Archives For Jason Mankey

[Pagan Community Notes is a feature that appears weekly, highlighting important stories from within our collective Pagan and Heathen communities. If you like this feature, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it all happen. Every dollar helps. This is your community; TWH is your community news source. Donate today and share our link! Thank you.]

pagan federation TWH – The Pagan Federation has continued using the internet to help support those members and others who are unable to attend live Pagan festivals, workshops, and rituals.This past weekend, the organization’s disabilities team hosted a day long equinox event that included online rituals, talks, and more. Prior to the event, the packed scheduled was posting online. Attendees only needed access to a computer and wi-fi in order to participate.

The festival began with a live opening ritual with Jay Anderson. The group also published the transcript online so her words could be followed. The festival continued on from that point with video introductions to the group’s lead team members, discussions on various Pagan topics, music and ritual, and even a word from the new Pagan Federation president Robin Taylor. Nimue Brown and her family joined the festival to share a chant as part of the Disability Voices Project. The entire event wrapped up with Anderson performing the closing ritual. All of the day’s festivities are currently posted on the Facebook event page.

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mankeybeskin_atlantisLONDON — Llewellyn author and Patheos Pagan Channel editor Jason Mankey recently made a special appearance at Atlantis Bookshop in London to promote his new book, The Witches Athame. Shop owner Geraldine Beskin introduced the workshop by saying that Mankey’s book is “an important and practical book.”

During his two-hour presentation on the history and lore of the athame, Mankey appeared delighted to be presenting his well-researched material in the basement space known as the “Gerald Gardner Room,” the meeting place for Gardner’s own coven. An open discussion followed the talk, and visitors from Canada, England, and the United States were able to compare notes on Wicca-related topics.

Both Beskin and Mankey generously shared anecdotes about their lives within the Craft. Journalist Dodie Graham McKay was in attendance and said, “In a time where much discussion happens on social media, this event provided a rare opportunity to have such conversations in real time.” Atlantis Bookshop was founded in 1922 by occultist Michael Houghton and, as such, has been serving the Pagan, magical, and occult communities for nearly 100 years.

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RENO, Nev. — Monday Sept. 26 marks the 10th anniversary of the American Freedom Rally, which is largely considered to be the turning point in the Pentacle Quest. Held at Reno’s 9/11 memorial, the 2006 rally eventually led to the inclusion of the pentacle on the Veterans Affairs list of authorized emblems.

Circle Sanctuary’s Rev. Selena Fox was at that 2006 rally, along with Roberta Stewart, the widow of the first Wiccan soldier killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Sgt. Patrick Stewart and Chaplain William Chrystal who, Fox said, “supported the quest for equal rights for Wiccans and other Pagans.”

Rev. Fox will be honoring the work done on the Pentacle Quest as well as marking the 10th anniversary date “with a series of events in coming months.” On Tuesday, she will be speaking more about the quest and the upcoming celebratory events on her podcast.

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tuatha deaGATLINBURG, Tenn. — Reverbnation currently places Pagan band Tuatha Dea at the top of its Celtic music charts worldwide.The band was excited to learn the news but remained modest, saying, “It probably means nothing but it is interesting.” However, their fans and friends demonstrated their excitement over the ranking. Author Alex Bledsoe said, “It means that the word’s getting out about how awesome the band is!”

Some of Tuatha Dea’s music was inspired by Bledsoe’s Tufa series, and the band just finished co-hosting a Tufa Tour weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The weekend promised to help attendees “experience firsthand the magic of the Appalachian fae.” Over the three day weekend, the band performed, participated in a Q&A with Bledsoe, and hosted a drum circle and workshop.

Following Tuatha Dea on the Reverb Celtic charts is the Ogham Stones, the American Rogues, Lexington Field, and Ida Elena.

In Other News

  • Reclaiming will be hosting a special social justice ritual Oct 2. in Los Angeles, Calif. The groups writes, “With the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis as our guide – the great lady of magic – we will summon the element of water to wear down injustice drip by drip by drip.” Reclaiming, originating in San Francisco in 1975, is the same group that initiated the letter of support to the Great Sioux Nation in their work to protect the land from pipeline construction. It is the Los Angeles-based Reclaiming group that is hosting this Oct. ritual.
  • Author and Witch David Salisbury has a new book being released Sept. 30. The title is A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing and, as he explains, it “takes a new approach at the practice of cleansing and clearing.” Salisbury is most known for his book Teen Spirit Wicca and his work in the D.C. area working with a younger generation of Pagans.
  • After more than five years of study and work, Shai Feraro received his doctorate from Tel Aviv University’ School of Historical Studies. Feraro is a friend of the Pagan Federation International and a regular speaker at PAEAN‘s online biannual conference. At past events, he has lectured on topics such as Pagan community-building in Israel. However, Feraro’s focus and academic work were not based on his experiences in Israel. Feraro’s dissertation is titled: The Priestess, the Witch, and the Women’s Movement: Women and Gender Issues in British Magical and Pagan Groups, c. 1888 – c. 1988. He said, “It was an amazing — albeit at times arduous — stage in my journey within academia.” He noted that the dissertation will be available in book form in the near future.
  • On that same note, the Pagan Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be hosting the next conference Nov 7. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 7. This event’s theme is spiritual pilgrimage in its many forms. The keynote speaker is Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern, philosopher, educator, and peace studies specialist.
  • From the blogosphere, Greybeard contemplates the presence of magic in contemporary society as found in mainstream advertising. “Magic has always been part of religion and while some argue that our culture has become more secular over the past few centuries, it could be suggested that the infusion of magic into business and politics balances this, although not usually in a good way.”
  • And, finally, it is Banned Book Week and organizations around the world are celebrating the freedom to read. Take a look at some of the books listed by the Smithsonian in their special exhibit, “Banned Books that Shaped America.” Is one of your favorites on it?

Your community. Your news. If you liked today’s Pagan Community Notes, consider donating to our fund drive. Your support is what makes this article possible. Every dollar helps. Thank you.

[Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media or a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. If you like this feature and would like to continue to see it every month, consider donating to The Wild Hunt. Each and every day, you will receive original content, news and commentary, with a focus on Pagans, Heathens and polytheists worldwide. Your support makes it happen. Donate today and share our link!]

As the equinox has recently passed, making many Pagans, polytheists and Heathens mindful of how light is divided from darkness, we begin with a cartoon by Jude Magaro about a more whimsical divide in our communities.

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“To me the Noumenia is a time of new beginnings, of renewal. Each month we are given a chance to start over, to get it right. Living in this fast-paced, hectic world with endless distractions, frustrations, and demands on our time and attention, it is easy to lose our way, to forget the things that are important to us and sometimes we may even become estranged from our gods. We may have set out to maintain a regular religious routine or to make important life changes like eating better, exercising more, watching less television and the like, only to have life get in the way. It is easy to feel discouraged, to see all the missed opportunities and our life slipping away from us . . . . It is a time to clear away the old and outmoded, all the things that are cluttering our lives and holding us back, so that we can make room for new and wonderful blessings to enter them. –Sannion, writing about the monthly household festival in Hellenic tradition.


“When the gods come knocking, we don’t have to answer. We are allowed to simply say ‘hello’ followed immediately by ‘goodbye.’ We are allowed to agree to testing the waters, but to also not make any commitments. With each of these particular goddesses, I went a minimum of one year before agreeing to anything even temporary. . . . I am also dedicated to a goddess that I barely talked to in the year leading up to my dedication, but who I knew was a perfect fit. — the Peacock Witch on deities who arrive unannounced.


“The gods-without call and the gods-within respond. These are not anthropomorizations. I do not project the Lightbringer onto the sun. The sun is still the sun, an unimaginably large flaming ball of hydrogen a hundred million miles away whose light is filtered through 10 miles of atmosphere. But when I face the sun in the morning and raise my arms and recite an invocation inspired by the Rig Veda, I am speaking to that sun in the sky and to the Sun/Son within me.

“Let others say their polytheism is more authentic. Let others say my gods aren’t real enough or distinct enough. Let others say that I’m afraid to answer the call of their gods. Let others say my gods are limited or safe. I know better.” — John Halstead, “My Polytheism: Gods Within/Gods Without.”


“If all of those people back in college needed to get stoned in order to have certain discussions with me, that should have been a sign to me that whatever mind-expanding potentials of this substance might be are probably already redundant in my case. Based on such an observational prediction, I’d have to concur, as I didn’t have anything particularly mind-expanding as a result. I did notice some odd paranoid moments, but I have those myself without any drugs, so was quite easily reminded that this might not be anything real.” — P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, writing about eir first experience with medical marijuana.


“Getting drunk tends to amplify things. If we think we’re powerful sorcerers and mighty Druids and we get rat-arsed, the odds are that we will feel that even more keenly. The drink may be talking, but the voice of spirits we’re hearing may not be the spirits we were thinking of connecting with. To be pissed as a newt is not to be in deep connection with your newty spirit guide. It is easy to feel that we need intoxicants to take us out of our normal, banal headspaces, but going this route creates a crutch, and may not be in our interests.” Nimue Brown on the limits of intoxication in ritual.


“While there are plenty of Pagan tales of sacrifice, the general sense among Pagans is that outright martyrdom is unnecessary. Martyrs, whether physical or metaphorical, experience an erasure of self. This is at odds with the idea that the self is sacred. In our daily lives, we do not typically need to make the sort of sacrifice play that, for example, our armed forced do. There are other options available to us.” — Melissa ra Karit, “One Pagan’s Ethics and Self-Care.”


“I’m no defender of Gavin Frost (as I think this article suggests) but he’s also never to my knowledge been charged or convicted of a crime. I’m hesitant to yell, “Pedophile!” at the top of my lungs when encountering a book passage I vehemently disagree with. Wrong? Perverse? Disgusting? Not Wicca! All of those things and more, and I’m not forgiving the passage, but I also don’t know enough about Gavin to call him something as reprehensible as a pedophile. — Jason Mankey on the life of Gavin Frost.


“My first take on bhakti was viewing the goddess as a sort of invisible girlfriend. ‘Divine lover,’ I probably would have said then, but essentially, ‘invisible girlfriend.’ Some lofty ideal of femininity that I could use to fluff up my ego. To be honest, I didn’t have much success. But also, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’m thankful that I took time away from the path of devotion in order to grow as a person. I regularly gave offerings to Ganesh but I didn’t quite view it in the same way. . . . I have a great life, a job I like, a place to live in that I love, an amazing girlfriend whom I love very much, and, most importantly, I love who I am.” — R.M. McGrath, “From Lover to Mother

That’s it for now. Is there a Pagan voice or artist you’d like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.

ENGLEWOOD, Co. — Last week came the announcement that religion site Beliefnet has acquired Patheos, the far more popular home of a wide variety of religious blogs, include a vibrant Pagan channel. While Beliefnet also once hosted Pagan bloggers, since being acquired by the Christian-focused BN Media company, those writers all eventually moved on. With the new purchase, it has been stated that plans thus far are to keep the two sites independent of each other.

beliefnet-logo-6-25-10 A Wild Hunt investigation into BN Media buying Beliefnet in June, 2016, disclosed the company’s focus:

BN Media seems to be a different sort of owner, if their two largest initiatives, Affinity4 and Cross Bridge, are any indication. In short, it seems they are a conservative “family friendly” Christian group. All you have to do is pay attention to all the subtle buzz-words. . . . It doesn’t paint a very rosy picture of future interfaith interactions and diverse viewpoints on Beliefnet.

It’s true that, while Beliefnet no longer hosts Pagan blogs, Patheos Pagan channel editor Jason Mankey isn’t expecting any purges at Patheos. Mankey told The Wild Hunt:

There are currently no plans to change anything at Patheos and at Patheos Pagan. Patheos will continue to maintain its own brand and the sites will be run as a separate entities. As in all acquisitions, there will be some changes but we believe these changes will be in the background and focused on the technology and supporting infrastructure, and we anticipate that these changes will be about improving the experience of the reader.

I’ve spoken to many of the folks coming in from Beliefnet and genuinely believe they are excited about both Patheos in general and more specifically the Pagan Channel. Change is a part of life, and I’m looking forward to this one.

Mankey has earned the respect of people in the Pagan blogosphere since he took over as channel editor, including that of Anne Newkirk Niven, who runs one of the largest independent Pagan blog sites, pagansquare.com, who called him an “excellent administrator.”

patheospagan-300x300Niven’s sentiments were echoed by those Patheos Pagan bloggers who agreed to comment for this story as well as Star Foster, who was the channel’s first editor. In her statement, she also touched upon the value of purely Pagan alternatives.

Like many people, I was sad to watch Beliefnet lose its initial luster, particularly after it was bought by Fox and then by an Evangelical organization. The purchase of Patheos by the same Evangelical organization is momentous. An acquisition means merger and all that comes with it. Resources are allocated to the segments of a company that make money, and cuts are made to increase profitability. It will be interesting to see how this acquisition affects Patheos, particularly those writers who left other platforms with whom they had become disenchanted.

For minority faiths, who cannot easily compete for resources with larger faith demographics, it may prove more fruitful to invest talent and resources in quality, homegrown religious journalism, columnists, devotional writers, and cultural analysts. Since the dawn of Beliefnet the religious internet has undergone dramatic changes, and it will be fascinating to see how it continues to evolve.

Support your Pagan media, wherever you find it to be doing good work. In anticipation of The Wild Hunt’ drive, I have already made my contribution.

Editing the Agora for Patheos Pagan is David Dashifen Kees, who agreed with Mankey’s assessment. “I’m cautiously optimistic. My understanding is that, after the purchase, Patheos will be operating essentially as it always has been. We’ll keep writing what we write and the readers will hopefully continue to visit.”

Gus DiZerega has been a presence at many major Pagan blogging sites, including Pagan Square and Patheos. He also wrote for Beliefnet, and he’s more suspicious. “The people who controlled Beliefnet acted unethically in my experience, and cannot be trusted,” he said.

After he wrote a post criticizing management, “they removed comments and when [he] objected.”  He said, “They told me it was their site and they could do what they wanted, I also left. I see no reason to legitimize anything controlled by Evangelicals such as that. Perhaps the Parliament of World’s Religions could someday host a genuine interfaith site free from the imperialistic ambitions of Evangelicals.”

Druidic blogger John Beckett doesn’t think it’s the end of the world. He said:

Nothing is constant in life, much less on the internet. While I had no idea this merger was coming, I’m not the least bit surprised it happened. We’ve been told the merger will have no effect on bloggers – Patheos will remain a unique site and all the changes will be on the technical and business side. That could be helpful.

As long as Patheos stays within its mission of being a multifaith religious site, as long as Pagans continue to be treated with the same respect as everyone else, and as long as I continue to have full control over what I write, I plan to stay.

If any of that changes, I own all my content and can move at any time.

Others also see two sides to this coin. “It seems that the merger is a pretty mixed bag,” said David Pollard, who edits the UU-centric Nature’s Path group blog at Patheos Pagan. “While a lot has been made in the Pagan blogosphere about Beliefnet’s incivility towards Paganism in recent years, when they started they were able to get some very high profile Pagans like Margot Adler and Starhawk to write for them.

“The problem was, that’s where they stopped,” Pollard continued. “They never really developed a second tier of writers, which is something that Patheos through its Pagan Channel editors has really excelled at.”

Pollard said he very much hopes that Patheos bloggers will be left alone, “given how many times Beliefnet has changed owners over the past decade, who knows what their next owner will want?”

One thing that any owner of Patheos is likely to want is a profitable venture, and the main way to achieve that with a content site is through advertising sales. The ads on the site now have been the subject of criticism by Pagans over the years, including from The Wild Hunt founding editor Jason Pitzl, who entered into a partnership in 2011-12.

In announcing the relaunch of an independent Wild Hunt, he promised “zero ads endorsing Mormonism or Liberty University.” Those result from buying into pools such as ones offered by Google, which serve up ads based on a variety of factors, including one’s behavior generally on the internet and search terms used.

Quaker Pagan Reflections blogger Cat Chapin-Bishop has also been concerned about the push for profit. “It has sometimes seemed that there’s been an increasing stress on monetizing our writing, and I have wondered whether the finances were really working out: the ads have always been off-putting, not always relevant to Paganism, and so slow to load some of my friends tell me they can’t read my blog at all. I’ve wondered if we Pagans have been a good investment for the owners, and whether the site is a good fit for us, to be honest. I guess my questions have only grown with this news.

“Patheos has been good to my blog, in that I’ve seen a big increase in readership, and I’ve been part of a conversation with other writers I really admire,” Chapin Bishop said. “Still, I’ve often wondered if it would make more sense to go it alone, or at a Pagan-owned, Pagan-run site.”

“They’re not going for direct-place ads,” agreed Newkirk Niven, who runs such a Pagan site. When she recently looked into advertising at Patheos, she was told that “they don’t even talk to people who aren’t able to spend a grand a month. I think we’re operating in a different universe.”

For most Pagan advertisers, she said, $12,000 is impossible; even $100 a month can be a challenge from owners of businesses the size she works with, she said.

For now, Patheos remains independent, but it’s likely that the new owners will seek to find ways to use this property to improve Beliefnet and other sites. As of this writing, Patheos is ranked 1,922 by site-ranking service Alexa, while Beliefnet stands at 12,451. It’s a question of when and how, rather than if or why the Patheos traffic will be captured. The Wild Hunt will cover developments as those changes unfold.

10540809_10152876458837141_521126412855229596_nNORFOLK, Vir. — It was announced that Patheos, one of the most popular religion-based websites, has been purchased by BN Media Associates, LLC, the owners of BeliefNet. According to the announcement, “The joining of the two web sites under one umbrella will open up further opportunities to foster the faith and spirituality discussion in a real and honest way. Combined, the websites reach 15 million unique visitors and generate more than 50 million page views each month.”

BN Media Associates, a holding company which is known to have had an evangelical focus, purchased BeliefNet in 2010. What does this new acquisition mean for Patheos and, more specifically, the Patheos Pagan Channel? Jason Mankey, channel manager, told The Wild Hunt that there are “no plans to change anything at Patheos and at Patheos Pagan.” Mankey added, in part, “As in all acquisitions, there will be some changes but we believe these changes will be in the background and focused on the technology and supporting infrastructure, and we anticipate that these changes will be about improving the experience of the reader.” We will have more on this story in the coming days. 

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13344573_637147323101733_349878647330761325_nTWH – When news broke that the Asatru Folk Assembly had lost its fall festival space, accusations began to circulate as to who was behind that action leading to the cancellation. As we reported last week, it appeared that secular anti-fascist activist groups, like Conflict MN and Antifa, were that driving force. However, the reported proof was not enough for Xander Folmer of Huginn’s Heathen Hoff. “After the Troth cited the two Twitter posts from @ConflictMN, we thought that would be the end of it, ” said Folmer. “The story seemed cut and [dried], but we were still seeing dozens of posts and messages, both on our page and others, from staunch AFA advocates claiming that this was the work of some ‘Universalist’ Heathen group.”

When asked why he decided to dig around further, Folmer said that at first he was just going to “get a statement from the group that started the campaign. We wanted something that could shut down the conspiracy theories that were being used by the AFA’s proponents to redirect the conversation away from the actual issues.” But when he opened the proverbial door and looked around, the simple research spiraled into an entire investigative campaign, resulting in a published article on his blog.

After printing the article “The Real Story Behind Camp Courage,” it was shared extensively. Folmer said that he and his group haven’t received much in the way of backlash, before or after, adding “Overall we haven’t received anywhere near the level of harassment that the Troth or H.U.A.R. has, and their only involvement with the story was sharing the Tribune article after it was all over. If anything, the response thus far has been far more subdued than we expected.”

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1891090_787489287945852_2101210932_nHINTON, W.V. – It was announced publicly by his daughter Jo Frost that Wiccan Priest and author Gavin Frost died Sunday, after suffering from an internal infection and prolonged pain.  Jo wrote, “In our family, we do not believe in grieving too much, so today, raise a glass, a brandy alexander, a glass of mead, but a spirited glass, have a good conversation with a friend, be a little risqué (or a lot), dance a tango, tell someone you love them that you might not have said this to lately.”

Gavin, along with wife Yvonne, have long been regular teachers, personalities, and lecturers on the Pagan festival circuit. Together the couple founded the Church and School of Wicca in 1968 and, since that point, they also coauthored many books and recorded teaching videos. However, Gavin’s life has not been without controversy.The Witch’s Bible, originally published in 1972, continues to generate disputes and friction. We will have more on Gavin Frost’s life and work, both the public and the personal. What is remembered, lives.

Upcoming Stories on The Wild Hunt …

Since our last report, Pagan support for Standing Rock continues to grow. We will be updating that story along with reactions to the court’s ruling and the subsequent joint statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior.

In Other News …

  • This weekend marked the eighth annual Esoteric Book Conference, which is held in Seattle on the University of Washington campus. The conference is a “annual international event to bring together authors, artists, publishers and bookmakers working in the field of esotericism.” The Seattle Weekly published a story, focusing on the local event. The article begins, “One unique aspect of life in Seattle is the number of practicing witches, sorcerers, pagans, warlocks, faeries, alchemists, and other magical folk who call it home.” Although local in nature, the Esoteric Book Conference attracts attendees and speakers from all over the world.
  • The Mountain Ancestors Grove – ADF, located in Boulder Colorado, will be hosting its fall symposium Sept 16-17. For this year, organizers announced that the event’s focus will be on the “exploration of othering and the people that have been pushed outside of mainstream American culture.” As noted in a press release, organizers said, “Whether they are prisoners, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, the elderly or the disabled, MAG will discuss these groups and their relationships, obligations and connections as devotional polytheists and pagans.” The keynote speaker is Robyn Chauvin; other presenters include Jane Kelly, Piper Perry, and Rev. Missy Burchfield.
  • Another upcoming event is the first annual All Hands Together in Hazel Park, Michigan. This will be hosted by the Ancient Faiths Alliance and held in Green Acres Park.  Along with harvest festivities, the day-long event will offer an art show and performances by Blackmail, DJ Brutal Entertainment, The Doppleganger Circus, Sideshow, and Day Oshee Maatin. There will also be a fundraiser to benefit Hazel Park Promise College Scholarship.
  • For those interested in Paganism and other similar traditions in eastern Europe, Pagan Federation International Poland has now joined Facebook. They join a number of the Pagan Federation International’s regional groups in the social media world.
  • Last year, the organizers of Paganicon, a Minneapolis-based indoor Pagan conference, decided to add a Friday night concert to its offerings beginning with 2017. They have just announced that the musician performing that first Friday night concert will be Australian singer/songwriter Wendy Rule. “Wild, wise and empowering, Wendy’s live performances honor her deep spiritual and magical connection to Nature. Her extraordinary voice and beautiful lyrics, combined with her passionate storytelling, invite us to celebrate and connect with our own deep Magic.” Paganicon is held every March at the DoubleTree Hotel Park Place in the Twin Cities.
  • Lastly, The Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive is just around the corner. The annual fundraising event, which makes it possible for us to bring you news and commentary every day, begins Mon, Sept. 19.

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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.

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

The Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities are in a very dynamic time and who knows what the future for these religions may be. The Wild Hunt asked community members to guess the future by having them answer this question:

“What do you think Paganism in the USA will look like 100 years from now?”

[Courtesy Photobucket]

[Courtesy Photobucket]

Phaedra Bonewits, 60’s, Occult Generalist

“I think about where we were a hundred years ago, still in the throes of German Romantic Neopaganism, folklore obsessions in Britain, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fallen apart, and America still fascinated with 19th-century Spiritualism and Theosophy, plus the Eastern religions to which they’d been exposed a scant 23 years earlier at the first World’s Parliament of Religions. Wicca wasn’t yet a gleam in Gerald Gardner’s eye, and Heinlein was still in rompers. Magical lodges were still popular, but a vast amount of occultism and magical practice was firmly rooted in a Christian paradigm.

“Now, we’ve got hard polytheists, public rituals to the old Gods, major conventions, scholarly works, Internet research, and more solitaries than at which you could shake a stang. All were unimaginable 100 years ago. Heck, I couldn’t have imagined the Pagan world looking like this forty years ago — forty years ago, we didn’t even have camping festivals!

“Here’s a few guesses, though, assuming our overpopulating, invasive species hasn’t driven ourselves to extinction by then! A hundred years from now, the Neopagan/Pagan umbrella will be a thing of the past. It’s fragmenting even now, and in a century, those fragments will have taken up independent lives. Generic, nature-focused Pagans may be seen as a quaint artifact from the 20th century. Those who attempt 20th-century coven-based, initiatory mystery religion Wicca will be a tiny minority, just as members of magical lodges are today. The Wheel of the Year may become quaint, too, lost in favor of holy days specific to deities being honored.

“Occult practitioners in general may be pushed far to the outside of Paganism as worship-focused Paganism becomes more the norm. Bad news for old-fashioned occultists such as myself, but great for hard polytheists. Temple or shrine-based Paganism may become unremarkable, just as it is now on continents that are not historically dominated by Abrahamic religions.

“About twenty-five years ago, I was walking up the steps of the Field Museum in Chicago, a spectacular example of neoclassical architecture, with a small child in tow. He the son of the high priestess of our little magical working group. As we trudged up the sweeping outdoor staircase, I said to him, “Did you know we used to worship the Gods in buildings like this instead of in our living room?” He looked at me with big eyes and a wondering expression, and said, “We did?” Since then, I’ve wished for the day when one can tell a child, “Did you know we used to worship the Gods in our living rooms instead of in buildings like this?” and the child will respond with the same startled wonder, “We did?” Maybe in a hundred years.”

Selena Fox, Wiccan, 60’s

 “As I reflect on what Paganism in the USA will look like in 2116, here are some thoughts:

  • Paganism will continue to grow in size and forms with more practitioners and paths.
  • There will be more Pagan sacred places established, owned and cared for by Pagan organizations — more stone circles, shrines, temples, retreat centers, libraries, cemeteries, groves, and Nature sanctuaries.
  • There will be chaplains of various Pagan paths and organizations serving in the military, hospitals, hospices, universities, prisons, and other institutions.
  • There will be more Pagans serving in elected public office in local, state, and federal forms of government. Having one’s Pagan orientation known will seldom be a concern raised as an issue during elections as it has been in the 20th & 21st centuries.
  • There will be more understanding and acceptance of Pagans and Pagan paths in society as a whole, and less need to fight religious freedom battles in courts.
  • Paintings, films, music, theater, and other forms of art with Pagan imagery created by Pagans will be more widespread in society.
  • New forms of Pagan ritual practice and meditative imagery will develop as Pagans venture forth and live off planet.  
  • Croning, Saging, and other forms of Senioring Passage rites developed within Pagan communities will be more commonplace among people of many spiritual and philosophical orientations.
  • Pagans and Paganism may be also known by other terms.

“I think it is important to reflect on possible Pagan futures and to have conversations about this. To contribute to this process, I have been facilitating Visioning the Pagan Future workshops, rituals, and discussions at festivals and conferences around the nation. In addition to envisioning the future, may we find ways to share our visions and work together to help Paganism in all its colorful diversity to thrive.”

[Image By: Stgspi / DeviantArt]

[Image By: Stgspi / DeviantArt]

John Beckett50’s, Druid

“The environmental and social factors that gave rise to the emergence of Paganism in the 19th century and to its explosion in the 20th century will continue in the 21st and 22nd. Paganism will continue to grow in both breadth and depth over the next 100 years.

“Paganism will grow in breadth as more and more people begin to recognize the sacredness of Nature and begin to pay attention to the natural world. Pagan concepts and holidays will become generally recognized in the mainstream culture. Witchcraft will continue its growth, as increasingly disenfranchised people look for ways to influence their world. Paganism will remain a minority religion, but it will become a significant minority, even if much of its growth will be at the pop culture level.

“Paganism will grow in depth as a few dive deeper into their beliefs and practices. The witchcraft traditions will focus on individual growth and personal power, while the polytheist traditions will focus on developing robust devotional practices and building strong communities around them.

“But two things are sure about predicting the future: something we think is certain will fail, and something we aren’t even considering will arise. If we are wise, we will focus on being the best Witches, Pagans, polytheists, and such as we possibly can. Strong practices and resilient communities can succeed in any environment.”

Jason Mankey, 40’s, Gardnerian Witch:

“Imagining Paganism one hundred years from now is difficult. I think it will still exist (at least as we define it today) and probably in greater numbers, but I think it will be extremely fragmented. Today we sometimes talk about the Pagan umbrella having some ‘leaks,’ in one hundred years I think the umbrella will be long gone, with many groups and traditions distancing themselves from the word ‘Pagan.’

“I don’t think that’s all necessarily bad. Many traditions under today’s Pagan umbrella will undoubtedly grow because of these changes. Out there, on their own, many communities will create new infrastructures, mythologies, groups, and festivals; those are the good parts. On the downside, the break-up of the umbrella will make us even less strong politically, and limit the give and take that comes from being a part of wide-ranging coalition. (Think of all the things we share right now: festivals, blog-space, magazines, ritual space, etc. I for one find those shared moments beneficial.)

“I love my own tradition (Gardnerian Witchcraft), but the traditions of my friends (Druidry, Heathenism, and many more) have made my Pagan experience all the stronger, and richer. I think we will lose something when Re-constructionists no longer dance under the moon with Witches and Neo-Pagans. I think we are far stronger together, but see the divisions that are emerging among us as unfortunate but probably inevitable.”

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, 30s, polytheist with initiations in a variety of traditions:

“It’s hard to imagine but when I do I hope that it’s in a place where the current struggles against oppression are no longer as necessary or as vital as they are now to the engagement of pagans who identify as part of communities typically marginalized by the overculture.

I hope that my tradition is thriving and handling their rites and their W/work as best as they can with the guidance of the Elders who came from my teachings and from the guidance of Spirit (of which I hope I am called on). I hope we’re in a place where the ability to care for each other extends beyond what we do in circle to outside of circle.

I hope that polytheists, pagans, Wiccans, ceremonialists, heathens, ADR/ATR practitioners, and myriad of faiths have found strength in each other from a place of mutual respect and admiration versus the grudge that we seem to have when forced to interact with each other now. I hope there is a space we carve out for each other and for the G*ds. I hope that we think outside the box of who shows up to really look at how we can be the kind of movement where there is no hierarchy of faiths, but rather a mutual understanding and solidarity in struggle.

I hope for a lot, don’t I? Well, why not? It’s good to want things. It builds character, I’m told.”

Lāhela Nihipali, 30’s, Indigenous Hawaiian polytheist:

“If paganism bucks the trend and learns to be USEFUL to their fellow human, *and* gains a foothold with regards to public policy (ie. better enforcement of environmental and citizen protections) then it can have a huge impact on where the country and the world will be in 100 years. Better health and better land management for one. Polytheists will continue to be an insular but growing part of the population of the US with its own personalised political goals and groups. More often than not, at odds (if only in principle) with pagan politicians/civil servants/policies. Polytheists will bridge the gap over the course of the 100 years with Indigenous and First Nations peoples whereas pagans will not. This will be important in the political divides of the century after the first 100 years.

“If paganism continues on its pursuit of USELESSNESS to general society and the country itself, we could very well see a rise in harmful but technologically manageable environmental disasters as well as civil liberty breaches manageable by political pandering continue. Simultaneously the US will see an increase in divisive groups nationwide as clean resources lessen and prices increase. Paganism and pagans in general become easy targets as they did zero realistic community building and will by this time be rejected by Polytheist organizations which have prepared by becoming more and more insular as resources have diminished.

“Pagans will now finally try to flower power their way into activism, now that they are being used as the boogeyman to rile up the populace. Lack of genuine organization is their downfall; their activism is labeled as unpatriotic troublemaking. Pagans will be politically and socially targeted as perfect scapegoats for the newly elected (some flavour of fascistic) ruling party. Lynching type incident occurs which sets in motion a general notion that its the patriotic thing to target pagans and other “undesirable trouble makers”–itʻs important to clean up the streets after all. Polytheists will by the end of the 100 years, in an act of self preservation, also reach out to other Polytheist organizations as well as Indigenous & First Nations. The next 100 years start with an uneasy tension between the allied Polytheists and the now heavily indoctrinated populace, by the end of this 100 years civil war looms.”

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

Elizabeth Zohar, 20’s, Wiccan:

“I can only hope that Paganism will continue to spread knowledge to anyone who wishes to learn the practices as we are now. However, I feel that in the changing world we live in that it may become more of a trend than an actual look on life. With the up coming generations, being who you want to be without being judge is what the new teachings are. However that also allows people to take advantage of that. They may begin to look at Paganism as something that is “cool” or “in” instead of actually learning the practices of the different religions or doing it to find peace and spirituality in yourself. 100 yrs from now we may have young adults assuming that Paganism is cool because it’s not Christianity or any other common religion. All I can hope is that our generation now will continue to teach the generations after us what Paganism really is and how it can help them in their day to day life.

Aubri, 20’s, Hellenic Pagan:

I believe that in the next 100 years Paganism will flourish because of how attractive it is for people of all ages, sex, race, etc. The thing with being Pagan is that your journey is your own, you can choose what path you want to follow. You can figure out what you want your focus to be as you learn. That’s very refreshing and comforting especially for the younger crowd, myself included. As a young adult your life is cluttered with all kinds of pressures and deadlines that it can be overwhelming. So I think that the biggest attraction to Paganism is the community. I’ve gone to Pagan festivals and picnics my entire life. They’re like vacations from the ‘muggle’ world where you can focus on yourself and your own growth. With the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of the Pagan community, I believe that Paganism will continue to grow throughout the globe and one day make a come back as one of the top “religions” of the world.

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But what about you? What do you think your religion, or our collective religions, will look like 100 years from now? 

txlclogoTexas Local Council’s (TXLC) Diversity Day was a success for the organization and people involved. In mid-November, the Dallas TX-based local council for Covenant of the Goddess sponsored a Diversity Day to confront and discuss social privilege and to bring greater awareness to “the challenges and struggles of others.”

The event, called “We Can Make a Difference,” was held at the Arlington Unitarian Universalist Church on Nov 14. Doctor Beth Fawcett, PhD, MPH led “participants through a powerful exercise known as a Privilege Walk,” followed by an extended community discussion. TXLC organizers explained, “[Dr. Fawcett specializes in race and ethnicity courses and walked the attendees through a series of questions designed to show, in a very physical way, how we go through our lives with or without ‘Privilege’ even when we are unaware of it.”

The event was also a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Black Trans Men. TXLC reports that they raised over $525.00. Representatives of this organization also toured the UU church and participated in some of the activities.

Faelind, an attendee and member of TXLC, said, “It was nice to be out of the chilly weather, and our hearts were warmed and overflowed with compassion for our fellow humans’ struggles and injustices. There were tears and laughter and much, much healing. I felt honored to witness and hear the stories, feelings, and questions posed by all.”

TXLC reports that Dr. Fawcett has volunteered to continue sharing the privilege walk concept with Covenant of the Goddess at a local and national level.

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11012909_10153704768763232_4819252007164573430_nOn Jan 8, Jason Mankey’s book, The Witch’s Athame, will be released and available for purchase. Mankey is the current Patheos Pagan Channel Manager and runs the popular blog Raise the HornsThe Witch’s Athame is Mankey’s first venture into book writing, and it is part of larger series of books, each written by a different author, exploring the tools of the Witch.

As described by publisher Llewellyn, “[The Witch’s Athame] takes a deeper look into the significance of what Gerald Gardner described as the ‘true Witch’s weapon.’ For the new Witch this book goes through all the steps in finding just the right athame, consecrating it, and then using it in ritual. For the experienced practitioner the book serves as a thorough history of the athame; tracing the use of ceremonial knives from ancient times to the grimoire tradition of the Renaissance and finally to the modern day.”

To celebrate the release, Mankey will be hosting a book signing at 1 p.m. Leigh’s Favorite Books in Sunnyvale, California. In the Facebook event announcement, he writes, “This is just a big day in my life and I want to celebrate it with as many people as possible.”

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The MGZ Memorial Foundation’s Academy of Arcana continues to make progress in its growth development. On Nov 27, its gift store, called Curiosities, opened to guests at its new address 428A Front Street in Santa Cruz, California. Several days later, Oberon Zell and Anne Duther were both interviewed by the Santa Cruz Sentinel about the store’s opening. The article begins, “The term “magical” may most often be heard in reference to the county’s redwood forests and ocean views, but it also applies to downtown’s newest storefront, the Academy of Arcana.”

Duther and Zell have also said that the library will be open by the end of this month, and that they will begin programming in 2016. As noted on the GoFundMe site, “In January we’ll begin offering ‘Sunday Sessions’ with classes, presentations and salons, ‘Crafts & Arts’ on Friday afternoons, and Wednesday night magickal movies from our extensive DVD collection.”

The Academy of Arcana is a nonprofit organization under the Grey School of Wizardry. For more information on the specific location, hours and updated programming, visit the organization’s website.

In Other News:

  • If you missed the news in our 2015 Retrospective, the United Religions Initiative (URI) was asked to be part of a special CBS Christmas Eve interfaith event. Several Pagans, including Don Frew and Rachel Watcher, are active participants and organizers within this global, grassroots organization. They were both involved with production, providing footage, interviews and information. Although there were only small mentions of “Earth Spirituality” in the final cut, URI reportedly received a boost in visibility, which will only make their work easier going forward. Footage not used by CBS, including that provided by various Pagans, will be saved for future URI films and videos.

    • According to Iceland Magazine, Ásatrú High Priest Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson led his organization’s traditional Winter Solstice ceremony, or blot, “in the Öskjuhlíð hill recreational area, the small forested hill just south-east of downtown Reykjavík.” This is the planned spot for the organization’s future temple. The article goes on to say that, over the past year, the Ásatrú organization has had to ban visitors to their blots due to the media attention generated by the temple plans. Hilmar told the magazine, “Foreign visitors, who had in previous years been like ‘flies on the wall’ had begun to turn into somewhat of a nuisance this year, turning into ‘flies swarming in the food’.” The temple is scheduled to be erected in 2016.
    • For a bit of holiday fun, look who’s on Buzz Feed. Arthur Lipp-Bonewits, the son of Isaac Bonewits and Deborah Lipp, was invited to the media outlet’s offices to predict what a few people would get for Christmas. After a very typical Buzz Feed presentation of several readings, the articles says, “Although Arthur may not have been able to predict what the gifts will literally be, we think his predictions of how they’ll have an emotional impact on us were much more interesting.”
    • As is typical at this time of year, public discussions emerge on the Pagan origins and symbolism found in the Christmas holiday. On Dec 21, the BBC took on this topic with the help of “Ronald Hutton, professor of History at Bristol University; JJ Middleway, a celebrant and ritualist based in the Druid tradition; and the reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a Church of England vicar and author of New Age Paganism and Christian Mission
    • And, lastly here is another mainstream media outlet exploring Paganism. Sky News published the following video, with explanatory titles, to demonstrate what a Pagan Ceremony might look like.

Summerland

Another damaging summer storm has a hit major Pagan festival. This time it is Summerland Spirit Festival held in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. The intense winds and rain arrived Sunday night around 10 p.m. on the festival’s first full day. According to reports, tents were damaged or completely lost, and parts of merchant row have been destroyed. During a race to get into the permanent shelters, several people sustained minor injuries such as scrapes and twisted ankles.

Fortunately, the intense storm was over in thirty minutes, and did not cause the local creek to rise. Those who did lose tents were able to find sleeping space within the lodge or in neighbors’ tents. While there has been property loss, the festival will continue on. As today’s sun dries out the campground, attendees and the organizing committee will spend the day cleaning up, looking for lost items and assessing damages. Beyond that, the organizers plan to continue on with Summerland programming as scheduled. While the weather reports do call for another possible summer thunderstorm today, the rest of the week looks promising.

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pomegranate

Equinox Publishing will be launching a new peer reviewed journal in 2016. It is titled Body and Religion and will “provide a forum for the study of all manner of ancient and contemporary practices, concerns, ideals, and connections or disconnections between body and religion.” The editors are Shawn Arthur of Wake Forest University and Nikki Bado of Iowa State University. The book reviewer will be Kevin Schilbrack of Appalachian State University.

Body and Religion will be published twice annually and is currently seeking submissions. The editors write, “We welcome English-language submissions from scholars who use diverse methodologies and approaches, ranging from traditional to innovative, to explore issues of’“body’ as a fundamental analytical category in the study of religion.” They will “consider submissions from both established scholars and research students.” Equinox is also the publisher of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.

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Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

In the past, we have reported on the New Year divinatory tradition held by Cuba’s Santeria Priests. For more than 30 years, these Priests have offered recommendations and predictions for the coming year. Traditionally, these readings have been performed independently from each other. Last week, however, The Havana Times reported that this will change in 2016. The article reads, “The two main currents of Cuban Santeria that announce different “Letter of the Year” prophecies at the beginning of each January have finally decided to come together and make public a single version of the predictions by the popular oracle Ifa.”

The partnership between the two leading “currents,” led by Lazaro Cuesta and Jose Manuel Perez, is reportedly being seen as a “means of consolidating the community of Afro-Cuban religion practitioners” Rather than offering competing recommendations, the groups will offer a joint “Letter of the Year” for the first time in history.

The Havana Times article goes on to discuss the relationship between the Cuban practice and that of Miami’s Santeria Priests, who also offer their own Letter of the Year. As is written, “Perhaps the new winds of change blowing between Washington and Havana will end up bringing Ifa priests on both shores together in their dictates and recommendations for the year.”

In Other News:

  • Author Marla Hardee Milling, a native of Asheville, has published a new book called Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History. The book examines why Asheville, North Carolina is often labeled “America’s quirkiest town.” In it she explores aspects of the bohemian character of her home town, interviewing a number of local residents. One of the interviews is with local Priestess Byron Ballard, who has the distinguished title of local Village Witch.
  • Llewellyn has published a guest blog post written by Aaron Leitch, which examines whether the Bible outlaws magick. He writes, “The question of magick among these traditions arises every so often. Usually, it is asked by newcomers who feel a calling to practice the arts of magick, but have been raised with the belief that it is directly proscribed by their religion.Their fear is very real—they worry if delving into the arts will result in the loss of their immortal soul.” Leitch then goes on to examine various references to magick, Witchcraft and sorcery.
  • Circle Magazine is currently seeking submissions for its upcoming fall issue, which will be titled “Life’s End & Beyond.”  Editor Florence Edwards-Miller said that she is “hoping to cover a wide range of topics … including end-of-life planning and care, Pagan funerals, coping with loss of a human or animal companion, honoring ancestors, deities associated with the dead or dying, myths or beliefs about what comes after death, reincarnation, or other related subjects.” The issue will also cover the rituals, crafts and food associated with Samhain. Due to the PSG flooding, the submission deadline is now Aug. 7.
  • Over the past week, Patheos Pagan Channel writers have been debating the somewhat controversial subject of deity popularity. Channel manager Jason Mankey kicked off the conversation at Raise the Horns, which was then followed by several other reaction pieces.The latest post was written by John Beckett at Under the Ancient Oaks.
  • Another Pagan programming announcement has been made for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Andras Corban-Arthen put together a proposal for a panel entitled “We Are the Earth: Pagans Respond to Pope Francis on the Environment.” It was accepted by the Council. The new panel, moderated by Sylvia Linton, will include Corban-Arthen, John Halstead and myself. Other Wild Hunt writers will also be in attendance at the Parliament, and we will be reporting directly from the October event.

That is it for now. Have a nice day!

There are many elements of community that help to build and sustain culture. Local community culture often ebbs and flows with the change of faces around the circle and the opportunities for engagement among the intersecting elements. The Bay Area, like most communities, has events, shops and memories that help to cultivate a local Pagan culture.

10858593_10153030684777552_6867534241222027502_nThe Pagan Festival has been one of the many such events in the Bay Area that has been a staple for the community for the last 14 years. This festival has been running since 2001, when it was previously known as the Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade and Celebration. Its name was later changed to the Pagan Alliance in 2004, and the festival ran annually until 2012. Due to multiple factors, the Pagan Alliance did not host the festival for two years.

The return of this event was a surprise when the Pagan Alliance announced in January the plans for a 2015 festival. People began to talk about the importance of this returning festival, and the need for opportunities to gather throughout the year. After two years, the 2012 “Keeper of the Light” would finally be able to pass the title on to a new nominated person.

T. Thorn Coyle, as the Keeper of the Light for 2012, would pass the torch to me; I had been nominated, and I had accepted the position of Keeper for 2015. Other Keepers of the Light from previous years include Patrick McCollum, M. Macha Nightmare, Anne Hill, Yeshe Mathews, Joi Wolfwoman, and many others.

The May 9 event offered more than a plethora of vendors, conversations and stage performances in the heart of Berkeley. People showed up to celebrate the return of this event, and to re-engage in the building of community relationships. The theme for the festival this year was “Spirituality Through Service” and there were many altars and speakers that engaged in this very topic.

[Photo: Stephanie Kjer]

[Photo: Stephanie Kjer]

The Pagan Alliance has always had a strong commitment to amplifying the discussions of topics that are very important to the local community, and that are crucial to its sustainability. According to its website:

The Pagan Alliance is committed to the education of the general public with the intention of changing public views, opinions and response to the Pagan Community. Through public education, we hope to create an increased acceptance and understanding, and to dispel common misconceptions.  We are committed to justice, and eliminating prejudice and ignorance in all communities, including all ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, age, size, abledness and class affiliations.We are also committed to incorporating sustainable living and “alternative” lifestyles into our events and speaker series.We sponsor activities and events that reflect how our traditions which are supportive and in tune with Nature, and play a positive role in healing human’s relationship with the Earth and with all cultures.

After two years of not having a festival, what motivated the Pagan Alliance to jumpstart it and reignite this mission in action? The Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors for the Pagan Alliance offered these collective thoughts on the matter;

11358605_10152761772441736_926869095_n

Arlynne Camire [Courtesy Photo]

The Pagan Alliance was motivated by the needs of the community that expressed itself through phone calls, emails and during the All Witches/All Pagans Meetings that have been happening in Bay Area.The Pagan Festival marks a turning of the wheel in the bay area and provides the community with a chance to come together. Pagans and non-Pagans get a chance to learn about other spiritual paths and enjoy a day together in community and Pagan Pride.
JoHanna Coash-White [Photo: Robin Dolan]

JoHanna Coash-White [Photo: R. Dolan]

All Pagan Paths have a component of service and we wanted to honor not only our Keeper of Light but also all members of our community who work tirelessly to organize events, rituals, provide chaplaincy to the community including Pagans in Captivity. We wanted to foster and teach the children/future leaders a strong sense of the importance of service and how each of them are able to make the world a better place through their actions. – Arlynne Camire, Exec. Director & JoHanna White, President

As the modern Pagan community thrives to understand what it takes to reach sustainability, it can be insightful to look at how we benefit from consistent patterns and engagement within our local Pagan environment. Local areas will have different values but consistent opportunities for connection with other Pagans appear to be a universally appreciated value.

T.Thorn Coyle, the 2012 Keeper of the Light, has been holding the position since it was passed to her by the 2011 Keeper of the Light Yeshe Mathews. As the only Keeper of the Light to hold the position for longer than a year, Coyle spoke to me about her feelings about the importance of the festival returning; how holding this position has impacted her personally; and her intentions in designing the main ritual at the festival.

T. Thorn Coyle and Crystal Blanton(courtesy Stephanie Kjer)

T. Thorn Coyle and Crystal Blanton [Photo Credit: Stephanie Kjer]

I asked, “How do you feel that the return of the festival impacts the local Pagan Community in the Bay Area?” Coyle said:

I think the community has missed the festival. As Pagans, we have personal and community rituals we come to rely upon, and often take for granted until something like financial woes or family illness takes them away from us for a time. Then we realize the impact these rituals have on our lives. The festival put on by the Pagan Alliance is one of these rituals. A few individuals put out a huge amount of work, enabling the community to gather for music, performance, and to listen to one another. Regardless of what traditions we follow, this sort of coming together impacts us all.

The gratitude I offer to the Pagan Alliance for this service is enormous. I felt grateful for the Festival’s return.

I also asked her, “How do you feel being the keeper of the light for 2012 (and the two years after) impacted you spiritually and personally?” She responded:

Being chosen as Keeper of the Light in 2012 was an honor, of course. But at the time, I thought of it as just that: a symbolic office used to honor local Pagans for their contributions to community. By the time I had held that office for three years (because the festival was on hold), I came to realize it is much more.

Keeper of the Light is a real energetic position that gets passed from person to person, imbued with power and responsibility from the community at large. By power and responsibility, I don’t mean authority. What I am talking about is a sense that we truly are holding up a light for others, keeping the larger community in our energetic awareness, paying greater attention, and being available to community members in a variety of ways. By the end of three years, I was starting to need some distance from that, and a diminishment of that power and responsibility. It is no mistake that my path has taken a sideways course into writing fiction right now. My soul needs a break after carrying that public office.

Now, both you and I do this work in a variety of ways, but in my experience, being Keeper of the Light amplified the work I was already doing. I suspect it may have a similar effect on you, Crystal.

This is why when it came time to pass the office, I designed the ritual so that the gathered community members would raise energy that would specifically support your ability to hold this power. As I wrote in the ritual description: “The magical intention of the passing of the staff and gifting of the lantern is to lend strength and support to Priestess Crystal Blanton to enable her to continue her work –not only for our Pagan community, but all of the communities she serves throughout the Bay Area– and to do this work in good health, integrity, prosperity, and love.”

During ritual, everyone gathered in that circle pumped health, integrity, prosperity, and love into that staff, which I then blessed you with. I also gave you a smaller lantern than the one I was gifted with in hopes that carrying the light this year can be done with ease!

I give thanks to you, to the Pagan Alliance, and to the Bay Area Pagan Community for their service, and for giving me the chance to serve. And I bless you, one thousand times over.

Walking around the grounds of the park, in the middle of Berkeley, I caught glimpses of people hugging, laughing, shopping, talking and spending time in the sun. Alongside the park was the busy Farmer’s Market, bringing a very publicly visible Pagan event to those in the local area. The stage show consisted of musical artists, belly dancers, chanting and speeches. The Author’s Circle hosted a list of author talks and book signings of local Bay Area writers.

I have always held positive memories of this festivals from years past. This year was the same. This one day event appeared to have a lot of impact on those who attended the festivities as well.

Heaven Walker

Heaven Walker

The pagan festival builds solidarity in the pagan community. Being pagan, especially if you are a solitary practitioner, can be a very lonely experience. People come to church seeking spiritual connection and community. Pagan circles are often closed circles or very intimate affairs. The pagan festival gives pagans who have not found community the ability to connect with other pagans and feel pride and agency in their spirituality and /or religion. This festival was particularly poignant because of  the theme of “serving our community.” For me social justice and service are the work of a High Priestess. It was good to be reminded as a community that to be in service to the Goddess is also, to be in service to one another. – Heaven Walker

Yeshe Mathews

Yeshe Mathews

I really missed the Pagan Festival in Berkeley when it was on hiatus, and I am glad it’s back.The Pagan Fest gives us “locals” a chance to mingle, support one another’s projects, and enjoy a beautiful day in the park together…right alongside the wider Berkeley community who shop at the adjacent Farmer’s Market. It’s one of the most publicly-accessible, visible Pagan events I have attended, and it’s a great opportunity to show one another and the wider community what we are about. – Yeshe Mathews, 2011 Keeper of the Light

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

I moved to the Bay Area five years ago with dreams.  There are SO MANY Pagans here, but there are also SO MANY other people here that it often takes up to 90 minutes to drive 30 miles.  And while public transit is a nice option for some, it would take me 3 hours to get from my home to a place like Berkeley.  There are some great Pagan scenes in the Bay Area, but the different communities don’t see each other very much.  Some of that is because our traditions don’t allow for a lot of crossover, but a lot of it is simply because it’s too hard to get one another.

The return of the Pagan Festival, changes all of that, at least for a few hours.  Suddenly I’m seeing my friends in the North Bay (two and a half hours away), and seeing my friends in Reclaiming, and even running into people from far away locales like Sacramento.  The Pagan Festival was a nice way to meet up with a lot of people, people I generally only see at PantheaCon.

It wasn’t perfect by any means.  I’ve heard that a lot of newcomers to the Bay Area Pagan scene were kind of lost, but it was a good re-start.  We are all very good at doing “our things” but we aren’t always very good at doing “everyone things. – Jason Mankey

Nathania Apple

Nathania Apple

We are very fortunate in the Bay Area to have practitioners from many and varied traditions and it was thrilling to see them come together for a public Pagan celebration. A festival in the center of a bustling city like Berkeley raises our profile in the broader community and draws attendance from families and other individuals for whom the commitment of time and finances for a weekend away at a hotel or out of town are prohibitive. It was also an opportunity for the community to witness the depth of the work that local Pagans are doing in social justice, and to invite them to take part.

As I walked through the crowd with my daughter and smiled at familiar faces and stopped to chat with friends and acquaintances, I felt that warm glow in the center of my chest, the one that says, “These are your people. This is a place where you belong.  – Nathania Apple

Community organizing allows for important moments of socializing, collaboration and the building of new memories. It was a fun filled day in the sun with friends both old and new, laughter, excitement and opportunity. I had a great time with fellow practitioners in the Bay.  I took the time to remember what a thriving local community looks and feels like. I was reminded of why it can be very important for people to be in same space with others in order to engage in meaningful community, and not just regulated to online spaces. The power of presence can support a lot of coalition building and supportive activism.

The return of this festival in the Bay Area will hopefully continue to inspire collaborative spaces among the factions of the area and promote healthy engagement, as well as show the importance of cultivating those things that will help to empower the local groups. I am personally honored to hold the position of Keeper of the Light for 2015, and to promote the important work of spirituality through service.

The Pagan Alliance has quickly transitioned from months of planning and preparation for this festival, to the planning and preparation for the memorial of one of the founding board members. James Bianchi passed away on May 11, two days after the return of the festival. The Pagan Alliance, the Spark Collective, the House of Danu, and his family are planning the memorial currently to honor his life and contributions within the Pagan Community.

The Craft may be getting a reboot.

the craftAs first announced by The Hollywood Reporter, Sony is “remaking the 1996 supernatural teen thriller, tapping up-and-coming horror filmmaker Leigh Janiak to write and direct the new version.” A relatively new director, Janiak’s recent projects include the film Honeymoon (2014) and an episode of the new TV series Scream (2015), based on the film franchise of the same name. Doug Wick, producer of the original film, is back in the same capacity.

Why is Sony going back to the cult classic? The answer is quite simple. Witches in film and television are hot right now, and they have been for several years after stealing the limelight, almost completely, from vampires and even zombies. (e.g., WGN’s Salem; Lifetime’s Witches of East End; Beautiful Creatures, 2013; Maleficent, 2014)

The American popular entertainment industry, aka Hollywood, is above all else, just that, an industry. Output and decisions are profit-driven. If fictional witches sell tickets and tie-ins, and make the money flow, then witches will be reproduced – over and over again. In the last six months, there have been unconfirmed rumors of a Bewitched remake, and a sequel to the campy Hocus Pocus (1993).

But why The Craft?  Why not a brand new witch story? Or even a remake of an older witch-inspired horror film like City of the Dead (1960)? There is a second aspect to this film, and the marketing of any film, which helps to drive the decision. That element is nostaglia. Sony producers know that The Craft will not only attract the younger audiences, who are currently fueling the Witch-craze, but it will also attract the older audiences – those people who have turned the campy film into a cult classic.

Sony is not alone in this effort. Many studios are cashing in on America’s nostalgia with remakes of other popular films from the 1980s and 1990s. MGM’s Poltergeist is in theater’s now. In December, an updated Point Break is scheduled for release. In July, New Line Cinema will unleash the next installment in the National Lampoon’s series Vacation. The list goes on. Hollywood loves remakes, reboots, adaptations, sequels, prequels and dark twists. How many Police Academy’s were there?

Nostalgia itself offers a nice soft, cushion on which to rest many these remakes. However, it is not always a factor in a producer’s decision to back a film. The studios like remakes and sequels primarily because they are easy. These films provide a pre-written script or narrative, a pre-designed visual concept, and often come with actors. Some have already shown either success at the box office, or the ability to neatly exist in film’s storytelling world.

While many viewers are lamenting the current recycling trend, it really isn’t unique or new. In the 1990s, for example, the 1954 Audrey Hepburn film, Sabrina, was remade and released in 1995. A new version of the 1968 Thomas Crown Affair hit screens in 1999. The 1986 comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills was a remake of a 1932 Jean Renoir film Boudu sauve des eaux. Hitchcock’s classic, Psycho (1960), wasn’t even sacred enough to avoid a make-over in 1998.  And those are just examples.

Many of the most beloved witch films are not original properties. Bell Book and Candle (1958) was first a play. I Married a Witch (1942) was a dime-store novel that also inspired the television show Bewitched. Of course, the recent Maleficent (2014) was a spin-off from Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty (1959), which was simply an adaptation of a Charles Perrault story that was, itself, taken from the oral tradition. Even MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) was not the first film rendition of the famous story (e.g., The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1910).

Remakes and adaptations happen.

Knowing all of that does not make it any easier to accept the remake of a beloved film. Frustrated viewers flocked to Twitter to express their outrage. One woman wrote, “I invoke thee to stop Sony’s presumably horrible remake of The Craft.” At The Huffington Post, writer Stephanie Marcus listed the “5 Reasons They Don’t Need to Remake the Craft.”

Peg Aloi, of Patheos‘ Witching Hour, published an article titled “The Craft is getting a Remake?” While Aloi acknowledged that a reboot could be interesting, she feels it is unnecessary. She wrote, “The cultural implications will be interesting to say the least … but I’d prefer there wasn’t a remake at all. The original is too good to tamper with.” In her post, Aloi noted that the film “holds up well” in exploring such things as teenage angst, loyalty, friendship, body image, sexual jealousy.

Actress Fairuza Balk, who played Nancy in the original film, also spoke out about the news on Twitter, saying:

Balk added that she “wasn’t surprised” that Sony was remaking the film; the studio “made a lot of money off [The Craft] and obviously see it as a way to make more.” Due to the continued outrage from loyal fans, Balk later had to clarify, “I did not say I thought remaking The Craft specifically was a bad idea- I said remakes -IN GENERAL-tend to be a bad idea.” Balk’s argument is different from others in that she simply expressed support for fresh scripts and stories.

Pagan blogger Jason Mankey chimed into the discussion, saying “In between the teeth-gnashing this evening there’s something a lot of people are forgetting: The Craft wasn’t high art. It was a fun, campy, horror-movie. It’s not sacred ground now and it wasn’t then.” Although many Pagans or young would-be witches did adore The Craft, it was not universally celebrated, as Mankey suggests.

In a 1996 statement, Witchvox‘s Wren Walker voiced her disgust with the film, saying, “By linking the terms ‘Witches’ and ‘Witchcraft’ with murder, mayhem and destructive acts, there is a great potential danger. That danger could create encouragement for a resurgence of public mistrust and suspicion of the contemporary religious belief system known as Witchcraft or Wicca.” Walker did say that the film had some “amusing parts,” but overall, she felt it was problematic.

As indicated by her comment, The Craft played into the cultural leftovers of the Satanic Panic, both visually and narratively, and kept one foot stationed firmly in that space. However, the 1996 film was produced during a cultural pivot point with regards to Occult practice. Not only did it show offer a visual and narrative awareness of previous horror trends, it also was very aware of the growing visibility of real Witchcraft, as a practice and a religion.

Wiccan Pat Devin was hired as the film’s technical adviser. In 1998, Devin said, “I decided to try to get as much truth into what was, after all, a teenage date spooky movie, as I could. I knew the results would not be perfect, but I felt obligated to try, as the movie was going to come out in any event.” In the interview, Devin talks about her direct involvement in the writing of this ritual scene:

Due to the proximity that The Craft had to genuine Witchcraft practices, as well as its exploration of female agency, it is not surprising that the film quickly became a cult favorite. Aloi called it one of the “must see” Pagan films. Despite any failings and its overall campiness, the film did touch many people. That fact cannot be denied.

When a film touches us deeply, it becomes part of our personal narrative, in one way or another. While watching it, we pass the threshold of the silver screen, and enter the film’s world. We are part of it and it is part of us. Therefore, it is difficult to accept any change to its nature. People often have a similar reaction to film adaptations of beloved books.

In that way, The Craft  has became part of many people’s personal narratives, turning it into a cult favorite. As shown by the reactions to the announcement, the movie still holds that space. Nancy will never be anyone but Fariuza Balk, and Bonnie can only be Neve Campell.

However, the story’s themes, as Aloi noted, would not be entirely foreign to teenagers in 2015. The film addresses issues of female empowerment that are still very current in today’s age, especially considering Witchcraft appears to be making a resurgence.

Sony is well aware of this fact, and the selection a female director demonstrates that awareness. However, there is speculation that Janiak’s hiring may have only been due to pressure coming from an American Civil Liberties Union complaint about gender inequities in Hollywood. Either way, there is a female director at the helm.

If updated carefully, The Craft, as a coming-of-age tale for young girls, has the potential to touch an entirely new generation of women, who are trying to unearth their own power and place in society. Additionally, it will be very interesting to see what adaptations are made in the representation of Witchcraft and its intersection with horror. The position of Wicca and Witchcraft within American culture is very different today than it was in 1996.