Archives For Kenny Klein

In the wake of recent discussions about security and safety at Pagan events, a new organization has formed to directly handle such issues. The Council of the Phoenix is a group of professional counselors, abuse survivors, and concerned individuals who are “motivated to keep the sex-positive community of Pagans safe through educations and guidelines.”

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of Council of the Phoenix]

The Council of the Phoenix was initially created by Green Egg Magazine editor Ariel Monserrat. For 16 years, Ariel has worked as a professional psychotherapist for abuse survivors, pedophiles and families experiencing the harrowing affects of abusive situations. When news of Kenny Klein’s arrest was made public, Ariel began formulating a plan. For days she combed through articles and comments on the subject. She said:

I realized that the community as a whole was hurting and that we all needed to have a place to talk about this and to do something to protect our children in the future … [Since] I’ve worked with this a lot and I figured this was something I could do.

On April 2 Ariel posted an open letter to the Pagan community on Green Egg’s home page. In that letter she “put out a call for anyone wishing to participate.” The letter reads:

 I have chosen to spearhead a campaign to establish a central committee for reporting child sexual abuse in our Pagan community. I don’t have a complete plan yet, and I need the input from the Pagan community at large.

Now one month later the Council has “quite a few people on board” with more joining each day. Two of its earliest contributors were Green Egg Web Manager Sylveey Selu, and Klein’s ex-wife and the founding Priestess of Blue Star Tzipora Katz. Ariel considers them both council founders. Sylveey is responsible for much of the groundwork and logistics. Tzipora has contributed “valuable ideas from her own experience” to help with programming. Tzipora says:

[This is] something that I had wanted to see some 22 years ago. When Ariel reached out to me I was only too happy to add whatever support I could so that no one else ever had to feel the isolation and abandonment my own family experienced.

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight [Photo Credit: S.A.Knight]

Shortly after the open letter was published, Shauna Aura Knight joined the Council in order to connect with others who are “looking for ways to help solve these problems.” As both a teacher and writer, Shauna is often confronted by stories of abuse. She says:

Sexual abuse in the Pagan community wasn’t news to me … Mostly I hear about egomaniacal, emotionally abusive leaders, but I also hear about group leaders and teachers pressuring people for sex, as well as rape, harassment and other abuse. Most of that gets swept under the carpet as “You’re starting a Witch War” or “It’s sour grapes,” or “That’s just he said/she said,” and so people keep quiet. Actually—I’ve been through it myself with an abusive ex who was also my co-teacher. Many times I’ve thought, “How do we change this?”

Casey's picture

Casey Whitworth [Photo Credit: C. Whitworth]

Other founding members include Blue Star Priestess Kristin Barton who has “training in community violence prevention, human services administration and domestic abuse advocacy;” author Tish Owen who has nearly two decades of experience operating a large alternative-religion festival; graphic designer Casey Whitworth who wants her experience as a survivor to help others.

Many of those involved were unable to give their names due to the sensitive nature of their professional work. Ariel says:

We have several people with professional experience who have been counselors or at a management level in social work, and who are familiar with domestic violence and molesting. We also have a [consulting] psychotherapist who has decades of experience in working with sex offenders … We also have several top notch researchers who can do background checks and the like on individuals in our community.

Along with these professionals, Council members also include survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. According to Ariel, these people are invaluable because “they know what is needed in order for healing to take place.” One of these survivors is Donald Bates. He says:

There are too many walking wounded out there … I want to be there for the walking wounded and the children. I have firsthand knowledge of being abused. I was sexually abused, by my uncle for nine years and I personally know how alone and ugly you can feel. The council will be able to open up these avenues for communication, so we can find and connect with the walking wounded and help those that are being abused. That is why I want to be part of the council.

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

[Courtesy of The Council of the Phoenix]

While its currently only at the very beginning stages of development, the Council of the Phoenix will eventually offer both professional and peer counseling services as well as education and training for event coordinators and leaders; awareness building; assistance at events for maintaining safe space. Shauna adds that part of that education will be teaching “what consent means and what sex positive actually means.”

The founders are also developing “safe zone kits” that will assist festival organizers work “proactively against violence by promoting a consent culture and healthy relationships in the Pagan community.” A “safe zone” is a private location within the festival that is open to anyone needing to escape an uncomfortable or abusive situation. The zone ideally would be staffed by a counselor or other similar professional who has the training to handle sensitive situations with compassion and clarity.

In addition the Council also hopes to “act as an information clearinghouse” for suspicious behavior; a place to report problems. Ariel says:

We are not trying to start a witch hunt; this info will be kept within our council and only when we have sufficient evidence or very strong suspicion due to a number of reports, will we disseminate this info … We are still working out the details on this, as we all feel strongly that we never want to accuse anyone falsely.

Over the next few months the Council plans to contact festival leaders and organizations in hopes of working in tandem for a safer community. As the program develops and grows, the Council will update its new website and Facebook fan page. It has also set up a crowdsourcing campaign to help fund the project.

Ariel and the other founding Council members are excited about the Council’s huge potential to benefit so many people in so many places. Shauna adds, “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I believe that some of the steps the Council is looking at are a place to start.”

Correction: The original article said that Tish Owen had been operating a festival for 10 years. The Pagan Unity Festival of Tennessee is now in its 17th year. 

As the immediate shock regarding the arrest of Pagan author and musician Kenny Klein on possession of child pornography wears off, a wider conversation in the Pagan community on event safety and sexual predators begins. Festival and convention organizers consider possible changes in policies while attendees ask for greater protection. Yet it’s unclear if this focus is a lasting trend or a short lived reaction. MerryMeet, a yearly convention hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess Chapters, and CONvergence, a science fiction and fantasy convention lauded internationally for their anti-harassment policies, offer best practices which aim to protect attendees while still allowing an open, diverse event.

Evolving conversation
Kenny Klein’s arrest on March 25th affected the Pagan community deeply due to his decades of traveling the Pagan convention and festival circuit, bringing him into contact with thousands of children and teens. Almost immediately conversations on social media sites and blogs moved from focusing on Klein to looking at how the Pagan community deals with sexual violence and harassment. “I’m far more concerned with, can we look at this as a wake up call for how to deal with sexual abuse, and other abuse, within the Pagan community? Can we call someone out for bad behavior without it turning into a witch war? Can we make it safer for victims to come forward? And at the same time, can we find ways so that Pagans are not wrongfully convicted in the court of public opinion by people who have made untrue allegations?” Shauna Aura Knight in a March 27th post on Facebook.

By April 1st the Pagan community had its first opportunity to deal with conflict between a festival and attendee over scheduled guests. Florida Pagan Gathering had, as they had done in the past, invited controversial Pagan elders Gavin and Yvonne Frost to speak at their festival. Attendees and Florida Pagans, once again, objected to the Frosts due to their book, “The Witches Bible”, which appears to advocate ritual sexual initiation of minors just entering puberty. An organized protest developed and called for the “removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials. It’s past time that our beloved community take a stand against those who advocate abuse. Silence = complicity.” Also as in the past, the festival initially stood firm in keeping the Frosts as presenters, noting they expected to maintain high attendance numbers in spite of the controversy. All that changed and the FPG felt compelled to remove the Frosts from the line up after the venue was made aware of the situation and became involved.

Culture change or fleeting interest
Was the stronger, more organized and successful stance by Florida Pagans an outlier or a glimpse at a future trend?

That’s it! If a convention or a festival doesn’t have clear policies, that they actually follow, which protect women and men from creepers, I’m not going. They won’t get another dollar from me.” – Brenna Summer, a Midwest Pagan who says she attends at least one festival or convention per year.

Pagan festival and convention attendees have now spent weeks online discussing past instances where event organizers failed or succeeded in addressing attendee concerns about sexual predators. They’re talking about what worked, what didn’t, and suggestions for event organizers. “I’d like to see confidential feedback about predators made public. Festival goers have a right to know what has happened with other attendees and personnel as delivered in feedback from people who were witness to or on the receiving end,” says Tasha Rose, who attends events in Minnesota.

Other attendees have been on both sides of sexual predator allegations. OtterDancing said she witnessed a man harassing women at a local festival and the man was quietly asked to leave. Yet she’s also seen allegations handled poorly at the same festival. “Six men stormed into our campsite and accused my husband of harassing a 13 year old and verbally assaulted him with out proof. This greatly traumatized my husband and probably lead to his subsequent physical downward spiral. My husband was innocent. It turned out that it was another bald middle-aged fat man that had done this. Of course there were no apologies and I refused to ever go back to that particular gather again.”

As many cases of sexual harassment or sexual abuse happen without witnesses, how are organizers to balance keeping attendees safe without destroying the reputation of persons’ wrongly accused? What steps should workshop presenters take? They can look at best practices both within the Pagan community and outside of it.

Best practices for presenters
David Salisbury, whose books and workshops are often geared towards teens and young adults, says he is rethinking everything in relation to how he presents to minors. Although he feels he has a good system in place, he is making one important change, “I will not teach youth without one or more other adults present.” He also plans to spend more time explaining to adults why he does this so it becomes a more commonplace practice.

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

Salisbury says Pagans need to stop trusting anyone with a book or CD out and encourages parents to ask questions about who is spending time with their children. “If I’m giving a talk to teens, I hope that the adults of that event will ask me who I am, what material will be covered, and the extent of any communication, if any, that will happen beyond the event. Although I don’t want to see our youth cut off from resources out of a sense of paranoia, I think open communication is a must.”

In the world of science fiction and fantasy, over 500 presenters, artists, attendees, and vendors have joined best selling author John Scalzi in announcing they will not attend, present, or vend at conferences that do not have, or will not enforce, written harassment policies.

They require
1.  That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.
2.  That the convention make this policy obvious by at least one and preferably more than one of the following: posting the policy on their website, placing it in their written and electronic programs, putting up flyers in the common areas, discussing the policy at opening ceremonies or at other well-attended common events.
3.   In cases when I am invited as a Guest of Honor, personal affirmation from the convention chair that a harassment policy exists, that it will be adequately publicized to conventiongoers, and that all harassment complaints will be dealt with promptly and fairly, with no excuses or rationalizations for delaying action when such becomes necessary.

Best practices at CONvergence
Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) conventions have many of the same challenges as Pagan events face. They have a sex positive culture. Attendees may be naked or wearing very little clothing. Pagans may have sex magic, but SF/F conventions have Furries, Vampire: The Masquerade, and other sexual subcultures. Add in alcohol and the carnival like atmosphere of a convention and problems can arise.

CONvergence, a SF/F convention held in Minnesota, is considered something of a gold standard when it comes to safe space conventions. Unlike some other SF/F conventions, CONvergence has never had the reputation of a creeper’s paradise, where attendees are regularly groped and verbally harassed. Yet, while rare, there have been instances where attendees haven’t felt safe or were sexually harassed. When that happens, CONvergence attendees and staff know exactly what to do.

If people tell you “no” or to leave them alone, your business with them is done. – from CONvergence policy on harassment

The policy not only outlines what is unacceptable behavior in clear and simple terms, it outlines what attendees should do to report the behavior and what steps are taken if an individual “stalks, harasses, or attempts to assault you at the convention itself, you may report that individual to a member of Operations (they will report it to the hotel’s security staff who will get the police involved if necessary) or you may report it to hotel security directly, and the appropriate action will be taken. Conversely, any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately.”

Brian Etchieson, a SubHead in Operations for CONvergence, says the con also has a constant patrol of Wandering Hosts throughout the hotel. These volunteers assist the con goers with questions, problems, and troubleshooting. They also have a team of First Advisers on hand who can assess any potential medical emergency and the con has an excellent relationship with the local police department.

Etchieson says they deal with allegations of harassment on a case by case basis. “If it is a case of that guy is looking at me funny, said guy may just get a ‘hey, what gives?’ talk from a Wandering Host. He won’t stop taking my picture is going to get him a walk to The Bridge and he’ll be asked to cease said behavior. Small infractions like this usually get The Talk. Repeat offenders, or Mr. He’s Clearly Hammered may have their badge taken away for the night, effectively banning them from the convention. Said badge only gets returned in the morning at the discretion of an Ops Head. In cases of physical assault, the perp will have their badge pulled immediately. The police will be summoned if necessary or if requested by the member who has been assaulted. The perp may be placed on the Permanent Ban list.”

costumes-are-not-consent-750x1024Along with a clear policy, CONvergence instituted a public awareness campaign, called “Costumes Are Not Consent.” Etchieson says,”The idea of putting on an ‘anti-creeper’ campaign has been bandied about for some time. Ishmael Williams, Director of [CONvergence] HOME Division, threw out the idea of putting out posters. The Ops crew held a brainstorming session and came up with the designs.” It was Etchieson who came up with the “Costumes Are Not Consent” concept.

Christin LeXi Davis, Communications Director for CONvergence, said the the reaction by con goers has been enormously positive. “They love it. We are blessed to have so many talented and creative individuals to help create catchy ways to get sensitive messages out that is positive and fun.”

It was so catchy and fun it went viral. Charmaine Parnell, CoHead of Hotel for CONvergence, said, “The reaction to the campaign has been stunning. When it went viral, we just couldn’t believe how fandom reacted to it. Exceeded all of our expectations. You don’t expect to see your work trending on Twitter or being mentioned at a convention in London during their closing ceremonies.” Parnell said she was also surprised at how it opened up a conversation about women harassing men at conventions by performing ‘kilt checks.’

The Costumes Are Not Consent campaign was targeted to three main groups, which Etchieson labeled as Socially Awkward Fans, Your Actual Scumbags, and I’m Creeped Out. The convention used posters, buttons, video, live performances, and word of mouth to get the campaign’s message out. Etchieson says the Socially Awkward Fans may not understand they are causing anyone discomfort. They need clear rules and a reminder to think about their social approach. Your Actual Scumbags are predators who think a convention is easy pickings. Etchieson says the convention is watching for them and they will take strong action against them.The third group, I’m Creeped Out, is the group that most concerns Etchieson. “We want to make sure our membership knows that it is not OK to let someone creeper on you and, if they do, the Con staff and the rest of the membership have your back. We will listen to you and fix the problem. Because it’s not your fault, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it.”

Best practices at Covenant of the Goddess’s MerryMeet 2014
So how does a Pagan conference compare to CONvergence’s example of best practices? Although the weekend conference MerryMeet is held in different locations and hosted by different Covenant of the Goddess chapters, they rely heavily on CoG’s bylaws for standards of conduct at events. While CoG‘s bylaws may not specifically address sexual abuse, the Merry Meet 2014 committee is considering adding such language to its own convention agreement.

For MerryMeet 2014, the convention committee is requiring each participant to sign an acknowledgement of the rules and regulations for both the event and the hotel. Similar to CONvergence, they are working to have clear and accessible rules of conduct.

Green-Faiths-3ALady Mehurt, Second Officer of Covenant of the Goddess and Registrar for MerryMeet 2014, says they also have a clear way to address onsite complaints. “The Merry Meet 2014 Committee has its own security team led by a professional law enforcement officer. In addition the hotel has its own security force. If any guest has concerns or complaints of any kind, our security team with the help of hotel security will address the situation immediately.”  Lady Mehurt also says they would not allow a speaker or attendee “…who has been formally accused, convicted or arrested of sexual abuse at our Merry Meet Atlanta event. The safety of our guests is of the utmost importance.”

Yet dealing with claims of sexual harassment or violence are very difficult for organizers because the acts are often committed in a private area, without witnesses. Lady Mehurt says there are additional difficulties. “The violations can bring shame to the abused or fear of retaliation. In addition, people have different expectations and definitions of ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’ Those boundaries can change in altered states – either by alcohol, drugs or even spiritual practice.” She says that organizers need to address all accusations and situations carefully, slowly, and compassionately, “for all parties involved until the truth can be ascertained and the best course of action, legal or otherwise, be taken.”

 

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Sociologist Helen Berger discussing new Pagan census data (more on that soon).A follow-up to the Pagan Census Revisited is now up and asking for Pagan participation. Here’s a quote from sociologist Helen A. Berger, who is overseeing this project along with James R. Lewis: “The PCR II is a follow up to the Pagan Census Revisited, which itself is a follow up the Pagan Census. You don’t need to have responded to either of those to participate in this survey. This survey is short, they contain some of the question we wished we had asked in the PCR. For those of you who don’t know about the PC it was the first large scale survey of US Pagans. I published a book on it Voices from the Pagan Census and all the results are online at the Murray Institute at Harvard University for any and all to view. The more information we have about contemporary Pagans the better for understanding the religion, its participants and how it might be changing. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to complete the former surveys and those of you who complete this one.” I encourage wide participation in this survey, as it shapes research into our communities, and gives insight to those of us inside of the movement. The 2009 revisitation data was a big eye-opener for many, and it will be important to know how we are changing over the years. Click here to take the survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PCR-II).

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

As has been reported here recently, Pagan elder Morning Glory Zell has been in and out of the hospital due to kidney issues and other complications. Her condition is serious enough that a celebration of her life is being planned for April 19th. Quote: “Celebration of Life for Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Our intention is to give her the energy to stay with us as long as possible. Come celebrate Morning Glory’s life while she is still here to enjoy your stories: How did you first meet Morning Glory? How has she touched your life? We are working with a few people on plans to video-tape your stories, poetry, song – whatever you bring to share.” Morning Glory’s partner, Oberon Zell, adds that “Morning Glory remains at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; however, she is rallying against the pneumonia.” Today, April 14th, is Oberon and Morning Glory’s 40th wedding anniversary, and our congratulations go out to them on this milestone. “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism,” which focuses on the lives of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, was recently released by Llewellyn Worldwide.

9931d7a41cff52affc54a1c0f3082178_largePagan singer-songwriter Arthur Hinds, a member of the band Emerald Rose, recently launched a Kickstarter to fund a new CD entitled “Dance In The Fire.” Quote: “So let’s talk about this new CD, which I’m already at work recording in the Kitchen Studio. It’s called Dance in the Fire, and you can expect a lot of energy and beats that are going to want to make you move. You’ll also hear soulful love songs, chants that honor the seasons and our connections to Spirit, rousing rock anthems that you won’t be able to stop singing along with (so my Lovely Wife tells me), and more. But to get all of this out into the world, I need your help.” Happily, the Kickstarter has already reached and surpassed its modest goal of $2,500, and is now working on stretch goals. Quote: “If we reach 3500, I will be able to produce my next solo collection, tentatively called, Words of Mystery, and anyone who pledged forty or more will also get a copy of these bardic tales when it becomes available in the fall. So spread the word and lets bump this up. To be clear, if we hit 3500, everyone who has pledged forty dollars or more will get Dance in the Fire, a t-shirt, a tattoo,  Words of Mystery and I will throw in a copy of Poetry of Wonder for good measure. Thanks!!!!!” Congratulations to Arthur Hinds!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • While I’m on the subject of Kickstarters, Pagan scholar and author Brendan Myers is looking to fund his fantasy series “Fellwater.” Quote: “It’s a series of novels about factions of ancient demigods and the everyday people caught in the conflict. Secret societies vie for control of the last corners of the Earth where the Mythic Age survives. It’s a world of alliances and betrayals, cults and politics, friendship and power. It’s what happens when you make a wish, and the horror of it coming true.” Sound interesting? Check out the campaign.
Character portraits from Brendan Myers' "Fellwater" series.

Character portraits from Brendan Myers’ “Fellwater” series.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Fort HoodYesterday, a shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas killed 3 people, and injured 16, before the shooter took his own life. This tragedy comes after the 2009 base shooting that claimed 13 lives. I mention this here because Modern Pagans in the military and Fort Hood have a long history, and that history became controversy back in 1999 when several politicians made an issue of Wiccans and Pagans having religious gatherings on-base. Today, Pagans are an accepted part of military life at Fort Hood, and there is a regular open circle held there, with military spouse Michelle Morris serving as Distinctive Faith Group Leader. Circle Sanctuary, which has supported the Pagan circle since its inception in 1997 and is currently its sponsor, released a short statement calling for prayers of healing and support. Quote: “I, along with others with Circle Sanctuary, are networking support for the Fort Hood Open Circle as well as all in the Fort Hood community & beyond who have been impacted by today’s shootings.  We are encouraging Pagans and those of many paths to send prayers, rituals, meditations of healing, strength, and support.” We will be following up on this story next week, and speaking with Pagans on-base. For now, our prayers go out to them.

Florida_Pagan_Gathering_58705The Florida Pagan Gathering’s Beltaine festival is coming up at the end of April, and concerns are being raised over the event allowing Gavin and Yvonne Frost to present there. The Frosts, founders of The Church and School of Wicca, have had controversy follow them for decades over material published in their “Witch’s Bible” that included instructions on ritually deflowering underage youth. While a disclaimer was added in a later edition of said book, their sexual politics have often seemed very out of step with the rest of the Pagan community. I think it would be fair to say that their reluctance to remove or recant the material first published in 1972 have kept these controversies alive over the years. Now, a joint resolution signed by a number of Florida Pagans, plus supporters outside of Florida, has called for the festival to not let the Frosts teach at FPG. Quote: “We stand together, as modern Pagans, to urge the FPG Board to listen to our concerns and to help host and foster discussion about this critical issue. We call for a removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials.” Meanwhile, the board of FPG seems to be, for now, standing by their decision to allow the Frosts to present. Quote: “Over the last 24 hours there has been several emails sent to the Board and many messages on Facebook in protest of the attendance of Gavin and Yvonne Frost as guests and workshop presenters at our upcoming FPG. At the same time we have gotten a flood of emails supporting FPG and its staff and guests. Our attendance numbers have not been affected and we are confident that this Beltaine will be well attended by the people who were truly meant to be there.” We will have more on this story on Sunday.

unnamedpathsquaresAfter the unexpected passing of Eddy Gutiérrez (aka Hyperion) back in January, there were questions as to what would happen with The Unnamed Path, a shamanic path for men-who-love-men that he had founded. Now, with the blessings of Hyperion’s family, the Brotherhood of the Unnamed Path has pledged to carry on the work of their tradition. Quote: “Hyperion has left a legacy and although nobody can replace him, we The Brotherhood recognize that we have a calling to continue this legacy and reach out to other Men-Who-Love-Men through the teachings of the Unnamed Path. His vision has become our vision and will continue to flourish despite his recent transition. This path WILL continue for Hyperion and for our selves. Classes are continuously forming for Men-Who-Love-Men seeking apprenticeships that lead to initiation by wonderful teachers who have gone through teacher training under his loving and knowledgeable guidance.” The Unnamed Path has an open group on Facebook, and you can also keep an eye on the official Unnamed Path website for further updates.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Sigilic Tarot

Draft from The Sigilic Tarot

  • Hey tarot lovers! There’s a new tarot Kickstarter, this time it’s The Sigilic Tarot by Olivia Cox. Cox, who runs the popular The Living Wiccan Tumblr, says the deck emerged from extensive craft work using sigils. Quote: “The Sigilic Tarot is unique in its design, with 50 cards made up of 5 suits of 10 instead of the traditional 78 of major and minor arcana. Each suit represents a different aspect of our lives.” Do check it out, the designs seem very inventive!
  • Pagan elder, and avid Second Life user, Circe (also known on Second Life as Nepherses Amat), is terminally ill and raising money for home hospice care. Quote: “Circe has no money to pay for professional care. Over the last two and a half months wonderful friends and family from around the country have come to spend a week or more with her as she cannot live alone and needs assistance.”
  • For the third year in a row, The Norse Mythology Blog has won the Best Religion Weblog category in the Weblog Awards (aka “The Bloggies”). Quote: “THANK YOU to everyone who voted & asked others to vote! I hope that this groundbreaking win will send a message that the Old Way still lives in the modern world. However people approach the myths – as simple stories, as exciting adventures, as ancient truths, or as sacred writ – there is something for all of us in this wonderful tradition.” The blog now enters the hall of fame of this contest, and will no longer be eligible to run.
  • Immanion Press has issued a call for papers to be collected in an anthology on Pagan leadership, group dynamics, community activism, and healthy boundaries. Quote: “This anthology will explore leadership for real Pagans and real groups. We’re looking for essays and articles that detail leadership success stories, best practices, and ways you have worked through challenges and obstacles. Our specific focus is on techniques to help Pagans build healthier, stronger, and more sustainable groups and communities. We’d like to see a combination of hands-on how-to, personally-inspired, and academic pieces that will offer readers tools they can use in their own groups.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be participating in a Peace Ambassador Training lead by James O’Dea. At this gathering once can, quote, “learn from the world’s top peace visionaries, and become an impassioned ambassador for inner and outer peace.”
  • Pagan Spirit Gathering has announced its featured presenters for this year’s festival. They include Byron Ballard, T. Thorn Coyle, musician Arthur Hinds, and several others.

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

On Tuesday, following an investigation by state law enforcement in Louisiana, Pagan author and musician Kenny Klein was arrested on multiple counts of possessing child pornography.

Kenneth Klein's arrest photo.

Kenneth Klein’s arrest photo.

“Kenneth Klein, 59, was arrested around 7 a.m. at his home on the 2800 block of Carondelet Street. Detectives in the State Police Special Victims Unit began investigating Klein in February after receiving a tip about his online activities. Upon executing a search warrant of Klein’s residence, they discovered on his computer a large volume of explicit photos and videos involving minors under the age of 13 engaging in sexually explicit activities, according to an arrest report. Klein admitted to detectives that the computer was his and that he had used the computer to share and download the explicit material, the report says.”

Klein has been a visible presence in the modern Pagan movement for over 30 years. He has performed and taught at festivals, writtten books, contributed to magazines, and taken part in various pan-Pagan endeavors. The news of his arrest went out on Wednesday afternoon; by Thursday, social media had exploded with discussion about Klein. Many were shocked and horrified by the allegations made in the news article, but perhaps more disturbing are the emerging voices that allege Klein made advances towards them, or their friends, while they were minors.  One of them is Vyviane Armstrong, a Priestess with the Sisterhood of Avalon.

“Back in 1996/1997 I was sixteen years old and new to Paganism. I attended many Pagan festivals in my home state of Georgia, and got involved in hanging out behind the scenes at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. It was during this time I met Kenny Klein. I attended his concerts as he was one of the first Pagans I met in person and was certainly the first “famous Pagan” I had met. He started flirting with me which made me very uncomfortable. Despite no reciprocation on my part, he continued to relentlessly pursue me. This included heavy inappropriate flirting and sexual innuendos, him offering me alcohol constantly, as well as using various tactics (books, food, etc) to encourage me to go somewhere alone with him, and other inappropriate gestures which, as an adult, I can look back upon and see as incredibly manipulative. He would come up and wrap me up in his cloak and hug me, which sounds benign, but I had asked him multiple times to stop and it was just horrible. This happened over the course of two Faire seasons. It is important to note that during this time there was a huge overlap between the Georgia Pagan community and those who work and perform at the Georgia Renn Faire.

Although I voiced my concerns with the Faire organizers, and adult leaders in the general Georgia Pagan community, I felt as if I was not being taken seriously. I grew even more concerned when I saw one of my fourteen year old friends sitting on Kenny’s lap and drinking from his flask. I was told that Kenny was a long time Renn Fairer and Pagan Elder, and that he was just being ‘friendly’ and my concerns were brushed aside. Wikipedia puts his age at the time to be 43. I chose to stop going to Faire altogether because I could not deal with the constant harassment from Kenny any longer.”

You can read Armstrong’s entire statement, here. In it, she also says that she is in contact with others who have had similar experiences. At a Patheos.com article regarding Klein’s arrest, a commenter using the pseudonym of “EnergyFiend” said she and her friends encountered this behavior as well.

“He would run children’s workshops whenever he could at gatherings when I was younger (maybe still, I don’t know). I was a 12 yr old girl back in the early 90’s when I first encountered him back before the first round of this came out. I have been warning parents ever since, when I notice he’ll be at a gathering I’m going to, because people in a religious/spiritual community have this odd blind trust in it’s leaders, and that includes leaving their children alone with him while predators sing or tell stories. So maybe you don’t have kids (I don’t), but it’s all our responsibility to speak up when we see injustice and not “protect the community” as has been done for more than 20 years now. [...] Luckily, what he did to me was just creepy and inappropriate. Trying to get me alone, giving me massages, etc. I had close friends who were younger and not so lucky. They did go to the police and he still got away with it. No one believed them.”

Another Pagan, who requested anonymity, also contacted me to share her story.

“Kenny cajoled me into doing a set of nude photos when I was about 18 or 19, essentially using the ‘nudity at a Pagan festival’ vibe to justify it–it was my first festival. Never touched me, the photos were not explicit, just nude chick in the woods. Still, I knew something was wrong and I never felt good about it.”

All of these narratives about Klein in our community begin with his former wife, Priestess, and singing partner, Tzipora Katz, who revealed to me in a phone conversation on Thursday night that she and her children were abused during their relationship, which ended in 1992. However, despite the pain, anger, and worry that these new developments have brought about, Katz says that she wants her voice to bring healing and closure, and wishes that Klein could have gotten help those many years ago. Katz further expressed that our community needs to recognize the “walking wounded” among us, and that we should be there for them, with each of us becoming “the community you want to be.” In our conversation, Tzipora Katz parted with a simple hope: “I don’t want anyone to suffer the way we suffered.”

While Klein has not been yet been tried or convicted on the charges for which he was arrested, nor faced legal proceedings for these additional allegations, the Pagan community has taken his seeming confession, and the testimony of those who’ve interacted with Klein, seriously. Ramifications for this arrest are already starting to ripple outward. Immanion Press / Megalithica Books has pulled Klein’s book “The Flowering Rod” from their publication lineup.

“The Flowering Rod by Pagan Author and Musician Kenny Klein is being pulled from our line of Esoteric Non-Fiction books as a response to the recent news that Kenny Klein has been charged of downloading and sharing child pornography. Mr. Klein has admitted his guilt in this matter, and we do not feel that we can, in good conscience, continue to publish his book. We are removing the book from our line-up effective immediately. At Immanion Press we do not believe in knowingly supporting acts of behavior that violate the Pagan community or how it is represented to the world by our authors. We are committed to publishing books that help the communities we are a part of, but we also believe that any author is a role model and should behave accordingly. We offer our condolences to people who have been effected negatively by this situation or any other actions Mr. Klein has done.”

Meanwhile, PNC-Minnesota reports that Witches & Pagans Magazine has suspended Klein’s blog at their PaganSquare site, pending the outcome of the trial, Sacred Harvest Festival has cancelled his pending appearance at their festival, and Llewellyn Worldwide has issued a statement saying they were “deeply disappointed to learn of the allegations against one of our authors.” Also speaking out are clergy from the Blue Star tradition of Wicca, where Klein was a High Priest. Here’s a statement from Keith Campbell, a 3rd degree Blue Star initiate from Pennsylvania.

“Like most Craft traditions, Blue Star is composed of many independent, autonomous covens and groves, and no person or organization can speak for the tradition as a whole. Speaking only for myself, news of Kenny Klein’s arrest deeply saddens and troubles me, and my thoughts and prayers are with his coven and grove at this extremely difficult time. 
 
The acts of which he is accused are very serious, and do not reflect the values, principles, or teachings of my tradition. I certainly don’t have enough information yet to make any judgments about what is and is not fact in a very complicated situation; that is the task of the courts. I pray that the investigation and judicial process will lead to truth, and that out of truth comes justice. I pray that all those affected by this issue find healing and peace.”

No doubt further actions from these parties, and others, will happen once a verdict is reached in this case.

As for the larger Pagan community, many of whom may have had several uneventful or positive interactions with Klein over the years, there can be many conflicting emotions relating to this situation. Cat Chapin-Bishop, a Pagan psychotherapist whose specialty was counseling survivors of childhood sexual abuse, counsels against thinking that all abusers are obvious or easily found out.

“Some of us have given in to the temptation to dismiss Klein as simply a creep. It’s important though, to remember that if we allow ourselves to believe that all perpetrators are simply and obviously creeps, we’ll refuse to see the perpetrators who don’t fit that stereotype. There may have been warning signs to some, but not everyone saw them. And that may not be about blindness, either–it’s best not to make that assumption, and not only risk blaming victims, but also risk failing to see future perpetrators, if they don’t seem ‘obvious.’ I write this as a former psychotherapist, who worked as a counselor in the field of sexual abuse for about 20 years. I vividly remember the first perpetrator it turned out I knew: he’d been a local minister who had been active on the same board I had, that founded a battered women’s center. That disabused me of the notion that, as a trained professional, I, at least, could ‘always spot’ a perpetrator. It’s important to pay attention to signs of trouble; it’s more important to structure kids’ programs in a way that is likely to keep them safe (like always having two or more adults in charge of kids, and free access and open visibility to parents at all times). But it’s also important to remember we won’t always know, and we won’t always keep kids safe. We’ll do better if we do our best with a little humility.”

This arrest, and the shockwaves it has sent through the Pagan community, are bringing about important conversations about how we address abuse in our interconnected communities, and how we react when serious allegations are made in our communities and at our events. As this issue progresses, The Wild Hunt will continue to explore not only this story, but how we can move towards being a healthier, safer, more transparent, community.

Note: Tzipora Katz wants the community to know that her children do not want to discuss this matter publicly, and that anyone wanting to reach out to them should contact her directly first, so they can speak when they’re ready.

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

Joseph Merlin Nichter (aka WitchDoctorJoe)

“The time has come to be more conservative with my resources. Not just with my money, but more importantly, with my time. Because the time has come for high school football games, drivers training, Letterman jackets (two already) and prom dresses. My family has lovingly supported me and my passions for a very long time now, and I owe them a deeper presence in their lives. The time has come to relieve myself of those burdens which I volunteered to carry for others. Now is the time for me to just enjoy being a husband and a father. I’ve earned it and my family deserves it. My motivation for prison chaplaincy has come party from my own experiences of religious discrimination while serving in the military and from wanting to help inmates rehabilitate through spiritual growth. Most inmates incarcerated will be released someday and I felt that I was contributing to the greater good of society by rendering aid.  And I know that to some extent, I have. I keep a box full of letters and post cards in a desk from parolees who continue to update me on how well there doing on the outside and thank me for being there. But now I think the best contribution I can make to this world is through my children. Perhaps when the nest is empty, my idle hands will return to prison chaplaincy, at least until the grand-kids start rolling in (grin). This will most likely be my last post on the topic of Pagan prison chaplaincy for quite some time. But it won’t be my last post, I’m uncertain what I’ll talk about next but I’m sure I’ll find something. Thank you Lord and Lady for Prison: Past Tense.” – Joseph Merlin Nichter, announcing his retirement from active Pagan prison chaplaincy. 

Kenny Klein

Kenny Klein

“In the thirty plus years I have been Pagan, I have always seen the Pagan community struggle to be taken seriously. We want to be counted as a religion. Thanks to Selena Fox, we are able to bury our heroic veterans under a pentacle. We still struggle to be buried ourselves in cemeteries that accept our religions. Many hide in the “broom closet,” afraid of being “out” to family and co-workers, for fear of losing jobs and children. We struggle to be seen as a religious community. But when we arrive late, making the PST excuse, what does this say to the world, the world that we would like to be accepted by? “Hey, we can’t even take OURSELVES seriously enough to be accepted. So why should you?” What about people who are not passive-aggressive, but are just habitually late? Get over it! You represent the Pagan community! Pull yourself together! I know, it is a hallmark of our culture in general that people are rude, late, and self-centered. But as Pagans, shouldn’t we be above that? As people who, after considerable thought, gave up the status quo to pursue our true selves, shouldn’t be be the shining example, not the common problem? I think we should.” – Kenny Klein, expressing his dislike of “Pagan Standard Time.”

Annie Finch

Annie Finch

“Today’s accused “witches” are almost all women, many of them the more outspoken, independent and prosperous women in their communities. Whether victims of simple sexist domination or scapegoats for the old ways in a modernizing society plagued with economic injustice, often they stand for a former way of life, a life more in harmony with nature. Their murder is thus a crime against women and nature, as well as a horrific violation of human rights and religious freedom generally. As a witch, I am passionately committed to working on behalf of justice and safety for contemporary accused witches. And I am also committed to the equally important work of commemorating and remembering those already dead. Such remembrance is crucial for three reasons. It honors the dead. It helps protect against future injustice. And it helps today’s witches — and women in general — to wake up to the living legacy of those events in our own psyches, a first step to healing and recovery.” – Annie Finch, on holding a remembrance for witches.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“There is value in going outside and digging in the dirt.  There is value in going outside and looking up at the sun and moon and stars.  There is value in going outside and watching the squirrels and listening to the birds.  There is value in going outside – are you starting to see a pattern here? – and smelling the flowers, lying in the grass, and hugging the trees.  This can be challenging in the miserable Texas summers… just as it can be challenging in the miserable Minnesota winters.  But when we have a spiritual relationship with Nature, these challenges become something to work with and work around.  When we have a spiritual relationship with Nature, maintaining that relationship becomes more important than constant comfort:  we learn to go walking before dawn, to greet the rising sun before we begin our work day, to speak to the trees as soon as we get home, and to salute the moon before we go to bed. There is no Druid orthodoxy and there is no one right way to honor Nature.  There are many ways – find the one that speaks to your soul.” – John Beckett, from a sermon entitled “The Art of Wild Wisdom.”

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

“It is impossible to be good at everything, so you should definitely not expect to be great at everything. When someone like Fra Ashen creates a tool, it is a masterful and beautiful thing to behold. His work inspires faith and awe because he is not only a first rate magician, but an expert craftsman. Now one could argue that anyone can become a master craftsman with effort and just a little talent, and that may be true, but if that is not your calling you probably won’t want to invest that time. DIY purists will insist that any attempt, even one that winds up looking like my 4 year olds made it, will be better than something someone else has done. I say  POPPYCOCK! Craftsmanship value as much or more than doing it yourself. I have old tools that I made in high school, but I never use them because they look like shit. I would rather buy something nice and consecrate it to the work. In this case the consecration is my contribution to the creation. It is important to keep in mind the difference between competence, mastery, and perfection in a skill and the fact that it is quite desirable to strive for different levels in different things. Most CEO’s are not masters of every aspect of their companies business, but they are competent enough at them to manage those who are.” – Jason Miller, explaining why DIY magic is overrated. 

Erynn Rowan Laurie

Erynn Rowan Laurie

“It’s going to be a test of my ability to find community, as a very introverted person who still loves having a social life. I’ll be starting with the very large disadvantages of a language barrier, knowing nearly no one, and not being able to drive myself anywhere. I’ll admit up front that this is a scary prospect. It can be hard enough for me to talk with someone I don’t know in English, much less trying to open my mouth in a language I know I’m going to slaughter for quite some time. It’s going to be an exercise in letting go and allowing things to happen as they will. And immigrants from time immemorial have had most of these same challenges – language, community, transportation. My own ancestors left their homelands to come to the US, leaving their languages behind and taking a chance to live in a new place and build new communities for themselves. They persevered, they dealt with the challenges, and they made lives for themselves. I have the great advantage of instant international communication to support me, a thing they never had. I will be able to stay in easy touch with friends and family and community here and globally, as I have from the chair I’m sitting in right now for many years. When I’m lonely, there will be someone to reach out to who does speak my language. I’ll have my brother nearby who can help me negotiate a culture that he’s integrated into over the years he’s been in Italy. And I’ll have the gods and spirits to turn to as I learn a new place and a new way of being.” – Erynn Rowan Laurie, on her impending move to Italy.

Ian Corrigan

Ian Corrigan

“We’re trying to build a religion. By ‘we’ I refer to myself and my colleagues in ADF. For the past 30 years we have been researching and designing symbol sets and ritual patterns that provide the framework on which a religion can stand. Our work is proceeding well. We have dozens of local congregations, serving thousands of Pagans across the US. [...] If I were to set a primary goal for spiritual practice (and this after long consideration of terms like ‘enlightenment’ and ‘liberation’) I might propose that it should make us happy – or at least happier. Note that here I’m not referring to some mystical adventure goal, of heroic conquest of reality. Rather I’m asking what good should a spiritual practice offer to the non-adventurer, to the “householder”, as they say. Spiritual growth and magical power – those have commonly been the goals of occult spirituality. However any review of the histories of magical arts shows that these goals do not, in themselves, result in happiness for the individual. Happiness for the individual is the common-sense base that seems to me, at least, to be a believable goal of life. As human animals it is our business to enjoy the world we find ourselves in, to learn to understand our bodies and other material things so that we can interact pleasantly and productively, even to apply our imagination and creativity to increase beauty and utility in the world.” – Ian Corrigan, on the primary goal for a spiritual practice.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth

“We make much of our desire to re-enchant the world, but do we fully understand how we actively disenchant it? It’s easy to talk of a “them” or a “they,” to speak in deeply esoteric or philosophical terms about how we’ve managed to mess up our ability to see the Other in the world. But I’m gonna suggest we maybe should start by noting not only how we experience disenchantment, but also how we actively do it ourselves. Whether one believes in the real existence of gods and spirits, believes in one well-spring of divine being-ness, believes it’s all beautiful and useful metaphor, or any of the combinations thereof, understanding how we disenchant the earth is vital to understanding our relationship to it. If a forest is just wood, meat, and plants, we’ll treat it as such. If a city is merely crowded dwellings, places to work and to be entertained, we won’t care when whole neighborhoods are gentrified, when cultures and traditions are displaced and destroyed. Actually, disenchantment is precisely the process which makes forests only full of wood, mountains only full of coal and minerals. It’s what turns minority neighborhoods into re-development opportunities, transmutes sites sacred to people into places more valuable for oil or uranium than for the worlds of meaning that have sprung from the soil. Until we understand how we disenchant the world, I don’t think we’ll understand how to re-enchant it, and I think the key to both is understanding how we world the earth.” – Rhyd Wildermuth, on enchantment, disenchantment, and worlding the Earth.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

TFST_Guilds_1-300x300The team behind getting Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing” turned into a feature film have announced that they are seeking volunteers to become a part of their new guild production system (one that takes its inspiration from the book). Quote: “Here at TFST, we’ve been very busy creating legal, financial and creative infrastructure for the development of the film. This includes concept art, original music, perfecting the screenplay, fostering connections with green businesses, pitching the film, and creating our promotional video (watch it here). We’ve designed the foundations of a green, sustainable film project from the ground up, building important alliances and this includes you. The outpouring of support was so profound we decided to create Guilds (yes, like the novel!) to activate participants. Each Guild will operate like a team, with a Leader who will oversee tasks and report to the producers for effective communication.” Those interested are pointed to a contact form on the film project’s website. In 2011, Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars through Kickstarter to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her post-apocalyptic 1993 book made. You can read all of my coverage of this project, here.

b26b6501f8c7ce428e52cf912ba6aeeeThe historic Pagan periodical Green Egg, which re-launched 2007 as a digital-only publication, has announced that they have signed on with a print-on-demand magazine self-service platform so that their content can be made available in print, and at stores, once again. Quote: “Green Egg, the famous Pagan magazine which was first published in 1968, proudly announces that it is now back in print. The popular Pagan journal was founded by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and has featured articles by such luminaries as Jacques Vallee, Robert Anton Wilson, Starhawk, Joanna Macy and many articles by Oberon himself, as well as articles and poems by his wife, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart [...] The new print version will also be available in i-Pad version for 2.00. The print version is available for purchase for $8.00. Both versions include a digital version.” You can find the new issue in this new venue, here. As announced previously, Green Egg continues to work behind the scenes to digitize their extensive back-catalog, which they now estimate will be done come the Summer. For a best-of retrospective of the magazine, check out “Green Egg Omelete.”

TShirt_black_Coven_Oldenwilde_lo-resThe Asheville, North Carolina-based Witch/Wiccan organization Coven Oldenwilde announced that they have signed a contract with a reality television production company. Quote: “We’ve signed an agreement with a reputable California production company that has previously filmed series for the History channel and the Discovery channel, etc., to be filmed for a TV series showing how we teach magical apprentices, and exploring what attracts Seekers to Wicca, as well as their experiences while aspiring to the Priest/esshood. No contest, sensationalism, or monetary compensation involved; rather, this is an opportunity to present the Craft well to a national and international audience, and to show viewers how folks from all walks of life can master magic. The series will likely be filmed in our Covenstead in West Asheville, NC, and if it gets the go-ahead for production, the filming could commence anywhere from 4 to 6 months or so from now. We would teach apprentice/cast-members material from Coven Oldenwilde’s upcoming online School of Witchcraft courses.” I’ve made my feelings about Paganism and reality television rather clear, so I will simply wish them the best of luck, and hope that the program is as positive as they portray.

In Other Pagan Community News:

http://www.gbgcalendar.com

http://www.gbgcalendar.com

  • The 2014 Gerald B. Gardner “year and a day” calendar is now available for order. Quote: “Since 2010, this unique calendar project has shared photos, news clippings and quotes from Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Eleanor Bone, Monique Wilson and Lois Bourne, covering five decades of Craft history.” If you’re of the Wiccan persuasion, it makes a neat gift. I’ve embedded a sample image above. For each calendar sold, a donation will be made to the Doreen Valiente Foundation, and England’s Museum of Witchcraft.
  • I recently pointed to photos of Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun’s visit to California, where he interacted with several local Pagans. Now, COG Interfaith Reports features a write-up from Don Frew and Rachael Watcher about the visit. Quote: “This first ceremony was for Tata to introduce himself to the spirits of this place – my home, the Bay Area, California – and to the spirits of the people who have lived here, especially of the various native tribes.  This was to be polite and make sure that there would be no resistance to the work he would be doing.” 
  • Congratulations to Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein on starting his own blog at the Huffington Post. Quote: “I plan to do a lot of speaking on this venue about life in New Orleans: our celebrations, our lifestyles, and the hardships we still suffer in the wake of Katrina, eight years later. But as a professional musician, I tour frequently, and speak about the things I see on the road.”
  • Pagan writer Jason Mankey is raising some money on IndieGoGo to fund his expenses for when he goes on the road this Spring. Quote: “Maybe you want to donate some cash because you enjoy Raise the Horns or like my workshops.  Perhaps you want to support one of the hardest working guys in all of the Pagan Blogosphere (that would be me).  I’ve been giving my all to greater Pagandom for the last several years and I want to be able to continue to do that without worrying about bouncing a check.” He’s raised $420 dollars of his $600 dollar goal so far. So if you appreciate his writing/speaking, send a few bucks his way.
  • The annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance was held this past Saturday in San Francisco. Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk noted after the event that it was “another beautiful Spiral Dance! Thanks, everyone, for the hard work, the creativity and the inspiration–dancers, musicians, altar builders, organizers, trance leaders, invocations, and of course, the indispensable cleanup crew!”

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

When the Sacred Harvest Festival was finished, the first thing I noticed while wandering through the airport was how strange it was that nobody was in a sarong. Or naked. Or drumming. It was a shock to my system, all these pants and suits.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival.

Even the babies drum at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Nels Linde.

Pagan culture is sensory, and visceral, and delightfully messy. Meeting times are announced with music, worship is celebrated with movement, and the body is displayed as a sign of reverence, an act of liberation, and an expression of joy. Spend a week in the woods with a parley of Pagans and you start to believe that this is how the world actually is.

It was the ordinary aspects of the Sacred Harvest Festival that charmed me the most. The ever-present hospitality from the festival presenters made me feel at home from the moment I arrived, and I was never without a plate of food or a cup of some fine beverage in my hand. I was greeted with kindness, curiosity, and excitement, and I had the distinct feeling that I was welcome and wanted. There was a keen sense of fellowship at this gathering from all directions, and it wasn’t just “Minnesota nice” either. It felt completely genuine, and without pretense.

While ritual plays an important part in the festival, it was the post-ritual drumming and fire-dancing that seemed to attract a great deal of engagement from the festival attendees. In conversation with Kenny Klein, another of the featured national guests, I learned that this shift of emphasis away from ritual and more toward drumming and dancing is becoming more common at Pagan gatherings across the country, which leads me to wonder if the conversations about praxis v.s. belief that periodically dominate the Pagan blogosphere are actually representative of what is happening within the Pagan community.

To know the Pagan community primarily through the internet is to miss out on a great deal of nuance and subtlety. Our digital text lacks the contours of our faces, the undertones of fragrance and sound that are present when we gather in the flesh. Pagans make interesting noises. We say things that make your head cock a little to the side. We have a way of combining sacred symbolism with the sardonic that can infuriate the pious and delight the irreverent. We are a fascinating mixture of the holy and the profane, sometimes flipping either definition on its head. And I love that about us.

This all only became clear by being at a festival for a full seven days. Immersion is the best way to learn a new language, and immersive Paganism is no different. Share a meal with someone from a different tradition and you’ll come to know the myriad of ways that you mirror one another. Pass a horn in person to someone who, online, you regularly disagree with and you just might begin forging a real and meaningful friendship in spite of your differences. I didn’t realize this before, but most of my interactions with Pagans have been lacking the very embodiment that so many of our theologies hold dear.

Pagan festivals are staging grounds for transformation, should one wish to engage that deeply. When done well, they foster a safe space to learn, to practice, to rejoice, to inspect, and to play. Sacred Harvest Festival provided this to me, and to many of those who joined me in workshops or at rituals. During my unPaganism workshop we broke apart our assumptions about what it means to be a Pagan. We talked about our Euro-centric tendencies, our assumptions about ritual, and even began to examine our own susceptibility to the us/them dynamics that plague other religious communities. We did this with grace, with kindness, and with an inquiry that I found to be quite refreshing.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

A youth workshop with Teo Bishop. Photo by Nels Linde.

There were others in attendance at the festival who had a challenging time feeling included by a community that feels so inclusive otherwise. The festival is in its 16th year, and there are many young people who have been coming to this gathering for their entire lives. I led a workshop for the youth, and found myself in conversation with them about their hopes for the festival and their desire for more youth-centered activities. They told me about a schism which took place in the community a few years back, and how before that time there was an entire portion of the festival grounds reserved exclusively for the youth. This “Youth Camp” provided kids the opportunity to camp away from their parents and to build a culture of their own. It was a cherished experience, and one that the Harmony Tribe youth miss very much.

In the grand scheme of things, our communities are young. Even those among us who reach back into the archives of history in search of an example are still a part of a relatively new community of religious practitioners. Our polytheist, or monist, or dualistic monotheist expressions are a mashup of the old and the new, and it is during events like Sacred Harvest Festival that we create the opportunities to re-examine our own definitions. We get a chance to look at what a Druid is, or a Witch, or a Hellenic, or a Hawaiian. Our skyclad dancing becomes a lovely metaphor: we show ourselves to one another; we allow ourselves to be seen, to be heard, to be known.

Festival culture is a petri dish, and the culture of a festival is enhanced and affected by each of the attendees. Sacred Harvest Festival feels very Wiccan-centric to a Druid who’s spent the past several years in community with reconstructionists, but this is not inherently a bad thing. My friend, Lamyka (Lahela MP Nihipali) reminded me during our unPaganism discussion that a core, central Pagan value — perhaps the most important one for us to remember — is pluralism. We need not forfeit our individual cultural traditions in order to take part in the greater Pagan community. We need not all become one thing in order to get along.

During this week in the woods I witnessed reconstructionists politely declining attendance at pan-Pagan rituals, siting religious reasons, and then I watched those same people engage in a different syncretic ritual because they found room within that particular ritual for their own cultural and religious interpretation. They found a way to both honor their own values and practices and observe a communal experience of celebration.

I find this flexibility to be a sign of great maturity, and an indication that the Pagan community has a bright future yet. If one among us can maintain her own sense of religious and cultural boundaries while still engaging in close, intimate contact with those of a very different perspective then there is evidence that we are not completely lost. We are not destitute, or fracturing beyond repair. We are not, as some blogging wars would have you believe, on the verge of meaninglessness.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

Ritual Space at Sacred Harvest Festival. Photo by Mike Bardon.

We are young. We are learning. We are, should we wish to be, capable of great things. We offer generously of ourselves. We demonstrate hospitality in the most remarkable ways. We love and honor our Gods, and we do our best to love and honor each other.

This is what I witnessed at Sacred Harvest Festival. This is what gives me hope about moving forward as a contemplative Pagan, a bard, and a perpetual seeker.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Pagan Radio Network

Pagan Radio Network

After 13 years of operation The Pagan Radio Network, one of the most prominent outlets for Pagan and Pagan-friendly music, shut down suddenly on July 21st. Owner Lew Wirt gave the following explanation for the sudden closure: “Not enough time, money, or energy to keep it up. I won’t bore you with a long-winded explanation, except to say that I attend college and raise a special-needs child. This leaves very little time or money to devote to my hobby of Internet broadcasting (as enjoyable as it was). Thank you for tuning in for nearly 13 years.” While there are other worthy streaming Pagan-oriented stations, few rivaled PRN’s size and scope, showcasing an amazing breadth of music. Currently, the domain names and IP are being auctioned off, and Wirt is recommending alternatives (plus new stations are popping up). As someone who had a show hosted on PRN, I’m saddened to see this essential resource go, and I wish Lew all the best in his future endeavors. Whether this is an isolated and personal development, or something that augurs a larger discussion on money and support within our communities is, I think, something that is still up in the air.

Dan Halloran

Dan Halloran

PaganSquare, the blogging portal hosted by Witches & Pagans Magazine, has added a new writer: Dan Halloran (who is going by Dan O’Halloran). Halloran, currently serving on the New York City Council, has been indicted in a massive political bribery scandal, and is facing trial sometime in 2014. While the matter of his guilt or innocence awaits due process, Halloran seems to be publicly re-embracing his Heathen beliefs (and the wider Pagan/Heathen community) by writing about Germanic polytheism. Quote: “Now it’s my turn to kick back in life after politics and discuss the things that matter to me from an academic and philosophical perspective. It may stir up some controversy… but that’s half the battle of ordeal, the crucible process of Wyrd. I’m looking forward to the journey….” I questioned editor Anne Newkirk Niven about bringing Halloran on board and she said that she was aware of his history, and was not looking to make any political statement by having him write for PaganSquare. That Halloran “just seemed to fill a gap in our PaganStudies section.” It should be interesting to see how Halloran’s new engagement with the Pagan community is received. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of Dan Halloran, here.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

This past weekend was the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon. As I said in my post this past Friday, it is a very Pagan and mythic event, and also boasted the first American performance for the Pagan-folk Netherlands band Omnia. On their official Facebook page, the band said they are “so very happy that the AMAZING audience here has such a strong reaction to our pure PaganFolk musick, seeing as it’s our first time here in the USA.” Meanwhile, featured workshop presenter T. Thorn Coyle said that she “had a grand time. Blessings of magic, mirth, and music to you.” Standout performances this year (aside from Omnia) included the mythic Pagan neo-folk of The Wicker Men, ethereal singer-songwriter Mariee Sioux, the transcendent world fusion of Stellamara, and a brief Kan’nal reunion featuring guitarist Tierro and singer Kurt Baumann. Also of note was the fact that American Pagan band Woodland officially released their new album “Secrets Told” and closed out the event on Sunday night. There’s a lot more to tell, and many more Pagans of note who participated (S.J. Tucker, for example, who, as always, was universally beloved), but suffice to say that this is an event that more Pagans should discover. Here’s the opening spiral dance for a small taste. Tons of photos at the official Faerieworlds page. [In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Faerieworlds, but I thought the festival was awesome even before I did.]

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing 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 let’s get started!

Teo Bishop & Cher

Teo Bishop & Cher

You may remember one year ago when rising Pagan figure Teo Bishop revealed he was also singer-songwriter Matt Morris, a 1990s Mickey Mouse Club alum who has collaborated with Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, among others. Well, Teo Bishop may be the first Pagan who can brag that he co-wrote a song for Cher, and that the song, “Woman’s World,” was performed on the season finale of NBC’s The Voice this week. Teo was in attendance at the taping, and has provided photographic evidence. Regarding this song, Bishop says that “the concept, lyrics & melody came from a Druid from Colorado,” and that he’s “a big believer in this message.” As for meeting Cher, and seeing her perform live, Bishop couldn’t hide his excitement, saying that he’s “on top of the world” and “I could just die and go to Gay Heaven.” As for the legendary Cher, this was her first television performance in over a decade, and is releasing a new album, “Closer to the Truth,” in September.

FishBird

FishBird

Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new band he’s started with Rachel Maxann, former lead singer of Elemental Groove Theory. The project, entitled “FishBird” is hoping to raise $3,100 dollars to finance a tour and recording their first album. Quote: “This summer FishBird will tour, going to Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York, where we will record several concerts to create a live CD. The CD will be professionally recorded, and well mastered, and will become commercially available as an indy recording. We need your help to defray our travel and production costs in order to to get the whole band from New Orleans to New York. There are great gifts for doing this, including hoolah hoops, original artwork, creepy dolls, and our undying eternal devotion.” They describe their sound as “dark jam-rock” and you can listen to some samples, here.

cuupsThe General Assembly (GA), the annual meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) started yesterday in Louisville, Kentucky, and that means it’s also time for the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) to have their annual meeting and hold elections. This year, for the first time since 2007, CUUPS will be hosting an official General Assembly Program on Saturday where they will invite GA registrants to a celebration of the Summer Solstice. For UU Pagans interested in attending the CUUPS Annual Meeting virtually, it will be held at 7pm (EDT) Saturday, and can be access via the AnyMeeting service. You can read more CUUPS-related news in their June monthly bulletin.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • A call for submissions has been issued by Beth Lynch to create a prayer and ritual book for the god Odin. Quote: “I am opening up submissions for Prayers to the Allfather (tentative working title), with a current deadline of June 30th, 2014 (though this may change, depending on how many submissions I get by then and how many of them I accept.  Ideally, I would like to have the book out by Martinmas (November 11th) 2014.  I will be publishing it via CreateSpace under the Wild Hunt Press imprint, with a Kindle version available as well.  I cannot offer royalties or free printed copies of the book, however each person whose work appears in it will receive a free pdf (electronic) copy.” You can find guidelines and more information, here
  • The final installment of a wide-ranging interview with Wiccan authors/teachers Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone is now up at PNC-Minnesota (I’ve previously referenced this series here, and here). Quote: “I am one of only five legal pagans in all of Ireland allowed to legally marry people. A legal solemnizer. I am on the health board as a hospital visitor. Ireland is a tiny island, but this is a major break through. Around 1982 Stewart  and I won the first witchcraft case in Ireland and changed the law which had made witchcraft illegal. It went to the high court in Dublin, and was given compensation because when “Eight Sabbats’ (A Witches Bible) came out a journalist called it devil worshiping, porn blasphemy. We won the entire case and were taken out be all the high court judges for a champagne reception.”
  • The deadline is quickly approaching for the matching challenge-gift given to Cherry Hill Seminary. The Pagan seminary announced earlier this month that a donor was willing to match up to $10,000 dollars in donations for a new scholarship endowment that would help students nearing completion of their Master of Divinity, to assist them with the expense of attending their required second intensive. So far $5596 has been raised, and the deadline is July 1st. You can find out more about the gift, including reactions from students and staff, here.  Those who wish to make a gift may do so online, or you can make a pledge of support. For further options, you can send a message to CHS@cherryhillseminary.org.
  • As mentioned in the latest installment of Pagan Voices, Teo Bishop is stepping down from the Solitary Druid Fellowship. However, this new initiative from Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) will not be ending, as Bishop explained in a recent post to the SDF website. Quote: “My stepping aside as the Organizer of the Fellowship allows for a great many other things to occur. There will be new SDF liturgists, and new blog posts about solitude from new authors, and there will be people reflecting on what it means to be part of this congregation in solitude. What has begun will continue, but in a new way. The Good Labor of those who step forward will bring forth new opportunities for reflection, meditation, and contemplation for this community of solitaries.”

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