Archives For Pagan Federation

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — British Witch Kate West, author of thirteen Real Witches books and high priestess of the Hearth of Hecate, has been spending the week teaching classes, running rituals, and giving readings at the Awareness Shop, a metaphysical store in the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York. Despite her packed schedule stateside, she found the time to talk some about her work for the benefit of Wild Hunt readers. During that conversation, she managed to transmit just a bit of her wit and charm.

West has been practicing Witchcraft for more than 35 years, and she has been quite public about it; so much so that she provided media relations for Children of Artemis, a prominent British Witchcraft organization. And, additionally, she has also served as vice president of the Pagan Federation.

Kate West [Courtesy Photo]

Kate West [Courtesy Photo]

“I met my first Witch when I was six,” she said, adding that she began practicing the Craft in her middle teens. “My father comes from a line of cunning men, but that was never overtly discussed,” because her Roman Catholic mother was not keen on the idea.

West did not find her first coven until she was in her mid-30s, and the story itself reeks of magic. “I was restless at home, and decided to drive around” aimlessly, in the days before smartphones made that an all-but forgotten art. “I was just following roads, and pulled up by an old barn,” which had no evidence that it was anything but private property.

Nevertheless, “I walked ’round, and there was a little esoteric shop around back,” with no sign by the road to announce that fact. She entered and, after browsing the shelves for a few minutes, she worked up the nerve to speak with the proprietor, who invited her to the next meeting of their coven that very weekend. West has since been initiated into the Alexandrian tradition.

Because Hecate is an ancient goddess that is envisioned in divergent ways depending upon one’s tradition, we asked West to describe the goddess according to the understanding of her coven. “She’s a goddess of the crossroads,” West said, and offerings of food are left to her there. Her earlier roots are Greek, but she “found her way up to the Celtic lands,” likely thanks to the Romans.

West sees Hecate as a “working lady” (strong and muscular, or “brawny” in build) appearing old in worn — not tattered — clothes and a dark cloak. “When her horse needs shoeing, I rather imagine she does it herself,” West said. It’s a “jolly good idea” to give this protector of the young and the weak her due and not to trifle with her. “Don’t mess with me and mine,” is the message Hecate sends to the world according to West, whose understanding of this deity’s appearance and personality come largely from pathworking.

While Hecate is what her coven is all about, her personal relationship is with the Morrigan. She was born near the source of the river Raven, hand-reared a raven, and ravens either live wherever she has, or show up soon after she does. Her initials are even “K.A.W,” and it seemed natural for her to seek a raven goddess, and one with close ties to her own Celtic heritage. The Morrigan controls the birds that serve as “nature’s dustbin,” cleaning up after the mess of battle.

[wallpapercraft.com]

[wallpapercraft.com]

West remembers a time when the only way to make contact with other Witches was to go to the library with your name and address on a piece of paper, and slip it into a certain Dennis Wheatley book. Presumably, the person picking them up would just show up at the door one day.

“I did not do that,” she said. “The internet age doesn’t know what it’s got.”

On balance, she considers the open access to be a vast improvement over those days, but there have been changes about which she is not so keen. “There is a difference of opinion between elders and newcomers about the word ‘silent,'” she said. “You can’t tell people secrets of the circle, even though it’s cool.”

After writing thirteen books in the Real Witches series including a handbook, a cookbook, and a book of days, she’s allowed herself a hiatus. That last, the Real Witches Year was particularly challenging, because the editor kept changing the size of the pages, meaning she had to rewrite to make the text fit. The series was named by someone at the first publisher, and she’s stuck with that decision through several more in the ensuing years.

For all the books she has written and for all the appreciation she has for internet, West believes that nothing is comparable to learning the Craft in person. “Anyone who calls themselves a Witch can practice,” she said, “but it’s ten times harder when there’s no one to pick up the pieces.”

There are simply concepts that are easier to show than write about, and there’s also the down side of the internet: “It’s harder to avoid the nutters.” She said that “all of the faiths have their own special and unique variety of idiots; Witches have some of their own.” There are also bits of etiquette which aren’t needed by solitary practitioners, like the tradition of the high priestess draining the chalice.

Still, she does what she can by telling stories of her own coven’s foibles as a warning to others. For example, she recounted a time when one coven member believed wholeheartedly in making his own magical tools. West considered this a good idea until he pointed his athame and the blade came loose from the handle, only to stick in the floor at her feet.

Another time, they misplaced an initiate because the individual was told to remain quiet in the dark as they prepared for the outdoor ritual. When it was time to begin, they couldn’t locate the person. “Of course, no one brought a bloody torch,” she said, and while the would-be initiate heard their name being called, it was interpreted as another test, so they became quieter still.

Her media expertise has also gotten her into some awkward situations. During a speaking engagement at a conference, West was recounting a time when a BBC crew was filming a ritual, and one of the producer’s asked, “Can you move the baby a bit closer to the fire?” That anecdote was part of a larger rant on the mistakes that reporters tend to make. At the conclusion of her conference speech, she asked the audience for questions. “The first person said to me, ‘Do you know how many journalists are in this room?'”

If and when West returns to writing, she said that she is pondering a book about starting covens. “It would be ‘don’t do it’ in 55,000 words,” she said.

BLMausMELBOURNE — The Black Lives Matter movement has reached Australia. So far, there have been rallies in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane. The ABC, Australia’s state-owned and funded national public broadcaster, reported that 3,500 people attended the Melbourne rally on Sunday, July 17.

The movement, which began in the U.S., has a struck a chord with Australia’s aboriginal people. Although aboriginal people make up only about 3% of the Australian population, they reportedly make up 26% of the prison population. Blogger and Witch Cosette Paneque explains, “BLM is also embraced by [Australia’s] non-aboriginal black people and other people of colour who regularly experience institutionalised racism.”

Paneque lives in Melbourne and attended the recent local rally. She said, “I’ve been watching the BLM movement with great interest since the 2013 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. I’d been watching from a distance and feeling helpless. I had to go to the Melbourne rally to show solidarity with the movement and with my black friends who are perpetually grieving and terrified for their children. It’s moving to see BLM speak to Australians.”

Paneque called the rally “a powerful and peaceful display of solidarity.” She added that it was “incredible to walk to with aboriginal people and elders, Torres Straight Islanders, West Papuans, as well non-aboriginal black people, African-Australians, and other people of colour.”

“As a woman of colour and as a Pagan, for me, the personal is political; I had to be there.”

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Don Frew

UNITED STATES — The July Issue of The Interfaith Observer (TIO) featured Wiccan elder Rev. Donald H. Frew, who has been involved in religious freedom actions and interfaith work since the 1980s. Frew has attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions since its re-establishment in the 1990s, has acted as an interfaith representative for Covenant of the Goddess, and has traveled extensively abroad representing modern Pagan practice in various interfaith forums.

The July TIO issue includes ten of Frew’s articles, covering subjects such as, “When Wiccans and Evangelical Christians Become Friends,” originally published January 2012, and “When Nature Talks Back,” originally published February 2015. The issue also includes two articles by the journal’s editor focusing on Frew’s work, and it also includes a video interview.

TIO is a “monthly electronic journal created to explore interreligious relations and the interfaith movement as a whole.” The journal is “a member of the North American Interfaith Network, an affiliate of United Religions Initiative-North America, and a Cooperation Circle of United Religions-Multiregion.”

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PD200-228x228LONDONPagan Dawn magazine, the official publication of the Pagan Federation, is celebrating its 200th issue. Along with work by the magazine’s regular staff writers, the issue includes “exclusive interviews with Prof. Ronald Hutton, Susan Cooper, Steve Rothery and Pat Mills.”

Pagan Dawn was founded in 1968 as The Wiccan. When the Pagan Federation was born in 1971, it was adopted as the organization’s official publication. In 1994, the magazine changed its name to reflect the growing number of non-Wiccan Pagans in the community.

Editor Kate Large said, “Reaching 200 issues is an incredible landmark for a magazine staffed and run by volunteers. And our journey from just a few sheets of paper to a glossy, full-colour magazine, also mirrors the larger journey of Paganism. Once, Pagans had to tread carefully; the community was smaller and much more divisive. Now, we can live more freely, often thanks to the work of the Pagan Federation. We’re now looking to a future of inclusivity and diversity, and are eager to engage with more international readers.”

Other contributors to the 200th celebratory issue include “Candia McKormack, Rachel Patterson, Rebecca Beattie, Joanna VanderHoeven, Andrew Pardy, Baba Studio, Nimue Brown, Valerie Thomas, Vix, Tony Furminger, Anna McKerrow, Daniel Bran Griffithand, Andy Stout, David Spofforth, Claire Dixon and Sam Proctor.”  Pagan Dawn has been publishing quarterly since its inception. It is available through its website in both print form and, since 2014, in a paperless edition.

In Other News

  • Tenders’ high priestess Karen Bruhin of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel will be participating in a four day interfaith prayer event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Titled “DNC Prayer Circle Hosts: Interfaith Prayer Circle for Peace, Unity, and Justice,” the event will host prayer circles offered by 15 different clergy and religious leaders over a four-day period, while the Democratic National Convention is taking place. Organizers Xelba and Vanette write, “Please join us as we pray, chant, and meditate to promote peace in the city and the world, unite our people and causes, and lend spiritual strength to those who lift up their voices for justice.” For interested locals, Ms. Bruhin is on the schedule for Tuesday’s session. More information is on the Facebook event page.
  • The Edmonton Wiccan Seminary has received its incorporation as a federal non-profit, and will begin accepting its first students January 2017. Founder Samuel Wagar said, “Edmonton Wiccan Seminary is established to provide clergy training in the Wiccan religion to those called to a public clergy path and Wiccan religious education services to the general public.” Wagar went on to say that the group will have four paths, including “academic work, personal work, outer court group leadership, and starting new public groups.” He also added that the seminary is hoping to partner with temples and clergy to “mentor its students.”
  • The Pagan/Academic European Associates Network (PAEAN) announced the time and date of its 4th online conference. PAEAN will held online Nov 7, from 6-9 p.m (+1 UTC). The theme will be “Pilgrimage in Europe: Ancient and Contemporary Pagan Pilgrimage Practices.” The keynote speaker will be Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern, philosopher, educator, and peace studies specialist. Organizers are currently looking for paper submissions on a number of related topics. Specifics are on their event page, and the deadline is Oct. 7. PAEAN is a conference sponsored in part by Pagan Federation International.
  • For those readers who own the book Simply Runes by Kim Farnell, it has been re-released by publisher Hampton Roads as Runes Plain and Simple. Blogger Morgan Daimler reviews the new edition on her Patheos blog Irish-American Witchcraft. Daimler writes, “It’s a decent very basic introduction to the runes. I would still suggest supplementing it with another rune book as well though for a different point of view.”
  • Many Gods West is only two weeks away. Polytheists from around the U.S. are preparing to meet in Olympia, Washington for three days of talks, lectures, rituals and other festivities. The schedule of event is now online. The opening remarks and ritual, hosted by Sean Donahue, will be held Aug. 5 at 12:30 p.m.

That’s if for now. Have a great day!

UK – It’s been five days now since the U.K. had its vote to decide whether or not it should be a part of the European Union. The Leave result was close, won by an overall majority of 52%. The Remain camp — the favourites to win — was shocked, saddened, and angry. It is no exaggeration to say that this result has not only torn the nation apart, but also exposed deep rifts which have have existed for many years.

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[Courtesy Pixabay]


After the vote, social media went into turmoil with different groups of people turning on each other. There were many unfriendings on Facebook. Younger people are annoyed with the older generation for “ruining their future.” And, older people believe that the younger generation does not know what is at stake. As noted in The Guardian, the vote has torn families apart.

Even days later, there is still lots of shock; lots of pain. Much pent up hurt and rage is being released.

Due to the volatility of the debates, it has been difficult to garner any public reaction from the U.K. Pagan community, which is a microcosm of the country as a whole. Pagans, on both sides of the issue, are displaying as much anger and hurt about the vote. Many feel that the decision to leave flies in the face of Pagan values, such as tolerance and diversity. Conversely, others in the community feel that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable. They voted to leave for freedom and independence.

However, many of those contacted were not yet willing to speak on record. In a future piece, I hope to update the situation with personal comments from the UK Pagan community. For now though, I will explain the background behind the vote.

The Breakdown of the U.K.

The vote occurred across the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Britain, also called Great Britain, refers to the countries that exist on the landmass of the island, namely England, Wales and Scotland. Each nation in the U.K. has a form of parliament to ensure its own governance. Northern Ireland and Scotland have more powers over their nations than Wales, due to complex historical reasons that are beyond this discussion.

Since Friday morning, when the results became clear, the U.K. went into a tailspin. David Cameron, our Prime Minister, resigned immediately. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, called for a second referendum on Scottish Independence from the U.K., which would allow them to re-apply to the EU. (Scotland held such referendum in 2014 and voted, by 55%, to remain in the U.K.) In Northern Ireland, concerns about peace have been raised. The Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein has begun talking about a border poll for the reunification of Ireland, and many fear the possible implications and the potential for discord.

A Bit of History

The European Union (EU) was a post-World War II bloc that emerged to trade together and to hopefully bring peace to a ravaged continent. Its original members were France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain joined along with Ireland in 1973. Other European countries joined throughout the ensuing years. To date, 28 states are members.

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[Via Wikimedia]

Due to the EU, Europeans have enjoyed cheap holidays, a wider range of consumables, and greater work flexibility. But all of that changed with the infamous Maastrict Treaty of 1992, which pushed for both political and economic union. In Britain, the treaty was hotly contested in parliament, with the more extreme ends of both parties blocking the move by the European Economic Community (EEC). While poll tax riots were blamed for the demise of controversial Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, it may have actually been her refusal to further integrate into the proposed EU.

However, time went on. And, as the 1990s progressed, Tony Blair came to power as the first Labour Prime Minister for a generation. Simultaneously, the EU expanded, and people from Eastern and Southern Europe came to Britain under the free movement of peoples legislation. The U.K. also began to see the decline of much of its manufacturing industry due to things being apportioned by Brussels, a synonym often used for the EU due to its main, but not official, base being located in that city. (Its official seat is in Strasbourg, France.)

However, the problems really began around the turn of the century when the euro was introduced. Economies in the east and south have traditionally been weaker than those in the west and north of Europe. At the time, the British media began raising concerns. However, Germany and France, the powerhouses behind the euro project, pushed it through.

As the noughties progressed with the credit crunch and austerity measures, the entire EU project began to look increasingly unwieldy. Additionally, the migrant crisis of last summer triggered unhappiness all over Europe, because it epitomised all that was wrong with the EU. More specifically, one country, in this case Germany, deciding to ignore the Dublin Regulations, rightly or wrongly, “off its own bat.”

Back to the vote and a nation torn

The situation is very complicated, and the responses are equally as mixed, without clear lines of support.

This referendum has created a perfect storm in communities that have been abandoned since the Thatcher era of the 1980s. These are the areas that were left behind in the march to globalisation. Many people from the EU came to Britain to seek work in a prosperous, business-friendly country. Many of these working class communities have resented such quick and deep global change. This was reflected by the trend for what are called the Labour heartlands voting in favour of Brexit.

Many on the left are unwilling to talk about this issue at all. Straight after the voting results were released, John Harris and Gary Younge of The Guardian ventured a couple of articles asking people to consider that side of the issue. The failure to address it, according to them, seems to be fuelling the rise of the far-right.

As if to support that point, there have been reports of an upturn in racist incidents across the U.K. These include cards written in Polish posted through letterboxes in areas with a high Polish demographic telling them to get out. People who identify as BME (black or minority ethnic) have been subjected to racial abuse in the street.

pagan federation In response to these incidents, The Pagan Federation has issued a swift response. Luthaneal Adams of PF’s London branch stated:

These are challenging times and I know full well that many people are feeling scared, shocked and intimidated by the horrible rise in racism and xenophobia that has become evident in this country. But we will not allow that bigotry to infiltrate our Pagan Federation and PF-London will do all we can to make sure that our events, groups and activities are free from such intolerance and the people who perpetrate it.

Economic reaction to the decision has also been mixed. The referendum campaign divided British economists and business leaders from the start. Mark Carney, the Canadian head of the Bank of England, stated in early May that Britain was better off in the EU, and Brexit could cause “a technical recession.” However, since the voting result he has backtracked on that. Just three days ago he announced to The Financial Times that “Brexit will not cause a financial crisis.”

Mervyn King, his predecessor, stated in April that the “economic threat of Brexit has been exaggerated,” but would not reveal which side of the debate he supported.

Business leaders have also been divided on the issue. Two days before the vote, Lord Digby Jones, the former head of the Confederation of British Industry, stated that he was a “reluctant leaver” and slammed the EU’s inability or unwillingness to reform. Other business leaders such as Virgin chief Richard Branson and Amstrad founder Lord Sugar backed Remain, whereas James Dyson (the inventor and entrepreneur behind Dyson vacuum cleaners) and another 320 prominent UK business figures wrote a letter to The Telegraph declaring their support for Leave.

Since then, much of the worries regarding the British economy have receded. Boeing has just declared that it will stick with plans to base its new European HQ in Britain. Aston Martin is due to open a new plant in Wales, which needs the jobs. And as stated above, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has rowed furiously away from his previous pessimistic outlook.  Over the weekend, Javid said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that much of the economic doom and gloom that had been forecast was “avoidable.”

Popular personal finance analyst and commentator Martin Lewis, of moneysavingexpert.com, has also downplayed any fears of economic strife. Writing in The Daily Mirror as the result of the vote sank in, his message invoked a motivational slogan from the U.K.’s iconic World War II propaganda posters: “Keep calm and carry on.” He said:

The vote result changes the way people think or act. That’s why the markets have gone down – that’s why people have asked if they should complete on their house sale, or complete their bank account change.

The danger of this ‘sentiment change’ is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People are worried about the economy so they don’t do things that they would have done otherwise, and that hurts the economy. We have to be very careful of the sentiment change issue.

What it all means

This referendum has basically asked the British people who they are and who they want to be in the future, and this is what is at the core of this issue. Historically, Britain has never been a happy fit in Europe. In fact, one could argue that it is our relationship with Europe that defines us.

The Magna Carta came into being as a revolt against Norman oppression; the Dissolution of the Monasteries was a break from the Roman Church. World War II was a partly a conflagration against German territorial expansion. Many who are part of the Leave camp see similar themes in the EU today, but with different motivations.

Regardless, there is obviously a great split in who we are and how we perceive ourselves – tolerant, multi-cultural, freedom loving.

For some it will take a great deal of time to reconcile the enormity of what the U.K. leaving the EU means. During this time of uncertainty, Pagans are holding fast to their values of tolerance and diversity, and looking to become examples of bringing the disparate peoples of the U.K. together.

In an interview, Kathy Jones of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple demonstrated this fact in her own words, saying:

In these volatile times it’s important to remember that Motherworld crosses all boundaries of nationhood and race. We are one global family in the love of Goddess. Motherworld is the society in which Mother Earth, mothers and the values of mothering – love, care and support for each other – are placed in the centre of society rather than being left out on the periphery.

In their open letter on bigotry, the Pagan Federation wrote:

It’s more than fair to say that June 2016 has been a time of significant change and upheaval in this green and pleasant land. We can only speculate about how our descendants will look back upon this time and what they will think. Our world is changing, as all things inevitably do, though with such massive changes as we are seeing now, we are all scrabbling to deal with these turbulent currents.

I will be following the Brexit fallout very closely and intend to update readers on any developments. When the dust does settle and more Pagans, who are as shell-shocked as everyone else, are willing to share their viewpoints, we will bring you their stories, opinions and concerns

51eUScE78yL._UX250_LAKE WALES, Fla. — In an update to a story that we previously reported, Heather Freysdottir has come forward to say that she has backed out as a headliner for this coming week’s Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG). Freysdottir explained to The Wild Hunt, “I heard the rumor about the Frosts appearing recently, and when I inquired FPG management, I was told that there were no covert workshops and that the Frosts were attending, that’s all. [Then] I was presented with a handbook for this years’ FPG Beltaine that includes the Frosts as presenters and teachers. […] They have since retracted this and released a new handbook, but the fact that this was changed due to public outcry tells me that the Frosts were originally planned as presenters. I would not have consented to headlining with them on the bill anywhere.”

Freysdottir went on to say that she does not “bear FPG any ill will; there are many wonderful people who contribute to it every year, but the fact that the Frosts keep getting invited back disturbs” her. She also wrote on her blog that she is concerned over the “subterfuge about their attendance and amount of participation.”

The Wild Hunt has since learned that this lack of transparency has become its own issue, outside of any questions surrounding the Frosts attendance at the popular Florida event. A former volunteer, who has asked that his name be left out of this report, has not only issued a cease-and-desist letter to stop FPG’s organizing board (TEG) from using his software and other intellectual property without proper authorization, he has also contacted the Florida State Prosecutor’s office, alerting them to what he called “black-letter extortion.” He expects this “criminal case” to take a long time. But he did say that the board has since admitted to using his work without permission, and he hopes that this part of the conflict can now be put to rest.

As of publication time, Freysdottir is still listed as a headliner on the FPG website, but she did confirm, “I will not be headlining and I am sorry for anyone who was hoping to meet me there.” Her full response and explanation is posted on her blog. As we reported previously, FPG’s organizing board (TEG) has declined to comment on the situation.

Florida Pagan Gathering will be held this coming weekend in Lake Wales, Florida.

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NAAS, Ireland — The Pagan Federation of Ireland recently made social media waves when its response to a marriage inquiry went viral. The original April 23 email, written by a person named Sarah, stated that she and her finance were a newly engaged American couple looking for clergy to marry them while they were in Ireland. Sarah stated that they were practicing “odinists” and that they wanted a clergyperson who only “performs heterosexual ceremonies” and “refrains from marrying those of mixed races.”

The next morning, PF-Ireland responded with “We are most happy to report that none of our clergy subscribe to your views on mixed race or gay marriage, and so we cannot assist you in your upcoming visit to Ireland. Fuck Off. Yours very sincerely, Everyone at the Pagan Federation of Ireland.”

The response was posted publicly as an image, and it quickly began to make the digital rounds. While the group reportedly received some backlash and concerns about PF-Ireland’s openness toward Heathens. The group responded simply by saying, “Pagan Federation Ireland operates a zero tolerance approach to racism and homophobia, both of which were abundantly clear in the initial communication.” And showing off more of its dry wit, the group offered to send to the querent a laminated and even framed copy of its policy statement in exchange for a small donation to any Irish Pagan organization.

The original “viral” image can be found in a number of places in social media, including this original Facebook post.

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Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone

TWH – Wiccan Authors Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone‘s long awaited book Lifting the Veil is now published and will be available by the end of this month. On their newly designed website, Farrar and Bone wrote, “Written to fill an existing gap in the current available knowledge on trance, prophesy, deity-possession, and mediumship within the neo-Pagan and Wiccan communities, Lifting the Veil was developed from [our] personal work and public workshops on trance-prophesy and ecstatic ritual over the last 20 years.”

They are both currently on a speaking and workshop tour in the U.S. They recently attended Brid’s Closet’s annual Beltane festival held at Palaia Winery in Hghland Mills, New York. Next, they will be making their way  to Florida. After that, they will stop in Atlanta, Georgia and Englewood, Colorado. Wild Hunt Journalist Terence Ward met up with them this weekend to talk about their work, their practice and the new book. We will be sharing that interview later in the week.

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pagancomingoutday

TWH – Today marks the 5th year of International Pagan Coming Out Day. It was first recognized in 2011 and encouraged by a non-profit organization called International Pagan Coming Out Day (IPCOD). Events are being held locally around the world, some of which are noted on the Pagan Coming Out Day Facebook group and across social media.

The purpose of the organization and the day is to encourage “Pagans who are ready to come on out.” The website reads, “Coming out to someone is a decision only you can make and it’s a decision best made when you are ready to do so. There are benefits, personally and for our religious community as a whole, as more Pagans come out. Some of these benefits include the reduction of anxiety caused by living a double life and creating a climate of greater acceptance for all Pagans.”  IPCOD provides a number of different resources to help in the decision and the process.

In Other News

  • The article that prompted the Global Conference for University Chaplains to invite Mary Hudson to its event in Australia in now available online. It is called “The Voice of the Other” and can be found in the digital version of The Journal of Tertiary Campus Ministry Association. Hudson is now only $1400 away from her funding goal. Due to the success of the online campaign plus a few local fundraisers, she said it looks as if she’ll be headed to Australia. Hudson added, “Trust is a beautiful thing when it comes to stuff like this and honestly magic really does happen.”
  • The Pagan Federation’s Pagans with Disabilities group has launched a week-long online Beltane celebration. On the event page, organizers explain, “Here at the Pagan Federation we’re trying to combat the loneliness and isolation that the disabled in our community feel. Too large a number of our brothers and sisters are finding it increasingly difficult to make it to moots and events. So, we’ve decided that if we can’t take them to the gatherings, we’ll bring the gatherings to them.” The online Beltane began on May 1 and will run through May 8. Photos and videos are being shared, along with stories and other community details. PF encourages anyone feeling left out to contact them. They want this event to be accessible to all and are listening.
  • Pagans in Oregon made the local paper this weekend. Oregon Live interviewed Jonathan Levy about the founding and community value of the Columbia Protogrove ADF. Writer Melissa Binder attended the group’s Beltane festival, and interviewed two of its members. Binder quoted Amber Reed as saying, “Coming here is like coming home.”
  • Touchstone Advocacy and the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has re-launched its 2015 campaign to encourage people to remember the victims of what it calls “wiccaphobia” or witchcraft-related violence.

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  • Festival season is now underway. Many Pagans are preparing to attend to two Southern-based festivals that will conveniently run on back-to-back weekends. First, the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) kicks off its 2016 event in the mountains of Tennessee. Held at Montgomery Bell State Park in the city of Burns, PUF is a four-day family-friendly camping event that will begin on May 19. Each year PUF has a playful theme, and this year, it is Star Wars. Next year, PUF will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the organizers have chosen a Harry Potter theme. PUF includes rituals, music, food, workshops and vendors.
  • One week later, over Memorial Day weekend, the new musical festival Caldera will open at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, Georgia. It is also a four day event with 30 Pagan acts, plus vendors and workshops. Caldera is currently running a “Beltane” special, noting that no tickets will be sold at the festival gate. And for those interested in both? Caldera and PUF are only a short four-hour drive from each other through the Appalachian region of the Southeast.
  • The group Nemuer has announced the release of its first music video. The song is called “Caves of Damnation” and comes from their 2015 album Chapter V: Labyrinth of Druids. The group said that the new video, directed by Jakub Řehoř, and the track’s vocals were all recorded “in the darkest caves of the Czech Republic.” Nemuer is described as an “instrumental dark-folk music project, oriented on ancient civilizations and mystical atmosphere.”

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Merry May Day

The Wild Hunt —  April 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

For many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists around the world, this weekend is one to celebrate. The days surrounding the first of May mark many traditional spring festivals and religious holidays recognized around the world. Of these the most well known is Beltane or Bealtaine, which, in some traditions, honors the union of goddess and god or marks the beginning of a Celtic summer. In many secular and non-Pagan religious communities, the day is still celebrated as May Day, complete with the iconic Maypole.

[Photo Credit: Jengod via Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Jengod via Wikimedia]

However, that is just one of the many holidays appearing at this time. Walpurgisnacht, celebrated the night of April 30, is closely associated with Witches and also called Hexennacht. The eve of May Day was consider the night when witches gather and meet.

In ancient Greece, the holiday of Anthesteria was celebrated. Today it is more commonly called ProtomagiaIt is a day that recognizes the rebirth of nature and is associated with the well-known story of Persephone’s ascent from the Underworld. While some modern Hellenic polytheists celebrate this day in February, many celebrate it on the first of May. And, not long after, as spring continues its dance, some modern Pagans celebrate Thargelia, which is a birthday celebration for Apollon and Artemis.

These festivals and others herald the coming of summer or the apex of spring – a time of merriment, awakening and bounty; a liminal time when the barriers between our world and the other world are thinned. In many traditions and cultures, it is also a time of divine union and fertility.

But that does not apply to Pagans everywhere. Our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are readying for winter. The first of May marks the height of autumn and the end of the harvest season. The celebration of Samhain and other similar holidays that honor the dead or the Ancestors are now upon them.

And, finally, there is one more celebration happening this weekend, and it has nothing to do with seasonal events. The Pagan Federation, based in the U.K., is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Members and supporters have planned a gathering to honor the organization’s commitment to supporting Pagan rights in the region since 1971.

Here are some quotes for this season:

“On Beltaine we dance with the fairies, we give thanks to the nature spirits for their abundance and growth, for blessing us with nourishment and beauty. We honour the living God and Goddess energy. We call upon the most enjoyable aspects of the Taurus energies, the ability to fully experience the pleasures of this realm, the love of the body, the sensual thrills of lovemaking.” – Candise, “The Sweetness of Beltaine

“Beltane has always been a holiday for me since childhood because it is my birthday. I sometimes saw maypoles growing up in Germany, but I never knew what they were. As a child, I always begged my parents to host large parties outdoors, preferably under trees, with lots of games, singing, and dancing. That hasn’t changed. Nowadays I like celebrating Beltane and my birthday together and dancing the maypole at public rituals. Dancing with friends and strangers is a perfect mix of hilarity (up? under? under again? really?? oops! wait, what?!?) and deep magic.” – Annika Mongan, “On Beltane

Two young girls lead the procession to the altar. [photo provided by YSEE]

Two young girls lead the procession to the altar. [photo provided by YSEE]

“It is springtime on our farm! Small white flowers start appearing in the axils, the angle between the trunk and the leaves of the olive tree, emitting a very pleasant scent. Our trees will soon start blooming and bearing fruit […] The first day of May in Greece is associated with the custom of Protomagia (May 1st), a celebration of the awakening of nature after a long period of winter. With its origin somewhere between pagan rituals pre-dating the Olympian Pantheon and later folklore traditions, this celebration highlights the beginning of the spring, the victory of life over death.” – From “Oliveology

“Mirth seems to explode around us as we approach the season of Beltane. Nature seems to be slipping on her best dress and looking for a good time. […] Mirth is an expression of gratitude to whatever gods you believe it. It is enjoyment of the gift the universe has given you. To ignore it is to waste that precious gift and thumb your nose the gods, God, the Universe, or whoever you believe gave it to you. In this way, mirth may be the highest and most spiritual virtue I can think of. So dance, sing, feast, make music, and love. For the sake of the gods, open up a bottle of mirth any time you can!” – Tim Titus, “Virtues of the Goddess: Mirth”

“As I grow older, I find it is the simple things that keep us on the good path – waking with gratitude for the day, honor our food, lighting a candle daily for our ancestors, rooting into the Earth finding presence in our breath, calling to the spirits in all the directions asking to make good relationship. It is these small things that make the difference over time, guiding us to live immersed in the sacred, dwelling in a world that is enchanted and holy. […] The river tonight was as beautiful a thing as I ever seen. The night sky reflected on its still surface, as mist moved over it dividing the river from the land, the three worlds sliding into one another, earth, sea, and sky. It was simplicity that brought me to this place, the little things guiding my steps. And that made all the difference in the world” – Snowhawke, “You Do What You Can

A Very Merry May from The Wild Hunt!

[Courtesy J. Pourner]

[Courtesy J. Pourner]

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Tex.– On Feb 9, a grand jury indicted David Brown Jr., the man arrested for the murder of Wiccan Marc Pourner. As we reported in November, Pourner went missing for three days, after which police found his strangled body deep in the woods inside his burned-out truck. He was known as Axel within Pagan circles, and helped run the now-defunct Wiccan World Social Network. Pourner was also instrumental in creating and moderating the popular Facebook group, “The Cauldron – A Mixing Place for Witches, Druids, and Pagans.” When news broke of his death, that group lit up with stories and memorials coming from users who live all over the world.

As  was recently reported in the local news and by the Montgomery County Police reporter, court records have now revealed more about what actually happened to Pourner. Brown, a longtime friend of Pourner’s boyfriend Daniel Kirksey, called Pourner from Kirksey’s home to tell him that someone was “following him and wanted to kill him.” When Pourner arrived at the home, he and Brown had “a heated argument […] It was there that Brown punched Pourner several times and then bound and gagged [him].”  Using Pourner’s truck, Brown then took Pourner to a remote location, where he strangled him and torched the truck. The court records also indicate that Kirksey witnessed the entire act.

Brown remains in jail with a $1 million dollar bond for the murder. His indictment lists his charges as capital murder with a felony, which includes his alleged kidnapping of Pourner. Kirksey has not been charged with anything.

Pourner’s mother, Jolena Pourner, told The Wild Hunt, “My husband and I were simply elated when the grand jury indicted Brown, and that further indictments could be forthcoming.” She also expressed concern over the new information revealed concerning Pourner’s boyfriend: “We knew from the beginning that Daniel was possibly involved because his explanations didn’t add up. We’d been concerned because we felt Daniel was using Marc.” Despite this new information, the exact motivation behind the murder is not clear. However, it does appear that the motivation was not related to Pourner’s Pagan religious beliefs.

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ccs-twitter-logo_400x400CLEVELAND COUNTY, N.C. —  On Feb. 8, the Cleveland County School Board welcomed Wiccan Priest Tony Brown to give an invocation before its regularly scheduled meeting. The board recently adopted a prayer policy that adheres to the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in The Town of Greece v. Galloway case. As quoted in the local news, Cleveland County Schools director of communications Greg Shull said, “We’re just carrying out marching orders of the board. They responded to what the community asked for. People are aware that there could be folks from all walks of life, but that’s really the nature of public education.”

One of the components of the new policy is to remove any children under the age of 11 from the room until the invocation is over. Shull said, “The board decided to start this with the introduction of the prayer, no matter what religion. At that age, we could put out permission slips, but it’s hard to obtain permission when you don’t know [what’s going to be said.] We don’t know the religion of each child or what their background is at home.”

Rev. Tony Brown told The Wild Hunt that there were no problems during his invocation. He said, “At the meeting itself, I think it’s fair to say that I got a neutral reception. Which I believe is perfectly appropriate. It was quiet and uneventful, just like the reception the two Christian ministers got at the previous meetings since the policy was adopted.” Brown believes that his laying important groundwork prior to the Feb. 8 meeting helped ease any tensions.  He said that he built a “rapport with the board members” and has been an active voice in the community.  He added, “I think part of the reason this went better than the similar policy in a neighboring county is that I was active in the meetings leading up to the policy change. I was there, speaking out and making sure everyone knew that if they started having prayers from local clergy, that our Wiccan church would expect to be included.”

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POM-1528-0268-largeScholar and editor Chas Clifton announced the release of the newest edition of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. The Pomegranate is a peer-reviewed journal, providing “a forum for papers, essays and symposia on both ancient and contemporary Pagan religious practices.”

As Clifton noted on his own blog, “The new double issue of The Pomegranate is something different. It contains two long papers, but the rest is devoted to a special section on scholarly autobiography conceived and edited by Douglas Ezzy.”  Ezzy is a sociology professor at the University of Tasmania and editor of The Journal for the Academic Study of Religion and was president of The Australian Association for the Study of Religion.

The two long essays were written by Russian scholar Dmitry Galtsin and Indian professor Archana Barua. The featured autobiographical reflections were written by Wendy Griffin, Douglas Ezzy, Michael York, Fritz Muntean, Helen A. Berger, Graham Harvey, Kathryn Rountree, Susan Greenwood, Sarah Pike, Adrian Ivakhiv, and Melissa Jane Harrington.

Clifton also noted that, by special arrangement with the publisher Equinox, his own editorial, “A Double Issue of The Pomegranate: The First Decades of Contemporary Pagan Studies,” is available for free via download.

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pagan federation

The Pagan Federation (PF) has announced the launch of a media site: Pagan Dawn online. PF has been producing a print version of Pagan Dawn, in various forms, since 1968. The magazine is published “four times a year, at Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas.” Now the editorial team is taking a step forward into the digital world. PF’s announcement said that the new site will “feature news and reviews for the Pagan community, as well as showcasing some of the best feature content from the magazine.” 

Editors noted that the magazine will still remain the “main focus” of their work and is not being retired. However, the new site will be updated regularly to “reflect the current diversity and sheer fecundity of the Pagan movement.” Editor-in-Chief Kate Large said, “The 2011 census showed over 80,000 people identifying as Pagan in England and Wales, while in other major countries of the world, Paganism and Earth-centred spirituality is growing at a fantastic rate. Pagan Dawn seeks to inform, educate and entertain seekers of all paths, both in the magazine and now, online as well.”

In Other News:

  • Inspired by the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a local Indiana community has been successfully holding its own interfaith events. Last weekend marked the third such event sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus. The four-hour session included “representatives from 20 different beliefs highlighting how they interpret the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Rev. Dave Sassman of the Pagan Educational Network (PEN) was there and said, “What a multi-faceted experience.” Sassman, who also attended the Parliament, is founder of PEN and a member of Circle Sanctuary. When asked about the Golden Rule, Sassman said, “Harming anybody is harming the divine and yourself.”
  • The South African Pagan Council has announced the 10th annual Pagan Freedom Day. To be held on Apr. 27, the event’s theme is “Freedom and Unity through Diversity.”  The Council produced and uploaded a video advertisement, which can be seen on Penton Independent Alternative Media’s site or directly on YouTube.  The video contains photos from past events, and reads, “All Over South Africa, Pagan folk with gather again.”  It lists the cities where events will be held and the contact person for each one.
  • A new conference is arriving this summer in Nashville, Tennessee. ODDCon, as it is called, was born last spring when Tesea Dawson helped facilitate a smaller festival in the same region. Dawson believed that event could have been bigger and better. ODDCon was born. The conference site reads, “We believe that it doesn’t matter what color you are, how old you are, what religion you follow, what country your from or even who you love… we can all get along.  Let’s give it shot… we challenge all of you who read this to open your heart for one weekend and come be a part of the freakshow!” Special guests include many: Tuatha Dea, Alex Bledsoe, Selena Fox, Celia Farran, Byron Ballard, M.R. Sellars and more. ODDCon will take place at the Hotel Preston in Nashville from Aug. 5-7. Tickets are now on sale and more information is available on the website.
  • Dusty Dionne, High Priest of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) has launched a new podcast called “Pagan Jack.” It is accessible from the ATC Pagan Information Network website and “comes out on Tuesdays at 6am EST.” Dionne describes the podcast as featuring “news and notes from the Internet and abroad that may be of interest to children of the Earth.” On its new Facebook page, Dionne reported that he was recording a show at PantheaCon.
  • Speaking of PantheaCon, the colossal Pagan event ends today. In the coming weeks, there will be many posts and articles from attending Pagans, Heathens and Polytheists. Look for them across the blogosphere and in social media. In the coming days, Heathen Chinese will be reviewing the event for The Wild Hunt.
  • And, lastly, for those in the upper midwest, ConVocation kicks off this Thursday in Detroit, Michigan with the theme “Rebirth in the Sea of Divine Knowledge.” The guests of honor include Dragon Ritual Drummers, Selena Fox, Richard Kaczynski, and Raven Kaldera. The conference is held at the Dearborn DoubleTree, and runs from Feb. 18 – 21.

[Columnist Christina Oakley Harrington is our talented columnist based in London. She is one of the team members who has assisted in expanding our coverage beyond U.S. borders. If you enjoy reading her work, consider donating to our Wild Hunt Fall Fund Drive. We are completely reader-funded, so it is you that makes it all possible! So, donate today and help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. Thank You.]

Among UK Pagans, everyone has heard of the Pagan Federation. It’s been with us forever: a bit staid and not always terribly exciting or visible. It’s the body that deals with officialdom; gives information on paganism to civil servants in government bodies; and provides balanced quotes when news stories come up. Most university chaplains, registrars and news journalists know the basics nowadays.

This is unexciting work, but it is worthy beyond measure. When a dramatic event occurs associated with a pagan, such as a crime, the Pagan Federation helps the news media separate the crime from the religion, and lets them know that our community will not tolerate otherwise.

But the Pagan Federation’s work is invaluable, too, in times when pagans meet officialdom in the daily business of life. My experience of the past week has shown that more clearly than I ever imagined.

[unknown origin]

[creator unknown]

I live in London, but nine days ago I raced to Heathrow airport to catch the first flight to Toronto. My father, a Canadian, was in the hospital; his health failing him. On arrival I learned quickly that he was dying. And I, his eldest child, faced the unimaginably painful task of asking for his extra oxygen to be removed, as Dad had wanted. It was the equivalent of switching off the life support.

It felt too much for me at that moment, so I asked for the nurse to send for the chaplain. I knew the chaplain would not be Pagan, but I had to have someone. To the hospital bedside came a loving and experienced man named Jason. He was a Christian of course, but we met as human beings. He did not bring any agenda; he brought his insight and care. Our two hours together at my father’s bedside helped me greatly, and I did what I needed to do.

Hours later, dad died. Almost immediately my relatives took me to the funeral home where we had to plan the funeral. With no sleep and still in shock, we had to negotiate religious differences. Dad was atheist, but came from a committed Presbyterian family. He had in me a pagan daughter and two spiritual, but not religious, other adult children.

A minister we’d never met would take us through the ceremony. In he walked to my aunt’s formal living room. His name was Darrow. Dad’s atheism was acknowledged with kindness, and he fit these facts into the way he guided us to choosing readings for a service which was framed in the Christian structure so important to my father’s sister. He noticed and understood my tiny silver pentagram pendant with a gentle smile, and we agreed on a reading about nature.

Somewhere, somehow, both the chaplain and this minister had learned a bit about paganism. They didn’t know much, but it was enough. They were neither confused nor disturbed by me, and I could be open with them. It was clear that pagans had been part of their interfaith education. To those nameless Canadian pagans who showed up to a seminary, a meeting, or a conference years ago, I say ‘thank you.’ Because of those pagan, at a time of great vulnerability, a bereaved pagan daughter thousands of miles from home could speak from her heart and hear words of consolation.

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

[Credit: Jessica Rossi]

Pagans often express a healthy disregard for the bounds of convention. We pride ourselves on being on the edges and challenging restrictive norms. I love this about us, but there are times when we simply need our faith to be understood; so we can get through, without fuss or fight, those difficult times of death, suffering or despair.

*    *    *

In the UK, when a person dies, the funeral normally takes place a week or two afterward. This gap allows time to plan a personalised ceremony. Most pagans are situated in a wider family who are not of their own faith, so they will have a balancing act similar to that of my own family. Some of us, however, do leave a majority of family and friends of our own faith.

Wiccan priestess Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) asked to have a pagan funeral and her friends accorded her one in the crematorium’s non-denominational chapel, with friends she had chosen in advance standing in the four quarters. Priestess Madge Worthington (d. 2004) of the Whitecroft line of Wicca had the Charge of the Goddess read at her funeral. Here in Britain, crematoria chapels are where most non-religious funerals take place and the staff are beginning to be less surprised when pagan rites are done in them.

When I opened the newspaper this summer to read of ‘Britain’s First Pagan Funeral’ I knew it was not true. The event for the death of Cornwall’s ‘Eron the Wizard’ was colourful, hippy, gothic pagan, with the press invited. Everyone who reads the papers in the UK now knows that pagans die too, and that we can have outlandish funerals. This is to be welcomed.

Some prefer a more sober style of funeral. But at the end of life, we need our spirituality there with us, just as do all people of faith. When we can receive an understanding smile from a crematorium porter, a funeral director, or a chaplain at this time, it means the world. The unglamourous work of interfaith education pays all of its dividends at those very moments.

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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.