Archives For Holli Emore

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Students and supporters of the South Carolina-based Pagan seminary may have been surprised or worried about an announcement placed on the institution’s Facebook page entitled, “The Future of Cherry Hill Seminary.” While there are no plans to close the school at this time, the message reads in part:

Unpredictable cash flow has compromised our ability to be sustainable. The nature of the extended Pagan community, the economy, and even the very face of higher education have all changed dramatically in the past decade. While many of you have been dedicated and committed, we are now considering the reality that we may not be able to continue as we are without a significant increase in participation by many more people in our community.

We spoke with Holli Emore, who has served as executive director of the 20-year-old institution since 2007, to learn more.

“We haven’t been able to make ends meet for several years,” she acknowledged. “It’s been really difficult.”

Cherry Hill SeminaryOver the years, Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) has become a model for the sort of formal infrastructure for which some in the Pagan community yearn. However, every step of the way has required the effort of blazing a new trail.

“We’ve never had a sugar daddy, somebody to help us get launched,” Emore said. “Most schools are heavily endowed” at the outset. That means that majority of the seminary’s expenses are paid for on a cash basis out of tuition. Those expenses are include the per-student fees paid to instructors and the modest pay given to Emore. However, she herself hasn’t been paid in quite some time.

The seminary was founded in 1996 by Kirk White, with classes originally being conducted through the mail and then online. Its name was taken from the name of the road that once ran past White’s family lands. For many years, “Christian Hill Road” was the mailing address for Cherry Hill Seminary.

A board of directors was established in 2007 as part of a process to become a formal 501(c)(3) nonprofit with Emore as its chair. Those board members elected to hire Emore as executive director and move the entire operation to South Carolina, where the seminary’s Master of Divinity program was established in 2009 with the first graduate receiving her degree in 2012.

In years since, a priority has been accreditation and formal recognition by the Distance Education and Training Council. While CHS has completed all licensure requirements in South Carolina, accreditation would make the program eligible for student loans, and its graduates would be able to apply to become military chaplains. This process, however, has been stymied both by the expense and by the fact that Pagan theology doesn’t fit the implicitly Abrahamic expectations set forth for seminaries.

“It’s a big deal, and very expensive,” said Emore. “Just sending in the application is $10,000, plus you need the ability to host five people that come in and audit your program over several days.”

Cherry Hill Seminary has no physical campus, making the hosting requirement a complex issue beyond the raising of funds for the application fee. Another financial challenge is that faculty must be salaried; instructors are presently paid based on the number of students in their classes, which is more practical given the decidedly not-deep pockets of the institution.

Emore said that there is significant interest in a seminary program that trains potential military chaplains, but there are again some complicating factors. Accreditation would make the process easier, but an alternate route onto the approved list involves representatives of three other schools vouching that the Cherry Hill Seminary Master of Divinity is equivalent to their own degrees. This is how Oral Roberts University was approved.

While three liberal Christian schools had people willing to work through this process, the schools couldn’t, in the end,  say in confidence that the degrees were equivalent. CHS students “don’t have to study Greek, or Hebrew, or the Bible” as a matter of course, Emore explained, and “while they could see it was a solid program, they couldn’t be sure it was comparable.”

Muslims faced a similar problem, since the training of an imam is not at all similar to that of a Christian priest or minister. Emore said that with “a five-figure infusion of cash and some graduates to use as test cases,” Pagans could follow the administrative process used by adherents to Islam. One of the issues that would have to be addressed is the implicit assumption that graduation from the seminary includes ordination. Since students at this Pagan seminary come from diverse traditions, they must seek ordination from legally-recognized Pagan churches, representing another step that Christians can often skip.

DancersAd1smallerWhat’s not a factor in the problems facing CHS, Emore stressed, are the recent controversies that have involved the seminary, such as former faculty member Ruth Barrett signing a petition against trans* inclusion at a festival. “It was certainly very unpleasant,” Emore said, “but those were not our students or donors, with minor exceptions. Only one person pulled a contribution and said it was over that.”

The statement on the Facebook page included an invitation to support the long-term existence of CHS by taking a course, pledging funds, or providing other ideas. Master-level classes are $435, with courses toward certificates running only $240 each. “We’ve had people offer ideas,” Emore said, but “they all require human or financial resources” that the nearly all-volunteer organization lacks right now.

More than an appeal for money, the school’s announcement is seeking guidance. The Master of Divinity program “is what the Pagan community wanted eight years ago, but it’s hard to say what people want now.” In the past, the offered scholarship seats have been left unfilled, and an annual program, offering a class nearly for free if a student recruited a first-timer to join, was abandoned due to lack of participation.

“We’re finally going public and asking, ‘What do you want?'” Emore explained.

She went on,”We debated stating a dollar or registration goal and decided against it. That would imply that if we reach that everything would be okay, and that’s not necessarily true. We want to see if people see a need for this, and want to keep it open. We think there is, but we need to hear from other people because we can’t be unbiased.”

By the end of the year, board members will make a decision on whether to continue the work of this organization. If the end is indeed no, through a process called “teaching out” the existing 10-12 Master of Divinity students would either complete their degrees or be given support in continuing their studies elsewhere. One thing that Emore makes clear is that the preferred option would be to continue the work for the Pagan community. However, in reality, that work will largely depend upon what Pagans themselves do in the coming months.

TWH – Over the past year, issues related to transgender rights have crested in mainstream social discourse. The most recent national debate has centered around the passage of North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (also known as House Bill 2 or HB2) that, among other things, “blocks local governments from allowing transgender persons to use bathrooms that do not match the biological sex.”

The collective Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, as diverse microcosms of the greater whole, are not free from similar debates, discussions and, at times, serious conflicts on the subject of transgender inclusion. While never fully disappearing from the culture’s meta-dialog, there are times when a particular event or action rekindles the conversation with renewed fervor, pushing it to the forefront of communication.

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And that is exactly what has happened over the past month, reaching a fever pitch last week. Transgender inclusion became a focused topic in a conversation at the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) in Tennessee and, similarly, the subject became the focus of online protests due to a newly proposed anthology edited by musician, author and priestess Ruth Barrett.

While some of the dialog was offline, most of it appeared in digital forums. Those people who do not use social media regularly or not all, may have seen or heard only bits and pieces of the conversation. Through interviews and public postings, The Wild Hunt has put together a look at just what happened and why.

“I guess this all started three weeks ago at Pagan Unity Festival. I was a VIP and sat on a panel to discuss topics of Paganism on Thursday afternoon,” explained Heathen author and craftswoman Gypsey Teague in a message to The Wild Hunt.

“When my turn came I called out some of our female elders in the Pagan community for being sexist and exclusionary due to their philosophy of gender versus sex. I stated that it was insane to tie someone’s religious following to what does or doesn’t appear between your legs or in your genetic DNA. Unfortunately there are still some women out there that not only believe that but force it on their line and their ilk that follow her.”

After that event, Teague was interviewed by  the hosts of the Tree of Life Hour at Pagans Tonight Radio Network. As advertised, the two-part radio show was focused on the “transgender issues that are coming up again and again in our community and how we as a community should respond to folks who have a different gender expression than the binary male/female cisgender.”

Teague said, “By the end of the event it seemed like everyone was talking about transgender exclusion and how I was ‘pissed’ at the discussion; which was not true. What I believe is that if you tie your religion to a penis or a vagina you don’t deserve to be in the religion. We have too many examples of gender fluidity in our paths to still believe or accept this.”

Around that same time, author, musician, witch and Dianic priestess Ruth Barrett was launching an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for her new anthology titled Female Erasure. Barrett explained to The Wild Hunt, “Female Erasure is an anthology that celebrates female embodiment, while exposing the current trend of gender-identity politics as a continuation of female erasure as old as patriarchy itself […] Female erasure is being enacted through changing laws that have provided sex-based protections.” The unedited interview in its entirety is available here.

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The IndieGoGo campaign was launched June 4 with a goal of raising $25,000 toward editing, design, legal and technical fees. After only eight days, the campaign has reached 50 percent of its goal. Barrett said, “Our contributors want radical societal change – freedom from oppressive gender roles, not from our sex. We want a world free of the so-called gender stereotypes of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity.’ We want a world where the ideal of diversity is not abused to oppress and erase 51 percent of humanity. We want a world in which everyone’s biological reality is honored, our sacred bodies are celebrated, and where sex-based violence and enforced gender roles become obsolete.”

Despite Barrett being the editor, the anthology is not a Pagan-specific project. Its projected audience is far broader and most of its contributors do not fall under the Pagan, Heathen or polytheist umbrella. With that said, the project does include several Pagan voices, such as Ava Park and Luisah Teish, and essays that discuss the proposed issues from a Pagan perspective. One of Barrett’s own offerings is titled, “The Attack On Female Sovereign Space In Pagan Community.”

For Barrett, the project is linked to spirituality in that she has been “assisting women in the often painful process of coming into awareness about how male-centered cultural and religious views and institutions have been foundational in their very personal sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and how patriarchal socialization powerfully influences their self-perception.”

While a few of the unpublished anthology’s essay titles evoke what some might consider a feminist spirit consistent with many Pagan practices, other titles raised immediate concerns, resulting in a fierce wave of backlash. Along with that spirit, there is also an expression of what is being called “transgender exclusion” and “transphobia.” In our interview, Barrett said that “transgender politics dismisses biological sex differences as irrelevant, while suppressing critical conceptual examinations of gender itself, ignoring the history of female class oppression, enforcement, male domination, sexual violence, personal suffering, and social and economic inequality.”

The first protest came in the way of a June 5 call-to-action blog post by activist and author David Salisbury. He wrote in part, “As a leader of the largest witchcraft tradition in Washington DC, I refuse to sit in silence. As an author and teacher of Goddess spirituality, I refuse to sit in silence. As a queer person, I refuse to sit in silence.” After Salisbury, the online, written protests only grew in number through both the blogosphere and social media, including posts from Peter Dybing, Vanessa Blackwood, Estara T’Shirai, Yvonne Aburrow, and Susan Harper.

After reading the funding campaign explanation and exploring the work of various authors, Pagan transgender activist and vice president of STRIVE Rev. Katherine A. Jones said, “I find it disheartening that so many women are so mired in a combination of transphobia and internalized misogyny that they are willing to blatantly attack their fellow women in the name of this exclusionary false feminism they have created […]The obsession with so called ‘biological sex’ is an indicator of women who see themselves as nothing more than vaginas. Just like the patriarchal men who oppress them. Unfortunately it seems to be common even within the Pagan community.”

Barrett said that she fully expected the backlash. When asked specifically about transgender exclusion and the erasure of the transgender identity within the scope of the book, she said, “While it is well-documented that physical and sexual violence against women and girls is on the rise globally, so-called progressives and the transgender lobbyists are acting to silence, disrupt, and legislate against our ability to name, gather and address the issues of our own oppression. This is female erasure.”

She added that the anthology addresses “concerns about a very profitable and growing transgender medical industry targeting well meaning parents, vulnerable children and adolescents, with no other options discussed other than transitioning that results in sterilization and a lifetime of dependence on pharmaceuticals and with no long-term studies of the health impact, are silenced. In this industry young lesbians and gay boys can be “normalized” by transitioning them. The possibility that homophobia is playing out in this issue seems to be too taboo to discuss.”

Arguably the most public outcry came from activist and writer Alley Valkyrie via Facebook.* On June 7, Valkyrie posted an “Open Letter to the Pagan Community,” which was shared over 250 times in that forum alone. The letter read in part, “As a pagan and a cis woman, I cannot and I will not remain silent on this matter, and I will not stand by in the face of violent targeting that is being enacted in my name.”

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Valkyrie clarified later that, while she does not support the anthology or Barrett’s work, her letter was actually aimed at attacks reportedly being launched at some of the bloggers who had previously spoken out against Barrett’s anthology. In the letter she said, “I also recognize that by posting this, I will also likely become a target.”

Shortly after the publication of her open letter, the post was removed along with other similar ones. Then she was locked out of her Facebook account for 24 hours. Other Pagans were reporting similar occurrences around that time. Valkyrie’s letter can be found in its entirety here.

Valkyrie and others have accused Barrett of being “complicit in this violence” due to her close association with those suspected of enacting what is being labeled as “doxing.” Barrett said she knows nothing of these attacks and hasn’t been following the online backlash.

But that is not where the story ends; it is where it gets more complicated. In her open letter, Valkyrie addressed Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) due to its continued relationship with Barrett. The letter reads, “I am calling on Cherry Hill Seminary to publicly disassociate with Ruth Barrett immediately.”

Within twenty-four hours of hearing about letter, Barrett resigned saying, “I believe very strongly in the mission of Cherry Hill Seminary and their academic commitment to diversity in their faculty and the free exchange of ideas. Rather than let my participation endanger the future of Cherry Hill Seminary, it made the most sense for me to respectfully remove myself. While some doors have closed to me, I will continue to teach as I have been doing all along.”

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In an interview CHS director Holli Emore told The Wild Hunt that Barrett tried to resign last fall when similar issues rose the surface, but the CHS governing board would not accept the resignation. Emore explained, “The work of a seminary is to prepare people to facilitate healing and build bridges. The work of higher education is to expose students to as many ideas as possible and to develop critical thinking skills.”

At the time, the seminary stood behind its commitment to academic freedom. However, Barrett did cancel her fall rituals course and, as has been revealed, hasn’t taught any class at CHS for four years even though she is listed as faculty.

This time around, the school accepted the resignation.

“Cherry Hill Seminary has never and would never condone violence against anyone and most certainly supports the full rights of transgender individuals,” said Emore. “The kind of attacks of unbridled animosity against Pagans on issues like this is indicative of a deeper need. It is clear to me that CHS is needed more than ever.”

CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh took to Facebook, saying, “Although I find the events disheartening and depressing, I keep returning to a single question: what do I have to offer that can aid in the process of resolution? The answers were simple. I can listen. I can enter into dialogue. We can have a discussion on the matter. This ability to enter into dialogue is, in my opinion, one of the hallmarks of leadership.”

Albaugh added that, since the issues came to light, nobody had reached out to him personally and that “demands have been posted on the Internet, strewn across Face Book and re-blogged ad infinitum.” He said, “No wonder this is off the rails. Everyone is shouting and no one is listening. So this, then, becomes my invitation. Contact me.”

While issues, reports of attacks, and conversations continued to circulate online, Witch and blogger Pat Mosley took a different approach to action in support of transgender rights. Like Barrett, Mosley is now spearheading an anthology project, but this one gives voice specifically to “Queer, Trans, and Intersex Witches.” The proposed book Arcane Perfection, was first imagined as a coven-based “zine” but, as Mosley explained, “recent events” have changed its direction.

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“HB2 was probably the biggest one. We really snapped into this mindset of needing to be there for one another — a lot of us can’t be out to our families or at work, so our coven is really our sanctuary,” explained Mosley. “Hearing that a Pagan community leader was editing a new anthology which, in part, appears to be discussing trans civil rights as an attack on women’s rights inspired our decision too. Both of those things affect more than just our coven.”

Mosley went on to say that many “Queer, Trans, and Intersex people find power in Witchcraft” and that will hopefully serve as a point of solidarity “regardless of specific tradition, and regardless of the geographic distance between us.” Another objective, as Mosley described, is to address “the way Wiccans talk about gender.”

“We want to see that [discussion] evolve,” Mosley said, “Most Wiccans and other Pagans these days seem to want LGBT+ people to feel included. Often that looks like adapting a hetero-centric framework to accommodate other perspectives. Our intention with this zine and now the book is to have Queer, Trans, and Intersex people define and talk about Wicca, Paganism, Witchcraft, etc, rather than positioning cis/het Pagans as the owners of traditions with the authority to include or exclude us.” The deadline for Mosley’s new anthology is set at Aug. 1.

Neither Mosley’s or Barrett’s anthology have a set delivery date yet. However,  they are both in production and moving forward.

Returning to Barrett, in reaction to what has happened this week, she added, “Everyone is entitled to their sense of identity. What often goes unexamined at a deeper level is the contextual influences and cultural norms (including enforced gender stereotypes) that informs consciously or unconsciously how a person arrives at their identity. This is explored within the anthology in many ways. ”

The current debates, arguments and the reported attacks may not yet be over. Time will tell.

But the subject is certainly one that will persist, as it always has, into the future at both public gatherings, like PUF, and online through blogs and social media.

Looking over the entire situation from beginning to end, Emore said, “When respectful dialog is silenced by threats, we are all diminished.”

In a blog post, author Yvonne Aburrow offered a different type of community call-to-action, saying, “Gender essentialism and separatism is the mirror image of patriarchy. We reject the patriarchy and the kyriarchy. […] Let us magnify and glorify the images of divinity within ourselves and each other. Show forth love and beauty and creativity; celebrate the radiance of the many-hued multiplicity of gender expression, sexuality, and the human body.”

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* [Editorial Note: The Wild Hunt always aims for balanced news reporting. However, as a community-based source, there are times when our writers are affiliated, in some way, with aspects of a story. In those instances, we make a decision on how to ethically handle the story. Today’s article was such a case. Our managing editor currently teaches a class at Cherry Hill Seminary, and one of those quoted above is a Wild Hunt columnist. Our editorial team reviewed this article carefully to ensure a clear presentation of the issues.]

TWH — Tomorrow marks the 46th anniversary of the celebration of Earth Day. This holiday is considered to be the largest secular celebration recognized throughout the world, with “more than a billion people” honoring the day every year. It is considered to be “a day of action [to] change human behavior and provoke policy changes.” While Earth Day has always had its detractors and critics, it is regularly acknowledged in many diverse ways, both small and big, around the globe. And, in that way alone, it could be considered an Earth Day.

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

The actual celebration of a national Earth Day wasn’t marked until 1970 at the height of the American cultural revolution. Founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day was born from a buildup of tension and cultural events occurring over time. This began with the 1962 publication and popularity of Rachel Carson’s landmark book, Silent Spring. 

More directly, according to reports, Sen. Nelson was personally propelled to launch his mission to create an Earth Day “after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.” A 2014 article at ClimateProgress explains how that one spill “changed everything.” The article explains, “The scope of attention focused on the spill grew along with the mess of oil […]” As reported, then-President Richard Nixon said, “It is sad that it was necessary that Santa Barbara should be the example that had to bring it to the attention of the American people …. The Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people.” The article goes on to say:

In the years that followed, the lasting impression of the spill on the public, government officials, and the private sector led to coordinated action unheard of in today’s starkly partisan Congress. Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, which led the way to the July 1970 establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

As a result, the American Earth Day was born. Interestingly, Canada launched its own Earth Day ten years later, September 11, 1980, but neither caught on in global terms at that time. The Earth Day idea reportedly “limped along” with limited acknowledgement until the 20th anniversary of the American version in 1990. Nelson spoke to a crowd of “800,000 gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C.” and said, “I don’t want to have to come limping back here 20 years from now on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day…and have the embarrassing responsibility of telling your sons and daughters that you didn’t do your duty—that you didn’t become the conservation generation that we hoped for.”

Earth Day was then celebrated again in 1995, 2000 and, by that point, had garnered increasing international attention as climate change moved to the forefront of global concerns. By 2010, April 22nd had become internationally recognized as Earth Day. And, just as it was back in 1970, the celebration still has its critics. Is it all “just words?” Has the “holiday” become too commercialized, losing its purpose and activist roots?

[Image Credit: Beautygala.com]

[Image Credit: Beautygala.com]

Since its beginning, Earth Day was not propelled by global organizations and large advertising campaigns. It was grassroots operation, encouraging small local actions, cleanup events, and educational efforts, all created by a diversity of people and communities. That idea continues to this day.

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists have been participating in the Earth Day experience since its inception. Not only did the environmental movement and the modern Pagan movement in the Unites States come into being around the same time, but many Pagan religious beliefs are deeply Earth-centered, or at the very least, land-driven. This marriage seems logical.

Consequently it is not surprising that, over the years, Pagans, Heathens and polytheists of many backgrounds and traditions have closely worked within the environmental movement, speaking out, hosting actions and even attempting to contribute to the environmental stewardship movement within the global religious sphere. This has become particularly pronounced in recent years.

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In 2014, blogger and former editor of Humanistic Paganism John Halstead was inspired to bring people together to create A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment. Critics said that it could not be done. But, less than one year later on Earth Day 2015, the diverse group of internationally-based Pagans, Heathens and polytheists launched that statement. It now has 8,173 signatories from over 80 different countries.

But, looking back, is it all just a bunch of words?

We asked Halstead about the statement and whether he’s seen any tangible results stemming from its creation. While being involved with the process was “transformative” for him personally, Halstead said, “I hope that it has awakened or helped focus an ecological consciousness for those who have signed it, and even for some who haven’t.” But more tangibly speaking, Halstead added, “I have also seen signs that the statement is already helping to increase the credibility of Pagans in the interfaith environmental community, as evidenced by the interest shown in the statement by the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and other interfaith groups.”

However, Halstead also said that he was disappointed by some in the interfaith community. “I had hoped that the Pagan Statement would be added to the collections of similar statements gathered by Interfaith Power & Light, GreenFaith.org, the Alliance of Religions & Conservation, and others, but so far we have not been successful. Unfortunately, some interfaith environmental groups are still only interested in working with certain religions. I think we Pagans still have work to do to improve our credibility with the interfaith environmental community.”

When asked what most surprised him about the statement project, Halstead noted the number of people who have signed the document over the past year, from well-known figures and organizations to “ordinary individuals” from every continent. The organizing group was hoping to reach 10,000 signatures by April 22, but Halstead said, “Even if we don’t meet that goal by Earth Day, we will soon.”

In conclusion, Halstead added, “Having said all that, [the statement] is just a statement of intention, and without corresponding action on our part, our words will be meaningless. It remains to be seen whether we Pagans will live up to the challenge the Statement sets before us.”

Greening of Religions Symposium

In early April, Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) took this Earth stewardship conversation one a step further and sponsored a symposium focused on the intersection of religion and the environmental movement. The keynote speaker was Bron Taylor, professor of Religion, Nature and Environmental Ethics at the University of Florida. Taylor is the author of several books, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future. The event was held from April 1-3 at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.

Dr. Wendy Griffin, CHS Academic Dean, explained why they picked this particular topic:

In 2015, the American Academy of Religion discussed the need for religions to become involved in the challenges we are facing because of climate change. There is much discussion involving rising seas and their impact on populations in terms of coming displacement, famine and war, but very little on the spiritual crises and needs we will be facing as these devastating events occur. We see climate change as the greatest moral issue to ever face humanity, as it brings into question our relationship with the entire web of life and its future. The greening of religion is a phrase that suggests the growing awareness of religions of our responsibility to and dependence upon nature.

As a seminary, we chose this theme for the symposium because scientists tell us there is a window of opportunity in which we can make some significant changes and prevent the worst of what may come. For this reason, we made the symposium an interfaith event, because it will take all of us together to take the necessary action.

Both Griffin and CHS Executive Director Holli Emore put together this unique Pagan symposium that attracted people from a number of different religions, backgrounds and countries. Griffin said, “For me one of the highlights was getting to meet, spend time with, and learn from people who are passionate and doing something about this issue. From the Salvation Army researcher in Australia to the Pagan scholar from Canada, there were many different approaches to action. All of them are needed. ”

Emore added, “For the first time, CHS hosted a truly interfaith and religiously-diverse event. At the same time, that event had firm footing in a Pagan seminary (with a public university), underscoring the importance of the ideas and values we Pagans can bring to the coming environmental crisis.”

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

As we reported in the past, Pagan attendees spoke highly of the symposium, its content and of its importance, but they also noted the low Pagan turnout. When asked why she thought that was the case, Griffin said, “To be fair, at least half of those attending we knew to be some form of Pagan, but the low response was a real disappointment for me.” Then she added:

Symposiums are intellectual forums, and even though we included a strong activist element, perhaps this appealed more to scholars, whose institutions  are reluctant to pay travel for small conferences. Perhaps the topic of climate change seems too distant (polar bears and Micronesia) or too huge and overwhelming to inspire people to attend. The fact that it was designed to be interfaith may have made it less attractive to some. People tend to argue that Pagans have no money, but we know that Pagans make choices in how to invest their resources and that their demographics are not that different from other people. […] A symposium on climate change doesn’t sound particularly fun or magical. And if people feel overwhelmed or helpless by the issue, it simply won’t attract, however vitally important it may be.

Emore said, “As Pagans, we accept that change is a given, but as humans we are seldom prepared for it, and still less often are we prepared to take action that will serve others experiencing change-related distress.”

Emore and Griffin will be evaluating how and if to move forward with the symposium in the future. More specifically, they are hoping to offer their unique standalone 3-hour environmental leadership workshop at other venues, Pagan or interfaith. In addition, CHS will be publishing the entire symposium’s content “as Cherry Hill Seminary Press, with Dr. Jonathan Leader of the University of South Caroline leading the editorial team.” That book will be available in paper and digital formats through CHS and other online retailers. The specific publication date is not yet known.

But, with only two weeks gone since the symposium ended, CHS has already made strides in the continuation of this dialog. The seminary has just announced the launch of a new Environmental Leadership Certificate program. Griffin explained, “It covers a range of information: human and non-human living systems, the science of denial, advocacy and organizing, earth congregations and nature spirituality, fundraising and nonprofit skills, leadership, and more.” CHS is currently taking applicants and, although it requires college-level work, students “do not have to have any kind of degree to take the classes, just courage and determination to change the world.”

But is it all just words? Did any tangible work come out of the CHS weekend event? Like Halstead, Griffin noted the important connections being made on an interfaith level. For example, she cited that she was able to “link up with the Green Seminary Movement.” She believes that “Pagans can make a unique ‘green contribution’ in Interfaith and in the events these communities sponsor.”

But, like Halstead, she also doesn’t believe that “we are doing enough.” Griffin said:

Many of us recycle, but that is just a very tiny part of what is needed. We need to make the issue of climate change, the causes of it, and the possible remediation actions more visible. Pagans are immensely creative, and we need to use that creativity in bringing the issues to the forefront. We can’t all make movies like “Avatar,” but we can tell stories and make music, create and share rituals, develop video games and children’s play, and a million other things. We need to make the discussion of climate change commonplace. And we need to march and lobby and petition.

That very concern was directly raised at the symposium. Halstead, who was at the CHS event, explained, “At the Greening of Religions conference in South Carolina last month, Bron Taylor asked the Pagans present whether there was a Pagan environmental network in existence.” The answer was no. As a result, a new group was formed. Halstead said that Taylor’s question “prompted Wild Hunt columnist, Manny Tejeda-Moreno, to create a Facebook group by that name (Pagan Environmental Network), which has taken the Pagan Community Statement as a starting point.”

Tejeda-Moreno explained further: “The keynote speaker said that there didn’t seem to be a group for intergroup dialogue […] so, I set up the Facebook group, added the conference attendees and then we started to add others based on suggestions.” This new group is small with the objective to serve as a “clearinghouse, link source and dialogue center for environmental issues and Pagan-centered responses to them.” Tejeda-Moreno added that they already have talked about migrating from Facebook when and if they grow.

As Earth Day approaches, global attention is being diverted to our planetary ecosystem and our role as stewards. Some of that attention is genuine; some of it is talk; some of it is purely commercial. Griffin said, ” Of course it is becoming commercialized. At the same time, it raises awareness. Personally, I’d like to see large public rituals on Earth Day that we design and lead.”

[Public Domain]

Roadside trash found during a cleanup action [Public Domain]

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are doing just that. They are preparing to celebrate or honor Earth Day, as well as the unique role their own spirituality plays within the larger interfaith environmental movement. From local communities to national organizations, actions, events, prayers and rituals are scheduled.

For example, in Michigan, the Ancient Faiths Alliance is sponsoring a “Plant Your Dreams Earth Day Event.” In Virginia, Spiral Grove is hosting a Saturday lake cleanup event, saying: “In addition to keeping the lake areas clean, the experience allows us to focus on the simple and natural education that the lake environment provides to both adults and youth.” And similarly, as we posted Monday, the Jean Williams London Earth Day cleanup action and picnic tradition will go on as it has in past years.

The New York Environmental Pagan Coalition has posted an article listing general New York-based Earth Day events for its membership to attend. In Wisconsin, where Earth Day was founded, Circle Sanctuary will be hosting a full moon circle Friday, and Rev. Selena Fox will offer a “Earth Day Every Day” Sunday Service April 24 at the Open Circle Unitarian Universalists in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

For those who are unable to join a live community event but would like to participate in the conversation, Pagan activist and author Starhawk will be speaking at a free online conference called Earth Day Summit 2016. The event, held Apr. 22, is described as “an unprecedented gathering of esteemed green experts, innovators, activists, scientists, visionaries and spiritual leaders coming together to unite their wisdom for you.” Registration is required.

You can also hear Starhawk speak about her environmental work with Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox on the Circle Talk podcast called “EcoPagan EcoMagic,” which originally aired Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT. Additionally, Rev. Fox has also offered for free download her “Nature Pathways guide with Environmental themed rites, meditations, actions.”

We welcome all of our readers to list their local, public Earth Day activities and events in the comments below.

Happy Earth Day from The Wild Hunt!

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

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.

300392_100835520021369_4549649_n

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….