“Why it was wonderful! Why, all At once there were leaves, Leaves at the end of a dry Stick, small, alive Leaves out of wood. It was Wonderful,”
Librarian of the Congress, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Modernist poet, Archibald MacLeish reminds me, “It was Wonderful!” Leaves alive out of wood! This is the moment of Spring, the moment for which most have been waiting. This is also for many a holy moment in the year. I am not using holy as an abstract of an orthodoxy that binds a special resurrection today. But rather holy from the Old English hālig, which means whole; complete and unbroken. That thing which is complete unto itself. I know that ‘thing” as Goddess. She that breathes inspiration, births and nurtures and destroys time. Her face is many; Her stories unbroken. And, She rises every day.
[Photo: J. Pitzl.]
“You can’t imagine. They came By the wood path And the earth loosened, the Earth Relaxed, there were Flowers Out of the earth! Think of it!’
Goddess is expansive in Her generative invitation to transform. I see this in the shedding of the old at winter and like the Earth, herself, in the loosening and relaxing into the birth of Spring. This resurrection through nature is more than the ‘born again’ that is taught within holidays like Easter. It is instead, what means to be born within. It is the holiness of what it means to be complete unto ourselves. When I think of Goddess, I am speaking beyond the liminal space of one deity form and beyond the container that holds named praxis. Here in this space, we are greater than the sum of Pagan, Polytheist, Heathen, Monist, and even Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Muslim or more. Here the Earth is loosened, and simply, we are one with the flowers.
‘And oak trees Oozing new green at the tips of Them and flowers Squeezed out of clay, soft Flowers, limp Stalks flowering. Well, it was like A dream.’
As the Earth forms anew right now, the clay is ripe with possibility, with radical transformation, inspiration, and even hope. The hope that welcomes all women as reflection of the Goddess. The inspiration to manifest the life you want to live and the transformation to look at the Earth as sacred, right now.
[Photo by J.Pitzl]
The Earth never lies. From even the most harrowing chaos and destruction, even when caused by Earth, She always regenerates. Spring is Her Promise. Whatever is planted, if nurtured, will bloom. From the limp, there will be stalking flowers. And I can see the tips of this dream in this perfect moment. We stand at the precipice of change. How will you answer?
MacLeish’s poem ends…
“It happened so quickly, all of a Sudden It happened.”
It’s happening right now. So quickly. Goddess has been here, at the doorstep inviting all into the wholeness of holy, complete and unbroken; Into the dream, alongside the earth, and it is wonderful!
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
Convicted killer Charles Jaynes, who has been serving a life-sentence for the murder and molestation of a ten-year-old boy, lost his three-year-battle to change his name. As reported in 2012, Jaynes petitioned to adopt a new name to coincide with his conversion to Wicca. The new name, Manasseh Invictus Auric Thutmose V, was reportedly was given to him by “God.”
As noted in the Dec 2015 appeals decision, Jaynes originally testified that his new name was required for his “Wiccan religious tenets” and that his “old heathen name is religiously offensive. It is also spiritually debilitating due to the fact that God and Jesus Christ had given me a new name.”
The Appeals Court upheld the original decision to disallow the name change, saying that it was not found to be required for the Wiccan religion nor was it in the best interest of the public. The ruling states, “We affirmed the probate judge’s denial of the petition, as ‘granting the petitioner a name change would likely cause significant confusion in the criminal justice system if he were ever released . . . [and] would not be in the public interest if the petitioner were able later to elude criminal prosecution and conceal his identity.’
Jaynes was up for parole in early 2015, but he declined the option. No new date for a parole hearing has been set.
A recent Gallup poll on religion confirmed the statistics gathered earlier in the year by Pew Forum. Americans are slowly becoming less religious. According to the Gallup Poll, 75.2 percent of Americans identify as Christian; 5.1% as other religions; 19.6 as nones. By these stats, the Christian population is down 5 percentage points, while the nones are up by the same number. The “other religion” category lost .2 percentage points. But with the margin of error be +/- 1 percent, the population of non-Christians appears to have stayed constant. Unfortunately, this constancy cannot be explored further. The Gallup poll does not break down the “other” category, and therefore it is impossible to analyze anything specific about the population increase or decrease in any one of the minority religious practices.
Capitalizing on Pew Forum stats, Inverse published an article titled, “Paganism grows on Campus.” Writer Sarah Slot concludes that, even though America is becoming less religious, Paganism is on the rise. She writes, “An all-you-can-eat buffet of naturalistic practice, polytheism, social awareness, and environmentalism, modern Paganism is both the outgrowth of Europe’s neolithic neuroses and a belief system well-suited to a generation grappling with the idea of privilege and rejecting the bromides offered by powerful institutions.” The article goes on to explore the growth and expansive nature of the religion both on campus and off, through a number of interviews.
According to The New York Blog, women wrote the majority of top books checked out from New York City Public libraries. The NYPL system annually publishes its top ten most requested books in December. Lists are compiled system wide, per borough and per branch. Interestingly, the Eastchester Branch, located in the Bronx, had a Llewellyn book in the top slot. The locals in that area were reportedly most interested in Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of all Sorts Who are Curious About Names from Every Place and Every Time by K.M. Sheard.
Isis as represented in Goddesses Alive! 2015 [Phote Credit: Greg Harder]
Speaking of names, this December saw a new surge in confusion between the Goddess Isis and the terrorist group Daesh. As reported, this confusion has led to some violence and vandalism. On Dec. 25, the news site Broadly decided to set the record straight in an article titled “The Women who worship Isis for Christmas.” Writer Sirin Kale begins by saying, “No, not that ISIS.” She goes on to discuss the modern veneration of the Goddess Isis through interviews with several people, including Rowan Morgana, Holli Emore, Lady Nephthys, and Mani Novalight. Within the article, Kale shared a video showing a blessing, and several photos, including one from the Goddesses Alive! performance at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Moving outside the United States, the BBC reported that the historic Boleskine House on Loch Ness had been partially destroyed by fire on Dec 23.The house was originally built in the 1760s and was the home of Aleister Crowley from 1899-1913. Due to his occupancy, the house earned somewhat of a notorious reputation. According to legends and stories, Crowley never completed some of his magical work within the space, leaving “demons” about. In the 1970s, Jimmy Page bought the house due to his interest in Crowley’s work. He then sold it in 1992, and the house has since passed through several hands. According to the reports, it was unoccupied when the fire broke out.
In Japan, temple administrators are hoping tourism will save their sacred spaces. According to the Religion News Service, Japanese attendance at these temples is in decline, which is “crimping revenue.” In order to pay for upkeep and support the monks in their studies, some temples are now looking to the booming tourism industry to help cover their costs. With new hotels and bullet trains nearby, administrators hope to capture some of the tourist money by providing a uniquely Japanese experience to would-be visitors.
In November, while many were focused on Mar’s book Witches in America, some might have missed another new “Witch” book. Released in late October by publisher Little, Brown and Company, The Witches: Salem 1692 is an historical account of the Salem Witch trials. The new book has gotten rave reviews across mainstream media on both historical accuracy and the depiction of events, including one reviewer who remarked that the writing is “light on sensationalism.” That is often a rarity for Salem stories. The Witches was written by author Stacy Schiff, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the book Cleopatra: A Life.
Now for something a little different, here is some folk music from Mali. It is categorized as Folk Wassoulou, and is performed by the talented Fatoumata Diawara.
In 1999, artist Lauren Raine was commissioned to create 30 leather masks that each reflected the spirit of a different Goddess from around the world. Earlier that same year, she had a dream during which she saw “a long line of Goddesses in all colors, in beautiful costumes.” Then, as if by magic, Raine was presented with a commission to create the series of masks to be used in Reclaiming’s 20th anniversary Spiral Dance in San Francisco.
On her newly updated blog, Raine wrote, “Masks in traditional societies are viewed as liminal tools, as vessels for the sacred powers. With a mask it is believed the Gods and Goddesses can visit, tell their stories, give their blessings, heal or even give prophecy.”
Oshun, Brigit, Pele [Masks by Lauren Raine]
Although the commission was the beginning of her “Masks of the Goddess” project, Raine’s interest in mask making began years before. She said, “My first Goddess mask was Kali … It was a time in my life when there was just so much I had to get rid of, so much maturation I needed to do, so many old patterns and ways of being I needed to get beyond in order to evolve. In retrospect, I think I made the mask of Kali as my own kind of invocation, my call for help from the One who helps us to slay the demons of the mind, to cut away that which has to go.”
When Reclaiming commissioned the masks, Raine welcomed the challenge, saying “I wanted to create them as contemporary temple masks to be used to invoke and re-claim the feminine faces of God.” In the end, the 1999 Spiral Dance used 20 of Raine’s masks for a 3 minute long Goddess invocation.
One of the mask wearers and supporters of the mask project was Aline O’Brien, more commonly known as M. Macha Nightmare. During the Spiral Dance, she wore the Morrigan mask. In 2007 blog post, O’Brien, remembered, “[This was] the baddest-ass Morrígan you ever hope to encounter. Even my friend Urania who helped me put it on was afraid once it was in place … I reddened my palms and displayed them as the Washer at the Ford in the processions.”
After the Reclaiming event was over, O’Brien felt disappointed with the presentation. Although she was personally “inspired by the masks,” she felt that they were underused and “not appreciated.”
With that in mind, O’Brien set out the design her own theatrical ritual that would emphasize Raine’s art, focus on the masks and embody the spirit of the various Goddesses. With the help of Mary Kay Landon, she wrote a script and an innovative ritual structure that focused solely on the Goddesses and the masks.
Then, in February 2000 at PantheaCon, O’Brien had the first opportunity to present her mask ritual, which she named Goddesses Alive! She found volunteers to assist with the both the staging and the various aspects of the performance, which included song, music, readings and dance. The brochure read:
Goddesses Alive! A processional and experiential ritual of masked, embodied goddesses to bring a re-awareness of the Goddess into current Pagan practices. We encounter the goddess embodied by 13 priestesses wearing stunning leather goddess masks created by Lauren Raine
O’Brien told The Wild Hunt that she chose 13 masks for the project, specifically those that would be the most recognizable to her audience. These included Artemis, Hecate, Bridget, Isis, Spiderwoman, Guadalupe, White Tara, Amateratsu, Inanna, Oshun, Sedna, Pele and Kali. Despite the limited budget and time, the ritual was a success.
Later that year, Goddesses Alive! was staged for a second time. With support from the New College of California and the Lilith Institute, O’Brien produced the ritual in a dance studio the following December. Once again, she had no budget but the performance was a success. Live music and a chorus of 5 people accompanied the words and movements of the Goddessess. It was attended by around 100 people. Looking back, O’Brien said, “I loved it.”
Despite the success of both performances, O’Brien had no idea if she would ever have the opportunity, time, energy or money to ever do the project again. The Goddesses Alive! script was filed away. The experience was left only to memory with no photos or video recordings ever taken.
Although Raine was not actively involved in either of the Goddesses Alive! performances, she said, “[O’Brien] activated the masks. She created a beautiful, and effective, sacred container for a community to use the masks, and ritual theatre, allowing each participant to evolve them in her or his own way. I think she would be happy to know that her vision has kept going.”
After O’Brien’s rituals in 2000, the masks were used again many times over in other theatrical performances throughout the U.S. Raine even expanded her collection, including elemental masks and other Goddesses. On her blog, she wrote, “I’ve been privileged to share my work with dancers, ritualists, playwrights, storytellers, priestesses, activists, and students bringing the Goddesses into the world in many ways. No artist could ask for more.” Raine created a compilation video of some of that theatrical work:
In addition to using the masks in performance, Raine also began selling them as art pieces. When thinking back on all the many masks created over the past 17 years, Raine said, “The affinity with certain masks changes as I change, but … my favorite masks concern Grandmother Spider Woman, my guide. She always seems to be in the background, the hand at the heart of the great Web.”
Over that same period of time, O’Brien never forgot her own dream of re-staging her very unique Goddesses Alive! ritual. Then, in 2014 when the Parliament for the World Religions sent out a call for presentations, Raine and O’Brien both had the same idea: let’s bring back Goddesses Alive! And, to their delight, the presentation was accepted. O’Brien said, “I was blown away.” She never really thought that she’d get a chance to do it all again.
With experience both as a ritualist and as a interfaith representative, O’Brien had the know-how and skill to adapt her otherwise Pagan-focused script for a broader audience. When asked about the adaptation, she admitted that “not much really had changed.” The biggest difference is the actual room size. The original ritual was designed for an inclusive theater-in-the round with only 100 audience members. The new script allows for the same set up but within a large ballroom and for an audience of over 300.
In addition, O’Brien selected new Goddesses based on mask availability and also to better reflect global diversity. She chose the following 13 masks: Hecate, Sedna, Brigit, Isis, Guadalupe, White Tara, Amateratsu Omikami, Inanna, Oshun, Kali, Pele, Pachamama and White Buffalo Calf Woman.
As Raine went to work on prepping the performance masks and, in some cases, creating new ones, O’Brien dusted off the old script and began recruiting performers and a tech crew. By summer 2015, she had her team and planning began. Jeffrey Albaugh signed on as the stage manager. When asked about the upcoming performance he said:
It is difficult and to serve as stage manager for an event like this, where all the performers are coming from so far away, and with no time for rehearsal. It puts an onus on me to make sure the production goes off without a hitch, and is as close as possible to Macha’s vision. However, with this kind of production, focused on movement, sound, voice and using Lauren’s brilliant masks, I think there is a high possibility of real magic occurring during the performance. The numinous will hopefully break through.
As Albaugh notes, the performers and crew herald from all over the world and from many different backgrounds. Cherry Hill Seminary Director Holli Emore will be wearing the Isis mask. She said, “The rich pageantry of Goddesses Alive! is sure to stir people on a level far deeper than cerebral, the emotional place where we become imprinted with life-giving ideas. I feel that years from now we will all look back on this performance as a piece of our collective Pagan history and I’m very proud that I will have a small part in that.”
Emore will be joined by Anna Korn, Jo Carson, Rowan Liles, Áine Anderson, Mana Youngbear, Faelind, Wendy Griffin, Diana Kampert, Maggie Beaumont, Eileen Dev Macholl, Jerrie Hildebrand and myself, Heather Greene.
Rev. HPs. Gypsy Ravish volunteered to be one of the singers. She said, “I am honored to add my voice to this divine Sisterhood.” Other musical performers and script readers include Vivianne Crowley, Celia Farran, Lauren Raine, Rowan Fairgrove, Gypsy Ravish, Robin Miller, Jenn Vallely, Ruth Barrett and Aline O’Brien.
Led by Albaugh, the crew is equally diverse, with everyone coming together to make this single event happen. Mary Kay Landon, who helped O’Brien revise the script, said “Working on this production–and watching it evolve over the years–has given me a unique opportunity to research goddesses from across the world and, as I did so, to enter into relationship with them as we, together, created their evocations. What a privilege!”
When asked what Goddesses Alive! will offer a global religious audience, O’Brien said that she believes Pagans have “a deep appreciation of the art and design of ritual” and that is “one thing that Pagans bring to the interfaith table.” She explained that we have a “freedom of design” that is often lacking in other religious traditions. “We bring a freshness … and willingness to change.” And she hopes that this ritual performance will bring about an appreciation for that creativity and flexibility.
Goddessess Alive! was designed to be participatory ritual theater. The music, the singing, the readings and the Goddesses will move from behind the audience and through the audience. This technique serves to surrounded viewers in the full theatrical experience, and O’Brien hopes it helps to “open their minds to perceiving the divine” in new ways and to respecting “non-traditional, non-Abrahamic religious traditions.”
For Pagans that attend and others who are more familiar with a similar ritual performance, O’Brien hopes the experience will “demonstrate that the we have something to offer [the interfaith community] that maybe was unexpected.”
Ultimately, O’Brien would like Goddesses Alive! to be “consciousness raiser” for all who attend – Pagans and non-Pagans alike, and that everyone “leaves the room with a sense of community.”
The Goddesses Alive! ritual performance, which is being dedicated to the memory of Sparky T. Rabbit and Deborah Ann Light, will be held at the Parliament of the World Religions Sunday, Oct. 18 at 1:45 p.m. in Salt Lake City. Currently, the production team is still looking for volunteers to film and photograph the event.
On July 30, we reported that Instagram had banned the hashtag term #goddess. The social media site was attempting to curb, as it has done before, the posting of unacceptable content or images. In a statement, Instagram specifically said that “#goddess was consistently being used to share content that violates our guidelines around nudity.” The ban inspired a #bringbackthegoddess protest, including wide-spread criticism and backlash from around the world.
After a recent check, it appears that the hashtag is coming back. You can now tag your photos with #goddess and search the term (sort of). In July, if you searched #goddess, you would only see #goddesses. Now you can once again see a listing for the over 1,450,000 images using the #goddess label.
However there is a caveat. Although Instagram has brought its use back, the company is still limiting the search view to only “top posts.” You will not have the option to view the “most recent” additions. As Instagram explains, “We may remove the Most Recent section of a hashtag page if people are using the hashtag to post abusive content in a highly visible place.” The company adds that the limitation is placed on searches in order to protect the integrity of the hashtag and search page.
This may or may not be temporary. The partial unblock was also done to #curvy, after its banning inspired a similar backlash. That hashtag still contains a moderated search view. Similar to #goddess, the term #curvy will only yield a select group of about 36 “top posts.” In late July, Instagram told The Washington Post,
We want people to be able to express themselves, and hashtags are a great way to do that. At the same time, we have a responsibility to act when we see hashtags being used to spread inappropriate content to our community. In the case of #curvy, we don’t like putting restrictions around a term that many people use in very positive ways, so we have decided to unblock the hashtag while taking steps to ensure that it’s not used as a vehicle for bad content.
It appears that #goddess is now following the same moderated trajectory.
On Aug. 9, we reported that HexFest had been forced to change its opening ritual location with only two weeks to go. Opening Friday Aug. 21, the event is now taking place on the Creole Queen Riverboat rather than at its original location on the Steamboat Natchez. According to the organizers, a Natchez sales representative said that the cancellation was due to religion, but then later changed that reason to breach of contract.
When we originally published the article, we had not yet heard back from either steamboat. We finally did hear from both. Natchez spokesperson Adrienne Thomas simply told The Wild Hunt, “The HexFest river event has been relocated from the Steamboat Natchez to the Creole Queen Riverboat, and arrangements have been coordinated by all parties involved.” She declined to answer any specific questions, nor would she say anymore about the situation.
Creole Queen spokesperson Jill Anderson said that she was “surprised” by what had happened to HexFest. And that the organizers were lucky that Creole Queen was available at such at late date. She also reiterated that company was pleased to be hosting the evening event.
NBC, who published the first news report using the term Wicca, also returned to the story and included an interview with blogger Peg Aloi. In that update, journalist Erin Calabrese specifically noted that Sgt. Hobbes of ECSO did use the word “Wiccan” during a phone interview. Calabrese’s report is in direct contrast with the ECSO statement, which stressed that Sgt. Hobbes was misquoted and never said the word “Wiccan.”
Regardless, over the following days, there was a swell in similar mainstream reports demonstrating the outrage felt within Wiccan and Witchcraft communities. Along with Lady Liberty League, Covenant of the Goddess and others, even those outside of Pagan religious spheres, made public statements or posted commentary decrying ECSO’s careless use of either term.
On the flip side, the media attention also provided teaching opportunities. Priestess and author Courtney Weber was interviewed by Thom Hartmann for his show “The Big Picture”
Now, nearly ten days later, there have been no official updates to the case, and ECSO is refusing to take any more media questions. However, on Aug. 14, the local Pensacola CBS affiliate WKRG did once again attempt to get clarification on the use of the word witchcraft. While following the Sheriff outside, the WKRG reporter asked specifically if ECSO was still calling the crime witchcraft. The Sheriff said “pull up the tape” and “that’s where the misconception was.” The reporter does just that, demonstrating the Sheriff’s clear usage of the term. This interaction was caught on tape and is now posted on WKRG’s Facebook page.
Yes it is true. Instagram, the photo sharing social media site, has banned the searchable hashtag #goddess. As could have been predicted, there is now a growing, worldwide backlash against the move. The new rallying tag is #BringBacktheGoddess.
In mid July, Instagram, a Facebook Inc. company, decided to ban the term #goddess to help curb policy violations. Although Instagram did not respond to The Wild Hunt, a spokesperson did tell ABC News:
In this case, #goddess was consistently being used to share content that violates our guidelines around nudity. We’ve taken similar action on dozens of hashtags because they were being used to share inappropriate content.
The spokesperson is referencing its recent ban on #curvy, #eggplant, #boobs, #scandalous and more. According to Instagram, these hashtags are disproportionately used to post pornography or photos that violate its nudity policy; a policy that in and of itself has elicited controversy.
The #curvy ban was the most recent and, after generating significant protests, the term was reinstated. In the meantime, hashtag activists took to their computers, switching to the term #curvee and posting body-positive images of themselves. The social media site was accused of censoring images of women’s bodies that did not fit an unrealistic media ideal. As with the explanation to the goddess ban, an Instragram spokesperson explained, “The tag was being used to share pornography, which is strictly forbidden on the site.” #Curvy is now searchable again.
Instagram’s hashtag bans are nothing more than the site’s attempt to negotiate the fine line between freedom of expression and maintaining “common decency” within a public media forum. This dance is nothing new. Prior to 1930, the Film Industry was struggling with the exact same issue, with no industry standards in place. Facets of society were breathing down its neck for censorship of what was seen as sensationalism, gratuitous nudity and violence. Censorship arrived in the way of the Production Code and, then in 1968, gave way to the rating system, which we know today. TV, Magazines, Books and Video Games have also gone through a similar negotiation at one point or another. It is the difficult struggle to define the social standards of decency within a dynamic, diverse, and changing culture.
What is appropriate and when, within the public entertainment and media forum?
In the internet world, the problem becomes more complicated. There are nearly no limits or barriers to production of media, with millions of people online, from all around the world living within different cultural expectations and standards of social decency. At the same time, decisions and actions are instanteous, wide-sweeping and happening in real time.
Banning hashtags, like “goddess” or “curvy,” may help in one area, but only create instant collateral damage for others.
While there are those that do acknowledge that Instagram’s attempts are noble, there is still incongruity in its efforts. Linda Steiner, PhD, a University of Maryland, College Park media studies professor, told ThinkProgress, “I’m impressed with the attempts of Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter to try to come to grips with the problem rather than ignoring it altogether.” However, she goes on to say that the enforcement and methodologies used are inconsistent and problematic. Steiner said:
Instagram’s policy is not only weirdly enforced, I think they’re trying to have a simple policy that makes it easy for them …. Women are really bothered by the predatory invasion of their bodies … That includes posts of their body parts without their permission and the banning their own images because they don’t conform to an ideal physique.
As Steiner suggests, many of these bans, and related deleted photos, directly involve the display of female bodies and women’s sexuality. And, that has been the crux of the problem. While Instagram is trying to protect women and curb violations against women’s bodies, it is also censoring women and their positive expressions of female sexuality, spirituality, agency and body-positive imagery.
In a letter to Instagram published at Huffington Post, writer Christina Gutierrez writes, “I spend my life working with women who have experienced trauma and abuse of all kinds. I fuse modern therapy with ancient wisdom. This is how they heal. This is how we come to peace with the chaos of everyday life … The ancient wisdom texts that I work from are the stories of the GODDESS.”
This is not about Goddess, She doesn’t need a hashtag. This is about the sovereignty of women and their right to autonomy to hashtag something #goddess which for centuries has represented the divine feminine in many forms. That right to self expression and identity which might seem trivial has now been taken away. That is #oppressive and what it means to perpetuate #rapeculture#patriarchy and #power. This isn’t about a #hashtag it’s about self determination and that is a sacred rite!
Some Pagans believe the ban is basic religious discrimination. In her Huffington Post article, Gutierrez asks, “How would the Christians and Catholics feel if their hashtag #GOD was taken away? Would the Instagram team even think to do that?” Others are pointing out that the Goddess plays a sacred role in many world religious traditions. The term is used throughout the world in many positive ways, beyond what is listed even here.
Since the ban was discovered, images of world Goddesses have been appearing all over social media in protest. And, with the new hashtag #bringbackthegoddess, women are posting images of themselves. Even on Instagram’s own site, the hashtag is being used in association with such images, as well as many others that depict female empowerment. It is now a rally cry.
Instagram’s spokeperson told The Daily Dot. “We’re also working on ways to better communicate our policies around hashtags.” The company suggested to ABC that it is always reevaluating banned hashtags. Just as it restored #curvy, it may restore #goddess. However, these decision on how to regulate decency within media, and ultimately how it is defined, are often left solely to a corporation, and are based on internal policies, the convictions of its owners, and ultimately, what it thinks will support and drive business.
[Posted on Instagram with #bringbackthegoddess by Starsignstyle]
In recent months, it has been suggested that Instagram has, at times, shown a concern for the greater good. This summer, they banned #SandraBland for 24 hours and #CaitlynJenner during the Espy Awards. Instagram explained that it was receiving a disproportionate amount of hate posts using the tags during that period of time. Both tags were reinstated after the period was over. There is still debate on whether the bans themselves ultimately achieved any goal or had a positive affect.
What will happen to #goddess is still unknown at this point? However, the protests are on. Regardless of the outcome, the entire situation does bring to the forefront an important conversation about the depiction and presentation of the female body in public entertainment and media space. It presents the opportunity to question and discuss where these lines are drawn and why; what is acceptable and what is not. What photos are oppressive, which are a violations and which are a empowering celebrations.
[With the Summer Solstice just a week away, we decided to take a pause from our regular schedule and invite Erick DuPree back to share his thoughts on this seasonal celebration. DuPree is the author of Alone in Her Presence: Meditations on the Goddess and editor of Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral. He teaches heart-centered practices that unite breath to heart, inviting a holistic relationship with the Goddess. His writing can be found on his own website as well as on the Patheos Pagan Channel.]
“Who made the world?” begins Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day …
“Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper?”
As dawn rises over the horizon and into the warmth of possibility, the northern hemisphere approaches the Summer Solstice. For many people, this is the time of Helios, the sun g*d, the Oak King and of St. John. Here the masculine has triumphed anew. These are the days when the sunlight lazily lingers into a short balmy dream. Where the possibilities are seemingly as endless as the sun stands still in the sky.
Midsummer is not in my colloquial “wheelhouse” of Pagan holidays. The myths, legends, and wisdom traditions where, as Joseph Campbell describes, “mankind’s deep need to give g*d a name and face” have never been for me the names of Cernunnos, Lugh, Oak and Holly King or Ra. Those masculinized representations seem a foreign extrapolation of all things resonant, a dual binary not reflective of how I honor the world.
So, imagine my trepidation when I was invited to write about Midsummer! Dare I attempt feebly to write about Litha? Or better still, some dilettante collection of musings about each Sun g*d? Well, I could always just write about the matriarchy… and the breath! Because that’s exciting, right?
“Is that all he ever writes about?” I can hear it now.
But there is still meaning in the sun and a lesson within our common lexicon that is Midsummer, even when how we come to know and experience Midsummer is different. It was Starhawk who reminds us,“Paganism has no litmus test for belief entry.” And so, I set out to write about Summer Solstice and, more directly, Midsummer.
For me, “who made the world” is always divinely feminine, even before I could identity what was distinctly different between “male” and “female.” Like a gravitational pull, that once was “alone, awesome, and complete within herself.” I have always known a generative nexus that is all Goddess. I recognize that this is not a common denominator within my Pagan community, or at times even a welcome one. Perhaps had I been born a cis-gendered woman, I’d be writing a very different article to a very different audience. Actually, I’d probably be married to an Evangelical Christian preacher, hosting a ladies luncheon on the actual solstice.
How we come into presence weaves our lives. For me, it all started while being the only guy participating in a group of all women of a certain age in the parish room of a Unitarian Universalist Church, and with a book called Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Lead by a woman name Janice, she begrudgingly made the exception. A year later, she revealed another name to me, EveningStar, and explained there was more to The Spiral Dance than a book. She taught me to spiral dance, she gave me ecstatic ritual, and she called me priestess.
She was the one who first taught me to be in presence. The truth is, when I stand in the sun at Summer Solstices longest day, I am in presence. It is a reminder of the living, of growth, renewal, and generation. Summer Solstice lives in my heart (and I suspect the hearts of many Pagans and Heathens, regardless of praxis of belief or knowing) as a time to drink-in the glowing, our faces turning towards the radiance that is sunlight, and the cultivation of brightness and renewed warmth. I lean into the possibility of what can be, because the sunshine invites a newness that is possibility.
What might it be like to step into the sun from the shadows? Each ray of sun that comes foreword at this time of year feels like a hand extended and to beckoning me. To be unafraid of this light. I spent years hiding from the rays of the sun. What might they reveal? Ashamed to be seen. My body heartbroken and battered; and like so many, not good enough. Not for the beach or a pair of shorts or even a t-shirt? No dancing around a fire or merry making. There was no worshiping in a heart that rejoiced.
Yet Midsummer can be the healer because healing is the sun as She fills the shifting spaces of darkness with a new light of potentiality washing over pale forearms and faces. This is the promise of the sun as I take her hand and step out of the darkness of winter and allow myself to be held in the generative mother that is Goddess.
To me, this too is the ultimate expression of Midsummer. This is where I can hear the speaking of the trees as I lean against bark, or nestle into the grass. Here taking a moment to breathe into Her sacred embrace that is All Goddess. The fertile Earth that has blossomed anew from the warmth of a sunlight, which has nourished Her fertile mantle some the beginning of time. The riches of seeds planted that feed and sustains all.
While cultures near and far have rituals and celebrations that occur on or around the midsummer, I come into this time with a simplicity that is knowing the Goddess as Earth Mother. It is here where I see the brightness of the sun reflected most. This matrifocal wellspring that is Goddess inviting the complicated curiosity to heal and nurture. You and I looking at Her. Where possibility is met with a maternal-like spaciousness that Midsummer creates.
I couldn’t write about the longest day and the warmest of night, and feel empowered to come out of the dark and step into the sun, without Goddess. That wouldn’t be me. Goddess is the reflection of the generative space that first appears when we take a deeper breath in, and a longer one out.The breath we have known from the beginning. From before we knew that we were actually breathing.
This isn’t about an obligation but rather the invitation to give permission to create space to explore to feel the light. This Midsummer’s dream is the revelation that is always the saving message when we turn toward the mother whom flows in, among, and around us to feel her warmth.Growing full. Inviting abundance. Shining from that place of limitless virtuosity. That which is All. That which invites hope. That which heals. That which says. “Come walk by me, in the sun and get comfortable.”
Mary Oliver continues…
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Solstice and Midsummer continue to invite the precious warmth of community. Each of us has pause to reflect on the things that draw us together. How like the sun, we can support each other; generative, growing, renewing, warm. Wildly imperfect, yet perfectly complete, this cycle is the continued moment we share together. For me, this is the generative promise Goddess gives our precious life.
* * *
Oliver, Mary. “The Summer Day.” New And Selected Poems. Beacon Press: Boston 1993. 102-103. Print.
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!
We here at The Wild Hunt do as much as we can to cover our ever-expanding and ever-changing religious movement, but sometimes we miss out on cool stuff. Like, for instance, The Morrigan’s Call, a weekend retreat held June 6th – 8th in Massachusetts (sponsored by Morrigu’s Daughters). The retreat, dedicated to Celtic goddess the Morrigan, was focused on “self-empowerment, confidence and in living a magical life,” inspired several attendees to write about their experiences on the Internet. Corvus Black said the weekend was “intense,” and instilled the “sense of being in a tribe.” Morgan Daimler called the weekend “an awesome and amazing thing to experience,” while Stephanie Woodfield says she feels changed by the experience. Quote: “I feel changed. It is amazing how often I have said that in the course of a handful of years. So much has happened, my life has taken so many interesting changes, never the ones I expected but sometimes what the Gods have in store for you is far better than the futures we imagine for ourselves. The Morrigan has been an ever present force in my life, and I didn’t think I could feel closer to Her, but I do.” You can learn more about Morrigu’s Daughters, an online sisterhood dedicated to the Morrigan, at their official website.
Fulgur Esoterica has announced details of I:MAGE 2014, their annual exhibition of esoteric art. This year, the concept will be “Traveling With Unfamiliar Spirits.” Quote: “The spirit world comes to life in this two-week-long celebration of esoteric art. The show’s theme coincides with the time of year: the beginning of the dark months. Popular culture calls it Hallowe’en but contemporary Witches and Druids across Europe and North America call it Samhain, Heathens Winter Nights, Greek reconstructionist movements Thesmophoria; Vodou practitioners celebrate Fete Ghede, followers of Santeria and indigenous religions in Latin America observe Día de los Muertos, while Welsh folklore advises staying away from cemeteries on Calan Gaeaf. In most magical and esoteric traditions the end of October is a sacred time of year, a time for honouring the dead and communicating with the spirit world. It is a time to acknowledge the winter months and delve into the darker part of the year and of the self. The boundaries between the familiar and what is Other shatter. The veil is thin. The magic begins. For I:MAGE 2014, artists will explore what it means to communicate with spirits through art. They will give us a glimpse of a unifying theme across different esoteric practices and offer us the perfect opportunity to introduce you to a truly international show.” The event will be centered at the Cob Gallery in London, from October 21st through November 2nd. You can look at the list of I:MAGE-sponsored events here. Here are a list of the exhibiting artists.
Last week I reported on Morpheus Ravenna’s IndieGoGo campaign to fund the creation of a book dedicated to Celtic goddess The Morrigan. Since then, the campaign has surpassed its $7,500 goal, and has raised over $10,000 dollars, taking the initiative into stretch goals, and allowing for expanded offerings. Quote: “THANK YOU. You guys are amazing, and I’m so proud to be part of such a passionate community. I was going to video us enjoying our traditional method of celebrating by cracking open a bottle of champagne with a sword… but the champagne bottle got so excited it popped as soon as the foil was off! So this is what we caught on camera. Minus all the jokes about prematurely popping our corks, of course. […] as we’ve already met the primary goal, I’m putting your funds to work. I’ve jettisoned the extra hours I was working at a second job, and those hours have now been dedicated in my schedule to writing the book. This almost triples the amount of time each week that I will be able to dedicate to the book!” Part of those stretch funds will go towards funding additional art works for the book, including work by Valerie Herron, who also did the amazing Cernunnos header you see here at The Wild Hunt. Below I’ve embedded a celebratory video response from Morpheus Ravenna, who is no doubt working on the book as we speak.
In Other Pagan Community News:
Peter Grey, author of “Apocalyptic Witchcraft,” has published an essay at Scarlet Imprint on “rewilding” Witchcraft in the face of chaos and eco-disaster. Quote: “How tame we have become. How polite about our witchcraft. In our desire to harm none we have become harmless. We have bargained to get a seat at the table of the great faiths to whom we remain anathema. How much compromise have we made in our private practice for the mighty freedom of being able to wear pewter pentagrams in public, at school, in our places of employment. How much have the elders sold us out, genuflecting to the academy, the establishment, the tabloid press. In return for this bargain we have gained precisely nothing.”
Speaking of events I missed, here’s a review of 2014’s Beltania festival in Colorado. Quote: “‘B14’ was a festival of firsts: the first year of our Rainbow Welcome Center, the first year we held a Continuous Bale Fire and the first year our Pagan Military were honored for their service in an official manner, honored in person by Selena Fox! For the first time this year, festival goers had multiple choices of Main Rituals from various backgrounds to attend on Saturday night. In addition to the Living Earth’s ritual, we had a Heathen Blot led by the fabulous Wolf Thye and Kathy Burton or the Gnostic Mass led by the local group Crux Ansata Oasis. I personally felt a lot of excitement from people who were looking forward to participating in something new.” Seriously folks, when does Selena Fox sleep?
PNC-Minnesota interviews Gardnerian Elder Ed Fitch at Heartland Pagan Festival. Quote: “I find it is very good to work as a coven because you can exchange ideas, and do power workings with them. Solitary you get to study and meditate. People have personalities and there are sometimes conflicts. When that happens it is best to just ease away genially and then do your own research and study. I like both ways of working.”
Medusa Coils reminds us that Glastonbury Goddess Conference is coming up in July. Quote: “The 19th Annual Glastonbury Goddess Conference will be held July 29-August 3 in Glastonbury, England, with fringe events starting July 26. Themed ‘Celebrating the Crone Goddess: The Cauldron and the Loom.'”
“My spirituality has always been linked to my feminism. Feminism is about challenging unequal power structures. So, it also means challenging inequalities in race, class, sexual preference. What we need to be doing is not just changing who holds power, but changing the way we conceive of power.” – Starhawk
I first became a Pagan because it promised me enchantment, wonder, a break from the dull Midwestern monotheist underpinning of where I grew up. A world full of magic, and gods. A world that I was taught was long dead, a superstitious delusion by ancient ancestors too dim to conceive of the One God’s true nature and full expression (ie Christianity). However, I stayed a Pagan because it also promised me a world, a culture, remade. A world where multiplicity, diversity, was honored. A world where a singular, all-powerful, male-pronouned, deity was replaced with innumerable pantheons of powers. A world where there was Goddess. Not just one Goddess, but a million goddesses.
The goddess Isis.
When I first embraced modern Paganism in 1990, I entered a religious movement that was already several decades into the project of changing the face of religion. After the first rush of basic instructional books, as religious Witchcraft crossed the pond from Britain to North America, the inherent radical nature of there simply being a living Goddess easily cross-pollinated with a still-vibrant second-wave feminism and influenced a generation of still-influential writers like Starhawk, Margot Adler, Carol Christ, and many more. Some scholars predicted that the rise of feminism within a religious context, both from within the dominant monotheisms, and from the rising “new” faiths, spelled the end of Patriarchy as a system of cultural control.
“The women’s movement will bring about religious changes on a massive scale. These changes will no be restricted to small numbers of individuals practicing nonsexist religions within a sexist society. Society itself will be transformed to the point that it will no longer be a patriarchy. For if men are no longer supreme rulers on earth, how could one expect them to retain sovereignty in heaven?” – Naomi R. Goldenberg, “Changing of the Gods: Feminism & The End of Traditional Religions”
“The Second Phase will represent my War on Women. I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. They have starved me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men. In doing so, they took many years of my life away. I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts. I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender.”
“This was a hate crime. This was an act of violence committed against victims that were were, or were sympathetic to, a group of people (in this case, women) in which the motivation for the violence was simply that they were a part of that group. That’s a hate crime. A gender based hate crime.”
It all seems like a dark, twisted, verification of author Margaret Atwood’s assertion that “men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Here is the exposed underbelly of cultural control of women exposed at its most raw, its most violent. Here are the violent fruits of misogyny laid bare. This is not mere mental illness, as there are millions of people who live with mental disorders who do not murder, this burrows into something atavistic that we don’t like to talk about. The fear, violence, and scorn necessary to uphold a silent system of power-over. The churning core of woman-hate as a belief system.
“We like to think that violent misogyny – not sexism, but misogyny, woman-hatred as ideology and practice, weaponised contempt for one half of the human race – isn’t something that really happens in the so-called West. No matter how many wives and girlfriends are murdered by their husbands, no matter how many rapists are let off because of their “promising careers”, violence against women is something that happens elsewhere, somewhere foreign, or historical, or both. So anxious are we to retain this convenient delusion that any person, particularly any female person, who attempts to raise a counter argument can expect to be harassed and shouted down.” – Laurie Penny, NewStatesman
Which returns me to the Goddess, to all goddesses. To deity with a multiplicity of genders and forms. In the face of such horror, is the only sane reaction a radical re-embrace of female divinity? In a time when hate towards women seems at a fever pitch, do we not need to answer with: that which you hate and try to destroy is sacred. That which you try to control is beyond your control. That which you try to define and shame is beyond your definition or judgement.
Pallas Athene by Gustav Klimt
As our community absorbs the ramifications of this latest tragedy, I hope we can return to the roots-radical nature that sits at the very core of our faiths. That divinity is not limited in counting, form, gender, or role. That the numinous is all-embracing and anticipates our every shift and turn. That simply being who we are in this time of crisis can remake society, because who we are acknowledges that woman, in all permutations, can be divine. That the god with a woman’s face is worthy of worship and respect.
If I had a prayer, it would go out to all those affected by this violence, this murder, and it would be a prayer to my Goddess. Please, pray to yours.
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.
A young Nepalese girl dressed as a Kumari/living goddess. Photo: Narendra Shrestha.
Does the presence of goddesses within a faith mean better treatment for women within a culture? A Guardian article complicates the notion. Quote: “Goddesses are worshipped merely as a ritual but in reality, women are generally never seen as their earthly representations,” [Usha Vishwakarma] says. “It is not inspiration or motivation that we look for. Sheer frustration from being ill-treated by men and unsympathetic responses from family drive us to rebel and make conditions better for ourselves.”
Scholar Wendy Doniger says India banning her book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” had her “in high spirits.” Quote: “But I must apologize for what may amount to false advertising on my behalf by Mr. Batra, who pronounced my book ‘filthy and dirty.’ Readers who bought a copy in hope of finding such passages will be, I fear, disappointed. ‘The Hindus’ isn’t about sex at all. It’s about religion, which is much hotter than sex.”
At HuffPo, Parth Parihar discusses “Hinduism and the eco-activist vacuum.” Quote: “What could be more adharmic than incentivizing the creation of fossil fuel infrastructure that only makes oil a more economically viable means of energy production, thereby impeding progress on combating global climate change?”
The head of the British Veterinary Association is advocating that animals slaughtered in Kosher and Halal butchering be stunned first, spurring charges of misinformation and limiting religious rights. Quote: “But Mr Arkush, who is the vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the Jewish slaughtering practice was a ‘humane act designed to bring about the animals’ end very quickly’. He said that Mr Blackwell’s remarks were ‘completely misleading’ and criticised him for ‘speaking in a way that inflamed prejudice’.”
The Straight Dope covers the topic of penis-stealing sorcerers. Quote: “The result of this delusional drama can be pretty ugly. About 20 witches accused of penis theft were lynched in Nigeria in 2001, and 12 in Ghana in 2002. One survey counted 56 separate cases between 1997 and 2003, with at least 36 suspected thieves murdered. In a 2008 outbreak in Congo, urgent messages went out by radio to avoid strangers wearing gold rings in taxis, leading police to put 13 suspected sorcerers into protective custody to prevent lynchings.”
Tablet Magazine explores the forbidden books of Jewish magic. Quote: “If most historical Judaisms have taken a transcendental approach to the magic taboo, the transgression-consummation dyad accounts for the simultaneous attraction and repulsion to magic one finds in so many Jewish sources. The highly charged polarity is responsible for producing myriad expressions of anxiety, the tracing of which may shed light on familiar facets of Jewish culture. The binary status of magic gave rise to contested formulations of its cultural position among rabbinic authorities. Was magic the most profound degradation of the spirit, or the highest actualization of human potential?”
Police in Siberia managed to stop an attempted witch-burning before it was too late. Quote: “In an unexpected incident worthy of the Spanish inquisition, a couple in eastern Siberia decided their acquaintance was a witch and attempted to burn her alive, though police stopped the impromptu auto-da-fe. The rescue came not a moment too soon, as the couple were at that moment forcing the alleged witch headfirst into a burning stove in an abandoned building, Zabaikalsky Region police said Thursday.”
From the “what could possibly go wrong” files, Oklahoma House passes “Merry Christmas” bill that would protect using religious expressions in public schools. Quote: “There is a war on Christians and Christmas, and anyone who would deny that is not paying close enough attention,” Cleveland said in a December 2013 press release. “This bill will create a layer of protection for our public school teachers and staff to freely discuss and celebrate Christmas without worrying about offending someone.” Don’t worry though, the proposed law calls for Christianity to share the stage with at least ONE other faith and/or secular expression. Diversity!
Slate.com mentions Santeria and Vodou elements in the hit HBO show “True Detective.” Quote: “Voodoo and Santeria have long inspired the authors who dabbled in cosmic horror. Louisiana Voodoo (otherwise known as “Hoodoo”), which draws upon African and European folk traditions alike, derives much of its occult resonance from such practices as vengeance by proxy (voodoo dolls), suspended animation (zombification), and gris-gris (talismans, not unlike the knocked-together fetish sculptures that Hart and Cohle discover at the scene of Dora Lange’s murder). The particular appeal of Louisiana Voodoo to cosmic-horror writers like Lovecraft and those who have followed in his footsteps comes not only from its supernaturalism, but from its cultural otherness as well.”
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.
“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
“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.
“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”.