Archives For International Pagan Coming Out Day

51eUScE78yL._UX250_LAKE WALES, Fla. — In an update to a story that we previously reported, Heather Freysdottir has come forward to say that she has backed out as a headliner for this coming week’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG). Freysdottir explained to The Wild Hunt, “I heard the rumor about the Frosts appearing recently, and when I inquired FPG management, I was told that there were no covert workshops and that the Frosts were attending, that’s all. [Then] I was presented with a handbook for this years’ FPG Beltaine that includes the Frosts as presenters and teachers. […] They have since retracted this and released a new handbook, but the fact that this was changed due to public outcry tells me that the Frosts were originally planned as presenters. I would not have consented to headlining with them on the bill anywhere.”

Freysdottir went on to say that she does not “bear FPG any ill will; there are many wonderful people who contribute to it every year, but the fact that the Frosts keep getting invited back disturbs” her. She also wrote on her blog that she is concerned over the “subterfuge about their attendance and amount of participation.”

The Wild Hunt has since learned that this lack of transparency has become its own issue, outside of any questions surrounding the Frosts attendance at the popular Florida event. A former volunteer, who has asked that his name be left out of this report, has not only issued a cease-and-desist letter to stop FPG’s organizing board (TEG) from using his software and other intellectual property without proper authorization, he has also contacted the Florida State Prosecutor’s office, alerting them to what he called “black-letter extortion.” He expects this “criminal case” to take a long time. But he did say that the board has since admitted to using his work without permission, and he hopes that this part of the conflict can now be put to rest.

As of publication time, Freysdottir is still listed as a headliner on the FPG website, but she did confirm, “I will not be headlining and I am sorry for anyone who was hoping to meet me there.” Her full response and explanation is posted on her blog. As we reported previously, FPG’s organizing board (TEG) has declined to comment on the situation.

Florida Pagan Gathering will be held this coming weekend in Lake Wales, Florida.

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PF-Ireland-Logo_d800

NAAS, Ireland — The Pagan Federation of Ireland recently made social media waves when its response to a marriage inquiry went viral. The original April 23 email, written by a person named Sarah, stated that she and her finance were a newly engaged American couple looking for clergy to marry them while they were in Ireland. Sarah stated that they were practicing “odinists” and that they wanted a clergyperson who only “performs heterosexual ceremonies” and “refrains from marrying those of mixed races.”

The next morning, PF-Ireland responded with “We are most happy to report that none of our clergy subscribe to your views on mixed race or gay marriage, and so we cannot assist you in your upcoming visit to Ireland. Fuck Off. Yours very sincerely, Everyone at the Pagan Federation of Ireland.”

The response was posted publicly as an image, and it quickly began to make the digital rounds. While the group reportedly received some backlash and concerns about PF-Ireland’s openness toward Heathens. The group responded simply by saying, “Pagan Federation Ireland operates a zero tolerance approach to racism and homophobia, both of which were abundantly clear in the initial communication.” And showing off more of its dry wit, the group offered to send to the querent a laminated and even framed copy of its policy statement in exchange for a small donation to any Irish Pagan organization.

The original “viral” image can be found in a number of places in social media, including this original Facebook post.

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Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

TWH – Wiccan Authors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone‘s long awaited book Lifting the Veil is now published and will be available by the end of this month. On their newly designed website, Farrar and Bone wrote, “Written to fill an existing gap in the current available knowledge on trance, prophesy, deity-possession, and mediumship within the neo-Pagan and Wiccan communities, Lifting the Veil was developed from [our] personal work and public workshops on trance-prophesy and ecstatic ritual over the last 20 years.”

They are both currently on a speaking and workshop tour in the U.S. They recently attended Brid’s Closet’s annual Beltane festival held at Palaia Winery in Hghland Mills, New York. Next, they will be making their way  to Florida. After that, they will stop in Atlanta, Georgia and Englewood, Colorado. Wild Hunt Journalist Terence Ward met up with them this weekend to talk about their work, their practice and the new book. We will be sharing that interview later in the week.

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pagancomingoutday

TWH – Today marks the 5th year of International Pagan Coming Out Day. It was first recognized in 2011 and encouraged by a non-profit organization called International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD). Events are being held locally around the world, some of which are noted on the Pagan Coming Out Day Facebook group and across social media.

The purpose of the organization and the day is to encourage “Pagans who are ready to come on out.” The website reads, “Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”  IPCOD provides a number of different resources to help in the decision and the process.

In Other News

  • The article that prompted the Global Conference for University Chaplains to invite Mary Hudson to its event in Australia in now available online. It is called “The Voice of the Other” and can be found in the digital version of The Journal of Tertiary Campus Ministry Association. Hudson is now only $1400 away from her funding goal. Due to the success of the online campaign plus a few local fundraisers, she said it looks as if she’ll be headed to Australia. Hudson added, “Trust is a beautiful thing when it comes to stuff like this and honestly magic really does happen.”
  • The Pagan Federation’s Pagans with Disabilities group has launched a week-long online Beltane celebration. On the event page, organizers explain, “Here at the Pagan Federation we’re trying to combat the loneliness and isolation that the disabled in our community feel. Too large a number of our brothers and sisters are finding it increasingly difficult to make it to moots and events. So, we’ve decided that if we can’t take them to the gatherings, we’ll bring the gatherings to them.” The online Beltane began on May 1 and will run through May 8. Photos and videos are being shared, along with stories and other community details. PF encourages anyone feeling left out to contact them. They want this event to be accessible to all and are listening.
  • Pagans in Oregon made the local paper this weekend. Oregon Live interviewed Jonathan Levy about the founding and community value of the Columbia Protogrove ADF. Writer Melissa Binder attended the group’s Beltane festival, and interviewed two of its members. Binder quoted Amber Reed as saying, “Coming here is like coming home.”
  • Touchstone Advocacy and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has re-launched its 2015 campaign to encourage people to remember the victims of what it calls “wiccaphobia” or witchcraft-related violence.

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  • Festival season is now underway. Many Pagans are preparing to attend to two Southern-based festivals that will conveniently run on back-to-back weekends. First, the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) kicks off its 2016 event in the mountains of Tennessee. Held at Montgomery Bell State Park in the city of Burns, PUF is a four-day family-friendly camping event that will begin on May 19. Each year PUF has a playful theme, and this year, it is Star Wars. Next year, PUF will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the organizers have chosen a Harry Potter theme. PUF includes rituals, music, food, workshops and vendors.
  • One week later, over Memorial Day weekend, the new musical festival Caldera will open at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, Georgia. It is also a four day event with 30 Pagan acts, plus vendors and workshops. Caldera is currently running a “Beltane” special, noting that no tickets will be sold at the festival gate. And for those interested in both? Caldera and PUF are only a short four-hour drive from each other through the Appalachian region of the Southeast.
  • The group Nemuer has announced the release of its first music video. The song is called “Caves of Damnation” and comes from their 2015 album Chapter V: Labyrinth of Druids. The group said that the new video, directed by Jakub Řehoř, and the track’s vocals were all recorded “in the darkest caves of the Czech Republic.” Nemuer is described as an “instrumental dark-folk music project, oriented on ancient civilizations and mystical atmosphere.”

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Today, May 2nd, is International Pagan Coming Out Day (Facebook), a day when modern Pagans are encouraged to share their religious identity with friends, co-workers, and family.

pagancomingoutday

“Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. IPCOD encourages Pagans who are ready to come on out! There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”

Event co-founder Cara Schulz noted on Facebook how important this day has become in only a few short years.

“People may think that Pagan Coming Out Day doesn’t do much of anything. But they aren’t reading the emails sent to me from people who experience real and serious discrimination or have been disowned by family and are hopeful that if more people come out it will be safer for them one day, too. Or the ecstatic emails from people who came out and are so much happier. They couldn’t believe what a weight it lifted from their shoulders they didn’t even know was there. And even better, the email updates I get from people who came out 2 years ago who are thanking me for how their life has continues to improve and get better now that they are living more openly and authentically.”

In the recent wake of an out Pagan being threatened with bullets and chemical bombs in Florida, our continued growing solidarity in the public eye is essential if we are to combat those who would seek to isolate and intimidate us. As Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League said recently in relation to the Florida attacks,  “whenever hate against Pagans surfaces, we need to work together to dispel it and to stand strong, collaborate, and support those who have been targeted.” That work can only be accomplished if enough Pagans are willing to stand up to change people’s perceptions of modern Pagan faiths. Obviously, not everyone is in a safe place, but I believe there are many of us who have chosen to not come out for reasons not connected to safety or security.

Pagans in danger are certainly one reason to come out, but that isn’t the only one. It just so happens that today is also the annual National Day of Prayer in the United States.

“All of us have the freedom to pray and exercise our faiths openly. Our laws protect these God-given liberties, and rightly so. Today and every day, prayers will be offered in houses of worship, at community gatherings, in our homes, and in neighborhoods all across our country. Let us give thanks for the freedom to practice our faith as we see fit, whether individually or in fellowship.” – Barack Obama

This day, despite the somewhat inclusive rhetoric from the White House, has long been co-opted by conservative Christians who would like to shape the United States into a “Christian nation.” A place where religious minorities are marginalized even while those who reject any easy label continue to thrive. The way to prevent marginalization is through engagement, whether that be activism, outreach, or interfaith work.

“When interfaith cooperation is done well, it not only helps people from different faith and philosophical backgrounds get along, it creates space for the diverse identities within each of us to become mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive. When interfaith events raise the question, what do I have in common with people of different religious and national identities, the natural internal dialogue that ensues is: What do my own diverse identities have in common with each other?”

Modern Pagans recently played a key role in saving the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a feat that could only have been accomplished by Pagans willing to not just be out, but to engage with other people of faith as Pagans.

“I’ve just received official word that the Council for A Parliament of the World’s Religions was able to raise the necessary funds to pay off the debt that had threatened the survival of the organization, and its important work of promoting peace through interreligious dialogue throughout the globe. Pagans contributed approximately 10% of the needed amount — a very impressive response, we should be very proud of ourselves!” – Andras Corban-Arthen, EarthSpirit Community

Coming out isn’t about ego, or seeking attention, it’s about how identity shapes our culture, our society. The amazing recent victories for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals have only come after decades of “coming out” because they understood that putting a human face on their communities was the only way forward. Likewise, modern Pagans, whatever their faith or practice, need to engage in the work of putting a human face on our religious movement. Thanks to some brave pioneers and visionaries we’ve already come a long way, but the next steps come only when it becomes apparent that we truly are everywhere, that we are indeed your brother, sister, parent, child, co-worker, partner, or friend.

As many bow their heads in prayer today, we should hold our heads high, and state that we want our full inclusion in the tapestry of faiths and philosophies that many take for granted in our societies.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

A Fundraiser for Kyrja Withers: Since Florida Pagan and children’s author Kyrja Withers had her home shot at this past March, followed by a chemical bottle-bomb attack, which required Withers’ daughter to seek medical care after inhaling fumes, the Lady Liberty League, Everglades Moon Local Council of COG, and other local Pagan community members have been mobilizing to assist Withers. At the behest of Lady Liberty League, their household is now raising funds to install security measures to protect against future attacks.

Kyrja Withers (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

Kyrja Withers (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

“Lady Liberty League […] has provided a variety of resources to my husband, Randy, and I during this time.  They also provided a comprehensive on-site Threat Assessment Report of our home in an effort to de-escalate the situation and provide long-term safety for our family. We are seeking assistance to comply with the security measures recommended by Lady Liberty League.  The bulk of the funding received will be to purchase the security cameras necessary to provide surveillence of our unique, colorful home.  The cameras would provide visible deterents to those who would seek to further harass and intimidate us, as well as a means to secure evidence should additional incidents occur.”

They are seeking to raise $1,100 dollars, and have already raised nearly half of their goal. For those seeking to concretely help in this situation this seems to be a pragmatic and sensible way to do so. The Lady Liberty League asks that those who are interested in contributing suggestions of resources, ideas for strategies, and volunteering security consulting and other help” to send them an e-mail, or comment at the organization’s Facebook page.  A focus image has also been provided for those who want to do magical/prayer work for Kyrja and her family. We will update you here with further developments.

Emergency Pagan Conclave Called in California: The Wild Hunt has received a notice that an emergency conclave is being called for Sunday, May 5th in Oakland, California to discuss proposed regulations by the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) relating to religious items allowed by incarcerated Pagans. The call is being put forth by The Pagan Alliance and House of Danu.

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)

Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

“The California Department of Corrections (CDCR) has issued proposed regulations that threaten the ability of Pagans who are incarcerated to possess many of the religious items customary for the religious practices of our people. The proposed list excludes items out of ignorance, or for convenience, without regard to the required legal standard permitting personal religious items. Public comment on the proposed regulations ends May 7, 2013 at 5:00p.m.

The last great struggle for religious freedom in this country may very well be in the California prisons. At this historic Conclave. Dr. Barbara McGraw will give a presentation on the history of abuse endured by Pagan inmates, and there will be a panel of Pagan chaplain volunteers to share their experiences. Each of you will be given a guide showing how you can help the people of your tradition within the scope of any budget or time availability. We ask that each tradition send one or more representatives to the Conclave.”

Details on location, time, and how to participate can be found at this Facebook event listing. The proposed changes to what inmate religious property will be allowed can be found, here. The rights of Pagan prisoners has been an ongoing area of coverage at The Wild Hunt, and we’ll have more on this as the story develops.

Houston Pagan Conference: The first Pagan conference in the Houston, Texas area in over 30 years is being held May 18th  at the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands. I reporter earlier on the fundraiser to get this event started.

“There has not been a conference for Pagans in the Houston area for over 30 years. Now is the time to change that. The Houston metropolitan area has a wonderful, rich, and vast Pagan community which should be celebrated. The Houston Pagan Conference was started to not only bring this community together but to also bring forth ideas and discussions on various aspects of faith and practice.”

Guest of honor will be author Raven Grimassi. In addition, OBOD Druid, CUUPs Vice President, and Patheos blogger, John Beckett will be in attendance, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about how the event went. Congratulations to the Houston-area Pagan community on getting organized!

In Other Community News:

 

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

[The following is a guest editorial from Cara Schulz. Cara Schulz is the Managing Editor of the Pagan Newswire Collective and the Chair of Pagan Coming Out Day.  She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, enjoys attending festivals, and has no tattoos.]

Let me first state that all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That said, things look grim for Councilman Dan Halloran (R), Queens, although he maintains his innocence.  He, and five others, were arrested on charges of accepting bribes and attempting to rig an election.  Halloran was specifically accused of setting up meetings with three other elected officials and handling bribes totaling thousands of dollars.  The details, and guilt and innocence of each person, will come out in trial and I have no interest trying the case here.I’m also not naïve enough to think bribery and corruption aren’t rampant in all levels of our government.

Cara Schulz

Cara Schulz

It may be as blatant as what the FBI claims Halloran engaged in or it may be more subtle and pervasive.  How many of our politicians leave office poorer than when they were first elected?

Dan Halloran wasn’t just any politician, though.  While we’ve had, and will have, other Pagans and Heathens in elected office, none were as prominent as Halloran.  None had been so publicly and brutally outed during their campaign, and yet still won, as Halloran.  And none, once mocked and derided for their religion, had either of the two major parties stand by him as steadfastly as the Republican Party stood by Halloran.  For the first time, mocking one of our religions not only didn’t work, it backfired.  People of all, and no, religious persuasions said bigotry was not a winning campaign strategy and they voted Halloran into office.

Which is why his election as a New York City Councilman was a watershed moment for our religious communities.  We could now point to his election, and the circumstances around it, and say, “This is now possible.”  It was something many Pagan and Heathens didn’t think they would see in their lifetimes.

His election to office was something we could take pride in, although many Pagans and Heathens wouldn’t vote for a Republican even if the other choice was Prince Joffrey.  And many in the Heathen community disliked Halloran personally and by reputation and were vocal in opposition to his candidacy.  We don’t always get the trailblazer we desire, but in order to blaze a trail, the person has to succeed in gaining the position.  Halloran ran a tough campaign during an even tougher election when all the momentum was for his opponent.

Which brings us to this week.

pagancomingoutdaySome of you may know me from my work with Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd).  I’m the founder and Chair of this organization, which works to achieve greater acceptance and equality for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.  We help those who feel they are ready to come out, in some way, in some portion of their lives.  This is important not just for the well-being of the individual, but for the community.  The more people that come out, the safer and more accepted we will all be.

Yet there are responsibilities when a person comes out.  For many people you are the only Pagan they know.  They will judge all Pagans by your behavior.  That may not be fair, but who said life is fair?  When you are a prominent person in your city or in your career field, the responsibility to be an ambassador for other Pagans is greater.  When you are the first Pagan in an area or at a certain level, such as a CEO of a major company or a New York City Councilman, the responsibility jumps even higher.

No matter Halloran’s eventual verdict in a court of law, it’s clear he either didn’t understand or refused to acknowledge he carried that extra burden of honor.  To act according to the highest of ethical standards so others, when given the opportunity to vote for a Pagan or Heathen candidate, could look at his example and feel reassured we are as moral a people as any other religious group.  Because we are.

Today, May 2nd, is Pagan Coming Out Day. An even initiated “to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.”

Check out IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD. You may also wish to read endorsements from Pagans like T. Thorn Coyle, Phaedra Bonewits, Arthur Hinds, and many more at the IPCOD site and IPCOD’s official Facebook page.

“Recently I have re come out of the closet. I’ve been rebranding my core business and in the process of doing that, I’ve realized that I’d hidden part of myself away to fit in, and it didn’t make me feel good, because not only was it denying a past choice I’d made, but because it wasn’t realistic. If you search for me on Google, you’ll find evidence that I’m an occultist fairly quickly.

Re-coming out the closet has been good for me. I feel like I’m in touch with a part of myself that I’d buried away and allowed to be buried. I’m not listening to fears or worries because I realize that if people choose to not do business with me because of my choices its actually better for me.

I’m out of the closet because I’m proud to be an occultist. I’m proud to be myself. There’s no shame in my choices and the intolerance of others is not something I will support by choosing to hide myself for their benefit. If I make that choice I am denying an essential part of who I am and denying my community as well.”Taylor Ellwood, Magical Experiments

IPCOD founder Cara Schulz, who came out as a Pagan in a police station, has this to say about the importance of Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”.

“When we’ve talked to people about this project, the number one question asked is why should Pagans come out? Should is not a word we use when talking about the decision to come out or not. Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Pagan Coming Out Day is not about shaming other Pagans and polytheists into coming out when they’re not ready.

Rather than talk about ‘should’ – let’s look at the benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, to coming out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety in your life caused by living a double life, developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family, and developing a positive self-image. It’s stressful to hide a core piece of who you are from those around you. Another benefit is one that the LGBT community has experienced – a reduction in prejudice. In a study for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that, “heterosexuals tend to hold favorable attitudes if they know two or more gay people, if those people are close friends or immediate family members, and if there has been open discussion about the friend or relative’s sexual orientation.” This is why the LGBT community strongly encourages its members to “Come out, come out, whereever you are” – because it works for them in their struggle for equity. This is also why LGBT Pagans are often the most vocal in our community about the need for Pagans to come out. Being open and honest about our spirituality encourages a climate of greater tolerance and acceptance of Paganism as more people realize they know a friend and loved ones who are Pagan. But there are risks, too, and each person will have to access the risks and benefits unique to their own situation.”

Some have expressed skepticism at the need for a Pagan “coming out” day. The problem, I think, comes from what we mean when we say “out” (or “in” for that matter). I’ll be frank and open about the fact that I advocate for Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”, and have publicly advocated this position when I give talks at events. However, being “out” doesn’t necessarily mean plastering your car with bumper stickers, interjecting your faith into every conversation, or ostentatiously wearing a pound of Pagan “bling”. It certainly doesn’t mean placing yourself or your children in immediate danger if those are your circumstances. It means not living a double life, it means being out to your family, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it means being willing to request and expect equal treatment in the workplace.

“Pagans should be mindful of the experience of the BGLT community. Specifically, that there’s nothing like knowing someone who is BGLT, particularly a relative, to humanize BGLTs. This is as important for us as for them: without being humanized we’re abstractions in someone else’s hostile theological theories. The more of us that are out, the more humanized we become.” – Dave Burwasser, Board Member Emeritus CUUPS  and IPCOD Board member

Pagans being “out” about who we are to those who love us, to those we interact with on a daily basis, changes the world. Even the conservative Christian polling organization The Barna Group acknowledges this in their research.

“About 5% of America’s adult population associates with faiths other than Christianity (e.g., Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.). Within this group, about half (47%) were registered as Democrats, 30% were independent, and one-quarter (23%) were Republicans. The ballots of this group were most often cast for Barack Obama (62%) rather than John McCain (36%). The support provided to the Democratic candidate is identical to the backing this group provided to John Kerry four years ago (61%) …Among voters who had a favorable view of Wicca, Sen. Obama was the favored candidate 64% to 35%.

It is important to look at the language in that last line. It isn’t about Wiccans specifically, but people who had a “favorable view” of Wicca. To further extrapolate, the family, friends, and co-workers of the estimated 1 million modern Pagans in America tended to favor the candidate favored by the majority of modern Pagans. But this isn’t just about voting and politics, it is about eradicating stereotypes and altering perceptions. It’s about changing the strange biases and assumptions that even “tolerant” people have about modern Pagan faiths. It’s about not being thrown under the bus because “there isn’t a Pagan in our office/school/organization”. Again, coming out won’t be a panacea for every Pagan, but if all who are willing and able took one day to say “I’m a Pagan”, to humanize our often misunderstood religions, it could change more than any of us realize.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve in an advisory capacity on IPCOD’s executive board. I’m working with this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD today, and help spread the word.

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

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

Today, May 2nd, is Pagan Coming Out Day. An even initiated “to achieve greater acceptance and equity for Pagans at home, at work, and in every community.”

Check out the list of official IPCOD celebrations,  stores participating in the event, and read IPCOD’s Guide to Coming Out authored by Drake Spaeth, PsyD. You may also wish to read endorsements from Pagans like T. Thorn Coyle, Phaedra Bonewits, Star Foster, Arthur Hinds, and many more at the IPCOD site and IPCOD’s official Facebook page.

“There will be some of us that don’t come out because of very real fears of losing children or jobs. Those of us who can come out, support these others by doing so. I know some of us will say, “We just don’t talk about religion at work,” and yet, some of you know that this co-worker is Christian, and that one, Hindu. How do you know? No big deal, just a small comment here or there, or signs that point to it. That “no big deal” is what we are looking for. Just another religious flavor in a pluralistic society. The more of us there are that people can point to as high-functioning members of the workplace, the school system, the local environmental group, the union, the fewer of us will run the risk of having our children taken from us for virtue of being Heathen or Wiccan parents. The more of us there are that give people some understanding of Paganism, the fewer Tempest Smiths there will be, committing suicide as a result of anti-Pagan bullying, and the more teens like Angel Cat there will be, who wrote a helpful piece on coming out to your parents.”T. Thorn Coyle

IPCOD founder Cara Schulz, who came out as a Pagan in a police station, has this to say about the importance of Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”.

“When we’ve talked to people about this project, the number one question asked is why should Pagans come out? Should is not a word we use when talking about the decision to come out or not. Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to do so. Pagan Coming Out Day is not about shaming other Pagans and polytheists into coming out when they’re not ready.

Rather than talk about ‘should’ – let’s look at the benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, to coming out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety in your life caused by living a double life, developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family, and developing a positive self-image. It’s stressful to hide a core piece of who you are from those around you. Another benefit is one that the LGBT community has experienced – a reduction in prejudice. In a study for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers found that, “heterosexuals tend to hold favorable attitudes if they know two or more gay people, if those people are close friends or immediate family members, and if there has been open discussion about the friend or relative’s sexual orientation.” This is why the LGBT community strongly encourages its members to “Come out, come out, whereever you are” – because it works for them in their struggle for equity. This is also why LGBT Pagans are often the most vocal in our community about the need for Pagans to come out. Being open and honest about our spirituality encourages a climate of greater tolerance and acceptance of Paganism as more people realize they know a friend and loved ones who are Pagan. But there are risks, too, and each person will have to access the risks and benefits unique to their own situation.”

Some have expressed skepticism at the need for a Pagan “coming out” day. The problem, I think, comes from what we mean when we say “out” (or “in” for that matter). I’ll be frank and open about the fact that I advocate for Pagans coming out of the “broom closet”, and have publicly advocated this position when I give talks at events. However, being “out” doesn’t necessarily mean plastering your car with bumper stickers, interjecting your faith into every conversation, or ostentatiously wearing a pound of Pagan “bling”. It certainly doesn’t mean placing yourself or your children in immediate danger if those are your circumstances. It means not living a double life, it means being out to your family, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it means being willing to request and expect equal treatment in the workplace.

Pagans being “out” about who we are to those who love us, to those we interact with on a daily basis, changes the world. Even the conservative Christian polling organization The Barna Group acknowledges this in their research.

“About 5% of America’s adult population associates with faiths other than Christianity (e.g., Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.). Within this group, about half (47%) were registered as Democrats, 30% were independent, and one-quarter (23%) were Republicans. The ballots of this group were most often cast for Barack Obama (62%) rather than John McCain (36%). The support provided to the Democratic candidate is identical to the backing this group provided to John Kerry four years ago (61%) …Among voters who had a favorable view of Wicca, Sen. Obama was the favored candidate 64% to 35%.

It is important to look at the language in that last line. It isn’t about Wiccans specifically, but people who had a “favorable view” of Wicca. To further extrapolate, the family, friends, and co-workers of the estimated 1 million modern Pagans in America tended to favor the candidate favored by the majority of modern Pagans. But this isn’t just about voting and politics, it is about eradicating stereotypes and altering perceptions. It’s about changing the strange biases and assumptions that even “tolerant” people have about modern Pagan faiths. It’s about not being thrown under the bus because “there isn’t a Pagan in our office/school/organization”. Again, coming out won’t be a panacea for every Pagan, but if all who are willing and able took one day to say “I’m a Pagan”, to humanize our often misunderstood religions, it could change more than any of us realize.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve in an advisory capacity on IPCOD’s executive board. I’m working with this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD today, and help spread the word.

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

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

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

International Pagan Coming Out Day: It is less than a week to Pagan Coming Out Day, May 2nd, and PNC-Minnesota has a story up about a local IPCOD celebration that will feature a screening of the documentary “American Mystic”.

The event takes place May 2nd at the Sacred Paths Center and is open to all Pagans and Pagan allies, no matter if you have been ‘out’ for ages or are not yet able to be open about your Pagan spirituality.  It directly follows the usual Monday night Pagan Potluck and the event is offered as a free gift to the community.  An opening Hellenic-style libation to Hestia, a Goddess that strengthens the bonds of family and community,  kicks off the evening, with champagne cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks and desserts to follow.  Once everyone has their treats, the movie American Mystic will be screened for the first time in the Twin Cities area.  The documentary opened at Pantheacon to rave reviews.”

Meanwhile, David Salisbury at PNC-Washington DC/Capital Witch mentions the DC-area IPCOD event sponsored by the Open Hearth Foundation.

“Sponsoring DC’s event is the Open Hearth Foundation who just announced that our location will be at the back gates of the White House. Really, if you’re going to come out as anything, it might as well be right on the President’s doorstep! Participants should gather at the sidewalk area in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue at 7:45pm. A public coming out ritual will being at 8:00pm, followed by walking to a local restaurant for community sharing and celebration. In addition to the gathering itself, the OHF will also have support volunteers on-site to help those who might find the coming out process difficult or emotional.”

You can see a full list of scheduled IPCOD celebrations, here. Follow IPCOD on Facebook, here. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve in an advisory capacity on IPCOD’s executive board. I’m working with this project because I think a unified effort towards ‘coming out’ is a needed one, a complimentary movement to our already vibrant Pagan Pride days. I hope you’ll support IPCOD, and help spread the word. Addendum: Here’s more on IPCOD from Patheos.com.

Calling Ourselves Pagan: Since we just talked about “coming out” as a Pagan, perhaps we should also talk about the label of “Pagan” itself. In a recent guest-post for Patheos.com, Scott Reimers advocated finding a different word for our diverse movement. In response, author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle wrote a two-part essay discussing some questions and one possible answer to the issue of calling ourselves Pagan.

What do I think is this thing that ties such diverse ways and means of practice, experience, and belief together? We all have a sense of “Divine with us on earth.” The Gods are not just far off in Asgard, they are in our gardens and our homes. Goddesses don’t just live in some distant place, they help us run our businesses, and teach our children. And these Gods and Goddesses have their own agency, too. Paganism(s) and systems of magick – as they exist in contemporary religious expression in this loosely knit group of practitioners – hold theologies of immanence in common, whether this is directly acknowledged or not. Magick would not work without direct divine connection. Rituals would be meaningless or simply psychological exercises if there was not some strong, direct sense that whatever sacred energies or forces we work with were not here with us, right now.

That is what drew me to Paganism in the first place: God was not off in some distant and transcendent place. God Herself, and individual sacred expressions such as trees, ocean, stars, this particular God or that particular Goddess… were all moving, flowing, acting, resting, and directly making up the cosmos(es) right now. And so was I. If this was not the case, our magic would be simple begging and supplication. Instead, our magick, for those of us that do it, becomes a way to help create the world. Those of us who don’t do operative magick celebrate the realization that this sacred expression is with us every day. And for this, we give thanks: we dance around Maypoles, we raise horns of wine and beer in honor, we light candles to draw us deeper into contemplation, we make love as a way to draw closer to our Gods, knowing that often our Gods are as close as the breath of our lovers.

I anticipate that we are collectively stuck with “Pagan” for the foreseeable future. Perhaps a day will come when the various religions, traditions, and groups under our wide umbrella get big enough to not see (or need) the agency in being part of something larger, but I don’t think that day will come in my lifetime. However, for now, solidarity and collective effort is still needed to safeguard our basic rights, and advocate for equal treatment. To build basic religious services, and to gain the attention of the wider world. Even when we do reach the point where Wiccans, Druids, Asatru, and other faiths no longer need to be thrown together for various political reasons, we may find that we are all still attending the same parties.

The Correllians Get a New First Priestess: The Correllian Nativist Tradition have announced a restructuring and expansion of their Council of Elders, and have named a new First Priestess to replace the now-retired M. Rev. Krystel High-Correll.

“In addition M. Rev. Krystel High-Correll, First Priestess of the Correllian Tradition, has already been in retirement for several years now. As Retired First Priestess Lady Krystel does and always will enjoy the same level of respect and dignity that she has born for the last three decades of her imperium. Now, after much consideration, we are pleased to announce an Heir to the office of First Priestess: Lady Krystel and the entirety of the Council of Elders are pleased to name Rt. Rev. Traci Logan Wood as Heiress and Acting First Priestess, in accordance with the Rules of Succession of the Correllian Tradition as outlined in the Tradition bylaws. May the Blessing be upon the Acting First Priestess!”

In addition to naming Traci Logan Wood as First Priestess, a lifetime appointment, Ed Hubbard was also named as the new First Elder of the tradition and several new members of their Council of Elders were named in order “to fulfill the duties and offices needed for a Tradition that has become truly global.” My congratulations to to Wood, Hubbard, and the new Elders.

In a somewhat related note, congratulations to Pagans Tonight, which is quickly approaching its 500th episode.

More on Pagans in Prison: The PNC-Minnesota special series on Pagans in prison continues today, featuring an interview with Emrys Anu, a Wiccan Minister volunteering for the last six years at Rush City Correctional Facility.

“I work with mainly 20 – 40 year olds, and we work always within a ritual circle. Whatever work we plan for that day, we do in that circle. We create that as sacred space, and we consider what we do in there as our sacred work. We may have a lecture, a meditation, a reading, a ritual, or we may just talk. We just finished a ‘lecture’ on ‘what is Wicca?’. The history, and Paganism will be coming up. (Laughs, “It always comes up, “Do you worship Jesus, too?”) They often are asking for some kind of healing work. Typically some kind of energy work. We do a lot of different blessings. Blessings for impending court cases. When people leave we do a special blessing that always ends with “DON’T COME BACK! ”. We sometimes play games and do fun things. We play Wiccan charades, or ‘Wiccan Hangman’ and ‘Wiccan Hangman in Theban’. We have a fantastic energy sensing werewolf game that we play. We may discuss a book or do ritual planning. A few weeks before a Sabbat we talk about ritual in general, and what we will do for this one. How does it connect to nature and what is going on inside of us. It may be a full moon or dark moon. These might have some simple spell work within it. We meet once a week for two hours.”

Read the entire interview, here. In the next installment, Nels Linde will feature transcribed letters from prisoners and some editorial thoughts on the issue. This has been some excellent coverage on the issue, and I highly recommend heading over to PNC-Minnesota and reading the entire series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Patheos Interviews of Note: I just wanted to close with some quick links to two interviews of note over at the Patheos Pagan Portal. First, Galina Krasskova interviews author Melitta Benu, a practitioner of  Alexandrian Reconstruction. Then, the Staff of Asclepius blog interviews Pagan author and lecturer Janet Callahan. Both are thought-provoking and worth checking out.

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

I wanted to point out a couple of recent Pagan-themed interviews that I think are worth checking out. The first is with Ben Whitmore, author of the book “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft,” conducted by Star Foster at Patheos. This self-pubished study/critique of Ronald Hutton’s “Triumph of the Moon” has generated quite a bit of notice, and respectable amount of criticism from Pagan academics, so this opportunity for Whitmore to make his case seems very appropriate.

“At first, I hoped it would make Triumph a more useful resource for pagans and Wiccans. As I started talking with others about what I was doing, though, I discovered that Triumph had become something of a cult, and I risked getting a dressing-down for even questioning it. A fairly typical response was condescension followed by condemnation, and being told that I obviously hadn’t read Hutton very carefully, and only fluff-bunnies still cling to the old myths. Pointing out that I wasn’t clinging to the old myths didn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, “Wicca” seemed to be turning into some sort of derisive joke, with “Ronald Hutton” as the punch line. Some people were quite vicious about it. I started to feel that my critique might help restore some dignity to the Craft, and turn Triumph back into just a book; a book with no greater claim to infallibility than any other.”

Whitmore also notes recent criticisms of his work by Peg Aloi (who is currently working on a longer-form criticism for Pagan academic journal The Pomegranate) and Chas Clifton, saying they make “a big fuss about me not being an academic,” and accused him of “being too lazy to write a proper critique.” One academic in Whitmore’s corner is Max Dashu, who recently penned a lengthy and glowing review of “Trials.” Then again, one could argue that Dashu isn’t exactly a fan of Hutton’s work to begin with, making her positively predisposed to a Hutton critique. In any case, it seems that this renewed debate isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

The second interview I wanted to bring your attention to is with musician Arthur Hinds, a member of the popular Celtic-American folk rock band Emerald Rose, and a longtime fixture on the Pagan festival circuit. Laura LaVoie from The Juggler interviews Arthur about being an “out” Pagan musician in honor of International Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd, 2011).

“The idea of a formalized pagan coming out day I think I has two edges. First of all, I hope that, for many people, it may give them strength or the moment to speak of who they are. I also hope that they have the wisdom not to speak it where it doesn’t belong. I do not believe in rubbing it in people’s faces anymore that I enjoy having another faith splashed in mine. I also hope that eventually the purpose for the day will simply fade away entirely and Pagans need not feel imprisoned by the secrecy they fear is necessary.”

Hinds is planning to release a new single “about the path of being Pagan” on May 2nd in honor of IPCOD. For more about Arthur Hinds’ work, check out his 2008 solo album “Poetry of Wonder”. Arthur is an extremely talented individual, and a friend, and I’m extremely pleased to see him throw his support behind this new effort. Be sure to read the entire interview!