“Last night I walked into Encore Records, the best record store in Ann Arbor and one of the best anywhere, where Wiccans front women Aran Ruth and Kelly Jean Caldwell had cleared a space on the floor to spread out a flowery blanket on top of which they were busily setting up an altar made out of spellbooks, incense, a silkscreened tapestry of a tarot card Empress, and candles—one of them in the shape of a kitten because there’s apparently no rule against mixing magick and cute shit. When they had everything properly arranged and lit Aran picked up an acoustic guitar, Kelly picked up a flute, Fred Thomas (who plays in Saturday Looks Good to Me, which Kelly used to sing for) picked up a set of bongos and a djembe, and the thirty or so representatives of Ann Arbors sizable indie rocker, weirdo artsy crust punk, and hardcore witchcraft scenes sat in a semicircle around them.”
Not to be confused with the hardcore punk band of the same name, Wiccans sounds like “Pentangle meets Pentagram” and sings songs with titles like “Invocation of the Horned God,” “Moon Door,” and “Oh Holy Maiden.” In a perhaps unintentional nod to the past of modern Pagan music, their release is available only on cassette. This raises many questions, are Wiccans Wiccan? Will they be releasing their music in a format other than cassette? Will they play at a Pagan festival if we asked them nicely? In any case, it’s an interesting development, one that speaks to how Wicca is mainstreaming, while still holding on to enough counter-cultural edge that bands are being named after it.
“Basically, we’re just like you. That is the message all minority faiths try to tell the world: We have the hopes and fears of everyone else. We just follow a different religion. We have a message and wisdom that we can share, about being more aware of the natural world, that the divine can have a feminine face. Some real potent elements within pagan faith can be helpful to the wider world as we deal with ecological calamity and the basic rights of women. The message from the closing ceremony of the Paralympics was universal in scope. There can and should be a space where our poetry and our world are integrated with everyone else’s.”
“We have not achieved this through the winning of souls as other religions do, but have attracted people into the practice of Hinduism simply by the lives we lead,” [Kwesi Anamoah] said, adding: “Our lives shine in the community to attract people.” [...] ”We do not evangelise like other faiths do, but we have attracted people because they see how we live our lives as Hindus and come to make enquiries and then find their way into our folds.”
One has to wonder if this is something we’ll see more and more of in the future. In Indonesia the ancestor-worshipping religion of Borneo’s indigenous forest people, the Dayak, is being cannily re-branded as Hinduism in order to stave off Christian missionaries and cultural eradication. Could African forms of Hinduism be providing a similar umbrella to indigenous forms of religion and spirituality in Ghana and Togo as well? What new religious hybrids will emerge from the intersections of Hinduism and indigenous beliefs? As India grows as a world power could we see Hinduism became a new alternative for those seeking to escape missionary efforts from the dominant monotheisms? We should keep an eye on this trend.
“The Senate Republicans took an already ineffective bill and made it an abusive bill that justifies bullying against our students. While the national spotlight is on the neglectful actions of the Senate Republicans, House Republicans can pass the strong, comprehensive, enumerated bill Governor Snyder references when he recommends Michigan legislators model this legislation after the State Board of Education policy. Oregon wasted ten years following a policy that accomplished almost nothing before it took responsibility for Oregon kids and passed the effective enumerated language Michigan advocates are requesting. Michigan has the data and case studies to do what is right for our students the first time. The nation is watching.”
These exemptions bring the case of Tempest Smith immediately to mind, a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied for her interest in Wicca, and manner of dress. The Michigan law, as it stands, would simply allow religiously-motivated harassment of kids like Tempest, you can almost see the scenario of ineffectual school officials saying they can do nothing. All students should have 1st Amendment freedoms, but a bullying law that exempts “moral” bullying under the guise of free speech is worthless. One can only hope that the language is refined to close off loopholes, and becomes something truly useful in empowering teachers and officials to stop bullying in their schools.
“I have come here to be part of this peaceful circle of people to shine a light on President Obama to be visionary and deny a corporate plan whose promise of destruction of our lands is certain,” Lakota activist Debra White Plume said in a speech at the protest. “President Obama will be an Earth Warrior, standing in the way of something bad coming toward the people, or he will step aside for TransCanada to foul our water, land, and health for generations to come.”
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!
“For our Lughnasadh Charity event (I know, we are preparing early), CedarLight Grove will be sending care packages to our overseas pagan military thanks to Operation Circle Care of the Circle Sanctuary. Three Cranes Grove of Ohio and Sassafras Grove of Pennsylvania have also joined in the effort to make this a multi-Grove of ADF charity event!”
Rolling Coin Ritual for Isaac Bonewits: Pagan author and elder Isaac Bonewits, currently in hospice care due to cancer, is having trouble keeping up with the large medical bills associated with his treatment. So the folks who organized a massive healing ritual for Isaac in May are now putting together a “rolling coin” ritual for July 26th.
“Isaac felt the energy we generated in May. And he sends his thanks. That was aRolling Thunder Ritual. Now we’re looking for a Rolling Coin Ritual. Medical bills date back to the fall. Since then Isaac has been in and out of the hospital with numerous surgeries and procedures. All of this has cost money, and theirs is beyond used up. So we’re trying a new twist on an old theme. The next full moon is July 26. Any time that day or night, please go to Isaac and Phaedra’s website and make a donation. This is a simple kind of magick, and it is something that will make a major difference in their lives. Any donation of any amount will be gratefully appreciated. It’s away of paying tribute to one of our most significant Pagan elders.”
Anyone who’s dealt with cancer, or with any serious illness, without the benefit of insurance, or with insurance that wouldn’t cover all the treatment, knows how stressful an issue money can be. Blessings to those organizing this fundraiser for Isaac and Phaedra. For updates on Isaac’s health, please check out his Facebook fan page.
“Triple Goddess bookstore’s and the Traveler’s Club property is in foreclosure. We are trying to convince the bank and the township to save the historic corner and it’s buildings. There are people who do not have the money to purchase the properties out-right but are interested in helping to turn the businesses into profitable ones. What we need is support, and lots of it! I will be at the bookstore this Saturday with a petition for people to sign. We are also hoping to have a HUGE turnout for the event on August 7th to show the bank and the community our support.”
SJ Tucker on Making Mischief: As I mentioned in my last community notes post, Pagan musician SJ Tucker has released a new album, entitled “Mischief”, on July 16th. For those who wanted a little more background, she has shot a promotional video talking about the process of making the album.
Tucker is currently on tour, and you can find a schedule of upcoming dates, here.
This issue is chock full of spellwork, practical advice, and ideas for all things green, growing, and magickal. Headlines by “the Garden Witch” Ellen Dugan, this edition is our greenest ever; from Pagan permaculture to gardening with the Elements, plus hardcore money magick, Wandering Witch goes the New Orleans, a look a Pagan metal rockers Icarus Witch and much, much more!
“It is no secret that the music industry has been suffering for several years now. During that time, I have changed the business model for Serpentine Music to adjust for reduced sales due to MP3 downloads, pirated music, and other factors. This year, however, sales have dropped yet again, while I have had new and exciting opportunities opening up in different areas.”
As someone with a deep interest in Pagan music, I think it’s safe to say that this shift represents the end of an era. Serpentine was one of the last active (explicitly) Pagan music distributors surviving from the 1990s, and its contributions towards building a modern audience for, and general awareness of, music made by and for modern Pagans can’t be understated. Serpentine was also one of the few distributors that were adventurous enough to dip its toes into goth and non-folk/circle-chant genres at a time when the generational gulf of musical taste within our community seemed pretty vast. Today therearedozens, if nothundredsof Pagan andPagan-friendlymusical artists operating around the globe, many of whom use the Internet to market directly to their fans. While this situation has created a wealth of riches for the adventurous music fan, it hasn’t created a atmosphere where such a specialized niche distribution company could thrive as it once did. I salute Anne Hill for her contributions to Pagan music, and wish her the best on her future endeavors.
“Christian Democratic Party MP Leena Rauhala submitted a written question to the government on Friday, stating the view that the books should not be published in Finland. Rauhala mentioned content of the book, including drug use, nudity, smoking, alcohol, and strong language. The publisher had removed references to tobacco and alcohol, as well as the strongest language from the translation. As for drug use, the publisher said that the books portrayed illegal drugs in a negative light. The Wicca religion proved to be the deciding factor in the matter. “We do not want to promote any individual religion or political ideology in the books that we target toward children”, says the publisher’s CEO Jens Otto Hansen. He said that the publisher was not familiar with Wicca. “I only learned on Monday morning that such a thing as Wicca exists.” Hansen sees the case as an “industrial accident” for the publisher.”
Interestingly the publisher has no problem promoting Twilight-related events in Sweden, so Mormon vampires are OK, but witches are beyond the pale. Guess a little unwelcome political controversy can make all the difference. Whether tweens and teens in Finland, Sweden, and Norway will someday get to join America, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and France in following the adventures of “blood witch” Morgan Rowlands remains to be seen.
“Maridas explained all of this [her poly lifestyle] in an affidavit filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court. It was one of six filed by the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which is intervening in the case to determine whether the anti-polygamy law is valid. While others — such as Surreybased Wiccan priest Sam Wagar, who also filed an affidavit Tuesday — contend that they have a religious right to practise polygamy, the polyamorists say that for them it’s a matter of freedom of expression. And what they have to say in their affidavits about how they live offers a glimpse of just how far some Canadian families diverge from the tradition of Mom-Dad-kids or the more recent “traditional” families of two Moms or two Dads and kids. And this peek behind normally closed bedroom doors is a hint of what’s to come in November, when Chief Justice Robert Bauman begins hearing the case.”
If polygamy becomes legal in Canada, will we see a repeat of the early steps of the Gay Marriage movement, with groups crossing the border to find some semblance of legal recognition? How will Pagan groups established or operating in Canada react to such a legal reality? Even if this challenge to polygamy laws fails, Pagan groups in Canada and America need to be ready for the culture-war blow-back and to decide where they stand on the issue. The time where we could just not mention it for the sake of political expediency is quickly fading.
“For his two-year term, Robert will meet with clergy from other faiths and lend his expertise in Wiccan spirituality to advise the Department of Corrections on requests made by inmates and staff, work to ensure equal access to materials and worship space as appropriate for all Pagan and other Earth-Based religions, as well as make it possible for other Pagans to volunteer as faith group leaders in Michigan’s correctional facilities.”
This is an important positive breakthrough, and I congratulate Robert Keefer on his appointment. May it lead to similar advances throughout our country, and cast a light on how needed such clergy are in our prisons.
Stepping Stones hopes the film will be a corrective to the spate of Nollywood films that peddle in the myth of child witches, and create a public debate over the prevailing belief that such “witches” exist. The premiere of the film is taking place at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre in London on July 24th. For more information about the event and the film, you can contact Justine Atkinson with Stepping Stones Nigeria. Will fighting propaganda with propaganda work? I suppose we’ll have to see.
“Lesterhouse, who owns Bewitching Wares at 128 E. Allegan St. in Otsego, and her employee, Jacqueline Janeczek, were each cited in late December for providing a psychic reading for money, a misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 in fines and 90 days in jail. Janeczek, of Kalamazoo, pleaded guilty on March 5 in Allegan County District Court. Her sentence included $310 in fines. She also said, if she did not offer any psychic readings for money in the next six months, her conviction could be expunged. Kastran, a partner at Burnett, Kastran & Klein P.C. in Allegan, said that because of Janeczek’s guilty plea, he and Otsego Police Chief Gordon Konkle agreed the charge against Lesterhouse should be dropped. The charge against Lesterhouse, of Plainwell, was dropped on March 5.”
“The city of Otsego’s former prosecutor says he was fired after dropping a charge against a woman who had been accused of violating a 93-year-old city ordinance that prohibits the offering of psychic readings for money … The charge against Lesterhouse, of Plainwell, was dropped on March 5. Kastran said the following week he received a letter from the city of Otsego saying he had been fired from his job as the city’s prosecutor … [City Manager Thad] Beard denied Kastran was let go because of his decision to drop the charge against Lesterhouse.”
The fact that Otsego Police Chief Gordon Konkle agreed that the charge against Lesterhouse should be dropped, and then worked with the City Manager to have Kastran fired for it is somewhat suspicious. Did Konkle agree to drop the charges under protest? Was it a set-up? Is Kastran simply jumping to conclusions? Perhaps a throw-away bit of background at the end of the article can shed some light on the subject.
“Lesterhouse, whose name previously was Melissa Cronin-Warfield, was at the center of a flubbed 2003 prostitution sting by the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team. She was never arrested in the case, which prompted changes at the top of the command structure of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, which runs KVET.”
Is this less about fortune telling and more about an old grudge resurfacing? I mean, why were cops doing a sting operation on a couple of local psychics in the first place? Were they hoping to have their old prostitution theories vindicated? Is there no real crime in Otsego? Shouldn’t they be more worried about the meth-labs in downtown Otsego? Did Stephen Kastran accidentally interject himself into the middle of a personal crusade? There are more questions than answers here, but the more you dig, the less this seems like a simple case of breaking a 100-year-old fortune telling ordinance.
“Starting Dec. 1, lift tickets at Michigan ski resorts will be taxed 6%. Fees to play golf or to bowl won’t. Personal fitness training will be taxed, too. Fitness centers won’t. The TV repair guy will charge tax. Cable and satellite providers won’t. Businesses will have to pay taxes on consulting, landscaping and janitorial services. But not for lawyers, lobbyists and accountants. Weird? Two lawmakers in the middle of final negotiations to extend the state’s 6% sales tax to many services as part of the solution for the state’s $1.75-billion budget deficit said they tried to focus on services not used by low and middle income people. But they acknowledge the result is muddy — produced by sleepy legislators in marathon, pressure-packed sessions last weekend aimed at avoiding or quickly ending a state government shutdown.”
“Of course, I don’t want it. Nobody wants it,” said Okemos astrologer and psychic Lynne Crandall, who will pass along the bookkeeping work to her accountant. “But I’ll get in line with what I’m supposed to do.” Crandall, who writes an astrology column for NOISE, a weekly publication of the Lansing State Journal, said she knew Granholm would be forced to make some tough calls on taxes. The governor’s astrological chart showed she has a moon in the sign of Capricorn, she said, which means “financially, she’s a really tough cookie, and she would make sure all the bottom lines are covered.” “I just pray the state returns to some kind of financial health so we don’t have so many people leaving,” Crandall said.
“Mona Lindsay, co-owner of Wisdom of the Ages in Howell, said she’s equally perplexed as to why psychic readings and the related services her business offers will be taxed. The business charges $35 for a 30-minute psychic reading, and the same amount for Tarot card readings. The tax comes to $2.10 per reading. “I thought that was just ridiculous. I was totally shocked when I was listening to the news yesterday morning that that stuff would even be taxable,” Lindsay said. Lindsay said she didn’t think that amount of service tax will boost Michigan’s overall tax base. She said she’ll be meeting with her business partner to re-examine how they charge for readings.”
Defenders of the tax expansion say that they are only taxing “nonessential” services used primarily by high-income people. However, anyone who has met or frequented tarot or psychic practitioners know that these fields are filled with lower- and middle-income people catering to those of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Services that are used often by the upper classes, like country clubs, lawyers, licensed stockbrokers, lobbyists and accountants are immune to the new tax expansion. Much of the list defines services that legislators apparently feel people shouldn’t use. Despite the claims of defenders, this expanded list is regressive in nature and doesn’t really increase the tax burden of the rich.