Archives For Jeff McKay

standing rock logoCANNONBALL, N.D. – It was announced Sunday that the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe. The corps will be researching an alternative route. In response to the welcomed news, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

Chairman Archambault also thanked “everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause” from the youth who initiated the movement, to volunteers who visited the camps, other tribes, and supporters around the globe.

With the help of Pagan activist Casey McCarthy, who has been back and forth to Standing Rock over the past few months, we gathered several reactions to the news. In a Facebook post activist Payu Harris said, “This is a short term delay … nothing…the corps only said they would not grant the easement for the remainder of this administration that means the Trump administration can (and will I’m sure) fast-track the easement as promised.”

Longer responses are in the following links, including reactions from Solar Cross Temple, Union Labor Camp leader Cliff Wilmeng, Lakota Tribe member Tiffany, and Pagan activist Jenn Wedgle.  In her response, Tiffany writes, “I view the Vets who arrived at home on Standing Rock as our living armor, our living weapons. Not weapons of destruction but weapons of peace and safety.” She then begs them to stay,”I ask that out of fear of history once again repeating itself because ETP responded that today’s decision means nothing to them.”

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5810423235_f121e14f28_bGATLINBURG, Tenn. — As we reported Thursday, the city of Gatlinburg was engulfed in flames after a mountaintop fire spread through the mountain resort community. The area is home to many Pagans and other like-minded people, including the popular band Tuatha Dea, and the well-known festival spaces of Dragonshire and Cerren Ered.

As has been reported since, Tuatha Dea is back in business. Band leader Danny Mulliken reported that he was able to return to his home Sunday, saying, ” [We are] back to writing and prepping to pay back with the new CD! Full speed ahead.” He added that the band has already written a song inspired by what happened. It is aptly named, “Appalachia Burning.” Band member Tesea Dawson has raised nearly $2,500 to help the city’s children.

Similarly, the Valley of the Dragons community was reportedly untouched by the fires. However, as priestess Jewels Wyldwomyn reported, a visiting crew of Alaskan firefighters has been patrolling the area, and that helicopters were flying regularly overhead. With gratitude, the owners of Cerren Ered wrote, “The Valley of Dragons remains safe and healthy. Thanks and gratitude to family. This entire experience as shown a great outpouring of love and care for each other. Folks in the VotD have gone out of their way to offer aid to each other, the emergency and forestry service workers, and to others in the local community.”

Currently Gatlinburg is still closed, but they expect to open soon. According to the latest reports, there are 150 people still in shelters; the death toll is now at 14 and the injured stand at 130. The fire burned a reported 1,700 structures and 17,000 acres.

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operation-circle-care-logoBARNEVELD, Wis. — Circle Sanctuary is once again running its annual Operation Circle Care (OCC). This is the 10th anniversary of this Yuletide program, and Circle is looking for assistance. In 2006, the program began as a way to send gifts “to military Pagans stationed in areas where ritual supplies and access to Pagan community were limited.”

This year, in lieu of packages, the organization will be sending out commemorative patches to those on active duty. “This is our way of giving thanks for our Pagan service persons,” said Rev. Fox. To offset the costs of this program, the patches will also be available for purchase.

To assist in the program, OOC coordinators Jeanet and David Ewing as asking that the Pagan community send in the names of those on active duty and, if possible, donate to the program directly or purchase a patch. David Ewing said, “I hope that our community can come together this year and help us send this beautiful token of appreciation to every Pagan currently serving. I know it will mean a great deal to them.” For more information, they direct interested people to the program’s website.

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oakland_sealOAKLAND, Calif. — The city of Oakland was shaken after learning that a fire had broken out in a warehouse during a crowded Friday night party. Investigators are still uncertain what caused this fire, now being called one of the deadliest in U.S.history. The death toll stands at 36, and there are still people missing.

Several members of Come As You Are Coven (CAYA) attended vigils and memorials at the local site. One of its members was interviewed on local news. We will have more on this story in the coming days.

In Other News

  • Hellenion, a US-based religious organization “dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism,” has relaunched its ritual group, or “Proto-Demos,” in Delaware. On its new website, the Delmarva Nikephoros Proto-Demos states, “emphasizes our respect for the Hellenic Deities and Mysteries, our ancestors and our past, the principle of inclusiveness, and an ethical code inspired by the Delphic Maxims.”
  • In associate with his new documentary Call of the Forest – The Forgotten Wisdom of Treesfilmmaker Jeff McKay has launched an associated crowdfunding campaign to raise money and awareness toward the protection of the world’s forests. McKay is the husband of Wild Hunt writer and filmmaker Dodie Graham McKay. His film “features scientist and acclaimed author Diana Beresford-Kroeger as she investigates our profound biological and spiritual connection to forests.” At this point, the film can only be seen in limited showings throughout Canada, but is available in DVD format through the IndieGoGo campaign. The money raised will fund an educational program in Canada and the U.S. starting in March, 2017.
  • Along similar lines, the newly formed Pagan Environmental Alliance and the Florida-based Palm Beach Pagans group, along with the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches, are organizing an environmental conference to be held Jan. 28. The event’s focus will be on spiritual activism in the region. The group is currently looking for keynote speakers and panelists.
  • In late 2015, Lynn and Will Rowan produced a Yuletide music CD with Pagan themes.The CD, titled Sing the Sun’s Return: Wassails and Carols for Yuletide, is back out making the rounds for a second season. “This CD offers an alternative to mainstream holiday music, informed by folk customs, animist spirituality, and the revived worship of ancient deities.”

Winnipeg is a city of 691,800 people nestled in the Southern portion of Manitoba, Canada.  It is the capital of this central providence and the 8th largest metropolis in the country. On the map, Winnipeg is about 90 miles north of the U.S. border and 650 miles NW of Minneapolis, Minnesota. According to the tourism industry, Winnipeg calls itself a “little big city” and the “cultural cradle of Canada.”

Winnipeg

City of Winnipeg
Photo Credit: donnieslarue, Flickr

Within all its hustle and bustle, Winnipeg is home to a group of people who call themselves the WinniPagans. It’s a catchy term; the origins of which are unknown. However, it is used endearingly to refer to a small, tightly-knit community of approximately 600 Pagans who live in and around Winnipeg. In 2012, these WinniPagans became the subject of a short documentary that was written, produced and directed by one of their own, Dodie Graham McKay.

Dodie, a native of Winnipeg, is an indie filmmaker who found a love of filmmaking through unexpected circumstance. In 2005, after returning from living in England, Dodie needed a job – any job.  With a friend’s help, she was hired as a production coordinator in a local documentary film office. From there she learned filmmaking skills which eventually led to her co-directing the documentary-short, “West Central: A View From Here” with her husband, Jeff McKay.

Filmmakers Dodie McKay & Jeff McKay

Filmmakers Dodie McKay & Jeff McKay

“WinniPagans” is Dodie’s first solo “flight.”  She recalls:

My high school English teacher used to say “Write about something you love”. When I wanted to make my first film I had to think about what I love that would be the subject for my project. My pagan community was the first and foremost thing I could think of.  

The 25-minute documentary explores this thriving Pagan community that resides in Canada’s cultural cradle. Dodie remarks:

“I really felt quite strongly that this community was due for some sort of document to mark the progress we have made. Many of the folks in the film have been active since our community went public in the mid to late 1980s and I wanted to capture some of these stories before they are forgotten.”

In late 2011 Dodie took her idea to MTS, a local telecom company that finances and airs indie films about Manitoba that are produced by local filmmakers. As explained by Craig Lawrence of MTS’ communication department:

MTS TV (Manitoba Telecom Service) supports community producers through Local Expression funding as a condition of our license as a broadcast distribution undertaking (BDU) in Canada… “Stories from Home” programming is quite varied and often represents a personal connection between the filmmaker and the subject, resulting in programming that – like The WinniPagans – can offer glimpses into different ways of life. 

Because of her experience, Dodie had a golden opportunity to pitch “WinniPagans” to Cam Bennett, executive director of “Stories from Home.”  He readily accepted the project and production began on January 21, 2012.

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The film’s small budget consisted of a crew of four with other on-and-off camera volunteers from within the Pagan community.  Production lasted through April 29th with three months of post-production.  In September of 2012, Dodie delivered the final edited product to MTS.  She recalls:

I was so excited that MTS liked the show and accepted it as it was. They even gave us some cash to rent the local art house cinema for a premiere screening. The executive producer, Cam Bennett, asked me if there was a special Pagan holiday coming up. At that point Samhain was the next big date so he offered to make that the broadcast premiere.”

winnipeg cinemathequeOn Monday October 29th, the film premiered at the Cinematheque Art House. Before the actual screening, musician Glen Hoban performed and Kate Bitney read from her book of poetry entitled “Firewalk.”  Then, Cam Bennett stood up to offer some words about the film and to introduce Dodie.

“I was a bundle of nerves the night of the premiere. Just before the doors opened I went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face and then the magnitude of what I had done hit me full force – who did I think I was making a film about my own community? I live here and these are my own people, the people I care about, my friends and fellow pagans. My heart was in my mouth as I went out to make my speech and introduce the film, I was so nervous! As the film was playing I sat in the back of the cinema and listened to the 80 or so viewers as they laughed at the funny parts and clapped when they saw familiar faces, it was great! Nobody chucked rotten fruit or stormed out! The response was terrific. Folks seem to be appreciating the spirit of the thing and enjoy the way we are portrayed.”

After the screening, many of the viewers thanked Cam Bennett for his support and in doing so caught him completely off-guard.  Like so many Pagan communities, the WinniPagans rarely have the opportunity to see themselves, or any Pagan, visually portrayed without sensationalized imagery or stereotypes. Even when such a documentary is made, it is rarely funded and openly supported by a mainstream corporation. Cam Bennett didn’t expect the profound level of appreciation that he and MTS would receive.

Since November 3, 2012, “WinniPagans” has been airing on the MTS’ “Stories from Home” series. The film has also been screened in Southern Ontario and in Montreal.  Dodie’s visual story documenting the lives of “her people” has now touched Pagans across Canada’s wide expanse.   She said, “It was exciting to see that you didn’t have to be from Winnipeg to really get something out of the story.”

Why has the story been warmly received?  She attributes its success to some of the intangibles inherent in film production. When a Pagan filmmaker creates a film about his or her own Pagan community, the main production elements (visuals, narrative emphasis and pacing) will be different than when a non-Pagan (or Hollywood) produces the same film. The goal is different.  The perspective is different.  The entire feeling left in the viewers lap will, as a result, be different.

Dodie made a film about what she sees everyday; not what people want to see.  The film is a slice of life documentary – a true “reality show,” if you will.  In this way, it provides a unique opportunity for Pagan viewers to hypothetically cross the threshold of the silver screen and be themselves.  And, it offers the world a chance to see real Witches – minus the glamour of a Hollywood back lot.

Dodie McKay, Glen Hoban, Norm Dugas

Dodie McKay with musician Glen Hoban,
and sound editor Norm Dugas

What’s next for Dodie?  She is currently working on her second film for MTS about a long-time local social activist.  After that, she hopes to expand the “WinniPagan” project into a longer piece about Canadian Pagans, in general.  She has already been offered support from a number of Pagan communities across the country.

Want to see the film?  At this time, “WinniPagans” is only available to MTS’ customers through the on-demand service. However, she will be holding screenings at Paganicon in Minneapolis in March and at Gaia Gathering in Gatineau Quebec in May.  Not attending either event? Dodie will be selling the film online starting in April. All profits from the sale will be donated to a scholarship fund that offsets travel expenses to Gaia Gathering. To keep up with Dodie and the film’s happenings, you can follow the “WinniPagans” FaceBook fan page.

NOTE:  I was not able to view the film in its entirety before this post. Due to an unexpected blizzard in Winnipeg, mail has been delayed. However, after I receive a copy, I will post a complete film review and update.