Archives For Kari Tauring

12241655_1193971017288508_5910561519292085530_nOn Saturday, Nov 14, La Ligue Wiccane Ecletique, based in Paris, held a vigil and ritual for its city, country and for the many victims of Friday’s terrorist attack. The ritual was organized through the Facebook event service and was to be held within the homes of each of the participants, or “chez vous.” At exactly 9 p.m. participants were told to follow the prescribed ritual outline and recite a specially written prayer for peace. The results and other words of prayer are now posted on the site.

The Wild Hunt is currently in touch with Ligue organizers in Paris and also has reached out to others affected by the recent worldwide terrorist attacks. We will be following up with more on this story as the events unfold over the next day.

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Doreen Valiente FoundationIt was just announced at Witchfest 2015 that the Doreen Valiente Foundation in association with the Centre for Pagan Studies would be sponsoring two special exhibitions of their Doreen Valiente collection and other related works. The first event, titled Mystery, Magic, Folklore and Witchcraft in the British Isles, will be presented in Preston Manor, Brighton. It will run for several months, approximately April to September. The second exhibition, titled Where Witchcraft Lives, will run later in the year at a dedicated site in the same city.

It isn’t surprising that these two events are being held in Brighton. This is the same city in which Valiente was honored with a Blue Heritage Plaque in June 2013. She became the first witch to earn such an prestigious historical honor. A year later, Gerald Gardner earned the second such recognition. The fundraising and sponsorship for the two commemorative plaques were coordinated by the Foundation and Centre. The upcoming Witchcraft exhibitions will also be sponsored by both organizations in association with the local Royal Pavilion and Museusm of Brighton and Hove.

In addition, the two organizations announced an upcoming February book launch for Valiente’s new biography, which is being written by historian Philip Hesleton. The book launch is scheduled to be held at Treadwell’s Bookshop in London, Feb. 21. For updates on the exhibition, there is a dedicated website with a digital newsletter. Updates about the book will be posted to the Foundation and Centre’s main websites.

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PECNYOver the past year, the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York City has been petitioning New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto the Port Ambrose LNG project. As explained by PEC organizers, “This would have built a liquefied natural gas station off the coast of Long Island. While billing itself as an import station, it likely would have flipped to become an export station, sending fracked gas to a mirror station in the UK.”

The project’s construction and operation would have disturbed an already very busy port region. In addition, spokesperson Courtney Weber said that the project could create “a terrorist target, prevent the construction of an off-shore wind farm, and become a potential catastrophe had we another storm like Sandy.”

PEC maintained its aggressive letter writing campaign for the past year, “gathering several hundred signatures from Witches in New York State.” And just this week, the state announced that Cuomo had vetoed the Ambrose LNG project. Weber said, “Another exciting victory for Gaia. Thank you to the New York State Pagan community who has supported the effort to stop the construction of this monstrosity.  Let’s keep the momentum going! There is more work to be done!”

In Other News

  • The Adocentyn Research Library held its first ever “Friends of the Adocentyn Research Library” meeting. Organizers posted that it was successful with its small turnout of dedicated people. The library is located in the Bay Area of California, and holds a “collection [covering] Wiccan, Pagan, Reconstructionist, Afro-Diasporic, metaphysical and esoteric content.” The intent of the friends group is to help facilitate the library’s purpose and objectives, in all forms of its development. They will be hosting another meeting on Jan 10 and plan to be at PantheaCon in Feb.
  • For those readers living in the Rockies, the 2016 Colorado Celtic Weekly Planner Desk Calendar is out. Available through Denver-based Isis Books, the weekly calendar is a unique publication that maintains its focus on the local area. The description reads, “The New Moons, Full Moons, Equinoxes and Solstices are correct for Mountain Time, even for MST and MDT! It contains a treasure trove of information on following the Celtic tree path, including information on each tree for this particular region.”
  • Michigan Pagan Fest 2016 is now calling for submissions for workshops and presentations.The headlines for next year’s event include Orion Foxwood, Judika Illes, M.R. Sellars, and Lady Bona Dea. The musical guest is Lord Wrayven. The event will be held in Belleville, Michigan from June 23-26 and includes camping, drumming, workshops, vendors and more. The workshop submission deadline is Feb. 1.
  • Artist and author Kari Tauring has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish her two latest albums. As she explains, “Ljos (Light) and Svart (Black), named after Snorri Sturluson’s above ground and below ground elves, the beings of Summer frolic and Winter’s almost complete blackness in the far North.”  Money raised will be used the complete the two albums, which were started in 2014.  Tauring expects the albums to be released by late Spring 2016.

KULPMONT, Penn — An on-again, off-again inmate in Pennsylvania’s correctional system has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his religious beliefs were violated when he was required to shave his beard. Randy Elliot, Jr., said in court papers that the incident occurred June 13 of this year, a month and a half before he was released. He was given a choice between shaving his beard, which, according to the filed papers, is “against the Viking way” or being placed on restrictive housing status. Elliot, who is seeking an injunction against such actions and monetary damages, has since been returned to prison due to parole violations.

Beards as a religious issue are nothing new in the United States, in or out of the prison system. In July, Walt Disney World relaxed its “Disney look” to accommodate a Sikh employee who had been restricted to working out of the public eye due to his unshaven beard. It didn’t meet the company’s grooming standards. Through his attorneys, Gurdit Singh, a park delivery driver, claimed that he was restricted to a single route, denied promotions, and singled out by employees because of his appearance. While Disney started allowing beards in 2012, the company’s policies required them to be neatly trimmed; Sikh beliefs do not allow adherents to cut their hair.

[Courtesy U.S. Army]

Army Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan, one of the first granted permission to grow a beard and wear a turban on active duty. [Courtesy U.S. Army]

The United States military arguably has more restrictive rules on appearance than the Disney Corporation. However members are allowed to apply for waivers from those rules for religious reasons, accommodating those faiths that call for facial hair, such as Sikhism, and some sects of Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.  The process of obtaining such a waiver has been called into question, because the soldier still must comply with all the grooming standards while the application is in process.

In prisons, there are different reasons for grooming restrictions. Officials must balance the need for safety and security against the accommodation of religious beliefs, and often they err on the side of safety and security. In January, the Supreme Court found that by denying prisoner Abdul Maalik Muhammad the right to grow a half-inch beard, the state of Arkansas was infringing on his rights of religious expression as a Muslim. Justices were skeptical of arguments that contraband, including SIM cards for cellular phones, razor blades, and other items, could be hidden in beard of that length. They pointed out that longer hair was permitted on prisoners’ heads, and that it would not be particularly difficult to search short beards as well, or at least require the bearded prisoner to run a comb through it in the presence of guards.

According to Diane Duggan, case manager at Lady Liberty League (LLL), questions such as these revolve around whether the prisoner is expressing sincerely-held religious beliefs or not. “I don’t know enough about [Elliot’s] situation,” to comment on it in particular, she said. To the best of her knowledge, he had not contacted LLL for assistance. “What you need to look at is other faiths. If, in that system, members of other faiths are allowed to have beards, and his belief is sincerely held, one would think he would be allowed to have it. Because [prison officials] have to balance security where they have compelling interests, it’s a fine line.”

In the case of Muhammed, the court applied the “Hobby Lobby” test to evaluate the question of religious accommodation. As described in The New York Times,

“The test, set out in federal statutes, first considers whether the challenged government regulation places a substantial burden on religious practices. If it does, the test requires the government to show that it had a compelling reason for the regulation and no better way to achieve it.”

When it came to the request to grow a half-inch beard, the Supreme Court found that the denial did place a substantial burden on Muhammed’s religious practices, and it remained skeptical that there was not another way to achieve the goal of safety. In Arkansas, prisoners with skin conditions may grow beards of up to one-quarter inch in length,. Therefore, the justices questioned whether doubling that length would truly tip the scales away from security within the facility.

There is not a good legal test for evaluating “sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and Duggan suspects that this is by design. “Someone who is new to a religion may not know all of its tenets as they learn, but wish to comply with the requirements,” she said. Sincerity cannot be easily measured by length of time that one has been an avowed member of a particular religion for that reason. In addition, inmates frequently renew or begin religious practices while incarcerated.

Nevertheless, there is some speculation about whether Elliot’s “Viking way” actually has its roots in Heathenry. Kari Tauring, a leader in the Minnesotan Heathen community, said, this:

In my understanding, a beard is an affectation. There is nothing in the Eddas or Sagas to indicate that facial hair had religious significance in the late Iron Age.

If this person wants to adhere to ‘Viking’ norms, they may want to henna their beard. Apparently there is much archaeological evidence for this fashion taste. I also recommend eliminating potatoes, coffee, and chocolate from the diet, as well as not wearing black-dyed clothing. These are all post-colonial imports to Europe and would have been completely unknown to the travelers and traders we now call ‘Vikings.'”

Karl E. H. Seigfried of The Norse Mythology Blog also wondered if Elliot’s claims have any basis in history, as reconstructed practice is important to most Heathens.

I’d like to know more about Mr. Elliott’s claim that shaving goes against ‘the Viking way,’ as he calls his religion. Historically, there is evidence that Vikings sported a variety of facial hair fashions, including moustaches and shaved chins. Theologically, it’s difficult to imagine the gods of the north issuing commandments about fashion and personal grooming choices. The fact that Mr. Elliott complains in court documents about other inmates being allowed to have beards almost makes this seem like a case of kosher envy, of wanting to have a strict set of commandments dictated by the gods to a chosen prophet. So far, Heathenry has not had that sort of mass revelation.

In addition, due to Elliott’s “Viking” claims, media reports have all glommed onto an old 2006 USA Today article, in order to suggest that Asatru is universally or overwhelmingly associated with white supremacy in prisons. However, the old article actually provides multiple views with some skeptical of that assertion, and it does not draw any conclusions based on evidence.  Regardless, there are many questions still left unanswered in Elliott’s particular case.

Despite court decisions and settlements, and even federal legislation intended to protect the religious rights of prisoners, the line drawn between those rights and the responsibilities of correctional institution officials still remains fuzzy. Security is a real issue in those facilities, and pursuit of it often results in constitutional rights being infringed, if not trampled. The ongoing task for prisoner advocates is to ensure that precautions are reasonable, and applied consistently to all inmates, regardless of the religion they happen to practice.

“Now that’s what I call magic—seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way…and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets—which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted—and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again…We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!”Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)

Modern culture has done its best to separate humans from the cycles of life. Once inside our homes we can’t tell if it is January or July, night or day. Our meat comes in tidy packages and we buy asparagus year round. Birth and death happen elsewhere, out of sight.

[Art by Xiaomei23 / Deviant Art / cc. lic]

[Art by Xiaomei23 / Deviant Art / cc. lic]

Pagan culture often seeks to do the opposite, to reconnect humans with the cycles of life. To understand and explore the seasons, the cycles of the moon, and life and death. This isn’t a repudiation of science or comfort, it’s not a step backwards or romanticizing the past. It’s about bringing the best of our ancestors’ cultural values into the modern age to live a more connected and fulfilling life.

The Wild Hunt spoke with several Pagans and Polytheists about the work they do in helping others, Pagan or not, reconnect with the cycles of life.

While birth is now much safer for American women, they have also lost more of their personal agency. Hospitals can be a birthing factory where women lay on their backs in unfamiliar surroundings. The birth process itself is no longer a Mystery where women experience a deep and profound power. It’s a medical process. While many hospitals are trying to improve the experience and involve the entire family by creating birthing suites, they are unequipped to add back in the power.

Which is why women are once again turning to midwives and giving birth at home, surrounded by family or friends.

A midwife is a person who is trained to give care and advice to women during pregnancy, labor, and the post-birth period. Melanie Moore is an atheist witch and a Certified Professional Midwife in the state of Iowa. She wants to help women regain the mysteries that are experienced during childbirth while also ensuring the health and safety of both mother and child.

“I always loved pregnancy and birth. When I was five and my mother was pregnant with my brother, I wrote and illustrated a pregnancy exercise book. In school reproduction and birth was always fascinating to me,” said Moore.

She said reading Ariadne’s Thread by Shekhinah Mountainwater as a teen also had an impact on wanting to become a midwife. The book uses the Goddess Ariadne as a basis for a women-centered spirituality.

It was during her own second pregnancy when Moore met a midwife and discovered the Traditional Homebirth Midwives of Iowa. After that, she committed to becoming a midwife and giving women birth alternatives.

Hospital births take place in a sterile environment and the birthing mother is given an IV while fetal monitors are attached. The mother is usually confined to bed and isn’t allowed to take in anything other than ice chips. There’s also a limit to the number of family or friends surrounding, usually 2 or three adults. Drugs can also be administered, either for pain or to speed up contractions.

Melanie Moore, background, looks on at a new mother, baby, and family after a birth.

Melanie Moore, background, looks on at a new mother, baby, and family after a birth.

A home birth with a midwife is very different. It can a private and quiet experience or it can be a noisy celebration in a house filled with family and friends. The midwife focuses on helping the mother tolerate the contractions and keeping her comfortable. The mother can walk around, eat or drink. Time isn’t a factor, the birth unfolds on the time schedule nature dictates.

Moore said that birth isn’t a scary mystery you need to pay someone else to do, but if you do pay someone, remember they are working for you. “I know it seems scary to accept that kind of responsibility,” said Moore, but she added that, “You are descended from millions of women that gave birth successfully. You are powerful and strong.” She also said that women should not allow themselves to be talked into an induction, the baby comes when it and the mother’s body is ready.

In Iowa, only Certified Nurse Midwives are licensed to attend births and the majority of them work in hospitals. Moore’s certification, while a accepted in surrounding states, isn’t accepted in Iowa. She, and a group of midwives and other supporters, are working to change that. Women in the group have registered as lobbyists and have worked with Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R) to introduce legislation to define “the terms “midwife” and “midwifery” and states that anyone acting or holding oneself out as a midwife or practicing midwifery shall not have committed a public offense by doing so.”

Moore has been working for 15 years to make midwifery more accessible to women in Iowa and to help women reclaim their power. She said, “I believe in women. I believe women’s strength. I know that midwifery is its own type of magick. Maybe not in a supernatural way, but magick just the same.”

“I have always believed that the moment someone passes over is a sacred moment. A doorway between two worlds and a time of magic and possibility. To be present and help to facilitate that time with beauty and dignity is a sacred trust and an honor.” – Michele Morris

Advertisements for products that claim to help you keep a more youthful appearance are everywhere. Life insurance salespersons take seminars on how to break through clients’ denial that they will eventually die. Older persons are no longer cared for by family and die in their own beds surrounded by loved ones. We send them to facilities and visit occasionally. Then when they die, we send their body off to professionals who stuff them, dress them, and paint them to more closely resemble a living person. Current culture leaves us ill prepared for death and the process of dying. Not for our own and not for our loved ones.

Kris Bradley, who recently completed a course on for death midwives and home funeral guides, said, “We, as a whole, are a very death denying culture. Death is almost a taboo subject – like if we speak about it, we might catch it.”

Similar to birthing midwifes, death midwifes help persons through this transition. They may come to a hospital or assisted care setting or they may come to the home. Death midwifes aren’t new, but the resurgence of death midwifes as a career is.

Rev. H. Byron Ballard is a Priestess of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and has helped the dying and their families for just over 20 years. She said “Just like a midwife at the other portal of life, someone not in the family can do things the family might feel too close to do.” She said that she helps families understand that this process is another rite of passage, and can be natural, participatory, and beautiful.

Michelle Morris started working with the dying while she was a nursing student. She was one of the few students who didn’t mind holding someone’s hand while they took their last breath. Now that she’s also a minister and a counselor, her work with the dying continues at a local hospice with both Pagan and non-Pagan families.

Morris said that Western society in general has no specific death rituals, other than an unofficial but deep seated tradition of avoidance. “People with a terminal diagnosis are often treated as though they are already gone by everyone around them, often including their own family. Because we have no traditions, people often are at a loss as to what they should be doing when they truly want to help,” said Morris. She noted that people will often do nothing rather than possibly do something wrong. She helps provide a framework the dying person and their family can use to say goodbye.

Morris said that, while she doesn’t share her beliefs with the families she’s working with, the fact that, as a Pagan, she’s has a comfortable relationship with death helps create safe place for them to find their comfort, in whatever form that may be.

Rev. Selena Fox presides over a green burial at Circle Sanctuary

Rev. Selena Fox presides over a green burial at Circle Sanctuary

Bradley is following a different path and is working to become a death midwife. After volunteering Reiki sessions at a senior center she said that she was touched by how much the seniors enjoyed the sessions. She found out many of the seniors lived alone and the Reiki sessions were probably the only physical contact they had. “This got me thinking about what it would be like for them when their time came. Would they be alone?” wondered Bradley.

Bradley decided she wanted to be a death midwife and created a Kickstarter campaign to fund half the costs for an 88-hour training program for death midwives and home funeral guides. Within just a few days, the campaign was funded and Bradley completed her training in August of 2014.

Bradley said that one of the greatest contributions a death midwife can offer is information and support before the active dying process starts. Bradley added that people can make the process easier on everyone if they get all of their important papers in order, such as living wills, advance directives and medical power of attorneys. They should also create a plan for how they want their death to play out as far as how their spiritual needs should be addressed, and even pre-plan their memorial service and/or funeral.

While many Americans say they wish to die at home, few actually do. The reasons can range from not having someone at home who can care for them, not having family nearby, or confusion about what is the best possible care, or relatives not knowing the person’s wishes and defaulting to hospital care.  Having a death midwife helps simplify these challenges. “Being a person who can take a shift being in the room, giving the dying’s caregiver a much needed respite so they can continue to care for their loved one. [A death midwife] can act as a coordinator to get family and friends involved in care, and at the same time keep a calm, spiritual space for the dying. It’s much easier for a death midwife to tell loud Uncle John he needs to leave the room for a while then it is a family member,” said Bradley.

Bradley said that even Pagans, with their focus on connecting to cycles and their positive view of what happens after death, still fear death when the time comes. “As much as our faith might mean to us and as much as we hold our beliefs to be true, death is still the great unknown.”

She said her biggest comforts on dying is knowing that she has made plans to be buried in a green cemetery in a simple shroud, “I will literally go back to the earth and help the wheel keep turning.”

Her advice to others is that there is no right or wrong way to die, only what’s right for you. She stresses the importance of putting your wishes in writing and making those wishes known to family and friends, “If you aren’t sure where to start, contact a death midwife or a home funeral guide and ask them for advice where to start.”

“The themes of life and death and rebirth are deep in the human psyche. They have been played out in the mythic poetry, pageantry, ritual theater, music, and dance of deep human culture across the globe. So how has modern humanity lost touch with these myths and the important rites of passage that surround them?” – Kari Tauring

The ideas of rebirth, reincarnation, or even an afterlife where you retain your sense of self are no longer as accepted as they appear to have been in the past. Kari Tauring, an author, performer, and Völva, noted that even the dominant religious rebirth story in the US, the rebirth of Jesus, is starting to be being rejected in modern times. Since Christianity supplanted and replaced all other previous rebirth stories and now that tale has also started to lose its appeal, the wider U.S. culture is left with no stories to help us make sense of our own mortality and hopes for rebirth.

“Perhaps that explains the modern fascination with zombies and television vampires,” said Tauring. She added, “I think it is psychologically dangerous to live without a mythic connection to nature and to our ancestors and to the cycles of life. It’s a human need.”

 Lynette Reini-Grandell (left) and Kari Tauring (right)

Lynette Reini-Grandell (left) and Kari Tauring (right)

Tauring is using song and dance to bring stories of birth, marriage, death, and rebirth back into modern culture. She, along with Lynette Reini-Grandell, have been performing “Waking the Bear” at a theatre in Minnesota for the public. Those in attendance include those of all, or no, religion.

In the performance Tauring and Reini-Grandell explore the folk songs and stories of Finno-Ugric, Scandinavian, German and American bear lore. Through song, poetry, and dance they first tell the the Finnish story of how the forest goddess created a bear from wool fluff tossed into the waters of the world by the spinner in the sky. Tauring said, “In a way, this is how all life is created, from the dust of the stars. This section of Runo 46 from the Kalevala is so beautiful that I could not help setting it to music and dance.”

In the show, the bear goes into hibernation which is like a little death, and in spring, emerges with a cub. Tauring and Reini-Grandell then present three stories of shape shifting with the bear form, one from the Norwegian people, one from the Mansi people (Tyumen Oblast area of Russia) and one from the Ute people (Colorado into Utah, USA). In the third part of the performance they kill the bear and ritualize its death not as a funeral but as a wedding, which comes from a Finnic tradition. By marrying what they killed, the bear transcends death. Tauring explained, “In some way, we agree to become that which we kill, that which we eat, in the deepest of ways. This is the deepest sense of shape shifting and marriage. We make an agreement with the bear to let it wear our shape as we have worn its shape.”

During the performance, the audience often appears moved while a few appear disturbed or uncomfortable. Talking to one attendee named Angela, she said the experience, “…shook me to my core. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m not sure if I feel more comforted or less [about death] but I feel like it’s something I’ve avoided.” Her friend Melissa added that she felt this was something she’s been missing, “This filled in a profound hole I didn’t know I was missing. There has to be something, I don’t know, something more after you die. That can’t be the end.” Both women said they were raised Christian, but now consider themselves atheist or agnostic.

Tauring agrees that her performance may stir up a deep ancestral memory in modern humans. “That’s why it is intense and might make many people uncomfortable. It takes us to a place at once universal and deeply personal, an ancient place where we must experience the emotions of life and death and rebirth and shows us a way to transcend our fears around the inevitable. The new modern society seems to be looking for this, hungering and longing for this. It is my intention to continue providing workshops and performances that feed this deep need.”

Author’s note: This article was written in honor of a very young Heathen child in my local community who has been battling cancer for several years. Sadly, all treatments have failed to halt the spread, and this bright and brave 7 year old boy has only a matter of weeks before he joins his forefathers on the other side.


Addendum 3/16/15 10:00 am: We are very sad to hear of the passing of author Terry Pratchett, who was quoted at the beginning of the article. Pratchett was much beloved in the Pagan community because he understood the “root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft.”  We extend our condolences to his family and friends. 

What is remembered, lives.

Kari Tauring.

Kari Tauring [Courtesy Photo]

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA –The time around the winter solstice is, in the far northern parts of the northern hemisphere, a period of deep darkness. Many northern-based spiritual traditions, including forms of modern Heathenry and similar paths, have rich traditions, which involve dealing with this darkness in the physical world, as well as on emotional and spiritual levels.

Artist Kari Tauring, who has been exploring these concepts for some time, created a show called Winter Solstice in the Northlands, which she had been staging annually from 1999 to 2006. This December, after an eight year hiatus, she brought the show back to life.

We were able to catch up with Tauring in between her performances to ask her about the production and her background.

For the past twenty years I have worked as a musician and ritual artist, helping others create ceremony around transitional times. I don’t work with any one specific group. I was ordained through the Church of Spiritual Humanism in order to complete ceremonial paperwork [for weddings and other rites of passage]. Most people know me as a Nordic roots musician, story teller, and staff carrier or völva.

Since I grew up in an ethnic enclave of Norwegian Americans, it was natural to begin digging down the root of my folk tradition to find the sources in the very ancient material. I began studying the runes in 1989. Beginning in 2003, I began working with staff and stick (stav and tein) for rhythm, breath, alignment with the world tree, journey and rune song, a spiritual method called ‘volva stav.’ I served Heathenry in the Midwest formally as völva from 2010 until 2014, elected by the council at Midwest Thing held in Kansas. I also serve the Lutheran community as educator and spiritual facilitator. Everyone wants to know what their roots are and see how they connect.”

In December, Tauring told the MinnPost that unlike many solstice and holiday performances, this is not a “family-friendly” show. It is instead designed to be an intense exploration of the darkness. “We’re just told, ‘Everything’s going to be fine, and if you feel empty, just buy more stuff and if you don’t feel good after the holidays it’s because you have to shop better next year,’ ” said Tauring. “But this time of year is an opportunity to, from an ancient Nordic mindset, explore the origins of your own darkness.”

For this production, that means, “It’s not going to be all doom and gloom, but it also helps people to say, ‘It’s okay if you’re not happy at this time of year because this is the height of seasonal effective [sic] disorder; this is the height of not being in a happy place, and it’s okay and here are some tools.'”

Why resurrect the show now, after all this time? For years Tauring also produced family-friendly solstice shows with singing and puppets. She told the MinnPost that her kids are now grown and that she “wanted to shift … from the community-building to something more intense, because it’s been a really intense year with a lot of darkness in it.”

Not surprisingly, some of the tools Tauring uses in the show are runes. She explained a bit about how the tool is incorporated. “Ice and Fire are the first elements of creation in Norse mythology. One of the pieces in this production dealt primarily with the elements of creation and the process of creation and destruction. The runes for ice and fire play an obvious role here. One piece, Avalanche Runedance, was based on a rune stone from Hogganvik, Norway. The alphabet magic/prayers on this stone are really beautiful. I have been working at performing this stone for a few years and in this production I use my musical performance as a sound track for an interpretive dance.”

[Courtesy Photo]

Tauring teaching [Courtesy Photo]

In contrast to surrounding oneself with as much light as possible, as is typical in the United States for many cultural and religious paths, Tauring explained:

The Northern way of dealing with cold and dark is not to fight it. We embrace the sadness. We leave room to feel it. The juletide is a season, not a singular event. It lasted for twenty days in the not so olden times. In modern Scandinavia they still take at least two weeks off to ‘deal’ with the darkness. Another important thing is the lack of future tense . . . Old Norse and Finnish . . . don’t have a future tense, so the way the mind works is different. The names for the ‘fates’ are Is, Becoming, and Should. I am offering an ancient way of ’embracing the void’ and being present in the ‘becoming’ and creating of the past. And a way to be in relationship with the darkness.

Central to the performance, as Taurig presents, is the Norse concept of öorlog, which she defines on her own website as, “the summation of an individual human inheritance (physical, spiritual, ancestral, environmental and cultural).” It carries the experiences, behaviors, traumas, and traditions of our ancestors, and is the basis for the importance of ancestor work in these northern traditions.

She is fond of using a spindle to explain öorlog, writing, “Each of us is born with a spindle of thread spun by parents, grandparents, great-grandparents ad infinitum. This thread is our öorlog. We can not un-spin it, but we can look into it, review it, learn about it, and have memories that surface to help explain why some of the spin is strong and some is thin, lumpy, or even broken and tied back in. We can also choose to spin our strand differently.”

51LV400IMDL._SS280As this year’s production of Winter Solstice in the Northlands has a more intense focus than in the past, Tauring was able to use it to premiere some of her newest work. For those unable to see the show live, she promised that portions will be available for viewing online in the coming weeks. In addition, her next project, a fourth Nordic roots recording, will include the soundtrack for “Avalanche Runedance.” A Kickstarter campaign to fund that album will be launched in March.

A bright and ongoing success story in the Pagan community has been the utilization of crowd-funding sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to collectively raise funds for important projects. Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her book “The Fifth Sacred Thing” made. Peter Dybing helped raise $30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders in the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. Pagan singer-songwriter SJ Tucker was amazed when a Kickstarter campaign for Tricky Pixie’s European tour more than doubled their initial goal in a matter of hours (and kept on growing). In addition, several smaller initiatives have managed to collectively raise thousands for Pagan projects: The readers of The Wild Hunt funded the proposed budget of this site for a year, Chicago-based Pagan/magical performance troupe Terra Mysterium raised funds for their new show “The Alembic,”and the Goddess community funded a documentary film in honor of Merlin Stone.

Crowdfunding sites allow an easy mechanism for fundraising in communities that may have social networks and organizations, but not the robust money-raising infrastructure of already-established mainstream institutions. This is a place modern Paganism is in today, and more and more of us are turning to these sites as a solution to our “money problem.” There are hundreds of thousands of Pagans out there, millions around the world, and they desire to see our projects and initiatives advance just as much as any other faith community. So here are some Pagan Fundraising Initiatives that you might want to contribute to.

The Ancient Egyptian Daybook: Egyptologist Tamara Siuda, author of “The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook,” has been involved with the Pagan community for years in a number of different roles. She’s probably best known as a pivotal figure in Kemetic Orthodoxy, and more recently, as a mambo in Haitian Vodou. When she announced that she was fundraising to produce an Ancient Egyptian Daybook through Kickstarter so that interested individuals could keep track of all those wonderful ancient Egyptian holidays, she quickly surpassed her initial goal of $3000, and is quickly creeping up on $9000.

My name is Tamara Siuda. I’m an Egyptologist. (Yes, I’ve even played one on TV.) I’ve been translating hieroglyphs, teaching, and writing about ancient Egyptians for two decades. A few years ago, I published The Ancient Egyptian Prayerbook. It includes translations of prayers, hymns, and magical incantations from Egypt’s pharaonic times. It also includes a very basic ancient calendar, because there wasn’t room for all my research. I’d like to give that calendar some more attention. With your help, I can publish The Ancient Egyptian Daybook. This Daybook will include all my research into ancient Egypt’s calendar. It will also include an optional blank perpetual calendar in a journal or planner format, so you can keep track of these holidays today, if you want!

With a little over a week left, she’s making plans for 10K, 20K, and 40K “stretch” goals, with various incentives. So if you want to jump on this project before the fundraising window closes, now’s the time. Wild Hunt columnist Stacey Lawless will be writing more about this fundraiser in her next column, which will also touch on her PantheaCon experiences. I think Pagans looking at how to do a successful crowdfunding initiative should study all the things that Tamara Siuda did right.

Commemorative Blue Plaque For Doreen Valiente: Doreen Valiente is rightly called the “mother of modern Witchcraft” by many, and her writings have had a huge shaping influence on religious Witchcraft as a whole. The Centre For Pagan Studies is currently raising funds to place the first in a series of commemorative blue plaques to honor Valiente and other key figures in modern Pagan history.


“The first Blue Plaque is the Doreen Valiente Plaque. We have been working on this for a number of years with Brighton and Hove City Council and we are pleased to announce that Doreen’s Plaque will be going on the wall at the apartments where she lived for 30 years and the location where she did most of her seminal writing. The event will take place on the Summer solstice this year – i.e. 21st June 2013. We are having to pay for the commemorative plaque ourselves so we need your help to raise 1200 pounds. This is to cover 750 pounds manufacturing cost and the remainder is for the installation. Time is short so please donate to this great cause. This will be a number of firsts. The plaque as afar as we can find out will be the first council apartment block. It certainly will be the first plaque that celebrates the life of one of our own. There are plaques commemorating the wrong doings, but this is the first to honor a witch.”

You can donate towards the cause, here. Future planned plaques include one for Gerald Gardner in 2014, and one for Alex Sanders in 2015.

In Other Pagan Fundraising Initiatives News:

Those are the highlighted campaigns for this edition. Please send me word of your crowdfunding campaigns, and I may spotlight them on a future edition of this ongoing feature. Let’s all work together to promote important projects within our community, and destroy the notion that we can’t or won’t fund projects that are important to us. If you can’t donate, the best way to help is to share these campaigns to your social networks, exposing them to as many people as possible. Thanks for reading, and thank you for supporting Pagan community!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Summer Festival Season Begins: This weekend the Pagan Summer festival season officially begins! You’ve got Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois and Wisteria in Ohio both starting on Sunday, not to mention Eugene, Oregon’s own Faerieworlds happening this weekend. At the beginning of July the recently relocated Starwood, now in Ohio, starts up. This year, The Pagan Newswire Collective, Proud Pagan Podcasters, and other Pagan media outlets have formed an official “media camp” at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

“In the tradition of the dedicated camping communities at Pagan Spirit Gathering we are forming Media Camp for the 2011 festival. This is a project organized by several Pagan media organizations, but open to all podcasters, vidcasters, bloggers and other folks who are active in Pagan media. As the PNC did last year, we will be coordinating our efforts, sharing our resources and ensuring that all media participants are respectfulof the privacy of PSG attendants. We are grateful that PSG is welcoming us back and we intend to maintain the relationship of trust and respect we have built with the Circle Sanctuary staff.”

2010 was a huge step forward in coverage for Pagan festivals, and I hope the infrastructure being built at Pagan Spirit Gathering can be replicated at other large Pagan events. With a growing Pagan media recording experiences and stories, preserving memories, and sharing this unique culture with a wider audience. An audio and textual archive of Pagans coming together to celebrate and create community. A resource that could be a boon to future historians, academics, journalists, and seekers. I’m hoping to post updates from PSG as the week progresses, and we’ll be seeing plenty of stories and interviews rolling out in the weeks following.

Llewellyn and COVR: A big congratulation to Pagan/metaphysical publishers Llewellyn on being named a finalist in five categories for the 2011 COVR Visionary Awards.

“The Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) is an organization formed by a unique group of businesses that deal in “Visionary Resources,” and who work with and support each other as independent retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and publishers of visionary books, music, and merchandise.”

The titles nominated for awards include Biting Back, by Claudia Cunningham, Planetary Spells & Rituals, by Raven Digitalis, Witchcraft on a Shoestring, by Deborah Blake, and Modern Wicca, by Michael Howard. Llewellyn’s website is also nominated for an award. COVR’s Awards will be presented on June 25th at the International New Age Trade Show (INATS) banquet in Denver, Colorado. Good luck!

Pagan Families is Born: A new website and resource on pregnancy and childbirth, Pagan Families, has just been launched. Founded by Sarah Whedon, the site hopes to “pool our collective wisdom about Pagan pregnancy and childbirth.  Think The Pagan Book of Living and Dying for the childbearing year.” Like many just-starting Internet ventures they are looking for contributors to help build and develop the site.

“Pagan Families seeks carefully written contributions on all aspects of Pagan pregnancy and childbirth.   Examples of the kind of writing we are seeking include: scripts for conception rituals; theological essays on the ethics of reproduction; prayers to mother goddesses; Pagan sensitivity guides for birth professionals; personal essays on the experience of spiritual practice during pregnancy; reviews of Pagan-friendly birth resources; and Pagan birth stories.  This list is by no means exhaustive.”

So far Pagan writers and bloggers like  Sierra BlackLily Shahar Kunning, and Niki Whiting are planning to contribute. If you’d like to submit material, the guidelines are here. Good luck to Pagan Families, I look forward to seeing how this site develops.

Heathens Have Festivals Too: If you saw my top story and perhaps wondered if there were Summer events and festivals for the more Heathen-minded, wonder no longer! Kari Tauring, who recently joined the staff of PNC-Minnesota, is traveling to several Heathen/Northern/Nordic events, things, and moots this Summer and reporting back on her experiences. First up: Northern Folk Gathering.

“The childrens performance was a moment that the entire hall found exceptional. Here we are, modern humans of Nordic ancestry watching our children re-create the story myth of our deepest root. It is this realization that our ancestors are alive in our children that made this moment of the event a sort of pinnacle. Listening to each person in the hall raise a horn to their parents, grand parents, great grands…by name and by deed really marks a huge difference between general pagan events and heathen events. There is a deep understanding that we are creating the world for our children based on how healthy our relationships with our ancestors are. There is a sense in each raised horn that deep healing is going on in the family of origin issues we all face and that there is a commitment to maintaining a high level of functioning for our children’s sake. I find this compelling whether at a small kindred meeting or a large regional gathering. This path is for our ancestors and our descendants, not just for us here and now.”

Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for more updates from Kari, I’m glad we can benefit from her coverage of this often overlooked events and festivals.

Get Well Terry Dobney! In a final note, we here at The Wild Hunt would like to wish Terry Dobney, Archdruid of Avebury and Keeper of the Stones, our best wishes as he recovers from a stroke.

“Druid Keeper of the Stones Terry Dobney who traditionally leads a Pagan greeting to the rising sun will be missing from the Summer Solstice celebration at Avebury on Tuesday. Mr Dobney, 64,who lives in West Kennett and has who has been involved in the solstice celebrations at Avebury for more than 30 years, suffered a stroke and is currently recovering in the Great Western Hospital, Swindon.”

Dobney was recently embroiled in a tabloid scandal in the UK concerning welfare fraud. Luckily, the Druid was cleared of all charges, and was able to return to his life and spiritual duties. Here’s hoping he’s back on his feet and able to lead ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Solstice at Avebury.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. But first, let me offer my prayers and support to the people of Japan, who just suffered8.9 magnitude earthquake, and all those potentially affected by subsequent tsunamis in the Pacific basin. For updates, resources, and information, check out the Google Crisis Response page.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.