Archives For Holli Emore

10296216_10153167430591104_642259405498786551_oIsis Books & Gifts, a metaphysical store located in Englewood, Colorado, erected its new sign after the original was destroyed by vandals. As we reported in November, the bookstore’s sign was destroyed shortly after the terrorist attacks on Paris and Lebanon. At the time, bookstore owner Karen Charboneau-Harrison told local news, “I don’t know if somebody walking down the street just saw our name on the sign and kind of lost it for a moment and threw a rock through it … or if it was an ignorant person who actually thought this was a bookstore for terrorists, I don’t know.”

The vandals were never caught, but Charboneau-Harrison immediately had a new sign created. However, this sign is slightly different. On a blue background, it reads “Goddess Books & Gifts” with an image of Isis to the left. And, the website graphic now reads the same. However, the store has not changed its name; only the sign and graphic have been altered. Charboneau-Harrison wrote on Facebook, “We are deflecting the attention of folks who flunked their 6th grade basic mythology class (and have anger issues) away from us and our signage.”

After the initial vandalism, the store received an outpouring of support in messages and donations. Currently, they are selling bumper stickers that read, “Isis is the Goddess of Healing, Family & Wisdom. Support Isis Books & Gifts.” Charboneau-Harrison added that that they feel strongly about keeping the name Isis, but also do not want to draw more violence to the business.

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Norse MythologyOn Dec 23, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried’s work was featured on the BBC Radio series “Religion in the North.” Last July, he was contacted by Senior Producer Phil Pegum, who was interested in developing a series of programs that celebrated “the life and culture of the countries of the north.” Pegum asked Dr. Seigfried to write and record an essay “on the continuing popularity of Norse mythology, its broader cultural significance, and the resurgence of Heathen religion in recent decades.”

Dr. Seigfried’s recording aired third in a series of five episodes on the subject as part of Radio 3’s program “The Essay.” The other four include, “Forests and Faith under the Northern Lights,” Christmas Father: Lars Petter Sveen,”  “A Swedish Christmas: Andrew Brown,” and “Winter Solstice: Hanne Orstavik.” This series corresponds to Radio 3’s larger seasonal programming focusing on the world’s “northernmost territories.”

Dr. Seigfried’s essay runs fifteen minutes. The full text is published on his Norse Mythology blog, along with an embedded recording. Or you can listen to the full piece, as well as the others, directly through BBC Radio 3.

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269241_415493488489950_1381333520_nOn Dec. 29, the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina gathered at the State House for its annual meeting to discuss interfaith awareness in the state. Although not in attendance for the meeting this year, Gov. Nikki Haley did, once again for the fourth year in a row, make the declaration that January would be Interfaith Harmony Month.

In addition to discussing interfaith awareness, the organization was also there to address concerns over the rise in Islamaphobia both in the South Carolina region and the country. In a recent media release, the organization clearly stated its concerns saying that “Muslims have lived in South Carolina for three centuries.” And they added:

Our Interfaith Partners members include many religions and spiritual paths, including Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Buddhist, Pagan, Native American, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, and more.  We work for harmonious communities through our interfaith activities because we understand the fragile bonds upon which our democracy is built. Peace in America depends upon the ability of diverse peoples to value diversity without perceiving those differences to be a threat.

Cherry Hill Seminary Director Holli Emore is a vocal and organizing partner in this interfaith group and spoke at the state house gathering. After the meeting, she was interviewed by a local CBS affiliate, saying “I want people to remember that you need to take time to listen to other people.”

With the official declaration of Interfaith Harmony Month, the interfaith organization is planning a number of activities to educate the population and advocate for peace. All upcoming January events are listed on the organization’s site.

In Other News:

  • Beginning today, the long-awaited novel City of Refuge is available to the public. In 2015, Starhawk opted to self-publish her new book, which is a sequel to her popular novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. Previously, the book was only available for special pre-orders through Starhawk’s successful kickstarter campaign. Now the book can be found on Amazon and other similar sites.
  • For fans of blogger Sara Amis’ writing, she will be featured in an upcoming edition of Cicada, a literary magazine for young people. According to Amis, the March/April issue will focus on witches. While her own piece, titled “The Witch’s Egg,” was not written specifically as a children’s story, she said that it is “fairy-tale-esque and they went with it.” Amis added, “It’s actually kind of a fairy tale about a middle-aged woman finding her own power. What a tween girl will make of it I don’t know, but I think it’s good for them to see an older adult female protagonist who isn’t stereotypical.” The issue will be available February.
  • The Norse Mythology Blog announced its art winners for midwinter 2015. In the adult category, first place went to Maria Bogdanova of Finland with her painting depicting the “Lady of the Winter, the goddess of heaven.” Second place went to Ida M. Kozłowski of Poland, and third place was award to Jorge Alves de Lima Júnior of Brazil. In the teen category, the first place winner was Heather Mathis of the U.S., age 16, with her depiction of “Frau Holle.” Second place went to Marquellius Nunn,of the U.S., age 19, and third to Stefano J. of the U.S., age 15. Lastly, in the kids category, the first place winner was Katie U. of the U.S., age 11, with her painting depicting “Frau Holle.” The second place winner was Rowan Chiment-Scimeca of the U.S., age 8, and the third place winner was Paul Jules Butler of Germany, age 7.
  • Now that the first issue of A Beautiful Resistance has been published and distributed, the editors are looking toward the next issue. They have posted a call for submissions. Issue #2 will be edited and curated by poet Lorna Smithers and published in May, around Beltane. The deadline for all submissions is March 1.
  • Although Pagan festival season is still several months away, registration has opened for one of the earliest such gatherings. The second annual Equinox in the Oaks is now open for business. The event, which will be held once again in Pierson, Florida, is a weekend long “earth-centered, ethically-focused, family-affirming festival.” It debuted last year on the weekend of the Spring Equinox. This year, it will be held from March 24-27, 2016.

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On Novemeber 22 the Kemetic Reconstructionist community was shocked to hear of the death of one of its foremost authors and ritualists – Richard J. Reidy.

Richard Reidy received his Master of Divinity degree in 1979 and, then nineteen years later in 1998, he founded one of the first Kemetic temples in the United States,called The Temple of Ra, based in San Francisco. Richard went on to found three more Kemetic temples located in the cities of San Jose, Sacramento, and Denver. He stayed personally active in the both the San Francisco and San Jose temples, meeting monthly for rituals and study.

In 2010, Richard published his book Eternal Egypt: Ancient Rituals for the Modern World, which was hailed as the first comprehensive collection of key ritual texts performed throughout Egypt during the time of the pharaohs. At the time of his death, he was working on a successor volume to Eternal Egypt. This volume was said to include 30 additional Kemetic rituals. The Kemetic Temples’ family have said that they intend to complete this work posthumously in Richard Reidy’s name.

Richard was known in the greater Pagan community through the many workshops and rituals that he led at Pantheacon, a conference for Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists held each February in San Jose, California. He was scheduled to lead a workshop on Ancient Egyptian Divination at the upcoming 2016 Pantheacon.

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

The Temple of Ptah holds the Sacred Fire for the Ka of Richard Reidy in their main Shrine. [Public Facebook Photo]

As news of his death spread through the Kemetic community, members began lighting candles on their altars and praying for his Ka, or Richard’s life force that left his body at death, so that it may find its proper home in the afterlife. Many photos of these lit altars were shared on Richard’s facebook page. Reverend Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, co-founder of Temple of Ptah in Nevada, shared a formal liturgy that may be used for honoring the Ka of Richard Reidy: 

May you, O Richard Reidy, wake up pleasantly and remain eternally. Every illness that comes before you will be driven away. Your mouth is opened by Ptah! Your mouth is opened by Sokar, with this copper instrument of his. Your mouth is opened by Ptah. Your mouth is opened by Sokar, and Djehuty puts your heart in your body. 

A funeral for Richard Reidy will be held today in San Jose.

The Wild Hunt spoke to some of Richard’s friends and colleagues, who shared their memories of him and how he affected their lives:

Matt Whealton, Temple of Ra, San Francisco:

Richard Reidy was both my mentor in the Kemetic path and also my friend. His foremost goal in his work has been to further the worship of the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt in the modern world. Though he certainly held strong opinions about how that worship should be carried out in our temples and in more formal temple settings generally, one point he always emphasized is that there is no one way the Gods speak to or lead us, and no one way to approach them.

He was available for any individual to call or email with questions about his book or how to get started with Kemetic practice – and was passionate about making his writing and talks accessible to people in a way that was as accurate to the ancient sources as possible without being overly technical. I know I will miss him keenly and will work to continue and expand the work he started, one more thread in the widening tapestry of Kemetic paths throughout the world. I am sure my Temple Brothers and Sisters feel the same way.

Richard Reidy, Soror Amsw, and Tony Mierzwicki after a ritual to Bastet at the 2015 Pantheacon

Richard Reidy, Soror Amsw, and Tony Mierzwicki after a ritual to Bastet, Pantheacon 2015 [Courtesy Photo]

Tony Mierzwicki, author of Graeco-Egyptian Magick:

I had the privilege of knowing Richard for a little less than a decade. Richard founded the Kemetic Temple of San Jose and was the author of “Eternal Egypt : Ancient Rituals for the Modern World.” He was one of those rare souls who was both a meticulous scholar of Egyptian magic and religion as well as being ardently devoted to his gods. He also had a compassionate heart and always made himself available to those who needed advice.

Richard was a regular presenter at PantheaCon and TheurgiCon. We would attend each other’s workshops whenever possible. We shared a love of Theurgy, which is an ancient magical system leading to a union with the divine. We were also very drawn to the Egyptian god, Set, drawing our understanding of his nature from the Pyramid Texts, which were the oldest Egyptian religious texts. We saw Set as benevolent, aiding the deceased in their ascension.

I miss Richard and honor his many contributions, which will live on through those whose lives he changed. The heavens are one star brighter, now that he has ascended through the spheres one last time.

Soror Amsw, Denver Kemetic Temple:

Rich was the only Pagan author I knew who put his actual phone number inside his book. And you know what? If you called him with questions, he would pick up and gladly provide guidance for anyone new to the Kemetic path. I would not have been able to start my own temple without his mentorship. I have saved so many emails that he sent me, because of the wisdom found within. I am blessed to have known him.

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa‎, Nevada Kemtic Temple

Blessed Richard, Your friendship, life and commitment to helping others are deeply cherished, and you will be greatly missed. It is because of your openness and wealth of wisdom that Temple of Ptah Nevada has been able to succeed in its sacred work, and as a true friend you have left us a legacy to hold onto with love. You are now an Effective Spirit, and surely the Netjeru have welcomed you with gratitude for all you accomplished for Them. Thank you, thank you for everything. I love you, and will always honor your blessed memory.

[We will] hold the Sacred Fire for the Ka of Richard Reidy in our main Shrine. Our stela of Ptah Who Hears Prayers receives our tears and our petitions for the safe maintenance of Richard’s Ka, for his passage through the Duwat, until he reaches the Field of Reeds. For the next few weeks, we will have candles burning 24 hours a day in honor of Richard, who has now become an Effective Spirit of Ra.

Emore's altar lit to honor Richard Reidy's Ka. [facebook]

Emore’s altar lit to honor Richard Reidy’s Ka. [Public Facebook Photo]

Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary

The first time I heard Richard Reidy speak I was late, so I went to the front of the already full room and simply sat on the floor a few steps from his feet. From that vantage I could see close to a hundred people hanging on his every word, leaning forward with anticipation, exuding a love for the ancients, the neteru (gods) and this rather quiet, unassuming man.

I was very fortunate to spend some time with Richard on rare occasion (we lived on opposite coasts of the U.S.); for his generous and caring heart I will always be grateful. My first years as a Pagan were characterized by frustration as I sought teachers who would actually share with me. Richard has always been happy to share with anyone who asked, though he never sought the attention of fandom.

It’s not easy being a tiny minority within a minority religious group. Osireion is its own tradition, and not strictly reconstructionist, but Richard gave us a measure to strive for. He took Egyptian religion seriously, and because he did, many more of us have found our way to a richer experience.

What is remembered, lives.

Alaska Sockeye Wildfire 2015

Alaska Sockeye Wildfire 2015

On Sunday, June 13, a wildfire exploded in Willow, Alaska, about 80 miles north of Anchorage. According to reports, the wildfire went from covering 2 acres to 6,500 acres within a matter of hours. Gov. Bill Walker has declared the region a “disaster area,” with an estimated 1700 people displaced from their now-destroyed homes. Along with residents, firefighters have had to rescue hundreds of sled dogs, as wells as goats, sheep, horses and many other local animals.

Making its home in Willow and now nestled within that devastated region is the Alaska Pagan Community Center (PCC). Fondly called “The Land,” the PCC is a “non-profit Nature Sanctuary and Earth Retreat Center … where people can come out to … celebrate the changing of the seasons and create a relationship with others and the earth that sustains us.” It was purchased just over 5 years ago and has served the local Pagan community ever since.

The property was near the epicenter of the fire. As described in a member’s blog post, the group’s “Fire Tribe” (safety and magic crews) was making final preparations for Solstice celebrations when the fire broke. She noted that those members were lucky to escape because they were “landlocked behind the ignition point.” Officials believe the conflagration was started by fireworks set off by The Land’s neighboring residents.

At this point, Firefighters have contained the blaze to about 53%, saying it has destroyed up to 7,264 acres. Although many residents were allowed to return to the evacuated regions, there have been lightening strikes setting off new fires. PCC director and founder Anthony Bailey believes that most of the PCC property is destroyed, and has started a crowd funding campaign to help the center rebuild. We will have more on this story after the group assesses the full extent of the damage.

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Christopher Blackwell

Christopher Blackwell, editor of Alternative Religion Education Network’s ACTION magazine, has announced his retirement. ACTION has been digitally published on every sabbat for 11 years. We interviewed Blackwell about his work and the history of ACTION in January. At the time, he said, “ACTION will last only as long as I and Bill care keep it going. I had hoped to have more helpers but that never happened. I am coming to the end of my life.” He also emphasized that he was very satisfied with what he had accomplished with the journal.

In the recently released Litha issue, Blackwell wrote, “So there comes a time to bring things to an end while they can be ended well. Bill and I mutually decided to make this the last issue. I thank all the readers, and all those interviewed, for making this possible. It has been quite a learning experience for me. I hope you have all enjoyed your part of it as well … I have a new project to get a started.” What that project is, he suggested “model trains,” but there may be other adventures on the horizon.

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Emanuel African Methodist Church, Charleston, SC

Emanuel African Methodist Church [Credit: S. Means / Wikipedia]

After the tragic murder of 9 people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Charleston, the city has reportedly come together in support not only of the victims families, but also in confronting racism, and enacting real social change. The local Charleston-based Pagan community and other Pagans in the region were not absent from this call-to-action.

Within hours of the news hitting the airwaves, Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary, sent out this statement, “We are concerned by the culture of violence which has shattered the peace of a sacred space. Our prayers for healing go out to the people of Emanuel who have lost a caring pastor, the constituents of District 45 who lost a powerful advocate for justice, and the people of Charleston, who are suffering this violation of their beautiful and peaceful city.” Cherry Hill Seminary is based in South Carolina.

Emore is also an active member of the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and has worked with members of Emanuel AME. That group said, “As people of many faiths who are widely-diverse not only spiritually, but also ethnically, socioeconomically and culturally, we stand in solidarity today with Emanuel AME and its members and community and pray for peace with justice.” And that is the universal feeling held within the city at this point, which has been noted by a number of news reports.

The Wild Hunt is currently working with a group of South Carolina Pagans, including one who grew up in the AME church. With their help, we will share a local perspective on the current situation, the protests, the conversations and the grief. We will have that full story later in the week. Until then, there is a call is to remember the names of victims. We list them here: Cynthia Hurd, Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Sr and Myra Thompson. What is remembered, lives.

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Other stories coming up this week at The Wild Hunt: Etsy Changes its Sellers Policy and Pagan Spirit Gathering Recovers: the Flooding and the Aftermath.

Other News:

  • Taffy Dugan has published part of her work on children in Pagan practice. In early June, we interviewed Dugan as she prepared for “Gerald Gardner Birthday Bash.” On her site “Magical Kids Blog,” she has shared parts 1-4 of her work. Dugan wrote, “There are many Pagan-type things you can share with your kid without being specifically Pagan – the turning of the seasons, love and respect for Earth, herbal remedies, faeries, dragons, unicorns. The easiest and most discreet way would be to give the kids bread crumbs to follow.” She also included the parenting questionnaire, saying that she welcomes more input.
  • In another follow-up to a past story, Wiccan Priest Erik Walton finished the AIDS race. We brought you Walton’s story in May as he was preparing for the 545 mile bike ride called AIDS Lifecycle: Riding to End AIDS/HIV. In that story, Walton shared both personal tragedies and his triumph against all odds. Once again and this time as a Team Ride Leader, Walton finished the bike race.
  • The Satanic Temple has announced the unveiling ceremony of its completed Baphomet statue. According to the announcement, the statue “weighs one ton and [towers] nearly nine feet tall.” It will be revealed at Berts Warehouse Entertainment in Detroit, Michigan on July 25. However, the statue’s final destination is “next to the Oklahoma State Capitol’s monument of the Ten Commandments.” The Temple said, “The event will serve as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats.” Tickets for the event are now on sale.
  • Over at Polytheist.com, Dagulf Loptson discusses the ways to build strong connections to spirit and deity in an article entitled, “Strengthening Spiritual Communication.” After sharing various methods of going about this devotional practice, Loptson concludes, “The secret to successful spiritual contact is actually very simple, and in many ways self-explanatory. The hardest part about building these relationships is simply just doing the work, consistently and with love. Extend the courtesy and effort that you would give a flesh-and-blood relationship to the Gods and spirits, and everything else will follow.”
  • RealPagan.net: Paganism for the Real World” launched a new e-Zine at Beltane. In part one of that first publication, editor Steve Paine writes, “Beltane being a festival of fire and life it seemed a most appropriate time to try this venture. As is best with all new ventures we are starting small and humble but are hoping that as time goes on, folks will become motivated to be involved and will come and add their own thoughts and ideas to what we are creating.” RealPagan.net is a social media society that began in 2011. This is its first venture into publishing.

That’s it for now. Have a great day!

open_halls_squareAs first reported on the Norse Mythology Blog, the U.S. Army has not yet added Heathen and Asatru to its religious preference list. Dr. Karl Siegfried writes,”Over two months after being notified of approval, Army Heathens are now in a state of limbo.”

We spoke with Josh Heath, co-founder of the Open Halls Project, who said, “The Chaplain backed away from his initial statement that the addition was approved,” and “he misread the speed in which the addition was going to be processed.” Heath said that the Open Halls Project will continue pressing for this recognition. He added, “The Army Corp of Chaplains has largely been helpful to us during this process. We particularly want to officially thank Chaplain Bryan Walker for his assistance. However, we also are growing increasingly frustrated that it has taken so long for this process to reach its finale. The Open Halls Project will continue to advocate for this addition, and will do everything in our power to ensure every soldier knows when it finally has been approved. Our soldiers deserve this recognition of their right to claim their faith. Heathenry is about a commitment to one’s community, a gift of service. The US Army has the duty now to return that gift as is our custom.”

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Judy_Harrow_Award_Photo_CleanAs we reported last week, Judy Harrow was “honored by The Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ) division of the American Counseling Association (ACA).” She had been nominated in January by Michael Reeder, LCPC. At a special award luncheon Friday, a member of the Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) faculty accepted the Ohana award on Harrow’s behalf. CHS Director Holli Emore said, “Ms. Harrow was crucial to the development of Cherry Hill Seminary early on, building our pastoral counseling department into a program which would meet professional standards as well as the needs of the growing Pagan community.”

The award itself will be housed for viewing at the New Alexandrian Library (NAL) in Delaware. Board member Michael G. Smith said, “Ms. Harrow was an avid supporter of the New Alexandrian Library. She recognized the need for the Contemporary Paganism to preserve its history and cultural artifacts for future generations so they would be able to have a greater appreciation and understand their roots, their beginnings. She felt so passionately that she left her personal library in her last will and testament to the NAL. It is a great pleasure for us to see her work celebrated by her colleagues and we are honored to house her award, along with her collection, at the Library.”

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downloadThe Dragon Hills Retreat and Right Time, Right Place Productions will be hosting a spring Pagan Music Festival in 2016. Over Memorial Day weekend, musicians from around the world will come together in Bowdon, Georgia to perform at this private 30-acre campground and event center. According to the most recent updates, the festival will host over 20 bands, as well as100 vendors and more.

Currently booked to perform are: SJ Tucker, Sharon Knight, Celia, Tuatha Dea, Wendy Rule, Damh the Bard, Witch’s Mark, Murphy’s Midnight Rounders, Bekah Kelso, Spiral Rhythm, Spiral Rhythm, Dragon Ritual Drummers, Elaine Silver, Mama Gina, Beltana Spellsinger, and Robin Renée. Organizers say that more performers will be added and tickets are already on sale. They added that “a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Katie’s Krops.”

In Other News

  • This Friday will be the soft launch of the new site Gods & Radicalsborn out of a PantheaCon presentation made by Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie. On Friday, they will publish their first essay by Jason Thomas Pitzl. Other essays will follow periodically until the site is in full operation. Writers currently scheduled include Asa West, Lorna Smithers, and Sean Donahue. Gods & Radicals has been garnering much buzz in the community. When its facilitators made a call for submissions, the response was overwhelming. The site will publish works that focus on anti-capitalism, environmentalism and social change. They write, “We Pagans are trying to re-enchant the world, to bring back the magic of the forests and the mountains. We are trying to hear and revere the wild places the sacred forgotten places, the spirits of ocean and rivers and lakes.” 
  • Manannan mac Lir was back in the news again when the Limavady Council decided that the original statue was far too damaged to repair and that they would be erecting a replacement. According to the Derry Journal, the Council said that “a new sculpture should be made by John Darren Sutton at a cost of £9,950 and erected on Binevenagh.” The old statue will be on display as tourist attraction. However, as the decision was made, there was some outcry. According to the Belfast Telegraph, one local councilor believes that the “plan to use the damaged sculpture of a Celtic sea god as a tourist attraction would promote paganism and false gods.”
  • In another part of the world, ancient statues, relics and other historic sites are being pillaged and destroyed by ISIL. The destruction of these treasured artifacts has upset many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens. One California Pagan, Jack Prewett has called for a Global Day of Mourning on April 18. Prewett calls the destruction a “tragedy for humankind” and says,“Let us mourn the loss of our history, our heritage. Cry for those that will come after us and know that once we had our history in our hands and let it slip through our fingers.” Why did Prewett choose April 18?  That is the U.N.’s World Heritage Day.
  • Last fall, in the heart of Arkansas, a group organized to host the first ever Pagan Pride event in Conway. According to reports, they had over 300 attendees, which far exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, the city of Conway has since passed an ordinance prohibiting all vendor sales on park property. Organizers said, “This means that we wouldn’t be able to have vendors, our singers and presenters wouldn’t be able to sell their merchandise, and there wouldn’t be any concessions! The only option that the city has given us is to rent out the Conway Expo Center.” If the organizers follow through, the event will cost significantly more money. The organization is now reaching out to the community for help through a GoFundMe campaign.
  • The Aquarian Tabernacle Church, based in Washington state, has recently released several statements responding to the most recent attempts to enact a religious freedom restoration act (RFRAs), specifically in the state of Georgia. The ATC’s statements have created buzz in the mainstream media, the Pagan blogosphere and local Georgia Wiccan community. We are currently working on this developing story and will bring you the details of the debate on Wed.

That is it for now. Have a nice day.

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. Our 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! 

On Jan. 21, the Pagan History Project announced its official launch on its public blog site. Organizers wrote, “It was a long time coming, with several false starts, usually hindered by finances and time.” Despite delays, they have pushed forward, and the project officially opened just in time for the 11th Conference for Current Pagan Studies.

Director Murtagh anDoile explained further, “Last year, 2014, was a record year for deaths in the wide Community. And, while this site’s purpose is not solely to commemorate those who have passed, it just brings forth the need to record our history, now, before we get too far from our primary sources. All Pagans are storytellers …Small moments and ideas that, planted in the fertile soil of the Modern Pagan movement, have gone on to change what was once a set of small spiritual communities into a growing social force.”  Over time, the organizers will share details on how to get involved and how to share personal stories.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

For the third consecutive year, Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary, has attended an interfaith celebration and meeting held by South Carolina’s Governor. Emore is the Pagan representative for the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (IPSC), a state-wide advocacy group promoting interfaith dialog. Three years ago, Governor Nikki Haley declared January “South Carolina Interfaith Harmony Month.” The IPSC has been helping to facilitate actions or events surrounding that declaration.

As part of this work, Emore was invited to speak about Paganism during a panel called “How The Earth Speaks To Us,” held at the McKissick Museum of the University of South Carolina. Held on January 22, she was joined by representatives from other religions including “Judaism, Native American spirituality, Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity.” She said, “It’s impossible to overstate how important it is for Pagans to get out there in their own communities … When people from other faiths get to know us, they gain a respect for our beliefs and practices.”

redgrailA Nebraska-based Wiccan organization has set out to establish a new physical spiritual center. In December, the Order of the Red Grail began raising funds to build The Red Grail Spiritual Retreat Center. The initial plan, as it notes, is to purchase 5 or more acres “of woodland to define this sacred space.” They also hope to include a barn that can be used for “rituals, classes, feasts, weddings, and other community functions.”

Red Grail organizers believe that their current community-based work needs to evolve to meet contemporary needs. They noted that, over the past two decades, members have been performing hospital and prison ministry, volunteerism, community outreach education, military support and donating time and money to local charities. They added,This [current] work is established and stable. However, progressing into the 21st century requires taking the next step – bridging differences by strengthening spiritual community among life-affirming pagans and non-pagans alike.”

In Other News

  • Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press, announced the release of a new anthology Bringing Race to the Table: Exploring Racism in the Pagan Community. Published on January 23, this latest anthology was edited by Taylor Ellwood, Brandy Williams and Crystal Blanton. It includes essays by “Xochiquetzal Duit Odinsdottir, T. Thorn Coyle, Crystal Blanton, Clio Ajana, Erick Dupree, Amy Hale, Lilith Dorsey, Lasara Firefox Allen and many others.”
  • Bloggers and Authors Sannion and Galina Krasskova announced that they will not be hosting another Polytheist Leadership Conference (PLC) in 2016 as previously announced. In a blog post on The House of Vines, they stated that their original objectives had been met as seen through the success of past conferences. They explained, “There are things our community needs even more than [the PLC], and that is where we will be putting our attention in 2015.”
  • Speaking of Polytheist conferences, the new Many Gods West conference opens its early registration on Feb. 1. The registration continues through July in tiered format.The conference will be held in Olympia, Washington from July 31 – Aug. 2.
  • Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone are “revamping” their website, including new information, writings and appearance dates. Included on the site are a number of rare slides taken by Stewart Farrar “for use on the cover of the LP Legend of the Witches.” The photos include images of Alex and Maxine Sanders, initiation rites, cord magic and more.
  • For those interested in the work done at the American Academy of Religions’ yearly meeting, M. Macha Nightmare is posting detailed reports and stories based on her experience at this year’s event. Along with short personal notes and observations, she shares some of the information learned in various panels such as one called “Writers and Artists as Agents of Cultural Change” or “The Shifting Boundaries of the Secular, Spiritual, and Religious” At this time, there are only three published articles; however, she has promised more as time allows.
  • Modern Druidry takes center stage in a mainstream news article for The University Times, the student-run newspaper of Trinity College Dublin. Written by a non-Pagan writer, the lengthy article describes the writer’s journey exploring modern Druid culture and community in Ireland. She ends by saying, “Although not converted, I enjoyed the experience. If nothing else the Celtic symbols reminded me of a world that once existed and of which we are all descended from … Perhaps as a country we don’t need to look abroad for ways to progress but inwardly, at small groups like this who seek to revive something from our Pagan past that has long been lost.”

That’s it for now. Have a great day.

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures in and around our collective communities. These voices may appear in Pagan media, personal blogs, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop us a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“At the winter solstice I can’t help but be aware that the earth is rushing inexorably towards its fatal crossing of the ecliptic on December 21. After that longest night, the sun will rise a tiny bit earlier, set a bit later. Before I know it, the year will have changed again, and life will have moved on as I sleep, whether I am ready for a new year or not … In the warm dark I try to release my busy mind, drift into the shallows of consciousness and hope to sail into the watery channel of dreaming wisdom. Somewhere inside me, I am convinced, waits a door welcoming me back to my full self. Through that door I’ve traveled back and forth countless times in this life. I hope to meet you there.” – Holli Emore, From “Winter Solstice Dreams”

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Saturnalia is a time of reversals. so it is said. Those of us who make our livings at educational institutions usually enjoy a break–however long or short it may be–between our scholastic or collegiate terms at this time of year, when the last thing we might want to be doing is reading and studying. Enjoy the holiday parties and rituals, and hold some of your own, I’d advise those who are in a similar boat. And, for those who are not used to making friends with books and libraries and the spirits that haunt them? Make it a point to take a few moments when you’re indoors (from the dark and cold of winter in the Northern Hemisphere; or, a few moments out of the sun and in the shade in the Southern Hemisphere!) to pick up a book or a trusted and vetted internet source and find out more about the specifics of whatever holiday tradition you celebrate, whether of ancient provenance or of more modern vintage, and understand that holidays and the history of them happen in real time, with real people under real circumstances deciding to commemorate the turning of the seasons and the gods associated with them in particular ways.”- P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, “A Syncretistic Saturnalia”

Erick DuPree

Erick DuPree

“The new year is upon us. This is the time of resolutions and promises to self often forgotten by February. But what if the commitment to self was more empowered, and leaned into the invitation of the wholeness that is holy, rather than being an obligation? For me, holiness and the sacred is found in Daily Practice … Daily Practice helps keep me from going crazy. No, seriously, in a world where so little is in our control, seemingly less filled with compassion and more filled with injustice, my daily practice allows me to sink into the safety of the only thing constant in my life, the breath.” – Erick DuPree, “Just Breathe, The Practice of Permission, Affirmation & Dedication”

robin fennelly

Robin Fennelly

“So it begins as the new year is just hours away and I enter it riding the waves of Saturn’s ordered time and the Dark Mother’s wisdom. This journey will leave me cracked and battered as a ship thrust upon the shores. But in that moment of splitting open and allowing the truth of my being to spill out freely, new flesh, new bone, new heart and new mind will be birthed from a womb that quickens, reshapes and reforms what lays within Her dark waters.” – Robin Fennelly, “Personal Reflection on the New Year”

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

Rev. Philipp J. Kessler

“Whether you are an activist, a leader, a teacher, or just the average Pagan, taking time for yourself is important. You don’t have to be active on the front lines of a movement to need down time. You don’t have to lead a coven, grove, circle, what-have-you to need personal time. Despite evidence to the contrary, every single one of us needs “me time”, no matter our circumstances. Do what feels good, what helps you to relax, rest and recharge. No only is it healthy, it makes you feel good about yourself … It is Winter time in the North, a time for many of us to look inside ourselves. Unless we live in more temperate climes, we have fewer outdoor activities, fewer picket lines, fewer demonstrations. There is still plenty of work for us to do as activists, but less of it done outdoors and in person. Let’s take some of that time for ourselves and recharge our batteries. Our friend in the South are at the peak of the outdoor activities that may involve them as activists. They, too, need to remember to take some time and rest themselves.” – Rev Kess, “I’m not as Young as I Use to Be”

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“When I was in Winnipeg this fall on the book tour, my friend Dodie Graham McKay, who writes for the Wild Hunt, was speaking about how everyone talks about “creating Pagan community.” She argued that we have community; we have internet communities and tradition communities and communities that come together in pretty much every place that can call itself a city. She said that she thinks it’s time we start building a Pagan culture. We need art; we need music; we need shared songs; we need shared stories and shared experiences.” – Sable Aradia, “Creating Pagan Culture”

Clio Ajana

Clio Ajana

“This is the time of year when many look for new paths, beginnings or a fresh start. Apologies can be brief, with the saying “off with the old, on with the new” being the catch phrase to absolve our own conscience or those of others who might not want to reflect upon the pain or unresolved issues of 2014. Yet, this should be the very time that we consider apologies, those others gave to us, those we made to others, and most of all, those we wish we had made, but did not. Perhaps we ran out of time through the death of a loved one. Others could not turn back the clock due to a move to another locale, hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Some chose the “let sleeping dogs lie” rationale to counter the voice of one’s own conscience that reminds the heart of a needed apology … One lesson that I have learned through my visits to men, incarcerated for years, and sometimes decades, is that an apology is not just a saying or a brief “I’m sorry” hastily given … Instead, these men have reminded me how in Paganism, in the Craft, or in any tradition, self-reflection and self-accountability are key to a strong religious practice.” Clio Ajana – “Memories, Apologies and Veneration”

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“What I hope is that for 2015 – which is already looking to be another challenging yet fruitful year – we spark up our imaginations. That we wheel the creaky machinery out, dust it off, clean it, oil it, re-calibrate it, and set it running again….I want to make art and stories matter. I want to imagine a world of lightness, creativity, and truth. I want visionary dreams arising from the darkness. I want caring to matter. I want kindness to matter. I want fierce righteousness to matter. I want to make love and justice matter.” – T. Thorn Coyle, Imagination Matters: Toward 2015

 

Happy New Year to everyone! 

The Council for a Parliament of the World Religions made two big announcements this month. On Aug. 8, the Council reported that its Parliament would now be held every two years. Then Aug. 15, the Council announced that the very next 2015 Parliament would be hosted in a U.S. city for the first time in 22 years.

cpwr_logo_headerThe original Parliament of the World Religions was held in Chicago in 1893. As noted on its website, that meeting is now largely considered the “birth of interreligious dialogue worldwide.” The landmark event brought together representatives of both eastern and western religious traditions and, additionally, supported an unprecedented number of women speakers. After the 1893 Parliament, Hindu attendee Swami Vivekananda said:

If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence, if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and the destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart, and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, in spite of resistance: “Help and not Fight,” “Assimilation and not Destruction,” “Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.

Unfortunately, the Parliament wasn’t held again until 1993. Over that 100 years, the world’s religious canvas changed considerably. With all of those changes, the need for interreligious work only grew. In 1988, a group of religious leaders met in Chicago to form the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions as a nonprofit organization. Their purpose was to celebrate and promote interfaith dialog and peace through a regularly scheduled Parliamentary event. Since that point, there have been 5 Parliaments.

1993 – Chicago, USA

1999 – Cape Town, South Africa

2004 – Barcelona, Spain

2007 – Monterrey, Mexico

2009 – Melbourne, Australia

This past April, Council trustees met in Atlanta, Georgia for a special “Charter for Compassion” celebration event and the induction of two Pagans into the Martin Luther King, Jr. International College of Ministries and Laity at Morehouse College. During that weekend, the two inductees, Andras Corban-Arthen and Phyllis Curott, spent several hours speaking with local Pagans about the organization’s work. During that talk titled “Pagans in the Parliament,” they showed a digital slideshow illustrating the 20 years of Pagan involvement with the Parliament.

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Curott and Corban-Arthen at the MLK induction ceremony and Compassion celebration.

Today, both Curott and Corban-Arthen are on the board of trustees and involved with the decisions and future direction of the Parliament. One of those recent decisions was to hold the Parliament every two years. Up to now, the time cycle was set at five years but the actual implementation has taken various lengths of time. The last Parliament was held in 2009 and the next one will be in 2015.

Why have they moved the cycle to two years? The Board says:

As the interfaith movement has doubled and tripled in interfaith action and services in the last decade it has become necessary that this largest summit of people of faith working together for a just, peaceful and sustainable world come together more often.

Board Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid also cited “the age of social media, a globalized world and shorter attention spans” for the adoption of a shorter Parliament cycle. The trustees hope that this change will draw more attention and greater support for the global interfaith movement. In addition, they believe it will engage and inspire younger generations.

The new 2-year period begins in 2015 with a Parliament to be held in the U.S. The Board has yet to announce the specific city but the organizational process is in motion. Chair Mujahid said:

America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it’s about time the Parliament come back home. The Parliament in 2015 will strengthen the interfaith movement through our listening, sharing and networking with each other.

U.S-based Pagans directly involved in the interfaith movement are looking forward to the event. In response to the announcement, the Contemporary Pagan Alliance, based in West Virginia, stated: “Excellent news! We will definitely be there.”

Upon hearing the news, Rev. Sandy Harris, M. Div noted the importance in the continuation of organizations work. She says, “The Parliament of World Religions has provided a venue for exploring [and] has opened a window into American spirituality far wider than the standard monotheistic beliefs. It has helped us all to explore the origins, practices, and understandings of people of all religions and paths.”

Holli Emore, writer at The Wild Garden blog and member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, hopes to attend the 2015 event. She says:

I am beside myself that it will be here. This is where the first Parliament happened. I think that most Pagans in America are not involved enough with interfaith and don’t understand it. They see it as a platform for defending Paganism and miss the richness and joy of engaging and getting to know other faiths and people of other faiths.

In order to best serve future attendees, the Council is doing a survey on wishes and needs for 2015. The survey is posted on their website. Additionally the Council is seeking bids for hosting the 2017 event. The submission process and outline are on the site as well.

In meantime, the world awaits the announcement of the exact host city for the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions. Stay tuned for more….

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.

Here are some updates on stories previously mentioned or reported on at The Wild Hunt.

Hollicrop-589x1024At Patheos, Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, writes about her meeting with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, as part of an interfaith proclamation that was issued for the month of January. Quote: “I don’t support Haley politically. But that is not the point; politics is not what brought us together on this occasion. Once elected, Haley became my governor, and I am deeply grateful for her support of interfaith work. To our knowledge, South Carolina is the only state in the U.S. to acknowledge the importance of religious plurality and issue a formal proclamation. Haley may understand, better than any other governor in the nation, that nurturing diversity will strengthen us, not just spiritually, but also economically and in the public sector.” Last month, Wild Hunt staff writer Heather Greene wrote about Gov. Haley’s proclamation, and the role Emore (as a Pagan) has played in South Carolina’s interfaith community.

marianne-williamson-smilingBack in December I noted the Congressional candidacy of New Age superstar Marianne Williamson, author of the immensely popular self-help book “A Return to Love.” Now, the Religion News Service has a piece up about her “prayerful” bid for political office. Quote: “With about four months before primary elections, Williamson is seeking to tap into widespread discontent and disillusionment and apply her own brand of well-packaged, transformational wisdom to stoke ‘a people’s movement. It’s the people who have to intervene, because the political status quo is part of what has taken us to where we are,’ Williamson said in an interview this week, highlighting corporate money as a primary cause for the present state of affairs. ‘It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment.’ Williamson launched her campaign in October. She wants to end the status quo of capitulation to corporate money in politics and encourage an engaged, loving electorate.” With the recent retirement announcement of Democrat Henry Waxman, who currently holds the contested California seat, what was once a long-shot now seems somewhat more likely.

religion-50-year-change-Figure2We talk a lot about the “nones” here at The Wild Hunt, those folks who refuse to be pinned with a religious label, and who have experienced rapid growth in recent years. The ongoing question is: what will their ascent mean for our society and how we conceive religion’s role in it? Americans United points to some new data from Baylor University researchers, which shows the United States becoming more religiously diverse, including the rise of “nones” and “others.” Quote: “The proportion of Americans who identify with “Other” religious traditions has doubled, an increase that is closely tied to the increased immigration of Asian populations who brought non-western religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) with them. While still a small proportion of the overall population, they contribute greatly to the increased religious diversity of the American religious landscape. In 20 states, scattered in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian religion. Judaism is the largest non-Christian religion in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, and Buddhism is the largest religion in 13 western states. In Delaware and Arizona, Hinduism is the largest non-Christian religion, while in South Carolina it is the Baha’i.”

blog-jesusinschool-500x280_1At the end of January, I profiled how a Buddhist student was harassed by the Christian majority at a public school district in Louisiana, prompting litigation from the ACLU. Since then, the story has exploded across the Internet. Now, prominent culture blog Boing Boing points to an ACLU-penned petition to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for a federal investigation. Quote: “No child should be subjected to the type of humiliation that our son has endured. The Department of Justice has the power to end this unlawful religious discrimination at schools in Sabine Parish and set an example for the rest of Louisiana— but we have to make sure they take the case. Please join us in calling on the Department of Justice to launch an immediate investigation into this unlawful religious discrimination so that no other child has to go through the harassment that our son has endured.” We will keep you updated as this story develops.

President Obama at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast.This past Thursday was the National Prayer Breakfast, for those who missed it (that would include me). You can read President Obama’s full remarks, here. Quote: “Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion.  And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America.  Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights.” As I’ve pointed out in the past, despite the bipartisan good-naturedness and calls for religious freedom, the National Prayer Breakfast has deeply problematic elements for anyone who isn’t a Christian. Activist groups have called on politicians, to seemingly no avail, to boycott this event. At least the existence of gays and non-believers was invoked this year. Maybe we’ll actually get to a point where it’s robustly interfaith too.

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

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“Christians were right though – Yuletide is truly Pagan, in the sense that it celebrates warmth, food, and also the ecstatic. Solstice has long been a time of spiritual renewal and religious celebration; but also a time to drink, dance, make music and love; when all acts of love and pleasure are truly Her rituals. We need such celebrations. Our well-being is increased when we party. We let go of everyday anxieties and briefly go back to the Golden Age. Ecstatic spiritual celebrations are cathartic; they help free us of our preoccupations, our problems and issues, and the relentless negativity of world news. What draws many to Paganism is our love of life, the world around us, and the joy, even ecstasy, that people can experience through Pagan celebratory rites, where we drum, sing and dance around the fire long into the night. This is not escapism, but recognition that letting go and going back into childish pleasure and delight in the now is psychologically and spiritually beneficial and healing. Afterwards we feel stronger, more able to take up once more the burdens of everyday adult life.” – Vivianne Crowley, on reclaiming Christmas.

J. Rhett Aultman

J. Rhett Aultman

“I’m an atheist. I’m also Pagan. It’s actually not that hard to reconcile. At the very beginning, it’s worth making something quite clear — there is really no rulebook for what makes a Pagan. It’s a term that seems to encompass a rather wide and diverse set of people. Generally speaking, Thelemites and Wiccans and Heathens all seemingly share a common set of social concerns and social infrastructure, even if they don’t share cosmology or practices. The reasons for hanging together under this umbrella term aren’t within the scope of the article, nor is the history of the term. I’m not out to speak about how we got to this point. The fact of the matter is that we’re here. And what is Paganism? It is, effectively, a culture that provides a web of common reference and language for a bunch of different people with different beliefs and practices to hang together. Paganism, therefore, has no particular theological or religious test.” – James Rhett Aultman, on being a Pagan and an atheist.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

“Marie Laveau’s Tomb has stood the test of time. It has seen flood, violence, disrespect, haters, and now someone has painted it pink. Marie Laveau’s Tomb is a shrine to Voodoo practitioners around the globe, a mecca if you will, that is the second most visited grave in the United States. Marie Laveau is New Orleans Voodoo Queen. Immortalized in story and song, she was said to have possessed immense power which lives on through her spirit today. The grave is a site for visitors to leave offerings and experience the majesty that still surrounds this Voodoo Queen over a century after her death. Unfortunately the pink paint is not the first time she has seen rough treatment. For years patrons have persisted in making 3 x marks on the tomb in a supposed petition for their requests. This is very damaging to the plaster which must be replaced periodically. During the filming of my documentary Bodies of Water:Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation I interviewed several practitioners from tour guides to store owners who vehemently tried to discourage this practice […] All I have to say about the potential pink vandals is Shame, Shame, Shame!” – Lilith Dorsey, on vandals painting Marie Laveau’s Tomb pink.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

“Whoa! Remember us? We’re the idolaters who worship rocks and trees and when we get really wild, the whole damn earth! Just because Heathen folk like me believe that it is this life we are living that matters rather than some insubstantial (and far from guaranteed) hope of future paradise, does not mean our “materialism” compares to or has anything to do with the teachings of Christian prosperity preachers. Most liberals and progressives are celebrating, I suppose. I, for one, speaking as a Heathen, am a bit upset. It’s difficult enough being Pagan these days, a minority religion among minority religions. Bad enough we get saddled with your Satan and your endless flocks of demons; don’t go dumping your unwanted preachers on us too. Look, it is hardly surprising that the Pope holds to his Church’s centuries old belief that Paganism is inferior. I get that and I don’t expect it to change any time soon. The entire Old Testament is an anti-Pagan diatribe, a rejection as Pagan of everything outside itself.” – Hrafnkell Haraldsson, on Pope Francis calling failed Christians “pagan.”

starhawk 5 19 04

Starhawk

“I realize I have been trying to avoid, a deep and abiding sadness.  I think everyone who loves the earth must be feeling it, that sense of things slipping away, pulled by the tide out of our grasp and gone—places of great beauty, species of remarkable birds, rain patterns we can count on, the confidence that our children’s children will inherit a world in which they can thrive.   When we attune ourselves to what nature is saying, she’s shrieking in our ears that it is all spiraling out of control, too fast now to be easily stopped.  And all the big systems, the governments and international agencies that are supposed to kick in and shift our direction are themselves all spiraling out of control, like tops wobbling in a wild gyre, crashing hardest on those least able to construct bulwarks of money and power. I’m an optimist by nature, and an activist by choice.  As long as I can still balance on creaky knees and draw a breath into wheezy lungs, I’ll keep on fighting the destruction and working for regeneration. But on this Solstice when time stops, I have to stop, and draw a breath of the sea air, and face the possibility that we might lose.  All our efforts might not be enough.  Decisions made far away from us in inaccessible stratas of power steal away our future, and maybe we won’t be able to stop them.” – Starhawk, on activism, and not lighting a solstice bonfire.

chas

Chas Clifton

“When this slope burns, I thought, it will burn like a volcano. And it did, on October 23, 2012, a date seared into my memory […] All this is prelude to thinking about how an animistic/polytheistic outlook copes with such changes to the land.  No, it is not like someone paved it over and put up a Family Dollar store. Something will come back—the scrubby Gambel oak has re-sprouted, and there were wildflowers last summer, but the ponderosa pine and Douglas fir will be much slower to return. I probably won’t see this valley forested again. I will never forget walking around a week or two after the fire, when the slopes just felt nuked. Crows overhead were the only life—the rattlesnake guardian almost certainly died, if tree roots were being burned underground. The little seasonal spring, however, remains as sort of natural shrine, a focus for hope and continuity, bear cubs and wild turkeys.” – Chas Clifton, on what happens when trees disappear.

Ocean from Deaf Pagan Crossroads

Ocean

“As I discuss this whole fake interpreter issue with others, one thing becomes clear – this is a far more complex situation than just someone faking a profession for which they do not have the appropriate credentials. Much like the layers of an onion, various levels of concern can and have been identified – issues of national security and background checks, issues of mental illness, issues of creditability and accountability, issues of competence, issues of language barriers, issues of accessibility, issues of humor vs. offensiveness, issues of cultural appropriation, issues of recognition and respect. And for me personally and for many members of the Deaf Community, this whole thing frustrates us and hurts us… on so many levels. As we struggle to deal with these issues and the ensuing emotions they generate, we ask that individuals be patient, sensitive, and to the extent possible…understanding. And most importantly, that everyone be respectful of the Deaf Community’s feelings…many of which have been brought to the surface by this incident.” – Virginia L. Beach (aka Ocean), on the fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s state funeral.

Aine Llewellyn

Aine Llewellyn

“If you don’t like that certain posts you’re writing get the most pageviews and comments, maybe it’s time to stop writing those posts. Maybe it’s time to write something else. I don’t think people are being forced to blog about specific topics (but if they are, let me know!). Blog about what makes you happy, what you think is important, what matters to you. If you blog about something controversial, it’s to be expected that you will get lots of pageviews. Bemoaning that fact does nothing for anyone, except maybe stroking your own ego or trying to prove how ‘above it all’ you are. (But none of us are, really.) Write what matters to you. If you don’t think something is important – or think the people reading your blog put too much importance on something – you don’t have to write about it. I don’t write about ceremonial magic, or even magic much at all. It’s not important to me, it doesn’t really stir my brain. If I write on a topic and then decide it’s not worth the stress, or not as interesting as I previously thought, I stop writing about it – or I figure out how to write about it differently.” – Aine Llewellyn, sharing some “thinky thoughts” during the Winter holidays.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“No wonder the magi watched the skies.  This is the time of year when all the heavenly bodies seem to dazzle with chilly brilliance in their indigo field of space. Here in the woodlands part of the country, the sky seems to open downward with the falling leaves. Not only does the dark come sooner, faster, longer, but small twinkling lights peep from beneath the highest branches of the woods behind my home. What wonders must have shown themselves in ancient times, centuries before anyone dreamed that a satellite camera might show the earth covered by an Indra’s net of human-made lights. Tonight from the orbiting space station, astronauts can see a grand conjunction of the Earth, Jupiter and Venus.  The sun has just completed another annual analemma, a sort of ourobouran eternal dance through the sky.” – Holli Emore, on the wonders of the night sky.

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