Archives For Merrymeet

This year, the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) held its annual business meeting, Grand Council, in the southern city of Atlanta, Georgia. The meeting was sponsored by Dogwood Local Council (DLC), the Atlanta-based chapter for the national organization. The two-day meeting is the center-piece of a full four-day conference event called MerryMeet.

green-faiths-3atrans

Before I continue, I must divulge my affiliation with the organization and event. I have been a CoG member for years, and I am currently serving as its National Public Information Officer (NPIO) – a position that I will hold until Samhain 2014. Often when I speak publicly about CoG, it is in an official capacity as NPIO. What I share below is my own personal reflections. Additionally, I happened to also be one the event planners.

This year, the bulk of the MerryMeet conference was held at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia, selected partly for its exceptional green space. The 2014 theme was “Standing on Common Ground,” which reflects both the organization’s attention to interfaith or intrafaith work, as well as its spiritual and practical focus on the Earth – our literal “Common Ground.”

The four day conference opened, as it typically does, with a daylong leadership institute. This year’s topic was the expanding interfaith movement. Over 40 attendees met at the beautiful Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in Roswell to participate in discussions led by leaders in interfaith work.

Interfaith Panel at MerryMeet 2014 [Photo Credit: HGreene]

Interfaith Panel at MerryMeet 2014 [Photo Credit: HGreene]

The morning Pagan-only panel consisted of CoG inferfaith representatives Don Frew, Rachael Watcher, M. Macha Nightmare (Aline O’Brien) as well as special guest Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary. In the afternoon, they were joined by Garth Young (Buddhist), Cliff Trammel (Jewish), Carl McCollum (Catholic), Syndey Linquist (New Thought Christian), and Iraj khodadoost (Baha’i).

Both panel discussions began with introductions, relevant stories and questions on general interfaith work. However, the conversations slowly gravitated to the intersection of the interfaith and environmental movements. What role does or should faith play in protecting our ecosystem and how can the interfaith movement support that role? *

Several of the panelists lamented that their interfaith work is frequently kept separate from their environmental concerns. However, Frew relayed a story on how the 1990s global focus on the environment led to a greater interest or support for Nature-centered religions within the international interfaith world. Unfortunately, that interest waned after 9/11. However, Frew added that now the attention appears to be shifting back once again.

In the afternoon, Garth Young, a Buddhist, brought the discussion down to a personal level and said, “Caring for myself is caring for the Earth. Caring for the Earth is caring for myself.” In the end, the panelists all agreed that Earth care is and should be at the forefront of the interfaith movement because, as the theme states, the Earth is our common ground.

Heron  Pond at Chattahoochee Nature Center [Photo by: AmberMoon]

Heron Pond at Chattahoochee Nature Center [Photo by: AmberMoon]

Outside of Earth stewardship, the panel spent a longtime discussing the obstacles of interfaith work. What are the walls that prevent “bridge building” toward interfaith understanding? Cliff Trammel, representing Judaism, noted that his biggest obstacle is fear. “Will I be accepted or represent my faith well?” He added that, in letting go of expectations and personal anxiety, he is able to bring down those walls and listen to others. All the speakers agreed and shared their own experiences with confronting personal fear.

Before and after the panel discussions, attendees had the opportunity to go out into nature and explore the literal “common ground.” For those guests that didn’t want to brave the 90 degree temperatures, the CNC treated them to an animal encounter. The wildlife rehabilitation manager brought a Merlin falcon into the meeting room and answered questions about raptors and other native species of Georgia.

The very next morning, Grand Council began. Working by consensus, CoG representatives from around the country convened to discuss all manners of business from internal organization, external works, policies and the voting of next year’s officers.

CoG National Board 2014-2015.  Front Row: Stachia Ravensdottir, Lady Emrys. Back Row: Zenah Smith, Jack Prewett, XXXX, Kathy Lezon, Lady Annabelle, Cat Perron, Lady Mehurt.

CoG National Board 2014-2015. Front Row: Stachia Ravensdottir, Lady Emrys. Back Row: Zenah Smith, Jack Prewett, Gordon Stone, Kathy Lezon, Lady Annabelle, Cat Perron, Lady Mehurt.

This year’s meeting resulted in two landmark decisions. First, CoG adopted an official environmental policy statement. Spearheaded by CoG interfaith representative M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien), the statement was the result of a year’s worth of collaborative work. She says, “It gives me a great sense of accomplishment that we, the Witches of the Covenant of the Goddess, have crafted a statement about our beloved Mother Earth that reflects our shared values and expresses our mutual concern for our planet, as well as our responsibilities for its current state and our hope for the future.”

Second, CoG approved the creation of an internal Abuse Advisory Committee to “advise, educate, and support the Covenant on issues of physical and sexual violence.” The committee will be made up of CoG members who are professionally trained in this field and those who “remain current on information pertinent to the issue.”

The CoG Abuse Advisory Committee was proposed and presented by Lady Aradia and Lady Emrys, two licensed social workers from Pennsylvania. Lady Aradia, also psychotherapist, said:

Sexual offenses and family violence happen in every community including the Wiccan and larger Pagan community. Although we pride ourselves in not being a religion with a large institution, this places us at a disadvantage when issues of abuse arise.

During the two-day meeting, Lady Aradia also presented a well-attended workshop called “Boundaries,” and another member presented a workshop on “Mandatory Reporting.” Aradia says:

By COG agreeing that a committee be formed to address and help the community navigate this issue, they/we take an active stance in both reducing these offenses but also providing safe ways for everyone to engage in their religions communities … We know we may not have all the answers but it’s a beginning, a way to keep talking about the issue from an educated and knowledgeable perspective.

In addition to these two landmark decisions, CoG held three important ceremonies honoring various Pagans for service and dedication. Just after the meeting opened, National First Officer Kathy Lezon called for a moment of silence to honor those members and others who had passed over the year. Names were read aloud.

After lunch Friday, CoG was joined by Circle Sanctuary for the first-ever joint presentation to honor Pagan military servicemen and women. Lezon presented CoG’s Military Service Award Medal while Rev. Selena Fox and Rev. Dawnwalker presented Circle’s Pagan Military Service Ribbon. Jack Prewett, a Vietnam Veteran and former Sergeant United States Air Force, said:

As a Vietnam veteran, I didn’t get much of a homecoming. So I felt both honored and humbled to be recognized by both Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess for my service to my country. To have both these organizations recognize servicemen both past and present is truly a gift from the Gods and I know from personal experience how much it means those that do and have served.

In the third and final ceremony, CoG presented its newly-established Award of Honor for outstanding service to community. The membership had only just approved the new award Friday morning. Spearheaded by Ardantane director and longtime CoG member, Amber K, the CoG Award of Honor recognizes people for “outstanding service to the greater Pagan and Heathen communities in areas such as religious rights, international peace, environmental protection, interfaith leadership and education, the creation of lasting institutions, and the promotion of social justice and civil rights.”

CoG Award of Honor Presentation

CoG Award of Honor Presentation

After its approval, the membership awarded the honor to eight people including, Margot Adler, Alison Harlow, Sparky T Rabbit, Deborah Ann Light, Kathryn Fuller, Don Frew, Selena Fox and Judy Harrow. After receiving the award, Rev. Fox said, “I was deeply moved to be among the 8 selected by Covenant of the Goddess at this year’s Grand Council to receive the newly created Service Award.  It means a lot to receive recognition and appreciation by peers.” Also present at the ceremony was member Kathryn Fuller. She said, “I was taken aback by the nomination, and both honored by the award and humbled to be in the company of such giants in the Pagan community.”

Outside of the landmark decisions and moving ceremonies, there was an overwhelming sense of presence at the meeting. During those four days the membership looked back at those who had passed or had contributed to our cultural progress.Their efforts were exemplified strongly in the group’s ability to safely meet in a openly accessible hotel deep within the conservative Southeast. Because of those people and that work, “we are here now.”

Covenant of the GoddessAt the same time, the membership looked toward its future – one that looms ahead driving all of us to continue. “Here we are. But what next?” In considering this unknowable future, the delegates discussed the results of the CoG Vision Survey and how to apply its data to the organization’s direction going forward. How can we affect positive, lasting change in a fluid, evolving world filled with so many unknowns? This discussion will continue as delegates return home and digest their MerryMeet 2014 experience.

Next year, CoG’s Merry Meet and Grand Council will be hosted by Touchstone Local Council and held in Ontario, California, Aug 13-16. The organization will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.

 

*Dogwood Local Council has made the MerryMeet Leadership Institute Prayer Book to the Earth available for download.  The book contains prayers, chants, songs and other writings dedicated to the Earth.

Covenant of the Goddess (COG) is one of the oldest and largest credentialing bodies for Wicca and Witchcraft in the United States. Originally founded in 1975 by 13 original member covens, the organization today boasts 121 member covens and a growing number of solitary members. The work of COG is done by a national board of directors, and fourteen regional local councils that engage in much of the grassroots organizing and direct activism in service of Wiccan rights. For example, it was the Dogwood local council in Georgia who responded to a story about religious harassment of a Wiccan student in Bowden, forming a coalition of local and national Pagan groups to make sure the student’s rights were respected. Representatives from these councils, solitary caucuses, and the national board gather each year in a different city to hold a Grand Council, a two-day consensus-run meeting where national elections are held, business is discussed, and Witches from across the country spend hours envisioning the future of the covenant.

I was pleased to attend the 2012 MerryMeet and COG Grand Council in Albuquerque, New Mexico not only as a reporter, but as a pending member. In 2010 I was invited to speak at MerryMeet in Indiana, and was able to cover their process, and the election of Peter Dybing to the office of First Officer. Since then I’ve built professional and personal relationships with many COG members, and have become convinced that the survival and expansion of the covenant is vital to the future of Wiccans, and modern Paganism as a whole. As modern Paganism continues to grow, and religious demographics in America reach various tipping points, more attention, both positive and negative, will be paid to what Witches do. As we enter that reality, an organization that is built to speak with the voices from many different Wiccan traditions will be increasingly necessary.

While many instinctively point to COG’s historic past, and who’s-who of famous members past and present ( Margot AdlerStarhawkDiana Paxson, Isaac Bonewits, and many more), I think it is more important to talk about what COG is doing right now. COG and COG members help fund Cherry Hill Seminary, a Pagan learning institution that just awarded its first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling.

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

“When I started in 2002, Cherry Hill Seminary was the first and best opportunity I found for inexpensive and trustworthy Pagan education beyond the training I received in the Fellowship of the Sacred Grove,” said Harris in an interview. “By the time the masters program was introduced in 2009, I had committed myself to becoming a board-certified chaplain. I embraced the Cherry Hill Seminary program as a way to add the necessary qualification of an M.Div. or equivalent.”

COG members are a part of Cherry Hill’s leadership, and extends COG’s role of credentialing clergy into making sure those clergy, whether COG-aligned or not, are well-prepared for their future in service. Another important part of educating Wiccan clergy is making sure they have the material and papers necessary for their research and development. The Adocentyn Research Library in the San Francisco Bay Area, is in the process of building what they hope will be “the premier Pagan research center in the Western US.” All of its Board of Directors, save one, are current COG members, this includes Don Frew, Rowan Fairgrove, Anna Korn, and Gus diZerega. Starting with a collection of 13,000 volumes that they are currently cataloging and shelving, the library already has a physical space, and will soon have non-profit status. At this 2012 Grand Council, it was decided that Adocentyn would be added as a donation option on COG member renewal forms.

Adocentyn Research Library

Adocentyn Research Library

In addition to simply opening a research library, Adocentyn is in preliminary talks with the New Alexandrian Library Project (which recently laid its foundation) and other institutions in forming a Pagan Libraries Organization so that they can share information, and offer inter-library loans. Don Frew is also working with other Pagan elders in forming a Pagan Foundation to help fund initiatives like Adocentyn and other projects that enrich and benefit our community.

The above examples are just a sampling of the work that is happening right now that COG is involved in. Work that often happens behind the scenes and doesn’t get the attention it often deserves. Of course, COG is also rightfully respected for its intensive interfaith activities, for the public events and Pagan Pride Days sponsored by local councils, for its partnership with Circle Sanctuary in honoring Pagan veterans with the Order of the Pentacle, for the many Pagan chaplains it provides resources to, and its support of Ardantane Learning Center, The Witches’ Voice, and other institutions that make our community what it is today. Look at almost any Wiccan or Witchcraft initiatives that has benefited our community, and in many cases you’ll find COG or COG members involved in some capacity.

Returning to this year’s Grand Council, what is apparent is that despite the contention, and sometimes esoteric points over by-laws or process, what emerges is a microcosm of Wicca today full of mutual respect and love. British Traditional Witches alongside utterly eclectic “bootstrap” traditions, alongside solitary Witches, finding common ground and purpose. Engaging in the kind of ecumenicism our sometimes fractious community desperately needs. There’s an emphasis on tradition at Grand Council, for obvious reasons, but I also caught glimpses of COG’s future as younger Wiccans started stepping forward. The election of Miraselena from Dogwood, a media professional, to the National Public Information Officer position, the formation of committees to explore better outreach and to make sure COG is fulfilling its purpose, which includes the participation of rising star Crystal Blanton, author of “Bridging the Gap: Working Within the Dynamics of Pagan Groups and Society,” and several more small hints that things are starting to shift.

The newly elected COG national board for 2013.

The newly elected COG national board for 2013.

First Officer Ginger Wages (Hawk), was re-elected for a second term, when first elected she told media representatives that the job of everyone in this organization to make sure we’re still here thirty years from now,” and it’s obvious from much of the discussion underway this year that her emphasis on that goal is starting to bear fruit. Her oversight in 2013 will no doubt play a vital role in seeing these budding initiatives succeed. She is joined by an energized and enthusiastic incoming board which sports representatives from local councils across the country.

As I said earlier in this piece, I believe COG is vital to Wicca’s future. It is the only organization of its type dedicated to the needs and issues faced by Wiccans and Witches. Unlike other large Witchcraft-oriented organizations like Circle Sanctuary, Sacred Well, or Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, they are not a church or single tradition, they are a collective of many different traditions who choose to align themselves under COG’s banner. This also differentiates them from other Pagan organizations which are often focused on a single tradition or practice within a Pagan faith. As Paganism grows, we will not only need “Pagan” spokespeople and leaders, we will need those who publicly advocate for views and positions within a particular Pagan faith. Journalists will all eventually understand that modern Paganism is a religious movement, not a religion itself with “denominations” branching out from it. As we move into that time, organizations that can speak with an explicitly Wiccan voice will be needed more than ever.

Conservative estimates say there are currently over 300 thousand Wiccans in the United States (I personally believe that number is higher), which means that COG will have to grow at a continual steady pace if it hopes to effectively serve religious Witchcraft as a whole. Of all the Wiccan-oriented groups, I think COG is best placed to achieve this goal, and be the proactive, responsive body it needs to be in a post-Christian society where Pagan voices will be heard by larger and larger numbers. This means more local councils, more solitary members, and an even greater engagement with new traditions, groups, and leaders. It is for this reason that I have taken the step of actively involving myself in COG, and helping it to work toward those goals. Despite the many challenges we face, externally and internally, I am optimistic about COG moving into an ever-growing and important role within the world of religious Witchcraft traditions. If you are interested in becoming a part of COG’s future, you should contact COG, or one of the local councils about you or your coven becoming a member. There’s a somewhat lengthy process, but one that I think is worthwhile.

Before I end this post, one picture, that I think sums up the importance of COG. Outside our hotel in New Mexico was a giant stone Ten Commandments monument. Instead of being seen as an affront, or reminder of Christianity’s dominance in our culture, I saw it as sign of how far we’ve come that this hotel readily accepts the business of a out-and-proud Witch conference.

Wait, isn't this a graven image?

Wait, isn’t this a graven image?

Crowley said that Magick is “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will,” and our Will to be an accepted and vital part of our society is manifesting before us. I’m excited about where our Will takes us next.

This weekend Covenant of The Goddess, one of the largest and oldest Witch and Wiccan associations, held their 2011 Grand Council. This year the council, part of the larger yearly event known as MerryMeet, took place in Irving Texas and was hosted by the Texas Local Council (click here to download an audio interview with Chuck Peart of COG’s Texas Local Council). In a historic first for this national Witchcraft organization, their traditional opening invocation featured an interfaith blessing with Tatiana Androsov, Russian Orthodox, of the Thanks-Giving Foundation, Bill Matthews, Methodist, of the Dallas Peace Center, and Revathi Srinath, Hindu, of the Sanatana Dharma Foundation. Speaking with Greg Harder of the Pagan Newswire Collective COG First Officer Peter Dybing called the invocation “a beautiful testament to the work our interfaith representatives have been doing over the years” (Click here to download the audio interview with First Officer Peter Dybing).

“Today we saw an example of other faiths blessing the work of Witches on a national level and that is a beautiful thing […] I found it a very touching moment and I think it’s historic.” – COG First Officer Peter Dybing

MerryMeet is a mini-convention complete with vendors and presentations, but one built around a business meeting. The Grand Council, which is run on a consensus basis, is where the organization perpetuates itself and makes all major decisions for the coming year. This year, in an initiative spearheaded by Rachael Watcher, COG’s National Public Information Officer, Internet conferencing technologies were used so members outside of Texas could observe, listen, and ask questions during deliberations.

A view of the Grand Council meeting space.

“What was new this year was the inclusion of Adobe Connect, an on line meeting room which allowed the members of the Covenant who were unable to attend physically to join the meeting through this virtual space. As this year was the first time for such an experiment, the members who joined us on line were not able to participate in a total give and take but were, in fact allowed to listen and chat among themselves asking questions of myself and Daryl Fuller who were manning the two meeting computers that were hosting the meeting space within the physical space of the meeting.  We had between 10 and 16 folks who were logged on for the entire time of the meeting  from opening to closing and the enthusiasm was “over  the moon” as one participant, who had not been able to participate for some years due to physical disabilities, stated.”

The initiative was so successful that Chamisa Local Council, who is hosting the 2012 Grand Council, is looking into expanding the experience so members can participate more fully during the meeting.

Finally, a new slate of officers for COG’s national governing board was elected, and the new First Officer/President, who will guide the organization for at least the next year starting on Samhain 2011, is COG member Ginger Wages (aka Hawk). Wages is part of Dogwood Local Council, which serves Witches and Wiccans in Georgia and Alabama, and has acted as an outspoken voice for Pagan rights for many years. Wages will replace Peter Dybing, who has been a dynamic force for COG, and the wider Pagan community, bringing much-needed energy and passion to the position. In a short interview, Wages talks about her vision as First Officer for the coming year (click here to download the audio interview with First Officer-elect Ginger Wages).

The COG board-elect. F.O.-elect Ginger Wages is second-row third from left.

“[Peter Dybing] set a precedent for getting out into the community and seeing COG people face-to-face, I plan to continue that. […] Interfaith is probably the thing that I really put at the top of the list for COG, and I really want to keep that supported, and hopefully give it even more support. […] I plan to work with the wonderful people in this organization to help us keep moving forward. We’ve been around a long, long time and its the job of everyone in this organization to make sure we’re still here thirty years from now.”

Peter Dybing will remain as Emeritus First Officer through 2012. When asked about a possible leadership shift, Dybing said that “change is good” and that if there’s a new First Officer “that would be great for this year.” Dybing also shared his plans to travel more extensively in 2012, visiting many Pagan festivals and doing more outreach on behalf of COG. Also of note is that longtime COG member and Interfaith Representative Don Frew will be joining Rachael Watcher as co-National Public Information Officer in 2012. Both Frew and Watcher are heavily involved in COG’s interfaith activities, and will no doubt compliment Wages in her desire to place more emphasis on interfaith work.

I wish Ginger Wages good luck in her new leadership role, and look forward to what the COG Board will achieve during her tenure. I’d also like to thank COG NPIO Rachael Watcher and Pagan Newswire Collective correspondent Greg Harder for gathering the interviews, quotes, and pictures for this article.

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

Wren’s Nest Closes Down: Yesterday, on the Witches’ Voice Facebook page, site co-founder Wren Walker announced that she was closing down the long-running and popular Pagan news service Wren’s Nest.

“Greetings! As many of you already know – or have discovered via a TWV link – Wren’s Nest is closed. There are new ways by which media and people exchange information. This page is one of them. We would like to thank everyone who supported, shared, commented and otherwise made Wren’s Nest News the resource that it was. It was my heart-felt pleasure and deepest honor to serve you.”

This is truly the end of any era. Wren’s Nest paved the way for sites like mine, and there’s strong evidence that it may have been the very first Pagan blog, certainly the first to deal with Pagan news. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for Llewellyn’s 2007 Wicca Almanac concerning Wren’s Nest.

“The real revolution regarding Pagans and blogging began in 1997, with the launch of what would become the most popular Web site for Wiccans, Witches, and modern Pagans … While Wren’s Nest never identified itself [as a blog]. It is updated regularly (daily, in fact); it is organized chronologically, with individual posts one can link to, and it allows readers to comment on each post. While Wren rarely opines on the news links and essays she shares with her readership (aside from the occasional “Chirp”), this site proved that blogging is something that could work for Pagans as a mass audience. In the years that followed, many other bloggers have been inspired by (or have simply imitated) Wren’s approach. This paved the way for the blogging community we have now.”

While Wren’s Nest is closed, Wren herself is (along with other Witchvox staffers) still “chirping” news items at The Witches’ Voice Facebook page, so you can still get a selection of daily news items that way. Thank you Wren for your years of service, your contributions will be remembered and honored.

Pagan Health Survey: The American Public Health Association (APHA) has issued a call for papers concerning public health among religious minorities in the United States for their annual conference, and Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute is conducting a survey of modern Pagan communities to relate our views concerning health at this event.

“As both a Pagan and cultural anthropologist, I felt it was vitally important that we help policy-makers and service providers understand our needs and beliefs. This will help us to meet the health care needs of our community and build public understanding of our religious and spiritual traditions. I designed the Pagan Health Survey to help people better understand us and our views on health. The results will be combined with what I have gained by being within the Pagan community and sitting in on healing panel discussions, workshops, and so forth, as well as interviews with Pagan clergy and health care practitioners. This research is being funded through my grassroots nonprofit, TriWinds Institute through donations.”

You can access the survey, here. Kimberly Hedrick, who holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, welcomes questions and inquiries into the project, its goals, and her own background. You can either e-mail her, or visit the survey’s Facebook group. To get a statistically significant sample it needs thousands of respondents, and she only has a couple of months to collect the data in time, so she’s asking the Pagan community to help distribute the survey far and wide.

Memorials for Isaac Bonewits: Many special memorial services are being planned for Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits, who passed away on August 12th. The family will be holding a memorial and remembrance of Isaac on August 21st at the First Unitarian Society of Rockland County (FUSRC) in Pomona, NY.

“I lost the love of my life last Thursday, but his life goes on in the influence he’s had on everyone. We will be celebrating his life next Saturday, August 21, in Pomona, NY” – Phaedra Bonewits

Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) is also holding a memorial service for Isaac on August 19th at the Summerland Festival.

“ADF will be holding a Memorial this coming Thursday (Aug. 19) at the Summerland Festival near Yellow Springs, OH at 9pm. We will call on Isaac as our newest Ancestor and also call on the Ancient Wise to welcome him into their midst. Afterwards we will hold a Wake in the dining hall.”

Word is that the ADF memorial ritual will be recorded, and pieces of it made available on the Internet. Other memorials are also being planned as well, check this Facebook thread for updated information to see if there’s one in your area. You may also want to listen to a special memorial episode of Pagans Tonight, which features Phaedra Bonewits, Selena Fox, Ian Corrigan, and Oberon and Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart sharing stories. You can download that show, here.

Covering the Sacred Harvest Festival: PNC-Minnesota is back from Sacred Harvest Festival and they are planning a special series of audio interviews and articles from the event.

“Over the next few weeks, as part of a special series, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to audio interviews with one of the founders of the Sacred Harvest Festival, a young man who arrived at the festival as a practicing Lutheran and left as a newly awakened Pagan, and musical guests such as Murphy’s Midnight Rounders – just to name a few. You’ll read about (and see) a broom that was created on Friday the 13th by at the festival by an artisan for a newly formed coven, the experiences of a man who started attending the festival when he was a young teen and how it has impacted his life, and the honoring of a respected community elder by over 100 people in his teaching lineage. This is just a small sample of was experienced.”

I’m very much looking forward to the coverage, and commend PNC-Minnesota for doing this work. If you haven’t already, subscribe to their site via RSS so you don’t miss a thing!

If You Couldn’t Make it To One of My Appearances: I’ve been giving talks at several festivals and events this past year, but I realize that many of you can’t make it out to see me in person (Bummer!). Luckily, some kind folks at MerryMeet got some excellent audio recordings of the two main talks I’ve been giving: Emerging Trends & The Pagan Movement, and Pagans & the New Media. You can click those links and stream or download my talks! Now you can find out what you have (or haven’t) been missing. Every “um”, “ah”, and awkward pause has been preserved!

Thanks again to the MerryMeet folks for hosting me and treating me so well!

That’s all I have for now, expect a Pagan News of Note soon to catch up on the mainstream news from the last few days.

Have a great day!

On the second day of their annual business meeting, known as the Grand Council, the Covenant of The Goddess elected a new slate of officers for their governing Board. The new First Officer/President, who will guide the organization for at least the next year starting on Samhain, is COG member Peter Dybing. Dybing has come to prominence within the larger Pagan community lately for his hands-on activism in places like earthquake-ravaged Port-au-Prince in Haiti, and in clean-up efforts on the Gulf Coast in the wake of the massive oil spill there. The election of Dybing seems to hint at a new engagement with the larger Pagan world, and a new commitment towards communicating the ethics and goals of this long-standing organization that has boasted Margot Adler, Starhawk, Diana Paxson, and many other well-known figures, on their membership rolls.


Peter Dybing, center, along with the rest of the newly elected COG Board.

“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.” – Peter Dybing

I was able to sit down with Dybing shortly after his election to talk about his new role as First Officer, the many activities COG engages in, and his vision for the future of the organization.

You can download the entire interview, here.

Dybing will assume duties starting on Samhain 2010, the start of the organization’s new fiscal year. Outgoing First Officer Sylvia Webb, in a conversation with me shortly after the election, expressed her happiness with Dybing’s election, and confidence in his abilities.

“As the outgoing First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess I have been honored to be a part of the COG Board for the past year. I know that we are incredibly blessed by the Goddess and the God to have individuals of great quality who are willing to sacrifice time, personal resources, personal creativity and magickal skills in the service of all Witches, Wiccans and Pagans throughout the world. Our new incoming First Officer, Peter Dybing has a long history of service in many arenas and we are glad that he is willing to engage in spiritual service (long an Elder tradition in Covenant of the Goddess and all Wiccan Paths) by lending his administrative and organizational experiences and talents to the Covenant of the Goddess during these times of rapid technological and ideological change. Thank you Peter for taking on this task.” – Sylvia T. Webb (aka AmberIsis), First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess 2009/2010

I wish Peter Dybing good luck in his new leadership role, and look forward to what the COG Board will achieve during his tenure.

Starting with an invocation to the organization’s matron deity Coventina, the Covenant of the Goddess (COG) began their two-day annual business meeting, known as the Grand Council. Held during their yearly MerryMeet festival, this year in Indianapolis, the Grand Council is an exercise in how a mature Pagan organization perpetuates itself and makes important policy decisions. On their 35th anniversary, this respected institution for those who practice various forms of religious Witchcraft faces issues dealing with  stagnation, communication, and their own success.

The Grand Council is something unique. All decisions are made by consensus, and representatives from local regional councils, member covens, and solitary members get a say before anything can move forward. This can be contentious at times, but is surprisingly effective at forming and strengthening group identity and unity.

“Consensus wasn’t always easy to pass on (unless you had been raised in a Quaker setting, where it is the usual method of decision-making) but we stuck with it, and were often rewarded when difficult issues were solved in ways that had broad-based and sometimes unexpected support, rather than causing schisms which could have ended the organization.” – Anna Korn, Membership Officer of the Northern California Local Council, Covenant of the Goddess

“The true magic of COG’s consensus process is that, in a group of over 100 covens from all traditions and all parts of the country in which any representative in the room could stop the process with a veto, we can only move forward though the shared good will and sense of shared Wiccan identity among all here. And more forward we do… making decision after decision.” – Don Frew, National Interfaith Representative, Covenant of the Goddess

As a spectator, what struck me amid the budget requests and fine-tuning of proposal language, was the large amount of good this Witch/Wiccan group does that goes largely unnoticed.

COG members are currently involved in advances in Pagan military chaplaincy, Pagan prison chaplaincy, interfaith in a number of contexts, and positive activism on a number of issues. However, the membership is graying, there are complaints of a stagnant growth rate, and there’s a sense that they are victims of their own success.

“Many people don’t realize that many of the freedoms Witches enjoy today are the result of many years of legal, cultural, and societal battles successfully waged by COG and other groups. The more successful we’ve been, the less some uninformed Witches see a need for us. In this, we’re in the same boat as many feminist organizations” - Don Frew, National Interfaith Representative, Covenant of the Goddess

Right now there are several proposals and a reawakened energy among members behind improving communications and outreach within the organization. There is a hope of interacting with a new generation of Witches, instilling a new ethos of the coven system at a time when eclectic solitary individualism rules the day, and turning part of their focus back toward the Pagan community they’ve worked for so long on the behalf of.

Tomorrow are elections for their national Board of Directors, at the end of which there will be a new First Officer. I’ll be reporting on that, and hopefully doing a short interview with the winner to talk about their vision for COG.

I’m leaving on a series of jet planes today, on my way to MerryMeet, the annual gathering for Covenant of the Goddess (CoG). I have the honor of giving the keynote address, and I’m very much looking forward to being there. Founded in 1975, COG is a unique organization that has been on the forefront of fighting for the rights of Pagans, and creating interfaith dialog. I’ve been spending the last few days refreshing myself on their history, re-reading the many books that address the organization, and looking for ways to best serve the folks that I’ll meet and be speaking to. As religion news increasingly shifts into the realms of new media, I think the participation of organizations like COG are critical to building a robust Pagan news ecosystem, and I hope to discuss with them the ways they can best engage with that future.

I’m anticipating that there will be Internet service at the hotel, so I’ll be updating the blog as usual. Hopefully giving some updates from the gathering itself. In the meantime, I’d like to point your attention to some great Pagan Newswire Collective news and content. First, I’d like to warmly welcome our newest bureau in Washington DC!

“Looks like DC is hitting the Pagan Media Big-Time! I’m happy to announce that Capital Witch has become the latest news bureau (representing the Washington-Metro area) for the Pagan Newswire Collective … With this news comes the announcement of three additional writing contributors. These three individuals come from different backgrounds and groups within our community and will be able to bring a unique view to the latest going-on’s of our area.”

Congratulations to David, Opal, Eric and Sean! I’m looking forward to Pagan-oriented local news from the US capital. This launch is part of the PNC’s larger bureaus effort, which will also see the official debut of our web site this Fall. For the latest PNC-related news, check out our Facebook group, or join our mailing list.While I’m speaking of PNC bureaus and attending gatherings, be sure to check out PNC-Minnesota’s ongoing coverage of the in-progress Sacred Harvest Festival. I’m very excited at the progress we’ve made, and the new bureaus already in the works. It’s all part of a larger goal to create a real Pagan news ecosystem, one that informs our interlocking communities, and creates an ethic where our events and milestones are important and worthy of notice.

That’s all for now, I’ll be updating as I have the opportunity, hope you have a great day!

Pagan Podcasts: There are some recent Pagan and occult podcasts of note that I’d like to share with you, starting with the latest episode of Elemental Castings from T. Thorn Coyle, featuring a recording of a panel discussion on Pagan leadership at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

“Special podcast on Pagan Leadership: Thorn and Jason Pitzl-Waters organized a panel at the Pagan Spirit Gathering in Missouri. Panelists were Thorn, Selena Fox, Patrick McCollum, Cynthea Jones and River Higginbotham.”

I was honored to moderate this panel, and I think it provides some excellent starting points in which to hold conversations about leadership within your own communities. I’m very glad we could record it and now share these voices of leadership with you. You can download it directly, here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Meanwhile, at the OBOD Druidcast, hosted by Damh the Bard, there’s a show of interviews and music culled from his own experiences at PSG. Starting with an interview with me, and culminating in an interview with Pagan singer-songwriter Arthur Hinds of Emerald Rose fame. I think it’s one of my better interviews, but you should check it out for the music. You can download the show directly, here. You can subscribe, here.

Finally, for a podcast that doesn’t feature me in some manner, please check out the latest episode of Thelema Now!, featuring an interview with Faith & The Muse vocalist Monica Richards.

“Musican/artist Monica Richards from Faith & the Muse discusses Permaculture, being an old punk rocker, and different ways to express creativity.”

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Richards, and I’m glad to see her being interviewed in this context. You can download the podcast directly, here. Subscribe via iTunes, here.

Meet Me At Merrymeet: The annual gathering and business meeting of the Covenant of the Goddess, Merrymeet, is arriving in less than a month. I’m honored to say that I’ll be speaking at this event.

“I am happy to announce that I and other members of NCLC h?ave arranged to have Jason as a guest at this year’s Merrymeet to discuss Pagans and the media. I believe his presentation will be extremely important and is not to be missed.”

For more information on this year’s Merrymeet, and a list of presenters and workshops, click here. If you’re a reader of this blog who’s attending Merrymeet, please feel free to drop a line in the comments. I’m very much looking forward to the experience!