Archives For John Halstead

[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.


“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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Greg Harder]

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

TWH — May 2016 has been punctuated by a series of worldwide climate-action protests organized under the name Break Free. These actions have been focused on ending the practice of using non-renewable fossil fuels for energy. The Wild Hunt spoke with John Halstead and Margaret Human, two Pagans who participated in this week’s Break Free protests.

Police surround protesters at Whiting refinery [courtesy photo]

Police surround protesters at Whiting refinery [Courtesy Photo]

While both Halstead and Human were focused on the same goal, their experiences leading up to and during the actions were very different.  A retired person in her 70s, Human is open about her Paganism, but she doesn’t write, teach, or promote her beliefs other than to gather with like-minded people in various locations near her home in the Hudson Valley. She has been protesting against war and environmental degradation since the 1960s. She has been arrested multiple times over that period of time, although nobody was arrested at this week’s action.

An attorney in his 40s, Halstead writes prolifically online about his particular flavor of Paganism, and spearheaded the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment from its inception. Halstead became actively concerned about the environment only in the past few years, and this was his first direct action. This was also the first time he’s ever been arrested for any reason.

The idea behind Break Free fired Halstead’s imagination. It is coordinated on a massive scale (20 actions on six continents, according to the official web site) with civil disobedience being a key component. Halstead said:

Our part of the action took place at the BP oil refinery on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Whiting, Indiana, which is 30 miles from where I live. The action drew over 1,000 people from around the region. Many people who had never been to the area discovered first-hand how unbreathable the air in Whiting and surrounding communities is. We had specific demands, which included creating a moratorium on all new pipeline projects and creating a regional citizen review board to oversee all fossil fuel related industry projects. But the larger context is that we want BP shut down, and a just transition to renewable energy worldwide.

The Whiting refinery is, Halstead explained, the largest refinery for tar sands in the United States. It’s also not far from where 1,600 gallons of oil was spilled in Lake Michigan, which supplies drinking water to the region. Environmental concerns are high in that area.

Human was also one of a cast of over a thousand concerned about newer — and likely more dangerous — petroleum products when she joined marchers in Albany, New York. With a number of other people who were prepared to be arrested, she sat down on railroad tracks to stop the movement of so-called “bomb trains” through the state’s capital city. These are trains carrying petroleum — often Bakken crude, derived from hydraulic fracturing — to refineries for processing. In addition to worries over the environmental impact of using these products, the rail shipments have local residents concerned about what might happen if one derails, which is not unknown.

Protesters block train tracks in Albany, NY [Stop the Bomb Trains: Albany Free of Fossil Fuels]

Protesters block train tracks in Albany, NY [Courtesy Photo: Stop the Bomb Trains: Albany Free of Fossil Fuels]

Halstead explained that, only a couple of years ago, he “wasn’t even recycling, much less taking part in direct action.” Many of those who joined him were also quite new to the idea. He said, “I was driven to take part in the arrest action by a growing sense of urgency in the face of increasingly undeniable global climate change and seeing (and smelling) the effects of the petroleum industry where I live and in neighboring communities, like Gary, Indiana, where people of color are disproportionately impacted.”

After he helped draft the community statement, one of the few criticisms he saw about it was that “words are not enough,” and he found himself agreeing with that enough to take action himself. He said:

About 40 people were arrested with me. We marched with over 1,000 at our backs. That alone was incredible. When we arrived at entrance . . . and then unanimously decided to cross the property line of the BP refinery. We then formed a circle in front of the police line. Then we sat down and began singing, “We shall not be moved, Just like a tree that’s planted by the water, We shall not be moved.” And after a period of time, we were given warnings to disperse, and then we were arrested one by one, handcuffed with plastic zip restraints, and put in waiting vans. The police were, for the most part, professional and restrained.

In Albany, the only arrests were some miles away from where Human and others arrived at their point of civil disobedience, also with a massive network there to support them. If police had rounded them up, though, she would have missed out anyway; it was the cold and the rain which ultimately defeated her. She explained that she’d caught pneumonia during the Occupy protests in Washington, D.C., “and that’s when I got really old.” Therefore, she made the decision to leave due to the weather. “I’m willing to risk arrest, but not risk pneumonia,” she said. In the 1960s she made a similar decision, but at that time she chose not to risk arrest because she was the mother of young children.
She plans on protesting a pipeline in Peekskill, New York this coming weekend, and to continue with such actions as long as she is able.

Halstead was philosophical about the impact of his efforts. “The effect we had on BP’s bottom line was undoubtedly negligible,” he said, “but I know we made an impression, not just on BP, but also on the Northwest Indiana community, and on many others who will read about or watch the event in the media – and if those people will stand together, then will not only hurt BP’s profits, but we can bring an end to Big Oil altogether!”

In the video above, Halstead is arrested at time marker 44:46. The Break Free website also includes a second video of the Free Midwest march.

David Babulski, 1944-2016

ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Pagan community lost one of its elders this month. David Babulski, more commonly known as Papa Bear, passed away on April 11, 2016 at 71. David was an internationally recognized artist, as well as an author, educator and musician. He is most well-known for his mineral paintings, which have been featured in exhibits around the country and have been the subject of numerous books. David said that growing up “in the Sunland/Tujunga of Southern California” made him “intensely curious about the natural world” and inspired his love to draw.  He also noted that he grew up next to an avid mineral collector, which intrigued him at a very young age. By the time David was in college, his interest in art and science merged into a lifelong career, spilling over into his hobbies and his spiritual beliefs.

David practiced Wicca, studying and circling with a number of Pagan groups in the Atlanta-metro area. Lady Arsinoe of the House of Oak Spring wrote, “Because of his love for nature and science, he studied the energy that binds the universe and brought the scientific method to his magical practice.” She continued on to say that he loved dowsing in particular, and crafted new tools for that very purpose. Lady Magdalena of Temple of the Rising Phoenix remembered David’s “warm personality, his far-reaching intellect and his wicked sense of humor.” She said, “He was always there to share what he knew openly and support whatever we were doing.”

David’s talents were many, and he was always up to something. He loved storytelling through creating, music, poetry and the written word. He was an accomplished harpist, and wrote two children’s books about an elf named Piffles.

In recent years, David had been coping with debilitating muscle spasms. His ability to circle with his Pagan families declined over the years. Some members were able to visit him at a rehab center in his final weeks, offering to keep him stocked with art supplies. Then, on April 11, he suffered a heart attack. A memorial service and life celebration were held in April 17 at the Eternal Hills Funeral Home. In the announcement for the memorial, David’s daughter told attendees, “Aloha Shirts or SCA garb optional,” which speaks directly of his everlasting and unforgettable whimsical and warm spirit. What is remembered, lives!

*   *   *

HUAR LogoLODI, Calif. — Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR) is involved with an anti-fascist action to be held in Lodi, California. In recent weeks, HUAR assisted in the research and writing of an article detailing information about an international group called Soldiers of Odin. The article itself is posted on a blog called Anti-Fascist News, and begins “A big thanks comes to Heathens United Against Racism, who did a large amount of research for this article.”

The article goes on to describe the Soldiers of Odin as a “new phenomenon” and a “group of people who are trying to ‘defend’ European nations and the U.S. from […] refugees.” Soldiers of Odin was reportedly born in Finland and now has small groups in multiple countries throughout the world. As is noted, the group uses elements of the ancient Nordic Pagan religion to support its political stance and related work.

The Anti-Fascist News article ends with a call-to-action, asking for activists to join them on April 30 for a protest event at Lodi Lake Park, in Lodi, Calfiornia, where the Soldiers of Odin have reportedly planned a private “meet up.” HUAR is currently working with non-Pagan Antifa Allies on this action.

 *   *   *

HPS-Handfasting-AltarSYRACUSE, NY. — Mary Hudson, president of the Church of the Greenwood in Central New York and the Pagan chaplain at Syracuse University, recently launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money for a trip to Australia. In the campaign letter, she wrote, “In 2012, I attended the Global Conference for Chaplains in Higher Education held at Yale University. It was a unique experience that I had hoped would help create better understanding of Earth-based faith traditions ..” However, as she goes on to say, it didn’t turn out that way. The experience was “abysmal.”

Hudson was invited back to the conference after submitting an account of her 2012 experience. She was offered the opportunity to present. Hudson wrote, “My voice, a tiny voice, has been heard and it has been acted upon by those that had the power to facilitate change.”

The 2016 conference will be held in Bendigo, Australia. Hudson and her fellow Greenwood Pagans are raising the money needed to fund the trip. As of publication time, Hudson has already passed the 50% point. She said, “I am truly humbled by the generosity of all of you.” We will have more on this story in the coming week. 

In Other News

  • downloadFor those Wild Hunt readers interested in coloring, Red Wheel/Weiser has released The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book. Written by Theitic, a member of the New England Witchcraft community, this coloring book is inspired by the many images featured in past Witches’ Almanacs, and also includes “images that have not been presented.” The coloring book is “neatly packed into seven distinct sections,” with titles including Woodcuts, Constellations, The Planets, Egyptian, Americas, Tarot, and Creatures. The publisher writes that book is meant to “allow the inner artist to emerge in a meditation of color.” The Witches’ Almanac Coloring Book sells for 12 USD “wherever books and eBooks are sold.”
  • This spring, Cicada Magazine published what has been called “a wyrd & witch edition.” The March/April 2016 issue of the children’s publication is “rife with magicks, moons, familiars, fellowship…” Pagan blogger and author Sara Amis is one of the featured writers in this issue. Her short fiction story called “The Witch’s Egg,” begins on page 19.  Along with her work is a test called, “Does your mom suspect that you’re a witch?” and “Rooted in Feminine Power: An Interview with Nnedi Okorafor.” Cicada is a literary publication aimed at pre-teen and teen girls.
  • Wild Hunt columnist Alley Valkyrie has released her first published work, called Night of a Million Stars. Valkyrie has been a Wild Hunt writer since 2012, and her new book takes its cue from the column. It contains 19 essays in which Valkyrie “shows us the worlds we miss, the worlds we forget to look for, and the worlds we bury in memory.” Digital copies are now available through Print copies will be available in May through Lulu.
  • Last January, Mike Rodgers, also known as The Fluid Druid, began a community radio broadcast focusing on Paganism in Arkansas. This show, called The Fluid Druid’s Medicine Show, is one of the few Pagan-dedicated programs on broadcast radio in the U.S. It airs on 97.9 FM Sundays from 10-11 am CT. For those outside the listening area, the show can be heard live at KUHS Radio.
  • From the blogosphere, John Halstead has written a two-part article based on his presentation at the Greening of Religions symposium in Columbia, South Carolina. In the two posts, he contemplates the relationship between the many diverse Pagan religions and the modern environmental movement. He asks, “What exactly [does] the word ‘nature’ really means to Pagans?”

  *   *   *

Don’t forget! If you have a community announcement or a news tip, let us know. We also take submissions, pitches and proposals for articles. We love hearing from our readers. Contact us.   

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

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar / Flickr]

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

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

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

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

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

[Image Credit:]

[Image Credit:]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greening of Religions Symposium

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Public Domain /]

[Public Domain /]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Public Domain]

Roadside trash found during a cleanup action [Public Domain]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Earth Day from The Wild Hunt!

[Public Domain /]

[Public Domain /]

Circle Sanctuary logo

Circle Sanctuary logo

Over this past weekend, Circle Sanctuary co-sponsored a “Nature Spirituality & Healing event” along with several organizations belonging to the Iliff School of Theology, based in Denver, Colorado. Those organizations included ILIFF Student Senate, ILIFF Seminarians for Reproductive Justice, Wisdom Traditions Student Group at ILIFF, and the Unitarian Universalist Student Organization.

The free, public healing event, held at the First Universalist Church of Denver, included four hours of discussion and panels pertaining to the interrelationship between self-care and nature. The guest speakers were from various religious and spiritual backgrounds, and included: Rev. Selena Fox, Maeve Wiilde, Michelle Castle, Dr. Larry Graham, Dr. Jason Whitehead, Rev. Todd Strickland.

Rev. Fox also offered to the interfaith crowd a “Healing with Nature Workshop,” which “included ways of working with Nature imagery, Nature rituals, and natural areas for renewal, dispelling stress, and enchanting wellness.” This was the first time that Circle Sanctuary has collaborated with IlIFF.  Rev. Fox was pleased with the outcome, saying that there were about 85 attendees from “many Paths: Christians, Unitarian Universalists, Buddhists, Humanists, & other traditions.”

The event concluded with an outdoor healing ritual led by Rev. Fox. This week’s Circle Sanctuary podcast, called Circle Talk, will feature a report on this event, as well as focusing on “hospital chaplaincy as a career.” Joining Rev. Fox will be “Circle Sanctuary Minister Cern (Tim Staker), a full time Hospital chaplain, and Circle Sanctuary Ministers in Training Michelle Castle of Colorado and Tiffany Andes of Maryland, both Air Force veterans and hospital chaplain students at ILIFF School of Theology.”

The show will air live on Tuesday, Apr. 5 at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT.

Circle Sanctuary & Iliff Nature Healing Event, 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

Circle Sanctuary & Iliff Nature Healing Event, 2016 [Courtesy Photo]

*    *    *

Cherry Hill SeminaryThis weekend, over in South Carolina, another group of Pagans were attending an event to discuss the environment. But in this case, the event was a weekend-long academic symposium titled, The Greening of Religion, which featured talks, panels and lectures on the intersection of religion and the environment.

This symposium is once every three-year event sponsored by Cherry Hill Seminary in conjunction with the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Attending this year’s event was CHS Academic Dean Dr. Wendy Griffin, CHS Dean of Students Dr. Candace Kant, CHS Executive Director Holli Emore, CHS board member Marla Roberson, ADF’s Rev. Kirk Thomas, blogger and environmentalist John Halstead, Wild Hunt columnist Manny Tejeda-Moreno and others. The keynote speaker was Professor of Religion Bron Taylor.

Halstead said, “I appreciated the contrast of perspectives on the role tradition plays in the greening of religions.” He added, “I was inspired by the creativity and dedication of those who presented at the conference. At the same time, I was sobered by the realization of how much work remains to be done. Bron Taylor spoke about the ‘anemic’ response of religions to the ecological crisis—and he (rightfully, I think) included Paganism in that indictment.”

Thomas said, “How easily everyone meshed together, regardless of religious path, and how obvious it was that we are all on the same page as far as our ultimate goals are concerned.” He called the overall experience “fascinating.”  Agreeing with him was Roberson, who called the event positive and inspiring.

All three noted the good work done by the organizers, but also noted the low turnout. Halstead speculated that it “may have been reflective of a general despair or feeling of hopelessness at the futility of our individual actions in the face of the titanic forces of global industrial capitalism.” Thomas said, “Where was everyone? Why were so few Pagans there? Don’t they believe that there’s a problem in all of our futures?” Despite that disappoint, their overall impression was positive, and they believe there is room and need for this work to continue.

  *   *   *

downloadThe Pagan Pathways Temple, based in Michigan, has embarked on a new adventure to create a Wiccan-based fictional web series. Titled Unveiled, the show will “follow the story of a new Pagan as she explores the community, her faith, and experiences pitfalls both mundane & magickal.”

Located in Madison Heights, the Pagan Pathways Temple is a nonprofit organization with a dedicated temple space. Its “mission is to provide a place of worship and learning for all those who seek enlightenment and universal knowledge; to offer a haven for all faiths and paths which value love, tolerance, and community; and those who seek to empower and enrich our fellow humans. all who seek fellowship and spiritual growth.”

When speaking of the new web series project, temple president and Wiccan priest Stanley Nunn, also known as Nashan, said, “The reason for the show is because, we figured it would be best, since we have the talent and the people and the organization for us as the temple to tell the story of our community from our own perspective.”

The Pagan Pathways Temple has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed for production.

In Other News

  • The Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund is accepting applications for 2016. Once provided by the Tempest Smith Foundation, this unique scholarship is open to all Pagan high school seniors, undergraduate or graduate students who maintain a 2.85 or higher GPA and who live in Michigan. Founded in 2014, “The Pagan Scholarship Fund is a small pagan non-profit organization established by the Midwest Witches Ball and Witches of Michigan to help those who wish to further their education with a Technical College, Two Year Entry College, Four Year College, or other training with an established nationally accredited school.” The application and more information are available on its website.
  • Godless Paganism: A Journal for Non-Theistic Pagans is now available for purchase. The book is touted as the “first ever anthology of writing by and about non-theistic Pagans. The goal of the anthology is to educate others in the Pagan community about both the diversity and the depth of non-theistic Pagan practice.” Edited by John Halstead with a foreword by Marc Green, the journal contains 420 pages exploring the many forms on non-theistic Pagan practice, including “a variety of theological orientations” such as “humanists, naturalists, Atheopagans, animists, pantheists, Gaians, and more.” Godless Paganism is available in both eBook and paperback forms via and through the Humanstic Paganism blog.
  • Is the Prairie Land Music Festival and Campout cancelled? There has been a rumor going around that Prairie Land organizers have cancelled their June weekend Pagan festival. Summer 2016 will mark the Eastern Iowa festival’s debut and, according to the website, the scheduled festivities will include performances by Celia, Mama Gina, Cheshire Moon, Jonny Lipford, Wax Chaotic, Anji Kat, Brian Henke, Ryan O’Rien, and IrishJamBand. Organizer Lynn Williams has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the event and is currently seeking more volunteers, but he did say that rumors are false and the event will be held.
  • Demeter Press has placed a call for submissions for a new “edited collection entitled Pagan, Goddess, Mother. Edited by Sarah Whedon and Nané Jordan, the collection’s purpose “is to call categories of Pagan and Goddess mothering into focus, to highlight philosophies and experiences of mothers in these various movements and traditions, and to generate new ways of imagining and enacting motherhood.” Abstracts are due Sept 1. More information and detailed requirements are available on the Demeter Press website, along with a number of other their calls for submissions.
  • The Temple of Witchcraft has opened registration for its 2016-2017 online class season, including all Witchcraft I–IV sessions. Classes are “offered in cooperation with the Temple of Witchcraft’s Sagittarius ministry” and include “workshops for the education of clergy and practitioners of all types.” The new sessions are given online only and will begin in fall 2016 and end fall 2017. All applicants must be 18 years or over.
  • And for something different, writer Segomâros Widugeni shares an “outline for a possible reconstructed Gaulish ritual system, adapted to modern circumstances.” Widugeni is a leader in the Gaulish Polytheism community and has been sharing his experience and his practice regularly on the site.

That’s all for now. Have a great day!

[Only 8 days left in the Fall Fund Drive! Be part of the team who keeps The Wild Hunt going for the next year. We are a completely reader-funded, nonprofit independent news journal. We are your source of commentary and news. Share our link and donate today! Thanks.]

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions is now over. As you have heard both here and in other places, the event, which began on Thursday, Oct 15, ended this past Monday, Oct 19. The official numbers have been released. The Parliament was attended by 9,806 people representing 30 religions with 548 sub-traditions. The following article contains a series of news notes and links, ending with a short editorial, to help wrap-up and provide a taste of what exactly happened.

Opening Fire Ceremony at 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

The early morning opening fire ceremony conducted by local Indigenous groups. The fires were tended and kept lit for the entire conference / 2015 Parliament. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]


Following the 2015 Parliament, the Board of Trustees elects and names the next Board. This year, it was announced that the new Vice Chair-elect would be EarthSpirit’s co-founder, Andras Corban-Arthen. He said, “I’m very honored, of course, at being elected Vice-Chair, particularly because of the trust it implies on the part of my fellow trustees. I think we have an excellent new governance team, led by Chair-elect Dr. Robert Sellers, whom I greatly respect.” Sellars, as we previously reported, is a Baptist minister from Texas, who has shown great interfaith leadership and, specifically, positive support for Paganism and other minority religions.

Corban-Arthen, who has attended every Parliament since 1993, added, “There are some interfaith organizations that cater only to mainstream religions. The Parliament, from the beginning, has not only encouraged participation by members of minority religions, but also has included some of us in leadership positions — Angie Buchanan, Phyllis Curott, and I have all served as trustees and officers of the Parliament.”

For the 2015 Parliament, Curott took lead on producing the inaugural Woman’s Assembly held on Thursday, Oct 18. The all-day event included workshops and large panels focusing on global issues facing women today, from education and violence; to leadership and building support structures. Curott spoke during the first assembly session saying, “The world’s religions cannot continue to allow the denigration of half of humanity.”

The Women’s Assembly not only provided a full day of focus on women’s issues, but it also inadvertently caused what some would term a “teachable moment” for the Parliament as a whole. On Thursday evening, after the final assembly sessions were over, the Parliament opened in earnest with its very first plenary. After a stately and impressive processional and drumming session led by local Utah indigenous groups, the audience became quiet as eight men, all wearing dark suits, took the stage to open the event. It was reported that, at some point early on in the plenary, a number of audience members stood up and yelled, “Where are the women?”

Four of the eight male presenters at the opening ceremony. [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Four of the eight male presenters on stage at the opening ceremony / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

That message got through to the Board of Trustees and conference organizers. In fact, the Parliament posted and tweeted out the following Atlantic article titled, “The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical.” In it, mathematician Greg Martin explains how it is “statistically impossible” for conferences to have a speaking panel of all men, and that the under-representation of women on such panels can only be accomplished through calculated choice.

In other news, the local Sikh community, who organized and served Langar each day, announced that they had donated a total of 3,800 pounds of uneaten food, equal to 3,166 meals. The logistics of this size donation were difficult, but the community was aided by the Utah Food Bank. The donation, together with the daily Langar meals, are two ways in which the Sikh community gives service.

Where does the Parliament go from here? Corban-Arthen is chair of the site selection committee and said, “Now that Salt Lake City is over, we have a lot of work immediately ahead of us to choose the host city for the next Parliament.” While he can’t offer anymore than that, the event will not be held in the United States. So Americans need to get their passports in order. Typically, the model has been to host the event every five years putting the next Parliament in 2020. However, there reportedly was an announcement that the Board is shifting to a new model that will allow the Parliament to be hosted every 2 years. However, no site or plans have been announced. Stay tuned and ready your passport.

Notes and Links

During the Pagans at the Parliament gathering, Angie Buchanan stood up to thank everyone for attending. Buchanan is former trustee and member of the site selection committee. Buchanan was instrumental is coordinating efforts for Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists, acting as both a welcoming face and advocate for their presence. In retrospective, she said, “The most important part in determining the success of an event resides in the seed planted in the hearts of those who participate, and in what they will nurture that seed to become. It may be too soon to tell but it feels as though the seeds of a forest have been planted by the Parliament in Salt Lake City.”

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Pagans at Parliament reception / 2015 Parliament [Photo Credit: Greg Harder]

Since the Parliament ended, a number of videos, photographs and writings have surfaced, which suggest that Buchanan was correct. Seeds have been planted.

More highlights, photos, videos and discussions will emerge over the next month, including the video recording of The Goddesses Alive! performance that was featured in a previous article. To keep up with the growing number of reflections, readers can visit the Pagans at Parliament 2015 Facebook group, which has been made public.

Along with the opening plenary, as linked in the news section above, a number of other recordings have been posted either on the PWR website and in various social media locations. The official videography team recorded and has made available all the plenaries, which covered the following topics: WomenIndigenous Peoples; Climate ChangeWar Violence and Hate Speech; Income Inequality and Emerging Leaders. Please be aware that the links provided above may only be to the first half of the recorded plenary. Look through the list to ensure that there is not a second part available.

Within several of these plenaries, readers may notice familiar faces. Notably, in the emerging leaders category, EarthSpirit’s Donovan Arthen addressed the crowd. Around minute mark 39:45, Arthen takes the stage. He describes how he grew up attending Parliaments with his parents, and how that experience planted the seeds for his own understanding about interfaith work. After a brief talk, Arthen then leads the entire room in ritual sound experience.

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

Donovan Arthen [Screen Shot from Video]

The Pagan and Heathen presence at the Parliament was very notable. One anonymous attendee said, “Pagans rocked the Parliament.” Another attendee, Audrey Galex, who is content director for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting, said “I am so happy to see such a large Pagan representation in both attendance and presentations.” And, Circle Sanctuary member Casey Burke Pope reported that the teachers of the Religions 101: Islam class mentioned Paganism multiple times. In one instance, a speaker said, “Pagans need to be heard,” adding “we may not agree with them, but they need to be heard.” Pope recalled, “It was surprising and nice to be recognized.”

Pagans and Heathens participated in a number of activities and presentations, including the first ever Parliament chorus. The group sang “Songs for the Earth: A Cantata in Praise of this Earth.” Look closely in the sea of faces for friends.

This list of contributions and interactions is endless. The takeaways for Pagans and Heathens, and from Pagans and Heathens, are seeds as Buchanan suggested. In retrospect, Corban-Arthen said:

I am delighted that the Parliament was such a great success, and that so many more pagans attended than ever before. When we come right down to it, what the Parliament does – by bringing together so many people from such diverse backgrounds and perspectives – is to provide the opportunity for meaningful, important experiences, be they spiritual, cultural, artistic, political, or just plain social. Those experiences, in turn, can induce profound changes in people, and motivate us to work together for the common good, despite whatever differences we may have. That, above all, is what I hope those pagans who attended will take home.

And, Buchanan added, “I look forward to seeing the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions prosper and grow the interfaith movement into something that changes the world for the better. If ever there was more important work for Pagans to be involved in, I don’t know what it would be.”

Editorial, from Wild Hunt editor Heather Greene

I could not conclude any write-up about the Parliament without sharing a little bit of my own experience. Walking around the Salt Palace, I was passed by so many people representing so many different backgrounds; speaking so many different languages and having so many different beliefs. The doors of opportunity to learn were blown wide-open and the interior spaces were thoroughly inviting. While I have never lived in a fully closeted way, I did note the feeling of freedom to be openly Pagan without any reservation in speaking authentically to anyone, including my own community members.

The five days were filled with both learning, listening, hearing and teaching. Outside of reporting for The Wild Hunt, I also participated in the Goddesses Alive! performance; sat on an excellent panel about the Pope’s encyclical with John Halstead, Sylvia Linton and Andras Corban-Arthen; assisted Circle Sanctuary with a beautiful healing ritual, and attended a delightful dinner bringing together Evangelical Christians and Pagans. The days were busy, to say the least. Other personal highlights included visiting the United Religions Initiative space; listening to the entirety of the Women’s Assembly; seeing the famous Mormon Tabernacle buildings; meeting a host of amazing new people and talking to old friends; sitting quietly in the Hindu religious space and Sunday night’s rousing spontaneous sacred singing session.

Circle Sanctuary’s healing altar. [Photo Credit: H. Greene]

When I returned home, I reflected on all that had happened over those five days. At times the tears fell and, at other times, I couldn’t help but smile. Then, I realized what was so unique about the Parliament; what had touched me in such a profound way. I had felt very comfortable in the extreme diversity of human experience and belief. I not only felt safe, but I also felt invigorated. And, it reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the urban outskirts of New York City. The building in which I lived contained the same level of extreme cultural diversity. We even held a yearly party, which could have been mistaken for a purposeful multicultural celebration. So, at the Parliament, I felt at home.

What The Parliament of the World’s Religions offers us directly is education by providing the safe space to share, discuss, debate and learn. At the same time, the Parliament offers something indirectly that is just as valuable, if not more; something that I received growing up in that building and something that Donovon Arthen mentioned in his plenary talk. It is exposure. Through the Parliament we are exposed to the basic humanity that lies beneath all of the differences holding us apart. And, simultaneously, our own humanity is exposed. We eat together; we laugh; we walk; we clap, smile and sing. And, then, we all go to sleep and start again the next day. Through participating in this level of true human interaction, we find a way to stop thinking of our differences as obstacles, and start seeing them as a beautiful, curious details inviting us to the dance.

This is how the Parliament of the World’s Religions can save the world. Like the Olympics, the Parliament is a global stage. However unlike the Olympics, which is centered around competition, commerce and plagued by political controversy, the Parliament just aims to be a safe space of interaction and exposure. Whether you sit and simply watch people come and go, or attend a full day worth of sessions, you are exposed to a world of color. And, that alone is worth the price of admission.

The only unfortunate part is that the Parliament speakers are, to coin a phrase, “preaching to the choir” in many instances. The attendees aren’t necessarily the ones that need to hear the messages spoken and witness that humanity. However, the experience is still invaluable, inspiring and life changing. And, going back to Buchanan’s quote, perhaps the seeds that we all took away, and those that we planted, will germinate, grow and expand outward into our extended communities. And, with each passing Parliament, the messages will thrive and eventually cover the world over.

“May the roots grow deep and the branches spread wide. May it provide shelter and strength, wisdom and sustenance. May it remain a peaceful sanctuary, a cathedral of healing, an institution of learning, and the voice that encourages and reminds us to do better, to be better, every single day.” – Angie Buchanan

Donate to the Wild Hunt! Support Pagan Journalism! 


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.

*   *   *


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.

*   *   *

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!

VATICAN CITY — Many, if not most, Pagans consider the Earth to be sacred. This has been true for at least as long as Wicca and other modern Pagan religions have been in the public eye. For many in the mainstream media, this is considered an identifying characteristic of Paganism. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church has finally released his long-awaited 180+ page encyclical on the environment, called Laudato Si. This one document has been in the news for some weeks and is the strongest message about the subject ever released by that Church.

[Courtesy NASA / Flickr]

[Courtesy NASA / Flickr]

The Pope’s statement that has been in the works for months, and has been called a “game changer” for the environmental movement. The Wild Hunt asked some members of the Pagan community to weigh in on the weighty document.

Given the diverse nature of Pagans — including those who are often lumped under the Pagan umbrella, whether they wish to be or not — It is not surprising that the responses ranged across a wide spectrum. Some common threads have emerged in these early reactions, but as this message and its ramifications are absorbed and digested, those threads could either strengthen or snap. The bulk of the reactions from those people, who were able to take the time to read and respond to the encyclical, is largely positive, with some important exceptions.

John Beckett

John Beckett

Druid John Beckett was quick to notice that “environment” seems to include much more than animals and trees. He said:

If you think Pope Francis’ encyclical is only about climate change, you need to read it for yourself. It’s about the inherent value of all living things, about a ‘throwaway culture’ that mistakenly seeks meaning in things, about the connections between humans and the rest of Nature, and about how the results of our environmental desecrations are borne predominantly by the poor.

‘Laudato Si’ is grounded in Christian scripture and tradition, but Pope Francis understands these are global problems requiring a global approach. Perhaps most importantly, he understands real, lasting change cannot come from technology, but through changes in culture and spirituality.

Pope Francis gets it.

John Halstead, who has been a driving force behind the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, noted that it includes a number of elements with which a Pagan might identify. Halstead said:

John Halstead

John Halstead

Repeatedly throughout the statement, the Pope observes that everything is interconnected, which is an article of faith for many Pagans (¶¶ 16, 70, 117, 138). He also recognized that we are inherently part of the earth: “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live,” he says, “We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it.” (¶ 139) “[O]ur very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (¶ 2) In my mind, this echoes the Pagan environmental statement. In fact, something like these words might have been spoken at Pagan Spirit Gathering this year or at a CUUPS summer solstice ritual.

Pagan Environmental Coalition NYC member Courtney Weber was reassured that the Pope was placing environmentalism into a Christian context, but also felt that there are parts of Christian teaching which continue to fly in the face of stewardship. She said:

It is absolutely encouraging to see the Pope take such an unflinching, yet hopeful, stance on the future of our ecological revolution. He strikes down the all too destructive interpretation of Christian scripture and insists that we all have a part to play in turning this around, particularly for citizens of wealthier nations. This could not be more important or true. He misses the mark, however, when he says that controlling the population isn’t a major part of solving this crisis. To not include reproductive control as imperative to surviving the climate crisis speaks of antiquated and dangerous Catholic doctrine. Pagans, however, will probably enjoy section 241, which talks about Mother Mary as Queen of Creation.

Holli S. Emore

Holli S. Emore

Cherry Hill Seminary‘s Holli S. Emore struck a similar tone, saying:

Pope Francis has created a masterpiece, in my opinion, in the recent encyclical on the environment. Rather than lurking in the safety of official doctrine, he has expounded theologically on a solid grounding of science, economics and social justice. While I wish he had been able to go further in calling for population decrease, I agree with his assertion that blaming overpopulation for our ecological woes is disingenuous. The beauty of the encyclical is that, in addition to the many millions of Catholics around the world who respect the teachings of a pope, the document is crafted in language that people of virtually any faith can embrace. On my desk is a small vase of roses from my garden. They were only buds when I cut and brought them in, but they have gradually opened into blooms of great beauty and fragrance. I choose to see the Pope’s statement as a bud with the power to transform many as it opens and blooms, if only we will nurture the vision.

The Reverend Patrick McCollum released a statement while traveling, which welcomed the Catholic Church to the table of people fighting to protect the Earth. Rev. McCollum said:

I would like to offer praise and admiration on behalf of the Earth Based Spiritual Traditions for the Pope’s brave step forward to join us and others in dialogue about the care and future of our planet. Both we and our indigenous brothers and sisters share many of the same concerns and reverence for the sacredness of our earth that the Pontiff proclaims and we have long waited for a time when all peoples might set aside some of our differences in order to work together as a family toward our common humanity and the place we call home.

There is much work to be done and many challenges to be overcome as we move forward, but as a representative of many millions who treasure the sacredness of creation, I reach out my hand to accept the Pope’s gracious invitation and to share his powerful message worldwide.

The “sacredness” which McCollum referenced has surprised many Pagan observers. Attorney Robin Martinez, whose work against the Keystone XL Pipeline has been chronicled here, zeroed on its implications. He said:

Robin Wright

Robin Martinez

As someone with a Pagan world view, little did I think I’d ever be anticipating the release of a communication from the Pope. I starting realizing the significance of this work when barely into the introduction I read these words: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment is one of the more powerful documents I’ve read in quite some time, and presents a major contribution to development of an underlying moral, ethical, and spiritual framework for our relationship with the Earth. In some respects, I balk at using the word “relationship” because it implies a separation of humanity from the Earth, but Pope Francis tackles that head-on in the introduction, where he writes that “[w]e have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

It also struck Peter Dybing, who said, in part:

After reading the complete document my personal understanding of the nature of Catholic Church is profoundly affected. Here, the institution most responsible for the spread of Patriarchy, colonial power, suppression of indigenous cultures, cultural and environmental genocide, takes an about face. This new Pope steps forward and establishes himself as a leader, not just of his church, but also of those seeking environmental, economic and social justice on a planetary scale.

As I was reading I was drawing parallels with some of the most forward progressive ideas being embraced by Pagan sites like Gods&Radicals. Frankly I am stunned. This may be a watershed document of our generation, establishing an urgency that the world has so far failed to muster for environmental action.

Sean Donahue is a writer for the aforementioned Gods&Radicals, and the import was not lost on him, either. He said:

“Pagan” and “Heathen” are words that originally referred to the unchurched and unlettered people of the countryside, and these were the people Francis of Assisi ministered to — a ministry marked not by conversion but by inclusion in an animist form of Christianity, which saw plants and animals and sun and rain and wind and stars as humanity’s kin. It is telling and significant that the saint’s namesake draws quite explicitly on that original Franciscan language, theology, and spirit in an encyclical addressed not to Catholics but to the world.


Sean Donahue

Pope Francis calls the world to join him in adopting what he rightly describes as St. Francis’s radical stance — “refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” In so doing, he challenges the fundamental tenets of capitalism, and calls for new political and economic approaches which value both human and non-human life. He explicitly condemns anthropocentrism and asserts that all species have inherent worth and a right to live — a far cry from his predecessor who condemned such views as rooted in “attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism.” He also takes the position that Indigenous peoples are the best caretakers of their traditional homelands, and that they deserve to be allowed to honor an protect “a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values.”

All of this marks a tremendous theological shift, a reversal of centuries of church doctrine. Pope Francis believes that there is one God (though he also speaks eloquently of Mary, who “grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power.”) My path is one not of belief, but of relationship, and I am connected with many gods — the Feri gods and the gods of my Celtic ancestors. But that is about all that separates my perspective on the world and the perspective the Pope articulates in this encyclical. And that is deeply healing to my once Catholic heart.

Not everything in this dense document was entirely welcome, however. Halstead pointed out that he had two main concerns. Halstead said, “The first is his lingering anthropocentrism. Although he criticizes ‘distorted’ or ‘excessive’ anthropocentrism (¶¶ 69, 116), he nevertheless insists on humanity’s ‘pre-eminence’ (¶ 90) and ‘superiority’ (¶ 220). He argues that, in the absence of this belief, human beings will not feel responsible for the planet. (¶ 118) While I agree that human beings are ‘unique’ in many ways among the world’s fauna, and that we have special responsibilities as a result, I know from personal experience that undermining the belief in humanity’s ‘superiority’ can produce a greater sense of responsibility to the earth. And I know the reverse to be true as well: belief in our ‘pre-eminence’ can weaken our sense of ecological responsibility.”

Pope Francis [Photo Credit: Catholic Church England / Flickr]

Pope Francis [Photo Credit: Catholic Church England / Flickr]

Then, there’s the notion of the fragility of the earth. Halstead goes on to say, “In one place, the Pope says that ‘a divinization of the earth . . . would prevent us from . . . protecting it in its fragility.’ (¶ 90) . . . . The earth, nature, the biosphere is resilient. There is no sense in the Pope’s statement that human beings are facing an existential threat. And naturally, many Pagans know that the ‘divinization of the earth’ can, in fact, inspire us to protect it.”

Damon Leff, former director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) and editor-in-chief of Penton Independent Alternative Media, is also a longtime observer of the Church. He didn’t mince words with his response:

I personally believe, given the very long and painful history of criminal acts committed by the Catholic Church and its repeated denials of guilt and refusal to honestly atone for many of these sins, that this Church has no moral standing to pontificate on any subject at all, to anyone. An apparently liberal and certainly more affable Pope than his Nazi predecessor does not for one instant change the Church’s actual conservative and often hostilely prejudicial position on any number of subjects Francis may or may not have bantered on since he took office; LGBTI rights and marriage equality, Pagan minorities, witch-hunts, traditional religions in Africa and Europe, Women, poverty, racism, paedophilia and illegal child abduction by nuns in Ireland and elsewhere.

The modern Catholic Church has neither proven itself better nor more moral than its historic predecessor. As for Francis’ statement on the environment, it’s too little too late. The world according to that Church is a pile of sinful dirt. For me and countless others who are not of the opinion that matter is inherently sinful, She is a divine body in need of global rescue. Nothing Francis can say can rescue her. The real battle for Her survival is being waged daily by committed environmentalists against both governments and global corporations completely committed and determined to profit from Her demise at any cost. One only has to look at current issues around and affecting global warming, Monsanto and Roundup Ready GMOs, fracking and polluting industry self-regulation to see that, at best, what any of us ‘believe’ about anything is as useless, in the face of an army of capitalists determined to destroy life as we know it for every planetary species, as spitting curses against the wind.

To Dybing, those aspects which didn’t jibe with his theology are still opportunities for learning. He said, “There are some areas where my personal understanding of divinity and women’s rights are in clear opposition to principles put forth in the document. That fact, however, has me wondering if my personal opinions of the church lead me to seek areas of difference when in fact there is so much in this document that sets the stage for world wide intersections of purpose and action for people of faith.”

No matter these early reactions, Dybing’s recommendation to read it and form one’s own opinions may be well worth heeding. In time, history will judge whether Laudato Si is truly a game-changer, or simply a flash in the pan. If time shows that this document succeeded in getting the entire Roman Catholic Church pulling for the Earth, it will be significant indeed.

“The sun shines not on us but in us.”John Muir

For many people around the world, today marks the celebration of the Summer Solstice, also known as Midsummer, or Litha. It is at this time that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun. In honor of fertility, light and abundance, communities have long used bonfires, music, dancing, and outdoor festivals as traditional features of both religious rituals and celebrations. In some modern Pagan practices, it is also believed that this holiday represents the highest ascendancy of masculine divinity. Additionally, while many people are basking the long days of light and heat, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating and marking Winter solstice, a time of darkness, candles and inward reflection.

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

This year, the Summer Solstice also happens to fall on the celebration of Father’s Day in the United States. The history of this secular holiday does not have the same radical roots as its counterpart Mother’s Day. In 1908, a Washington state woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who had been raised by a widower, wanted male parents to be honored in a similar way to mothers. In 1910, Dodd was able to convince the state to establish an official Father’s Day. The idea spread very slowly, meeting much resistance. Many felt that the holiday was silly, and others protested against the establishment of yet another commercially-focused celebration. However, after being given a boost by World War II nationalism, the unofficial Father’s Day was widely embraced by people around the country. Then, in 1972, Richard Nixon signed the proclamation that made the day an official U.S. holiday.

This date, June 21, also marks “Make Music Day,” an international secular solstice celebration of music. The movement began in 1982 in France, and has spread worldwide. According to the website, nearly 700 cities now participate. This is one of the many demonstrations of how global secular culture participates in the the solstice festivities.

And, finally, we can’t forget to mention that today has been declared International Yoga Day!

Here are some recent quotes on Summer Solstice:

Observers celebrate the solstice in myriad ways, including festivals, parades, bonfires, feasts and more. As one member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids explains, “What you’re celebrating on a mystical level is that you’re looking at light at its strongest. It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life – life at its fullest.” – The Huffington Post

Then we wait, and watch for the Sun to touch the horizon. We sing the Sun down on the shortest night, just as we sing it up on the shortest day, joining our hands and our voices to turn the Wheel of the Year. We are reminded when we are in the cycle, what has come before and what will come again. On the highest hill in Minneapolis, we know where we are. Looking at each other singing, we know who we are. We want to be aware of who we are, where we are, when we are. – Magenta Griffith, from “Singing Down the Sun”

In the modern world, we may feel less dependent on the agricultural cycles of the past, yet our lives still revolve around the earths fertility even if we shop and eat from a world wide larder. However, taking the time to acknowledge the sun and its effects on us all can make us more conscious of our connection the seasons and the cycles of life. Just remembering that our very existence depends on this vast ancient explosion that is our sun can be consciousness expanding all by itself…and making time to weave in these spiritual moments into our lives in a way that is relevant to us today, not only taps us in to the traditions of our ancestors, but continues and evolves those traditions in an every growing and renewing thread that enriches us all for generations to come. – Danu Forest, From “The Magic of Summer Solstice”

In spite of all the fire and light imagery of the date, the Jungian in me inevitably turns to thinking about the shadows cast by those fires. I imagine the Goddess and her consort, the Oak King, consummating their union, which becomes a conflagration which will eventually consume the Oak King. This fire casts a shadow across the land, foreshadowing the decline of the Oak King and signaling the escape of the Dark God from his imprisonment … Fire and shadows … In the light of the recent publication of the Pope’s environmental encyclical and “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”, these fires call to my mind the warming of our climate. Climate change is the Jungian shadow of our industrial culture... – John Halstead, From “How Hobbits Celebrate the Summer Solstice: Raising the Shire.”

At Midsummer on our land in Brittany, the Celtic region of north-west France, we invoke Belisama, the Bright One, Lady of Summer. Some say she is the bright golden sunlight; others that she is more fiery, a Lady of Battles and Arrows. We find her in France and we find her in the Milan region of northern Italy, where Celtic tribes came seeking new lands … We know little of how people centuries ago understood her and worshipped her. Belisama is like the sunlight – she changes day by day. We are content to worship her as she chooses to come to us and in her we see and know and remember nature’s beauteous summer face. May your deities come to you as you honor the season’s tide. May your Midsummer be golden with prosperity and healing. May you and your path be blessed. – Vivianne Crowley, from “Midsummer Blessings of Belisama,” Greening the Spirit.

Happy Summer Solstice!