Archives For Officers of Avalon

On Saturday, Peter Dybing, current president of Officers of Avalon, and former First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, announced that he was resigning from all, quote, “organizations, positions, posts and responsibilities in the Pagan community.” In a statement posted to his blog, Dybing expressed a desire to return to anonymity, saying that his very public role was causing him to neglect his partner and engaging in behavior that he personally disapproved of.

Peter Dybing

“My commitments to community service have required that my partner Rebekah make great sacrifices in our relationship.  She is my rock, my lover and my best friend; she deserves more of my mindful attention and affection.  How can I profess service to the Goddess and continue to neglect her manifestation beside me?

The events of the last two years have also convinced me that our community is not ready to embrace a spirit of service. It is with great sadness that I have witnessed dozens of prominent Pagan leaders speaking ill of their compatriots. While I have attempted to address this issue, I am sickened at the backstabbing that continues to occur within our community. Recently, to my shame, I observed myself engaging in similar behavior. I do not wish to become what I abhor. I will not miss the politics of Pagan leadership.”

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

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

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

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

After his year as COG’s First Officer ended, Dybing traveled across the country visiting local Pagan communities, engaged in activism with the Occupy movement, and was elected President of the Officers of Avalon, a non-profit benevolent association for Pagan and Wiccan law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical personnel and their families.

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

I’ve had the great honor of meeting, speaking, and establishing a friendship with Peter these past few years. To all his many roles he brought a no-nonsense, direct, and honest personality that was always ready to listen and engage. A fundamental belief that we could all be better, and that service is the highest calling of a Pagan leader. Someone who never forgot those who he was elected serve, and who wore uneasily the accolades and laurels given to him. He is a good man, and while I believe our community has suffered a loss in this decision, I know he’ll forever be on the front-lines helping those in need, and modeling the best what modern Pagans can be.

My thanks to you Peter Dybing for all that you’ve done and accomplished for the Pagan community, good luck in all your endeavors. Next time I see you, the drinks are on me.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note 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!

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale: Pagan activist, leader, and first responder Peter Dybing was with Occupy Fort Lauderdale in Florida on Wednesday, giving training in non-violent resistance as those gathered prepared for a forced eviction. Dybing, current president of Officers of Avalon, and former First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, has been a vocal supporter of the right of people to peaceably assemble, and was prepared to be arrested for that principle. Here’s a short excerpt from a statement Dybing sent to members of the Pagan media.

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

“Arrived about 2 p.m. and discussed the city having posted a “New” set of rules that would ban tents ( safety issue, direct sun no shade) and ban protesters in the late night hours. Engaged organizers in discussions about the consensus process. Identified a need for training in non violent resistance civil vs. criminal resistance, Ethical considerations and strategy considerations. Conducted training. My self and one other protester invited to “negotiate” with City manager. Did this while another organizer was working on a court order with a  attorney. Word came at about 6 p.m. that the court had ordered the city to take no action until Dec 2 or the next court hearing [...] I was ready to go to jail tonight, glad I did not have to.”

As Dybing mentioned, a judge granted a temporary injunction on the new rules until a court hearing can happen on the issue. Dybing is just the most recent high-profile Pagan leader to engage and participate in the Occupy movement, joining figures like Starhawk and T. Thorn Coyle. In addition, Officers of Avalon, the Pagan police and first responders organization that Dybing currently serves as president, recently spoke out on police violence in regards to the Occupy movement. Religion scholar Lee Gilmore recently noted that the Occupy movement contains “an invitation to mindfulness and participation in ways that are simultaneously spiritual and earthly: Occupy the Earth, Occupy your Life, Occupy Everything.” With that mixture of the spiritual and the earthly, it seems natural that modern Pagans are drawn to become a part of it. We’ll keep you updated on the intersections of modern Paganism and the Occupy movement as things progress.

Solar Cross Raises Money for Native Elders This Winter: Bay Area religious organization Solar Cross Temple has started a new initiative to raise money for Native American elders at Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and other reservations who have a hard time keeping their homes heated in the winter due to a lack of money for heating fuel. Solar Cross Temple co-founder T. Thorn Coyle says that “gratitude is the seed of great magic, I want to use this Thanksgiving holiday to pass on some good fortune.”

Solar Cross Temple founders: Jonathan Korman, T. Thorn Coyle, and Robert Russell

Solar Cross Temple founders: Jonathan Korman, T. Thorn Coyle, and Robert Russell

“Each year, the elders at Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and other reservations have trouble heating their homes. 61% of the population lives below the poverty line. I won’t detail the years of injustice and neglect that have contributed to this situation, and right now, I don’t have the time, energy, and funds to rebuild every inadequate home on the reservation. What I do have the time and energy for is to collect money to help these families  – particularly the elders, some number of whom freeze to death each year – heat their homes. There is great injustice reflected in the way these people are living, and we can tip the balance slightly toward the good.

Solar Cross Temple is collecting donations and will send money directly to the heating companies who maintain a list of families who need propane fuel. 100% of the money after the paypal fees will go to this cause. The more money we collect, the longer into winter these families will have heat. We suggest donations of anywhere between $10-100 (or more for those of you who are truly blessed). Please put “Donation for Winter Fuel Drive” in the subject line so we know where to send the donation. And please pass this information along via any networks you are part of. There is a “donate” button in the left hand column of this page, if you scroll down.”

Solar Cross is a temple, so all donations are tax deductible. Send donations via paypal to solarcrosstemple@gmail.com, please note: “Donation for Winter Fuel Drive” with your contribution. There is also a Facebook event page for this initiative if you want to spread the word there. We will check back with Solar Cross Temple in the weeks to come to keep track on the progress of this initiative.

New Alexandrian Library (Really) Ready to Break Ground: Back in March of this year I reported that the New Alexandrian Library in Delaware, a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and the history of our magickal communities,” was ready to break ground on their physical structure. However, that impending ground-breaking ended up being delayed for months due to what NAL call a “sea of red tape.” Now, that sea has been traversed and the necessary permits are now in hand for construction to begin.

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

“After working through unexpected delays, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW) has obtained the building permit to begin construction of the New Alexandrian Library (NAL) and the contractor is preparing to lay the foundation. “We are very excited to finally be able to break ground,” said Jim Dickinson, the NAL Project Manager, “It is ‘a dream whose time has come’!”“This project is about preserving our past and building our future. It is a dream becoming manifest that will inspire scholarship and a deepening of magickal culture. It is proof that our community is maturing,” said Ivo Dominguez, Jr., founding member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and one of the driving forces behind the NAL.

The New Alexandrian Library will be primarily a research and reference library. It will provide onsite workstations and other facilities, and is examining housing options for people engaging in long-term research. The NAL resources will act as a magnet that will draw together teachers, authors, and scholars from many paths. Like the original Great Library of Alexandria, the schools of Qabala in medieval Spain, and the flourishing of magick that occurred in renaissance Italy, the diverse confluence of minds and resources would result in great leaps forward in theory and practice. The NAL will be one of the cornerstones of a new magickal renaissance. The benefits for future generations are incalculable.”

Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Elder Helena Domenic notes that much will be needed in the way of donations to make this project successful, NAL needs to raise $125,000 dollars more in the next six months to complete the construction phase. A Ground Breaking Ceremony will be held on Saturday, December 17th, 2011, and will include a brief presentation and speakers, and a ritual for the laying of the foundation (more info here). While the construction project is underway NAL is already in the process of building its collection, including the recent acquisition of rare Dion Fortune paintings gifted by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. We will be sure to bring coverage of the ground breaking ceremony in December, congratulations to NAL and ASW!

Other Community Notes:

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

Peter Dybing and Officers of Avalon have responded to police violence in the Occupy Movement:

Over the past several days the membership of Officers of Avalon has become highly concerned with both the images of police actions at Occupy sites and the discussion within the Pagan community about these events. This leaves the organization in the precarious situation of having to find a way to support freedom of expression, arguably a Pagan value, and also support our fellow officers.

For most of the last two months police and the Occupy movement has coexisted in a mostly peaceable atmosphere. Over the last week political leaders across the country made decisions to confront the protesters by directing police departments to enforce curfew, sanitation and nuisance laws. This has resulted in confrontations where a few officers have crossed the line and used unreasonable force. Let us state clearly, Officers Of Avalon believes that the use of excessive force on peaceable protesters is a violation of the rights of protesters, clearly immoral and in extreme cases felonious.

That being said, we are highly concerned that much of the discourse within the Pagan community has become “Anti Police”. The vast majority of police officers in this country are middle class, hardworking, honest and interested serving the public in any way they can. As a group, police officers have also experienced the economic instability, uneven distribution of wealth and severe reduction of opportunity that the current economic situation has caused.

It is not the police who are the enemy of this movement. Many officers in fact support the Occupy movement. Certainly, Pagan police officers clearly support the rights of the protesters to openly express themselves. Holding local officers accountable for the decisions of politicians is both unreasonable and illogical. It is no more reasonable than blaming your local bank teller for the actions of their CEO’s on Wall Street.

Officers of Avalon would clearly like to se a more substantive debate around recent police actions. An example of this is noted in the following passage from a recent Democracy Now report:

“There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, ‘bad apples.’ What both of them have in common is that they ‘occupy,’ as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy.”

While Officers Of Avalon takes no stand on the validity of such positions we do applaud the tone that does not vilify the police and leads to real debate.

We call on the community to continue to support your Pagan first responders and not participate in the unnecessary and wrongful vilification of an entire profession based on the actions of a few.

For the Board of OoA,

Peter Dybing
President
Officers of Avalon

The Officers of Avalon is a fraternal, educational, and charitable organization. We seek to provide a community and network for Pagan first responders and to serve as a voice for them. We seek to provide accurate information and improve public perception about Pagan spirituality through education. We seek to defend followers of Pagan spirituality by working against misinformation, discrimination, defamation, harassment and intimidation. We are an outreach to Pagans in the Emergency Services. We also seek to demonstrate that Pagans are a charitable people. To that end, we work on the collection and distribution of donations to communities in need for natural disaster relief. Join us today as an Officer of Avalon or a Friend of Avalon. Details may be found at the website http://officersofavalon.com/

We expect to cover Pagan responses and involvement in the Occupy movement more in the future and look forward to the discussion this engenders.

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

Peter Dybing

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

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

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

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

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

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The Pagan law enforcement and emergency personnel organization Officers of Avalon is sending out a call for donations to their Avalon Cares Relief Project in order to assist those affected by the recent California wildfires that have destroyed over 1,400 homes, and evacuated nearly a million people.

“As our members are Pagan professionals in the emergency services, we’ve had a lot of people on the ground in the affected areas from the start. I’m starting to get reports on what has been affected and where help might be needed. I encourage you to do the same. If you know any one who has needs as a result of this disaster, please write to us and let us know … Once again, we’re showing the world what Pagans can do. Yet we must stick with it. We need you all to continue to donate what you can. If you can’t donate money, donate your time to volunteer efforts. Do your own fund raising events to help us in this disaster relief effort. Open your doors to the displaced. Give blood. If you’re a Pagan in the emergency services or related fields, join us at Officers of Avalon and help us help Pagans.”

Officers of Avalon has has 501 (c) status (so your donation is tax-deductible), and 100% of the money collected by the Avalon Cares project is going to the relief effort in California. Donation links can be found, here.

For those of you who have been following the story concerning the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ controversial plan to limit religious books for prison libraries to an approved list (currently on hold due to massive protests), some recent information has come to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request put in by one of my readers. According to the FOI document sent to me, there are no records of outside consultants, or fees paid to outside consultants.

“In reference to your request for the names of consultants, fees paid to those consultants, and the invoices related to those fees, there is no information responsive to this request.”

This seems to back up claims by the American Academy of Religion that no members of its organization were involved in making the lists. It also looks very likely that the BOP was “misstating” when it said they relied on experts to make the lists. Which raises the vision of BOP bureaucrats making the lists by doing Google searches. These facts should make for interesting background when the lists return in 2008.

Mary Lefkowitz, professor emerita at Wellesley College, has an editorial up in the L.A. Times endorsing a return to polytheism, specifically, a return to the Greek pantheon.

“The world, as the Greek philosopher Thales wrote, is full of gods, and all deserve respect and honor. Such a generous understanding of the nature of divinity allowed the ancient Greeks and Romans to accept and respect other people’s gods and to admire (rather than despise) other nations for their own notions of piety … Ancient Greek religion gives an account of the world that in many respects is more plausible than that offered by the monotheistic traditions. Greek theology openly discourages blind confidence based on unrealistic hopes that everything will work out in the end. Such healthy skepticism about human intelligence and achievements has never been needed more than it is today.”

I dare say this is a call for a return to traditional values that most Christian conservatives aren’t really expecting!

For those who loved “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Guillermo Del Toro, but thought it was too “cheery”, the acclaimed director is planning to tackle H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”, an essential tale in the ever-popular Cthulhu Mythos.

“…it will NOT be next on his list. It is still possible that a studio has finally agreed to a deal … it looks very good that GDT will soon be in monster heaven soon, thanks to Don Murphy’s Angry Films, and Susan Montford, who will be on board as producers, and an as yet unnamed studio. At one point the film was being looked at by Dreamworks/Paramount and Warner Bros., but looks like Universal may be the frontrunner now.”

The film adaptation was co-written by Guillermo del Toro, and a review of it is posted, here.

Finally, in Witch School news, the small town of Rossville, Illinois (the new home-base of Witch School) held a town meeting for those worried by the recent influx of Pagans. But rather than controversy, Robert Kurka, professor of theology and church in culture at Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln called for tolerance and co-existence.

“About 150 people from Rossville, Hoopeston and other parts of the county attended the event that was open to the public. Kurka talked for more than an hour about the history of Wicca religion and the ideas behind it and compared the beliefs to Christian beliefs, showing how the two differ. Kurka encouraged the mostly Christian audience to treat the Wiccans in a Christian way, by welcoming them to the community as they would anyone else.”

This seems to have somewhat surprised the Witch School members in attendance, who no doubt feared an anti-Pagan fire-breather had been sent to rally the faithful.

“It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I thought it would be more ‘We have to get rid of these people’ attitude. I was pleased to know it was more friendly,”

So it look like Rossville is coming to terms with its new Pagan neighbors, though it remains to be seen if Rossville will ever become the “Salem of the Midwest” as some hope.

That is all I have for now, have a good day!