Archives For Holli Emore

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!

Before we start this week’s edition of Pagan Voices, I wanted to note that today is Veterans Day, and we here at The Wild Hunt would like to give our thanks to all military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifices. Today is also an excellent time to think of the modern Pagans and Heathens currently serving in the military and offer them our support. A great way to do that is to support to organizations that offer services to Pagan military members. Now then, on to our spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community.

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy

Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle at the Air Force Academy. Photo by: Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

“I think as Pagans, it is especially important that we engage in this practice of remembrance.  Whatever your view on war (some traditions strongly respecting the warrior path, such as the Asatru; some being adamantly opposed to war, such as Reclaiming Witches), our empathy for the experience of it is a valuable service we can contribute to our culture and the world.  The many reasons connect to the uniquely Pagan experience of our spirituality.  Now granted, these are all generalizations; and as such, not everyone will fit these moulds.  But we seem to have these commonalities that make remembrance, especially of powerful and terrible events such as war, much more immediate and intense.” – Sable Aradia, on Veterans Day / Remembrance Day.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Yes, I think there are many truths, but “many” does not automatically mean every or any; and it certainly doesn’t mean that all things are truly equal, and thus there is no “real truth.” And, I suspect, this is where a huge number of modern Pagans and polytheists over-read pluralism, and think it means “anything goes,” or the all-too-common maxim “nothing is true, all is permissible” (paraphrased slightly from Vladimir Bartol’s Alamut). […] As a polytheist and a pluralist who thinks that there are many possible truths, I am obliged to respect people who hold these viewpoints and not do them physical harm, nor deprive them of their bodily integrity or security of person and possessions. But, I can debate them to my heart’s content, I can disagree with them, I can resist their efforts to restrain my own freedoms or to demoralize me, and I can even repudiate them and execrate them if they think it is their right and obligation to harm or intimidate me or other queer people. (And, I have and I do, regularly!) […] There is, then, the question of polytheism itself, and whether or not it can tolerate monotheism or monism as other potential “truths.” I would argue that it cannot and it need not, because both of those viewpoints invalidate the basis of polytheism, and thus the experiential core that almost every polytheist upholds and responds to in their theological position as a polytheist. Monotheism and monism cannot be given equal credence as “truths” (or “truth,” as they’d probably prefer it!) because they do not allow for pluralism of divine experiences, or for the diversity of approach and ways of life necessary to nature as we understand it to exist at present.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on how polytheism is not relativism.

Annika Mongan

Annika Mongan

“Many Pagans are former Christians. Those of us who converted from Christianity generally have Christian friends and family praying that we will “repent” and “come back.” We’re seen as prodigals on the wrong path who will realize our error and return to the Christian church. Sometimes the pressure is tremendous, especially where family is involved. We find strength in our Pagan community. We sometimes deal with the pressure by feeding our own us-vs-them mentality. We tell each other how much better our new path is and how glad we are to be done with Christianity. And then one of our own leaves our ranks and does exactly what we vowed we’d never do: “coming back” to Christianity. […] As a Pagan I value pluralism. I value diversity. I believe that divinity is expressed in many forms and that we all understand Spirit differently. We have hard polytheists, monists, pantheists, syncretists, and atheists in our midst. We have endless debates on who is a “real” Pagan and who isn’t, and in the end we still find ourselves under the same umbrella. The Christo-Pagan debate has been getting old for a while now and yet the movement continues to grow. Are we really afraid of Christianity or are we worried about exclusivity? Are we so worried about exclusivity that we exclude Christians from the interfaith table because we fear they might be exclusive? Do we recognize irony when it slaps us in the face?” – Annika Mongan, penning an open letter to Teo Bishop concerning his recent re-engagement with the figure of Jesus.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

“Peace, it’s a word that has been redefined over the centuries to meet the needs of the cultures that seek it. Peace through strength, peace through protest, peace through conquest, and peace through the struggle to compromise have each had multiple turns upon the world stage. Inner peace has been sought through retreat, meditation, visualization, the quest for insight and service. All worthy pursuits that add to the totality of the human experience. Peace in our time, however, depends on an inner journey that confronts the closely held beliefs, privilege and prejudices that permeate the human condition. Directly stated, peace depends upon the individual human potential to abolish the concept of “the other” from our daily lives. Until the day comes, for each of us, that there is no individual beyond deserving respect, human dignity and a voice in their own destiny there will be no peace in our hearts, in our society or upon the face of Gaia herself. Sounds like a simple process to achieve such a lofty goal doesn’t it? Not really, for each of us there are those beyond being acceptable in our society. What I am referring to is not simply the political, religious and socio economic divides that separate us but something deeper. It is confronting the idea of “the other” in the most extreme ways. Coming to a place where the most heinous of criminals, terrorists, religious fanatics and bigots are seen as a part of the greater whole, fully human, deserving of human dignity and engagement in social discourse.” – Peter Dybing, on peace and abolishing the ‘other’.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“What can Pagans offer the world? Not Paganism the religion(s) but all of us who call ourselves Pagans. What can we offer individually? What can we offer in our covens and groves and other groups? As an individual blogger this is an easy question. I write what the Awen brings to me, I write what interests me, and I write what I’m doing. If you like something I write, great – enjoy reading it. Hopefully you’ll walk away better informed and maybe better inspired. If you really like it, maybe you’ll leave a comment and we’ll explore the matter in greater depth. If you don’t like it, maybe you’ll like my next post… and ultimately, there are plenty of other bloggers to read. The question gets more complicated with a group. Now you’re not just dealing with one person’s thoughts and needs and desires, you’re dealing with several. If the group is public, you’re also dealing with the needs of people who aren’t even in the room. What does your group offer? Who do you offer it to? […]  I encourage you to have an intentional conversation about what you can offer.  What is part of your group’s core identity – what do you feel like you must do?  What are the needs of your members – both what they need to receive and what they need to give?  What are the needs of your community and how can you help meet them?  What are the goddesses and gods you follow calling you to do? Then figure out what your capacity is – how much of this can you actually do?” – John Beckett, on what Pagans can offer the world.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

Aidan Kelly in younger days.

“A viable balance between politics and religion is as difficult to achieve and maintain as is such a balance between the partners in a marriage. Neither too close nor too distant will work in the long run. Here I will argue that Paganism and Socialism are compatible partners, by means of a commentary on the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, to show that we are socialist, and on the Bill of Rights, to show that, in the broadest sense, we are Pagan. One logistical problem here is that the term ”socialism” has been poisoned by the lies of the rich and powerful, just as the actual teachings of Christian faith have been. The classic socialism of the Enlightenment period was simply the concept that a society should be governed for the benefit of all the people who make it up, not for the benefit of any minority, as Lincoln emphasized at Gettysburg. That concept, which Jefferson derived from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, is the foundation of our political system. We have been socialists since 1776. Our social philosophy is embodied not in the Constitution, but in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, which declared our independence not only from the British Empire, but also from the “dead hand” of all previous religious, philosophical, and political beliefs. Ours was not merely a political revolution. The colonists did not want to govern themselves in the way that England had governed them. Rather, ours was a social and cultural revolution, changing even the way people spoke and still speak: everyone would now be addressed with the respectful ‘you,’ not the familial ‘thou.'” – Aidan Kelly, on the Pagan and socialist nature of the Untied States of America.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The corporate world – when it bothers to pay attention – speaks of “life/work balance.” As if life and work were two separate and opposing forces. They are not. Just the phrase is a problem. We do it with many things: “sacred and mundane”. “Magical life and real life.” We speak in these binaries as though magical life cannot be real, or as though work is not a healthy part of life. We are tearing ourselves apart for no reason. What sort of life would you like to lead? What sort of life would remind you that every part of life is important, magical, and sacred? What things can you let go? For me, my life includes rest, reading, exercise, clients, writing, students, activism, good food, work, music, sitting under trees, bicycling, sex, friends, spiritual practice…Every day includes a healthy measure of most, and every week includes the remainder. All the parts of my self need to be fed. All the parts of myself need reminders that they are important facets of the whole. Exercise is just as important as spiritual practice is just as important as meeting with spiritual direction clients. I spend different amounts of time on each of these, but they all weave into the whole. It took me a long time and some reframing to get here. I still work a lot, but there is a more useful sense of flow among all the aspects of my life, less of a sense of separation. What feels important to you? What would feel healthy and nourishing to include? What would it feel liberating to let go of? What sort of life do you lead and what life are you hoping to craft? Stop thinking of life balance and start pondering life integration. Manifestation will follow.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on the life/work balance, and integration.

Eric Scott

Eric Scott

“In THE DARK WORLD, after a little bit of naked exposition (obviously reminiscent of the prologue to Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring), we are able to get right into it: the Nine Worlds exist, and we get to visit quite a few of them. (There’s even a scene in Vanaheim, which is traditionally the most boringest plane of existence in Marvel Asgard.) There’s very little apologizing for the fantastic elements in this film; there’s no self-consciousness in the Asgard scenes. Design-wise, this film embraces the “science fantasy” aesthetic even more than previous installments have: I can see a lot of STAR WARS in this film. And this completely works! While easily lampooned as Vikings… in… spaaaaaaace!, I found the design of both Asgard and the Dark Elves’ weaponry, armor, and space ships to be delightfully imaginative. They have flying longships, folks, complete with shields hanging off the sides. The settings are equally impressive: Svartalfheim (simply called “The Dark World” in the film because, well, Svartalfheim doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) is a sepia-skied waste of black sand, Vanaheim is a rugged wilderness, and Asgard continues in its golden glory We get a much better picture of the relationships between Thor and his companions, only sometimes filtered through a surrogate like Jane Foster. This leads to some great scenes, particularly between Thor and Heimdall; Idris Elba doesn’t spend an enormous amount of time on-screen, but he adds considerable depth to his character. Really, all of the Asgardians get moments to shine, especially Rene Russo’s Frigga. (And of course, Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, but that was to be expected at this point.) Christopher Eccleston’s villain, Malekith, remains at a distance – he’s good enough for the story, but his scenes won’t leave you with the kind of attachment you might have felt for Loki at the end of the first film.” – Eric Scott, giving his initial impressions of the film “Thor: The Dark World.”

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“The military as an example of daily interfaith relations? Never having been a soldier, it had not occurred to me, but that’s one of the things I heard at a remarkable meeting this week at the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplains School and Center, here in Columbia, S.C., at Fort Jackson. The Chaplains School was hosting the annual meeting of Interfaith Partners of S.C., and “host” would be an  understatement for the outstanding experience they provided. From the time I parked my car across the street I was greeted by chaplain-soldiers about every 100 yards who made sure I found my way to the meeting hall. Inside they had put up a lovely display of religious materials and mementos of various military interfaith gatherings around the world, plus, beautifully-presented refreshments. While the Navy chaplains had a conflict and could not join us that day, the room was full of Army and Air Force chaplains, many of them instructors at the school, who bustled around making us feel welcome as we arrived. The welcome included name tags and nice table tents, two official photographers, and a local television news camera in the corner. […] Cherry Hill Seminary received several favorable and public mentions, which bodes well for potential future engagement with the Chaplain School. Since CHS is beginning to work on an application to the Department of Defense to have our Master of Divinity recognized as equivalent to that of other accredited schools, it is very helpful for me to learn more about the culture of military chaplaincy and its educational requirements. Also gratifying was to hear several chaplains share their encounters with Pagans in uniform. It was a great day to be out of the broom closet, because Paganism was most certainly not invisible in this crowd, and received equal respect with all the other religions.” – Holli Emore, on interfaith and the U.S. Armed Forces.

That’s all I have for now, my best wishes to you all on this Veterans Day.

Yesterday, Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary announced the launch of a new program, Pagan Life Academy, a series of low-cost lessons designed to bring Pagan values, ethics, and ritual to incarcerated Pagans. In explaining the rationale behind this new initiative, Executive Director Holli Emore said that “the prison experience can be a cauldron of transformation for many” and that they “hope that the newly-launched Pagan Life Academy will inspire others to design additional lessons and contribute to the series.”

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

“For years and years, incarcerated Pagans across the country have been writing CHS to ask, no plead, for instructional materials.  About three years ago I was talking to Patrick McCollum about prison ministry and he suggested that one of the best things we could do as a learning institution was to create a set of lessons.  He advised that they should be printed to mail and be very low cost (most inmates work, but make only cents per hour and must buy most of their own toiletries).  Meanwhile, the letters continued to come. 

Several of our faculty raised their hand when I inquired about interest in working on such a project.  This would be a labor of love, and it would mean learning about culture and systems largely unfamiliar to most of us.  Several times we thought we were close to releasing a series, then were advised by someone closer to the penal systems to make changes.  We are greatly indebted to Selina Rifkin, who created the concept for eight written lessons and wrote each of them, and who formally transferred her copyright to CHS as a gift.  We also owe deep gratitude to Candace Kant, who began the process initially, to Annie Finch, who contributed a number of ritual chants, and, especially, to Wendy Griffin, who spent many hours as editor and advisor.  Thank you, all, for your caring, and for contributing your talent to this growing, though out of sight, need in our community.”

Each lesson and ritual costs $5, and is structured around the 8-spoked Wiccan/Pagan “wheel of the year.” Though the lessons are written so that they can be adapted to as wide a range of Pagan traditions as possible.

Academy-300x82

“Contemporary Paganism is really a family of religions, the most popular of which are Asatru or Heathenry, Druidry, feminist Goddess worship, Wicca, non-Wiccan forms of religious witchcraft and reconstructionism (the attempted recreation of ancient religions such as those of Greece and Egypt). Of these Wicca is the largest. Because there may be different kinds of Pagans in any prison, we have attempted to create a Pan-Pagan prison program that includes elements from these traditions and emphasizes some of the values they have in common.”

Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum, who has done extensive work advocating for Pagan inmates, said the initiative was “very much needed” and that Cherry Hill Seminary was, quote, “changing the world and also making history.” Chaplain Sandra Harris, who was awarded Cherry Hill Seminary’s first Masters of Divinity, added that this was a “great step forward in Pagan prison ministry.”

“I know that there are many, many Pagans all over the United States serving time that we’re not aware of, and [who] could really use some support. And without a Pagan volunteer, they probably aren’t going to get any from their prison. And I think that our Pagan values are good values to share with people in the prison setting, too.”Holly O’Brien, Pagan chaplain and Cherry Hill Seminary Student

Many professional chaplains within the American prison industry feel that the number of Pagans behind bars is growing. As that growth occurs, the need to find ways of accommodating their spiritual needs without the impressive infrastructure of Catholic and Protestant Christian faith traditions can be an ongoing challenge. These materials are a step towards finding ways of getting materials to Pagan inmates in a cheap and effective way. Here’s a list of the existing Pagan Life Academy materials.

Pagan Life Academy

“These first eight lessons are the beginning of a dynamic, growing and changing response to the needs of Pagan inmates.  If you are inspired to create additional lessons which may increase the breadth and depth of the Pagan Life Academy, we welcome submissions.  Note that the Pagan Life Academy is our gift to the community, with no payments or royalties going to writers.  Cherry Hill Seminary reserves the right to edit copy as needed, or to decline use of a submission.”

Contact information, and more details, can be found at the Pagan Life Academy page.

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. Pagan Community Notes is just one of the many regular features The Wild Hunt brings you to help keep you informed about what’s going on in our interconnected communities. If you appreciate this reporting, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the nearly 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, on to the news…

TCE-frontcover-med copyJournalist Beth Winegarner, who moderated a panel on Pagans and the press at the 2013 PantheaCon in San Jose, has a new book coming out in December that explores how different teen pastimes got “caught in the crossfire” after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Quote: “‘There are stories in The Columbine Effect from teens who got themselves through horrific incidentsincluding severe burns or parent who might dieby listening to heavy metal. Other teens told me about discovering themselves and finding a network of friends through Wicca or Satanism. And there’s research to back them up,’ Winegarner says.’The Columbine Effect’ highlights the voices of academics, authors, legislators and others whose work supports the idea that some of the most demonized pastimes are actually good for kids. From Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to pagan author and NPR reporter Margot Adler, the book is filled with experts who see no harm in letting teens explore these interests.” It should be a thought-provoking work, and I’ll be lining up an interview with Winegarner in the near future to talk about Paganism within the context of her book’s thesis. For now, you can see a promotional video and read a sample chapter of “The Columbine Effect” at Winegarner’s official web site.

spiralheartSpiralheart, a community within the Reclaiming tradition, is launching Alchemeet, a once-a-month “Pagan meeting-of-minds that takes place online and is available to anyone who would like to join.” Quote: “The views presented in Alchemeet are designed to spark creative discussion in a safe environment and may be controversial by nature. These views do not represent the Spiralheart community as a whole and indeed may not even be the opinion of the host. Instead, the topics are meant to be edgy mental exercises in spirituality and to foster online community each month. Our hope is that you may feel infused or inspired to take these discussions and allow them to influence your daily practice—or not. It’s up to you.” The first talk will be held on November 5th, hosted by Boneweaver, on “The Necessity of Cutting Off One’s Legs In Spiritual Work.” Quote:  “I’ll explain my symbolic missing legs and what I’m willing to sacrifice for my deep work—and why!—and then I’d like to hear from you. Are you willing to be brave for the spiritual realizations you seek?” Details on how to join the Google Hangout-based discussion/symposium can be found, here.

10279415704_0dda6c8066_mGuatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun, who got quite a bit of press a couple years ago debunking the 2012 Mayan calendar “doomsday” hype, recently visited Oakland, California where he led a Mayan Fire Ritual for a gathering of the People of the Earth Community. M. Macha Nightmare published her impressions of the event back in September. Quote: “What appealed to me was the obvious care and reverence with which everything was brought together and performed, the sense of fellowship I felt, the beauty of the surroundings, both natural and human-made, the quiet filled with actions but not with talking, and the flames.  I’m grateful to have had this opportunity.” Now, photographer Gregory Harder has posted his photoset from that event to Flickr. For those clued into the California Bay Area Pagan scene, you’ll see several notable folks, including Luisah Teish, Don Frew, Gus diZerega, and more. Below I’ve included one of the photos, from the ritual in progress.

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

In Other Pagan Community News:

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to bring you reporting from our interconnected communities!

Several weeks ago I was contacted by Audrey Galex, an Atlanta-based freelance producer, asking if I could help with some of her upcoming programming. She currently produces and hosts a news program called AIB Metro for the cable station Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters. In her recent episodes Audrey has included a short piece on faith and food. This October she planned to feature harvest foods and felt it was a great opportunity to incorporate a Pagan voice into the show.

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For Audrey, the interfaith experience has been more than just a career path. She was raised Jewish in a predominantly Christian town.  She remembers celebrating traditional religious holidays with friends of many different faiths. As an adult she lived in Egypt, attending American University in Cairo, and traveled extensively throughout the Middle East as both a student and as a journalist for CNN. She comments, ‘Interfaith has been part of my life, like the air I breathe.’

565025_10151625816027057_459023840_nHer freelance work at Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) is an extension of that personal experience.

I feel obligated to engage in interfaith dialogue and initiatives because we all live on one planet. The well-being of Mother Earth is our shared destiny. We must learn to live together, to celebrate our very lives together, to survive.  We need to understand each other so that we will not fear each other, because fear leads to mistrust and mistrust leads to hatred and violence.  

Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters (AIB) is an excellent outlet for her work. The forty-four year old non-profit television station produces “programming that promotes interfaith and community dialogue.” The station’s history, from one man’s outlandish idea to the producers of Emmy winning programming, is explained on the AIB web site:

Determined to accommodate the ever-growing and diverse religious communities of Atlanta, [Presbyterian Minister] Rev. John H. Allen had a progressive idea to unite people from ALL communities and faiths to share their thoughts with the public.  Although this idea was seen as controversial by many, three clergy members joined forces and Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters was born… [In May 1969,] Rev. Allen’s vision to promote dialogue between those of different faith, socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures was up and running.

Today Pagans are being included in that dialogue. Over the past several years Audrey has invited various Pagans to appear on her program AIB Metro as well as other shows.  She recalls:

I … had a chance to interview a Pagan leader for a program I did for AIB a number of years ago on “The Mysterious Roots of Easter.”  I’ll never forget that interview. “Easter bunny… ours. Easter Egg .. ours.”  I believe that’s what really opened my eyes to Paganism. Plus, I always knew there had to be some meaning for the items on the Passover seder plate that pre-dated Judaism.

Since then she’s been calling on the Atlanta Pagan community to participate when appropriate. Audrey remarked:

I feel that, if someone is working for an interfaith media entity, the pagan community must be included as one among many faith traditions and spiritual paths in every project, to the extent that is possible. It is a religion. Its teachings and theology are part of the rainbow of traditions in our pluralistic culture and world.  

While she openly admits to often forgetting to include a Pagan voice, she is striving to make that correction. She has done just that with her new spotlight on food and faith through which she seeks to explore how traditional foods are prepared and used within a spiritual setting.

Holli S. Emore during the shooting of AIB Metro's Faith and Food feature

Holli S. Emore during the shooting of AIB Metro’s Faith and Food feature

For the October edition, she invited Holli S. Emore, the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, to be the on-camera talent. As an active member of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and a strong proponent of such work, Holli jumped at the opportunity to become involved with interfaith television programming, specifically in the South. Holli says:

Pagan spirituality is a beautiful path; it’s high time we let people in on the secret.  No, I don’t mean recruiting; I just mean being open about who we are.  Fresh air and sunlight are essential to growing a healthy garden.  Why not share with others when they ask, as I was?  What I have found, in the course of my interfaith work the past few years, is that all kinds of people are curious and very supportive.  In the spirit of interfaith, we accept that we simply want to get to know each other.  Shows like AIB Metro help us do that.  …  This is how we build a peaceful world, one person at a time. 

AIB Metro Producer Audrey Galex with Cameraman Nick Bach

AIB Metro Producer Audrey Galex with Cameraman Nick Bach

When Holli arrived in Atlanta, she joined Audrey and cameraman, Nick Bach for an on-location shoot in Audrey’s own kitchen. During the first portion of the filming, Holli shared a family recipe for Pumpkin Pudding. While preparing the dish for the camera, she interjected information about the meaning of the harvest within her own Pagan Tradition, Osireion.

After placing the pudding in the oven, the shoot and the conversation moved outdoors.  With the camera rolling and the smell of cinnamon wafting from the kitchen, Holli and Audrey discussed Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and all things in between.  Audrey remarked:

[Holli] is deeply committed to the spirit and scholarship of Paganism. She is knowledgeable about a variety of traditions beyond Paganism, personally and professionally, and expresses thoughtfully and engagingly.

Holli was a natural in front of the camera showing a graceful ability to answer complex questions with sensitivity and openness. Her experience in interfaith circles has given her the language to communicate the beauty of Paganism within a framework understood by people of any faith. Holli noted:

Many Pagans mistakenly think that the purpose of interfaith work is to educate others about Paganism to dispel the ugly myths about us.  That certainly happens, but there is so much more!  There are other religions who feel the same way – they want us to understand and accept them.… Pagans are not the only minority religion in America.  My Muslim friends want me to know that they have fun and are not offended by my liberal attitudes even if they don’t share them.  My Sikh friends empathize with Pagan fears of bias and discrimination.  My Christian friends are glad for me to see that not everyone is a literalist or evangelical.  The Unitarian Universalists and I just high-five each other!  There is a rich world out there and Pagans are part of it.  We have just as much to learn from those on different paths as we do from each other.

After a few laughs during the shoot, Audrey echoed her own passionate commitment to interfaith work by adding: “I love miniature golf and would like, someday, to create a miniature golf course in which each hole represents a different faith tradition. At the end, the ball goes to the same place …” She hopes to continue weaving Pagan voices “as a regular part of programming” at AIB.

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October’s edition of AIB Metro is now in post-production. Audrey confirmed that Holli’s segment will be one of the “featured” pieces for the upcoming show. It will debut Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30p and then re-air over the entire month on Tuesdays at 10:00am, Thursday at 6:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 12:00pm. The show can be watched on local Atlanta cable channels. For those outside the Atlanta Metro area, the show will be available via internet streaming directly from AIB’s website.