Archives For Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotes and images from figures within Pagan and Heathen communities. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, expression, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice or visual artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

I care about many things. I love many people, communities, and the Earth. I am passionate about many issues. I lean into the discomfort when I discover something that is wrong in myself, cultures, technologies, religions, and politics so that I can do my part to change what can be changed. This means I live a rich life with bright lights and abysmal darks, and I would not have it any other way. . . . . . . I’ve been heartened by the outpouring of support and the encouraging words about taking time for self-care. I appreciate the support and I’d like to say that my self-care is as much for you as it is about me. — Ivo Dominguez Jr., on self-care in the wake of the Orlando attacks.

We were made for these times. You are the result of generations of ancestors who lived through the terrible times and survived. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Take out your comfort basket. Enjoy beauty. Hold your beloveds close. Drink tea. The struggle will still be here when you come back. Goddess knows, it ain’t showed much sign of disappearing heretofore. — HecateDemeter, “I Will Not Leave You Comfortless.”

The truth is though, that globalism and nativism are mutually exclusive ideas. You cannot preserve the identity of a people’s native heritage, and bind them all together as one giant, unified species. There’s too many mutually exclusive differences between the groups. It would be like trying to fuse Asatru with Islam, when at every turn they differ on absolutely every issue, from how many gods there are to how you treat women, to what is the appropriate way to regain lost honor. — Lucius Svartwulf Helsen on the inherent tension between nativism and globalism.

“A lot of food assistance available is through other religious organizations,” said Rev. Amy J. Castner, a priest in the Druid faith and vice president of Pagans in Need. “A lot of people who are Pagans or not religious don’t feel comfortable receiving help from people who don’t share their religious views. Knowing there’s a place for them to go where their lifestyle is accepted makes people feel more comfortable.” — Amy Castner, quoted in the Lansing State Journal article “Fresh veggies, clothes offered at Pagans in Need food pantry.”

In a sense, polytheism is like art. It is interpretation and expression, and absolutely does not and cannot place emphasis on any single unity. There is no end point for polytheism, or for the multiplicity of the divine. It branches and twists, turns and splinters into a hundred iterations, a thousand views and infinitely more interpretations, all underneath the conception of what it means to be a “god,” many of which exist alongside each other under a wider religious umbrella. That which is conceptualized as a single divinity is ultimately – sometimes intimately – multifarious, producing a range of attributes, qualities, and experiences which can felt differently between people of the same household, let alone what would have constituted the differences between two regional traditions. — The Lettuce Man, “I Call It ‘Musashi Contemplates Caravaggio’.”

From WitchsFest 2016 [Photo by Ron Frary. All Rights Reserved]

From WitchsFest 2016 [Image by Ron Frary. All Rights Reserved]

This idea that people who are evil or commit evil acts couldn’t possibly be Pagan, it drives me batty. It is not up to us to decide what another person’s religion is. If someone is a practicing Pagan, let’s say a practicing Hellene: they worship the theoi, they practice Hellenic ritual forms, they do what Hellenes are supposed to do. They don’t suddenly become not-Hellene because they commit some act that I and other Hellenes think is evil. — Bekah Evie Bel, “Pagans Aren’t Evil.”

We can solve all the world’s problems, we can stop the violence, once we stop looking at life as the singular and start looking at life as a whole. There was a time back in history when humans worked together in order to survive in this world, sadly that was when our ancestors ventured out of Africa into the harsh unknown.

We can make all these advancements in technology, but we cannot make any advancements within ourselves. That is going to lead us down a path that we will not survive and the ego isn’t going to help us when we are there. With everything you see and hear that is going on in the world, we are on that path right now sprinting to the end. — Bear (CanadianDruid), “Can We End Violence?

I have a theory that what the religious “nones” may be looking for is not the “religionless church” offered by the Sunday Assembly and Unitarian Universalism, but “churchless religion” — symbol, myth, and ritual, without the moralism, dogmatism, and hierarchy — a kind of “Hinduism for the West.” . . . . I suspect that part of the reason we Pagans have not yet capitalized on the growth of the nones is that people can’t find us . . . . I question whether people can really experience Paganism virtually or by reading a book. — John Halstead, from an essay on eco-shrines.

Although the majority of modern Pagans are not anti-capitalists, there is a fundamental contradiction between the Pagan and capitalist worldviews. The worldview of capitalism is sociopathic; it treats everything and everyone as an object to be used. The worldview of paganism is relational; not only does it not treat people or animals as mere objects, it doesn’t look at anything else as a mere object either. — Christopher Scott Thompson, “What is Pagan Anarchism?

One of the reasons Pagans (people who practice earth-based spirituality) might not know if a curse is legit or not is because there are groups, like Wicca and some variations of shamanism, and other Pagan traditions, that follow the “harm none” principal. Those groups tend not to use curses or hexes in their spell work at all so they might not study that negative juju enough to know exactly how energetic harm is made. That means they might also not know how to stop a curse, or protect themselves from one, once one has been enacted against them.

Yet even those groups that practice “harm none” know that curses in the Pagan community do exist and either by experience or observation they tend to believe they can cause great harm. Most practitioners of the above-mentioned philosophies greatly fear curses for the mayhem, disease, and destruction they can cause someone. That’s part of the way they shun such teachings. — SunTiger, “What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses.”

[Greg Harder]

Yucca [Image by Greg Harder. All Rights Reserved.]

Once again we are standing in the wake of a horrific tragedy and trying to make sense of the lives taken away by an act of violence. On June 12, 2016 around 2 A.M. a gunman walked into the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida with an assault rifle, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. Pulse, a LGTBQ club, was hosting a “Latin Flavor” event that was packed with approximately 300 people enjoying life and love on that Sunday morning.

Celebrations of love, during this Pride month, turned to the mourning of those who were killed and to the honoring of those wounded in Sunday’s tragedy. While many people try to make sense of the losses and the continued hatred directed at LGTBQ individuals, the mainstream media continues to focus on the shooter and his apparent motives. They have neglected to show the impact on the local, LGTBQ, or Latinx communities.

[Courtesy: Wikimedia

[Courtesy: Wikimedia]

The pain and loss experienced by these intersecting groups is being overshadowed by the most sensationalized tactics of the mainstream media machine. The erasure of politics and fear is in full force, which is nothing new to this community or to other historically marginalized communities. Little room is left to collectively grieve and support LGTBQ people without hate, fear and political nonsense creeping in.

After the event happened, the spotlight quickly moved toward attempts to identify the motives of the killer, tie him to specific agendas of extreme terrorism, which then becomes political fuel for the upcoming elections. Instead of a focusing on the very real grief of the affected communities, the media bypassed the LGTBQ voice for sensationalized news coverage and terrorist plots.

With so many publications focusing on the story of what happened at Pulse, I felt it was important to prioritize the voices of the LGTBQ, LatinX and the interconnected Pagan/Polytheist communities – voices that are too often lost in the madness.

In doing so, I also recognize that the grief, shock, and pain of such an incident makes it challenging to speak up at times like this. In reaching out to some within the local areas, or within the LGTBQ Pagan community at large, the rawness of the situation deserved care and consideration. Below are some of the reflective, inspiring, emotion filled, fierce words of a community impacted by the events of June 12.

The LGBT community in Orlando, the rest of Florida, and throughout the country and the world is still in shock after this tragic act of hate and violence. Our pain and outrage is compounded by media erasure of the fact that this was a deliberate attack on the LGBT community, and by those who seek to use our tragedy to further Islamophobic and gun control related political agendas.

We are doing our best to build something good out of the tragedy, by using it to bring us together and renew our sense of solidarity and community. Monday night I worked with a coalition of the LGBT leaders and organizers here in Pensacola, working together more closely than ever before to put together a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the Pulse massacre. I’ve never been more proud of my community than I am now, since I’ve seen how we respond to tragedy with love and support. – Katharine A. Luck, Ordained Minister of Florida’s Fire Dance Church of Wicca and vice president of STRIVE

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A few days before the Orlando massacre, I was talking to a straight friend who was giving me the “things are so much better and homophobia is dying out with the older generations” speech. I disagreed, but my well meaning friend was not ready to hear me. I was in the Orlando area about a month ago and had reconnected with people I know there.

I am an early riser so the horror of watching the news started very early in the day as I worried for my friends, grieved for the losses, and so much more. In addition to everything else, I saw repeated efforts to ignore, minimize, and sidestep the centrality of homophobia to the why and the when of the attack. So in addition to the emotional wound delivered to every LGBT person by the attack, there was also the wounding message that we matter less than making political hay.

I have been out for 42 years and every single one of those years I have been affected by physical, emotional, and political violence. It is useful to have gained some legislation over the course of those years, but ultimately the real work is in changing the culture. Homophobia is not dying out with the older generation, pay attention to the age of most of the perpetrators of violence. The hateful ideas are passed down the line like most abusive behaviors, and I see the same hateful values taught and role modeled today as when I was 16. If you want to do something about Orlando, work to change yourself and our culture, that is where real change lives. – Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

The news about Orlando has pulled at my heart in so many ways. I still can’t read the names or look and their pictures. They look too much like my community, my friends, the ones I go out with to queer bars in San Francisco. It could have been any of the people I know. It could have been me. I’m grieving for the families, especially the mamas burying their young. I’m grieving for the young queers, especially queer Latinx and other QTPOC who feel afraid.

Queer bars are not just safe spaces for me. They are temples. They are where I find the Blue God, the Peacock Angel, dancing among us, rejoicing in our beauty, power, and freedom. And I find myself asking, in what ways does our practice hold us in these moments? How do we stay present when our communities and the communities of those around us experience so much violence?” – Abel R. Gomez

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The first thing I read yesterday (June 12) when I woke up was about the Orlando shooting. For most of the day I didn’t really have an emotional response; I was angry but a lot of my other queer friends were more effected. I was driving to a café at around eleven at night when it hit me as I was listening to NPR, though, and I just started crying in the car.

I felt bad for crying. I don’t really feel I have the ‘right’ to be upset, even though I’m queer and even though the whole situation is horrid enough everyone should be crying. I’ve appreciated seeing my queer Pagan friends and leaders talking about the shooting and how to heal and extending themselves to the wider community, especially Elena Rose.  – Aine Llewellyn

Queer is the only word to define us. Queer is the word we will wear. And an ocean of strange friends that we call family, ebb and flow around us. All making up their families as best as they can, too.

And another year follows yet another day. Checking in after morning prayers, there is word from a beloved friend: There’s been a mass shooting. His friends go to that club. One still unaccounted for. He is bereft.

A day of grief shatters a month of joy. A month set aside to mark the uprising, a riot where trans women led gay men to say, “Enough!”

Enough harassment. Enough beatings. Enough killings. Enough arrests. Enough denials of housing. Of children. Of jobs. Of health care. Of being with our loved ones. Enough. Enough. Enough.

We too say enough.

You will not kill us. A few may fall, cut down, but you cannot kill us all. We will not let you. And we will not let you use our blood to organize more hatred and more war. Yes. I’m looking at you. And you. And you, too.

Last night, I made a decision. It is one I’ve made before:

I don’t want to, but if I have to, I will die in the streets defending my siblings from harm. Be they cis or trans. Black, brown, or white. Men or women. Not men, not women. Queer or straight. Or something wholly new. A parent defending a child. A band of Pagans. A Muslim at prayer. A young black man just hanging out. Two women, white, or brown, kissing on a sidewalk. Comrades locking down. A group of friends dancing and laughing, drinking beer at one a.m. – T. Thorn Coyle

Anthony Falls Bridge lit up June 12 2016 [From Tweet by @derekjohnson]

Anthony Falls Bridge lit up June 12 2016 [From Tweet by @derekjohnson]

Apparently our mainstream media (MSM) and conservative politicians are bound and determined to erase us, to make the mass murder in Orlando into a “tragedy” that does NOT acknowledge precisely who lost their lives. Queer people. Latinx / Latin@ people. People who were in a safe place, dancing, sharing love and lust and light and space.

The dead are dead because of homophobia. The dead are dead because people in this country have become far more visible in persecuting (through word and deed and law) LGBTQIA people. The acts of violence are nothing new; the laws are flashbacks to the old days when what we wore was legislated.

I am queer. I am terrified, because a man was arrested before he could get to an LA Pride event, and he had guns and bomb-making materials, and apparently enough hate that he drove from the middle of the country to attack people he didn’t know. I am sick with heartbreak, because the conversation is (once again) about the identity of the man who did this, and not about the identities of those who died because of his hate.

Visibility is so necessary to our community. Yes, it’s dangerous, and not everyone can practice it. But if we are not seen, not acknowledged in the truth of who we are, then bigots will continue to ramp up their hateful words, acts, and legislation. – Dee Shull

I have been trying to unwind the various threads that combined to weave together the tragedy of last weekend. Instead I found myself tied up in knots unable to move and heartbroken. The fact that the shooting had even occurred was devastating; the number of deaths and injured unbelievable.

In the GLBTIQ community we refer to each other as family. We share common experiences, some of rejection and hate, others of acceptance and Love. It is these experiences that help to bring us together. We come together in clubs like Pulse to share community, dance, sing; to be our authentic selves and to be safe. These are the only locations where many of us are able to do this.

This attack has devastated our family and shattered our sense of security. In addition that devastating news that most of those killed and injured were Lantinx/Hispanic/Mexican, communities that have been exploited, marginalized, oppressed and are under vitriolic attack in political and public discourse, added an almost unfathomable overlay to the story.  People who have been attacked for both their ethnicity and their sexuality, gunned down in a venue where they anticipated being safe from the attacks they endured from the outside world.

The added knowledge that the killer may have been struggling with his own orientation only adds to the tragedy.  This attack may have been fueled by a combination of internalized homophobia and the misogynistic abusive propaganda put out by individuals and organizations skewing the teachings of their religions to meet their warped political end goals. If this is the case, the shooter is a victim of the lies and hatred told him as much as the victims he shot. This is not to diminish his actions but to highlight the complexity of this tragedy.

And so I find myself in knots, knots that time will eventually unwind, but knots that will forever have an impact on the fabric of my community and my chosen family. – David R. Shorey

Minneapolis Vigil for Orlando Victims [Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr]

Minneapolis Vigil for Orlando Victims [Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue / Flickr]

3 hours
Yes I’m going there. We, the queers, have been thinking and talking about those three hours.  “Mommy, I love you …  He’s coming.  I’m gonna die.”
Walking in, saying, “If you are still alive, raise your hand.”
WE are talking about it, thinking about it, dreaming about it.
3 hours to be hunted, wounded, die.
Black, Brown, Queer people, and three hours.
A part of me says, “There is no Justice.”  Another part says, “We make our own Justice.”
The cottage/community witch in me is working fiercely to love and be present to my Queer family. The Social Justice witch in me, is in that place where there are three hours going by. For now, that is all I have to say. – Jacki Chuculate

I actually started receiving text messages and emails of solidarity from friends and allies long before I heard the news about Orlando first hand. And of all the messages and voices and memes and social media posts I’ve seen, one message rang the most true. It went something like: If you don’t understand how a club can be a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid of holding someone’s hand in public.

And that brought to mind a poem I wrote my freshman year of college. It’s included in my book, The Playground. It came about after I was physically reminded that I am not – or was not – allowed to exist in all spaces. I was not welcome, and my mere presence was seen as some kind of threat.

And it is in that space where I am beginning to process the fact that in 2016, in our own places of sanctuary, we are just as vulnerable and just as endangered as ever. These spaces are just as important as ever.  – Fire Lyte

I don’t feel sad. I feel RAGE. Being entirely free and open to others, whether Gay or Polytheist, in a country where savagery, ignorance, and entitlement are nurtured is a gamble not worth taking. Want to learn more or come near me, my culture, my beliefs? Fuck you, you can sit by your lonesome until I’M good and ready. Don’t like it? KEEP WALKING. – Lāhela Nihipali

>We are adaptable creatures. Our brains are built to cope with horror. But if you don’t feel this pain, if you can say to yourself “this isn’t about me,” or “this isn’t my fight.” You’re wrong. No matter your sexuality, your gender identity, your race, or your religion.  Violence against one is violence against all. Until we can accept that we are all connected, that we are all responsible, it’s going to happen again. And that is the true horror. – Rúndaingne Ash

[Courtesy Pulse Nightclub Facebook Page]

[Courtesy Pulse Nightclub Facebook Page]

>I am the mother of an LGBT teen and I had to tell her about the shooting before she left her bedroom this morning. It broke my heart to see her bouncing out of bed in a good mood (a rare enough event in adolescence!) and to have to take that joy away. Her political awareness and spiritual sense of self are both developing in the context of the current climate of divisive and hate-filled politics and public shootings.

She’s scared that marriage equality will be taken away; she’s sad and afraid of violence and hatred. She’s had to deal with ignorant questions about her faith but I don’t think she’s had any vitriol due to her sexual identity. I know that I can’t shelter her from all the hate and ignorance in the world but I’d love to keep her safely under my wing for a little while longer. Of course our family, our friends, our religious community are completely welcoming and loving. It is a gift I am happy that I can give my children. Their Gods and Goddesses love them, their trad mates love them. They have examples of happy adults living all sorts of different  lives.

I wonder if the dissonance between the loving and accepting cocoon of our community and the hate and fear of broader society are going to cause her pain in the long run. Because I know that someday, someone will say something ugly to her for being who she is, whether it is directed at her religion or her sexual orientation. It breaks my heart that I can’t protect my child from the sickness of our society. These are just some thoughts off the top of my head. I appreciate you giving space on TWH for this issue this week. Our home has been rocked by this horrifying event. – Larissa Güran

Truth time;
We are of one blood,
And it bleeds red,
Regardless what pigmentation your skin.
No matter,
Who you like to fuck,
Which is what it boils down to
No matter
Who you are on the inside,
Showing who you are on the outside
And if our paths do meet,
Who am I
To choose when your ending ought to be?
All of our lives
Our Paths,
Even if our paths never cross,
Stitched together by a Maker,
Whomever that might be,
Who can speak for Them?
And if
They do not possess the power to speak for Themselves’,
Who are we to speak for Them?
And furthermore,
Why are we following Them?
So,
50 lives for 50 states,
50 hearts,
50 souls,
Gone in a matter of moments
53 more
Unspeakable atrocities
Made in the image
Either of what you believe in
Or what you fear. – Jeremy Shirey

Vigil at MIT June 14 2016 [Photo Credit: Maia Weinstock, Flickr]

Vigil at MIT June 14 2016 [Photo Credit: Maia Weinstock, Flickr]

In the wake of this horrific catastrophe, we have the opportunity to step forward and center the voices of the LatinX and LGTBQ communities in our society. We get to challenge a narrative that is so often pushed into the mainstream consciousness without challenge or question. We have the opportunity to embrace those who are often ignored or discarded and pass the mic that will amplify their voices.

Within our interconnected Pagan and Polytheist communities we have a unique chance to truly embrace the spirit of community by listening to the words of our marginalized. We are small enough that we can dismantle the walls keeping us separated and large enough to make an impact in the process.

The chance to use our collective power to demand changes in legislation and laws, and to demand proper representation in our government and organizations holds more power than a simple social media meme or a lit candle. The isolation created by erasure can be lonely and harsh, we can counter it by being present and willing.

As we all continue to heal from the devastation of this unspeakable injury to the LGTBQ community, we should ask ourselves: “Who are the most affected?”

How can we give space and honor those who have lost their voice? What can we do to support our LGTBQ community members and friends? How can we lift up our most marginalized? What actions are needed to support our LGBTQ and other marginalized peoples beyond this moment in time?

The legacy of erasure, oppression, marginalization and othering that happens within the larger societal construct will continue to impact those who we care about, if we are not willing or brave enough to speak up, step out, and work for love.

From Washington DC Vigil June 13, 2016 [Photo Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr]

From Washington DC Vigil June 13, 2016 [Photo Credit: Ted Eytan / Flickr]

In our collective road to understanding, let us now acknowledge the names of those who lost their lives while celebrating Life in Orlando, Florida.  As we say, what is remembered, lives! 

Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Amanda Alvear, 25
Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Cory James Connell, 21
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Frank Hernandez, 27
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Kimberly Morris, 37
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

More from LGBTQ and LatinX leaders:

Author’s note: A special thank you to those who were willing, able or available to contribute to this piece during such an emotionally challenging time. In an effort to put LGTBQ voices forward it became apparent how understandably challenging this was at this time. I honor those who took the time to do this, and I also honor those who were not at the space to be able to. I see you. Thank you.

 *   *   *

This column was made possible by the generous support of the members of Come As You Are (CAYA) Coven, an eclectic, open, drop-in Pagan community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Minneapolis, Minn – For the past six years, Twin Cities Pagan Pride (TCPP) has hosted Paganicon, a three day indoor conference featuring the opportunities to learn, network and celebrate. Pagans and Heathens from across the U.S. are joined by Canadian visitors and the occasional overseas guest to partake of Minnesotan hospitality.

PaganiconMinneapolis is a large and dynamic city that is cut by the mighty Mississippi River and sits alongside the city of St. Paul. Together they are known as the Twin Cities. Urban sprawl has engulfed smaller surrounding communities creating a metro area made up of more than three million people. The city is also a place with an uncommonly large Pagan population and has been dubbed “Paganistan”.

This affectionate moniker was coined by local poet, priest and “Man in Black” Steven Posch. In his 2005 essay “Witch City, Pagan Nation,” he tells the story of this naming. Adding to Minneapolis’s reputation as a Pagan mecca is the presence of the world’s largest independent publisher of metaphysical books, Llewellyn Worldwide. Founded in 1901 in Portland, Oregon, the company moved to Los Angeles in 1920. When St. Paul native Carl L. Weschcke purchased the company in 1961, he brought operations home to the Twin Cities.

In recent years, helping to build this reputation and the community through news sharing is the  Pagan Newswire Collective-Minnesota Bureau edited by Nels Linde. Is it any wonder that Pagans and Heathens would be drawn to a place that boasts a Witches Hat shaped water tower on the highest point of land in the region?

[Photo Credit: Marumari / Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo Credit: Marumari / Wikimedia Commons]

TCPP is an independent entity, incorporated in 2008 as a non-profit, tax exempt organization. The original intention of the group was to run an annual Pagan Pride event in conjunction with the national Pagan Pride Project, on the first Saturday after Labor Day. With such a huge population of Pagans in the Twin Cities, this event led to the need for another big opportunity for the community to gather. This need gave birth of Paganicon

Since its inception in 2011, Paganicon has grown by leaps and bounds. The first year featured 40 events and one guest of honour. This year’s conference featured 115 events, three guests of honour , three featured guests, one featured ritualist and 55 additional presenters.

The attendance reflects this growth as well. According to TCPP President, Wendy Seidl “Every year we break a record, it just gets bigger and bigger. This year we were hoping to break 500, and we did by Saturday morning.”

Guests of Honour T.Thorn Coyle and Ivo Dominguez Jr. (photo by Dodie Graham McKay)

Guests of Honour T.Thorn Coyle and Ivo Dominguez Jr. [Photo Credit: D. Graham McKay]

Hospitality is the first thing that strikes you as you enter the hotel, a Double Tree by Hilton located in the St. Louis Park area. The hotel staff seem to really like having a colourful bunch of Pagans in their midst. Special menu options, including vegan and gluten free selections are available, and the hotel bar brings in local cider and mead specifically for the conference delegates. The first TPCC volunteers you meet are at the registration desk, and they are equally warm and welcoming, despite being swarmed by people wanting to register for the weekend, buy merchandise or ask questions.

It is here that anyone can become a member of the “Flying Monkey Squad,” the team of volunteers who look after everything from badge checking to decorating and clean up. Not only is this a great way to meet new people, but you can also get a rebate on your registration for taking shifts. This atmosphere was appreciated by writer and Paganicon workshop presenter, Jason Mankey:

Paganicon compares nicely to other indoor Pagan events like ConVocation and PantheaCon. The vibe was welcoming and laid back, and the hotel that hosted the event was perfect. (Having the right type of rooms for presentations makes a big difference). One of the things I like about smaller events is that they often have a more “group community” feel to them and I felt that way at Paganicon. The organizers were on top of everything and everything was set up nicely.

Guest of Honor, Ivo Dominguez Jr. summed it up by saying:

This year it was a much larger conference and remarkably it still managed to be just as warm and cohesive as it was at my first visit. I was especially pleased by the variety and the diversity of the presenters, the topics, and the respect shown to them.

This years theme was “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions and Voices.” The influence of this could be felt throughout the weekend, from the workshops, lectures and rituals to the Equinox Ball on Saturday night and the party suites. The Wild Hunt was a presence this year, treating conference delegates to a party room that featured fancy martinis and a mashed potato bar, which is apparently a “Minnesota thing.” On Saturday morning,the TWH team, consisting of managing editor Heather Greene, assistant editor Terence P. Ward and writers Cara Schulz, Crystal Blanton, Manny Tejeda-Moreno and myself, presented a panel discussion on the history of the site and its service to the greater Pagan communities.

One of the most unique features of this conference is the inclusion of The Third Offering Gallery, an art show, comprised of Pagan artists, most of whom are from the Twin Cities area. Sixty six pieces of original art by more than 30 creators were showcased. New to the art show this year was a print room, where featured artists could sell reproductions of their work, as well as smaller pieces. The originals works were up for sale as well, with several beautiful pieces being snapped up by the time the gallery closed on Sunday at noon. This gallery, as well as the vending area were open to not only conference delegates, but to the general public as well.

Other programming highlights from the weekend included multiple and sometimes back to back offerings from the three high-profile Guests of Honor – T.Thorn Coyle, Ivo Dominguez Jr. and Mambo Chita Tann. The opening ritual, which was led by Australian guest Jane Meredith, featured the Guests of Honor, and the large conference room it was being held in was packed to the point that it could not accommodate everyone who tried to get in. Mambo Chita Tann not only presented lecture on Haitian Voodoo, but on Saturday night hosted a ceremony as well. Artist, author and certified ecopsychologist ,Lupa, brought mental health and the natural world to her workshop “Ecopsychology for Pagans”. TWH’s own Cara Schultz brought us to ancient Greece for her “Omens & Curses” lecture.

Tribute space placed at the center of the Restorative Justice circle by Crystal Blanton and T. Thorn Coyle. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

Tribute space placed at the center of the Restorative Justice circle by Crystal Blanton and T. Thorn Coyle. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

The blending of the serious content and the fun atmosphere was one standout feature of this conference. Even the hardworking presenters had a chance to kick back and enjoy. Ivo Dominguez Jr., who presented seven events and helped present the opening ritual, observed:

I was impressed by the balance of serious work and good fun. I really can’t choose just one of the many things that I enjoyed. Perhaps the best thing is that the attendees and the staff seem to strive to make things work out for the best outcome available in the moment. Paganicon is one of the few events that I attend that truly attempts to include the full gamut of things that add up to the building of culture and connections in our various spiritual communities.

Jason Mankey found time to have fun between his lectures, reflected:

For me something like Paganicon is work so I have to balance work highlights with personal ones but there are a few that stand out. I had an amazing class at my “Drawing Down the Moon” workshop, and it was literally so full that I think a few people turned away because they couldn’t find a seat. That was gratifying and I loved it. The social aspects of the conference were great too. I got to reconnect with some of my favorite people from around the country and hang out with some new folks. I ended up spending Friday and Saturday evening in the company of some great Winnipagans, which was not something I expected going into the event, that was a highlight.

Next year Paganicon promises to break records once again. During the opening ceremony address, programming coordinator Becky Munson broke the news that for the first time, Paganicon will be raising the registration fee by $10. She then proceeded to deliver the good news that a Friday night concert will be added to the already busy and diverse schedule. In a later interview Munson went on to say:

Each year it gets a little bit better, things get a little tighter, we learn a little more and can dial in on what people want and makes good sense and what we can do logistically in all those things. We look at every single feedback form – the whole board does. We do a post mortem and have a whole board session to just go through the forms. Every suggestion is tabulated. We pick all of our next year’s stuff based on those forms. Paganicon is a community driven event. It takes everyone being here, everyone buying tickets, everyone presenting programming and everyone engaging each other in order for this to be a thing.

IMG_0931

Paganicon 2016 makes the local paper [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

Over the weekend, the east coast was hit with record snow falls, blizzard conditions, white-outs, thunder snow and more as a Winter Storm “Jonas” came in for a visit. According to The Weather Channel, who began naming these winter storms in 2011, Jonas is the “largest snowstorm on record for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Baltimore; and JFK Airport in New York City, with all of those locations receiving over 2 feet of snow.” As far south as Georgia through New York, the snow fell in varying degrees, and Pagans and Heathens took to social media to report the conditions at their locations. We reached out to a number of them to get a better idea of the conditions.

Tweeted from Space Station [Courtesy NASA]

Winter Storm 2016 as seen from the Space Station [Courtesy NASA] www.nasa.gov

Hardest hit was the New Jersey, Washington D.C. and New York City metro regions. Author David Salisbury reported going out to stores in preparation for the storm event and seeing goods lying on the floor and empty shelves. He said, “It looked liked a Walking Dead supply run.” Salisbury lives in the D.C. area and reported that he hadn’t seen a blizzard warning like this for six years. After making his own preparations to be stuck inside for several days, he posted the following public announcement on Facebook:

I’ll be stuck inside until at least Sunday so we might as well make the best of it! I’m offering deeply discounted rune and tarot readings until ‪#‎Blizzard2016 is over.

On Saturday, he did venture outside and took the following photo of adults and children enjoying the snow:

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

[Photo Credit: David Salisbury]

Not far away in Delaware, author Ivo Dominguez Jr. was watching the snow come down near his home. Dominguez is one of the founders of the New Alexandrian Library, located in Georgetown, Delaware.  He said that the library was safe, adding, “This was nothing. Hurricane Sandy went over it with zero damage.”  He shared this photo of his home at Seelie Court:

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

[Courtesy Ivo Dominquez Jr.]

Farther north in central New Jersey, Elder Priestess Lady Pythia was watching the snow fall from the comfort of her home. She said poetically, “Noreaster sweeps. Cats eyes widen at ephemeral windy prey just out of reach, and we Witches toss herbs into the small cauldronfire, sip cinnamon creamed coffee, joke about animating shovels to tackle hip-high arctic drifts rendered in A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Pythia shared these photos as the snow piled up on her back deck:

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

[Photo Credit: Lady Pythia]

Lady Pythia added, “A Witch sends out safe vibes for all in the storm’s path, with awe at the Mother’s wild Full Moon brushstrokes.”  As she and many other Pagans have pointed out, January 23 at 8:46 pm ET marked the full moon. NASA satellites captured the beauty of the moon’s light on the storm in this photo:

[Courtesy NASA]

[Courtesy NASA]

Over in Pennsylvania, Robert Schreiwer of the Urglaawe Kindred was also watching as the storm dumped more than 30″ of snow in his yard with sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts of up to 50 mph. Taking a spiritual look at winter’s process, Schreiwer said, “Many of us hail those associated strongly with snow: Skadhi and Holle. Being an Urglaawer with Holle as my patroness, I look at the snow blowing in the whirlwinds as a reflection of Her power. She has shaken her featherbed for over a day here, and the land is covered in the down. Although small, the first hail of the new year has fallen.” He shared this photo taken from his window:

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

[Photo Credit: Robert Schreiwer]

Not missing an opportunity for some traditional religious work, Schreiwer added, “Per Deitsch tradition, I have collected some of it. One little stone I added to my drink; another I have retained for luck. The hail represents luck and opportunity for transformation and change. In the Deitsch healing and magical practice of Braucherei, the focus during this early time of the new year is on fixing that which needs repair, conserving the resources we have for last year, and planning and organizing the changes we need in order to make our lives better throughout the year. While we hail the snow, we also honor those who put their lives at risk to ensure the safety of others in this weather. Hail!”

Also in Pennsylvania, Priestess BrightFlame said that she was “snowed in” with  about 30″ of snow on the ground. But the resultant downtime caused by the weather has allowed BrightFlame to rest her sprained wrist and “reread The Fifth Sacred Thing ahead of allowing [herself] to indulge in Starhawk’s sequel, City of Refuge : the sequel to The Fifth Sacred Thing.”  This quiet time has also offered her the opportunity to prepare for an upcoming workshop that she is hosting in New York City with Starhawk,on February 20. BrightFlame shared this woodland photo from her home:

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

[Courtesy Bright Flame]

In New York City, Priestess and author Courtney Weber reported having a “perfect snowday.” She said that she also spent Saturday, “catching up on reading, writing the next book, and doing it all in pajamas because real Witches know how to multi-task. And do things better in pajamas.”  She shared this photo taken from her apartment window as the snow fell:

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

[Courtesy: Courtney Weber]

The storm’s reach stretched down the east coast forcing a number of governors to declare states of emergency and warning against travel. New York City shut all bridges and tunnels down through Sunday morning. Even as far south as Georgia, offices and schools closed early on Friday in preparation for the worst. And this wasn’t an unnecessary act. As the news has reported, at least 18 people have died in the wake of the storm with most of the deaths caused by slick roadways.

Star Bustomonte, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, has been stuck inside due to the weather. Although her area was not hit as hard as the coastal mid-Atlantic region, Bustamonte did report that she had over a foot of snow. She also said, “I’ll be several hours digging out once it starts to warm up. But I’m not even starting until it gets about 30 degrees.” She’s spent the weekend, like many, watching television and hanging out with her cats.

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

[Photo Credit: Star Bustamonte]

Due to this reportedly historic storm, there have been many store closures and event cancellations. For example, Asheville’s Raven and Crone was closed yesterday and has canceled today’s workshops. Brooklyn’s Catland Books was also closed yesterday with plans to open today. However, Sunday morning owners posted on Facebook, “BROOKLYN! Take another day to build snow altars and leave offerings for blizzard spirits – we’ll see you on Monday, and back again next month for Black Mirror Salon!”

We contacted EarthSpirit, the organizers of Feast of Lights to see if they were at all concerned that this mega storm would damper attendance at next week’s conference. EarthSpirit co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen said, “No.”  The event takes place in Amherst, Massachusetts which was not in the storm’s path. However, he did say that they are watching weather, adding “Living in New England, we have to do that every year. So far, things look pretty good for next weekend, and in the 18 years we’ve been putting on Feast of Lights, we’ve never had to cancel once.”

Back in Washington D.C., Salisbury looked out of his window on Sunday morning. The storm had passed and the skies were clear. He shared this photo of his courtyard:

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

[Courtesy David Salisbury]

Over the next few days, as the weather warms above freezing and the snow begins to melt, the east coast will get back to its normal activity with schools back in session, businesses open and travel schedules on track. Until then, much of the east coast will be gathering by fires, digging out and finding ways to enjoy the quiet of a winter’s storm.

DMP_Taylor4mediumPublisher and author Taylor Ellwood has posted two open letters to Pagan convention organizers asking for, at least, partial expense compensation. In the first open letter, he writes, “In my pursuit of self-respect, one of the realizations I’ve been having is that how I allow my work and myself to be treated professionally is indicative of the respect I’m giving to myself. And if I don’t set standards and boundaries for that treatment then I’ll get walked all over.”

Ellwood goes on to say that he will no longer present at conferences with the exception of three already scheduled in 2016. He argues that his presence as a guest helps bring people to the conference, and that the promised exposure received in return doesn’t pay his bills. This lack of some compensation is, in his opinion, unacceptable. He writes, “It also tells me that the people putting on the conference don’t respect my contribution.”

In the second letter, Ellwood calls for transparency on the selection of the presenters. He writes, “Each year you select who the guests of honor are at your event, but you don’t tell us how it happens. It’s treated as a secret and it’s time for the secrets to come out. I have queried different conventions about how they select their guests of honor and I usually don’t get answers.” Ellwood emphasizes that, in the end, he wants more than anything a “consistency” in the treatment of presenters.

*   *   *

paganmarketlogo2small-300x92In June, we reported on the startup of a new website called “The Pagan Marketplace,” which was born out of the continuing struggles to sell metaphysical items on Etsy. Founder Blake Greenman Carpenter spearheaded this new venture geared specifically at Pagan artisans. At the time, he said, “We all need a break from the outside world sometimes and this site can give us that small clearing in the forest away from the pressures of those who don’t think like we do.”

This week, Carpenter announced that the Pagan Marketplace would be closing down indefinitely. In a recent announcement, he wrote, “Sorry to those who showed interest but the few of you that did will not be enough to hold it afloat at the moment. I hope to bring it back at a later date but there would have to be some major improvements in my status to do it. Thanks for your show of support and interest, I wish there were more like you.”

The Amaranth Marketplace, created to serve the same artisan population, is still in operation.

*   *   *

9780738743998Llewellyn Worldwide has announced the publication of the 7th edition of The Golden Dawn. First published in 1937, The Golden Dawn was originally created by Israel Regardie, infamous for breaking his oath by publishing the society’s secret material. However, in recent times, Regardie has been somewhat forgiven, because his work helped preserve the society’s practices. Regardless of recent debates, he remains a controversial figure in the Golden Dawn’s history.

Despite the background, it has been claimed that Regardie’s book is “the most influential modern handbook of magical theory and practice.” And, that it “started the occult movement.”

The newest edition, which took three years to create, boasts 960 pages “with added illustrations, a twenty-page color insert, additional original material, and refreshed design and typography.” According to Llewellyn, “Scholar John Michael Greer has taken this essential resource back to its original, authentic form.” The bookseller is taking pre-orders now. The book will be officially on sale in January 2016.

In Other News

  • Yule has arrived, and many people around the world have spent this past weekend celebrating. Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC), the Florida-based division of Covenant of the Goddess, has uploaded its most recent seasonal podcast. For every sabbat, the organization produces a new downloadable podcast with the goal of celebrating and connecting is community. This year’s Yule podcast includes an interview with Wild Hunt contributing writer Cosette Paneque; discussions on holiday spellwork, medicinal herbs, “FooDoo” and Pagan craft projects.The “Reaching for the Moon” podcast is rounded off with music from Emerald Rose and Mama Gina.
  • The 12th annual Conference of Current Pagan Studies is looking for vendors and program advertisers. As we reported last week, this conference, held in January, begins the Pagan indoor conference season. The 2016 event, held the weekend of Jan 23-24, is themed “Social Justice.” While proposals for presentations are no longer being accepted, the conference organizers are still looking for vendors and program advertisers.
  • Another late January event is EarthSpirit’s A Feast of Lights, held annually in Amherst, Massachusetts. As described on the site, “A Feast of Lights is a weekend of warmth at the coldest time of the year – a festival of Earth spirituality and the arts, of community and hope, of tradition and creativity. The weekend is intended to nourish our hearts and minds, bringing together a collection of teachers, performers, artists and merchants who join with all of the gathering’s participants to kindle the fire within during the dark of winter.” Wild Hunt reporter Terence Ward was in attendance last year and wrote, “Winter is indeed a universal truth, an indivisible portion of the cycle of seasons which many Pagans acknowledge or revere. It is often unpleasant, sometimes even dangerous, but so long as there are events like A Feast of Lights held in the coldest days, there will be opportunities to dream again of spring.” A Feast of Lights will be held Jan 29-31, at the Hotel UMass, Amherst.
  • astrologybookivoThis January, Wiccan author Ivo Dominguez Jr. will be releasing his new book, Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans. Published by Red Wheel/Weiser, Dominguez’ book explores the “sacred science” and symbols behind Astrology with the aim of applying the knowledge to ritual, herbalism, crystals and other similar work. “This is a practical handbook for any practitioner of magic to use in building individual rituals and creating the most effective magic.” Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans will be available in paper and ebook formats.
  • In other publishing news, Joanna van der Hoeven has published a new book titled The Stillness Within: Finding Inner Peace in a Conflicted World. It is a “collection of writings on finding inner peace, based on Zen principles, meditation” She told The Wild Hunt, “This little e-book is a collection of writings designed to find peace even in a world that seems to going to pieces. All proceeds from the sale of this book are going to charity: The Woodland Trust UK and the UK Orangutan Appeal.” In addition, van der Hoeven has recently released an “online Zen Druidry course, based upon her Pagan Portals introductory book of the same title.”
  • For those readers who like dark folk music, Nemeur, a duo from the Czech Republic, has released its second album titled Labyrinth of Druids. The music is being used as the official soundtrack for a video game of the same title. “The [Labyrinth of Druids] is set in a maze of nightmares and its main aim is to provide extremely strong atmospheric experience combining fantasy and horror.” The group’s sound is described as “minimalistic and dark,” and “if there is a project that can disrupt the walls of mainstream, it is Nemuer.”

[Crystal Blanton is one of our talented monthly columnists. She writes the Culture and Community column, focusing on a number of very vital community topics, like the one below. If you like reading her work, please consider donating to our fall funding campaign and sharing our IndieGoGo link. There are only 9 days left! It is your wonderful and dedicated support that makes it possible for Crystal to be part of our writing team. Donate today! Thank you so very much.]

The Parliament of World’s Religion was held on American soil for the first time in 22 years. Held in Salt Lake City, Utah, thousands descended on the mountain filled desert in search of interfaith dialogue, multi-faith exploration and the opportunity to teach others about their religion.

[Photo Credit: C. Blanton]

One of the major themes this year was violence, hate speech and other issues that specifically impact women; all of which are important and need to be addressed around the world. It is also customary for the Parliament to host forums addressing some of the current issues that plague the local land of that year’s host country. To the surprise of many guests, the issues of the brutality and militarization of police, systemic racism and the killing of Black and brown peoples at disproportionate rates were not given focus as one of the prominent issues within the United States today. As one of the leading causes of violence and hate perpetuated in this country, it appeared to be treated as a minor issue or not an issue at all in the landscape of this year’s Parliament.

Of the many workshops held over the 5 days, only two workshops clearly focused on the plight of Black people in this country. One of those workshops was a “Moral Monday” sermon, and another that was a panel held on Sunday night at 5:15 pm. 

This panel had three Christian ministers who have been involved in the movement for Black lives and racial justice. The three included: Rev. Michael McBride, Rev. Jim Wallis and Rev. Francis Davis. They referenced the horrible statistics of Black people killed by some form of law enforcement, and the rise in Black liberation protests that have awoken young Black people to the fight for justice.

The audience appeared to have about 200 to 250 people present with over 20 Pagans and Polytheists in the crowd. Several Pagans in the audience submitted questions to the panel to address the murders of Black Trans women in 2015, and to highlight the other marginalized faiths that are also involved in the justice movement for Black people. There was a short video shown of recent incidents and protests that left many audience members visibly emotional. This can be viewed below in the linked recording of the event, occurring about 23 minutes into the video.

I reached out to several Pagans and Polytheists, who were present in the audience, to gather their reflections on the panel and to seek clarity on what might have brought so many of them to this one single event on the program. I asked three questions:

Do you feel having a BLM discussion at the Parliament was important and why? What were you hoping to get out of the panel? Why do you feel it is important to have space for this topic to be explored in faith communities?

Lee Gilmore

“The Black Lives Matter panel was one of the most important conversations at the Parliament. On a basic level, it is critical to keep pushing these truths because without doing so black lives will only continue to be disregarded, targeted, and vulnerable. And the more these concerns get out to diverse religious communities, and the more that we put justice at the center of our conversations…  

“On a fundamental level, I attended simply to show up and put my white body in that room, and to continue to listen to voices that help me “stay woke.” I was also grateful to Pagan leaders like Thorn Coyle and Elena Rose for pushing the speakers to give voice to trans lives and non-Christian activists, as well as to the organizers somewhere back along the line who clearly laid the groundwork with the ministers on stage that lead them to publicly and clearly acknowledge that queer & trans lives matter.

“One of the key themes I heard being raised by indigenous leaders at the Parliament was the importance of listening to our ancestors, as well as the importance of thinking about how our actions affect the future. As a Pagan, these are concerns that I share, and for me this means making reparation for the violence committed against black and brown bodies by some of my ancestors by working for a more just and equitable future for all of our descendants. That means supporting Black Lives Matter.”

T. Thorn Coyle

“I have so much to say on the topic of Black Lives Matter at the Parliament. I’m very glad the panel happened, because this discussion is important to all communities, and now is the time that the energy of this movement is poised toward making change. That said, we needed much more than what was offered. We needed multiple panels, teach-ins, sit-downs, and presentations. We needed systemic, personal, and community racism denounced at every plenary because it weaves through all topics: climate change, women’s lives, indigenous rights, and spiritual service.

“That didn’t happen. The “Pagans in the #BlackLivesMatter” movement panel I put forth was rejected. I therefore figured that there would be more programming on the topic than there was. The panel that ended up happening – with three Christian men on the stage – felt almost like an afterthought. Good things were said there, though two Pagans – myself and Elena Rose – had to challenge the speakers. We weren’t the only ones. I’m not disrespecting the three men who showed up to lead this panel. They are committed activists and do great work. What I am critical of is the entire lens through which the topic is viewed by those holding relative power: Clergy means Christian; Two Black and one white cis men is diverse enough; Scheduling the one thing specifically dealing with Black Lives Matter on the final full day of the conference, overlapping the gala music and dance performance, was acceptable …. I’m not OK with any of those things.

“I’m glad that #BlackLivesMatter was present at the Parliament. But I wish that I hadn’t felt the need to stand up and shout those words at the closing plenary, because they had been left out. And I wish that my words hadn’t been swallowed up by the vastness of the hall.”

All we had was our bodies and

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“Given the ostensible world stage of the Parliament, it was important to have the event as an option. I am disappointed that there were as many empty seats there as there were, and that from what I could tell, most of the attendees were Americans from mainstream religious traditions, but I’m also glad that there was a definite Pagan and polytheist faction there as well, and that not only did the efforts of some of our people in terms of activism get recognized (even if it was because of well-timed and well-asked questions from those very people), but also that the contributions of trans* People of Color in #BlackLivesMatter got named in front of everyone, and that Rev. McBride specifically stated that he and other Christian leaders have had to “sit at the feet” of these trans* activists to learn from them about the struggles of queer people of all stripes.

“I was hoping for two things. First, just to hear more about this movement, the stories and voices that have been made prominent by it, and to learn more about it. To my knowledge, there is no visible presence of the movement in my locality, and I’d have to go to Seattle to participate in it, which I can’t do without major difficulties at present. I feel this was certainly something that I came away with as a result of attending the panel. Second, I was hoping to get some further ideas on how I might be able to support the movement from a distance. I think I also gained that as a result of the panel.

“I also think, as a polytheist, that our traditions have a great deal to teach and share in terms of how our basic theological ethics–dealing with individual Deities on a reciprocal relational basis–also extends to how one can best deal with the diverse humans with whom one comes into contact, and the basic ideals of hospitality, respect, and celebration of diversity and inclusiveness which polytheism requires are good things for all people of all religions to value and hold both dear and to the utmost in their dealings with others.  While those of us who are polytheists or Pagans of various types do not suffer now as much as People of Color and indigenous peoples still do as a result of these things, especially if we are white, nonetheless the continued marginalization of, ignorance about, and disrespect towards our religions that is alive and well–even at the Parliament–is based in these same notions, which have not been properly acknowledged by the leaders of major hegemonic monotheistic religions of the world, nor by the political leaders of diverse world governments, including that of the United States, as being the basis for this continued license to dehumanize and commit violence and other atrocities toward People of Color.

Black Lives Matter panel

Black Lives Matter panel [Photo Credit: C. Blanton]

Dr. Gwendolyn Reece

“I think it was absolutely important and was disappointed that it was not in a more prominent time slot. The reason that I think it is so important is that this is an international gathering and although racism is a larger and more universal topic, this session addressed the more focused topic of state-sponsored violence against Black people who are a vulnerable minority in the United States and this issue needs international attention. Part of what we know from the work of groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and so forth is that in addition to citizens trying to hold their society and their governments accountable, there is an important and powerful role that can be played by international communities demanding accountability from a sovereign state. So, we need to combat racism in all of its guises, but in the very immediate we need to stop the state-sponsored violence and mass incarceration of Black people in the United States and we need increased international pressure to hold our governments (local, state, and federal) responsible.

“I honestly went in with open expectations and a willingness to be moved and changed rather than with specific expectations.  I can tell you that what I found most powerful in the panel were two different things. First, although I have been really striving to be informed about and engaged in BLM and have participated in demonstrations and have heard some of the leaders, in those contexts they are putting forth a platform, which is the appropriate strategic action and I support it. What I had not heard before, though, were the kinds of descriptive stories about the specifics of the backlash and the film that they showed was more graphic, upsetting, and powerful than I had seen in the media.   

“Although what was shown in the film was shocking, painful and upsetting to watch, I needed to see it. I needed to see it in its horror. You know, they rarely actually show the moment someone actually dies on the news. I think it was spiritually important to watch and bear witness.

“From my particular perspective as an Hellenic Pagan and a citizen of the United States (and as a priestess of Athena and Apollon, the duties of a citizen are sacred to me), I have a moral responsibility to act. Aristotle talks about the virtue of gentleness as being in right relationship with anger. If you have too much anger, then you are irascible. But in situations of injustice and atrocities, situations like the horrific violence perpetrated against our citizens of color by the people who are supposed to be the sacred guardians (the correct role of the police) if you are NOT angry, there is something morally wrong in your character. Sometimes to be gentle is to be filled with rage. In a society that mistakes placidity for gentleness, I think that we need spaces to explore, develop and harness holy anger.”

Elena Rose

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

“I expected black lives matter to be a fairly prominent topic at the Parliament, and was surprised to find that it was barely present. The Parliament of the World’s Religions potentially has the power to bring people together to work on mending the world. At the Parliament, we were encouraged to look at the pain, injustice, and tragedy in the world directly with an eye to taking action informed by our spirituality. Given this goal, I wonder at the virtual absence of BLM at the Parliament.

“I was there to hear stories of those on the front lines. I was there to hear voices that bolster the will to continue the work. I was hoping for more than was offered, and I worked to be grateful for the work of those on the panel despite their sometimes flawed representations.

“As soon as I got home and reconnected with the news stream, I discovered that Black churches were being burned again. Religious people aren’t the only ones that work to change the world, but they often have infrastructure that is needed for taking action. Faith communities are often a place to regenerate and to heal before re-entering the fray. Without a place of solace, activists can lose heart and clarity of thought. Dialogue leads to relationships that lead to solidarity. Faith communities need to join efforts to rebuild what hatred destroys.”

Elena Rose

“Black Lives Matter is the biggest theological debate happening on this continent right now, in the sense of an argument about meaning and the implications of meaning. Literally, we’re arguing over whether or not the lives and bodies and stories of Black people are worth the same as, matter as much as, are as precious as the lives and bodies and stories of other people. We’re having a national–and to some degree international–debate about what a Black body means and what that meaning demands of us as people in community. This isn’t a legal or scientific argument; it’s a matter of theology, of symbol and metaphor and value and most especially of who is worthy of love, worthy of protection, worthy of grace, worthy of justice. Where better to wrestle with the issue than in religious communities– especially considering how many religious communities have been at the frontline of the struggle?

“Black Lives Matter, as a movement, is a lot of things, but one of the things it is–even in the most secular sense you can dig up–is a question of morality, faith, theology. Do we, or do we not, listen to and have faith in Black people?  Do we, or do we not, have moral obligations to our Black neighbors? These questions are written in enormous letters all over our public discourse right now.  Any religious movement that wants to be relevant to our civic life has to at least address those questions, to acknowledge them and offer an answer.  If a religious movement is claiming to speak to the state of community, it has to answer to the call Black Lives Matter has put forth.  If a religious movement is claiming to say something about what matters about a human life, it has to answer the exposure here of massive, systematic dehumanization of millions of people. If a religious movement is in the business of caring for the people who come to it, of proclaiming compassion, it has to reckon with the terrible damage done to so many by white supremacy, unequal treatment under the law, murder with impunity, police misconduct. It’s not just vital, it’s simply not optional any more; pretending away this cultural moment, pretending away the call it represents, is the worst kind of abdication of responsibility.

“So, for all that, I was eager to see a discussion of Black Lives Matter at the Parliament of the World’s Religions–a whole international host of people who claim to be moral authorities, to be leaders of communities, to be seekers for the answers of what matters in the world, people you could expect to have fruitful conversations about big moral and theological questions. I wanted to see, if we put our Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Hindu, Indigenous heads together–if we got the Jains and the Heathens and the Unitarian Universalists in a room and lit the spark–if we could come up with better answers, or at least an agreement to act together in the name of justice and restoration. The US faith communities needed to see that the eyes of our colleagues around the world were on us in this place of crisis; the international leaders needed to see us grappling. The Parliament was an opportunity for us to have the conversation with survivors of the fight against Apartheid and with people who had no idea any of this was happening, to get outside perspectives and inside perspectives working together, and my hope was that it would happen in front of the many thousands of people attending the summit. This year’s theme was about reclaiming the heart of our humanity–what better way to do it? “

jim Wallis

Matt Whealton

“Hearing the direct witness of the speakers was a key aspect here. As we know, media messages are a cacophony that in some (or many) cases actively attempt to distract people from understanding the events and issues around BLM. Pastor McBride was brilliant in his descriptions of what happened at Ferguson and his personal growth through working with the young leaders of BLM there. I wish more could have heard his words. His and the panel’s personal transformation in confronting the violence against black bodies is inspiring, and the Parliament could have provided an even louder amplifier for them.

“The Parliament’s sessions can educate those from other parts of the world who may not be exposed to the issue. The Parliament’s purpose is to spark discussion and cooperation on the important matters that affect us across our traditions. BLM is surely a topic important enough for major programming. More could have been provided here, I believe.

“I feel it was necessary to show up and be counted in support of BLM, even though it was clear that the issue was not a mainstream one for the Parliament (an aspect that I believe was a miss of a great opportunity on the Parliament’s part).

“Another was the chance to hear about the current state of the movement. This was covered well, both by the speakers on the local (Utah) and national levels and also by some of the commenters during the Q&A at the end – some great stuff there. It was heartening to hear the audience going beyond just listening to share useful information, which in itself demonstrates just how non-centralized the movement is.

“On a personal level, it is a sacred act for me to “do Maat and speak Maat” (that is, live and act according to the principals Maat embodies – Truth, Justice, Order, Compassion, etc). Every faith community has a version of these ideals to guide individuals in or very near its core beliefs and obligations. So it is only natural that we should be working both within and between our traditions to effect changes. Maybe not every person will be inspired for this particular issue, but by opening spaces for BLM, those people who are inspired can join and not only build bridges but provide a ‘wall of bricolage’ – a wall stronger and more resilient than one built of just one material.”

Rowan Fairgrove

“I think it is especially important to have Black Lives Matter at the Parliament. If people of good faith trying to make the world a better place aren’t mobilized around this issue, then I would despair. I was interested to hear the story of Rev. Francis Davis, pastor of an historically black Baptist church in Salt Lake City. He noted that the African American population is about 2% in Utah – if he wants to get allies he has to reach out to the interfaith community to have a voice. And he has been successful in getting interfaith allies.

“I was hoping for a bit more analysis and more suggestions for follow-ons. “Black Lives Matter. Black Lives have been discounted. Here is the work that must be done.” People at the Parliament are supposed to make an ongoing commitment to make a difference in the world, fighting for #BLM could have been offered as a focus. [And not to be snarky, but I was hoping for a younger, more diverse panel. And that it take place earlier in the Parliament instead of being shoved to Sunday night.]

“The majority of people in the world look to a faith or spiritual community in their life. The core of most such traditions holds that people should be treated with dignity and respect; that fairness and truth are prime values. When there is so much structural imbalance and white supremacy present in our country, people of faith need to speak out, do the work, and dismantle the historic injustices. We need to work to make our vision a reality — of a world where all people, but especially those oppressed by the current system, can have prosperous, dignified lives as a welcome part of the community.

“I would also have liked more programming on the topic! We could share best practices and create a network of groups working within their communities. In San Jose, for instance, we are having Beloved Community meetings between the Police Department and community members (facilitated by clergy) … I would have loved to had a chance to hear what other communities are doing!”

  *   *   *

Although the room was more than half empty on this Sunday night timeslot, the impact of this one panel brought some much needed dialog about the responsibility and intersections of our faith communities in the demand for justice.

I sat in that room, not as a journalist or columnist for The Wild Hunt, but as a Black, Pagan woman looking for more ways to understand the impact of spirituality in the equity movement. It felt rewarding and supportive to know that so many Pagans and Polytheists were also motivated to attend this isolated offering at the Parliament. There were parts of the video shown in the panel that were emotionally evoking. Hearing the passion in the voices of the speakers on the panel, and in the audience, was truly an indicator that we are pushing beyond disbelief and into action.

It was also heartening to see people building coalition together, asking the hard questions, and acknowledging the work that has yet to be done. Among the many concerns we have become more comfortable fighting against, issues of systemic racism seem to still challenge many in greater society and within the modern Pagan and Polytheist communities. Yet so many people came to listen and participate in this workshop despite challenging planning on the Parliament’s part; there is still so much to discuss and so much to do within this time and space.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus added a profound thought in eir interview that I would like to close with it here because it leaves us to think about the role of interfaith work in the justice movement, and why it is important to work together to challenge the status quo of our intersecting communities. E said,  “That #BlackLivesMatter even has to be said, and that religious leaders of mainstream religions even have to be reminded of this, demonstrates how very far from actualizing this recognition both religions and the general public are at during this moment in history. While making this more visible in a religious context is good and important, I am not certain that doing so will properly filter out into the general populace, either.”

Our communities have to continue to think on the importance of dialogue, and what is missing when Pagan, Polytheist, and voices of color are not included; And what is gained when we are at the table aiding in conversations that open up possibilities.

Below is the recorded livestream of the Black Lives Matter session at the Parliament of the World’s Religions

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RobertRudachukHeathen Robert Rudachyk has announced his candidacy for Canada’s Liberal Party of Saskatchewon. Rudachyk ran in 2014 and, in an interview with The Wild Hunt, talked about his goals and his work as an openly Heathen candidate.

He said,If I am able to become the candidate, I intend to run my campaign on the issues facing all Canadians, not on my faith. I will never hide who I am, but I will also not whip my hammer out in public and shove it into people’s faces.”

This year, Rudachyk is running “to be elected as a Member of the Legislative Assembly ( MLA) for this seat or district as you might call it. It is for the provincial government of Saskatchewan It is essentially the provincial parliament.” The campaign was just announced, and we will have more from Rudachyk in the weeks to come. The election itself will be held in April 2016.

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Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

(Photo: T. Mierzwicki)

On July 17, Professor Sabina Magliocco created a new survey for an independent study on fairy legends in the Pagan community. Magliocco is a professor of Anthropology at California State University – Northridge. Her online survey was titled “Fairies in Contemporary Paganism.” She wrote, “I’m interested in your legends, experiences and beliefs surrounding the fairies, fae, sidhe, Fair Folk, pixies, trolls, and similar creatures from any cultural tradition. What are they? Do you work with them in your spiritual practice? What is their role in the world today?”

Within one week, Prof. Magliocco received over 500 responses, far exceeding the allowances of the technology used. She announced the survey’s closing and began compiling the data. Although the work has only begun, she offered this quick assessment: “a majority of respondents believe fairies are real and associate them with the natural world. Nonetheless, fairies are not central to the majority of respondents’ religious practice — but a substantial number of respondents do interact with them, mostly by making offerings.” The full results will be presented at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies, held in Claremont, California in January 23-24, 2016

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Many Gods West Facebook Photo

Coming up this weekend is the brand new conference, Many Gods West. As noted on the event website, it is “meant to be a celebration of [many] traditions, those newly-reconstructed and those continuously-practiced. There are many gods in the world, and many peoples worshiping them.”

Held at The Governor Hotel in downtown Olympia, Washington, Many Gods West will feature three days of workshops, lectures, rituals and more. The keynote address will be delivered by Priest and Author Morpheus Ravenna on Friday at 7:00pm. Rituals include the Bakcheion (Βακχεῖον)’s “Filled with Frenzy,” Coru Cathubodua’s “Devotional to Cathobodua,” and Viducus Brigantici, Filius’ “Kalends Ritual” and more. Many Gods West opens for the very first time on Friday, July 31 and runs to Sunday, Aug 2.

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HUAR Logo

Over the past few months, there have been some changes to the group Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR). According to various sources, the group experienced internal conflict in June, which led to a split between the various moderators, organizers and facilitators. The disagreements were centered around internal operations and structure.

HUAR is currently still in operation and slowly re-building. In a recent post, The HUAR Team wrote, “We have undergone some recent internal reorganization to be more effective in accomplishing our goals of opposing racism and co-optation of Heathenry by racialist groups and organizations. We’ve learned a lot of hard lessons from the mistakes of the past few years and are working to be more effective now and going forward.” *

In addition, a new group has formed called Heathens For Social Justice (HFSJ), which was created after the June events. HFSJ is run by nine democratically-elected board members. They describe the group as a “safe space” and as being “committed to fighting all oppressions, wherever [they] find them, in service to both [the] heathen community and [their] local, regional and national communities.” Organizers added, “We are about action, not platitudes.”

While the two groups do have some crossover in purpose and goals, their focuses do appear to be slightly different. We will continue to report on both groups as they continue or begin their advocacy and work.

In Other News

  • The Sacred Harvest Festival is about to kick-off its eighteenth year at its brand new location in Northern Minnesota. The festival will be held at Atchingtan in Finlayson,MN, which is 90 minutes north of St. Paul. As always, the scheduled is packed with rituals, drumming, workshops and other events. The guest speaker will be Shaman Joy Wedmedyk. PNC-Minnesota has recently published an interview with Wedmedyk, in which she says, “I want the people who attend to know the reason I teach is because I want people to have as much information as possible to be able to move forward spiritually and to know prosperity and abundance in all levels of their life. I love to encourage people to develop their own skill set, and perhaps offer them a different perspective about a practice they may already be doing.” Sacred Harvest Festival begins on Monday, August 3 and runs through Aug. 9.
  • Mills College Student and co-founder of the Pagan Alliance Kristen Oliver has been selected as a Chapel Programs Assistant. Oliver said, “I will be working for the interim Multifaith Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life (SRL). I will be doing things like managing SRL’s Facebook page, helping to organize and lead activities and events like the school’s multifaith Festival of Light and Dark which happens in December, and being available to students who have spiritual/religious queries.” Oliver added that she “continues to be impressed” by the school’s support of the Pagan Alliance and Pagan students.
  • As we reported last week, Starhawk has ventured into self-publishing for The City of Refuge, the sequel to her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. To accomplish this task, she will be opening a Kick Starter Campaign to pay for various aspects of the process. The campaign will begin on July 31, as suggested by Starhawk’s favorite astrologer. As she writes, “It’s also the eve of Lammas or Lughnasad, August 1, one of the eight great festivals of the Celtic and Pagan year.” 
  • EarthSpirit co-founder Andras Corban-Arthen was invited to sit on a panel called the “Indigenous Leadership Talk Issues and Innovation” at the Nexus Global Youth Summit, held at The United Nations. The other panel participants included “Abhayam Kalu Ugwuomo, Chief Kalu Ugwuomo, Tonatiuh Cervantes, Aina Olomo, Ricardo Cervantes, Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.”
[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

  • Ivo Dominguez, Jr will be hosting a new workshop in Delaware to be taught by Byron Ballard. Held on Aug. 29, the workshop, called “Old Wild Magic of the Motherlands,” will be based Ballard’s new research on Appalachian traditions. Ballard’s work is focused on the magical traditions and cultures of her home in the mountains of the Appalachian region. For her next book, she has been studying the various customs that came over from the British Isles. Ballard notes, “The charms, spells and talismans that crossed with those ragged immigrants from Scotland, Northumberland, Cornwall and Cumbria are little known and very interesting. Weather workings, healing charms, curses and blessings–all handed down to us from a by-gone age.” The new workshop will present her findings and will be held in Georgetown, Delaware on Aug. 29.

That is it for now! Have a great day.

btw2015logo-tshirt-3_med-2HUNT VALLEY, MARYLAND –When at any single Pagan conference with a robust lineup of workshops, panels, and rituals, a participant might find it difficult to choose what to attend and what to pass on. When two conferences join forces, those decisions become, at very least, four times as difficult to make. Such was the experience for 3-400 people who attended the combined Sacred Space and Between the Worlds conference in Maryland this past weekend.

These two events became one this year through a combination of cooperation and astrology. Sacred Space is an annual conference which is held around this time. Between the Worlds — not to be confused with an identically-named Midwest spiritual event — is scheduled astrologically, and like Sacred Space, takes place on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. This year, the stars aligned so that the two conferences would be in competition for attendees, speakers, and even organizers, as they have long had at least one board member in common. Instead of cannibalizing resources, the decision was made to combine the two into one whopper of an experience.

Between the Worlds won’t happen again until 2020, and it’s unlikely to ever overlap with Sacred Space again. The events have some common elements, which made the mashup manageable. Both have highly selective processes for choosing teachers, and require the content to be intermediate to advanced. Between the Worlds has handpicked teachers, while Sacred Space combines invited headliners with a proposal process designed to highlight local talent for a wider audience.

A harsh winter storm delayed many arrivals on Thursday. However, with only a few minor scheduling adjustments, the conference kept humming along. Friday and Saturday, the two full days, started with a plenary session during which a panel discussed a single topic before the bulk of the attendees. Friday’s topic was “alliances with the spirit world.” On Saturday a different panel discussed the nurturing spiritual communities.

Each panel was nearly two hours long, with a combination of debate, insight, and wit that highlighted the different perspectives of the panelists. Listening to Archdruid Kirk Thomas and respected author Diana Paxson debate why Odin seems intent on recruiting followers captured the Friday audience’s attention. Is he gathering fighters for Ragnarok, or trying to forestall it?

Ivo Dominguez, Jr, Michael Smith, and James Welch at the gala

The next morning’s discussion on community was equally as engaging. Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki explained that for all the dysfunction in American Pagan communities, they are far more evolved than what she is familiar with in England, where, “we Brits keep a stiff upper lip,” and don’t see much value in community at all. After identifying herself as the oldest person there, Ashcroft-Nowicki said, “I’m here to learn.”

Just as the days began with a single big session, they ended with the same, but those endings couldn’t have been more different. According to Sacred Space organizer Gwendolyn Reece, both Friday’s main ritual and Saturday’s gala were largely Between the Worlds in origin. Sacred Space does not have a large, main ritual at all, and of the gala, she remarked, “Between the Worlds does that better,” in part, because it costs extra to attend, allowing for live entertainment and plenty of food.

The entertainment came in the form of Tuatha Dea, a band that set the tone by musically calling the quarters and raising the energy in the room to a pitch that was joyous, but not so intense as to be overwhelming. In addition to a deep book of original and lively tunes, this band was able to perform everything from “Whiskey in the Jar” to “White Rabbit” with panache and flair. Their work complemented a silent auction to benefit the New Alexandrian Library, which included an astounding variety of items ranging from original art to gift baskets themed around popular Pagan holidays to ritual jewelry of exquisite beauty.

The main ritual, held Friday night, was a very different kind of energy; one that highlighted the strengths of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. Attendees were encouraged to participate in a preparatory class, during which chants were taught and the layout of the ritual was explained through guided meditation.

The ritual itself began on time, characteristic of an organizational decision to reject “Pagan standard time” out of hand, with the doors being sealed against latecomers. The theme was one of personal transformation as expressed by the “Witch’s Pyramid.” It was built on the astrological significance of the event, which was scheduled during the seventh of a rare series of Pluto-Uranus squares that represent the deep transformation of Pluto coming together with the explosive change represented by Uranus. While much time was spent laying those foundations, when the energy did start flowing, the call to move beyond one’s comfort zone and act for change in the world was unmistakable. By the time the seals upon the ritual gates were opened, this energy could be seen burning in many an eye.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space.

But the choices beyond those big sessions are always difficult. Preparing for possession or oracular work with Diana Paxson? The sorcerer’s tongue or journeying to the phosphorous grove with Christopher Penczak? Deepening understanding of the witch’s pyramid with Ashcroft-Nowicki, or Ivo Dominguez, Jr?

Monika Lonely Coyote tackled the difficult question of differentiating mental illness and spiritual experience in one session, and how to act as a psychopomp for a dying individual in another. There were classes on hexes, breaking curses, alchemy of breath and alchemy of sex. Kirk Thomas offered a class on sacred gifts, which discussed reciprocity with the gods and its relationship to hospitality in ancient cultures ranging from the Greek to the Irish. Byron Ballard’s “Hillfolks Hoodoo” couldn’t have been more different than T. Thorn Coyle’s idea of “Practical Magic.”  However, each teacher brought deep wisdom and displayed a mastery of the craft. Dorothy Morrison offered a class on money magic that was both practical and earthy. In short, when all the choices are beyond “Grounding 101,” every decision is a difficult one to make, an opportunity cost by which one piece of knowledge is gained, and another left behind.

In that way, this idea is similar to a point that Morrison made about magic, and why she does not include “an it harm none” in her spells. She noted that all magic comes at a price.

“If you work a spell to get a job interview, someone else’s resume fell into the trash,” Morrison said. Requiring that a spell harm no one takes away its power, she observed; better to understand that no magic is without consequence. Or, as Coyle put it at one point, “You have to own it.” That’s the kind of lesson taught at this conference: very little in the world is black and white, and the burden of the adept who walks in sacred space is to take responsibility for the many gradations between the worlds.

The New Alexandrian Library, a research and reference facility focused on magic and the occult, is another step closer to opening its doors. In early December, the library received its certificate of occupancy and is now ready to move its collection of rare papers, artifacts, and artwork onsite. The library is located near Georgetown, Delaware and is named after the Great Library of Alexandria famed throughout the ancient world as a seat of knowledge and a gathering place for intellectuals. The New Alexandrian Library (NAL) hopes to follow in those footsteps.

James Walsh at the doors of the New Alexandrian Library [courtesy photo]

James Welch at the doors of the New Alexandrian Library [courtesy photo]

It’s taken the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, the group spearheading the creation of the library, 14 years to raise the funds and build the first building in the library complex. The lengthy dedication needed to sustain an effort for this long was praised by Peter Dybing in his post on 10 Pagans Who Made a Difference in 2014.

In activism, it is always tempting to move from one popular cause to another as time passes. Few individuals have the dogged determination to take on a project that many see as “undoable”. Ivo [Dominguez Jr., Elder in the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel] has done just that, with his unwavering efforts in manifesting the New Alexandrian Library. This is no small task, building real infrastructure that will last for generations. In this library a legacy has been manifested for Pagans around the world. It is an outstanding accomplishment that will benefit the entire community. Let me also say that there were many people involved in these efforts, but being a list of “Ten Pagans” Ivo gets the nod for this effort. I suspect he will share the recognition around widely. The Pagan community will be filled with gratitude of their own for decades to come.

Michael G. Smith [courtesy photo]

The Wild Hunt talked with Michael G. Smith, an Elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and Treasurer of the ASW’s Board of Trustees about the library, its upcoming opening, what precious and rare items patrons will be able to see, and what future expansion plans look like.

The Wild Hunt: The physical space is ready for shelves and books, how long has it taken, from conception, to get to this point?

Michael G. Smith: While the concept of the library began before then, we made the first announcement to the larger community at our 2000 Between The Worlds Conference. At the time we had a ten-year plan. Unfortunately, with the economic crash in 2008 many organizations experienced a sharp drop-off in donations and the NAL felt the pinch. This created a delay in our start of construction by several years. We held our groundbreaking ceremony in December 2011, poured the foundation in July 2012 and received our Certificate of Occupancy in December 2014. So, from the first announcement to completion of construction took 14 years.

TWH: The building was built in a modular fashion, so this building is just the first of several planned – what will be housed in this building and what will be housed in future sections?

MGS: The initial building will house the Library’s collection, its museum, space for meetings, workshops, and rituals along with space for the restoration and preservation and administrative functions. The plan, as time goes on, is to expand the Library collection into its own building(s) and the museum into its own building. There are ideas for housing for visiting scholars and practitioners, separate spaces for ritual and other magical experimentation, and additional meeting space. With this anchoring building as a foundation, the Library will expand to meet the needs of the community and the collection. It will be interesting to see what the future both brings and requires.

NAL 1

Interior space [courtesy photo]

TWH: What do you consider some of your most precious pieces the library will house?

MGS: That is a very difficult question to answer. We have been given so many rare and one-of-a-kind pieces that it is hard to say what is most precious. How do you compare the elemental paintings created by Dion Fortune for her first Temple to 3000 year old Egyptian votive statuary? How does one compare the Rosicrucian Edition of Manly P. Hall’s “Secret Teachings” to a Monica Sjoo original painting of the Goddess Brigid? How does one compare decades worth of private newsletters and documents of long-gone pagan organizations to each other? All of the items that the Library will house are precious in their own way.

TWH: You are planning on cataloging the library books, pamphlets, etc. Do you have staff that are librarians? And are they paid staff?

MGS: Fortunately there are several members of the ASW who are professional librarians. Their services and guidance will be invaluable in the coming years. At the moment all people working to get the NAL set up are volunteers, though there is a plan to have at paid Chief Librarian sometime in the future to more directly manage the Library’s collection.

TWH: I’ve read on your website that you plan to accept, and restore, rare documents. Document restoration is a very specialized field. And preserving documents creates special challenges. What resources do you have to do this?

MGS: The NAL is within easy access to the University Of Delaware which offers a superior art and document restoration degree. We have been in contact with UD in hopes of creating a working partnership between the NAL and that program. In addition, the NAL currently as several friends who do the kind of restoration work we that is an important part of our function. We must start off slowly, of course, and it will take time to get such a program up and running now that there is a facility which can house the needed resources.

Top floor of the New Alexandrian Library [courtesy photo]

Top floor of the New Alexandrian Library [courtesy photo]

TWH: How much has been raised, and spent, in total for the NAL so far?

MGS: As for raised and spent so far, I am doing a final construction audit at the moment for the Board of Trustees. That said, it has taken approximate $250,000 to build the NAL building to fulfill the environmental and structural requirements needed to house such a collection. This has been done solely with the donations over the past 14 years and the ASW has no loan against the facility. The building itself sits on land donated to the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel which is currently valued at around $300,000. Both the building and the land are free and clear of any lein or debt.

TWH: Although several people have planned to leave the proceeds from their estate to the library, the NAL may not see those funds for several decades. How will the library keep its doors open in the meantime?

MGS: There is still a need for ongoing fundraising and we will continue to do that work. The ASW hosts a variety of smaller events each year and the 2015 Between The Worlds Gala is a fundraising event for the NAL, for example. There are also people who make regular monthly and annual contributions to the Library. The nice thing about all of these donations is that now construction is completed such funds will be shifted over to the functions and maintenance of the Library proper. There are also plans for more permanent income streams, such as the launch of a small press and building relationships with other organization to provide services. In the near term, with volunteer help and very low maintenance costs, we have the income to fulfill our responsibilities and plan for the future.

TWH: How soon until the library has its Grand Opening?

MGS: A good question! We are looking at sometime in the Spring 2015 though an exact date has not been set. If anyone would like to see the Library before then they should contact us and we will see if we can arrange something.

TWH: Is there anything you wish to add?

MGS: In our Tradition the hard work that a person does in preparation for initiation brings that person to a new beginning. The Initiation is the start of the work, not the end. All of the hard work that so many people have done in support of the New Alexandrian Library, to bring this dream to life, has brought us to Initiation of the real work of the Library. This is a beginning, not an end, and there is so much work for the NAL to do for the broader magical communities from which it sprang. We are certain that the NAL will provide much needed resources and that in doing so will encourage more and more people to be a part of its work, both for themselves and for their communities. Let us be about it.

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The library has launched a new fundraising campaign for its 2015 Gala to be held at Sacred Space on Mar. 7 at the Hunt Valley Inn in Maryland.

In recent months there have been many discussions and debates about infrastructure in the wider Pagan movement and our collective ability to see Pagan values manifested in the wider culture. In my many years covering our family of faiths I’ve seen many ambitious plans hatched regarding new institutions which have met with varying degrees of success and sustainability. It is easy, especially within a religious movement that often values decentralized grass-roots initiatives, to become skeptical about impressive-sounding plans and announcements. 

However, there’s one campaign I’m not skeptical about, that I think is a good idea. That project is the The New Alexandrian Library. It’s headed by a solid, stable, group of folks who know what they are doing, and are focused on a clear, definable, goal. I believe that initiatives like the New Alexandrian Library will be vital for preserving our past, as university and private collections won’t be sufficient to fully preserve or document our movement’s legacy. Wanting to explore what’s driving this project in a deeper fashion, I was lucky to conduct this interview with Ivo Dominguez Jr., an Elder in the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, and one of the driving forces behind this library project.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

Ivo Dominguez Jr.

For those who haven’t heard about this project, what is the New Alexandrian Library project, and why should Pagans care about its construction?

The New Alexandrian Library, located in southern Delaware, is in its final stages of construction. The physical structure itself is a highly durable concrete dome. It will serve as a research library, a lending library, a museum, an archive, and as a hub for the preservation and the evolution of pagan culture. Books, periodicals, newsletters, music, media, art works, artifacts, photographs, digital media, etc., will all be carefully cataloged and cross-referenced to ease the work of research and study. The Library will work to restore and to preserve rare and damaged documents. The history of our many interrelated spiritual communities will also be collected for the future.

The content of the library will also be made available via internet to the greatest extent possible (respecting copyrights, etc.) to be a resource for the entire esoteric community. The NAL will also serve as the library of record for formal esoteric religion studies at a variety of institutes of higher education including The Cherry Hill Seminary to assist them in meeting accreditation criteria. The New Alexandrian Library will be open to all, and will engage in inter-library loan with similar projects elsewhere. Some extremely rare materials will not leave the library, but will be scanned.

It is being built in a location that has the benefit of a beautiful woodland site while being a reasonable distance to many metropolitan population centers. It is about 2 1/2 hours away from Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. It is about 3 1/2 hours to New York City, 4 hours to Richmond, and 7 hours to Boston. There are also plans for on-site housing in the future.

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

Why should Pagans care about the New Alexandrian Library? If you’re a student, a teacher, or researcher, then the NAL will be an amazing resource to further your efforts. If you want to be in the presence of art, ritual objects and books that belonged to notable figures in our history, then you will want to make a pilgrimage to the museum component of the NAL. If you care about trying to capture the memories of how our various emerging religions came into being over the last century, then you’ll be happy about all the ephemeral material that we are collecting and preserving. If you want some good news about the power of long-term commitment in our community, then the NAL could inspire you.

Can you talk a bit about the progress you’ve made so far, and how the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is managing to cover the costs of construction?

This project was announced at the Between The Worlds Conference of 2000. The 30 acres that the library sits upon was bought and paid for by members of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. There is no mortgage on the property. So far about 85% of the funds to date have been either donated by ASW members or raised through fundraising events such as workshops, conferences, the sale of chant CDs and books, etc. the rest has been through donations from individuals, organizations, and crowd-funding. We’re in phase one which is the building of the first part of the library which is a two-story concrete dome with about 3000 square feet of floor space. This is the first in a series of several buildings as it was more financially realistic to plan for adding buildings in the future rather than trying to collect enough money to build one huge structure from the outset.

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At the time of this interview the interior walls are being painted, and shortly the floors and the fixtures will be installed. Progress has been slower than we would have liked, but we have been paying as we go. Since there will be no debt to pay off, it will be easier for the project to continue in the future.

The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel is a Wiccan organization. Will NAL focus primarily on Wicca, or will it have a broader focus? Will it include material from other Pagan, Polytheist, Heathen, or Magickal groups?

We are building a library focused on the mystical and esoteric teachings of all religions with an emphasis on Pagan, Polytheist, Heathen, or Magickal paths in all their forms, but our mission is broader than that. We are also collecting the esoteric teachings of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. Once the NAL is open and running we will also be creating an Advisory Board of people from a broad range of backgrounds and interests.

I know NAL recently received books and papers from Judy Harrow’s estate. What are some other notable elements in NAL’s collection at this stage? How can individuals reach out to NAL if they feel they have important papers or publications to share with your institution?

In addition to Judy Harrow’s legacy, we have received donations from Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Macha Nightmare, Katherine Kurtz, Shakmah Winddrum, and many other notables in the broader esoteric community. We also received the entire library of the Theosophical Society of Washington DC when they closed down their library. Not all of the donations are books. We have received original artwork, ritual robes, magical tools, old photographs, correspondence, newsletters, ancient Egyptian artifacts with proven provenance, jewelry, and much more.

Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki with donated Dion Fortune paintings.

Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki with donated Dion Fortune paintings.

I am particularly delighted by Dolores & Michael Ashcroft-Nowicki’s donation of four paintings of the Archangels that were created by Dion Fortune, and that once hung in her temple space. We also have many other collections promised to us in people’s wills. In the case of a death, we will always take donations now, but we have so many things in storage right now that if you can hold off a bit longer we would be grateful. As soon as we are up and running we will be very interested in receiving further donations of books and materials. Please consider naming the new Alexandrian library in your will so that your collection can serve the community when you no longer need it. Also it is often hard to predict what will be important in the future, so the ephemera, newsletters, flyers, posters, photographs, and recordings from smaller groups or lesser known individuals also need to be preserved as all these things make up the culture of our many communities.

Many Pagans are skeptical about movement towards institutions and infrastructure, could you talk a little about why they shouldn’t be skeptical of NAL? What is it that makes NAL essential?

If you have no personal need for institutions and/or infrastructure, then don’t participate in their creation. If over time you find that you are deriving benefit from the resources provided by Pagan institutions and/or infrastructure, then consider giving to them to balance the exchange. If they have no appeal for you, live and let live.

You’ve probably seen some variation of the internet meme:

Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one. Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one. Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them. Don’t like sex? Don’t have it. Don’t like your rights taken away? Don’t take away anyone else’s.

I would add: Don’t want Pagan institutions and/or infrastructure? Don’t block the way of those that do.

The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, the sponsor of this project, celebrated its 30th year as an organization in February 2014. This is a good long run for any kind of organization, and is quite exceptional for a Pagan organization. Community service is an important part of our group’s culture, and we fully expect and intend to be continuing our work 100 years from now. Many similar projects have failed, not for a lack of vision or need, but from a lack of organization and practicality. We were in existence as a group for 15 years before we decided to take on this project. If the skepticism about the NAL project is about continuing the funding once it’s open, then I’ll point out that we intend to continue fundraising in perpetuity, and that several individuals have already named the NAL as the beneficiary of their life insurance or their entire estates in some cases.

10156015_10152359299887410_458860695135604823_nWhat is your long term vision for this project?

Like the original Great Library of Alexandria, the schools of Qabala in medieval Spain, and the flourishing of esotericism that occurred in renaissance Italy, the diverse confluence of minds and resources would result in great leaps forward in theory and practice. There will be many conversations between people of different traditions that will result in greater intellectual vitality and new awarenesses for all. No doubt people will gather in the meditation garden, go out to lunch together, etc. The benefits of these face to face encounters are incredible. In a way, it is like an esoteric conference that never ends. The NAL will be one of the cornerstones of a new magickal renaissance. We hope that many other similar sorts of Pagan infrastructure will be created by various groups across the globe. The benefits of this growing network of resources for future generations is incalculable.

One of the great triumphs of the original Alexandrian Library was the creation of the first card catalog (actually clay and wood tablets). I hope that one of the New Alexandrian Library’s great triumphs will be a systematization of esoteric knowledge in a comparable manner. It is now a clichéd complaint that most of the esoteric books available are basic and aimed at the mass-market. That is the nature of the publishing industry, and we should expect little more. More advanced materials are usually published by university presses and by publishing houses owned by charitable or religious institutions where profit is not the primary motive. I hope that The New Alexandrian Library will in time either directly publish such works or facilitate the bringing together of the people and groups to engage in such activities.

Finally, in a broader sense, what is your vision for Pagan institutions and infrastructure? Obviously you’d like to see NAL thrive, but in what kind of Pagan community? What are your hopes?

Self-determination and self-reliance require having your own resources. I would like to see more ritual space, workshop space, performance space, schools, gardens, and woodlands, etc. that are owned by us. There many times when it is convenient and appropriate to rent or to borrow space from friends such as the Unitarians, but it is always on their terms and within their comfort zones. I’ve also seen Pagan businesses and organizations that are doing well suddenly find themselves homeless because the owner of a facility raises the rent or simply tells them to leave. There have also been pagan library projects that have closed because they were unable to keep up with the rent, and in some cases valuable materials were pitched into the dumpster by landlord.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary with Assembly Elders at NAL's foundation.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary with Assembly Elders at NAL’s foundation.

I also think we have to get over the connotations that words like institution and infrastructure have developed in the Pagan community. A food co-op is an institution. A community garden is an institution. A campground for festivals and gatherings is infrastructure. Institutions and infrastructure need not call forth images of huge battleship gray buildings with people scurrying about like drones in a hive.

An institution is a resource designed to survive past the life or the commitment of a handful of people. When we speak of infrastructure, what we’re really talking about is solid, tangible, resources that enable and facilitate our dreams and endeavors. If fear of what something might become is reason enough to prevent its coming into being, then we might as well settle our affairs and exit planet. From my perspective, the challenge we have right now is to decide that we will take the challenge of becoming truly present in the world. Will there be corruption, abuses, errors, and failures? Yes, there will be, and that is part of the cost of the work of mending and evolving. Will there be reforms, progress, and new horizons? Yes, and we will get those by also cleaning out the inevitable muck that arises by doing the work.

Recently there were a flurry of blog posts and discussions about how successful or unsuccessful Pagans have been in having an impact on environmentalism. What I’d like to add to those discussions, is that our impact on the matters of the world are reduced if we do not have power that is grounded in tangible resources. Ideas, will, and passion can fuel individual activism, and this is a good thing. However if we do not have the resources to buy land to preserve it, to pay lobbyists, to have staffed organizations that monitor legislation, public opinion, etc., then we are missing part of what is needed to have power and presence in the world.

Let me give you another example. I was extremely involved with AIDS/HIV work in the 80s and 90s. I started as an activist, helped found an organization, and served for several years as the executive director of Delaware’s primary AIDS organization. Institutions and infrastructure were necessary to make progress, and to push back against circumstances that would take away the steps forward that had been made. There are probably a hundred and one worthy tasks and goals that can never progress past a certain point without our own institutions and infrastructure.

I hope the New Alexandrian Library will be one of the many solid institutions that encourage others to dream big and to work hard.

Contact and donation information for the New Alexandrian Library project can be found here.