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This week the world turned its attention to the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Russia as it became the host of the 2014 winter Olympic Games. Over the past year, the Sochi games have been over shadowed by a dark cloud of controversy stemming from Putin’s new “anti-gay” policies and the country’s on-going conflicts with Muslim extremists. In the face of protests and threats, the games began and have continued on with few minor incidents.

Courtesy of Flickr's Global Sports Forum.

Courtesy of Flickr’s Global Sports Forum.

This is not the first time that the Olympic Games has found itself at the epicenter of the somewhat contentious crossroads of religion and politics. Being a true world stage, the modern Olympic Games create a spotlight that can highlight both the very best and the very worst in humanity. We have seen religious extremism in its ugliest form as well as intense spiritual devotion from an athlete raising a victory medal.

Interestingly, religion wasn’t always a sideshow or catalyst for political tension. It is believed that the Olympics themselves began as a sacred religious rite to honor Zeus. According to the Tufts University Perseus Project:

The Games were held in honor of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and a sacrifice of 100 oxen was made to the god on the middle day of the festival. Athletes prayed to the gods for victory, and made gifts of animals, produce or small cakes, in thanks for their successes.

During the Games a truce was established that allowed for the safe travel for worshippers, athletes and spectators. Eventually the event grew into a major athletic competition attracting people from all over the Ancient World. Even after Greece lost its political power, the Roman Empire kept the Olympics alive.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Although the Games eventually developed into a more secular event, its Pagan origin had not been forgotten. The Perseus Project explains:

Once the Roman emperors formally adopted Christianity, they discouraged and eventually, outlawed, old “Pagan” religious practices. Since the Olympic Games were first and foremost a religious celebration in honor of Zeus, they held no place in the Christian empire. The emperor Theodosius I legally abolished the games in 393 or 394 A.D.

The Olympics were born as a Pagan religious ritual and were eventually banned for that very same reason. By 393 A.D., the Olympics were gone … More or less.

According to Frank Deford of the Smithsonian magazine, there is historical evidence that small, local Olympic-style games were played around the world for many years. Some even used the name Olympics. For example, in Cotswald, England, a Roman Catholic staged an elaborate Olympick games to counter the “dour Protestantism of the time.”

1908 London Games (public domain photo)

1908 London Games (public domain photo)

Then in 1865 Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern games, traveled to Much Wenlock, England where William Penny Brookes had been holding local Games for years. Together both men aimed to bring back the romance and glory of the Ancient event. After much negotiation, Athens became the first host city for the modern Olympiad in 1896. The games were held in the fully restored ancient panathenaic stadium and the marathon was added to honor Ancient Greece.

The subsequent Olympics in Paris (1900) and St. Louis (1904) were largely disappointments. Needing to bolster more support and publicity for the cause, Coubertin looked to the Olympics’ roots and asked Rome to be the fourth host city. Unfortunately Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 which ended the country’s bid. So in 1908, London took up the reins and hosted the fourth Modern Olympic Games. Deford writes, “All else had been pre­­­lude only now had the modern Olympics truly begun.”

Although the Games’ original religious focus had not been resurrected alongside the showcase of athleticism, the modern games were not without religious influence. According to USA Today, De Courbin himself said, “The first essential characteristic of the Olympics, both ancient as well as modern, is to be a religion above and outside the churches.” Additionally, several Olympic mottos were coined by clergy such as “citius, altius, fortius” (faster, higher, stronger.)

Despite this joyful return, the political reality of faith-based conflict would eventually find its way into the Olympic spotlight. For example, at the 1936 Berlin games, Hitler outlawed German Jewish athletes from participating. The games were canceled in both 1940 and 1944 due to the Second World War. In 1972 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were held hostage by Palestinians at the Munich Games. This standoff ended in the death of all 11 Israelis and 5 of the Palestinians. Then in Atlanta in 1996, an Army of God fundamentalist detonated a bomb in a crowded Centennial Olympic Park.

Fortunately these violent conflicts are few and far between. Religious negotiations are more frequently found at the personal level when athletes find their faith in conflict with competition. For Muslims, this might be the wearing of headscarves in competition. For Jews, it might be the need to compete on a Saturday. The Olympics is a cauldron for the world’s cultural and religious diversity. The challenge is not just in the staging of the athletic venues or the choreography of the opening ceremonies. It is also in the bringing together of the world’s people representing an enormous range of beliefs, experiences and cultural expectations.

Sochi Gold Medal design. Photo Courtesy of Flickr's Andy Miah

Sochi Gold Medal design. Photo Courtesy of Flickr’s Andy Miah

Let us return to the Sochi games – a Winter Olympics plaque by religious-inspired political controversy. Russia has certainly downplayed the issues to both the international community and its own population. Gwiddon Harvester, Pagan Federation Coordinator in Russia, says, “Putin will do everything in his power to keep Sochi scandal-free. He invested a lot of money in this project and this is his status-symbol… there is an entire army hidden in the mountains to ensure that terrorists will not disrupt the Games.”

Gwiddon shares that, in general, the Russian people are more upset about the “absurdly high” cost of Sochi than Putin’s policies or extremist threats. At the very most, Russia’s LGBT community is “annoyed that Putin made a ‘special dispensation’ for foreign guests in Sochi, allowing them to say whatever they please about gays, whereas the rest of [Russians] are effectively barred from speaking our minds in public about the issue.”

The Pagan Federation International in Russia has spoken out saying, “PFI supports protection of all human rights under the U.N. Charter of Rights, including the right to freedom from persecution on the grounds of sexual preference. Therefore, we are against the anti-gay laws, because they violate human rights.”

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The issues plaguing Sochi have taken center stage as did the Munich hostage crisis, the Atlanta bombing and many other political conflicts that play out in the Olympic Arena. However religion isn’t only found at a crisis point. It is also found on the field, in the arena and on the slopes as athletes ask and offer blessings to their Gods and Goddesses within their faith’s tradition. In that way, the Olympics echoes its religious origins. Their God may not be Zeus but the ritual of prayer is ever present. Gwiddon remarks:

Several days before the games, the head of Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kyrill, visited Sochi … and blessed the Russian team and the Games, asking for the Grace of God to descend upon them. The irony here is, of course … is that the very act of blessing the sports team is really a magical act, something one would expect in Ancient Rome and Greece.

From the regimented requirements of competition, the running of the marathon, the lighting of the giant cauldron, the torch relay, the Ancient Olympic spirit is alive and well. On Thursday, IOC President Thomas Bach spoke these words which were allegedly edited out of the NBC Friday night broadcast:

It is possible – even as competitors – to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. … [The] Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity … Please respect their Olympic Message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace.

 

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!

PFI PhilippinesIn the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which has wreaked havoc and destruction through the Philippines, the Pagan Federation International in Philippines has started raising funds to aid in providing food, water, and shelter to those directly affected by the storm. Quote: “Let us help ease the burden of our friends from Northern Cebu by helping with our mission to give aid to the Northern Cebu Typhoon Victims such as Daan Bantayan and Bogo. Pagan Federation International is needing volunteers and donations.” Vivianne Crowley, a longtime member and organizer within the Pagan Federation, added, quote, “many of you will have seen on news programs the devastation in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda). The Pagan community in the Philippines seem to all be safe, but some have lost their homes and many people are lacking food, water and shelter. Our friends in Pagan Federation International Philippines are appealing for help.” The Wild Hunt’s Heather Greene is currently following up with PFI Philippines on this effort, and we hope to bring you a more in-depth report this Sunday. I have embedded a poster created by PFI Philippines below, which lists contact information and a list of needs.

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Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

Meanwhile, Pagan activist and disaster relief first responder Peter Dybing has issued a challenge to our community to give during this time of crisis. Quote: “Here is the challenge. I ask that every individual identifying as part of our community do the following things. 1. Select a relief organization that is doing work in the Philippines and donate what you can. 2. Post a link to the organization and call on everyone you know to take a similar action. 3. When the disaster fades from the news show support for the idea of a Pagan lead disaster relief organization. I have never directly asked you to share my blog posts. Today I am, please share this challenge far and wide.” Dybing added on his Facebook profile that “The American Red Cross has an outstanding record of being of assistance in small local disasters. Their record in large scale disasters is however, marred by very poor performances in responding to disasters like Katrina and Haiti. Millions of earmarked funds unspent years later. Better to donate to the local Philippines Red Cross directly.” A link to the Red Cross in the Philippines can be found, here. I’ve also provided a link to Doctors Without Borders, here.

worldwide heathen census asatru norse mythology blog norsemythBack in October I mentioned the launch of the Worldwide Heathen Census, a project of the Norse Mythology Blog that is attempting to “establish an approximate number of adherents through an anonymous survey with only one item: a pull-down menu where the respondent selects his or her home country. It is hoped that the anonymous nature of this census will attract responses from heathens who may not want to put their name on an official form from a governmental agency or research institution.” According to Dr. Seigfried, the census was in part sparked by frustration over Heathens being “mostly invisible in major surveys of religious affiliation,” and seeks to remedy that. Below, I’ve embedded a graphic from a November 9th update on the census, which will run through December of this year. So far, the United States seems to hold an overwhelming majority of contemporary Heathens, with Germany running a distant second, and the UK and even more distant third. Regarding the UK number, we do know that the census of England and Wales counted nearly 2000 Heathens (with another 150 or so in Scotland), so that number should climb a bit if participation increases. I’ll keep you posted on the final results once the census closes.

November 9 Worldwide Heathen Census 2013 Results by Country Norse Mythology Blog

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Several Pagans, reconstructionists, and polytheists have spoken out over a stunt “God Graveyard” put up by atheists in Wisconsin. Sannion has rounded up many of those voices at his blog, here. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus noted that “they [atheists] are so concerned with evidence and proving things and making sure everything they say is factual, that they get to ignore all of religious studies, history, real people and traditions that are occurring today, and other matters that might shed light on anything that has to do with religion since all religion is unreal/false/nonsense, etc.” At Baring the Aegis, Elani Temperance adds that the atheist group’s stunning lack of ethics in this matter undermines their argument for unbelief, quote, “ethical behavior is not religious, but social, and the AHA would do well to remember that.” Or, as Sannion puts it in a follow-up, “it’s a dick move to tell another person that their god is dead; doesn’t really matter whether you’re laughing while you do it or wielding a knife.”
The "God Graveyard" in Wisconsin.

The “God Graveyard” in Wisconsin.

  • Last week I mentioned Operation Circle Care, a program that sends care packages to active duty Pagan soldiers serving overseas during the holidays. This week, OCC wanted to add that they are urgently looking for names of individuals who want/need this service. Quote: Service members can submit their own names, or those here at home can submit their information. We keep all contact information absolutely confidential. To submit a name we’re asking people to send the full name, rank, branch of military service, country where serving, postal address, email address, and spiritual path for the Pagan service-member, and also include your own name and contact info, plus your relationship with the service-member. We keep contact information confidential to circle@circlesanctuary.org with cc to: occ@circlesanctuary.org.” For more information, see Operation Circle Care’s official page. So if you know someone who needs this service, please get in touch!
  • Publisher Bibliotheca Alexandrina has announced that they are lowering the prices of all their titles effective immediately. Quote:  “Bibliotheca Alexandrina has lowered the prices on nearly all of our print titles. In general, books with a page count of 0-199 pages will be $10.99 US, 200-299 pages will be $12.99, and 300+ pages will be $14.99. There are a few exceptions, as some books have higher production costs, but we plan to stick as close as possible to this pricing scheme moving forward.” They also add that the new prices are effective immediately on their CreateSpace store, but will take a couple of weeks to migrate to places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There are some excellent titles in their roster, so stock up!
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to fund a trip to India where he has been invited by Sri Tathata to help facilitate the MahaYaga. Quote: “Sri Tathata, a great spiritual leader in India, has asked Patrick to be one of the primary facilitators at the MahaYaha, a 6-day event of rituals and prayers designed to create world peace. The intention of this ritual is to shift the course and consciousness of our planet.  This is a revival of an ancient and sacred Hindu ritual called the MahaYaga, which is written about in the Vedas and goes back many thousands of years. This ritual was stopped a couple thousand years ago and is only now being re-created. In addition to facilitating the ritual itself, Patrick has been asked to be a keynote speaker both as an individual and at a round table with some of the foremost religious and political leaders from around the world where the topic is world peace, women’s issues and planetary sustainability.” Patrick is trying to raise over $10,000 dollars for the trip, and has less than a month to do so.
  • In a recent update sent to supporters, Cherry Hill Seminary puts the spotlight on Dr. David Oringderff, Chair of the Department of Pastoral Counseling and Chaplaincy, and co-founder of the Sacred Well Congregation, for ten years of service to the Pagan learning institution. In the piece, Dr. Oringderff stresses the importance of accreditation for CHS. Quote: “Because I work a lot with the military, and we’ve got a lot of fine young military people who want to become military chaplains, and of course, it’s a very rigid procedure to be accepted as a chaplain in the military. The biggest hurdle is the educational requirement. And so they’re stuck. They have to go to a traditional seminary, or they have to go to a traditional seminary; there’s just no alternative.  Yet.  Until we reach that point.”

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

This past week we witnessed a crescendo of frustration and fury fly from the global Pagan community in the direction of a Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” and a Facebook Group called “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force.”  The rally cries came by way of social media, blogs and email.  At this point, I would include the links but the “pages” were removed by Facebook around 4pm EST on Thursday, August 23 2013.

FB PageThese offending Facebook “pages” advocated for the extrication and burning of alleged witches and wizards throughout the world. Using a Christian fundamentalist context, the moderators repeatedly preached their gospel on the evils of witchcraft while celebrating all attempts to defeat it.  As proof of witchcraft’s existence, the Fan Page displayed a photo of a South African-Zimbabwe sensationalist rag called H Metro Zim with a headline that read something like “Woman gives birth to frogs…daily.”

Let’s first examine the pages themselves and who owned them? The answer is important because it contextualizes the accusations and religious zealotry. The Facebook Group, “Those Witches nd Wizzards [sic] should die by Fire by Force” appears to have been launched in February of 2013.  It was moderated solely or in part by a Botswanan Pastor named Anthony Matildah, whose own personal Facebook page seems to have also disappeared. The 247 member group communicated in both broken-English and native African dialects including Setswana.  Most of its members were from the sub-Saharan countries of Africa.

The Facebook Fan Page called “Witches Must Die by Fire” was launched on April 3, 2013 by someone of sub-Saharan African-descent. However, this person confessed to “not [having] been back to Africa in 20 years.” He or she communicated in perfect British English and in at least one other African dialect. Based on my own research, I believe the owner resides in the U.K. as did the majority of the users making up the Page’s 340 likes. In recent years, Scotland Yard has in fact noticed an increase in the number of Witch Hunt cases in the UK and a noticeable growth in popularity of U.K.-based African Christian Churches. It is entirely possible that the page owner was a Pastor or, at the very least, a devout follower.

sapralogoAt first everyone assumed that the two pages had the same owner(s); however, they in fact may have no connection.  Regardless, they were certainly aligned through intent and discourse.  Both advocated for faith-based violence and, in doing so, perpetuated a culture of fear rampant in sub-Saharan Africa. Damon Leff, Director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), coordinator of the Petition to Stop WItch Hunts in South Africa and Founder of Touchstone Advocacy said:

[Witchcraft] accusations occur not only in small impoverished villages…. Accusations occur across economic and social status lines.  Accusations are frequently made by ordinary people, not necessarily Christians, and not necessarily as a result of Christian influence. Traditional African beliefs often drive accusations, where traditional healers do play their role by divining suspects of suspected witchcraft activity…No single African country has been immune to its fair share of witch-hunts. Many of these countries already have legislation that forbids accusations of witchcraft… However [this] legislation does not address or seek to correct the beliefs which motivate accusations.

As suggested by Leff and noted in a BBC article on the subject, witchcraft in these cases is defined by a supernatural practice with clear malicious intent. The beliefs are a fusion of fundamentalist Christianity and traditional African folk beliefs. Some pastors use the fear of witchcraft to extort money out of their congregation and have even convinced parents to abuse their own children. This witchcraft is a distorted product of theological extremism gone very, very wrong.

accusation

As such the witchcraft in these cases is not the same as the Witchcraft practiced within the spiritual or ethical framework of a Pagan or Nature-based religion or any other similar positive folk or healing practice. The verbal attacks made on these two Facebook pages were not anti-Pagan.  As best clarified by Circle Magazine Editor Florence Edwards-Miller, this distinction is not at all dissimilar to the Anti-Defamation League’s differentiation between anti-Semitism (a people) and anti-Judaism (a theology.) The Facebook pages attacked a people, not a theology.

However, as pointed out by Damon Leff:

Witch-hunters will never first ask if their victims are Pagan Witches before attacking, as they are unlikely to draw any distinction between one kind of witch or another, and so it is understandable that Witches everywhere should feel personally offended and threatened.

cog-joint-logoAnd, offended we were. Sometime in April “Witches and Wizzards” and “Witches Must Die By Fire,” began receiving counter posts and complaints from concerned Pagans.  However, the Fan Page went private from April to August during which interest waned.  When the Fan Page reappeared on the scene, an avalanche of protests began which included abuse complaints to Facebook, calls to media affiliates, petitions on Change.org, You Tube Videos and blog posts. Babette Petiot of “News & Liens Paienne” even contacted Interpol which is based in her home town of Lyon, France.

As word spread, Pagan organizations became involved. On August 20, Lady Liberty League issued an open letter to Facebook asking it to “revise [its] decision and disable these and all future pages calling for violent witch hunts anywhere.” On the same day, the Covenant of the Goddess responded by saying, it “cannot condone a public call for the death of any one person or group regardless of religious affiliation or lifestyle choice.”

Pagan FederationIn Russia, Pagan Federation co-coordinator Gwiddon said, “What is surprising to me is the reaction of Facebook staff that seems to be completely ignoring this issue, despite the repeated notifications from witches and pagans.” In the U.K., The Pagan Federation’s Mike Stygal agreed asking “why [should] Facebook allow pages that are clearly aimed at inciting hatred, violence and murder to continue to grace their social network?”

With 100s of complaints being turned away or ignored entirely, there was nothing to explain Facebook’s decision. On Tuesday I was able to reach Facebook’s Public Policy and Communication Department. After several exchanges, they promised to be in touch with an explanation. But the pages went down before I ever got a response. So I contacted Facebook again.  They confirmed that the pages were removed by them.  Then they offered this short explanation when I asked “What happened?”

With over one billion users worldwide, we always encourage our users to report content that they believe violates our policies here and it looks like we didn’t receive any violations [on these pages]…. It could be possible that users may have reported that they violated under different terms…”   

As the moderator of an international free-speech forum, Facebook handles two million abuse reports per week. As Emily Brazelton explains in her book Sticks and Stones, the Facebook system is mostly automated leaving reviewers only seconds to handle each complaint.  If two identical complaints are rejected, any future similar complaints are ignored. (Brazelton, Sticks and Stones, pg 268-269)

By Enoc vt (File:Botón Me gusta.svg)

By Enoc vt (File:Botón Me gusta.svg)

It may be that our voices were, at first, lost in that automated shuffle. However, in the end our mounting pressure broke through and Facebook took corrective actions to uphold its own policies. In reaction, the Covenant of the Goddess together with the Lady Liberty League responded with gratitude urging “the Pagan community to join [them] in expressing [their] thanks to Facebook for listening and making this positive change.” They added:

We hope Facebook will to continue to be a leader in the effort to address violence and hate wherever it festers.

This felt like a win for many of us who celebrated from behind our computer screens.  But was it really?  Should we even be celebrating? What are we celebrating? The notoriety of these pages took us, first world Pagans, to a place labeled “witchcraft” where our nature- spirituality, our ethics, our mythology and our beliefs intersect with something far more horrifying.  While these Facebook pages may not have been directed toward us, in viewing them we reached a point of liminality where distinctions between Witchcraft and witchcraft were no longer made.  That is scary.

Now that the pages are down, we can move beyond that surreal point back into the security of our own world. Unfortunately, the removal of these two Facebook pages created no comfort for those living in the affected regions of Africa or elsewhere. Should this week’s events be a wake-up call for Pagans and Witches worldwide to reconsider our relationship with the accused? Now that the “fire” is put out, should we re-evaluate our responsibility, as a People who claim the word Witch, to those people who are dying because of the word witch?

Never Again the Burning Times??

Courtesy of Flickr's emilydickinsonridesabmx

Courtesy of Flickr’s emilydickinsonridesabmx

This week a law was passed that will make same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales. The landmark legislation, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, clears the way for legal marriages to start in 2014. The way the new law is structured, religious organizations must “opt in” in order to perform a legally binding ceremony. This historic move follows recent advances for same-sex marriage in parts of the United States and for all of France. Just as I collected reactions from modern Pagans in America following the DOMA/Prop 8 Supreme Court decisions, so too did I want to see how Pagans in England and Wales felt about this development.

web-gay-marriage-getty

Mike Stygal, President of the Pagan Federation, celebrated the “wonderful development,” though pointed out that inequalities remained.

Mike Stygal

Mike Stygal

“Finally the Marriage Act (same sex) has made it through all the hoops our political system presents. This wonderful development is the result of many, many years of persistent effort to secure equality for the LGBT community. There are still inequalities towards LGBT that will need to be challenged and that will require persistent effort to overcome. There are still inequalities with regard to spirituality and faith too. The Pagan Federation is no stranger to persistent effort to challenge and change inequalities and we know just how hard it is to achieve success. Congratulations to all those people who kept at the cause of legal same sex marriage, and to all those who challenge inequality, take heart that inequality can be beaten.”

Yvonne Aburrow, a Pagan from Oxford who also writes for the Patheos blog Sermons From The Mound, noted that Pagans in England and Wales cannot perform legal wedding ceremonies of any kind (which became a point of contention in the lead-up to this law being passed), though was still “delighted” over this advance for marriage equality in the UK.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“I am delighted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can now marry someone of the same sex in England and Wales, and that some religious groups will be able to marry same-sex couples in their places of worship. Unitarians, Quakers, and Liberal Jews campaigned particularly hard on this, and Derek McAuley, Unitarian Chief Officer, Paul Parker (Recording Clerk, Quaker Yearly Meeting), and Rabbi Danny Rich, should be applauded for their lobbying efforts. It is a shame that Pagans in England and Wales are unable to marry either opposite-sex or same-sex couples in a legal ceremony, but it looks as if the House of Lords have left open the possibility of humanist weddings, and weddings for other religions too.”

Aburrow added that her optimism was “cautious” and that “tomorrow, we keep fighting for LGBT rights around the world, and for human rights generally. Until it is safe everywhere to be Black, disabled, LGBT, a woman, or a member of a religious minority, then our work is not yet done.”

Like Aburrow and Stygal, Sophia Catherine of the Divine Community podcast brought up the fact that Pagan weddings can still only be symbolic in nature, and not legally binding, but also raised true gender equality as a primary concern.

“My one sadness about this Act is that, initially, it was to be called the Equal Marriage Act, but the name was changed to make it clear that ‘same-sex’ marriage was involved. There are more than two genders, and that the Act upholds the gender binary that society is obsessed with. However, this Act does take a step forward, in that regard, Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, for mixed-sex married couples where one member changed their legal sex, the couple had to divorce and obtain a civil partnership. Now that marriage is available to all regardless of sex/gender, this will no longer be the case. It is a shame that couples who were forced to go through this process will not automatically regain their marriages, but they will be able to ‘convert’ these civil partnerships back into marriages. Of course, this does not make up for the indignity of what they had to go through, but in the future, this won’t happen to any more couples where one changes their legal sex.”

Vivianne Crowley, author, Jungian psychologist, and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, is currently in Paris, and gave a broad perspective informed by France’s recent legalization of same-sex marriages.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“The last three centuries have seen in western culture a shift towards recognition of the autonomy of the individual and the right to freedom of self-expression. It is a tide that dictators and others have sought to suppress. It has been subverted – sometimes the tide has turned; but slowly consciousness has undergone a shift.

Major social changes occur when almost unconsciously the greater mass of people sense that an idea is self-evidently right. At first, such evolutions of thought are the preoccupation of a few who are ahead of the zeitgeist. In the late eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries, recognition of the unique value of each individual led inevitably to the abolition of slavery in Europe and the United States. The political impetus that overthrew absolute monarchs led to democracy and the recognition that every adult male should have the right to vote for who should rule his country. In the twentieth century, an inexorable tide saw that right extend to women. Now the west is ready for a new right – the right of individuals to choose to marry their life partner regardless of gender and to make a public commitment that is recognized and honored by the state.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa, among others, set the trend. Now the United Kingdom and France have followed almost simultaneously and other European countries will do the same.

Here, in France, Catholics marched against same-sex marriage, but the law has been swiftly passed. July 14th is Bastille Day, France’s equivalent of the 4th of July – a celebration of revolution past and national identity present. There are major celebrations in all French towns, and particularly of course in Paris. This July 14th the iconic Eiffel Tower was lit up with rainbow colors and songs filled the Paris night sky, celebrating equal marriage rights for all.

Where Canada and Europe can go, other nations can go too. But in the meantime, Vive la France –liberté, égalité, fraternité! And well done, Britain!”

Perhaps the most succinct response that encapsulates many of the recurring themes heard from UK Pagans on marriage equality is from Cat Treadwell, a Trustee of The Druid Network, and ordained Awenydd (Priest) of The Anglesey Druid Order.

“Consenting adults have loved each other for centuries, with or without permission, and will no doubt continue to do so; the law slowly moves forward to accommodate this. We can only hope that as society becomes more accepting, Pagan unions will also be recognised in our own lifetimes.”

Let us hope that society continues to move forward on accepting the simple reality of consenting adults loving each other, and that the desire for modern Pagan clergy in England and Wales to perform legally recognized unions within that tapestry of love is soon realized.

After reading the Wild Hunt article on the Community Wreath, Babette Petiot, a French Polytheist living in the Auvergne countryside, decided to begin a community wreath in France. When I read about this project, called Aureole Païenne, I immediately contacted Babette. I was terribly curious about the Pagan experience in France.  Which traditions are prevalent? What obstacles do they face? Where do they make spiritual purchases?

Babette Petiot's village in the Auvergne countryside

Babette Petiot’s village in the Auvergne countryside

Babette, who is the moderator of the News et liens païens Face Book group, entertained my questions and offered me extensive access to the French Pagan community. With her help, I was able to get a snap-shot of Pagan life in France seen through the eyes of a diverse set of practitioners.

In general, the French Pagan population is small and spread out.  “After a quick opinion poll on Face Book we estimate ourselves to be between 3000 and 5000. But it is more a guess than anything,” Babette said.  There are no reliable statistics just as in the U.S.

Babette also described the community as young. She said, “We are just getting out of the proverbial broom closet.”  Echoing this description was Luc Martel, a Hellenist from Lyon. He said, “le Paganisme français est encore dans son enfance, il reste invisible et informel, même s’il est en phase de croissance.” [Translation: French Paganism is still in its infancy.  It still remains invisible and informal even in this growth phase.]

log20o10Who is coming out of the broom closet? Which paths are most popular? French Pagan practice spans the spectrum. To name a few, there are Polytheists, Hellenists, Ásatrú, Reconstuctionists, and Alexandrian and Gardnerian witches. However, most of my contacts said that Druidisme is the most popular. Mariane, an Ásatrú and director of the French division of the Pagan Federation International, said “[Druidism seems to be] the best organized and has the largest number of followers.”  Ana Lama, Druidress for Communauté de l’Arbre Druidique (CAD), adds:

We have an important connection to [Celtic] history on our own ground. We try as much as we can to rely on archeological discoveries…Most of our groups are built upon Gallic roots using Gallic tribe names and rituals. Many druidic groups… are affiliated with Great Britain groups.

A few people did speculate that Wicca has the greater following. However, this is difficult to assess because most French Wiccans are self-taught eclectic, solitary practitioners. There are very few covens or organizations outside of Paris and Lyon. The most well-known is the Ligue Wiccane Eclectíque based in Paris. It supports Cercle Séquana and the on-line magazine Lune Bleue.  Siannon and Xavier Mondon two Ligue Wiccane members, co-coordinate one of the few Wiccan festivals: the Festival de Déesses.

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Why are most Wiccans solitary eclectics? The answer is simple: language. To date, the majority of Wiccan books are written and published in English. Therefore non-English speakers have had limited educational resources. Iconic books like Starkhawk’s Spiral Dance and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, for example, have never been translated.  However, Scott Cunningham’s books are available in French. As a result, many French Wiccans follow his solitary teachings.

Along with reading limitations, there are also very few metaphysical shops. This problem affects all Pagans; not just the Wiccans. Consequently, as best stated by Luc Martel, “Le Paganisme reste encore largement une cyber-religion.” [Paganism is still largely a cyber-religion.]  Most communication, interactions and purchases are done online.  This cultural phenomenon supports Martel and Babette’s earlier point that the community is, as a whole, “young.”  Wide-spread internet usage began less than twenty years ago.

Despite the emerging Pagan culture, Babette says many Pagans are still “deep in the broom closet.” When I first asked why, I expected horrific stories of religious prejudice. But, in fact, I got a very different answer. As Siannon of Ligue Wiccane Eclectíque said, “Religion in general is a bit taboo.”

Sacred site along the Loire

Sacred site along the Loire

The French have a very different relationship with religion than Americans. As Babette explains:

There has always been this vision of [religiosity] as something for the poor, non-educated, or for women. [This] explains partly why secularism is such a big deal.  I’m almost sure a French person will far more easily talk you about sex than religion.

To understand this more clearly, it is best to briefly compare the religious ideology between the U.S and France. The U.S. Constitution supports religious freedom by protecting the right to worship.  All religions must be included or excluded where appropriate.  In France, the law supports religious freedom by legally excluding religion from public life – recognizing none. This is called laïcité or secularism.  As an example, in 2004, the French Government banned the wearing of religious symbols in schools including head scarfs, yarmulke, crosses, pentacles etc.  Could the U.S. government ever impose such a ban? Consider this PewGlobal comparison. 50% of Americans feel that religion is a very important and 53% said that it was “necessary to believe in God.”  In France, the figures are 13% and 15% respectively.  Which society is, as a culture, more secular?

Siannon and others argue that French laicité actually means “no religion unless you are Catholic.”  In 1995, the State created Miviludes, an office to watch for derive sectaire [Cultic Deviances.]  Unlike in the U.S., French law clearly defines cults in an effort to protect its citizen’s safety. In 2009, Miviludes fined a French Scientology group for engaging in fraudulent behavior. Although this is done in the name of secularism, the State’s cult watch is considered a threat to minority religious practice.

Due to this culturally-ingrained secularism, there are very few aggressive public challenges to Paganism. Xavier Mondon of Ligue Wiccane Eclectíque explains: “[People don’t even realize that] there are any pagans left today. For most people, [Paganism] is…old historical stuff.” Most of the population is indifferent or simply unaware. Others confuse it with silly fantasy or “charlatainism” as noted by Xael, a Wiccan eclectic and Shaman. While there are Christian zealots who confuse witchcraft and Satanism, this is infrequent and only happens in the private sector.

Leanthe, Fleur de Lyon: a symbol of peace and harmony for Pagans in Lyon

Leanthe, Fleur de Lyon: a symbol of peace and harmony for Pagans in Lyon

Aside from the limitations caused by language, misconceptions and the State’s cult-watch, there is a bigger problem facing the French Pagan community. As best stated by Luc Martel, “Le plus grand obstacle au Paganisme français, ce sont les Païens français !” [The biggest obstacle for French Paganism is French Pagans.]  All of my correspondents made this same statement in some form. Christophe, a Gardnerian Witch, blamed the large population of teenage practitioners who don’t know how to perform rituals or organize covens and who believe being a “witch” is trendy. Others blamed hot tempers, egos and individualistic natures. Babette blames the broom closet. She said, “French Pagans are so comfortable “hiding behind their [facades] and the internet [that] they won’t come out.”

However, the culture is changing. Druidress Anna Lama noted, At this moment we are trying to organize all Druidic groups under a Druidic council called Comarlia.  Along with the PFI, Ligue Wiccane Eclectíque and other such organizations, there are smaller groups forming locally and on the web. Of course, Babette and Luc Martel, with his groups Fleur de Lyon and Café Païen, are working on the community wreath project: Aureole Païenne. Babette remarked, “[We are] trying to be an active community. We have a long way ahead of us and the first steps are to let the different traditions speak to each other and create bridges.”  Echoing this hope, Xael said, “Things are changing.  In time, I believe Paganism will be recognized as a true spiritual [path.]”

The French Community Wreath
The French Community Wreath

Note: The original community wreath will be retired during an Ostara ritual at the Atlanta Pagan Market Place of Ideas next weekend.  A new wreath will take its place and begin its journey. Babette and Georgia-based NGS have exchanged ribbons to be included on each other’s wreaths. There have been at least two other U.S.-based community wreaths started since the original article was published.

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!

Pagan Federation Withdraws Tribunal Hearing Request Over Charity Status: The Wild Hunt has been covering the Pagan Federation’s quest to receive official charity status in the UK which had run into obstacles from the Charity Commission who didn’t think the organization met “all the essential characteristics of a religion for the purposes of charity law.” After first requesting a tribunal hearing on the matter of their denial, the organization has decided to not pursue this course, saying it now accepts the commission’s stance on the matter.

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“Members of the Pagan Federation Committee have discussed the charity commission response at some length and, having read through the CC’s response again, we accept that the PF as it currently exists does not fit easily into the requisites of the CC for the granting of charitable status. As such, we do not want to waste everyone’s time on a tribunal hearing and hereby withdraw our application and request for a tribunal hearing.

We really appreciate the willingness of the charity commission to continue our dialogue as to how we might best put forward an application for a charitable arm of the PF (as a religious and/or educational charity) once we have thought back through the structure of the PF and how we wish the organisation to evolve and develop in the future.”

While this may be disappointing, it’s clear that the Pagan Federation is thinking tactically, and will be pursing charity status in a different way moving forward. We will keep you posted as this story continues to develop.

T. Thorn Coyle to Speak at Overlap Conference: Pagan author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, co-founder of Solar Cross Temple, has been invited to speak at Overlap, a “multidisciplinary, collaborative experience” that seeks participants who pursue “the insights of other disciplines to enhance and deepen their own area(s) of inquiry.” Here’s a quote from the official press release sent out by Thorn.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“Teacher and author T. Thorn Coyle has been invited to participate in the Overlap conference in January. This is an annual invitation only peer-to-peer gathering, – an ad hoc “think tank” – that started off trying to increase innovation and awareness in the business and design communities. This year the conference will gather military officials, technical innovators, CEOs, doctors, researchers, entrepreneurs, non-profit advisors, historians, architects, and people from a variety of other professions. [...] This year’s theme is “Overlap:Risk, a transdisciplinary dive into the unknowable” and participants will each present their thoughts on risk, creating space for dialogue on some of the deeper questions facing humanity right now.”

Significantly, Thorn will be the only explicitly religious perspective represented at the conference. What does it mean that a Pagan voice was selected for inclusion? I’ll be following up with Overlap organizers for an answer, but I suspect that Pagans bring a unique and much-needed perspective on how to create dialog among diverse paths and peoples. Our congratulations go out to Thorn on being selected for what looks like a unique and prestigious opportunity for her, and for our interconnected communities.

 Temple of Witchcraft Launches Crowdfunding Effort for Parking Expansion: The Temple of Witchcraft, a religious organization co-founded by author Christopher Penczak, after encountering some resistance from neighbors to expand and make improvements to their new building in Salem, New Hampshire, recently received unanimous approval from the local Planning Board. Now, with the planning board’s permission in place, the temple has launched a crowdfunding initiative to pay for improvements.

tow new home

The Temple of Witchcraft’s new Salem home.

“The Temple of Witchcraft, a nonprofit neo-pagan religious organization, has met one of its most important goals: the acquisition of land and buildings to give the Temple a permanent home. Now we need your help to open the doors of our new home and welcome Temple members for classes and celebration! [...] The Temple has purchased Grandview Manor, a beautiful late 19th-century house with detached barn and cottage and over five acres of land in Salem, NH. To comply with the town’s requirements for holding classes and religious services at the property, we need to put in additional parking between the house and the barn. We have a site plan, approved by the Salem Town Planning Board, what we need now is to raise the funds to hire a contractor to do the work to implement it.”

The Temple is trying to raise $68,000 dollar in 117 days, an ambitious sum in the history of Pagan fundraising, but the Temple of Witchcraft has built a good reputation, and has a large network of supporters, so it seems very possible that they’ll be able to accomplish this. Head over to their IndieGoGo page for more information, a list of donation perks, and ways you can help.

In Other Community News: 

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

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

The Temple of Witchcraft Wins Zoning Permission: The Temple of Witchcraft, a religious organization co-founded by author Christopher Penczak, after encountering some resistance from neighbors to expand and make improvements to their new building in Salem, New Hampshire, has received unanimous approval from the local Planning Board.

tow new home

The Temple of Witchcraft’s new Salem home.

“The Temple of Witchcraft has received final approval to expand its operations on North Policy Street, despite opposition from neighbors. The Planning Board voted unanimously last week to grant the nonprofit organization the permission it needs to relocate from 2 Main St. to a two-story building at 49 N. Policy St.”

Opponents insisted this was only about traffic and noise, and not about Witchcraft, though one neighbor did question if the Temple of Witchcraft was “truly a religious organization deserving of a zoning exemption.” Still, this is a win, and I congratulate the temple on their new home.

UK Witches in Sexually Abusive Coven Found Guilty: Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp have been convicted of being involved in a pedophile ring that used the trappings of Wicca to lure in young girls in order to sexually abuse them. Their abuse, which involved “a number of young victims, the youngest aged somewhere between three and five,” was also linked to murdered occultist and parish councillor Peter Solheim.

peter petrauske

Peter Petrauske

“Petrauske was said to be the “high priest” of a witches’ coven in St Ives, Cornwall, and ordered the girls to carry out his sick fantasies. The court heard Kemp videoed the abuse, but also took part in the assaults, along with friends Solheim and Stan Pirie – a notorious paedophile who died in jail following his conviction for sex abuse in the mid-2000s. The duo’s victims gave harrowing evidence from behind a screen during the three-week trial. They said they were then abused by their tormentors, before being given money and sweets to buy their silence.”

As I said when I first reported on this, “those who blur the boundaries of power and responsibility to engage in sexual gratification with minors are repugnant, and we have a special responsibility to speak out against those who sully the names of our sacred traditions, who twist the psyches of those they hold spiritual authority over. I hope this latest incident act spurs us into reiterating what our sexual ethics are in a manner that leaves no excuse to those who would twist or abuse the decentralized non-hierarchical nature of our faiths and community for their own purposes.” I can only hope the victims find some measure of closure with their conviction.

More on the Pagan Federation Charity Fight: Third Sector Magazine reports on the Pagan Federation’s fight for charity status in England and Wales after being recently denied for not meeting “all the essential characteristics of a religion for the purposes of charity law.”

Pagan Federation

“The commission’s decision is interesting, says Emma Moody, head of charities at the commercial law firm Dickinson Dees, because it has said in the past that it is not the regulator of religion. But it is now saying, she says, that the Pagan Federation is not a religion because it does not meet its requirements.”

The Wild Hunt recently interviewed  The Pagan Federation’s president, Chris Crowley, about the matter, and he said that the organization will “not give up and keep hammering away” until it is recognized as a charitable Pagan organization. We’ll keep you updated as this story progresses.

Charles Jaynes Denied Religious Name Change: Charles Jaynes, convicted in 1997 of participating in the abduction, molestation, and murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, went before a judge this past November wanting to change his name to “Manasseh Invictus Auric Thutmose V” in what he claimed was a necessary step in his growth within the Wiccan religion. Now, the judge has denied that request, stating “that allowing the Petitioner’s petition for change of name is inconsistent with public interests.”

Charles Jaynes

Charles Jaynes

The decision also states tht due to Jaynes’ history of using aliases, concealing his identity and eluding criminal prosecution, “an allowance of the Petitioner’s change of name petition jeopardizes public safety.”

As I said previously, this case points to how badly we need effective, and supported, Pagan chaplaincy in our prison system (and better information about Paganism available in general). Perhaps this name-change request might still have gone forward, but it may not have had the label “Wicca” put on it in the process. Be sure to read the very insightful comments on this issue at my original post.

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

Two men, Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp, are currently standing trial in Cornwall over the alleged abuse of “a number of young victims, the youngest aged somewhere between three and five.” According to testimony, the two men, and other unnamed members of a Witches’ coven, would ply the girls with alcohol, have them undress, then involve them in ritualistic sex-acts.

peter petrauske

Peter Petrauske

“Pagan ceremonies with a coven of white witches in mid and west Cornwall were cited when the trial of two men accused of sexually abusing children over a number of years began at Truro Crown Court on Monday. In the dock were 69-year-old Jack Kemp, of Grenville Road, Falmouth, and Peter Petrauske, 72, who at the time of his arrest last December was living at The Beacon, Falmouth. Petrauske has denied raping one girl and three charges of assault. Kemp has denied aiding and abetting attempted rape and 15 charges of assault.”

Kemp has a previous charge of child abuse, both men deny the charges against them, which involve alleged incidents that reach back to the 1970s. The Pagan Federation, one of the oldest and largest Pagan advocacy organizations in the UK, released a statement which reiterated its stance regarding sexual ethics in modern Pagan religions.

“The Pagan Federation believes that sexual activity between consenting adults is a matter only for those consenting adults. However, in no way is any sexual activity engaged in with children or vulnerable persons ever appropriate. Such activity does not form a part of any Pagan path and, should any Pagan be found to be engaging in sexual activity with a child, officers of the Pagan Federation would not hesitate in communicating those concerns with the appropriate authorities.”

Sadly, a number of individuals have used the largely decentralized and non-hierarchical nature of modern Pagan faiths in order to abuse young men and women for their own gratification. From Colin Batley’s pseudo-Thelemic sex cult, to pathetic individuals like Daniel Hess or Kenneth James McMurray. Even the John Friend scandal, which involved nominally consenting legal adults, shows how some warp our rites in order to satisfy a particular urge for control, power, or sex.

Let me be clear, sex scandals, and abuse scandals, are not some unique Pagan problem. All religions where power and trust are in play fall victim to those who become blinded by their power, or attract those who would exploit the trust of adherents. The Catholic sex abuse scandals are well known, but there are Buddhist and Hindu sex scandals as well. For Pagans, what we need isn’t to explain away these horrible incidents, but to be clear and forthright about what our sexual ethics are. To regularly express our values in a public way, so that when stories like the one in Cornwall emerge, reporters can know that they are aberrations.  During the John Friend scandal, I said that these are powerful moments for outreach and clarification.

“Wicca’s roots, its core, is in sacred union. Many over the years, both detractors and adherents, have called it a “sex cult” or a “fertility religion.” This can lead to some taking liberties that ignore our ethical base, our commitment to sacred trust, our belief that “as above” is at one with what’s “below.” It can lead to people like Friend misusing the currents of both Wicca and yoga for his own gratification. [...] This is not the time to hope it “blows over,” but a time for our leaders to engage in powerful outreach on what Wicca is, what its ethics are, and what our stance is on Friend’s behavior. If we don’t, we run the risk of others doing it for us, quietly, with whispers, insinuations, and misinterpretations.”

Later, during the Daniel Hess abuse scandal, I noted that speaking out isn’t merely about media spin, but about protecting those who might be in dangerous or abusive situations as we speak.

“This call to outreach isn’t for the sake of media outlets in Ohio, but for the young people who may be out there being “groomed” as we speak to believe their route to power, to control, to acceptance, comes through sexual activity with a coven, grove, circle, or kindred leader. Those who blur the boundaries of power and responsibility to engage in sexual gratification with minors are repugnant, and we have a special responsibility to speak out against those who sully the names of our sacred traditions, who twist the psyches of those they hold spiritual authority over. I hope this latest incident act spurs us into reiterating what our sexual ethics are in a manner that leaves no excuse to those who would twist or abuse the decentralized non-hierarchical nature of our faiths and community for their own purposes.”

My hope is that every significant Pagan organization reiterates its sexual ethics, and places them in a place easy to find by all. That they do outreach to their own members, and have dialogs concerning sex and abusive situations. Whether Peter Petrauske and Jack Kemp are guilty or not, this won’t be the last allegation, or sexual abuse conviction, we’ll have to collectively deal with. Pagan faiths aren’t immune to these tragedies, but we can deal with them in a more open, honest, and accountable fashion than the more hierarchical faiths.

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.

Pagan Federation banner.

Pagan Federation banner.

correspondences

Correspondences journal.

  • A new academic journal of Western Esotericism, Correspondences, has been announced.  Quote: “By providing a wider forum of debate regarding issues and currents in Western esotericism than has previously been possible, Correspondences is committed to publishing work of a high academic standard as determined by a peer-review process, but does not require academic credentials as prerequisite for publication. Students and non-affiliated academics are encouraged to join established scholars in submitting insightful, well-researched articles that offer new ideas, positions, or information to the field.” First issues is due in June, call for papers, here.
  • Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll is a thuggish Christian power-tripper who thinks he’s edgy because he writes about having sex with his wife. He’d be a huge joke were it not for his rampant (almost cultish) popularity in the Pacific Northwest. Now, the Seattle mega-pastor is attacking Twilight (because he’s oh-so-relevant) for sinking teen girls into Paganism and the occult. Quote: “…girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan.” No, this is entirely inane. Despite his Seattle-denizen ambient hipster facade, Driscoll is your typical evangelical social conservative who pearl-clutches over the thought of Paganism.
  • The creepy UK Pagan who was caught with a semi-undressed underage girl in the woods has narrowly avoided being put on sex offenders registry after the judge decided that the “sexual element” wasn’t sexual enough to justify his inclusion. Quote: “Sheriff Noel McPartlin said it was ‘hard to escape the view that him being naked in the room with the girl might suggest a sexual element [...] I am a bit hesitant but I do not think the sexual element is significant enough to justify placing him on the register.’” 
  • As a counter-point to the hysteria of Mark Driscoll, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision (the largest evangelical Christian relief organization in the world), suggests a culture-war cease fire between Christians and non-Christians. Quote: “We need to find a way to live in a pluralistic society without engaging in an arms race with those who are not Christians.”
  • Indian Country Today Media Network reports that a coalition of Native American spiritual leaders have signed a declaration opposing Canada’s oil sands and the new Tar Sands pipeline being proposed. Quote: “The statement, signed by more than 20 spiritual chiefs at a Sundance this summer in South Dakota, includes members of the Lakota, Navajo, Apache, Mohawk, Dine, Aztec and Ojibwe nations, spanning much of Turtle Island.”
  • Riordons Witchcraft Emporium in Australia wants you to know that they have a screening process: “Are they a borderline schizophrenic … or somehow mad? There are many vulnerable people in the world and you don’t want to make their situation worse.” Also profiled in the article is the shop Spellbox. Both establishments take pains to stress that they aren’t like Harry Potter, and they aren’t “New Age.”
  • Counter-cultural magazine Arthur has announced its return, featuring many of the magickal luminaries that made it such a hit in the first place. Quote: “Arthur’s gang of idiots, know-it-alls and village explainers are back, from Bull Tonguers Byron Coley & Thurston Moore to radical ecologist Nance Klehm to trickster activists Center for Tactical Magic to Defend Brooklyn’s socio-political commentator Dave Reeves to a host of new, fresh-faced troublemakers, edited by ol’ fool Jay Babcock and art directed by Yasmin Khan.” I suspect that this news will excite a certain portion of my readership.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

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.

  • Noted early-music performer Owain Phyfe, a long-time fixture on the Renaissance Faire circuit, science fiction conventions, and Pagan festivals like Pagan Spirit Gathering, passed away this week from pancreatic cancer. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who knew Owain, had this to say about the musician: “Thank you, Owain, for good times, friendship, & carrying on the bardic tradition with old & new songs & stories! Thank you for being part of the Pagan Spirit Gathering & Green Spirit Festival! Blessings of our Welsh ancestor Owain Glyndwr, upon you as you make your way in Annwn, the Otherworld!” You can find out more about Owain at his Wikipedia page, or this article from Renaissance Magazine. What is remembered lives.
  • How do you stop a witch-hunt from happening? In rural India, groups of women who met through micro-loan programs are banding together in solidarity to resist the hysteria that can come with an accusation of witchcraft, and have met with some success. Quote: “In one case, a woman was accused of causing disease in livestock and an attack was planned. Members of the self-help groups gathered in a vigil around the woman’s home and surrounded the accuser’s home as well, stating their case to the accuser’s wife. Eventually the wife intervened and her husband recanted and ‘begged for forgiveness.’” So how do stop witch-hunts? Empowering women seems an important first step.
  • Brian Pulliam, a racist skinhead who has been arrested in connection with a double homicide, is receiving scrutiny for his Asatru faith, which he believes requires him to drink alcohol. The story has prompted a representative of the local Asatru community in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area to speak up and clarify their beliefs, distancing themselves from Pulliam. Quote: “…his claims that Asatru requires him to consume mead for various holidays during the year are baseless. While many of us choose to drink mead or other alcoholic beverages during our celebrations, there is absolutely no requirement to do so. People whose medications won’t allow them to drink alcohol, those who are underage, and active service members in the Middle East, to name just a few examples, are capable of fully celebrating without mead.” The author, Sorn Skald, also noted that Pulliam’s racism would not be welcome in the group with which he worships.
  • The Vancouver Sun has more on the unfolding controversy over Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ move to stop the issuing of new contracts for minority-faith chaplains, including a Wiccan chaplain, because he’s “not convinced” that it is needed. Quote: “For the past six years, Wiccan priestess Kate Hansen has been visiting federal inmates across British Columbia who follow the pagan religion, guiding them in meditation and leading them in prayerful chants [...] ”If they choose to scrap this, they’re denying the rights of all of these people – their access to spiritual advisement of the religion of their choice,” Hansen told Postmedia News.” For more on this situation, read my post from yesterday, and be sure to check out the comments section, which features input from a Canadian Pagan prison chaplain.

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.