Archives For Kerr Cuhulain

Cherry Hill SeminaryCOLUMBIA, S.C. — Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) has announced the launch of a new Community Ministry Certificate. In partnership with the Sacred Well Congregation, the new 15-month program is designed to lead to ministerial credentials. The program covers such topics as ethics, leading ritual, diversity understanding, family dynamics, addiction and more.

As we previously reported, CHS has recently found itself at a crossroads. Director Holli Emore has said, “Unpredictable cash flow has compromised our ability to be sustainable. The nature of the extended Pagan community, the economy, and even the very face of higher education have all changed dramatically in the past decade.”

Despite that struggle, the organization is continuing operation, keeping its commitment to students. The new ministerial program is part of that work. In a press release, CHS notes that they never offered this type of training before because, as they explain, times were different: “Most people belonged to covens, and some of those leaders advised CHS founders of a concern that students would leave their home group if they got training elsewhere. Now a large percentage of Pagans surveyed say that they are either solitary by choice or unaffiliated with a group for other reasons. Finally, most tradition training does not cover the topics taught at a seminary.”

Registration for the new program begins in November. In meantime, CHS has just launched a new survey to help gather input “in planning [their] programs so that they can best meet [the community’s] needs.”

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heathercooperPARKERSBURG, W.Va — It was announced that the city council of Parkersburg had a change of heart and has lifted the ban on fortune telling. The reversal to the July decision came Tuesday, surprising many locals. Heather Cooper, who had initially challenged the law, was there to witness the vote, and told a local journalist, “I figured it would be passed, but when they finally said it was passed we weren’t really sure that it was passed. We figured there would be a lot more to it. So we were like what?”

As we previously reported in June, Cooper had discovered that fortune telling was banned in the city. As a result, she was unable to fully operate Hawthorn, her new metaphysical store that focused primarily on tarot reading. When she challenged the old code, the city council upheld the ban. At the time, Cooper pledged to fight, launching a GoFundMe campaign that ended up raising $500 to cover legal retaining fees.

Then, this past Tuesday, the ban was dropped. We caught up with Cooper, and she briefly explained what happened to change the city’s mind. “The ACLU wrote them a letter, telling them it was unconstitutional. Parkersburg lost a lawsuit the last time the ACLU was involved over panhandlers. [The city] lost $80,000. The city attorney told them they had to pass it.”

Cooper added that it helped that she had already hired a lawyer, saying, “[My lawyer] was also talking to other city council members. City councilman Brown decided to change his vote from no to yes, which got the ordinance back on the agenda. From there the ACLU did the rest of the convincing. Sounds like they can be quite persuasive.”

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TWHThe Wild Hunt has begun its  annual Fall Fund Drive. Since 2004, The Wild Hunt has been serving its global readership with modern Pagan news and commentary. What began as an informative, community-minded blog has slowly and steadily grown into one of the most widely-read nonprofit online news magazines for modern Pagans, Witches, Polytheists, and Heathens in the world. Today, our reliable, independent news agency is made up of a 16-member team of reporters, columnists, and editorial staff, all of whom make sure that you receive relevant, well-crafted, original content every day of the week.

During our annual Fall Fund Drive, we ask that you help us continue to do that; to continue to be here for you every single day. We are grateful for the support you have already shown that has allowed us to come as far as we have. With your continued support, we’ll do our best to repay your generosity by expanding and growing our delivery.

For more on our fall campaign, the exciting perks, our future goals, and other fun TWH facts, go to our newly launched IndieGoGo campaign. And, while you are there, consider donating today and sharing the link. Support independent, nonprofit, Pagan journalism!

In Other News:

  • Norse Mythology blogger Karl E. H. Seigfried recently sat down with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. In that interview, Seigfried and Stein discuss a number of very current issues, one of which is her awareness of non-Abrahamic religions. In response to one question, she said, in part, that one of our contemporary challenges is”to find our common humanity and overcome the sense of fear, otherness, and divisions by embracing each other as members of the same human family. We may tell different stories, but that’s okay. Different stories are enriching the traditions of us all.” The entire interview is published on The Norse Mythology Blog.
  • The California-based Academy of Arcana, launched last year by Oberon Zell and several colleagues, is continuing its quest for more funding. In recent letter, board member Emrys Dragonseye said, “I pen this letter to you with a heavy mind, for there comes a time in all our lives when we reflect back upon the path that has led us to where we are today […] Sadly, we have seen too many of our revered elders pass through the veil in recent years as age and its accompanying trials continue to erode their mortality.” Dragonseye goes on to say that the Academy of Arcana’s new board is working “toward the goal of seeking out a means by which to preserve the Zell’s museum and library collections of Pagan archives and artifacts.” The board is calling to the Pagan community for assistance. In a second letter directly to The Wild Hunt, Dragonseye confirmed that this call to action has nothing to do with Zell’s own health. He said that Zell “is doing fine,” and only “a bit disheartened at watching so many of loved ones, friends, and close associates pass away.”
  • The New Mexico-based Ardantane Learning Center will be hosting a “Hate Crimes” two-part lecture series featuring Kerr Cuhulain. The event page explains, “People use misinformation to paint ugly and slanderous pictures of others to further their pursuit of power, influence, and prosperity. Kerr shares the lessons he learned dealing with hate crimes during the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s and his experiences with educating law enforcement and other public agencies about Pagan religions. This course is based on Kerr’s 25 years as a hate crimes investigator.” The two classes will be available online Oct. 16 and 23.

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  • Rev. Patrick McCollum and his work were recently featured in The Interfaith Observer. Written by Ruth Boyde Sharone, the article is titled, “An Instrument of Thy Peace” and focuses on his violin in advance of the upcoming UN International Day of Peace, Sept. 21. McCollum told The Wild Hunt, “I am so honored to have my work selected to represent this momentous occasion, and I hope to continue to shift the consciousness of the world to a new meta-narrative that promotes the truth that we are all family and that there isn’t an us versus them, there is only us.”
  • The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, located in Boscastle, England, will reportedly appear in a future episode of “Antiques Roadshow.” Museum managers Judith and Peter Hewitt took one of the artifacts to the show’s nearby filming event in hopes of it being used for the “Enigma Game.” The item was chosen and filmed for reportedly five minutes with the Hewitts in the background. The museum has posted several photos and more about that experience on its site.
  • In response to the continued actions and support for the Great Sioux Nation and the Standing Rock protests, blogger Melissa Hill felt compelled to publish her thoughts about the place of magic and meditation in this work. In Singing the Cricket Song for Standing Rock Tribe, Hill wrote, “[Magic] in no way replaces the physical work of the protesters. It doesn’t replace sending money and supplies, or contacting your governmental representatives, or signing petitions. But it does have a place.”

If you have news tips, events, or story suggestions, contact us.

13445578_488511431359897_8033680499354600496_nCalderaFest will be returning in 2017. The festival was a landmark event bringing together Pagan musicians from around the globe for four days of fun. Organizer David Banach said, “I decided to do CalderaFest again mostly because the first one was simply pure magic.” The 2016 festival was held in Lafayette, Georgia over May’s long Memorial Day weekend. Most attendees agreed that, despite the problems, CalderaFest was a unique and powerful experience .

Acknowledging that the various problems, Banach said, “I see them as opportunities to make the next one better.” He added that organizers will be making changes both big and small. “We are cutting back on the scale of things. Having 30 acts play on the stage in 3 days was a logistical challenge. Unfortunately, some set times and sound quality suffered […] We are going to reduce the number of vendors a bit and modify the vendor area so it is a more pleasing area for all. […] The stage is going to be slightly relocated. We will turn it almost 90 degrees to keep it out of the direct sun and to face it toward the vendors. We are also looking into a canopy for the front to provide shade for the audience.”  As for complaints about the heat, dirt and dust, he said, “We can’t control them, really we are taking steps to reduce their influence.”

One step to reducing that influence and perhaps the biggest event change is the scheduled date. The 2017 festival will be held in early October rather than late May. Banach said, “I was honestly concerned for the safety of some people. I, myself blacked out on Saturday.” Moving the date to autumn will eliminate the heat problem, as October is one of the most popular camping times in Georgia due to its mild temperatures.

Originally, the fest was moved to Labor Day weekend in late August. Banach explained, “We very quickly realized that was an error and we needed to correct it. First, the heat problem would be there, possibly worse. Second and mostly was its clash with Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I must have received 70 or 80 messages in 2 days myself about this.”  The festival is now scheduled for Oct 5-9, 2017 at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, GA.

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Michigan Pagan Scholarship

Michigan Pagan Scholarship

The Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund (MPSF) awarded its annual scholarship to Pete Ryland Shoda, III. Shoda is a graduate of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, and will be continuing his studies at Grand Rapids Community College and Northwestern Colleges. Shoda plans to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Operations.

Shoda’s essay, which is posted in full on the scholarship’s website, is titled, “What Being Pagan Means to Me.”  It reads in part, “Being Pagan means that I have a lot to live up to. The God’s [sic] and Goddesses are watching me, Mother Nature is watching me, and the wind is listening to me, carrying my spells, chants and requests to the Universe. Always helping, always taking care to leave a small mark, always being a good person to others, taking care of the Earth, giving back when I can. These are some of the things that being Pagan means to me.”

The Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund was created after the Tempest Smith Foundation closed its doors in 2014. In response, five organizations, including the Universal Society of Ancient Ministries, Magical Education Council, Pagan Pride Detroit, Witches of Michigan and Witches Ball, decided that the foundation’s scholarship program was vital to their community. The group came together to pick up the project and, since 2014, have been annually awarding the $500 scholarship to winners.

All recipients must be high school seniors, residents of Michigan and Pagan (or a child of Pagan parents). Fund Chairman Gordon Ireland said, “The Michigan Pagan Scholarship purpose is to recognize and encourage young Pagans. Only one scholarships is awarded each year, winners must demonstrate evidence of leadership, and engage in community service.”

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trothThe Troth announced the election of its new Steersman (President) and High Rede (Board of Directors). As noted in a press release, “Robert Lusch Schreiwer took his oath of office as Steersman at Trothmoot at Fort Flagler, WA, on Saturday, June 11.” Schreiwer is founder of the Urglaawe and is a Ziewer (godsman) of Distelfink Sippschaft, located in Pennsylvania. He has been serving The Troth as its Associate Steer under former Steersman Steve Abell.

The new Associate Steer is Lagaria “Gari” Farmer, who has been serving the Troth since 2006 as a Steward from Tennessee and has been serving on the High Rede since 2013. Both she, Lisa Morgenstern and John T. Mainer were all reelected to the High Rede for the coming term. Morgenstern is the Southern California Steward and a member of Hrafn Skjoldr Kindred. Mainer is the western Canada and Military Steward, and serves as Freyr of the Heathen Freehold. Mainer will also be the organization’s new communication officer.

New faces on the Rede include Joanna Spinks and Mikki Fraser. Spinks is the Assistant High Steward of western Pennsylvania, and the founder and leader of The Hearth Of Yggdrasil. Mikki is a godhi (godsman) and co-founder of Vargulf Kindred based in northern Nevada. Other Rede members, who were not up for election, include: Officer Liaison Amanda Leigh-Hawkins, Tanya Peterson, Hrafn Skald, ande Brian K. Jenkins.

We will be bringing you more about the Troth under its new management this week. 

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bucklandRaymond Buckland created a stir last week after weighing in on the hexing debate. In a public Facebook post, he wrote, “So very sorry to see so many people who call themselves ‘witches’ talking about hexing people. Just undoing all the work that we pioneers worked so hard to do.WITCHES DO NOT HEX PEOPLE; DO NOT DO NEGATIVE MAGIC – period! Send out love. Find a POSITIVE way to change someone, if you really feel that necessary. (I wouldn’t mind betting that these people haven’t got the power to hex the skin off a rice-pudding anyway!) In love and light — Ray Buckland.”

Almost immediately, Buckland’s post went “viral,” garnering both support and backlash. It was shared 611 times on Facebook alone and earned passionate commentary across social media. Only four hours after making that statement, Buckland followed up with this: “We all walk on different paths and must all be accountable for ourselves. I can only speak for what I have learned and what I teach. In the early days of the Craft in the U.S. a number of us worked long and hard to try to get rid of the misconceptions of witchcraft; the belief that witches worked evil magic and cast curses/hexes on others. To me it is a shame to see all that work being undermined in many ways. But I have spoken my piece. Perhaps it’s good that it has started a discussion?”

In Other News:

  • Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC), the Florida chapter of Covenant of the Goddess, is hosting a vigil for the victims of the Orlando attacks. In a Facebook event page, EMLC coordinators write, “Join the Witches and Wiccans of Everglades Moon Local Council as we hold space for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. We ask that people of all faiths join us to remember the victims and send loving, healing energies to their families and friends, and for our nation as a whole. We invite you to participate no matter where you are.”  Participants can join them from anywhere in the world. It will begin at 9 pm ET.
  • Pagan filmmaker and Wild Hunt writer Dodie Graham McKay has announced pre-production of a new 15-minute documentary project titled, “Starry Skies.” The film will feature amateur astronomer, Pagan author and teacher Kerr Cuhulain and highlight what the night sky looked like and what it meant in world without artificial light. With the help of Cuhulain, Starry Skies “will offer viewers an earthy version of [the Overview Effect], challenging us to restore our spiritual connection to our land and environment, by looking to the stars, and seeing them again for the profound markers of space and time that they are.” Graham McKay has received a grant from BravoFactual and hopes to begin production in August.
  • Other news out of Canada, Gaia Gathering has announced the location for its 2017 conference. It will be held at the Clarion Hotel in Calgary from May 19-22. The theme is “Rhythm and Flow.” Gaia Gathering is an biannual Canadian Pagan conference that moves from city to city and is held over the long Victoria Day weekend.

  • Immanion Press / Megalithica Books has announced a call for submissions for its new anthology titled Trans Pagan: Life at the Intersection of Faith and Gender. As noted on the website, “The vision for this anthology is to include a combination of academic and personally inspired pieces that explore the experience of transgender lives within a Pagan context.” The anthology editor is Deirdre Hebert, a transgender Pagan “whose writing career ranges from technical writing to radio news copy. She is the host of PaganFM – one of the longest-running Pagan podcasts and radio programs.” The submissions are due Sept 1.
  • The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall is already thinking about October. The museum will be hosting a conference on Oct 15 titled “A Day of Talks on Halloween Past & Present.” The event will be held at The Wellington Hotel in Boscastle and will celebrate the “2016 exhibition Glitter & Gravedust exhibition. Speakers include: Ronald Hutton, Judith Noble, Louise Fenton, Tommy Kuusela, Bekki Shining Bearheart, Dorothy L. Abrams and Mogg Morgan. Tickets are already on sale.

 

 

TAOS, NM — After four hours of deliberation a Taos jury found 51-year-old West Virginia native Ivan Dennings Cales Jr. guilty of the murder of Roxanne Houston and of tampering with evidence. During the investigation as was brought forward during the trial, the state found data and gathered testimonies, suggesting that the accused may have been on a modern day Witch hunt.

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

[Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn /Wikipedia]

Houston, a Wiccan practitioner from Colorado, disappeared in July 2014 after moving to New Mexico. Her body was found by a hiker near the “Two Peaks area” in December of that same year. According to a local news agency, “Elizabeth Hagerty said she was walking with her husband, Robert, and their two dogs when one canine began rolling on what appeared to be a burnt part of a brassiere.” Police later identified the body as Houston’s and launched an investigation.

Prior to her 2014 disappearance in New Mexico, Houston’s life was reportedly complicated and unstable. According to her estranged ex-husband George Houston, Roxy, as she was called, was bi-polar and had been off medication for quite some time. She has four children, who all live with adoptive parents, and was frequently moving between relationships.

In June 2015, Mr. Houston, a non-Pagan, laments his own involvement and failures to help his wife. In a public Facebook post, he demonstrates his continued affection for her, despite their past problems. He pledged to fight for justice in the courts.

As the story goes, Roxy reportedly left Colorado in 2013 with a boyfriend, and arrived in Carson, NM. The couple camped for some time and, eventually, moved into a home with several other male housemates. She lived at that location until her death.

Houston was last seen hiking in June 2014, but her body wasn’t discovered for six months. Then, after a long investigation, Cales was found living at a local shelter and arrested Feb 23, 2015. The Taos Sheriff’s office noted that this case was particularly difficult because many of the involved parties were “transients,” including Cales, who had only arrived in New Mexico in April 2014.

In a post on the Rainbow Gathering Family site, Cales described himself as a survivalist, and includes “loves the outdoors. open minded. non drug user. native American beliefs.” In 1999, he renounced his American citizenship in an AIM forum titled, “The American Indian Movement” on the basis that the government was illegal. He reportedly met Houston when he moved into the residence where she was living.

During the March trial, Cales’ cellmate Raymond Martinez reportedly testified that Cales actually claimed “Native American” heritage and connected that fact to his motivation to kill Witches. He reportedly said that he was on a “witch-hunt” and that Houston was a Witch. As the local paper reports:

He testified Cales drew pictures of a witch hunt […] He said Cales told him he was Native American, and that Native Americans believed if a witch cast a spell on them, they needed to kill the witch to break the spell. Artwork that looked like pencil sketches of a witch hunt — done in jail and presumably signed by Cales as “Kwenishguery Manito Lenepe Witch Hunter 2000”— were exhibited in the courtroom as evidence.

Another witness Thomas Thebo reportedly testified that Cales said, “If a Wiccan ever cast a spell on him, he would have to kill the witch to get rid of the spell.” We reached out to the Lenape Nation for a reaction to the testimony, but did not get a response back by publication time.

In a number of media interviews, Cales’ defense attorney Thomas Clark calls the Witchcraft testimony “nonsense.” Before the trial began, he filed a motion to have these documents and the Martinez testimony removed from the case. The motion was denied. All evidence pointing to the Witch hunt was included.

District attorney Donald Gallegos also suggested that Cales was in love with Houston, making the alleged Witchcraft accusations simply a mask. In his public post asking for prayers, Houston’s ex-husband also suggested that there may have been a love triangle. But Gallegos also reminded reporters, “the unrequited love and the witch theories are just that — theories. However, he and his staff are sure that Cales is Houston’s killer.”

Houston was given what was called a “New Age, mystic, pagan service” funeral. Her boyfriend and other roommates did not attend. We reached out to several local Pagans in the region, but did not get a response by publication time.

While Roxy’s mental illness was well-known and led to instability, she was remembered fondly by the few that knew her. As reported in the news, “several local residents […] remembered her for the compassion she is said to have demonstrated towards neighbors. Houston reportedly worked as a caretaker for one neighbor and is also said to have lent a hand distributing food to Carson area residents.”

Upon learning the guilty verdict, Houston’s friend Cheryl Bailey Payne wrote a note to the Taos Sheriff’s office, saying “Thank you from the bottom of not only my, but my daughter’s, and Roxanne’s sister’s hearts – RIP Roxanne – we love you!!”

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Although Houston’s case was not labeled a hate crime, the concerns over such aggression and violence directed at Witches and other minorities do loom in the background for many. Ardanane Learning Center, located in New Mexico, will be running an online two-part seminar dealing specifically with the subject of “Hate Crimes.”

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Over those two days, instructor and former investigator Kerr Cuhulain will “share the lessons he learned dealing with hate crimes during the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s and his experiences with educating law enforcement and other public agencies about Pagan religions.” The classes will take place on March 26 and April 2.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” — Vincent van Gogh

There once was a time when earlier generations could look up at the night sky and they were able to observe the cosmos in its entire splendor. The depth and range of the stars were obvious, far beyond what we can see today. Our ancestors created art, philosophy, religion and culture based on how they perceived themselves in the universe. This was inspired by what they could witness in the night sky. Somewhere along the way we lost this vision, our perspective was blurred and diminished. This change was brought about by the constant presence of artificial light, generously and carelessly spilled upwards, into the heavens, drowning out the beacons of light that once guided us.

Over exposure to artificial light has been linked to various health issues, from sleep disorders to depression. Human beings tend to have a natural inclination to soft, warm light, such as the cozy glow of candles, or crackling campfires, yet we overwhelm our communities with the blaring glare of spotlights, electronic billboards and flashing marquees.

Author & astronomer, Kerr Cuhulain. Photo courtesy of Kerr Cuhulain

Author & astronomer, Kerr Cuhulain. [Courtesy Photo]

How can we reclaim the night sky and our primal connection to it? Canadian Pagan author and teacher, Kerr Cuhulain, explored this question. Cuhulain has been a high profile and active member of the Canadian Pagan movement for more than 40 years.

Also known as Detective Constable Charles Ennis, he retired from a long career in law enforcement in 2013. He served as a police officer for the Vancouver Police Department and as a police dispatcher. Often, his commitment to the Pagan community blended with his professional career. He was actively involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crime investigations on behalf of the Pagan community since 1986.

When Cuhulain retired from his career, all of his newly discovered free time had to be re-applied to something. He soon discovered that this freedom provided him with an opportunity to devote more time to one of his passions – astronomy. So he chose to become involved in the creation of something special – the building of an observatory.

Cuhulain said, “I joined the Sunshine Coast Centre (SCC) in 2013. The observatory construction had commenced in 2012. I participated in the building of the observatory, and when I became president of the SCC in December 2014 I presided over the completion of the observatory, the grand opening, and the subsequent training of Qualified Operators and the start of public viewing sessions.”

The Sunshine Coast Centre Observatory. Photo by Kerr Cuhulain

The Sunshine Coast Centre Observatory. Photo by Kerr Cuhulain

The Sunshine Coast Centre is a community group located at the Sunshine Coast Regional Airport near Wilson Creek on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. It has been recognized by the acclaimed Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a national astronomy organization consisting of thousands of members, offering programs and events from coast to coast. When the observatory opened June 27, 2015, people came from far and wide for a look through the telescope. Cuhulain saw the effect that this experience had on the curious visitors.

He said, “On the day of our grand opening we had a ‘First Light’ ceremony where the public came to see the night skies. Some foreign students were brought to the SCC Observatory by one of our members who is a grade 9 science teacher. One of the young men, an Iraqi, came to me just as we were about to close up for the night and put his hands on my shoulders and said, ‘This has been the most amazing night of my life. I will never forget this night.’ And I smiled and thought: That’s why we built this observatory.”

Astronauts who have viewed our planet from space report a phenomenon known as “The Overview Effect”. This euphoric sensation is a cognitive shift in awareness caused by actually seeing the Earth for what it is, in space. This revelation creates a spiritual awakening, and the space traveler comes to realize that the borders and conflicts that separate us are just not worth it. Our small blue planet is just a dot in an unimaginably vast sea of stars, and that we must protect and preserve it. According to Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell, You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.”

For those of us who won’t be traveling into outer space anytime soon, visiting an observatory will be as close as we can get to experience this effect. Cuhulain agreed and has similar ideas about how the experience can enrich our lives. He said, “It helps you get yourself back into synchronization with the natural cycles of the days, seasons, and years, back into connection with the universal energy around you. A lot of modern illnesses arise from disruption of circadian rhythms and this connection helps you get back into a healthier lifestyle. It teaches you to respect what we got here on this Earth because you can see the vast forces at work around us and how fragile a balance we have here.”

The Milky Way. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Milky Way. [Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

The Sunshine Coast Centre promotes the concept that appreciation and wonder of the night sky is a natural human heritage. As a species, human beings are drawn to stare up at the stars, so how disconnected are we from the night sky? Are we living in an age when we just don’t know what is up there?

Cuhulain fields all kinds of questions from visitors to the observatory. To the above question, he said: “One of the most common questions I get asked when people contact me to set up observatory sessions is: ‘What nights of the year can you see things?’ They ask this because 2/3 of the world’s population can no longer see the night sky due to light pollution caused by artificial light at night. They can no longer see the night sky that was a glory to our ancestors and thus have no idea how much there is to see up there any clear night. People come to these sessions and ask: ‘What is that glowing cloud in the sky?’ I tell them it is their home, the Milky Way galaxy. Seeing the sky gives you a completely different perspective regarding your place in this universe and the importance of respecting this tiny world we live on.”

The problem of alienation from the stars may be worse than we are even aware, because most of us are used to seeing the night sky washed out by light pollution. This has become normal to our urban eyes. Luckily, this form of pollution is reversible, all we need to do is turn off the lights. The International Dark-Sky Association recommends that we all take initiative to reduce light pollution, by only using artificial light when absolutely necessary, using energy efficient bulbs, shielding outdoor lights, using motion detector lights and timers and keeping blinds down at night so that interior light doesn’t spill outside. The benefit of this, as Cuhulain describes, is a new perspective:

He said, “If your perspective of the universe around you is the glare of street lights and billboards, revealing landscapes imprisoned in steel, glass, and concrete, your perspective of the world is confined and your universe a small one. If your perspective of the universe is a clear view right out to the edge of the observable universe, your perspective is unconfined and open to endless possibilities. Our SCC Observatory opens people’s eyes to the size and splendor of their universe and gives people back that perspective”

Visitors to the observatory get up close to the telescope. Photo courtesy of Kerr Cuhulain

Visitors to the observatory get up close to the telescope. [Photo courtesy of K. Cuhulain]

How far can we see into space from Earth? What access to the stars and planets can an average person get without use of a space ship? If you can get your hands on a decent telescope, make your way to an observatory like the one at the Sunshine Coast Centre, and take in a presentation like the one Cuhulain hosts, you may be amazed.

Cuhulain said, “When I do public presentations I ask for a show of hands for the question: ‘How many of you have taken the time to watch the moon rise?’ Typically less than half of the people put their hand up. I then ask them: ‘How many of you have taken the time to watch the moon rise on another planet?’ This typically results in a lot of puzzled stares. And I tell them: “I’m the guy with the telescope, remember? I’ve watched the moons rise on Jupiter and Saturn, and you can too.”

If you would like to see how serious light pollution is in your area, check out NASA’s Blue Marble Navigator.  And remember to give yourself a break from artificial light, and remember to look up and seek the stars.

For many pagans, books are the gateway to knowledge. They are our first teachers of magic and offer a new world of esoteric lore and knowledge. If you enter the home of just about any modern pagan you will no doubt find a bookshelf (or many bookshelves!) piled high with books written by English authors such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente or the Farrars. There will no doubt be more than a few by high profile American writers, names like Margot Adler, Isaac Bonewits and Scott Cunningham or maybe the more contemporary Orion Foxwood or Christopher Penczack. Both Britain and the United States both have successful and high profile publishers of pagan books, Minnesota based Llewellyn Worldwide LTD. being easily one of the most prominent. But north of the border, up in Canada, a growing number of writers are finding their way into print and injecting a Canadian influence into the pagan publishing world. But does being from Canada influence pagan writing?

Kerr Cuhulain, Grand Master and founder of a Wiccan order of Knighthood called the Order of Paladins and author of several books including “Pagan Religions, a Diversity Training Guide “and “Full Contact Magick” had this to say about being Canadian:

Kerr Cuhulain

Kerr Cuhulain 

“I think that it’s given me the opportunity to stand outside of the US and UK Pagan communities and observe what they do. I’ve always been more interested in doing what works than doing what is traditional.”

Lady Sable Aradia, author of the newly published “The Witches Eight Paths to Power: A Complete Course in Magick & Witchcraft adds:

“I’m very proudly Canadian. We are products of our culture and environment, and I think that our particular style of understatement and ability to laugh at ourselves is one of my strengths as a writer. Being Canadian also puts me outside of a lot of the politics of North American Paganism, which allows me the luxury to comment on them from the position of an observer in many ways.”

But are Canadians really different from our American neighbours? Aside from spelling some words differently (yes, we spell it neighbours.) and pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet as zed, not zee, Canadians are culturally different as well.

Brendan Myers, a prolific pagan Canadian writer, with more books under his belt than many people read in a year, had this to say about cultural differences between Canada and the US:

Dr. Brendan Myers

Dr. Brendan Myers

“… Canada is really a fringe country. We may be a rich, developed, industrialized nation, with the world’s second-biggest playground, but we’re not very populous, nor especially influential in world affairs. Standing in the shadow of our larger neighbour to the south, we are easily overlooked, or assumed to be culturally the same as that larger neighbour. Our history is not that of a conquering empire-builder, except perhaps by proxy of two of our founding nations, England and France. What is more, Canada arguably has no national mythology. One can easily point to other countries with big stories like “The American Dream”, or “The French Revolution”; these stories might be objectionable, they might have dark sides, and they may even be illusions, but they are definitely glamorous. We Canadians have no equivalent. A transcontinental railroad, a national public health care service, “peace, order, and good government”, and other “Canadian dreams” we’ve had over the centuries, don’t really deliver the same glamour. Ours is a wholesome but boring national brand. (Mind you, that might be okay.)

In that respect, as a Canadian writer, I find myself pulled in two directions. In one way, I want to write something that shows I come from a truly independent and unique nation, a distinct society (know what I mean?), and that we’re not just Americans with funny woolen hats. But in the other way, I want to write something that non-Canadians might still find interesting, and I worry that painting my stuff in red Maple leaves will turn people off.”

One of the biggest challenges for Canadian writers trying to get published is the lack of a big name publisher of pagan books in our own country. So how do these books make it to bookstore shelves? Response to this was varied between these three authors and all answers revolve around our close proximity of our neighbours to the south. Carving out our own distinct Canadian paganism is a tough one when so much of our culture, both pagan and mainstream, is overshadowed by the United States. So, is it hard to get published?

Sable:

“I would have to say not in my experience, actually. At least, not as long as you’re willing to deal with American publishers. The truth is that with such a big market just south of us, it’s very difficult for an independent Canadian arts scene to develop, and I would say that the Pagan market is more difficult still since it’s so small.”

Brendan:

“There are very few Canadian publishers who will carry a book about paganism in their catalogue. All the publishers I’ve ever worked with have been based in England or the USA. Publishers outside Canada often assume that no one outside of Canada will be interested in a Canadian perspective. I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that writers in countries with larger populations, richer economies, and empires in their history, don’t need to worry about that. They benefit from a macro-economic and geo-political privilege, and a glamorous national mythology, which allows them to reach an international audience with a lot less effort.”

Kerr:

“I do not find it to be a problem at all. I’ve a large audience in the US, so it is pretty easy to find publishers for my works.”

As a former police officer/dispatcher and former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagan professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians), Kerr’s books reflect a Warrior spirit so often perceived from the outside of United States paganism through the work of groups like Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League or Order of the Pentacle.

Brendan’s books come from his academic background. Dr. Brendan Meyers earned his Ph.D in philosophy at the National University of Ireland, and now serves as professor of philosophy at Heritage College, in Gatineau, Quebec. His philosophy background informs his pagan writing. This theme of academia is also reflected by other Canadian writer/academics such as Shelley Rabinovich Ph.D (The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism (with James Lewis, and ‘An Ye Harm None’: Magical Ethics and Modern Morality (with Meredith Macdonald), and Sian Reid Ph.D (Between the Worlds: Readings in Contemporary Paganism)

What resources exist to promote sales and expose writers to new readers? Canada is a huge country; 9,984,670 square kilometers (3,855,101 square miles) stretching from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east, yet the population is just over 35 million, less than the state of California. Our pagan population is thinly and widely scattered. In this dispersion is a sense of camaraderie and support that is essential for our combined success:

Brendan:

“I get excellent support from the Canadian public, and I’m very grateful for it. I’ve attended pagan events to promote my work in seven out of ten provinces now. The administration of the college where I work has supported my publishing efforts: even the Director General, my most senior manager, read Loneliness and Revelation.” 

Kerr:

“Most of the members of my Order of Paladins are Canadian. I just got back from teaching at PanFest in Edmonton. The support is there, I’m happy to say.”

Sable:

Sable Aradia

Sable Aradia

“Well, my local community has certainly been supportive! And the shop owners I’ve contacted through Western Canada have generally welcomed me with open arms. There’s a strong East/West divide so I don’t think many people have heard of me on the other side of the country yet, but I think there’s a general “us Canucks gotta stick together” sentiment, and I know that the friends I made at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in Montreal in 2010 have been making a great effort to spread the word. So, I would have to say that I feel very supported!”

Taking advantage of this support, Sable Aradia is about to embark on a book tour of western Canada. The tour will span four provinces, no small feat as it can take six to twelve hours to get from one city to another. Packed in her van will also be musical equipment as Sable is an accomplished singer and musician. She will also be doing house concerts to help supplement her travels. Her adventures started off close to home so far and she had this to say about how it is going:

“It’s off to a good start! I started in my hometown of Vernon, BC for the book launch and I sold out. The following weekend I went to Nelson, Castlegar, Enderby and Kelowna for World Goddess Day. This weekend I was at a Kelowna bookstore and a metaphysical store in Penticton (all towns in the province of British Columbia). Then at the end of the month I’m heading eastward.”

T. Scarlet Jory

T. Scarlet Jory

For books with very distinct regional flare, T.Scarlet Jory has released “Magical Blend: Book of Secrets (BOS)” and “Magical Blend: Book of Spells & Rituals (BOS) (Volume 2)”. These books celebrate landmark Le Melange Magique/The Magical Blend, a pagan shop in Montreal Quebec. This shop, which sadly has closed its doors, served customers in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. It was known for its selection of in-house made teas, bath salts, incense and more.

Scarlet reminisces: “When the store’s physical location closed and the reference books of shadows developed by all the staff suddenly were no longer available to the public, I felt it was important to compile them and print them. That way everyone can access them again. The knowledge is a collection of gems from dozens of experienced staff members who helped the community.”

One curious book, written in 1989 by Kevin Marron, a reporter from The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, “Witches, Pagans & Magic in the New Age” was the story of the people he met while investigating allegations of Satanic ritual abuse (remember the Satanic Panic folks? It happened in Canada as well!). While not a pagan himself, Marron provides a rare and sympathetic peek at the Canadian Pagan scene in the late 1980’s.

Many other voices have contributed to recording the story of Canadian Paganism. Some of the books may be harder to find, and unlikely to show up in foreign book or occult shops, but have value and interest to Pagans everywhere. The rise of e-readers and online shopping may put a Canadian book in your own collection soon.

Officers of Avalon, a non-profit benevolent association for Pagan and Wiccan law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical personnel and their families, has elected Peter Dybing as its new president starting on October 1st. On hearing the news, Dybing commented that “for me this is a great oppertunity to build on and add to the successes of this trusted Pagan organization.” The outgoing president, Kimberley “Windwalker” Long-Ewing, wished Dybing and the rest of the incoming governing board the best, and thanked all Officers of Avalon members “for the opportunity to serve”. Past OoA Presidents, also called Preceptor Generals, have included individuals like Kerr Cuhulain, author of “Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training”, and a longtime debunker of Satanic Panic “occult experts.”

Peter Dybing

While a long-time participant in the modern Pagan community, Dybing, a trained EMT and volunteer firefighter, first gained widespread public attention for his efforts on-the-ground in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, giving us a Pagan perspective of what was going on there. He would go on to volunteer in the Gulf during the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and in August of 2010 was elected First Officer of Covenant of The Goddess for 2011.

“I wanted to serve the Covenant, they do some really wonderful things in terms of interfaith work, public information work, and people doing work in prisons. There’s some great things [COG does] I want to support. I think it’s really important because we’ve made so many inroads over the years that those things continue to get our support.”

Dybing’s tenure as First Officer was marked by its expansive outreach to, and engagement with, the Pagan community. During that year he publicly commented on a variety of hot-button issues, and led an initiative that raised $30,000 dollars for Japan earthquake assistance.

“This project also represents an important moment in Pagan history. Working together across intrafaith boundaries this community has demonstrated the maturation that has occurred over the past few decades. We have established that we are an effective and unified religious community that can respond to world events, take action when necessary and work together in support of achievable goals. Gone is the quietly whispered sentiment that Pagans do not work together or that Pagans do not give to charity.”

It seems certain that Dybing will bring his style of hands-on engagement to Officers of Avalon, an organization of first responders who will no doubt appreciate his “act now” activist impulses. One can also hope this signals a new era of growth and engagement for this organization. My congratulations to Dybing, and to the other board members that were elected.

Back in November I wrote a post about the remaining “occult crime experts” that still travel the country informing local law enforcement, parents, and community leaders about the “evil” that lurks within their neighborhoods. That particular post singled out retired police officer (and occult “expert”) Don Rimer. Rimer was singled out in the past by Kerr Cuhulain (himself a former police officer) as someone with a decidedly mixed track record of being fair and accurate.


Don Rimer

“I believe that Rimer is sincere … I think that he is making some effort to properly define Wicca to selected audiences. I think that he is doing this because he knows that people like me are watching and he is concerned about liability. I don’t believe for a minute that he knows the difference between Neo-Pagan religions and Satanism. Rimer has said that he is willing to listen and learn and I will endeavor to educate him.”

After my post Rimer appeared to defend his reputation in the comments section.

“I teach parents the warning signs. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I teach law enforcement about the rituals. If that is fear, yes I teach fear … I will continue to teach, consult, and investigate Ritual Crime as long as those crimes are committed. I provide that service to local, state, and federal agencies across the United States and Canada.”

Since then he has popped up now and then to take issue with how I report on a story.

“You have written about me before, accusing me of hating Wiccans. Wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Well here we go again. WAVY in Virginia reports on the “vampires” in our midst, and guess who pops up as an “expert” in all things evil and vampiric? You guessed it!

“With the advent of Twilight and TrueBlood, we’re seeing people, not just children, not just teenagers, but people are starting to take on that kind of a lifestyle,” says [Don] Rimer. “Very reminiscent of what people did when Ann Rice wrote Interview with a Vampire . Now people are playing games.  New games are coming out. There’s new merchandising that is associated with this and as long as they play their games and conduct their behavior lawfully, no one has a problem with that, but we’re having crimes associated with it.”

The text really doesn’t do justice to the sensationalistic television segment, complete with strange camera angles, spooky lighting, fog, and sound effects. Rimer goes on to depict a couple high-profile crimes as connected to the vampire craze, and inserts only the barest whisp of a disclaimer regarding the millions of people who enjoy vampire-themed media or participate in the vampire subculture/lifestyle and don’t commit horrendous crimes.

“Like in any society, we have good and evil. There are people involved in that that have no intention of committing crimes and then those who do.”

After that CYA (cover your assets) moment, he quickly veers back into how dangerous the vampire life is.

“There are people in that culture (who) believe they have the right to take human blood by whatever means necessary.  Then others are just playing a game. It’s just a game. It’s a movie, it’s a book and we just want to look that way. We’re just going to go to a club, but there’s all kinds and children getting involved in that don’t know the difference.”

Oh, and like all occult “experts”, Rimer gives the vague checklist of “warning signs”. Wearing black, writing backwards, strange new friends, “dark” make-up, and the number “7” (which he claims is the vampiric number). The kind of list that gives parents the excuse they need to ship their children off to boarding schools, and not face that the problem could be with them, not their kids. I’m not saying that the occasional occultist loon-bat doesn’t occasionally pop a gasket and do something horrible, but these “trends” of occultic crimes are all correlation without causation (and very often have very mundane motivations behind them). In fact, many “occult” crimes could have just as easily been “crazy Christian” crimes if the troubled souls in question had picked up a Bible instead of “Twilight”. Yet you don’t see retired police officers traveling the country informing people of the hazardous effects of improper Bible-reading, giving lists of Christian “warning signs” (prays a lot, starts quoting the Bible randomly, sees demons), and intoning darkly about the dangers of unsupervised Bible study.

By linking troubled teens and isolated crimes with any vague occult angle they cand find, ritual crime experts create a comforting fantasy world of a pervasive directed evil that can be fought. It is a narrative that says “if only we can prevent our children from reading/watching media concerning vampires/werewolves/the occult then we will be safe”. But like all fantasies it isn’t true. Horrible things still happen. They happen even when you remove all troubling literature and occult-laced media from the public eye. It is a fact that the remaining “ritual crime experts” fear to engage with, because they’d be out of a job if all of this was believed to be truly random and had more to do with isolated cases of mental illness than with what movies these people watch. No doubt Don Rimer will be along in the comments shortly to tell me how wrong I am…

A surviving remnant of the bad-ol’ “Satanic Panic” days are the “occult crime experts” who travel the country speaking in various small towns to law enforcement groups, school boards, and various churches. Spreading misinformation, sowing unwarranted fear of teen subcultures, and presenting isolated “ritual” crimes as part of a larger evil occult underground. A paper in Danville, Illinois gives unquestioning press-release coverage of just such an “expert”.

“Teenagers who like techno-rock music may sometimes be confused with teens fully into the “goth” look and music, Don Rimer pointed out to a group of 90 people who attended his “Ritual Crime & the Occult” seminar Wednesday in Danville … Rimer, an internationally recognized authority on the expanding youth sub-culture that embraces the occult, is a retired Virginia Beach police officer who now consults with agencies faced with bizarre ritual crimes. He also speaks to schools, churches, civic groups and professional organizations around the country, pointing out dangers teenagers face when they begin to dabble in the occult. Rimer told the group there are many signs teens display that can warn parents their child is feeling disassociated from his or her peers and ripe for recruitment by an array of predators who call themselves vampires, Satanists or any number of other occult followers.”

Gods forbid your child slides down the slippery slope from “techno-rock” (a term I have never heard a young person use) into “goth”! He or she would be a sitting duck for occult vampire Satanic predators! Rimer claims that kids who aren’t involved in “sports teams, church groups and other organizations” are especially endangered (I’m truly surprised the vampires didn’t get me). As for Rimer, it just so happens that he has had an initially good, but increasingly chilly and hostile relationship with modern Pagans. Kerr Cuhulain, a former police officer, who has spent a lot of time highlighting these “experts”, spoke with several Pagans unhappy with Rimer’s presentations.

“I have heard him speak and he does not, repeat does not like Wiccans. He thinks everything that is not Christian is Satanic and he does not like being corrected. I’ve tried to correct him in several talks that he had given locally and he does not appreciate being corrected, because he finds Satanism in everything that he does, including pentacles. He thinks pentacles are the work of Satan, and if you wear one, you are a Satanist. He is considered an ‘expert’ around here on occultism and the powers that be around here like calling him in to identify items found at crime scenes or in teen’s bedrooms as Satanic. He is almost becoming a one trick pony in that he finds what he seeks.”

The problem with these “experts” is that their misinformation can help create the very chaos they claim to want to prevent. A parent who once tolerated their son or daughter’s exploration of non-Christian faiths could quickly turn hostile once they are convinced that such activities are part of some sort of occult criminal conspiracy (not to mention the danger of local out Pagans being branded as “predators”). When joined with school officials and local law enforcement who believe the same thing, you soon have a self-fulfilling prophecy of alienation and suicidal thoughts. Rimer, in his obsession with all things “Satanic”, carries an infectious plague of intolerance and fear wherever he goes.