • First off, I have to say I’m hugely disappointed that Get Religion allowed themselves to write an utterly disrespectful post about the recently passed Olivia Robertson of the Fellowship of Isis. I had no idea that critiquing religion journalism included mocking the dead, and involving yourself directly in the story (thanks to a major conflict of interest). They call the Fellowship a cult, use scare quotes, and then try to excuse their behavior as an exercise in promoting better journalism. Get Religion, which once pretended to be interested in fair coverage for all faiths, has now degraded into a conservative Christian organ concerned more with press coverage of gay marriage and abortion than anything else. I will, from now on, treat Get Religion as a hostile outlet when compiling links.
  • Right Wing Watch profiles yet another Christian book that slurs modern Paganism as a pathway to Satanism, sexual hedonism, neo-Nazism, and demonic control. Quote: “I think my further descent into hell started with an occult sex ritual that I engaged in” with “a gay cabal of male witches,” where he had group sex with a man with “the head of a goat or ram.” There’s so much crazy material, they felt it deserved a follow-up post. If you want to see where communication between evangelical Christians and modern Pagans is damaged, look no further than this industry of destructive propaganda.
  • Is the Church of England doomed to extinction in a generation? One commentator argues that if it is, it only has itself to blame. Quote: “Among younger people the picture is different. Indifference diminishes, and is partly replaced by a belief that the church is actively malevolent. Whereas only 12% of the over-40s regard the church as a negative force in society, this proportion nearly doubles – to 21% – among the under-24s. This is almost entirely a result of the policies actively pursued by Lord Carey as archbishop of Canterbury and then passively continued by his successor, Rowan Williams.”
  • Was Thomas Jefferson a Unitarian? James Ford explores the question. Quote: “Jefferson had been raised an Anglican and retained a pew at his local Episcopal church to the end of his life. He, however, rarely attended services at that church. And his writings revealed his spiritual life had journeyed far from the wisdom of Canterbury. Both of the sometimes allies, sometimes enemies and by the end of their lives deepest friends, Adams and Jefferson wrote of their scorn for all things neoPlatonic, for every sort of priest craft, and, instead their admiration for applying reason to all things, including religion, and that religious sentiments were meant to be applied in this life as ethical principles.”
Carlton Gebbia

Carlton Gebbia

  • Carlton Gebbia, resident Wiccan on reality television program “The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills,” is apparently fulfilling her quotient of requisite outrageousness and drama. Expect lots of ink on Gebbia in our witch-crazed pop-culture moment. Oh, and here’s a profile in People. So, expect questions about Wicca from the relatives this Thanksgiving!
  • Salon.com explores the complicated racial politics of American Horror Story: Coven. Quote: “For me, inclusion is paramount — inclusion in the zeitgeist, inclusion in the ongoing dialogue of pop culture, inclusion into whatever specific, fucked-up world is being created for the sake of entertainment. To me, “Coven” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” are similar in that, not only do they both openly and expansively acknowledge black people’s place in American history, they also allow for their black characters to get their hands dirty — even bloody — actively participating in that history at its most sordid.”
  • Author Sally Green is being heralded as the next Stephanie Myer or JK Rowling after she signed a million-dollar deal for a series of witchcraft themed fantasy novels. Quote: “The black and white witches in Half Bad are divided by rivallry but united in their fear of a boy called Nathan, who has ancestry on both sides and is “wanted by no one; hunted by everyone”. Green said she never really believed she could write, but after embarking upon the novel’s draft found herself “staying up until 2am just writing”. Penguin acquired the novel earlier this year and predicts it will have the Twilight effect for witches…”

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

“Be happy now. Don’t worry about if you were happy yesterday, or whether you will be happy tomorrow. . . eternity is between seconds. You find Deity, the Goddess, the God, now. And your home becomes your sanctuary. You have a sanctuary as your hearth – a candle, one candle, a stick of incense, wherever you are is Heaven. That’s what my message is – yes – wherever you are, should be Heaven.”Olivia Robertson, co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis

On Friday, the Fellowship of Isis announced the passing of their co-founder, 96-year-old Olivia Robertson.

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

“Sad news for the Fellowship and the wider Goddess community in the world, Olivia passed away last night. It was peaceful and she had her family with her. Her family ask that the families privacy is respected at this time. Many blessings.”Rt. Rev. Caroline Wise, Fellowship of Isis, London.

Robertson, along with brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, and his wife, Pamela, founded the Fellowship of Isis on the Vernal Equinox of 1976 with a goal of reintroducing Goddess worship into the world. This development came for the trio after working together since the early 1960s on metaphysical and spiritual projects, including the Huntington Castle Centre for Meditation and Study.

“With her brother, Derry Durdin-Robertson, she was one of the most influential Priestesses in the Pagan movement. Olivia was a beacon for those who felt drawn to the Goddess. Hers, and her late brother’s contribution to modern paganism cannot be underestimated. May she be surrounded by the wings of Isis on her journey.” – Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

“Olivia and I were friends for nearly 40 years.  I cherish the memories of our conversations and times together, including her delight in my introducing her to some Native American friends at her very first Pow Wow in America. I give thanks for Olivia’s bright spirit and her many contributions to Goddess Spirituality and the world. Blessings to Olivia as she journeys in the Other World and continues to work her Goddess magic from the ancestral realm.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“I’ve just heard that Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who founded the Fellowship of Isis and at 96 was one of the great lights of Goddess spirituality and Druidry, died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was so familiar with the Otherworld, seeming to be often half-immersed in it, that I’m sure her journey to the Summerlands will be a good and peaceful one. She was always so bright and joyful, with a wonderful sense of humour – many blessings to you on your way dear Olivia.” – Philip Carr-Gomm, OBOD

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993.

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993.

Over the next 20 years the FOI grew a diverse international membership, and in 1993 Olivia Robertson was on-hand at the Parliament of the World’s Religions representing the Fellowship, and spoke at the opening plenary representing modern Goddess Religion. Part of a delegation of groups that introduced modern Pagan religions to the international interfaith community.

“Those who spoke from the platform ranged from Cardinal Joseph Bernadin [...] to Lady Olivia Robertson of the neo-pagan Fellowship of Isis [...] and when in her turn to offer a blessing, neo-pagan Robertson shook a rattle and shouted, `Holy Goddess Isis, mother of all beings, come to thy children’, nearly every one on the dais sat silently”.

In addition, Robertson was an accomplished artist, writer, and liturgist, who deeply shaped the organization she helped found with her creative vision. A legacy that will continue with the organization she helped found. You can find Robertson’s full official biography at the Fellowship of Isis website, here.

“Please join us in lighting a candle at your altars and wishing Olivia a good journey as the loving wings of the Goddess Isis guide her.”

Good journey to Olivia Robertson, may she rest in the arms of her goddess. What is remembered, lives.

It was announced this week that Laura Janesdaughter, a Priestess of Isis in the Fellowship of Isis, Temple of Isis Los Angeles, and Long Beach WomanSpirit, died on May 27th due to complications related to cancer. In addition to her role as a Priestess within the Fellowship of Isis, Janesdaughter was a Flame Keeper of Brighid through Ord Brighideach, a Brighidine order engaging in devotional work to Brighid, and facilitated the Nephthys Work: Say My Name That I May Live in 2001 after 9/11. She is widely credited with bringing Isis worship to Los Angeles.

Laura Janesdaughter

Laura Janesdaughter

“We have lost one of our great Priestesses, The Rt. Rev. Laura Janesdaughter. She had the gift of total integrity. She brought the goddess into her life and her work, and the lives of others. She brought Isis to Los Angeles. The rituals she led on the beach with Isis Pelagia were well known as were the meetings she led for the community. Laura Janesdaughter was no snob, she could mix with everybody. She stood up to injustice whenever she saw it with moral courage. She was a great friend. The Priestesses she taught are brilliant, and they could rely on her for truth and moral courage.” – Olivia Robertson, co-founder, Fellowship of Isis

Laura Janesdaughter was also a poet and editor, producing the “Isis Papers,” an official publication of the Fellowship of Isis. When asked what one of her roles in the community was, she responded “it is to support women,” and Janesdaughter spent much of her time building infrastructure within the Fellowship of Isis and the broader Pagan community to realize her appointed mission; Co-founding the Star of Elen, the Circle of Pelagia, and creating resources like the Knot of Isis site.

“Laura Janesdaughter was a true priestesses. She was enormously generous and supportive of others. She genuinely served the Goddess community; locally, nationally and globally, and in putting on public events to bring knowledge of the goddesses to the wider LA area. Everything she did was from the heart and for the goddess. Laura Janesdaughter was refreshingly un-showy. Laura was an Anglophile, and she came to Britain often, to support our Fellowship of Isis goddesses events.She was at home in London, she would usually be the one giving me directions to places in my home town!” – Caroline Wise, co-founder Star of Elen, Fellowship of Isis

“Years ago when Laura and I were discussing our future retirements from paid work, she told me she wanted to make sure she had created something that would last before she retired and moved away. She never did move away and she worked long past retirement age in order to reach that goal. But Laura brought Isis to Los Angeles, and the community that she inspired is strong and healthy and, I believe, will last.” – Wendy Griffin, Cherry Hill Seminary

“In my experience, Laura demonstrated responsibility and reliability, exuded good cheer and dedication to Isis, and took care of business with care and no drama. Her loss leaves a tear in the multicolored tapestry of the Los Angeles goddess community. Knowing Laura has enriched my life and I, too, will mourn her now and will remember her at every Samhaintide. ‘In love may she return again.’”M. Macha Nightmare

A memorial service is being planned for October, the month that Laura Janesdaughter was ordained as a Priestess of Isis in the Fellowship of Isis (October 27, 1993) and the Temple of Isis (October 12, 1996). Currently, the plans for the service are to take place at the UU Church in Long Beach, CA. May she rest in the arms of her goddess. What is remembered, lives.

The Fellowship of Isis Central blog has announced the passing of Deena Butta, an Elder Priestess for the Fellowship in Chicago who was deeply involved in interfaith work, in addition to transmitting her tradition’s teachings. Two of her most notable accomplishments within these spheres was publishing the Isis-Seshat Journal, the “personal post” for the Fellowship of Isis, and her involvement with the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, the moment when modern Paganism “came out” to the global interfaith community.

Deena Celeste Butta

Deena Celeste Butta

“In 1993, at the Parliament of World’s Religions held in Chicago, Deena was included in the Fellowship of Isis Procession.  Deena also took part in the FOI Mystery play “Judgement of Osiris” known in the FOI Liturgy books as “Judgment of the Earth” that was presented at the Parliament. She performed an Egyptian Dance as part of a presentation during the FOI workshop. 

Later in the event, Deena was consecrated as a Hierophant, with Olivia [Robertson] acting as Priestess and then ArchDruid Isaac Bonewits (now ArchDruid Emeritus) and founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin, acting as Priest, with Ruth Dillon assisting as Priestess of Isis. Deena’s husband Ray Butta was ordained into the priesthood at this time. During the Parliament activities, Deena and Olivia participated together in an interview for local Chicago Radio.”

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary first met Deena Butta at that Parliament in 1993, and recalls their long mutual history of working together on interfaith projects.

“I first met Deena at the start of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago – we both were among the delegates who walked in the Procession that opened the 1993 Parliament of World Religions.  She was among those representing Fellowship of Isis.  I was among those representing Circle Sanctuary.

Over the years, Deena, I, and Fellowship of Isis founder Lady Olivia Robertson of Ireland collaborated with others on a variety of interfaith and multicultural endeavors.

I connected them with some Native American leaders at a Pow Wow we attended in 2004 the day following the Fellowship of Isis convention in Chicago where Olivia, Deena, I, and others were speaking.  Deena and Oliva also were speakers at a Circle Sanctuary Fall Equinox Festival and assisted with the dedication of one of our Goddess Shrines.”

Fox went on to describe Butta as a “caring friend, Isis priestess, archivist-librarian, writer, and interfaith pioneer.”

In addition to her other accomplishments, Butta was a Reference Librarian, and appeared on the 1998 television series “The Unexplained.” She was also a member of the United Communities of Spirit. For a full biography of her accomplishments within the Fellowship of Isis, and interfaith, see the  Fellowship of Isis Central blog. Here’s an excerpt from the Invocation and Oracle of the Goddess Isis from the Fellowship of Isis Liturgy rite “Dulce Domum: The Soul Returns Home” by FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson, posted by the Fellowship in her honor.

“In your originality is your immortality, for nothing that is original can perish. It is an essential part of the cosmic scheme. Manifest your Divine Origin which is born from the Mother of All, Nuit, Whose children are immortal like onto Herself. Nourish then all good gifts in each person and each being and you strengthen the harmony between the Divine Sphere of Heaven with its transient reflection which is this world. There is no death. Love is eternal. Osiris and I are One. So is it with us all.”

May she rest in the arms of her gods.