Archives For Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

Since 2004, the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN) has produced a regular seasonal newsletter called ACTION. For 6 of those years, the pages of the newsletter have been filled with interviews with Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists from around the world. To date, the newsletter has published around 560 interviews that catalog, record and share the memories, practices and work of a huge diversity of people.

Since the beginning, one man has been behind the newsletter from the writing of articles in the early days to producing the detailed interviews that we see today. That man is Christopher Blackwell.

Christopher Blackwell

Christopher Blackwell

Blackwell has been a solitary Wiccan for thirty years, and currently lives in New Mexico. He began following AREN around 2000, shortly after it changed names from the Witches Anti-Discrimination League (WADL) to the Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN). The organization was formed in the 1970s by Leo Martello and, for many years, worked for the protection of religious rights. However, the organization had to be dissolved after the Anti-Defamation League threatened a lawsuit over use of the name. Shortly after, AREN was born.

In those early days, Blackwell spent his time interacting on the organization’s internet forums from his home in New Mexico. Then, in 2004 his life changed. He was asked to create and grow an AREN newsletter. The rest is history…

Today we turn the tables, so to speak, on the man who interviews the Pagan world. This is Christopher Blackwell.

The Wild Hunt: Most people know you as the guy behind ACTION. Tell us what you did before AREN.

Christopher Blackwell: Being that I had been traveling for years mining agate, my first contact [with the Pagan world] was through letters by snail mail to people writing in to Circle Network News newsletter back in the 80s … I had five post offices in three different states that I would have mail forwarded to as I moved with the wheel of the year mining from Eastern Oregon to Southern New Mexico, and back to Oregon again…

It was also through Circle Network that I took part in my first letter protest when a certain Jessie Helms tried to attach a rider to a the Post Office appropriation bill that would deny any non-profit group, tied to either Witchcraft or Satanism, the bulk rate postal rates allowed to all other non-profits groups. As this was before the Internet, Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary sent, I believe, post cards to every one on Circle Sanctuary’s mailing list and then it was up to us to flood congress with letters against the rider. Primitive as that would seem today, the rider was dropped before before the Post Office appropriation bill left committee.

TWH: You are Wiccan? When and how did you find this path?

CB: In 1985 I literally got trapped selling at  a flea market in Tucson Arizona and never could earn enough to move on with my partner. So when I had time off I started looking for a teacher. There was a sort of New Age book store and in it a bulletin board. I found a notice about a high priestess, called the phone number and she wanted to meet me first in a public coffee shop. We talked, I was asked why I wanted training and  I passed and started training. I was initiated [into the Alexandria Tradtion] on Yule of 1985.

[Shortly after his initiation, sales picked up and he returned to mining. Then in 1993, his “mining days ended” after a severe illness. He settled returned to New Mexico, where he has lived ever since. After four years of medical care, he began writing. His only connection to Paganism was through Circle Magazine, Green Egg, Pagan Africa and a few other international newsletters. He submitted articles and letters as well as interacted with the community from his home. This is how he found AREN]

TWH: How did you get involved with AREN and what led to you becoming its newsletter editor?

CB: It was not until the late 90s that our local library got its first public used computer. It was slow, hooked to our phone system. Learning as I went, I usually crashed the computer once or twice a day. The librarians took pity on me and did not throw me out. I started exploring. I found a few online bulletin boards and Witches’ Voice.

I am not sure exactly when I connected with AREN … I just started posting on their forum taking part in various subjects. I became a regular … It was at this time the idea of an in house newsletter was suggested and I was asked to take it on. Now I did not like newsletters, first for being boring and second for being quarterly. I set out to create one. Bill Kilborn, who still acts as web guy, tried to find me free editing programs.  [The first two didn’t] even have page numbers, with often many mistakes and only about ten pages long.

AREN_ACTIONTWH: How has the newsletter changed over the last ten years?

CB: I have often said it is fortunate that I never realized what I was getting into for I might not have never done it. Anyone, that has run one, knows how hard it is to get enough to post, to keep it going.

It was a busy time for AREN with the whole Bush Administration. So I began looking for stories on the internet about Wiccans, or about things that might effect Pagans. When I found something, I checked out the story in a variety of newspapers … until I had enough for a much longer and more detailed article. Sometimes  these articles of mine would run up to a page or two.

But there were two problems, even by 59, I had had a case of Pancreatitis and been diabetic for about a decade. I was already losing energy yearly and the newsletter was not succeeding … I doubt we had reached even 75 people reading it. Bill decided we should  open ACTION to the public and I decided that I could not do researched articles and that I would shift to interview format.

This started on Samhain of 2008. The change was noticeable and we soon topped two hundred readers, then three hundred readers, then eight hundred and a thousand readers. Not only did I interview people in the different communities, but in different countries and continents. Now there was new problem, where to find people to interview?

[Blackwell added that today readership runs as high as 3500 per issue. His first interviewees were friends and readers. Then he turned to the forums. Eventually, he expanded outward. Blackwell said that every issue starts with who he is going interview, will they accept and “how much longer can [he] keep this going.” He said, “I ask my gods to either give me inspiration or a kick in the butt, whichever is most effective. So far they have not let me down.”]

TWH: What was your most memorable interview?

CB: Goddess that is hard because they are many. One of my first real enjoyable interviews with a well-known Pagan was Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. He was an original. He has been in so much of our American Pagan history, and is a born story teller. I think his interview was something like eight pages long.

Now, probably, the youngest and most controversial interview was with a boy who published an essay in Witches Voice years ago …He got more reads than any other essay, even those by adults, which meant even the adults were reading him. The controversy came from the fact he wrote an essay on introductory Wicca in simple straight forward words and did it well. He turned out to be thirteen years old. He wanted to be a Wiccan author someday …

But a 13 year boy is vulnerable and there are people in our society who would hurt him, and I didn’t want him to get in any trouble. I only knew his first name, Mike, and never even asked what part of the country he was from. Otherwise, it was just an ordinary interview and damn I hope he does become that writer.

TWH: Through your interviews, what changes or significant trends have you noticed over the past ten years?

CB: Wicca was the big community here in the United States, the best known, and the most recognized with the most books … [Now] there has been more research published books showing up. The Polytheists have got very good at researching not only the Gods, variations of each god’s sacred story and practice depending where it was being done, and by which people. … The Heathens are again publishing more books and creating more groups and a lot of them are fighting against racist ideas successfully… I have seen Druids in charities and civic actions in England. They are showing up in remarkable places.

In Wicca, more of us do interact with other communities and definitely are developing all sorts of things, including charities, continuing civic action the environmental action. But we are also fighting against sexual exploitation of women and children in society and in our own community. So all of our communities are growing and filling  more of the gaps. More of us are becoming openly active in our society.

TWH: The Pagan media world has changed significantly since 2004. What role do you see yourself and the AREN newsletter playing in today’s digital media world?

CB: The world has changed greatly since the days that Witches’ Voice first start posting links to newspaper paper articles of interest to Pagans. They inspired Jason to create The Wild Hunt, and I to create ACTION and many other people. The Pagan media has grown a lot since, each filling different niches.

ACTION will last only as long as I and Bill care keep it going. I had hoped to have more helpers but that never happened. I am coming to the end of my life. I have already out lived most of the men in my family… Ironically I think I am happier being an old geezer than at any other part of my life. How amazing that is. Meanwhile my role is to remember each stage of my life and be gentle on the younger folk.

I have accomplished two goals with ACTION. One to eventually open more connections between the different communities and prove I can give a fair interview to anyone with their own words and none of my opinion. No spin from me … Somewhere down the line, my reader will hit a “Ah Ha moment, I could do something like that.” I have played my part, an old disabled Marine Vietnam Veteran, a Wiccan solitary who rarely leaves his home in the desert.

The mountains near Blackwell's home in New Mexico [Courtesy Photo]

The mountains near Blackwell’s home in New Mexico [Courtesy Photo]

TWH: Sometimes we see your interviews on Penton Independent Alternative Media. Are these different or are they republished from ACTION? Where else can we find your work?

CB: My job is to find the story, write the questions to help the person tell it, and to get it out. One of the things that encourages people is their story will get out around the world, at least as far as I have readers. Afterward they are free to repost it anywhere as often as they want.

Penton asked to reprint older articles. And when they find one that  they think will interest their readers, I gave the the permission to do so.  I, so far, have had a couple of other Pagan organization in other parts of the world do the same, and I give the the same permission. I have had some Russian Pagan friends translate a few of them into several Eastern European languages. I have been told that some of those much newer Pagans consider my interviews as a window onto the rest of the Pagan World.

No one makes any money out of this, and more readers get to read the stories. One, Greek Gods -worshiping Pagan Group in Russia, was having a bit of  harassment by local officials. They showed them my interview of them and said it was published in the outside world. The harassment stopped. My tiny bit of the Pagan media, dinky by world media standards, actually had a tiny bit of political clout.

Can you imagine what that felt like for a person never trained in the media, who only learned by the endless mistakes I made and sometimes still make. It is magic and a gift of the gods. So I have had a chance to affect the Pagan communities. One old man in the middle of nowhere. What more could I want?

TWH: You talk about retiring from ACTION. Do you have any other plans or projects?

CB: A model railroad. I have wanted to build one for over fifty years. But I had no space, no money, and none of the skills. Railroad history has been my great love since high school. My second library in my sanctuary is railroad and model railroad [books]. I have many of the kits needed and a fair amount of material for its construction, but that is as far as it has gone…

As I often say, I am in good shape for 79, unfortunately I am only 69. So I make no predictions about anything any more, and live very much in the present. I try to avoid worrying, as worry stops nothing but uses up much limited energy that I have … Life is still interesting, often fun, and I get by.

[The unedited interview is one of the hallmarks of ACTION’s pubication. It is a standard that Blackwell set back when he changed to that format in 2008. He did not want his opinions, his spin, to overtake the words of the interviewee. Unfortunately, our space here is limited, and the above interview is only a taste of our conversation with Blackwell. However, in the spirit of ACTION, we will be posting the full unedited version in the next few days. Please check back for a direct link to that document.]

Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the calendar year, we look back, one last time, to review the year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What events shaped our collective thoughts and guided our actions? In our worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions? What were the high points and low?

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public domain

The year 2014 kicked off with several debates already simmering. Early in January, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart’s quest to capitalize Pagan, which had begun in the fall of 2013, came to an end as the coalition mailed its petition to various style guide editors.  Although the immediate response was less than encouraging, The Associated Press did eventually revise its style guide to include Wicca. Whether the coalition’s work influenced that change is unknown. However, its letter may have triggered some level of awareness leading to that addition.

Another conversation brewing in those early months culminated in a packed PantheaCon session hosted in the CoG/NWC/NROOGD suite. The debate over “Wiccan Privilege,” which began with a single article in the November 2013, inspired or incited a four-month blog-based debate. If nothing else, those conversations showcased the diversity and breadth of religious practices that, not only fall under the Pagan umbrella, but also run alongside it and near it; and often intersect with it.

Over the remainder of the year, many of these non-Wiccan based traditions and practices continued to demonstrate growth and forward momentum. For example, in September, Polytheist.com was successfully launched and, more recently, Many Gods West, a new Polytheist conference, was announced. In August, the U.S. Air Force added Heathen and Asatru to its religious preference list.

Open Halls Project
As winter thawed into the brightness of spring, our collective communities were rocked with the news of Kenny Klein’s arrest. It served as almost a “wake-up” call, unearthing buried concerns, personal pain and collective traumas. Eventually the difficult conversations led to action. In May, the Council of the Phoenix was born, created by Green Egg Magazine editor Ariel Monserrat. In August, the Covenant of the Goddess established its own internal abuse advisory committee led by professional social workers and a psychotherapist. More recently, Lydia Crabtree established Pagan Pro, a project that proposes to qualify leaders. While time eventually gave way to other concerns, Klein’s arrest and the ensuing conversations brought to light serious problems that lurk in the shadows of many communities – not just Pagan or religious ones.

By late spring and early summer, attention had turned to the national and international news arena. In May, SCOTUS ruled on legislative prayer, “upholding the right of legislators to offer sectarian prayer before conducting business.” In June, SCOTUS ruled on the Hobby Lobby case, concluding that “some for-profit employers with religious objections do not need to provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).”

During that same period, Middle East violence began to heat up, drawing our attention to a world in crisis. ISIS, ISIL and now the IS became a household name, as the militant organization continued its assault on Middle Eastern territories and peoples. In addition, the Israeli and the Palestinian conflict escalated into a new round of military action. Israeli Pagans, reporting from within the war-torn region, called out for compassion and peace.

Inside an Israeli Pagan store, The White Wood Shop. [Courtesy Photo]

Inside an Israeli Pagan store, The White Wood Shop. [Courtesy Photo]

Throughout 2014, we covered other big stories originating from or affecting international Pagan communities, like the one in Israel. For example, the U.K.’s Centre for Pagan Studies, together with the Doreen Valiente Foundation, commemorated Gerald Gardner with a Blue Heritage Plaque. In South Africa, we spoke with SAPRA’s Damon Leff about the continued use of Witchcraft as a political weapon.  And, in Italy, the new Unione Comunità Neopagane was born.

As the wheel turned and summer came to an end, Pagan Pride Day and other harvest events were in full swing worldwide. For many people, it was “festival-as-usual,” but not for the Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary. Samhain 2014 marked the organization’s 40th anniversary, which it celebrated with month-long podcasts culminating in a single big birthday celebration.

At the same time, a uniquely modern problem emerged. First publicized by Sister Roma and other members of the drag queen community, Facebook’s “real name” policy became a thorn in many Pagans’ sides. Some of those affected included Silver Ravenwolf, Storm Faerywolf and Raven Grimassi.

Ironically, as many Witches struggled with Facebook over use of their Craft names, many of these chosen names were being featured in the mainstream news media. October is the month to interview a witch.

Outside of the festivities, celebrations and Halloween hullabaloo, this Samhain had a particularly pronounced sobering affect. We marked the passing of many Pagan loved ones, elders and leaders. As listed in our Wild Hunt Samhain post, those lost in 2014 included Margot Adler, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenhart, Jeff Rosenbaum, Lady Loreon Vigne, Sparky T. Rabbit, Apolinario Chile Pixtun, Peter Paddon, Brian Dragon, Donald Michael Kraig, Judy Harrow, Stanley Modrzyk, Colin Wilson, Jonas Trinkūnas, Eduardo Manuel Gutierrez (Hyperion), Randy David Jeffers (Randy Sapp), Chris Keith and Olivia Robertson. Since that Samhain article was published, Pete Pathfinder Davis and Niklas Gander have also passed, along with many others who are not named here.

Mother Tongue Singing at  Margot Adler's Memorial Oct. 31 [Courtesy Photo]

Mother Tongue Singing at Margot Adler’s Memorial Oct. 31 [Courtesy Photo]

In addition to the loss, the fall brought good news for two very public religious freedom cases. The Huntsville Alabama’s City Council invited Wiccan Priest Blake Kirk back to offer a pre-meeting invocation despite the citizen complaints. And, perhaps even more uplifting, the Maetreum of Cybele won its expensive and lengthly legal battle for property tax exemption.

These were not the year’s only triumphs. In Aug., Wiccan Janie Felix won her legal challange to Bloomingfield, New Mexico’s erection of a Ten Commandments monument. In Virginia, Priestess Maya White Sparks led the successful quest to remove antiquated anti-Tarot codes from the Town of Front Royal’s books. We also saw two Georgia college students defy the odds and form a campus-based “Old Faith Community” in their highly conservative school environment. And, finally, the New Alexandrian Library earned a certificate of occupancy and began the slow process of unpacking.

To add to that positive momentum, 2014 saw four openly Pagan or Heathen political candidates, including Cara Schulz in Minnesota, Kathryn Jones of Pennsylvania, Robert Rudachyk, in Canada’s Saskatoon West, and Ireland’s Deirdre Wadding, who won a seat on her local council.

As the final days of 2014 approached, holiday celebrations were once again tempered by national events. Just before Thanksgiving, our attention was drawn to a new place – Ferguson, Missouri. Since that day, the United States has not been the same. Frustration, pain, confusion and feelings of helplessness mingle with daily protests and pure rage. Over the past month, many people have donated time and money; spoken words of solidarity in many forms; have grieved; and have looked for ways to be part of a solution. This is story yet to be fully written.

Courtney Weber of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York

Courtney Weber of the Pagan Environmental Coalition of New York at #ClimateMarch

Above are only a fraction of the many stories, reports and events that have touched our lives over the past year. There are so many others – ones that we reported on and even more that we didn’t. If we could sum the year up in one phrase or term, it might simply be #2014. The hashtag has become an increasingly useful rallying point, external to its Twitter origins, for many of the events and actions that have occurred throughout the year, from #PantheaCon, #PACO and #PaganPride to #MyNameIs, #ClimateMarch, and #blacklivesmatter.

As the final days of 2014 tick to a close, we say goodbye to what has been, and now ready ourselves for what is to come. #Bringon2015

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. If you enjoy this series and our other recurring entries, please consider donating to our 2014 Fall Fund Campaign. Your support and donations make it possible for us to keep sharing the news and these important stories with you. Now let’s get started! 

Blake Kirk

Blake Kirk

The Interfaith Mission Council (IMS) of Huntsville, Alabama has announced that Wiccan Priest Blake Kirk is scheduled to offer an invocation before the Nov. 6 city council meeting. In June, Kirk was removed from the schedule due to complaints from local residents. After much discussion, the Huntsville city council opted to maintain its inclusive prayer policy prayer rather than removing invocations entirely. The executive director of IMS, the local organization charged with coordinating invocation speakers, Jeannie Robison told AL.comWe [IMS and the city council] want to honor Huntsville’s commitment to being an Inclusive City and to meet Constitutional standards regarding freedom of religion.”

This past Thursday, the council demonstrated its commitment to diversity by inviting an Atheist to speak. Following that meeting, IMS announced that Kirk had been invited back. In response to the city’s actions, Kirk said, “I think it’s an extremely positive development for Huntsville, and it suggests that people have learned something from the unfortunate situation in June, and are really trying to do better.” You can watch Kirk’s invocation live on Nov. 6 through Huntsville’s live streaming site

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

On Sept. 28, Oberon Zell-Ravenhart posted a call on Witchvox for information about “Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials.” He wrote, “Since Morning Glory’s death, I have been inspired (nay, “assigned!”) to co-author a handbook for Pagan Final Passages—including green burials.” In the spring, the Church of All Worlds’ sacred land of Annwfn was legally-secured as an “officially-recognized cemetery for full body burials.” Morning-Glory was the first to be buried on that land, and Oberon is thankful to those who helped make that possible. Now he wants to turn his experience into, what he describes as, a “how-to manual.”

To accomplish this work, Oberon is looking for input from anyone who maintains Pagan land, a green cemetery, or anyone who is planning to build a cemetery space. He adds, “Previously, virtually all members of the modern Pagan community who have died (at least in the United States) have been cremated, as this seemed to be the only option other than the impossibly expensive and distasteful mortuary practice of embalming and burial in a fancy coffin in a concrete vault. But for many of us, cremation is a repellent choice, as we remember the Burning Times, and have no wish to consign our flesh to the flames yet again!”

10171120_828816003799940_5240040217082249423_nPagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) will be holding its 2nd online conference on October 9, 2014. The event is held in coordination with the Pagan Federation International (PFI) and is focused on “a variety of topics around the subjects of Paganism and Witchcraft.” This October’s theme is “The changing of Magic: Modern and Ancient Witchcraft.” There will be two panels on the following subjects: “Ancient Witchcraft and its adaptation” and “Western Esotericism practices and the academy.”  

The online PAEAN conference is held twice a year, in the spring and fall. Coordinators hope that the unique online platform, which allows a diversity of people to engage in dialogue and interaction, will “increase learning, understanding and developing from the combined discussions.”

Spelcastor [Courtesy: EMLC]

Spelcastor [Courtesy: EMLC]

On Sept. 20, the CUUPS chapter of Fort Lauderdale, Florida presented local Pagan Spelcastor an award for “his long time service of 19 years as the gatekeeper and facilitator” of Pagan Pride Day held at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Spelcastor is now officially retired but, as CUUPS organizers said, “he will long be remembered for keeping the flame alive.” In response, Spelcastor remarked, “I am deeply honored by this outpouring of gratitude and reminded how persistent service to the Craft year after year pays off.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

That is all for now.  Have a great day!

 

In May 2014 The Associated Press (AP) published the latest version of the AP Stylebook – the go-to writing guide for journalists and editors. The updated edition includes a new religion chapter, which, as AP describes,”pulls in some existing terms from the Stylebook’s A – Z entries and adds many new ones, covering the world’s major denominations.” In its announcement, AP expressed an interest in reflecting America’s “changing religious landscape” by including minority faiths.

For “Godbeat” or religion-based journalism, this is big news – more style standards in more detail for more religions. What were the changes and additions? And, more importantly, how will they affect mainstream news reports on stories involving Pagans and Heathens? Will “Pagan” and “Paganism” finally be capitalized?

ap_stylebook_cover_2010
If you are not a writer, you may ask, “Why should I care?” The AP Stylebook does not affect you directly. However, it does affect you indirectly. The guide is used by journalists and editors all over the country as a writer’s “bible,” if you will. While the AP Stylebook is not the only guide of its kind, it is one of the front-runners that establishes a style standard for journalism that is dependable and regular.

The guide, for example, solves those ever-frustrating grammatical debates over commas and semi-colons. It recommends date and time abbreviations, fixes transition words, and clarifies what should be or should not be capitalized. All of its suggested rules and information are absorbed into the articles published in American newspapers and magazines since the 1950s.

Within the “Godbeat” journalism world, the word “Pagan,” when referring to modern religious practice, is rarely capitalized. In October 2013, Oberon Zell reached the tipping point on this issue after seeing the word “paganism” in a CNN Religion Blog news article entitled, “For Some Wiccans Halloween is a Real Witch.” As noted in Circle Magazine, Oberon said, “The issue has annoyed me for decades, and I have tried to launch this campaign numerous times over the years.” When he questioned the CNN journalist, Oberon was told to “contact AP and Webster.” (Circle Magazine, Issue 116, February 2014)*

So Oberon did just that. In November, he launched a campaign to change journalism standards. With the help of friends and colleagues, he formed the Coalition to Capitalize Pagan. The group, then, drafted a letter to the editors of the AP Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style and Religion Newswriter’s Association Style Guide. After the Coalition finalized the letter, 61 Pagan writers, teachers, scholars and authors signed it. Those signatories included recognizable names like Raymond Buckland, Vivianne Crowley, Starhawk, Margot Adler, Patrick McCollum and Selena Fox.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr's  @Doug88888

[Photo Credit: Doug88888/Flickr]

The letter was mailed in January but received little to no acknowledgement from the organizations. The University of Chicago Press responded with the following: “Thank You for your message. I am forwarding it to the reference department, which oversees the revision of The Chicago Manual of Style.”

During that process, the Coalition also decided to turn to the public for help. It launched a change.org petition that eventually garnered over 450 signatures from people around the world. In February, Circle Magazine published the article entitled “Quest to Capitalize Pagan” including a call-to-action that read:

If we cannot offer linguistic respect to our own labels, how can we continue our quest to demand that respect from outsiders? Circle Magazine asks that you consider making this simple personal change in your daily work. Be part of the quest by always capitalizing Pagan and Paganism.

Oberon eventually purchased his own copy of the 2013 AP Stylebook only to discover a bigger problem. The guide makes no reference to the word Pagan at all. He said:

I am completely mystified … For the past 45 years I have been giving interviews on Paganism to newspaper journalists, always emphasizing that “Pagan” and “Paganism” are the proper names for our religion, and should thus be capitalized in that context. The interviewing reporters always understand this, and agree. But every single time, when the story appears in the paper, “pagan” and “paganism” are printed in lowercase. When we have gotten back to the reporters who did the interview, they are always apologetic, and they tell us that the copy editors changed the capitalization, “because that’s what the AP Stylebook said.”

Since that time, the AP Stylebook has been updated with a new chapter meant to reflect the modern religious experience. Did Oberon’s quest have any effect?  Did the word “Pagan” make the cut?

The answer is no.

The 2014 AP Stylebook does indeed have an expansive in-depth chapter on religion which includes definitions and details on a variety of minority religion terminology such as Brahmin (Hindu) or gurdwara (Sikh). The guide includes short informational entries on Baha’i, Buddhism and other non-Abrahamic faiths as well as minority sects of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It says that Christmastime is one word and suggests using Hanukkah as the standard spelling for the Jewish holiday. However, it says nothing about “Paganism.”

In fact the updated religion chapter makes no mention at all of modern Pagan or Heathen religions. It does not include Druidry or Druidism, Wicca or Asatru. With the exception of Yule, it does not recognize the names of Pagan sabbats or other important festivals and holy days. The word “pagan” only appears once in a recommendation to capitalize the names of mythological gods and goddesses such as Zeus, Athena and Poseidon.

When asked if the inclusion of modern Paganism had been considered for the chapter, the editors responded immediately saying that the Stylebook uses the dictionary for such groups. So what does Webster say? The online version includes a definition for Neo-Pagan and Neo-Paganism both of which use a capital letter. The same dictionary, however, does not include an individual entry for the term “Pagan” with capitalization. The two “pagan” entries define the term as those people who are anti-religious or polytheists from ancient Greek or Rome. Webster does include an entry for Wicca but no other practice.

Merriam-Webster-logoBut that is only Webster. Other dictionaries have different entries with varying suggestions on capitalization and meaning.  Adding to the confusion is the free Religion Newswriter’s Association Stylebook, which does include references to modern Paganism including associated terminology and practices. However, across the board, the editors do not capitalize the word “Pagan.”

Due to the general lack of clarity and style specification, news editors and journalists are left to their own devices when writing about Pagan and Heathen religions. The editor must decide on which book, entry or guide to rely on for his or her media outlet. The issue facing the Coalition and the quest for consistent representation of Paganism in the media is far more complicated than originally thought.

On June 24 at 2:30pm, AP religion writer Rachel Zoll, who assisted Stylebook editors in creating the new AP Stylebook chapter, will be hosting a Twitter chat to discuss the changes to the guide, the inclusions and exclusions, and about religion journalism in general. Go to Twitter and follow the #APStyleChat hashtag to hear what she has to say.

 

* Editorial Note: I wrote the original Circle Magazine article published in February and personally interviewed Oberon Zell about his work on this subject. That article and every one of my Wild Hunt articles uses the AP Stylebook. I have also developed my own style guidelines on usage and capitalization of religion-specific terms which are all based on my growing knowledge of Pagan and Heathen practices rather than on any given book or guide. That standard is and will continued to be applied here at The Wild Hunt. However I do look forward to a day when my AP Style Guard application forces me to capitalize ‘Pagan’ and tells me what it means in modern terms. 

 

 

It was discovered this past week that a sacred and beloved item was stolen from the Church of all Worlds (CAW) temple at the Annwfn Sanctuary in Mendocino County, California. The missing object is a large antique wooden chair that has been at the Pagan sanctuary since its founding in 1977. Upholstered with fabrics inspired by the famous Unicorn Tapestries, the treasured chair once belonged to the late Pagan Bard and Annwfn founder, Gwydion Pennderwen.

Gwydion's Throne [Photo Courtesy of the Friends of Annwfn]

Gwydion’s Throne [Photo Courtesy of the Friends of Annwfn]

Oberon Zell, founder of the Church of All Worlds, remarked, “I don’t know what to say. That was Gwydion’s favorite chair and the only chair on Annwfn until the Goat Lodge was built and furnished.”  He described it as “a masters chair” or “Gwydion’s throne.” Oberon recalls that Gwydion “brought it up from Caedderwen in Oakland when he moved to the Ranch in 1977.” Oberon explains:

The chair is one of a set of six depicting the famous Unicorn Tapestries at the Musee Clunee in NY, which illustrate the 5 senses—plus one extra titled ‘My Soul Desire.’ That last was the one Gwydion had.

Anna Korn, Gwydion’s biographer and one of the first to worship at Annwfn, described the chair as a beautiful, “a throne of carved wood.” Korn adds “it was in his two-story yurt, known as the Shaggy Mushroom, which is a sacred center on the site.”

Shaggy Mushroom [Photo Courtesy of Friends of Annwfn]

Shaggy Mushroom [Photo Courtesy of Friends of Annwfn]

In her short biography, Korn explains that Shaggy Mushroom was built in 1977 as Pennderwen’s home on the land that he named Annwfn after the Welsh Underworld. The building itself took its name from its shape and thatched roof. Since Pennderwen’s untimely death in 1982, Shaggy Mushroom has been renovated to become a historic sanctuary containing “multiple alters, art work, mementos from different sources.” Korn writes:

It is a lovely place to have a retreat and meditate, or browse the extensive collection of Gwydion’s original manuscripts and other books. The architecture is creative and ingenious. There are little touches of love and devotion to the natural world throughout … a railing made from an elk antler, with a spider web of cord instead of balustrades, for example … One of the most remarkable aspects of the Temple is the beautiful set of Quarter-theme stained glass windows gifted to Annwfn by equally beautiful Daoine a few years ago. 

Julie Epona, a CAW minister adds, “Gwydion’s home has been held as sacred space, a Pagan temple at Annwfn for decades.” Most recently Morning Glory Zell-Ravenhart‘s funeral was held on Annwfn’s sacred grounds. Of the funeral, Oberon Zell wrote:

Morning Glory is buried at the top of the Upper Meadow at CAW’s sacred land of Annwfn (Welsh” “Land of the Dead”)—our 55-acre sanctuary in the misty mountains of Mendocino County, bequeathed to us by our late bard, Gwydion Pendderwen, who died at Samhain 1982, and whose ashes were our first internment there. Morning Glory’s grave overlooks the campfire circle where we have held our rites of Beltane (and Walpurgisnacht) for the past 30 years.

In making the arrangements for her green burial, Oberon Zell secured Annwfn as an “officially-recognized cemetery for full body burials” which he calls “a final gift to the Pagan community from one of our eldest and most revered Priestesses.” It is his hope that many more Pagans will be buried on those sacred grounds in the years to come.

Gwydion Pennderwen [Photo Courtesy of CAW]

Gwydion Pennderwen [Photo Courtesy of CAW]

As for the chair, it is part of Annwfn’s history holding a connection to its founder, Gwydion Pennderwen. As such the chair is also a part of the land’s development from simply a home into a sacred community center, retreat, museum and now an legally recognized Pagan cemetery. Korn says, “It is troubling that nice things cannot be left to embellish a sacred site.”

Unfortunately the Friends of Annwfn, who manage the land, do not even know when or how the theft happened. They suspect, however, it occurred when the land’s caretakers, Wolf and Spiral, were off the property. The Church of All Worlds and the Friends of Annwfn are now calling on the Pagan community at large to help locate the chair. They are concerned it might turn up on eBay or in a thrift store. The organization is offering a $200 reward for the safe return of Gwydion’s throne.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Cherry Hill SeminaryLearning institution Cherry Hill Seminary, which provides training to Pagan clergy, has announced that they will be offering three scholarships to their 2014 Summer Intensive this July in Missouri. Quote: “Thanks to the generous contributions of many individuals last year to our new endowment fund, Cherry Hill Seminary is offering three scholarships to this year’s summer intensive, Entering the Sacred Grove, July 10-13, in Butler, Missouri. Scholarships are for the registration fee (which covers lunches at the event) and for tuition in the master’s class component (not required).  Individuals who receive a scholarship are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Entering the Sacred Grove will be an unusual opportunity to meet academic leadership as attendees will include Academic Dean Wendy Griffin, Dean of Students Candace Kant, and two department chairs, Bob Patrick and David Oringderff. In addition, the retreat will be the occasion of a wonderful event, the graduation of Carol Kirk, who has just earned her Master of Divinity!” For more information on applying, write to: CHS@cherryhillseminary.org

tara_morgana_slide_1June 27th at Treadwell’s in London will see a launch party for poet Paul Holman and photographer Paul Lambert’s new book “Tara Morgana,” published by Scarlet Imprint. Quote: “Tara Morgana is a work of pure magical writing. The title comes from the fusion of the Tibetan devi with Morgan Le Fay who is pursued as a mirage throughout this haunting text. Part magical diary, part dreamscape, part Situationist dérive through the landscape, Tara Morgana is an enigmatic record of ritual practice from the poet, whose work has been described as: indefinable … laconic, occultist, and attached to the line of revolutionary and subversive yearnings. This is not a book about magic, rather, it is a magical book. Contemplation of the work reveals a wealth of hidden treasures, or as Holman says: each dreamed text is a terma in the mind. Paul Holman is a lucid poet whose writing, with its concise yet elusive energy, takes us down into the tunnels, ghosts broken urban spaces where decay is overwritten with the ingress of the wild. He encounters denizens of the underworld, the magical subculture and down and outs. It is a work of echoes and memories whose reflections coalesce in dreams that can be recovered and manifest in the present.” The standard edition of the book will be released on June 2nd, paperback and digital editions are forthcoming.

Patrick McCollum at UNAs previously reported here at The Wild Hunt, Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum recently went to the United Nations to participate in an interfaith meeting centered on ending nuclear proliferation. Here’s a brief excerpt from the report on the event McCollum sent us: “This is the first of a series of meetings to strategize and develop a new treaty to end current nuclear proliferation and I will attend all future meetings going forward. Nuclear disarmament will now be an additional official subsection of the mission of the Patrick McCollum Foundation and I will be partnering with several other NGOs and peace builders on this […] I made several important high level connections during and after the meeting and received several other important invitations. I take the responsibility of interacting in these venues very seriously and do my best to represent my community with dignity and honor. This is literally where the rubber hits the road on global issues and the future of humanity is often decided here. I am so privileged to have a voice here and to offer us a place at the table.” You can read the statement he gave at the UN, here. More on this, and Rev. McCollum’s report, soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • On June 1st Fulgur Esoterica will announce the launch of a multimedia art project taking place over a six month period which will explore the concept of the third mind through prolonged dream recordings, online shares and Icelandic folklore. The project, entitled: “The Dreaming Project: Two Artists, Twenty –six Sigils” features artists Jesse Bransford (NYU) and Max Razdow who will attempt to attune their dreams by meditating separately on Icelandic symbols known as magical staves. You can read the whole press release for this project, here. We will be updating you on this project as it progresses.

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  • The new issue of Witches & Pagans Magazine, featuring Diana Paxson on the cover, shipped physical copies of the magazine on Monday, and is also now available via digital download. Quote: “This issue guest-stars a pair of notable Pagan writers. In ‘A Priestess for All Seasons’ we sit down with loremistress, fantasy author, seeress and Pagan/Heathen community leader Diana L. Paxson. Diana is best-known for her work on the ‘Avalon’ series (launched by Marion Zimmer Bradley) but has more than thirty novels and non-fiction books to her credit. Discover what inspires her amazing imagination in this exclusive interview. Western esoteric author Josephine McCarthy has been a working magician for over three decades; we discuss how magick arises from the power of the land spirits in ‘Visions from the North Gate.'”
  • Last week, we reported the news that Pagan elder and priestess Morning Glory Zell had passed away. Now, her husband Oberon Zell has posted a moving narrative of the funeral service. Quote: “Yesterday we laid Morning Glory’s body into the Earth, to rest in the bosom of Mother Gaea until she may return again in new flesh. I planted an apple tree over her loving heart, that someday her substance may return to us all as sweet nourishing fruit. It was a small private ceremony, attended by immediate family and about 30 of our closest family friends.”
  • Author, academic, feminist, and Goddess-worshipper Carol P. Christ is running for political office in Greece. Quote: “I live in Molivos and I am a candidate for the Regional Council of the North Aegean in Lesbos with the Green Wind because I love nature and the traditional way of life in the islands. I believe that we must appreciate and protect what we have, rather than destroy it.”
  • Aline O’Brien (aka M. Macha NightMare) has posted a report of Pagan participation in the Marin Interfaith Council Annual Prayer Breakfast. Quote: “What’s a Witch to do when her interfaith council’s 15th Annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast, which occurs on the first Thursday in May, falls on Beltane? Well, she sings up the Sun with the Berkeley Morris Dancers at dawn, then hustles across the bridge to Tiburon with her Wiccan (Gardnerian, to be specific) interfaith colleague, Don Frew, to rendezvous with Matt Whealton, a practitioner of Kemetic religion from the Temple of Ra, at his first foray into interfaith activities.” 

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

On Tuesday it was announced on her official Facebook page that Morning Glory Zell (aka Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart) had passed away after a long struggle with cancer and other complications.

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

“Blessings upon our High Priestess of the Goddess Morning Glory Zell who embarked upon her silver ship to the Summerlands this evening, Tuesday May 13th, 2014 at 5:42 p.m.”

With her long-time husband and companion Oberon Zell, Morning Glory was a pivotal figure in the history of contemporary Paganism in America. She formed the early core of the Church of All Worlds (CAW), helped create and edit Green Egg Magazine, one of the most influential publications in modern Paganism’s history, founded The Mythic Images Collection, and grew to become a highly respected source on goddess lore who toured the country speaking and teaching.

“My beloved has passed beyond the veil. She drew her final breath at 5:42 yesterday afternoon. Her handmaidens, students and priestesses prepared her body and dressed her in her beautiful Sea Priestess robes. She is now lying in grace in the Temple for a few days until we take her body to its final resting place in the Earth. It’s been an incredible week–grief and joy intermixing like a lava lamp. So many beautiful loving people gathered around, taking care of everything. That’s all I can really say right now…I can barely see to type.”Oberon Zell

In addition to her work within the context of modern Paganism, Morning Glory Zell was a strong advocate for non-monogamy and open relationship structures. She is widely credited with coining the term “polyamory” in 1990 to describe multiple loving committed relationships (in contrast to the notion of “swinging”). In a new (2010) introduction to that essay, Morning Glory said “this whole polyamorous lifestyle is the avante-garde of the 21st century. Expanded families will become a pattern with wider acceptance as the monogamous nuclear family system breaks apart under the impact of serial divorces.” With Oberon Zell, Morning Glory formed the Ravenheart family, a blended multi-partner polyamorous family that was profiled in the RE/SEARCH title “Modern Pagans.” John C. Sulak, who co-wrote “Modern Pagans,” would go on to write the story of Oberon and Morning Glory’s life in  “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism.” 

9780738714820_p0_v1_s260x420“This is the stranger-than-fiction story of two soul mates who rejected the status quo and embraced higher ideals . . . and had a whole lot of fun while they were at it. Reclaiming Pagan as a spiritual identity—and living in an open marriage for over four decades—Oberon and Morning Glory Zell truly embody the freedom to think, to love, and to live.

Telling the stories of their singular lives in this unique oral history, Oberon and Morning Glory—together with a colorful tribe of friends, lovers, musicians, homesteaders, researchers, and ritualists—reveal how they established the Church of All Worlds, revitalized Goddess worship, discovered the Gaea Thesis, raised real Unicorns, connected a worldwide community through Green Egg magazine, searched for mermaids in the South Pacific, and founded the influential Grey School of Wizardry.”

Llewellyn Worldwide, the publisher of that title, released this statement on Morning Glory’s passing.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Morning Glory Zell. Morning Glory and Oberon Zell have been leaders in the Pagan community since meeting at one of the Gnosticons in the 1970s. She will be greatly missed. Blessings on your journey, MG. Love, light and heartfelt sympathies go out to Oberon Zell and his family from everyone at Llewellyn.”

As Morning Glory’s health deteriorated, an initiative was put forward to record as much of her accumulated wisdom through audio recordings as possible. To preserve the decades of insights and experiences from a life lived in service to her goddesses.

“There are people whose lives make an indelible mark on the tapestry of life. Morning Glory Zell was such a person. As Priestess, Wife, Teacher and Friend; she devoted her life to providing a contemporary throne to our ancient Goddess. We thank you! We celebrate you! We will miss your physical presence. But we will carry forth your work and we will honor you as a Sacred Ancestress, Morning Glory. The death of your body is but the expansion of your spirit. May our lady guide and guard you in your journey, great lady. And, may the love of so many of us be a source of strength and healing for Oberon. As a Pagan and Witch tribe We stand with you. I love you both dearly. My Gods love you.”Orion Foxwood

“She brought a lot of light into the worlds of all those around her. In love may she return again.”Aline O’Brien (M. Macha Nightmare)

Green Egg Magazine has announced that they will be publishing a special free tribute issue in honor of Morning Glory.

“We will be publishing our next issue of Green Egg in about 2 weeks. This will be a special tribute to Morning Glory. We are collecting stories about her so if you’d like to submit a story re: M.G. send it in – even if only a paragraph, that’s OK. We just want to get as many stories about her as possible. You can send your stories in to: greeneggzine@gmail.com if you have pictures you think are unique, please send those along as well.  THIS ISSUE WILL BE FREE!!!”

May she rest in the arms of her Goddess, and may her spirit return to us again. What is remembered, lives.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

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

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

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

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

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

Character portraits from Brendan Myers’ “Fellwater” series.

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

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

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

“I completely reject the “myth” that Pagan leadership is like “herding cats.” Yes, sometime it comes to pass that Pagan leadership is frustrating. Why is it like that? Because we keep saying it is. We make that reality happen. You know–words have power. Words have a lot of power. Words shape reality. I actively encourage people to not use that particular phrase because it just reinforces the story that Pagans are hard to lead. In fact, it’s more accurate to say, people are hard to lead. Pagans are a subculture with unique difficulties and our leaders don’t have appropriate training in leadership, which exacerbates the problems we face. But this phrase does not serve us in moving forward. […]  Herding cats roughly implies that Pagans are too individualistic to ever follow someone else, and trying to organize and lead such individualistic people is impossible. However, that hasn’t been my experience at all. Most Pagans I meet are desperate to find a group that is stable and healthy where they can get basic education.” – Shauna Aura Knight, on why she hates the phrase “herding cats” when describing the organizing of Pagans.

Prudence Priest

Prudence Priest

“The Trinkunas family welcomed me every time I visited the Baltics, and I often stayed with them and went with them to many events and sventes (festivals) . I was in the center of Vilnius with them when they recorded “The Rite of Fire”, and at the National Museum of Lithuania when they premiered “Hymns to Saule” (the Sun Goddess) . In between those CDs and before Lithuania joined the EU, they used to hold a heathen summer camp in various sites near Vilnius. They owned six pieces of property about 70 miles northeast of Vilnius and less than a mile from the Belarus border. Jonas called them belts; they were very narrow strips of land.  One summer visit, the drunken Russian who owned a “belt” between theirs wanted to sell and move to his Father’s place. It was complicated, but I bought the place, and now Romuva had seven contiguous properties and became a village. It was named Dvarciskes. I believe it was the same year Jonas won the Basanavicius prize for preserving the folklore and traditions of Lithuania in the face of communism. He has won many honors and degrees over the years and he and his entire family have been a dynamic force in preserving and practicing the indigenous religion of the Baltics. […] It is so hard to believe that this wonderful, kind, man, priest, writer, fellow philologist, and friend is no longer with us, but his legacy is intact and Romuva will continue.” – Prudence Priest, writing a remembrance of her friend Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva (Wild Hunt obituary here).

David Salisbury

David Salisbury

“This is just a small sampling of the dozens of responses I got through both social media and email and encompasses a pretty visible range of the answers I received.  Can you guess my first observation? No spells! A terrible assumption by some older Pagans is that young Pagans are only interested in magickal paths for the instant glory that a spell can promise. Though out of all the responses, I honestly did not see a single one that mentioned “being able to cast spells.” This to me is proof that the young generation of Witches and Pagans is a lot deeper than many like to believe. This isn’t a new thing either. Starting as a teen myself, I can tell you that spells and magick was certainly something I thought was “cool” but was not the main attraction to me and those I practiced with. I’m tickled to know that this sentiment extends beyond my own experience. My other observation was the huge number of responses focused on finding and engaging with a community. This isn’t surprising considering that a formative trait of growing up is learning how to interact with different communities and finding what you consider to be your place within them. This is especially important for young Pagans who may feel ostracized for being of a minority religion, where social acceptance could be a little harder to come by.” – David Salisbury, on what young Pagans like.

Wes Isley

Wes Isley

“Magick, for me, is a walk in the woods and watching a flock of birds wheel over a lake, lifting my mood and thereby altering my direction for the remainder of the day. Magick is the ability to hear that still, small voice within that gently beckons, calling me toward a life that isn’t found on television or the Internet. Magick is finding connection and community in the most unlikely places and people. Magick is embracing profound experiences that cannot easily be explained. Is magick supernatural? I don’t know. I think it’s more commonplace than most of us realize, but we’re often too busy, our minds too cluttered to recognize it. I think magick is more subtle than our movie-fueled fantasies will admit, and I don’t believe magick is reserved for a chosen few. I believe magick is open to everyone. It’s also risky, because to practice magick requires us to go against the grain. It means seeing the world and people with a compassionate and hopeful perspective that stands in contrast to how we’re conditioned or expected to act and think. I don’t believe magick is about wielding power or getting what you want from some force that must obey your commands. Rather, practicing magick allows us to tap into a universal current that has always been and always will be. Life can be lived just fine without magick, but a truly magickal life, I believe, is much richer, multifaceted and original.” – Wes Isley, on what magic is, and why he wants to do it. 

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell

“I am sharing the keynote with guest Deborah Lipp, and we are offering a talk on the legacy of the whole Neo-Pagan movement. The two of us will be bouncing back and forth about the emergence of the Neo-Pagan movement and what it has contributed that will be of lasting significance in the world. I think it is quite a lot. We will also talk about where we go from here as Paganism becomes more recognized as a mainstream religion. One of the puzzles we have all experienced is why don’t people don’t seem to know about us, because they ought to! There have been more books published by and about the Pagan movement that just about any other religion you could find. Vast numbers of people are involved, interviews, television shows are aired about us. People seem to have a much greater awareness about a few truly obscure and off the wall spiritual groups than us. […] The theme of the conference is about Embracing the Elements, and now that we have just stepped over the threshold of the age of Aquarius, there is interest in knowing what all this will mean. I want to talk about this, as Aquarius is an Air sign, signifying communication, wisdom, and travel through the air and sky. The internet and how that will continue evolving in the years to come, and space travel and colonization, these are totally Aquarian types of issues. Then there is the spiritual, and Aquarius also involves the mind and consciousness. The “New Age” is very Aquarian in its entire vision. This is truly a time of global awakening, of our planetary being, of Gaea herself. Her awakening to full consciousness and the implications of that for us. I have been thinking about these things for decades and I think it will make a great subject to talk about. We are here!” – Oberon Zell, discussing his upcoming appearance at Paganicon in Minnesota.

Fritz Muntean

Fritz Muntean

“The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay — demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns — on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth — and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism. Sez who? More to the point — who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming? IMO, and FWIW, the people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it’s true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed ‘all acts of love and pleasure’ as its sacraments. Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse (‘follow your feelings’), self-expression (‘let it all hang out’), and situational appropriateness (‘go with the flow'; ‘different strokes for different folks’). Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation (‘be here now’), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.” – Fritz Muntean, posing the question of whether the modern Pagan movement can be classified as “nature” religion. 

Alyxander Folmer

Alyxander Folmer

The ongoing debate over Edward Snowden is still raging. Is the former NSA contractor-turned-whistle-blower a Hero or a Traitor? Should we decry his actions as a violation of trust, or extol them as a selfless attempt to fight injustice? As anÁsatrúar, I believe we are honor bound to speak out against perceived injustices when we come across them. Óðinn advised us to give our foes no “frið,” which is translated here as peace. Frið (or Frith) is a complex social ideal with many layers of meaning. It represents peace, loyalty, fealty, kinship;frið is the bond of honor that holds a family together. When Óðinn says “give your enemies no peace,” the statement implies that you should not offer loyalty or kinship with those who would do harm. If your brother were planning to commit some nefarious act, it would be your duty to stand in his way. When Snowden saw the NSA doing things like tracking the sexual preferences of suspected “Radicalizers” in order to damage their reputations, he decided that the abuse of power had to stop. He broke frið and brought the problem to the attention of the public. True to Óðinn’s advice, in the year following his announcement, he has given his enemies no peace.” – Alyxander Folmer, on Edward Snowden as the “honorable traitor.” 

John Beckett

John Beckett

“But trying to read moral lessons into American Horror Story: Coven misses the point.  It’s cool.  It’s sexy.  It’s fun even though it’s frustrating.  It’s dark fantasy about a type of witchcraft that has long been feared even though it doesn’t exist, at least not exactly like this.  It’s what we wish we could do, even though we wouldn’t… probably… maybe… Several observers of pop culture and the entertainment world have said “witches are the new vampires.”  Witches and witchcraft are popping up on television to an extent we haven’t seen in 15 years, if ever.  Most of the shows appear to be targeted to teenage girls, which means there’s not a chance in the Hell that doesn’t exist that I’ll be watching them. Most of their viewers will see witchcraft as a pleasant fantasy.  Most will see magic as “oh, if only I could…”  Most will watch a season or two and then move on to some other entertainment. But for a few, a new curiosity will be kindled.  Or perhaps a vague desire will be given a name.  Or a life-long interest will become urgent enough to finally pursue.  And because some of us have done like Cordelia at the end of Coven and gone public with our magic, those people will have resources to turn to.” – John Beckett, on the finale of American Horror Story: Coven

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“The conception of Brigit that has come about in most modern CR practice, and pretty much all modern paganism that I’ve been able to discern, is one that is derived from academic (Christian and linguistics-based) sources, with no appreciation for how polytheism works. To most Christians, imagining more than one deity is hard enough, so “one deity with three parts” (which, to them, is still “One”) becomes a way to understand many deities that might be separate. That might work for Hekate Triformis, but it doesn’t automatically work for any other triplicity of deitiesjust because. And in the linguistics paradigm, there is a tendency to look at different reflexes of a given root in several different languages that are then either cognate or equivalent, and then to conclude “They’re all the same.” And that’s exactly what’s been done with Brigit. Compound this with Saint Brigit of Kildare, and many other saints called Brigit, Bríg, or Bríd (and various other cognates, by-forms, and so forth), all of whom very certainly derive from the popularity and importance of St. Brigit of Kildare (who not only has the earliest saints’-lives of any saint in Ireland, but has three of them that are early, one of which is quite different from the other two), and you get a recipe for disastrous polytheistic collapse. If all of these diverse Christian Brigits (and so forth) derive from one Brigit of Kildare, why then wouldn’t all pagan Brigits (and so forth) also derive from one Brigit, including the Christian Brigit’s derivation from that original pagan stock? The major difficulty there is that the coincidences between the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigit are exactly that: coincidences based on an assumed unity (which itself is based on linguistics), rather than any actual events in what is known about the pagan Brigits and the Christian Brigits as far as symbolism or narrative event and mythic sharing.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, on understanding the complexity of the goddess Brigid.

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Morning Glory Zell

Morning Glory Zell

As mentioned in last week’s installment of Pagan Community Notes, Pagan elder Morning Glory Zell is currently in the hospital due to kidney problems. Her partner, Oberon Zell, has posted an update on her status, saying that “she had a double-dose of blood extraction and filtration: phoresis all morning, and dialysis all afternoon. By the time they were done, she was really wiped out, and she had a very rough night. Today she was due for another phoresis treatment, and then they were going to alternate days of phoresis with days of dialysis. But she begged them to let her have a day off, and they agreed. So tomorrow she’ll be back on phoresis.” As treatments continue, a fundraiser has been organized to help cover costs associated with her long hospital stay. Quote: “Money for Morning Glory Zell is accepting donations to offset living and medical expenses for our Pagan Priestess.” As of this writing, over $4000 dollars of the $5000 dollar goal have been raised. Our best wishes go out to Morning Glory, her family, and loved ones.

Deborah Ann Light (photo via Anna Korn)

Deborah Ann Light (photo via Anna Korn)

It has been announced that Deborah Ann Light, a Wiccan Elder who has been heavily involved with the interfaith movement, has entered hospice. A Facebook group has been set up for those wishing to send messages or share remembrances as she prepares for this next stage in her journey. Here’s a short quote from Andras Corban Arthen of EarthSpirit on Light and her contributions to modern Paganism. Quote: “Deborah has been a great benefactor to the pagan movement over the years, and helped to open many doors for us, especially in the area of interfaith. At the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, when, after much negotiation, the Parliament agreed to give one seat at the Assembly of Religious Leaders to be divided among the three co-sponsoring pagan organizations — EarthSpirit, Circle and COG — Deborah (as a member of all three organizations) became our joint representative and signed the Global Ethic document on our behalf. As a philanthropist, she has given substantial funding to many pagan organizations and causes, never wanting public credit or fanfare, only the satisfaction of knowing she had been able to serve her community.” Our best thoughts and wishes go out to Deborah Ann Light, her friends, family, and co-religionists.

Wendy Rule

Wendy Rule

Pagan musician Wendy Rule has just released a new album, entitled “Black Snake.” Rule calls the album one centered on “transformation.” Quote: “Black Snake is an album of transformation. It follows my personal journey of the past couple of years – of stripping back and letting go of everything that was holding me back, and of reaching a point of vulnerability that allows for true growth. It’s an album of great optimism, and although some of the songs are soft and dark and sad, many are full of the great exhilaration of Life and Nature and the incredible Universe. Even though the 12 songs explore my own journey, they are really celebrating universal themes of death and rebirth, of descent and re-awakening. It’s your story, too! And it’s Mother Earth’s story.” You can purchase the new album at her recently re-designed website, or at CD Baby. A launch party for the Australian singer-songwriter’s new CD will be held in March.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • “Entering the Sacred Grove,” the 2014 Summer Intensive from Cherry Hill Seminary, will be held July 10th-13th in Butler, Missouri. Quote: “Myth signifies a story which encompasses deep meaning and insight into the human situation and life on this Earth. The sacred grove is a place where we may explore the interfaces where what is mundane and domesticated in us confronts the wild divine within and the transformation that results. The authentic spiritual life embraces both, searching for an alchemy that will move the seeker beyond the mundane.”

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  • “The Wizard and the Witch: Seven Decades of Counterculture, Magick & Paganism,” which focuses on the lives of Oberon and Morning Glory Zell, written by John C. Sulak, will be released on February 1st from Llewellyn Wordwide. Quote: “Telling the stories of their singular lives in this unique oral history, Oberon and Morning Glory—together with a colorful tribe of friends, lovers, musicians, homesteaders, researchers, and ritualists—reveal how they established the Church of All Worlds, revitalized Goddess worship, discovered the Gaea Thesis, raised real Unicorns, connected a worldwide community through Green Egg magazine, searched for mermaids in the South Pacific, and founded the influential Grey School of Wizardry.” Looks like a must-own for Pagan scholars and historians.
  • Chas Clifton notes that the funeral rites for Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva, can now be viewed online. The Lithuanian news site has also posted a lot of photos. You can read The Wild Hunt’s obituary for Jonas Trinkūnas, here.
  • Pagan musician S.J. Tucker has entered the “Song of Arkansas” contest. Quote: “New Song! Hope you all enjoy this. Pretty well sums up how I feel about the positive aspects & beauty of the place I came from. I wrote this for a song contest which closes today. The pro judges will pick the top 5 entries over the next two weeks, and then general voting begins on February 10. We’ll see if I make it into the top 5!” Good luck! I’ve embedded the video below.

  • The Imbolc 2014 issue of Pentacle Magazine“the UK’s premier independent Pagan magazine,” is now available for order. Offerings include: “Green Man: Albion Fracked!,” “Thoughts on Being Called a Heretic,” and “By Spellbook and Candle: a Guide to Cursing.”

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