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Yesterday, word quickly spread that David Grega, perhaps best known for his prominent role on the Pagan Centered Podcast, passed away after a sudden cardiac arrest. In addition to co-founding PCP, an irreverent podcast that garnered a large and appreciative audience for its no-holds-barred style, Dave also helped in the running and development of the Proud Pagan Podcasters, was an important early voice in the formation of the Pagan Newswire Collective, and co-founded Lonestar Pagan, the Texas bureau of the PNC. Dave was a key figure in Pagan new media, constantly tinkering, trying out new ideas and technologies in order to more effectively do the work at hand. He had a personality and energy that was almost impossible to ignore, and we are all poorer for his absence.

Dave Grega

Dave Grega

“If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do for a while, start planning to get it done.  If there’s something you don’t want to do – find an honorable way to stop doing it.  If someone needs something and you like them and you can more than afford it (and they’re not a needy do-nothing)… give it to them.  And for gods’ sake – don’t forget to tell people how much you value them before they keel over and die.  Funerals are not a particularly useful time to tell someone how much they meant to you. I notice most people’s fears about death have more to do with regrets than anything else.” – Dave Grega

While tributes to Dave have started to pour in, I think these words from Amber Roth, one of the original co-founders and hosts of the Pagan Centered Podcast, are perhaps the most appropriate at this time.

“It’s hard to know what to say when a friend passes, let alone where to start. I remember the first time I met Dave it was way back when he had a pagan group at Clarion Campus in Pennsylvania. Even then, Dave was someone who was beyond outspoken. He would pull new visitors into conversation and loved the idea of friendly debate. Even our very first interaction started with me trying to observe from the background and him pulling me into a conversation with, “Well YOU look like you have some interesting stories”, and then dragging thoughts from me. It seems like such a small memory to focus on, but it was the beginning of such an important part of my life.

I could talk about how kind a person Dave was, or how bright of a light he was for all of us. But instead of all the sappy memories, what comes to mind is all the debating that our friendship entailed. Dave Grega was an important friend in my life, but not because he was full of feel good conversation. It was because he wasn’t afraid to tell you what he thought. Not because he was mean-spirited (even though sometimes he had as much social grace as as a blindfolded buffalo in a china shop) but because he didn’t feel that holding observations back when they had the possibility of stirring positive change. It didn’t matter if he was talking to a “Big Name Pagan”, a friend, or a random guest on the podcast, he would speak his mind. He wasn’t afraid to question or push for change on taboo and complex issues and he encouraged others to do the same.

Life won’t be the same without post-producing his laugh to be a reasonable volume, or hearing his snarky disapproval when I was being stubborn in making a hard decision. But if I can pull anything positive out of this tragedy, is that Dave was able to pass at a time in his life where he had found happiness. He had a loving relationship with a brand new baby girl to bring light into his life. He lived his life to the fullest, and with little regret. He pushed hard to meet standards that he put himself up to without asking for acceptance or permission. He was one of the bravest people I know, I feel honored to have had him in my life as a dear friend. Not only for the times where we were able to laugh and joke, but for the all the times that he cared enough to tell me when he disagreed and pushed me past my comfort levels to become more of the person I am today…as I am sure he has done for countless others.

Dave Grega, you will be deeply missed my friend. I don’t think I can find the words to properly express the loss that we feel, but know that we’ll remember you always.”

Finally, here is a prayer from Lamyka, host of Lamyka’s Wiccan Podcast, who worked and collaborated with Dave.

Death Prayer of Dave Grega
Composed by Lamyka

Harsh rapids flow
against banks of ice.
Your life and loss
carves scars into us all.

Yet now Lord and Lady guided,
softer shores abound.
Swifter currents yield
at happy gurgling sound.

Flow now as Life, Herself.
Be at Peace.
On now western shores
all hurts smoothed and gone.
Light of the Gods
wrap you warm.
Blessed Be.

Plans for a memorial are currently in progress, as are plans to raise funds so that his mother can attend his funeral. Once I have that information, I will update this post. My sincere condolences go out to all of Dave’s friends and family, may his spirit rest with the gods and return to us again.

ADDENDUM: Here’s information about the Memorial Fund to help his family with expenses.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed. Oh, and do check out the Witchtalk Conjure podcast/radio show tonight, I’ll be making a special appearance.

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

American Mystic Director on Pagan Centered Podcast: The Pagan Centered Podcast has just posted its latest episode, featuring an hour-long discussion with Alex Mar, director of the new documentary “American Mystic”. You can download the program, here.

“The PCP Crew interviews Alex Mar of American Mystic, the first movie branded as a Pagan movie to be released to the general public in theaters! The crew discusses their thoughts about the movie with Alex and we all explore the movie at a greater depth. Don’t worry, even though we screened the full movie, we were able to negotiate the right to release the trailer to you as part of this episode so you will have some idea about what we are talking about. Special thanks again to Alex Mar and Empire 8 for making this happen on such short notice!”

Alex and “American Mystic” has been making the rounds of Pagan media lately, doing interviews with The Modern Witch Podcast (not to mention The Wild Hunt), and receiving positive reviews from a number of national Pagan outlets. The DVD will be available for sale at PantheaCon, and will be distributed exclusively to the Pagan community for a few months, before going “wide” this Summer on Netflix and iTunes. This year’s Pantheacon will feature a special screening of “American Mystic”, which will be followed by a Q&A led by me with the director, Morpheus Ravenna, and members of Stone City Pagan Sanctuary.

Witch School Names New President: The Internet-based WitchSchool has named Rev. Anna Rowe, Head of School for Europe and the UK, as the learning institution’s new president.

“Towards the end of January Ed Hubbard CEO of Witchschool asked me to consider the position of President of Witchschool. Ed has said that he has faith and trust in me to do the job so therefore I accepted. I have an extensive knowledge of how Witchschool works from the bottom up as I have been a member of Witchschool since it was originally just the Daily Spell going out via email. […] I hope that every member of Witchschool will support me in our continued effort to provide anyone, anytime, anyplace with a Magical, Pagan and Wiccan Education. Witchschool is a valuable and growing aspect of the Pagan and Wiccan community and we are open to anyone who wishes to become a member and participate in our peer to peer learning.”

CEO Ed Hubbard commented that this move shows “that Witch School can develop global Pagan leadership.” While WitchSchool has drawn quite a bit of criticism and controversy during its existence, it has also developed a truly global network of students and practitioners, boasting ties from India to Brazil. Will the appointment of a president outside the United States denote a new focus on its international students? How will this affect their Salem campus? I’ll be paying attention as these issues develop.

A (Witchy) Romanian Valentine For You: The Canadian Press notes that a number of Romanian witches, led by Witch Queen Mihaela Minca, have performed a public ritual to help you find love on this Valentine’s Day.

“Joined by a handful of apprentice witches, queen witch Mihaela Minca led Monday’s outdoor ceremony, casting spells with peacock feathers and rose petals. The witches wore colorful, glittering robes in freezing temperatures to perform the ritual in the lakeside village of Mogosoaia.”

In addition to these amorous actions, Minca has been vocal lately in opposition to Romania’s new laws regulating witchcraft and fortune-telling. An issue I’ve covered quite a bit recently. Under proposed new regulations, could she be penalized if you fail in your romantic pursuits? It seems a silly thing to conceive of, but that’s exactly the road Romania’s been traveling down lately.

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

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

Women and the Changing Face of Paganism: Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcast has a new installment posted that brings us audio from a panel at the recent Florida Pagan Gathering. Entitled “Women and the Changing Face of Paganism”, the panel brought together Thorn, Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth.

“Thorn Coyle hosts a panel on Women and the Changing Face of Paganism at Florida Pagan Gathering. Guests include Margot Adler, Diana Paxson, and Grandmother Elspeth. Topics include the evolution of the Feminist movement, the importance of preserving our history, activism and politics from a Pagan worldview, and gender roles.”

You can download the podcast, here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS. The panel is very much worth a listen, especially considering the concentration of wisdom and experience on hand. While you’re there, you may also want to check out the recording Thorn made of the Pagan Leadership Panel at this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering (which I moderated).

A Discussion on Pagan Health: While I’m on the topic of Pagan podcasts, be sure to check out the Pagan Centered Podcast this Friday where their guest will be Dr. Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Dr. Hedrick recently completed a Pagan health survey, the results of which were presented at the annual meeting of The American Public Health Association (APHA) in November.

“The results of the Pagan Health Survey indicated that there are significant differences between Pagan views of physical and mental health, health care treatment options, and health care practitioners and the tenets of biomedicine and treatments available. This is particularly apparent in mental health, where substantial discrepancies in views of mental wellness combined with non-mainstream spiritual practices can lead to patients feeing misunderstood. The overarching holistic worldview, which sees health as an integrative endeavor (both in unifying body, mind, and spirit and in unifying environmental and personal health), can cause dissatisfaction with standard health care options and public health policies and lead to seeking alternative treatments and practitioners.”

Listener interaction is encouraged for this program. You can find instructions on participation, here. You can also e-mail Dave at PCP directly with any questions you’d like to see asked during the show. This work by Dr. Hedrick could really provide data that helps our communities in the long-term, and I’m enthused to see PCP tackling this story.

Mount Franklin Milestone: While several American and UK-organized Pagan events have hit the milestone of operating for 30+ years, Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2010 for instance, Australia is also starting to see its gatherings grow up along with their community. In 2011 the Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering (in central Victoria) hits its 30th anniversary, and they’ve put up a special blog to collect tributes and remembrances in honor of the upcoming occasion.

“For overseas readers Mt Franklin is a small but perfect dormant volcano, with a crater that is totally intact except for a small gap where the entrance road is sited. Inside the crater is a flat area of about five acres, planted out with a variety of native and northern hemisphere trees, including a couple of young but thriving California Redwoods. The whole area has been declared an Arboretum, and the combination of Australian natives and trees from Europe and America serve to make Western Pagans feel right at home.

October is Spring in this part of Australia, and because we enjoy a four season climate here many of our traditional northern plants are heralding the onset of Beltane. At the base of the mountain wild Eglantine Roses are blooming, planted by who knows which homesick settler. On the slopes of the mountain itself a huge and lovely Hawthorn is covered in its white blossom. The bush all around us is filled with blooming eucalypts and masses of brilliant yellow wattles (Acacia to you northern types). Mt Franklin itself is in central Victoria, the most Southerly mainland state in Australia. We have hot, dry summers, cold wet winters and glorious springs and autumns.”

Australia has a diverse and thriving Pagan community, and their role in hosting Pagans from around the world at the recent Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2009, helped remind Pagans that “down under” has a lot to teach and share with us in the Northern Hemisphere. While there are some efforts at outreach, I’d love to see more community-generated journalism from places like Australia and New Zealand in the years to come. Congratulations to Mount Franklin Annual Pagan Gathering on their upcoming milestone.

Reconsidering Hutton: At his Talking About Ritual Magick blog, Frater Barrabbas notes an ongoing debate over the issue of historian Ronald Hutton’s theories concerning historical veracity within modern Witchcraft and Paganism. In the process he discovers Ben Whitmore’s recently self-published critique of Hutton’s history of Wicca, “Triumph of the Moon”, entitled “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft”.

“The ‘creation myths’ of modern witchcraft and Paganism were decisively toppled at the turn of this century in Ronald Hutton’s celebrated book, Triumph of the Moon. But did Hutton topple more than just myths? Are some truths also hidden in the rubble? Did paganism really die out centuries ago? Was witchcraft really no more than a fantasy? Were the Gods of Wicca really born out of the Romantic movement? Did Gerald Gardner lie about his initiation into witchcraft? Ben Whitmore has retraced many of Hutton’s steps, critically evaluating the evidence, and he now suggests that the truth may be quite different and even more fascinating. Drawing on a wealth of scholarly material, Whitmore demonstrates that the field of Pagan history is anything but barren ground — it is rich and fertile, and we have barely begun to cultivate it.”

The result of reading Whitmore’s work has put Frater Barrabbas’ ideas on the matter “in flux”, and he seems convinced that “the case for a historical witchcraft and paganism is anything but closed.” You can read an extremely long excerpt, nearly the entire book, for free, as a pdf download. It should be very interesting to see what comes from this, and what Hutton’s response to Whitmore’s criticisms might be. Will a larger-scale reevaluation of Hutton’s works within modern Paganism happen?

Isaac’s Legacy: In a final note, William Seligman, with the blessings of the family, is engaging in a research project regarding the influence of the recently passed Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits.

“I am working on a research project and I could use your help. I’ve often read that Isaac Bonewits was an important influence on the Neopagan, Druid, and Wiccan communities. I agree with that statement, but exactly how did he affect them? In pursuit of that answer, I’d like to ask those who feel they were influenced by Isaac to send me their stories.”

If you have stories about Isaac and his influence, please share them with Seligman for this project. Contact and format information can be found at the link.

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

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

On Faith Adds Another Pagan Voice: I’m pleased to announce that The Washington Post’s On Faith site has added me to their panel of religious specialists and generalists. My first response, on the issue of religion within debates over homosexuality, is up now.

“It’s no secret that religion shapes our lives, our morality, our politics, and our society, so it should surprise no one that religion also shapes our reactions to homosexuality. How could it be denied? When we talk about the “traditional family” or “traditional marriage” we are, at the end of the day, talking about specific religious ideas about those topics. Indeed, when we talk about opposition to same-sex marriage, or ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, or the culture of bullying that has sparked so many high-profile suicides, the arguments come down to the perceived moral “correctness” of same-sex love and attraction.”

I join fellow Pagan panelist Starhawk, doubling the Pagan presence at that site.  I look forward to weighing in at On Faith, and being able to share a Pagan perspective with the readers there. I’ll try to be mindful of the voice and reach this gives me, and do my best to represent our diverse views while also sharing my personal opinions. I hope you’ll follow my posts there, and show WaPo that there’s an engaged modern Paganism that wants to see its voice(s) heard.

PCP Launches Pagan People: The popular Pagan podcast PCP (Pagan Centered Podcast) has launched a new series entitled “Pagan People” that aims to become the “CSPAN of Paganism”.

“Pagan Centered Podcast has launched its forth podcast series: Pagan People.  Pagan People is a podcast to document and broadcast the history of contemporary Paganism as it happens.  No commentary beyond what is necessary to understand the clip, it’s intended to be the CSPAN of Paganism.  Who knows, it may become an unbiased CNN of sorts for breaking Pagan news that has audio content.”

Their first installment is the oral arguments from Patrick McCollum’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appearance. PCP: Pagan People, as a member of the Pagan Newswire Collective’s partner organization Proud Pagan Podcasters, hopes to be medium “for ensuring the awesome audio content recorded by the PNC is properly attributed to the PNC and distributed to a wide audience.” You can subscribe to Pagan People via iTunes, or reach them at PaganPeople.info.

Prison System Turns to Pagan Chaplain: The newly-launched Patrick McCollum Foundation (Facebook) reports that the Washington Department of Corrections has turned to Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum for feedback on Pagan practices.

“The Washington department of Corrections contacted Patrick for clarification of what the normal religious practices are for Wiccans and Pagans. After talking with Patrick they will be expanding accommodations for the inmates and the ability to practice their religion!”

The Washington Department of Corrections made headlines back in 2008 for altering its policy regarding a prisoner’s adherence to multiple faiths. That move caused some controversy, but was ultimately seen as a positive step for the lives of prisoners. The prison system in Washington actually has a large Pagan population, so it’s nice to see them reaching out and trying to meet the needs of Pagan prisoners.

More Pagan Surveys: Chas Clifton reminds me that Aline O’Brien (aka Macha NightMare), president of the Cherry Hill Seminary board of directors, has released a new survey “exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism.”

“I have prepared a brief 10-question informal survey for a paper I’m writing exploring the concept of eldership in contemporary Paganism. I invite you to help in my research by participating in the survey. Use of the word “elder” in this survey means elder in the sense of a formal role within a group, organization or religious community. Feel free to circulate this request to your communities. Responses will be collected until January 15, 2011. Thanks to all who help by responding.”

This survey joins the political surveys by Maelstrom from The Political Pagan, and the Pagan Health Survey conducted by Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute. Here’s hoping all this data collection ultimately benefits our community! Also, while I’m on the subject of surveys and data collection, let’s not forget that the American Academy of Religion conference starts October 30th in Atlanta, Georgia. A whole host of Pagan Studies folks will be there, and I’m hoping to bring you some coverage and reflections from that event.

Capture the Flag? In a final note, COG First Officer-elect Peter Dybing, writing as a private citizen, and not as a representative of COG, wonders if Pagan organizations are too invested in playing “capture the flag” in our quest for Pagan rights.

“So here is the question; are we as a community even half as effectively organized to gain or defend rights for Pagans? It is tempting to provide a long list of organizations and individuals doing great work for Pagan rights in response to this question. Each of these deserves our respect for all they have accomplished. Instead, lets address if this plethora of activities is keeping us from acting with unanimity? Is our approach analogous to a group of organizations playing Capture the Flag, where there are wins, but only by small groups and not the community as a whole? Does our duplication of effort squander resources and reflect that Paganism still needs to mature into an effective movement?”

Dybing calls for “a discussion on how to unify our approach to Pagan rights.” Is this a preview of what’s to come when his term starts as First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess? Will we see more coordination, or at least more discussion about coordination, when it comes to Pagan organizations working towards the same goal? I invite you to weigh in on this subject. What would better coordination look like? How would it be managed without compromising the autonomy of each group?

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

Though I’m still processing the experience, I wanted to start unpacking my festival experience for you here at The Wild Hunt. While Pagan Spirit Gathering isn’t the first Pagan festival I’ve attended (that would be Florida Pagan Gathering), it was certainly the longest, largest, and one of the oldest continuing events of its kind in the United States. For the first time the idea and experience of immersion into an intentional, albeit temporary, Pagan community fully clicked within me. This being the festival’s 30th anniversary, I was doubly blessed to be witness to many remembrances, stories, and events that showed just how much America’s Pagan festival culture has shaped modern Paganism.

It’s difficult to conceive of now, in an era of social networking and easy communication, that modern Paganism was once a series of walled gardens with very little in the way of ongoing interaction or exchange. Attempts at Pagan councils from the late 1960s through the 1970s (the Council of Themis in 1968, Council of Earth Religions in 1972, and the American Council of Witches in 1973) did not endure. But the emergence of outdoor Pagan festivals succeeded where other initiatives failed, and gave birth in this country to a shared culture that we didn’t truly possess before.

“The first [Starwood] festival was small compared to things nowadays, but that gave everyone a better chance to get acquainted…Early Pagan gatherings were highly communal and informal. At festivals when I was giving a concert, such as with early PSGs, early Starwoods, and the Pan Pagan Festival out of Chicago, people sat on the ground in a wide semicircle in front of the performer, and car headlights were sometimes used as stage lights. Other times, there were Coleman lanterns, flashlights, or electric lights, depending on what was available. Microphones might or might not be used. There was a real sense of intimacy with the audience, because they were only a few feet away, and there was nothing to separate us. I encouraged people to sing along on choruses, which helped bring us together, too.” – Jim Alan, Pagan musician, and former partner of Selena Fox (excerpt from an unpublished interview).

I’d like to share two audio interviews that were conducted by the Pagan Newswire Collective at the 2010 Pagan Spirit Gathering that give a sense of the history of Pagan Spirit Gathering, how these events build community, and some of the stories from 30 years of Pagan festival. The first is an interview conducted by Star Foster of Patheos.com with Selena Fox that delves into the early history of Pagan festivals, the founding of PSG, and her many experiences over the years.

The second interview, conducted by Star Foster from Patheos.com and Dave from the Proud Pagan Podcasters, talks to Arthur Hinds from Emerald Rose, and David Doersch from Coyote Run about their many experiences at Pagan Spirit Gathering, showing how this event builds and binds community.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to both interviews, especially if you’ve never been to a major Pagan festival, and get a sense of the power and endurance of these events in peoples lives.  Stay tuned to future posts, as the Pagan Newswire Collective recorded several hours of interviews with a variety of participants, and we’ll be making these resources available to the Pagan radio/podcast community in the near future. I’m hoping in a future post I’ll discuss my personal feelings of PSG, and how I feel it has changed me.

The inevitable collision of The Wild Hunt and the Pagan Centered Podcast has finally happened. In the just-posted episode 107: New Media In Paganism, I spend over an hour chatting with Dave about Pagan unity, the Pagan blogosphere, why the legal struggles of Santeria practitioners are important to Pagans, and the future of Pagan journalism. You can download the show directly, here. The show is also streaming at the Pagan Radio Network (as is my own podcast, A Darker Shade of Pagan).

In other “stuff that I do that isn’t The Wild Hunt” news, my article on influential Pagans for the 50th (and last) issue of PanGaia is available for free download from the PanGaia web site. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, author J.C. Hallman, who I interviewed a couple years ago on this site, has released a new short story collection entitled “The Hospital For Bad Poets”. In one of the stories, “Dalyrmple”, Hallman honors me by giving one of the characters my last name (Pitzl-Waters). A shame though that my fictional existence had to be cut so short!