Archives For Pagan Federation

Emblem_of_the_United_States_Department_of_the_Army.svgDespite six years worth of requests, the U.S. Army officials has not yet added Heathenism or Asatru to the list of faith group codes as originally reported. In January, the Open Halls Project was informed that both Heathenism and Asatru had been approved. However, a short time later, that approval was put on hold, and the Army has yet to add the terms. As reported in a recent Army Times article, “The Army sidelined all such requests, pending the findings of a Defense Department working group investigating how to create a single set of faith group codes across the service.”

In response, the Open Halls Project and the Norse Mythology Blog have issued a Call-to-Action. Dr. Karl Seigfried writes, “Today, soldiers who follow the Old Way of Odin, Thor, Freya and the other Germanic gods and goddesses are still denied basic religious rights available to faiths that are recognized by the Army.” He included the email addresses of a number of Army offices, saying “Please send an email to any or all of the offices listed below, asking that Heathenry be added to the Army’s religious preferences list immediately.”

The Army Times article mentioned earlier includes updated interviews with Sgt. Daniel Head and Open Halls co-founder Josh Heath. Sgt. Head said that its “demeaning” to have to choose “other.” When asked if they’d get the ACLU involved, Heath said, “Personally, I don’t like the optics of that.” However, the idea hasn’t been completely ruled out. To learn more about the history behind this effort, read to our original article.

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Eron the Wizard

Eron the Wizard

Eron the Wizard (1952 – 2015), also known as Ian Alexander Wilson, lost his battle with cancer May 10. He was a practitioner of Alexandrian Wicca and was well-loved within his community. According to local reports, Ian was a member of a “pagan fellowship circle … at St Nectan’s Glen, near his home town of Tintagel, Cornwall.” Ian was a supporter of The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle and a welcome attendee at many of its events.

Several news outlets shared Ian’s story, as plans were made for a large Wiccan funeral. The well-publicized ceremony was held on May 22 in Cornwall. As reported by the BBC, “Hundreds of people dressed as elves, druids and witches have attended a Wiccan funeral to mark the passing of ‘Eron the wizard’.

Julia Stoiber, an Alexandrian High Priestess from Austria, was in attendance and performed a portion of the funeral rites. Stoiber told The Wild Hunt that she “started Ian on his path” many years ago, and added, “Ian was a lovely man who used his image as ‘Eron the wizard’ to attract attention, so he could talk to people about Wicca and help people to gain a proper understanding of what it is. We were friends for 18 years and he sadly lost his battle to cancer.”  

After the ceremony, Ian’s daughter Rebecca Spencer told local media, “He didn’t always live this way, he was once a builder in Gloucester with short hair. But he always wanted to do this, and live in Cornwall, which eventually he did. I don’t really know what to say at this time, other than I love my dad very much and I’m going to miss him.” Photos and video from the funeral are available online.

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Owner Bernadette Montana and Isaac Bonewits in front of store.

Owner Bernadette Montana and Isaac Bonewits in front of store 2008.[Courtesy Photo]

Across the Atlantic, in another city of Cornwall, local Pagans will soon be celebrating the grand re-opening of Brid’s Closet. Owner Bernadette Montana and her metaphysical store, Brid’s Closet, have been fixtures in Cornwall, New York, for nine years. Montana was one of the first to move a business to the otherwise dilapidated Main Street. Her success helped to attract other businesses to the area.

Recently, the building, in which she rents space for her store, went into foreclosure forcing Montana to move. At the time, she and a fellow main street store owner decided to pool resources and move in together. That is when the problems began. Her friend Luann, a non-Pagan, owns the store Creative Gifts that focuses on handmade arts and crafts. When several of her vendors learned that a witch was moving in, they threatened to cut off all business to the craft store. Montana said that someone even asked Luann, “Why would [she] want to do business with a devil worshiper?”

After multiple considerations and discussions, the two women decided to move forward as planned. Montana said, “I am used to it and can take care of myself, but when a friend is affected-that brought me to tears. I am thrilled with the fact that she stood tall and figured out how to make it work!” She added that Creative Gifts did lose a few vendors. However, the Cornwall community has largely supported the decision and is even helping with the move. Brid’s Closet will be back in business in its new space by mid-June.

In Other News:

  • Pandora’s Kharis announced that it has raised $1300 to help victims of the Nepal Earthquakes. The organization chose CARE for its “Mounukhion 2015 cause.” As explained on its website, “Pandora’s Kharis is a movement which arose from within the Hellenistic Polytheistic community, and sponsored by Hellenistic Polytheistic organization Elaion. Its goal is to come together as Hellenists–followers of the ancient Hellenic (Greek) Gods–and collect funds monthly to support a worthy cause, decided upon by vote from the members of the group.” In the past, The Wild Hunt has been a recipient of the organization’s efforts and generosity.
  • On her blog Gnosis Diary: Life of a Heathen, Erin Lale posted an article describing her experiences running for public office. The article, titled “Running for Office While Openly Heathen,” details how she “came to run for the Nevada State Assembly.” Near the end she writes, “Over the course of my two campaigns, I became deeply connected to the local community, as well as becoming much more well-known in the heathen and pagan communities nationally … I learned a ton, influenced the local conversation on issues, and made lots of great friends, and I’m glad I did it, but I am never, ever, ever running again.”
  • Dver Winter has announced the launch of “Winged Words Book Design.” She said, “I have been helping pagans and polytheists self-publish their books for many years, including Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Nysa Press (Sannion) and Sanngetall Press (Galina Krasskova) among others.” Winter added that she’s hoping to fill a niche with professional and affordable design work and expertise. Winged Words Book Design will offer a 10% discount to any books with a Pagan or Polytheist theme. Winter said, “I want to support the publication of more quality books in our religions.”

wingedwords5

That’s it for now. Have a nice day!

The presence of women, as 51% of the population, needs to be there in leadership roles to reflect spiritual balance. – Bharti Tailor, Executive Director of the Hindu Forum of Europe.

On May 26, the Westminster Faith Debates hosted its latest discussion at the St. James Church Piccadilly in London. The evening’s subject was “What Difference Will Women Bishops Make?” Although the question focuses on a hot topic specifically for the Church of England and its communities, the organizers brought in panelists from a number of different religions, including Paganism.

[Courtesy L. Woodhead]

[Courtesy L. Woodhead]

Elder Helene Mobius of the Pagan Federation was asked to sit on the panel to provide a Pagan view on female leadership in spiritual organizations. Facilitator Dr. Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University said:

We invited Helene because paganism is one of the only religions in Britain run by substantial numbers of women for women (and men) and with beliefs and practices shaped accordingly. So we knew she would have an interesting perspective to offer to a C of E which is only just starting to put women clergy in positions of the highest power and influence. 

In November 2014, the Church of England approved the ordination of women bishops. Then in January, Right Reverend Libby Lane became the first woman to earn the title and position of bishop. While the ceremony did not go without protest, she was successfully consecrated before an audience of 1,000 people. This happened twenty years after women were first ordained as Priests.

Since Lane’s ordination, the community has continued to argue over the merits of having women bishops, and how this new evolution in leadership will change liturgy and Church culture. Professor Woodhead, along with her co-facilitators, chose to use the Westminster Faith Debates as a forum to tackle this subject.

Helene Mobius was one of nine women who spoke that evening. Mobius is the Prison Ministry Manager for the Pagan Federation and faith adviser to NOMS. She explained, “The interfaith work done by others played no small part in my invitation, and although some Pagans would not like to be seen as ‘mainstream,’ our inclusion in this type of debate can only help lead to a better understanding between faiths.”

The eight other panelists included:

Professor Woodhead, who is the director of Westminster Faith Debates, presided over the event, along with Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmiths University of London.

[Courtesy L. Woodhead]

Back Row: Adam Dinham, Helene Mobius, Saleha Islam, Lucy Winkett, Katharine Jefferts Schori, Hilary Cotton, Linda Woodhead.  Front Row; Nissa Basbaum, Kate Bottley, Bharti Tailor, Laura Janner-Klausner  [Courtesy L. Woodhead]

Mobius told The Wild Hunt, “As a Pagan Elder, I was given the opportunity to add a different perspective to the line-up of speakers, and judging by the warm reception from organisers, panellists and members of the public, I believe there is genuine interest in Paganism and our participation.”

That perspective was clear in the quotes and various online accounts of her talk. In a tweet, Westminster Faith Debates quoted Mobius explaining that “Paganism can be considered as fundamentally matriarchal … but is not primarily about gender.” She also said, “Pagans have a deep reverence both for femininity & masculinity – conjoined and mutually enforcing.”

Similar to Mobius, speaker Bharti Tailor, Executive Director of the Hindu Forum of Europe, reportedly spoke of the balance between the masculine and feminism within her religion. She was quoted as saying, “Divine women stand alone and complete.” But, as blogger Sally Rush wrote, “[Tailor] said it was easier for women to gain access but then they had to make sure they kept access.”

Unlike those two religious groupings, the Church of England and other monotheistic faiths have struggled with the notion of female religious leadership. Over the past century, an increasing number of women have moved into the clergy positions, that have long been held exclusively by men. For example, in 1935, Judaism reportedly saw its first female rabbi in Germany. Just last week, Religion News Service published an article titled “She’s black, gay and soon you can call her Rabbi,” which tells the story of Sandra Lawson, a member of the progressive Reconstructionist Jewish tradition. The article notes that “Religious role models are a critical component of identity formation” and, as communities diversify, the leadership roles need to reflect the diversity. This same point was made during the debate by Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori. She noted that “White, male, English-speaking bishops with degrees from Oxford or Cambridge are only one sort.”

In April, seven women were ordained as Catholic Priests within the organization Roman Catholic Women Priests, a movement that began in Germany in 2002 with now reportedly has 208 women Priests. One of the women, Andrea Johnson, told the local New Jersey news, “We bring an aspect of inclusiveness that people want … We are as capable, if not more capable, of doing the pastoral work our communities need.”  Another of the seven women said, “I think when people look back in, say, 100 years, they’ll ask, ‘What was the big deal?’ And really, what was the big deal?”

And that “deal” is part of what was being addressed during the Westminster Faith Debate. How, if at all, will the growing presence of female religious leadership change liturgy, experience, religious culture and climate? Will women have to “morph” into men in order to hold these roles within the current institutional structures? These are just two of the many questions asked of the panelists.

While many of the speakers addressed the struggles as they applied internally to their own religious organizations or faith groups, Mobius’ reportedly focused more on the global issues and external oppressions that make use of aspects of Paganism. She said, “We still have women suffering abuse and being accused of witchcraft all over the world. [We] need to shake out of apathy.”

Blogger Sally Rush, who described Mobius as “one of the most interesting speakers,” reported that Mobius looked “at the way in which words which were intended to be good have been demonised and continue to be demonised. She focused on crone and witch as terms which originally meant elder and wise but have been used to condemn and commit violence against women.”

Rush also quoted Mobius as emphasizing that, “We have to move beyond divides between men and women and on to a more symbiotic approach.”

Another issue that was addressed was the need to avoid constructing a new unyielding paradigm based on female leadership. In the tearing down of the old rules that blocked women clergy, the community should be careful not to create new identity-based limitations and expectations of those that achieve that status. Diversity should be reflected across gender as well as within. 

Rush offers a solid overview of the entire debate, hitting many of the main points. She noted the generational differences in the definining of one’s feminity, or holding on to whatever that means, when taking on a position held traditionally by men. Rush writes, “it reflected the desire of third wave feminists to be able to keep their femininity and authenticity.” Rush also lamented the “binary nature of the discussion,” adding that it emphasized the “need to include the voices of T and gender queer people in discussions like this rather than marginalising them to debates on sexuality.”

Last week’s debate will be available via podcast on the Westminister Faith Debates site.  The next debate will be held in June and will focus on “Social Cohesion – Lessons from the Pennines.” Then in July, a new panel will tackle the subject of extremism, asking  “What should schools do about Radicalisation?”

The Westminster Faith Debates are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Lancaster University, and are held “in London every spring, and open to the public free of charge.”

Our institutions need to recognise and affirm the value and role of women in religious organisations – Hilary Coton, Chair of WATCH

It’s been a hell of a winter here in the UK. The Pagan community has had to come to terms with the issue of child abuse within our community, as no fewer than four pedophiles, identifying as Pagan, were sent to prison.

Generally, there have been many child abuse court cases recently. The British police and justice system has had a change of culture in recent years, and is now proving itself committed to detecting and prosecuting child sex abusers. Well-known British television personalities and even government ministers have been investigated and some convicted. These are people who had been protected by their positions in the past.

Police in Glasgow [Photo Credit: Postdlf from W. / CC lic. via  Wikimedia]

Police in Glasgow [Photo Credit: Postdlf from W. / CC lic. via Wikimedia]

At the moment it feels as though the whole of British society has woken up to child vulnerability after a long and sorry history of looking the other way, of denial and of cover-ups. It is a society doing its best to right the wrongs of the past.

There’s no surprise that among the non-famous there will be people from every profession and from every religious path, including ours. It is hard, though, to watch. I think most of us Pagans want to be able to keep imagining that child abuse only happens elsewhere. “Our sort are not ‘that sort.’ ”  We might all wish to believe that a true Pagan (whatever that is) could never do such things and that a person who did commit such atrocities could only be masquerading as Pagan.

But wishing doesn’t make it so, as the old adage goes.

The most recent pedophile to be sent to prison was Redvers ‘Barney’ Barnard, a man from the North of England, who wore his pentagram necklace prominently visible in his court appearances. He was a regular at Pagan gatherings and was involved enough in the community to be known to event organisers. His Facebook profile included home snapshots that depict a  Pagan leading a “normal” home life.

When Barnard was charged, acquaintances in the Pagan community were deeply shocked, and remain so. Everyone who knew him has been keen to stress that Barnard had no official roles in any Pagan organisation. It appears that none of the children that he abused, and there were many, were victimised or groomed through Pagan events or Pagan social networks.

But was he a pretend pagan? No, it doesn’t look like he was.

Pagan event organisers have recently been in consultation and meetings to discuss the broader issue of child safeguarding. The Barnard case, and several other related ones, have been sobering. Most longstanding officers serving in Pagan organisations have been closely following the case involving Kenny Klein, the well-known American Wiccan priest and musician who was arrested on child pornography charges. After that news was made public, others came forward accusing Klein of predatory acts allegedly aimed at minors during the Pagan gatherings at which he performed.

Here, in Britain, some safeguards are in place already. Anyone working near young people must have a government child-background check; Pagan events are now requiring this check of their own volunteers. There is also a coordinated plan to roll out a ‘stay safe’ initiative which will be used at all UK Pagan events. Whether it be a midsummer camp, a weekend conference, or a family-friendly pub moot, the responsible adults will now have their eyes open and be listening carefully as never before.

The U.K. Pagan community is well-positioned to make real strides. We are diverse in many ways but, in many respects, we are tightly interwoven. The Pagan Federation is a national body that has been working across regions and denominations for 41 years. Thanks to that work, Paganism is taken seriously as a spiritual path by most of our national press and the government.

Pagan Police Assoc.
In addition, our ability to address this problem with the police is strengthened by the Pagan Police Association. When we are working with officers who may not know that abuse and sacrifice are anathema to our religion, we can call upon the Pagan Police Association to vouch for this fact. Acknowledged experts such as University of Bristol’s Professor Ronald Hutton have also spoken as court witnesses to this fact.

Because we are a small island, assistance is never more than a three-hour drive away. The U.K. is a concentrated population on an island the size of California, so even national bodies regularly have in-person meetings. We don’t have the challenges facing North Americans, who are spread across a great land mass and six time zones.

In addition, the British government is centralised, so when we work with one region’s legal authorities, the principles apply elsewhere. This is a significant difference from America’s federal system, where many policies, laws and statutes apply only within an individual state.

We have a long road ahead of us and we are learning every day about being more effective in the sobering, important task of protecting our children. The will is there. Stay tuned.

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

Terry Pratchett [Photo Credit: Myrmi, cc lic. via Wikimedia ]

So much universe, and so little time” – Sir Terry Pratchett

It was announced yesterday that beloved fantasy author, Sir Terry Pratchett, had died from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. Throughout his 44 year writing career, Sir Terry has touched the minds, spirits and imaginations of people all over the globe, becoming one of the U.K.’s most well-read authors and is, according to the BBC, second only to JK Rowling.

His work has become of particular importance to Pagans and Heathens, who have found within it a unique expression of their own practice and spirituality. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said:

Terry Pratchett has done several great services to the pagan community and the true Craft of the Wica: He helped the wider community see us as more include-able and accepted by poking good-spirited, perceptive, knowledgeable and downright genuine fun at us through his hilarious characters  – you know you are widely recognised when the writer trusts the general reader to be familiar enough with you to “get” the in-jokes about you. He also painted witches in a positive light with his witch characters always being the heroines and “good guys” of his stories and, best of all, he reminded us in the pagan and witchcraft community that, by seeing ourselves warmly through the eyes of others, we should never take ourselves too seriously.

Sir Terry Pratchett was born Terence David John Pratchett in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. As a child, he was fond of astronomy but was unable to qualify for such studies and, eventually, turned his imagination to science fiction novels and fantasy. He devoured both American and British classics. At the age of 13, Sir Terry published his very first story, called “The Hades Business,” in a school newspaper.

As an adult, he pursued a career in journalism. While working for the Bucks Free Press, Sir Terry wrote and published a number of short stories under the pseudonym “Uncle Jim.” However, it wasn’t until 1971 that he published his first book titled The Carpet People. He followed that up with The Dark Side of the Sun in 1976 and Strata in 1981.

The_Colour_of_Magic_(cover_art)Sir Terry is best known for his Discworld series, which he began in 1983 with the publication of the first book The Color of Magic. This series became so successful that, in 1987, he left his job at Central Electricity Generating Board to become a full time author. The rest, as they say, is history.*

In the early 1990s, as Sir Terry’s popularity reached new heights, the Pagan Federation decided to host its very first indoor conference. Having connected with that community, Sir Terry supported the effort. Vivianne and Chris Crowley recalled, “His talk left us with tears rolling down our faces – tears of mirth. He judged with humour our stunning array of witches competing for the ‘Best Magrat’ competition, impressed by the enthusiasm that we Pagans showed for bringing his characters to life. Evenly-handed, and ahead of his time, he awarded the prizes to two women and a man.”

The Crowleys added that Sir Terry was “officially agnostic” but “was one of the most Pagan-friendly of authors.They said, “He had enough familiarity with the Pagan community to create the kind of jokes that resonate with Pagans everywhere.” Over the years, the Crowleys got to know him better through the fantasy author circuit and found “his humour warmed up in the best possible way those long cold hours hanging around back stage between giving talks.”

More recently, in 2010, the Crowleys joined in Sir Terry’s “lobbying [efforts] at the Conservative Party Conference for the legalisation of assisted suicide.” They noted that his eloquence, sincerity, and authenticity won over many of the legislators.

Sir Terry was also known to have attended other U.K. Pagan events. Author and teacher Christopher Penczak remembers meeting him at Witchfest. He said, “I had not read his books yet, so I really didn’t appreciate the moment.” But Penczak remembers the author as being very friendly and nice to all the presenters at the event.

Penczak eventually did read the novels and said, “I feel like his stories gave me more insight about Witchcraft, the spirit of magick, coven dynamics, responsibility, ego, dealing with the public, humor, and the role of service of the Witch more than most of my occult books. His insights were brilliant.”

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

2012 [© Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons]

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Sir Terry continued to write as many as 3 novels a year. The Discworld series eventually contained 41 books and a number of related short stories. According to his website, he has sold over 70 million books, translated into 37 languages.

Along with receiving many literary awards, Sir Terry was appointed ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’ for his work. In 2008, he was knighted with a sword that he himself forged. As noted by The Independent, Sir Terry added what he called magical touches to the metal and, then, kept it secret until the event. He was worried about the authorities and was quoted as saying, “It annoys me that knights aren’t allowed to carry their swords…That would be knife crime.”

In 2007, Sir Terry was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease after what was assumed to be a stroke. The Crowleys said, “Terry handled his illness with enormous dignity and courage.” According to the BBC, it was his writing that kept his spirits up and kept him going as his health declined. At least five of the Discworld books were written and published after the diagnoses.

Sir Terry’s death was announced yesterday via Twitter in a style that recalled his work.

 
The capital letters recall the way Death, the character, speaks in his novels.
 


It was reported that he died in his sleep with his cat and his family by his side.

Since the announcement, many Pagans and Heathens have joined the millions of other fans who are now mourning the loss of a great writer and kindred spirit. Ashley Mortimer of the Doreen Valiente Foundation said, “Terry Pratchett proved that the principles of mirth and reverence are perfect partners in paganism, the Craft and indeed wider human culture. His untimely passing is a great sadness to all of us.”

Christopher Penczak said, “I’m very saddened by our loss of Terry Pratchett … While not being a Witchcraft teacher, he was certainly a teacher of Witchcraft, at least of a healthy Witchcraft culture, including the many things I think are important to keep in mind in our practices and community.”

The Crowleys said, “Terry was a true magician, not in the sense of being a practitioner of the Art Magickal, but in his ability to conjure up new worlds, to weave a spell with his words, and beyond the wonderful humour of his writing, to evoke profound ideas that struck chords with the postmodern religious imagination.”

In memory of Sir Terry, people have been posting their favorite quotes.The Doreen Valiente Foundation offered this one:

Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.

The Crowleys shared this:

It was a place where witches met. 
Tonight a fire gleamed on the very crest of the hill. Dark figures moved in the flickering light. 
The moon coasted across a lacework of clouds. 
Finally a tall, pointy-hatted figure said, `You mean everyone brought potato salad?

Finally, there is this one:

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story

What is remembered, lives!

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*Note: Biographical data taken from multiple sources, including www.famousauthors.org.

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

Pagan Federation

In recent weeks, the BBC and other media outlets have published articles on the increase in Witchcraft related violence in the UK. As a BBC article reports, police have had “27 allegations” this year alone which is up from 24 in 2013. After reading the reports, a senior Religious Education official contacted the Pagan Federation with concerns that the stories might cause misunderstandings with respect to Pagan religious practice in the UK. 

In response, Pagan Federation President Mike Stygal said, “I was particularly grateful to him for drawing my attention to the article.” In a public statement, Stygal explained, in detail, his deep concerns with the way mainstream media and officials have handled these child abuse cases. He said, “I’d quite like another opportunity to meet with … the appropriate government representative to see if we can find a way to highlight the issues whilst limiting the potential for misunderstandings about modern Pagans.” Both the Doreen Valiente Foundation and the Centre for Pagan Studies have both come forward to endorse Stygal’s statement. To read it in full, click here

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CPWR Logo.Planning is underway for next year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions to be held in Salt Lake City. In the last week, the Council put out a call for programs, saying, “Everyone who attends the Parliament has wisdom to share – from those who are having their first interfaith experience to those who are steeped in interfaith. The purpose of this gathering is to support relationships, connections, and inspired calls to action which can then ripple out from the Parliament into hundreds of grassroots organizations, networks, and communities.”  Of the thousands of submissions, only about 10% will be selected for inclusion in the program. The application and submission guidelines can be found on their website.

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Starhawk at Harvard Divinity School.

While many people are focused on Pagan Pride, fall festivals, Samhain and Halloween, another day sits just over the horizon. On Nov. 4, the U.S. will hold its general elections. On her blog Dirt Worship, Starhawk offers a post entitled, “Why Vote?” in which she lists “the practical, political and spiritual reasons” to get off the couch and head to the polls. She says that after you vote,”the world will not have transformed overnight. The Great Turning won’t have turned. The Good Guys will not have completely triumphed over the Bad Guys. But the world might just be a slight bit better than it would have been otherwise. And that small difference might be the divergence in the path that heads us away from destruction and onto the road to hope.”

In Other News

  • The struggle to keep religion out of schools is not only a U.S. problem. As reported on Oct 6 by SAPRA’s Damon Leff, the South African government has conflicting and problematic policies with regards to the teaching of religion within its public school system.
  • Around Samhain, Wild Hunt columnist Rhyd Wildermuth will be releasing his new book Your Face is a Forest, “a collection of prosaic wanderings and essays.” All profits from the book’s sale will be used toward funding his trip to the UK and Ireland in December. Rhyd was selected to attend the Winter Solstice festivities at Newgrange. When he returns, he will be reporting on that unique experience here at The Wild Hunt.
  • The Patrick McCollum Foundation has announced an opening for two interns. The positions are for volunteers, preferably graduate students, who want to work with the organization in its mission “to further world peace, planetary sustainability, environmental protection, and human rights, including the advancement of women’s rights.” For more information, contact executive director Nell Rose Phillips.
  • In the coming weeks, the organizers of PaganPro.org will be launching a new website with a series of public surveys that will eventually become the basis of a new online service. Chairperson Lydia M N Crabtree says,”PaganPro.org will be the first site to offer real and verified information about Pagan and occult leaders.” The surveys are the first step in building that database.
  • This month, Red Wheel Weiser Books is releasing a book called The Hedgewitch Book of Days by Mandy Mitchell. The book is “aimed at the practicing or would-be witch whose life is more jeans, chaos and the never-ending question of what’s for dinner, instead of black-robes, cauldrons, and incantations.”
  • Here’s a brief update on our own Fall Funding Drive. You have helped us to reach 96% of our campaign goal. Amazing! To all of those people and organizations who have already donated, thank you so very much. We can’t do this work everyday without your support. If you haven’t donated yet, please consider contributing today. If you have already donated, won’t you share our link and give us the extra boost needed to raise the remaining funds.

The Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive. Donate Now!

That’s all for now! Have a great day.

[On a weekly basis, we bring you the news and issues that affect Pagan and Heathen communities around the world. If you value our work, please consider donating to our fall fund drive today. Bringing you important news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. Your support makes it possible for us to continue. Thank you very much.]

The Druid NetworkOn September 29, the Interfaith Network of the United Kingdom (IFN UK) admitted both The Druid Network (TDN) and The Pagan Federation (PF) into its organization as members. Previously, both Pagan groups were denied membership because they did not represent “one of the big nine faiths.” According to The Druid Network, “This refusal resulted in TDN becoming involved in dialogue with IFN, with a view to reviewing their membership policy to become both more inclusive and to remove any suggestion of discrimination against minority faiths.”

The Pagan Federation and others were also involved in the talks, which eventually led to a presentation before the House of Lords. TDN says, “The eminent human rights lawyer, John Halford, from Bindmans LLP publicly issued a legal opinion for the event.” After that official meeting, IFN began a “strategic review” of its membership policy that has resulted in revised criteria by which both the PF and TDN are eligible. Additionally, Rev. Prudence Jones of PF will be serving on IFN’s executive committee. She marks the first Pagan to hold such a position within that organization. TDN says:

This is an historic achievement on many levels, it is the fruition of the work of many people seeking to find resolution within conflict, those people coming from many diverse backgrounds, professions and faiths. The Druid Network extends its appreciation and thanks to all who helped bring about this momentous.

conference-logo-transparent-background1The 11th Conference on Current Pagan Studies will be held January 24-25, 2015  in Claremont, California at Claremont Graduate University. This year’s theme is “Fecundity and the Richness of the Dark.” Conference organizers explain, “Monotheistic notions over the past two millennia have separated and polarized our manner of being in the world into realms of light and darkness, positive and negative, holy and desacralized, valued and devalued.  Polytheists, Pagans, animists, et al view differently the interplay of light and dark, and seek to revalue, re-sacralize, and retrieve the dark. How do we interpret the Darkness?” 

This year’s keynote speakers will be Viviane Crowley and Orion Foxwood. The deadline for submissions is now October 15. They say, “We are looking for papers from all disciplines. A community needs artists, teachers, scientists, healers, historians, philosophers, educators, thinkers, activists, etc.” 

10689864_296726883849996_5087655294117168377_nThe Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists (MCPA) is holding its debut exhibition at the Stevens Square Center for the Arts from Oct 25 – Nov 15, 2014. The public exhibition is titled, “Doorways to the Underworld” and will feature Ali Beyer (Artemis Namaste), Anne Marie Forrester (Helga Hedgewalker), Paul Rucker, and Roger Williamson. MCPA says, “In this exhibit, Halloween is explored through the eyes of those who experience the season as a profound time to commune with the ancestors and the spirit world.  For these artists, the work is an extension of their spirituality, allowing a glimpse into what is often an unseen tradition.”  The opening reception includes a dance performance by Alana Mari and live music by Comets Ov Cupid.

In Other Pagan Community News:

 

That’s it for now, have a great day!

 

In recent months, a controversy has been brewing around the name and the acronym for the militant Islamic group Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham (DAASH). The most common English translations of that name are The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. More commonly, the militant group is referred to in the media as ISIS. Both the translations and the common acronym have caused significant frustration for many, including Pagans.

A  New York Times article, dated June 18, explained the problem from a linguistic perspective. The Arabic name, Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, is not effectively expressed in the most commonly used translation: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The jihadists’ mission, as reflected by their Arabic name, is to create a caliphate that incorporates a far larger region than the modern countries of Iraq and Syria. The translated name, and its acronym ISIS, do not clearly relay the group’s intent.

By NordNordWest, Spesh531 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons] Red indicates areas controlled by ISIL; Yellow indicates areas claimed by ISIL

By NordNordWest, Spesh531 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons]
Red indicates areas controlled by ISIL; Yellow indicates areas claimed by ISIL; White indicates the rest of Iraq and Syria

The New York Times writer suggests that “the already familiar ISIS abbreviation could simply be said to stand for The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.” The Arabic word al-Sham defines that larger region, not limited by modern national borders. The area includes Cyprus, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and southern Turkey. Using the Arabic term al-Sham accurately pinpoints the group’s intent. However, this word is unfamiliar to the casual English-speaking reader and, consequently, does not solve the problem of masked intent.

Additionally, even with this minor adjustment in translation, the acronym ISIS is still viable. Either way, it is regularly being used in mainstream media reporting, including major outlets such as the BBC, The Huffington Post, CNN, NBC, The Los Angeles Times and others. The Washington Post writes:

[We have] been referring to the organization as ISIS, shorthand for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is how most news organizations that operate in English began identifying the outfit when it emerged as a dangerous fighting force two years ago, launching terror strikes and carving out territory amid the Syrian civil war.

While the Times suggestion solves one issue, the continued use of the acronym ISIS itself poses an entirely different problem for Pagans and Heathens who venerate the Egyptian Goddess of the same name. The Fellowship of Isis (FOI), a worldwide organization, made this public statement:

We are a multi-faith organisation dedicated to the feminine aspect in all religions, and have a priesthood whose manifesto is one of peace, tolerance and respect for all spiritual expression … It is disturbing and confusing to our members and the general public who know of our organization when media use the acronym ISIS for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militia.

On June 20, the Huffington Post UK reported that the Pagan Federation sent in a letter asking that the news outlet stop using the ISIS acronym. The published letter reads:

We are writing to you on behalf of our members to express concerns over the use of the acronym ISIS which is currently being used when mentioning the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Greater Syria) militia, and would request that the acronym ISIL, which has established usage elsewhere in the world be used.

The reason for this request is because the acronym ISIS is likely to form an inadvertent association in the minds of hearers between Sunni jihadists and followers of the goddess Isis, with the potential for harm to innocent people from a completely unrelated religion.

Holli Emore, director of Cherry Hill Seminary and writer at Patheos’ Wild Garden blog, is the founder and Priestess of the Osireion Temple in South Carolina.  Emore says that she is “disinclined to feel alarm at the acronym ISIS being bandied about in the mainstream news this summer.” She adds:

It is a bit disconcerting to hear the name of one of my goddesses regularly repeated in the international news, and such terrible news it is!  And yet I note that “Isis” as a name or acronym is found in lots of places.  There is isis-online.org, the Institute for Science and International Security, and isis.org, home of the International Species Information System.  Many university campuses use an online student network called ISIS which stands for the Intercampus Student Information System.  Interestingly, here in South Carolina there is a Department of Education system-wide database called Osiris. 

Like the names of many ancient deities, Isis is found as a designator for many organizations, products and activities. Emore adds:

What all of this tells me is that the great mother goddess of ancient Egypt, whose worship stretched to all parts of the Roman Empire (a piece of a temple of Isis has been found in the Thames River), is a ubiquitous archetype in the mind of at least the western world.  The Mistress of All Magic has so infused our imagination that those who never had a thought for Pagan religion feel it natural to adopt her beautiful name…

However, in this particular case, the organization is a terrorist group with violent intent based on religious extremism. Its mission to create a caliphate has no connection, symbolic or otherwise, to Ancient Egyptian mythology. It is just happenstance. In fact, the group itself and the local communities use the acronym DAASH.

The goddess Isis.

The goddess Isis. [Public Domain Image]

As noted by the Pagan Federation’s letter, there is a third translation option. Some agencies are now calling this group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Like al-Sham, the somewhat-antiquated word Levant refers to the larger Middle East region making it a better translation of the original Arabic. As such, the group’s acronym becomes ISIL. Currently the U.S. State department, President Obama and other governments worldwide are using this translation and its corresponding acronym.

The Associated Press has itself opted to use ISIL and The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in its own work. It also recommends that particular translation and usage in its AP Stylebook. However the change overall is slow in coming. Many writers and media outlets have adjusted to using “the Levant” but still use the acronym ISIS. In its press release, the FOI has put out a call out to editors asking:

We respectfully request that your organization from this point forward refer to this group by its other accepted name, I.S.I.L., Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and require that your correspondents and guests do the same. 

Despite the continued discussions and declarations of name translation changes, the extremist group is still most readily recognized and now even marketed with the acronym ISIS. Recently several companies, mostly out of Indonesia, have begun selling clothing and paraphernalia, over the Internet, that display the militant organization’s logo with the acronym ISIS. According to a CNN report, one of the shirts reads: “We are all Isis.” The same article quotes Delma Institute researcher Hassan Hassan as saying, “Using merchandise to market itself as ‘cool’ is a one of the common propaganda tools ISIS uses.” Facebook has been removing these sites but sales continue elsewhere.

Art and Photo by Lady Pythia.  It was posted publicly online as part of her call-to-the-media to stop using the acronym ISIS.

Art and Photo by Lady Pythia. This was posted publicly as part of a call-to-the-action to stop using the acronym ISIS.

Because the group and its supporters appear to have embraced the acronym themselves, the debate over the name extends well-beyond simple media usage. As for members of The Fellowship of Isis, the Pagan Federation and other individuals who are unsettled by use of the acronym ISIS, this struggle may be more difficult than originally expected. Emore is trying to look at the situation differently and toward a brighter future. She says:

A fragment of Osireion liturgy (which derives from the ancients) is the line “we know you, we know your names.”  A name is sacred and powerful, but it seems to me that the media does not know Aset’s name, nor her strength.  May she soon work her magic to bring calm to the turmoil of the Levant.

On Friday, June 13 as the full moon rose, the man called “the father of modern Witchcraft,” Gerald Brosseau Gardner, was officially honored with an national Blue Heritage Plaque. Whether the calendar and celestial alignment were right or whether it was just coincidence, the time had certainly come for the legendary Gardner to join Doreen Valiente in English historical immortality.

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[Photo Credit: Jane Thomson (Open Plaques donation) CC/ Wikimedia]

In June 2013, Doreen Valiente, called the “mother of modern Witchcraft,” was honored with one of these blue heritage plaques. It was affixed to her home at Tyson Place on Grosvenor Street in Brighton. Valiente became the first Witch to receive this honor as bestowed by the City of Brighton and Hove. This blue plaque was modeled on the English Heritage organization’s national project to mark, preserve and honor English history. The Blue Heritage Plaque “scheme” is one of its more notable projects and has been ongoing since 1866.

Nearly a year after Valiente’s ceremony and 130 years after his birth, Gardner has now become the second Witch to receive a blue heritage plaque. Funded wholly by donations to the Doreen Valiente Foundation and organized by the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS), Gardner’s plaque was affixed to the home in which he lived in from 1938-1945. According to the CPS, “it was from this house he walked to his initiation into the New Forest Coven in 1939.”

John Belham-Payne, founder and director of the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS), told the BBC that,”Gerald is one of those people who has been recognized nationally now because [his] name is included in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.” The inclusion of the plaque is a natural offshoot of that recognition. One signifier of this growing acceptance is the BBC’s expansive coverage of the plaque’s unveiling as well as a recent BBC radio interview with Belham-Payne.

The entire heritage event, from start to finish, has been a result of the cooperative efforts of the Centre for Pagan Studies (CPS), the Children of Artemis (COA) and the Doreen Valiente FoundationOn its fundraising page, the Foundation explains:

We are heading the campaign to have commemorative blue plaques placed where people who have shaped pagan history have lived or worked. These are landmark events [are] really wonderful in terms of promoting tolerance and raising awareness of how important the trailblazers of the past are, and also their relevance today, and how important it is to keep alive the work that they have done and to continue with it.

The Foundation managed the fundraising campaign that collected the needed funds it took to manufacture and install the blue heritage plaque. Donated funds also offset all associated costs of the daytime unveiling ceremony.

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Mill House where Gardner was initiated [Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

The June 13 festivities began at 2 p.m. with attendees joining the organizers on a hilltop called “the crow’s nest.” Then everyone walked to Gardner’s home by way of the Mill House where he was first initiated. After the plaque was finally unveiled, attendees enjoyed refreshments and explored the grounds.

Before the Unveiling [Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

Before the Unveiling [Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

Ashley Mortimer, trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, was on hand to greet visitors and talk about the importance of the Foundation and the blue heritage plaque campaign. The Doreen Valiente Foundation, along with the Centre for Pagan Studies, is charged with the protection and preservation of many modern Pagan “artefacts once owned by Gardner and Valiente.” One of these treasures is Gardner’s original Book of Shadows. As noted by Belham-Payne in the radio interview, this book will soon be on display in a new museum along with many other Gardner pieces.

At 4 p.m. the festivities moved to Highcliffe Castle. Tickets to the event cost £5 to cover the cost of facility rental. According to organizers, the celebratory evening event was completely sold-out.

Gardner’s biographer, Philip Heselton gave a reading and talk. In an interview with the BBC a few days prior, Heselton said:

[Gardner] wasn’t a religious pioneer. What he did was to publicize [Wicca] and write about it and he gradually became known through that and people made contact … He initiated quite a lot of people into the Wiccan culture. He felt it was important that it survived.

[Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

[Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

Also present at Highcliffe was Damh the Bard who performed his songs for the sold-out audience. Later that night he told The Wild Hunt that it was “a day to be proud of” adding:

It was an amazing day. Thinking back to the early 1990s when some Christian groups fabricated the satanic Child Abuse scandal; when the News of the World thought it acceptable to vilify Pagans in their now thankfully defunct rag; and now 20 years later we stand before Gerald Gardner’s house with the Deputy Mayor unveiling a blue plaque for the Father of Modern Witchcraft. We have come such a long way. This was a great day, not just for British Wiccans, but for Pagans of all Paths all over the world. One day we will be the ancestors, and what we do today will shape Paganism for many years to come.

Robin Taylor, the Pagan Federation‘s treasurer, was also in attendance at the ceremony. In retrospect, he said:

The unveiling of a blue plaque to Gerald Gardner on the site of the house in Highcliffe where he lived was not only a very happy occasion for all present, but also significant in the growing acceptance of Paganism in England. Pagans of many paths have a connection with Gerald and an appreciation of his achievements, and this event provided an opportunity to celebrate his life.

So on that “amazing day,” Friday the 13th 2014 on a full moon, Gerald Brousseau Gardner, the “father of modern witchcraft,” was honored on his 130th birthday with the unveiling of a commemorative blue plaque marking his contributions to both Pagan and English heritage.

But one question remains. As prompted by the Centre for Pagan Studies own Logo, who is next?

helpus-150x150

[Correction 6-17-2014: This article was amended slightly to de-emphasize any suggested official involvement of the English Heritage organization. Although the plaques are listed on a community-based open plaque register linked to its site, the EH group was not involved with either the Valiente or Gardner Blue Plaques campaigns. These projects were solely the work of the Centre for Pagan Studies and associated organizations.]

 

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.”

pf_web1

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!