Archives For John Halstead

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!

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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.

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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 gumroad.com. 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?”

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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: Beautygala.com]

[Image Credit: Beautygala.com]

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.

EcoPagan.com

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, GreenFaith.org, 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 / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

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 / Pixabay.com]

[Public Domain / Pixabay.com]

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]

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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.

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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 Lulu.com 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, Polytheist.com 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!

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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]

News

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

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Summerland

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

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

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pomegranate

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

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

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Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

Havana, Cuba [© Jorge Royan via Wikimedia Commons]

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

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

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

In Other News:

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

That is it for now. Have a nice day!

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.

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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!

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

On Thursday June 18, Pope Francis is scheduled to release a “teaching letter,” also called an encyclical, on the environment. This highly anticipated document will most likely become big news of the week as the Pope enters the debates on climate change. A recent New York Times article suggested that, through this work, he is “seeking to redefine a typically secular discussion within a religious framework.” Many activists, around the world, stand ready to applaud his efforts to publicly engage in the global Earth Stewardship conversation and, thereby, hopefully increase pressure on communities, businesses, organizations and governments to enact change.

To some Pagans and others, who already position the Earth or a connection to natural systems of place, at the center of their spiritual practice, the need for such a document might seem superfluous. However, the team who created the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment did a very similar thing. They made a public statement that clearly positions environmental protection within a spiritual framework.  Now, many Pagans view the pending encyclical as an opportunity to demonstrate, in a concrete fashion, that people of different religious beliefs can stand together for one cause. Writer John Halstead said:

I wonder if the timing of the publication of ‘A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment‘ and the papal encyclical on the environment might be an opportunity for the beginning of a rapprochement between Pagans and Christians. No doubt this will be difficult for both, as we tend to define ourselves in contrast to each other … It can be difficult to see this when we are immersed in our own distinct paths. But when we suddenly find those paths intersecting, as they are at this moment, perhaps we can reconsider whether we — and all other life on Earth — would be better served by emphasizing our similarities, rather than our differences.

As for the Pagan statement itself, it is now has 6, 272 signatures, coming from people all over the world and many religions.

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In the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina, there is a small metaphysical store called Raven and Crone. Although the store has only been around a short time, it has been making headlines in one of the city’s local magazines. In a recent article in Capital at Play, writer Roger McCredie featured the store in an article titled “Raven & Crone: Asheville’s Most Bewitching Retailers: Wiccan Make This Work.”  McCredie writes, “In recent decades a saying has arisen that there are probably more Wiccans in the woods of Southern Appalachia than there are rabbits. The sentiment may be fairly new, but the fact it addresses is as old as human habitation of these mountains.” He refers largely to the traditional magical practices and spiritual beliefs found within the Appalachian region.

The store is owned by Lisa Svencicki and Kim Strobel. In the article, McCredie, who is not Pagan, interviews them both about their backgrounds, the decisions that led to the store’s birth and how they are doing. He writes, “Lisa and Kim saw the runic writing on the wall and decided the time was right to create a retail source that could serve the whole spectrum of Asheville’s growing alternative religion communities and also to cross-market to the general public.” The entire article, originally published in print, is available online. Raven & Crone, which bills itself as “the only only “Old Age” metaphysical supply store,” is located on Merriman Avenue near the University campus.

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Christopher Lee at the Women's World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

Christopher Lee at the Women’s World Awards 2009 in Vienna, Austria

On June 7, actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015) passed way at the age of 93. Lee is remembered for a number of roles, including Dracula in group of Hammer Horror films and the Man with the Golden Gun in the James Bond film franchise (1974).  However, younger movie goers will recognize him as Count Dooku or Darth Tyranus in the Star Wars series (2002-2008), or as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2012-2014). And, many Pagans will also recognize him as Lord Summerisle in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

Lee was born in London in 1922; in the early years of the film industry. During WWII, he served as an “intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces.” He returned to London in 1946 and began his illustrious acting career. After sixty-three years of work, Lee was knighted in 2009 for his contribution to the arts.  Known for his deep voice, Lee was also a singer and recorded a number of operas during the 1980s and 1990s. In 2010, at the age of 88, he recorded a symphonic metal album called “Charlemagne: By the Sword and Cross” and then in 2013 “Charlemagne: the Omens of Death.”

Lee’s career was extensive, full and long-lived. Through his artistic legacy and the characters he brought to life, he will continue to entertain generations to come.  What is remembered, lives.

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In Other News

  • Twin Cities Pagan Pride has just released details about its Paganicon 2016 conference. The theme for its 6th year will be “Sacred Traditions: Global Visions & Voices” and the guest of honor will be T.Thorn Coyle. Organizers said, “We walk this world together; we have different spiritual ways of interacting with our deities, our ancestors, our families, and our rites, but ultimately we share many similar traditions and techniques of relating to the sacred.” Next year’s event will celebrate and honor this diversity. Submissions for programming will be accepted later this week.  In addition, organizers are currently holding a related T-Shirt design contest. Entry rules are posted on the website. Paganicon 2016 will be held from March 18-20 at the Double Tree Park Place in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
  • Lydia M. Nettles Crabtree’s book Family Coven: Birthing Hereditary Witchcraft has just been released. Crabtree has been researching and writing this book for over ten years. She calls it a “comprehensive guide to developing a family oriented spiritual practice … covering the basics of communication, relationship building, finances and parenting.”
  • Coming in October is Cernnunos Camp, a five day festival devoted to the Horned God. Organizers say, “Come and feel the antlered mysteries and abandon yourselves in a celebration of wild unfettered worship of Him with hand, tooth, claw, hoof and feet. Bring your bodies, your drums and rattles, antlers, masks and other ceremonial tools.” Cernnunos Camp will take place from October 14-18 in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. Tickets are now on sale.
  • Over at Patheos’ The Agora, Dana Corby recalls the making of the album “Songs for the Old Religion.” As the story begins: “In 1973, a friend of mine returned to Southern California from a visit to a Wiccan gathering in the Bay Area telling me about a musician he had met by the name of Gwydion Pendderwyn who had a songbook full of wonderful music … “  Corby then goes on to describe the process and spirit that led to actual recording of the music.  She writes, “We didn’t know we were pioneering anything, or that there would soon be a booming cottage industry in self-produced Pagan music. We just wanted to “show ‘em how it should be done!” This post, which is marked as part one, provides a nice look into some of the early history of the modern Pagan movement in the United States.

songs of old religion

  • On June 5, a writer for Motherboard published an article called “Pop Culture Pagans Who Draw Power From Tumblr.”  The article discusses the use of Pop Cultural icons within magical and religious practice, as well as the controversies surrounding it.  A number of Pagans were quoted or interviewed for the discussion, including author Christine Hoff Kraemer, lawyer and witch Emily Carlin, and editor Taylor Ellwood, who has published a number of books on Pop Culture Magick. In the Motherboard article, Carlin explains, “For those of us who grew up stewing in pop culture, using those ideas in magick seems only natural.” In addition, Carlin has published the writer’s full interview on her own site.
  • Organizers of the upcoming 2016 Pagan Music Festival have recently announced some changes to the spring event. Originally the festival was to be hosted by Dragon Hills in Bowdon, Georgia. However, those plans fell through. Organizers have successfully relocated the festival to Cherokee Farm in LaFayette, Georgia, which is only 2 hours north of its original location. In addition, the event has been renamed to The Caldera Pagan Music Festival. Organizers did add that programming ha not changed; more than 20 bands are scheduled to perform over the 4 days from May 26-30. More information can be found on their website.
  • Tomorrow, Ardantane Learning Center will begin a new “Teaching intensive with Ina White Owl and Amber K.”  The four week course will instruct students on how to “teach more powerfully and effectively,” including “creating lesson plans, working with psychic energies in classrooms, communicating on multiple levels, evaluating your own strengths as a teacher, and handling various other challenges.” Teacher and author Amber K is the executive director of Ardantane, which is located in the deserts of New Mexico. The teaching intensive will be held Tuesdays at 7 pm from June 16-July 7. Registration is now open.

That’s all for now,  Have a nice day!

Barb MossThe Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) family is mourning the loss of one of its devoted members, Barb Moss (1969-2015). Barb was also a facilitator of the Daughters of the Dark Moon coven as well as a member of the Open Circle Unitarian Universalist congregation in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In addition, she was a working artist, known for her enthusiasm and creativity. Last October, Barb were interviewed for a local paper’s bi-weekly feature: “The Artist Next Door.” According to the report, Barb had overcome many obstacles in her life including addiction, failed pregnancies, and divorce. Many of these struggles were featured in her paintings.

Barb’s latest struggle was with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2011. After various treatments, she went into remission. Then, this past summer, doctors discovered that Barb’s cancer had spread to her liver and bone. On May 11, she lost the fight. As her friend Cathy Fia Moritz shared, “My friend, Barb, squeezed the last bit of life out of that paint tube yesterday. Even though I only knew her for a short time, she touched my life greatly. Her creativity, welcoming attitude, and her unflagging optimism were just a few of the bright qualities that made her a wonderful woman.”

The Open Circle Unitarian Church held a fundraiser and memorial service this past weekend. Then on Sunday, there was a second service at her parents church – Salem United Methodist. PSG will be “honoring her … as part of [its] Circle of Remembrance on the opening Sunday, June 14.” In addition, since Barb was scheduled to co-lead this year’s Daughters of the Dark Moon ritual at PSG, coven members decided to include an honoring of her life as part of the rite. Rev. Selena Fox said, “She was beloved by many. [I am] glad to have connected with her as part of my life’s journey.”

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Lapd sealOn Thursday, May 21, the West Valley Area, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is co-sponsoring a meet-and-greet with local Pagans. The focus of the event will be on how best to handle and report “Hate Crimes/Speech” against the Pagan community. As the flyer notes, “This is also an opportunity to get to know your local officers.”

The idea for this community meet-and-greet was born last year when Pagan Wendilyn Emrys, a local activist, attended the LAPD Hate Crimes Forum in Encino, California. She said, “I was attending in my capacity as a Pagan Priestess, and because I am a member of a number of political groups that often get attacked by right wing psychos. I wanted to know my rights...” After asking a few questions, an officer approached her and offered to meet with her and other Pagans.

Although the event took some time to coordinate, Emrys and the current facilitating officer Sergeant II Frank Avila were finally able to secure a date. Emrys is enthusiastic about the opportunity, saying “I think it is essential for Pagans to get to know their local Law Enforcement Professionals, and Governmental Representatives … It is also important for us to know what is and is not a Hate Crime, or Hate Speech, and how to get in touch with our local Law Enforcement should someone inflict such a crime or criminal speech against us.” She is hoping for good turnout. The meet-and-greet will be held at the West Valley Area Police Station at 7 p.m., the event is open to anyone interested in the subject matter. For more information, contact wendilynemrys@hotmail.com.

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Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

The Pagan Community Statement on the Environment has garnered 4,249 signatures in just one month’s time. The signatures hail from all over the world and from nearly every continent. There also now eight translations of the statement available, including Spanish, French, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and Portuguese. More translations are currently in the works.

In a recent blog post, coordinator John Halstead wrote, “If you peruse the list of signatories of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”, you will see a lot of names you may recognize…” but many you do not. Then he featured an interview with the person who signed directly before Starhawk.

Since that blog post, Halstead has noted that the group’s goal is to get 10,000 signatures by mid June. Why June? This is the scheduled time of Pope Francis’ publication of an encyclical on the environment. Halstead views this as “an ideal opportunity to share a Pagan vision of sustainability with the world.” Patheos blogger John Beckett agreed, saying, “If the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination can issue a progressive statement on the environment, why can’t Pagans – most of whom hold Nature in much higher regard than do Christians – do at least as much?”  Halstead and the many people involved are now asking others to pass along the statement through social media and other sources. Where can it be found? The statement, its history and all the translations are available at Ecopagan.com.

In other news:

  • On May 25, the Pagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be holding its 3rd online academic conference. Held in cooperation with the Pagan Federation International, the PAEAN Conference will “focus on the different aspects of development of Contemporary Paganism and its challenges.” The online platform allows “scholars, lecturers and attendees to engage in meaningful discussions to “hopefully increase learning and understanding.” This year’s theme is “The Future of Contemporary Paganism.” and will include lectures by Mr. Stanislav Panin, Dr. Lila Moore, Mr. Shai Feraro, Ms. Martina Capuleti and Mr. Gwiddon Harveston. There will also be several group panels. Information can be found online.
  • T. Thorn Coyle has just released her first fiction novel, titled Like Water. Nayomi Munaweera, author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, described the book“Like Water is a love letter to both the streets of Oakland and the youth who walk them. It tells of the city’s history as well as the conflagrations threatening to devour it. These are characters attempting to love through the fire.” Inspired by her social justice work, Coyle calls the book “visionary fiction.” It s now available in both paper or electronic forms from online and local bookshops.
  • The Norse Mythology Blog has begun its annual midsummer art competition. This year’s theme is based on “an excerpt from the Old Norse poem Sigrdrífumál (“Sayings of Sigrdrifa”) from the Poetic Edda.”  The specific except is posted on the site along with project suggestions. In addition, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried also wrote, “Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midsummer. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals. Your original piece of visual art should capture the midsummer spirit of Norse mythology.” Past winners and their art are posted in the blog’s archives. The submission deadline is midnight June 19.
  • On May 11, Molly Khan launched the Heathen at Heart blog on Patheos Pagan Channel. In her opening post, Khan wrote,”Hello, and welcome to Heathen at Heart!  Here I hope you will find a thoughtful commentary on Heathenry, polytheism, and Paganism in general; as well as practical information, prayers, and rituals.” Khan is member of a local Kindred as well as a Scribe for an ADF Grove. She is also a wife and mother of three, and a strong supporter of her local Pagan community.
  • The Wiccan group Silver Circle, founded in 1979, has commissioned a film on Witches in Holland or Heksen in Holland. The project is part of the group’s recent 35 year anniversary celebration. The organization has established a foundation that is “committed to expanding and evolving Wicca to an ever growing public.” To help fund the project organizers have launched an Indiegogo campaign.  However, they have already begun production with the help of a variety of volunteers

That’s it for now. Have a great day.

In 2014, an estimated 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York City and another 40,000 in London in the biggest protest to draw attention to global climate change. The protesters came from all walks of life to stand together to raise awareness and demand action. The landmark event demonstrated, if nothing else, the universality of the concern and the growing acceptance that climate change must be addressed now.

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit:  Groundswell Movement)

PEC members hold an impromptu ritual during the march. (Credit: Groundswell Movement)

However, for the average person, affecting real change can become overwhelming and discouraging. Where do I begin? What can I do?  Will recycling a newspaper or using cloth grocery bags actually help? In a past Wild Hunt article on fracking, activist Courtney Weber, co-founder of Pagan Environmental Coalition – New York City, said, “I can’t fight for bees, deforestation and the black rhino. Philosophically I can. But practically I can’t.” She recommended that people, ‘Pick what’s local. Pick what makes you mad.”

Unfortunately, even at a local level, there seems to be an overwhelming number of causes that can make “you mad” from polluted waters and the KXL pipeline to deforestation of rainforests, such as in Tasmania, and the near extinction of species, such as the Black Rhino. Where does a single person begin to affect real change? Not everyone can be a full-time activist.

In recent article for AEON magazine, writer Stewart Brand makes an interesting observation, which may help to answer this question. Brand claims that “the idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis.” He argues that many people focus on a single extinction or threat, and fail to see the bigger picture. He wrote:

No end of specific wildlife problems remain to be solved, but describing them too often as extinction crises has led to a general panic that nature is extremely fragile or already hopelessly broken. That is not remotely the case. Nature as a whole is exactly as robust as it ever was – maybe more so, with humans around to head off ice ages and killer asteroids. Working with that robustness is how conservation’s goals get reached.

Brand’s concept can be applied well-beyond species protection, in that he compares environmental conservation to human medical care. While one scratch or bruise must be treated properly, these smaller ills are either isolated issues, or indicative of a far larger health problem. Like human wellness, conservation work should focus its resources on identifying and solving the larger problem, and on the general, sustainable health of the entire system – in this case, the ecosystem.

In other words, Brand argues that conversation science and environmental activism should look to repairing and balancing our world’s ecosystems, rather than only focusing on small fixes. And, according to the article, this thinking seems to be trending. He wrote, “As the new science of conservation biology came into its own in the 1980s and ’90s, focus shifted away from concern about the fate of individual species and toward the general health of whole ecosystems.”

With this shift to holistic Earth health, humanity’s role as protector changes. Within that perspective, we become a functioning part of the system, from the micro to the macro. As such, it becomes easier to locate a working role in conservation efforts, both from a practical and religious perspective. John Halstead, editor of Humanistic Paganism.com, said:

Part of my morning devotional is to take a moment on my way to my car to squat down and touch the earth.  I reach my fingers through the grass or leaves or snow until I feel the dirt under my fingers, and then I recite a paraphrase of a poem by Mary Oliver: ‘The god of dirt came up to me and said ‘now’ and ‘now’ and ‘now’, and never once mentioned forever.’  This helps make my Paganism feel real. The feeling of wet or cold or just the “dirt-ness” reminds me not to romanticize nature.  It reminds me that my deity is not the Goddess of the Earth, but the Goddess that is the Earth, the Earth that this very real dirt is a part of.  And it reminds me that that my Paganism needs to mean something for the health of the very dirt under my fingers and everything it is connected to. 

Similarly, Pagan artist Lupa said, “My path is Earth Stewardship. Not in the sense of chaining myself to giant redwoods or yelling at people online because their environmental choices are not my environmental choices. Mine is a quieter revolution based on trying to model better behaviors, ones that I’ve come to through many hours of considering the choices before me. I try to live as though everything is sacred, because to me everything is nature and nature is what I consider sacred.”

Blue Ridge Mountains

[Photo Credit: JSmith / Flickr]

In an opinion piece for The Guardian, George Marshall wrote, “Our understanding of climate change is built on scientific evidence, not faith. The faith displayed in the churches, mosques, and temples on every street is built on a deep understanding of human drives and emotions. Only when we put these different parts of our psyche together can we achieve change; to say to anyone who will listen: “I’ve heard the science, I’ve weighed up the evidence. Now I’m convinced. Join me.”

When referencing “faith,” Marshall is speaking of monotheistic religious practices. He does not address Paganism, Polytheism or Heathenry, many of which already exist at his coveted intersection. As demonstrated by Lupa and Halstead, many of these traditions function with a crossover between the understanding of human spirituality (drive and emotions) and the literal and scientific understanding of place (nature). Editor of Polytheist.com Anomalous Thracian wrote:

“Place” is a concept that gets talked about a lot in Polytheist religion, especially in discussions about regional cultus. In my practice, discussions of “place” are not abstract, but direct and literal, referring to both the specific spirits and deities of that specific place, as well as the physical expressions of that place. Groves of trees, formations of stone and earth, flowing currents of water, are not mere aesthetic assemblage to assist in the desperate grabbing and reaching after mental balance or sense of inner meaninglessness, but instead are — in their vibrantly material presence — the cornerstones of it all, where belief and practice converge.

The personhood-of-place, and its hierarchical placement in literal consideration, realized relational configurations and intentional interaction within the dynamics of hospitality and recognized role, are how it all starts. The places within the natural elemental world are the places where the gods reach through first to touch our lives in raw and visceral fashion, and it is these selfsame places that must be guarded not as holiest of relics but as holiest of relations. The actively and directly engaged protecting of this world, as a collective whole and in its individual places, is paramount to the authentic and embodied expression of any Polytheist endeavor and identity, for without the humility to know one’s place in the natural world one can never hope to hold true piety at the feet of the blessed gods.

Similarly Rev. Selena Fox, who worked closely with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, on the very first celebrations, sees no distinction between her religious and environmental work. She said, “Environmental conservation and green living are essential parts of my life and work as a Nature religion priestess. In addition to tending shrines and ceremonial areas at Pagan sacred land, Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, I am part of ecological restoration, research and conservation endeavors there. Our national Pagan cemetery, Circle Cemetery, is one of the first Green cemeteries in the USA —  …  Ecological activism is sacred work.”

Although Thracian and Fox practice very different religions, their personal sense of place within the greater natural system, and the health of that system are paramount to both of their beliefs and their daily work. One cannot exist without the other.

Lou Florez, rootworker and witch, also agreed, saying, “I collect trash from rivers and ocean beaches, specifically from the areas where I give offerings and do rituals. I’m also cultivating a small medicine garden to engage a more sustainable relationship. When we talk about Earth-based traditions we are talking about being in connection, investing ourselves in the health and well-being of the land that sustains us.”

The sense of place within the ecosystem, in some form, appears to exist within the religious and spiritual practices of many Pagan, Heathen and Polythiest communities, whether or not the practice itself is considered Earth-based from an environmental perspective. This correlates to Brand’s notion of affecting change through holistic Earth health. As such, Pagans, Polytheists, Heathens may be helping to bridge that perceived gap between religion and environmentalism, as noted by Marshall.

Within the interfaith movement, that already seems to be the case. As mentioned in an earlier Wild Hunt article, Covenant of the Goddess’ Interfaith Representative Don Frew “relayed a story on how the 1990s global focus on the environment led to a greater interest or support for Nature-centered religions within the international interfaith world. Unfortunately, interest waned after 9/11.” Frew added that this is once again shifting.

Co-writer of CoG’s Environmental Statement and Interfaith Representative Aline (Macha) O’Brien said, “My way of expressing devotion, to Earth, to Mother Nature, to different deities, is to chant or sing.” O’Brien relayed a story in which she led a spiral dance at an interfaith wedding using “The Pleiades Chant.”* She said, “Shortly after the wedding, at MIC’s annual interfaith prayer breakfast, my friend Sister Marion of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael came up to me and asked, ‘Now, how did that chant go?’ She said it had been running through her head and she’d really loved it and wanted a refresher on the wording. ”

Much of the work described, such as chanting, rituals and devotionals, are indicators of a spiritual connectivity between religion and place, from within the global ecosystem, rather than independent from it. While those actions alone will not heal the environment or balance the system, they do demonstrate a profound shift in thought. Courtney Weber said:

Turning this tide is tough work. Whether it’s denial, greed, or being overwhelmed by the problem’s size, somehow, the mere truth that we need to change our ways in order to preserve our species is not enough incentive to get enough people on board. Religion can hurt the environmental movement—particularly religions, which believe that a better life in a different world awaits humanity, or a desperately optimistic belief that “everything will work out as God/ess intended.” But religion can benefit the movement by instilling a moral imperative into its practitioners that preserving and improving our environment is a mark of grace and therefore, something that cannot wait.

Brand is optimistic saying, “The trends are favourable. Conservation efforts often appear in the media like a series of defeats and retreats, but as soon as you look up from the crisis-of-the-month, you realise that, in aggregate, conservation is winning.” The diversity and size of the attendance at the climate march is also sign of that favorable trend, as is the support for the “Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” Awareness is a beginning.

Earth

Courtesy: NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Lupa agreed, saying “I want to invite others to retake their place amid the rest of nature, not as conquerors or guilt-ridden relatives or throwbacks to some dark age, but as members of a community. We’ve had plenty of doom and gloom about what will happen if we continue what we’re doing; I want to show people the benefits and joys of living closer to the land, whether that’s on a remote farm or (like me) in an urban apartment.”

Going back to the original question, “How can I help?” The big picture of environmental health can begin in very small ways, with the tiny ecosystems in our backyards, farms, empty city lots, terrace gardens or even public parks. If all these areas were regularly maintained as balanced, healthy ecosystems, they would, over time, eventually meet up, covering the world-over and, thereby, creating one big healthy, sustainable Earth.

 

* Author’s Note: “The Pleiades Chant” (via Aline ‘Macha’ O’Brien) “There’s a part of the Sun in an apple; There’s the part of the Moon in a rose; A part of the flaming Pleiades; In every leaf that grows.”