Archives For Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson

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!

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele

The Maetreum of Cybele, which had just won an important legal victory in their property tax fight against the Town of Catskill in New York, has been the victim of another vandalism attack. The news was posted Sunday morning at the religious order’s official Facebook page. Quote: “The Maetreum was attacked again last night with four windows broken out, three in the cafe and on the second floor. The Circle W next door was also hit.. Cops taking it very seriously this time.” The reason police are taking the matter seriously is because the Maetreum was attacked by a rock-and-epithet-throwing individual back in September. Quote: “Last night while I was enjoying talking to Cathryn Platine at the Maetreum of Cybele, a teenager/young man started throwing rocks at the house. At first we thought it was just branches falling, but then the window in the kitchen broke from two rocks that were thrown through the window. It was just Cathy and I downstairs so I followed her outside. The young man ran from the bushes near the road across the road, and then began taunting us…” Are these events unconnected? Simple hooliganism? Or has the high-profile nature of the Maetreum’s tax fight brought out the haters? We’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

View from Ardantane.

View from Ardantane.

Ardantane Pagan Learning Center, located in north-central New Mexico, has launched an IndieGoGo Fundraiser to help develop land purchased adjacent to their current property into a space dedicated to the goddess Hekate, complete with stone circle. Quote: “Do you honor Hekate, the Lady of the Crossroads, Keeper of the Keys, Queen of the Witches, Goddess of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld? Then help us honor Her with land and a ritual circle, dedicated to Her in perpetuity. Ardantane Pagan Learning Center is located in north-central New Mexico, at the edge of the Jemez Mountains, about an hour’s drive from Albuquerque. We have purchased over two acres of wild land adjacent to our campus, named it Spirit Hollow, and dedicated it to Hekate, who is one of the patron deities of our school. Here we have created a stone circle for Her, and hope to add a shrine and processional way from the main campus. We also plan to hold a Hekate Retreat on the weekend nearest one of Her holy days. But we need your help.” There are a number of Hekate-themed donation perks for those who give to this initiative. The fund drive runs through the next 30 days.

Amy Martin

Amy Martin

Over at Patheos, John Beckett reports on the announced retirement of journalist Amy Martin, who ran the Texas-centric service known at Moonlady News. Quote: “Moonlady was Moonlady News, a massive moderated e-mail list for Pagan, New Age, environmental and other progressive events and causes in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, run by Amy Martin, the Moonlady.  This week Amy announced her retirement – Moonlady News will make its last run on December 20.” In her farewell letter, Martin says that she wants to devote her life to personal writing. Quote: “With the completion of Moonlady News as we know it, Moonlady retires as well. I’ve been an activist since I was 12. Over 45 years, 20 of it with the Moonlady community, working every day for a better world. My passion, my core identity, is being a writer and I must devote myself to that. I’m not getting younger and there are a few major creative projects baying at the gate to be completed. That’s kind of scary, having no more excuses, but exciting. I am grateful for you all. Someday I’ll tell the full story, of how knowing you were out there, and being of service to you, kept me going through the worst time of my life.” My hats off to her, and I wish Amy Martin well with her writing. The work she is doing is important, and I hope her example inspires others. You can also donate to defray the operating costs of the site.

 In Other Pagan Community News:

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  • The recently debuted Australia-centered Other Magazine is already giving sneak peeks at the next issue, including an article on Australia’s oldest Pagan festival gathering. Quote: “When Michel Marold first visited Mt Franklin in 1978 he was awed by the ancient natural feature, and soon tapped in to the liminal ‘otherness’ and primal power of the place, connecting to an invisible current that had lit up the caldera of the extinct volcano for thousands of years.” You can subscribe here.
  • Alex Mar, director of the recent documentary film “American Mystic” (featuring Morpheus Ravenna), is currently researching contemporary American Pagan ideas about funerary rites. She is now specifically seeking thoughts on funeral pyres and excarnation (a.k.a. sky burial) as traditional practices that have yet to be introduced in this country. If you have a personal interest in either of these rites, whether for yourself or a loved one, and would like to share your thoughts and opinions, please contact her. She is seeking Pagan perspectives from all regions of the country. You can reach Alex Mar at:funeraryrites@gmail.com.
  • The Pagan Writers Press Blog is inviting you to a Winter Solstice Blog Hop. Quote: “Beginning 12/6/13, the authors at Pagan Writers Press are putting together a holiday blog hop and we want YOU to join us! If you are an author or a book blogger, sign to to join us for the fun. [...] Your blog post can be about winter holidays, winter memories, the season of winter. What is your favorite memory of winter? Does the season inspire you to write? You can write about the solstice, about any winter holidays, about the snow or the season, about your characters experiences of the season, flash fiction or an excerpt dealing with winter or the holidays.”
  • I know it’s Winter, but registration for the 2014 Pagan Spirit Gathering this Summer has now officially opened. Quote: “Throughout the Gathering, there are hundreds of program activities including rituals, concerts, workshops, panels, meetings, intensives, revels, dancing, drumming, firespinning, and bonfires. There are also a variety of youth program activities including specific programming for children, tweens, and teens. In addition, there is leadership training for Pagan ministers and other leaders through the Pagan Leadership Institute.” Theme this year is “Heart and Harmony.”
  • Starhawk’s IndieGoGo campaign to fund diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings is still ongoing. Quote: “One week into our fundraiser and we’ve already reached over 10% of our goal! So thankful to all who have supported this already!! Please help us reach 100% and help us spread the word.”
  • Ásatrúarfélagið in Iceland recently held their General Assembly, and the legendary Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson has been elected to another five-year term as Chief Goði for the Asatru organization. Congratulations to him!

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

This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Icelandic Asatru Association, Asatruarfelagid, co-founded in April 1972 by Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson under “the desire that Icelanders could have their own faith, and nourish it no less than imported religions.” Asatruarfelagid received official government recognition in 1973, and now sports nearly 2000 members. Musician and current allsherjargoði (high chieftain) of Asatruarfelagid, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, commemorated the anniversary by donating 2 million Icelandic króna (around 16,000 US dollars) to the Coast Guard’s helicopter fund.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and members of Ásatrúarfélagið.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and members of Ásatrúarfélagið.

“The donation is for the Coast Guard’s helicopter fund. All of the Coast Guard’s vessels and aircraft bear the names of Norse gods and goddesses. Yesterday’s ceremony took place onboard the Coast Guard’s new cruiser Þór, Fréttablaðið reports. The Coast Guard’s first cruiser was the steam vessel Óðinn, which arrived to the country in 1926. A statement from Ásatrúarfélagið reads that the Icelandic Coast Guard is in charge of surveillance, search and rescue, has contributed to the safety of seafarers and protected the nation’s natural resources under difficult circumstances for decades, for which it is trusted and respected by all Icelanders. Therefore, all members of Ásatrúarfélagið decided to make a donation of ISK 1,000 (USD 7.9, EUR 6.1) towards a helicopter fund for the Coast Guard, with no strings attached.”

This civic-minded move fits very well within the profile of Ásatrúarfélagið and its Chief Godi, who has undertaken protective rituals for their country, celebrated the spirits of their land, and even weighed in on pop-culture. Iceland is fertile ground for Asatru, a place that never quite lost the connection to its pagan past.

For more on Ásatrúarfélagið and Asatru in Iceland, check out the Norse Mythology Blog’s interviews with Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (Part OnePart TwoPart Three) and Jóhanna G. Harðardóttir (Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart Four). Both, I think, give a good picture of how Asatru in Iceland compares with groups in the United States and other countries.

“The gods had to come back. You can see how the gods are coming in the 19th century. We had some years of rationalism – the Industrial Revolution, people losing their ties with nature and repressing religion and focusing on science and knowledge. You had the president of the French scientific academy proclaiming that we’ve more or less found out everything that there is to be found out – we only need to polish some theories. In an atmosphere like this, the gods need to come back, because they’ve been repressing them so long. Ha!”Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson

Congratulations to Ásatrúarfélagið on forty years of existence, here’s to forty more!

Top Story: The planned movie adaptation of Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” has officially launched its Kickstarter fundraising campaign (complete with fundraising pitch video featuring Starhawk). They are looking to raise $60,000 dollars in 60 days. There has been just over $10,000 dollars pledged in the first two days. The money will be used to make a professional pitch video to the major film studios.

“Now we’re asking for your support.  What will we do with the money?  You’ve seen in the video some of the brilliant artists who inspire us, and who want to work with us.  With your help, we’ll be able to create the next phase; designs for sets and costumes, visuals of key scenes, and storyboards for the action.  We can secure the rights to the music and art we need, and do those dull but oh-so-necessary things like finalizing contracts, budgets and financial plans.  To ensure that we are able to continue to develop the strongest possible project, we estimate that we’ll need about double our Kickstarter campaign goal of $60,000, and we’re certain that with your help, along with the tremendous support we’ve been receiving from our entire community, we can do it.”

The official website for the film is here.  They are also encouraging folks to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. If this succeeds it will be the largest sum of money collectively raised on the Internet for a campaign originating with modern Pagans. Doubling what was raised earlier this year for Japan relief. I’ll have more on this project soon, hopefully including an interview with Starhawk about the proposed film.

Interview with Iceland’s Allsherjargoði: Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried at The Norse Mythology Blog interviews Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, chief priest of Iceland’s Ásatrúarfélagið. In the interview they discuss art, mythology, working with Sigur Rós, and the question of pre-Christian survivals (among other things).

KS – Do you see contemporary Ásatrú in Iceland as a continuation of a living tradition that goes back to ancient times, as a recreation and revival of a practice that had ended, as a descendent of 19th century nationalist romantic mysticism, as a post-war rejection of modernity, or as a post-1960s counterculture movement?

HÖH – I think, probably, I would say “yes” to all those things. The influence of this seems to resonate with Icelanders. The poems never really went away, and they’ve been treasured ever since they were handed down orally and written down. I’m pretty certain that the people in the learned places of Oddi and Reykholt and [elsewhere] were reading Ovid and Roman mythology, and they realized, “My god, we have this thinghere which is a living and vibrant thing, and this is what my great-grandfather believed in,” and stuff like that. I think it never really went away.

It was said – after the conversion in 1000 or 999 – that you could not worship the old gods except in secrecy. That was part of the truce. People carried on secret worship for at least two centuries. I don’t think it ever really went away. To illustrate that, I met this old man in the shop yesterday. He came up to me and shook my hand, and he told me that – when he was confirmed in the early 1920s – his grandmother came to him and gave him a book with the Eddic poems and said, “You should read that, because this is what we also believe.” She thought, “Christianity is okay, but you should not forget your roots.” Ha! I think that’s really a telling story.

The whole thing is worth a read, and that’s only part one! Check out the entire blog, which is chock-full of interesting interviews, including one with Jóhanna G. Harðardóttir of the Ásatrúarfélagið.

A Wiccaning at PSG: Cara Schulz from PNC-Minnesota has posted a brief report and pictures of a Wiccaning that took place earlier this week at the 2011 Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois.


“Rev. Fox blessed the child with element of earth, air, water, fire, and spirit and gifted Arden with a feather found on site.  Arden enjoyed the first half of the ceremony, especially when Fox played peek-a-boo with him.  But as the sun came out, so did some tears.  Rev. Fox noted that was just what Arden should expect from  life, times of laughter and times of tears.  The parents, Kidril and Twitch, then gave their baby his first drum and gave him their blessings.  The community was then invited to grant Arden blessings such as friendship, comfort, peace, and love.”

I realize that a Wiccaning (or ‘saining’) at a festival isn’t the biggest news, but I don’t feel enough attention is paid to our faiths outside of big events or inadvertent scandals. Depictions of modern Pagans living their faith, going through life’s many transitions, can be an important tool for outreach and understanding. I’d like to thank Selena Fox, Kidril, Twitch, and Arden for agreeing to share this moment with the world.

My Take on Religious Exemptions: My latest panelist response for the Washington Post’s On Faith section is now up. This time I tackled the issue of religious exemptions in New York’s proposed gay marriage bill.

“Often overlooked in this wrangling over exemptions are religious groups that fully support equal rights and protections for all American citizens, even the gay ones. Gay marriage is almost wholly uncontroversial among modern Pagan faiths. Druid group Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF)has “never believed that the institution of marriage could possibly be threatened by the existence of married people of any gender,” while Pagan scholar Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion,”underlines that sentiment by proclaiming that “freedom has to be the highest Pagan goal and virtue.” Gay marriage has been endorsed by notable Pagan leaders like my fellow co-panelist Starhawk, along with leading Pagan organizations like Covenant of the Goddess (COG) and Cherry Hill Seminary. Yet, despite this, few seem unconcerned that one religious moral view concerning marriage is allowed to override another. The simple fact is that certain Christian and Catholic groups are used to getting their way, and it matters little to them if a moral world-view they endorse overrules the world-views of other religious groups. So the more exemptions granted, the more we’re tacitly saying a socially conservative Judeo-Christian approach to these issues is the de facto “religious” perspective.”

You can read my entire response, here. You can responses from the entire panel, here.

In Other News:

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

A few quick news notes for you on this Thursday Thor’s Day.

The Chief Godi in Translation: A couple days ago I featured a link to a story concerning the thoughts of Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Chief Godi of Ásatrúarfélagið in Iceland, on the new “Thor” movie. I could only get a rough gist of the piece since it was in Icelandic, and asked for a translation. Now, thanks to the Old Norse Network (ONN), Dr. Jane Sibley, Ravynne, and Merrill Kaplan, I’ve received a couple of accurate (and understandable) translations of Hilmarsson’s comments.

“I‘d see it mostly as a fan of bad movies,” says Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Allsherjargoði and leader of Iceland’s Ásatrúarfélag, when asked whether he had already or intended to see the newest Hollywood movie about the thunder god Thor. The movie is based on the Marvel comic book series and was premiered here in Iceland this week. He says that the Ásatrúarfélagið hadn’t taken any particular stance on literary and artistic works surrounding Ásatrú. “Then you’d have to begin in the eighteenth century. People have been drawing on this heritage for two, three hundred years. Sometimes it’s been successful and sometimes not. We can certainly be grateful that Edward Elgar composed beautiful music with these “motifs,” and Wagner did too. And naturally some heavy metal bands have appropriated it in much worse ways than will be the case in this film by Kenneth Branagh,” says Hilmar Örn. He said he didn’t regard the movie itself as any kind of misrepresentation of the faith. “If you take some kind of fundamentalist stance towards it, then some people are going to be offended. People have been drawing on this heritage for many hundreds of years, and we haven’t opted to organize any kind of protest about it the way it might happen in other religions. We’re a little more relaxed about it, I think,” says Hilmar Örn.

So there you are! Thanks to everyone who helped get me a translation. In addition, Kjell from the ONN list also points out reactions to Thor from Norway and Denmark (no translations, though). You might also be interested in this column from Religious New Service writer Cathleen Falsani.

COG and the Prayer Breakfast: The Covenant of the Goddess Interfaith Reports blog features a report from Don Frew on the Marin Interfaith Council Prayer Breakfast, at which Frew was a featured presenter. Here’s an excerpt from the talk Frew gave to an audience of over 180 local representatives of different faith communities.

“The easiest way to understand modern Neopaganism is to think of something like Nataive American spirituality or Japanese Shinto, but coming out of pre-Christian European and Mediterranean cultural settings.  There are Druids, reviving the religion of the ancient Celts.  There are Heathens, taking their inspiration from the religions of the Norse and Germanic peoples.  But by far the largest branch of Neopaganism is the Witches, coming out of the fusion of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, and Graeco-Roman spiritualities that occurred in the British Isles.  This led many modern Witches to use Anglo-Saxon word – “Wicca” – instead “Witchcraft”.  Some found it easier to avoid one “w-word” by replacing it with another, especially when explaining things to their parents.  [chuckles]“

Apparently feedback for the presentation was very good, and most likely helped change some misconceptions that are held about our family of faiths. Congratulations to Don Frew on the successful interfaith experience. I encourage my readers to head over and give your feedback on the talk.

The Digital Divide on Native Reservations: MediaShift at PBS looks at the digital divide in Indian Country, and interviews Sascha Meinrath, director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, about the struggle to bridge that divide and bring new media opportunities to tribal communities.

“You have a community that perhaps treasures media and cultural production more than almost any other constituency in the country, and you have an entire dearth of access to new media production and dissemination technology,” Meinrath said. Since 2009, New America Foundation has worked with Native Public Media, which supports and advocates for Native American media outlets, to help tribal communities take advantage of new media platforms. In January, the organizations formalized their partnership, and this fall, they plan to launch a media literacy pilot project that will train Native radio broadcasters in at least four communities to tell stories using digital tools.

This is a hugely important issue, and a chance to break “a pattern of historical exclusion from media and communication services” according to Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media. Amplifying and enriching indigenous voices is something that all of us should support and welcome, a road towards increasing self-determination and changing a dominant media narrative that often ignores the voices of Native Americans.

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

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

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

In the day-to-day nature of Internet news, it’s often difficult to keep track of stories as they develop. So here’s a round-up of follow-ups, updates, and recent developments in stories previously reported here at The Wild Hunt.

About that Icelandic Curse: I recently mentioned that the Icelandic Heathen organization Ásatrúarfélagid, led by Chief Godi Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, had made the news for a high-profile (and apparently successful) curse against Iceland’s enemies. Pagan Newswire Collective reporter, and host of the popular Asatru podcast Ravencast, David Carron, spoke with Hilmarsson about the article and brings us the following statement.

“The article in Iceland Review is somewhat slanted, as the TV interview cited was based on the assumption that we had ritually cursed named members of the British and the Dutch governments. The ritual in question was a protective one ( with the subtext that those who would try to harm our nation would be exempt from the protection / sanctuary ) and its intent was to push aggression back to where it belongs. However some people observing the ensuing developments have given us credit for all sorts of things including Gordon Brown’s unstable temper, the freak winter in Britain, and the troubles befalling and in the end collapsing the Dutch government.

I did own up to writing a scathing poem about Gordon Brown in the time honoured tradition of “níðvísa” and I am sure that long after his name is forgotten on the British Isles there will be Icelanders dancing on his grave and and finding inventive and practical ways of pouring / spraying ale upon it.”

So there you are, not so much a “curse” as protection working that is successfully pushing aggression back to its source. Carron is currently arranging an interview with Hilmar Hilmarsson for Ravencast, and I’ll keep you posted as to when that’s available.

The Air Force and Pagans: A lot of news has been made recently regarding the Air Force Academy and its new stone circle dedicated to Pagan services, but this ethos of acceptance and accommodation stretches beyond the academy to the Air Force itself. A memo has been brought to my attention that shows Major General Cecil Richardson, Chief of Chaplains for the USAF, listing Wiccan and Pagan Spring holidays along side other faiths as deserving of accommodation by all commanders.

“Thank you for your continued support of Airmen who request religious accommodation. Airmen who are allowed to practice their First Amendment rights to freedom of religion are generally more spiritually fit and better able to handle the rigors and stressors that come with deployments and a high OPSTEMPO (Operations Tempo) … Wiccans and other followers of Earth-based religions will observe Ostara, the spring equinox, on 21 March followed by Beltane, a celebration of the abundance of the fertile Earth, on 1 May.”

So it looks like the Air Force really is taking the inclusion and accommodation of Pagan airmen to heart. I’d love to know if any of the other US Armed Forces have released similar memos. If they have, please feel free to drop me a line so I can share them with my readers.

The Syracuse Pagan College Chaplain: Student paper The Daily Orange follows up on the appointment of Mary Hudson as Syracuse University’s first Pagan chaplain. While Hudson says that she’s only received positive feedback, reporter Rebecca Kheel finds a more mixed response on the Internet.

“Mixed reactions arose since Hudson was recognized as a chaplain. Hudson herself has only received positive feedback, but there has been an online backlash in comments sections of articles about Hudson’s appointment. Other chaplains said it is too early to make a judgment about whether they agree with Hudson’s appointment … Hudson said she has seen the negative comments in online articles about her appointment, including one that suggested she eats bats. Some others said her appointment will make SU look unattractive to potential students. But that was to be expected, Hudson said.”

Eats bats? Really? As the article points out, it’s still early days, and we have no idea how well Hudson will perform in her role, or if she’ll encounter any real resistance to her chaplaincy. What is important at this stage is that the needs of Pagan students are being acknowledged and respected, and that feedback from that community has been positive.

Covering the Vodou Attack in Haiti: Mollie at Get Religion takes a look at coverage of the recent attack on Vodouisants by evangelical Christians in Haiti, and its aftermath, and finds it wanting.

“I find it fascinating that the first article begins with a call to war by Beauvoir while the second article has him saying he hopes it doesn’t come to war. I’m not saying that both quotes aren’t accurate but it kind of reminds you how much power a reporter has in shaping a story.”

Mollie kindly quotes me on the subject of Vodou leader Max Beauvoir, and in the comments I elaborate my feelings on his leadership, and the need for journalists to approach decentralized minority faiths differently from the dominant monotheisms they are used to.

“The frustrating thing is that we have no real way of telling exactly how important or influential Beauvoir is among Vodou practitioners in Haiti. There’s a number of reasons for this, an important one being the lack of probing and analysis that followed after Beauvoir was first put forward as the “supreme chief” of Haitian Vodou (and, as Mollie mentioned, was called a “pope”).

However, two things are clear that all journalists covering Vodou in Haiti should know. One is that Vodou is, by its nature, a decentralized faith. It is largely organized around different “families” of initiates. No matter how large Beauvoir’s coalition may be, he simply cannot speak for the entirety of Haitian Vodou. The second is that thanks to the reporting so far, Beauvoir’s title has become prophecy. His willingness to interact with the press, to become the spokesman, has cemented his place as the go-to person for the “Vodou voice”. No doubt many families will rally to him in these uncertain times, and he may very well become, for a time, something close to the central figure the press portrays him as.

The lesson here is that journalistic assumptions about religion can shape religions, especially in times of crisis and trouble. Reporters like having a singular go-to leader when discussing a faith, it makes info-gathering and quote-seeking far easier. But minority faiths are very often different from the Protestant denominations or Catholic churches they are used to covering, and they often lack a clear leadership structure (or they have a clear leadership structure, but not one that applies across the board). The best policy is to always seek out multiple voices when dealing with a decentralized faith, and to always take claims of supremacy within a decentralized faith with a grain of salt.”

We all need to do a better job of covering religion in Haiti. Trying to assemble a clear picture from the assorted claims, incidents, and reports is difficult, and we run the risk of giving an incorrect, or even harmful, analysis of current events. If I error, and I probably will considering the trickle of good information, I hope it’s in favor of preserving and respecting Haiti’s indigenous faith traditions.

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