Archives For Pagan Pride Day

During last year’s holiday season, “Jorge L. Aladro, Grand Master of Florida’s Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons issued a ruling stating that Paganism, Wicca, Odinism and Gnosticism were not compatible with Freemasonry,” as Jason Pitzl-Waters reported here at the Wild Hunt. Several months later, word spread of the violence directed at Pagan childrens’ author Kyrja Withers  in Port Richey, Florida. Just as that issue was resolved, Florida was back in the news again when a group of conservative Christian ministers from Pahokee Florida spoke out against a new Pagan Summer Solstice Festival at Lake Okeechobee.  What was going on in Florida this year?

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/69590

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/69590

Fortunately all three of these news-making stories ended positively in support of religious diversity and freedom. The Florida Masons overturned their ruling. Kyrja Withers received consultation and protection. The Pahokee Summer Solstice Festival went on without any further incident. None of this could have happened without the help of the local Florida Pagan community.

Looking back on this tumultuous year, I turned to Kathy Lezon, long-time Florida-resident, Wiccan High Priestess and the newly elected First Officer for Covenant of the Goddess (CoG).  As well as being the High Priestess of Circle of the Moonlit Sea, Kathy spent this past year serving as First Officer of Florida’s Everglades Moon Local Council of CoG and attending many events around the state.  As such she was intimately involved in the outreach needed to resolve all three of these situations.

Heather:  Before we talk about the dynamics of the year, please share with us your personal spiritual path.

Priestess Kathy Lezon

Priestess Kathy Lezon

Kathy: I was raised Roman Catholic and religion was very much a part of our family, from the holidays we celebrated to where we went to school.  As I grew older, I began to feel like I didn’t really belong there. In middle school I wrote to the Cardinal asking to be considered for an altar boy position and wasn’t satisfied with his description of the limited roles of women within the church.  As a young critical care nurse, I frequently dealt with disability and death. I began to search for answers outside of the paradigm I was familiar with and spent some years thinking of myself as spiritual rather than religious. I discovered Wicca through reading a book and shortly after that began to study with a coven not far from home… I see my path as an opportunity and a responsibility to have a reciprocal relationship with Spirit, in the form of deity, ancestor, place, nature- that web in which we live.

H: You’ve lived in Florida for nearly 30 years. Where does Florida generally fall in the socio-political spectrum?

K:  Florida is full of paradox.  We have south Florida with its diversity, arts, tourism, and hip international flair. We have north Florida which is very much a part of the Southern US and all of its [conservative] values.  And we have a whole lot of space and variety in between.

H:   Let’s talk about the year’s headlines.  Florida was in the Pagan news quite a bit.  In June, I can recall thinking, “Not Florida again.”  What happened? What has changed?

K: It’s funny that you ask this. Last year was certainly quite a ride and I’ve been thinking lately about what is so different now, compared to five years ago.  In a [short] period of time, we had several tense situations, most rooted in intolerance or misinformation that basically involved Pagans just doing what we do.  What’s different may be people’s comfort level with showing who they are.  What we saw was the public reaction to it.

There have been Pagan Masons, Witches doing [community] work, and Pagan festivals for years now. What happened last year? A Mason didn’t keep his religion secret.  A Witch on Florida’s west coast publicly asked for help when she [became the] victim of a crime.  A group of people decided to gather Pagans for a Summer Solstice celebration in a part of the state that is dense with fundamentalist Christian values. These folks were just a little more open than others previously had been….This openness got a reaction and shined a light on the amount of fear that still exists, and also created space for dialogue that will perhaps make it easier for the next one who wants to be public about his or her path.

H: You worked on some of these cases personally.  What was your role?

K:  As First Officer for Florida’s Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC) of CoG, I was the contact person for the Council.  When the Kyrja Withers incidents were occurring, EMLC wanted to reach out to Kyrja to offer encouragement and support.] I contacted Kyrja…  After that things went from 0-100 mph in an instant! The next day I was on the phone with Selena Fox from Lady Liberty League, and learned what kind of networking help was needed on the local level.  I was able to contact EMLC members in order to have resources with special skills on standby. We also helped advertise her crowd funding campaign to obtain [security] equipment.

Kryja Withers reading to Peter Dybing at her home.

Kryja Withers reading to Peter Dybing at her home.

I was stunned at how quickly things happened, how organized the response seemed to be, and I was so impressed at how many people wanted to help.  I was also involved in a similar way when the ministers of Pahokee wanted to protest the Summer Solstice Festival. EMLC assisted by providing volunteers and support before and at the festival.  In both instances, my most striking impressions were the power of fear, how dangerous intolerance can be, and the power of people when they come together to work for a common goal.  I also learned that there is no hotter place in Florida than in the center of the state on the longest day of the year! Boy that was a sweaty festival!

H: During any of this time, did you personally get attacked?

K: I didn’t experience any kind of personal attack. However one thought kept crossing my mind as I dealt with the Kyrja Withers issue: “This could be me.”  First the thought frightened me, then it angered me. When someone else’s struggle could be yours, you sort of own it. I live in a small, conservative town.  It wouldn’t take much for someone who noticed a piece of jewelry or overheard a conversation to follow me home and vandalize the place that I feel safest.  So despite the fact that I haven’t been personally touched by religious discrimination and intolerance in a significant way, I feel like it’s a responsibility to work so that I-and anybody else-never have to.

H: Has there been any new concerns crop up since June?

Nothing has happened since Pahokee. The Florida Pagan gathering moved to a new site further south in conservative central Florida at Samhain. There were no problems, except one inebriated local man who stumbled onto site, found the fire circle on Saturday evening and yelled at the drummers for all of the noise. He didn’t stay long.

H: What has this year of adversity done for the Florida Pagan community in general?

K:  For a long time, Florida’s Pagan community has lived in regional pockets. We have those acres of cow pasture and orange grove between our coasts, big cities and towns! Over the past year, I’ve seen friendships forged across those acres – people who, prior to the conflict, wouldn’t have been in the same room. It’s my hope that more connections continue to be made as we realize that all that separates us is a few miles.

Kathy Lezon, NFO Covenant of the Goddess at Pahokee Festival June 2013

Kathy Lezon, NFO Covenant of the Goddess at Pahokee Festival June 2013

H:  Adding to the Florida Pagan news, you were elected as First Officer of CoG for 2013-2014. In fact there are now two Florida Pagans serving on CoG’s national Board. What perspective do you bring to this National organization?

K: We are blessed with an amazing National Board this year, and I’m thrilled to have another Floridian there with me.  I think [our presence] is representative of the culture of [EMLC], of how willing we are to be involved..  EMLC is full of people that have been CoG members for a long time and with that comes the wisdom of how organizations like this work.  More than that it’s a group that is able to define a value, set a goal, and get something done. EMLC demonstrates that much can be accomplished through collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect, and that you can successfully combine deep Spirituality, love for each other, and lots of fun. This is what I would like to bring with me in all of my work with CoG.

H:  With that said, what are your goals for CoG at a National level this year?

K: This year, I want as many people as possible to see CoG as the living, vibrant organization that it is. I want them to hear what our Local Councils are doing and about the talented people that are doing this work. I’d like to help make and strengthen relationships, connections, within our organization and between CoG and our communities. I want us to be sure that the work that we are doing is what our communities need from us, and I want those that want to join us in these endeavors to jump aboard.

Yoga Class at EMLC Turning of the Tides Festival

Yoga Class at EMLC Turning of the Tides Festival

H:  Moving into the future, where do you see Paganism, in general, ten years from now?  What do we need to get there?

K: Ten years from now, it would be nice if being a Pagan, of any kind, was not any bigger deal to society than any other path and that we could focus our energies from being understood and dispelling fears to the work that we really are here to do. Whether that work is caring for our environment, collaborating with other people of faith for social change, healing and teaching, or just celebrating our connectedness to all things, doing that without fear of harm or discrimination or the barrier of intolerance would be just fabulous.

To get there, we need to just keep taking baby steps, keep having conversations with those that don’t understand us and keep joining hands with those that do. We need to continue our inter- and intra-faith work, speak up about who we are, correct misconceptions whenever we find them, and realize that someone’s negative response to us is probably based in fear.

We also need to support each other in our own diversity and not be afraid of our differences. We need to listen to our elders and our youngsters and realize that the right way is often a blending of the two points of view.  And we need to remember that we are connected; all of us, to everything. It really simplifies a lot of situations when you look at them that way.

H: You mention Intra-faith and supporting “our own diversity.” How do you see that as beneficial to your work either with CoG or your Florida Community?

K: By intrafaith work I mean dialogue, collaboration, bridge building between the diverse groups within Paganism locally. Competition and judgment do not serve us well.  I find it ironic that we expect tolerance and acceptance in society when we are not always so tolerant and accepting of each other. If we don’t have some kind of unity among our local Pagan population, we don’t have a foundation to ground us in the difficult times and we don’t even begin to develop the skills to have the interfaith conversations.

In Miami this is easier than in other parts of the states.  At one of our EMLC Turning the Tide festivals, we had workshops by clergy from Lucumi, Druid, Wiccan, Hellenic reconstructionist paths. It’s a small sample, but it was a small gathering and everyone could sit around to appreciate others’ point of view. We saw something similar in Pahokee as we gathered on the banks of Lake Okeechobee to celebrate Summer Solstice in a ceremony led by Druids and attended by Heathens, Native Americans, Wiccans, eclectic Pagans and folks following a variety of other paths. The point of being together was not to celebrate a particular path, but to celebrate that we had come together to make this event happen on this very special day.

I’m hoping to be involved in more of of this kind of happening – one sparked by the mere desire to know each other rather than rallying against a common “enemy”. I’ll bet we have a lot to learn from each other.

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H:  Your hopes may come true sooner rather than later.  You are in the middle of creating a new festival – one that is pan-Pagan and part of the Pagan Pride circuit.  Before we say goodbye, tell us about that venture.

K: I’m finishing up the approval to become the Pagan Pride Day Local Coordinator for Florida’s Treasure and Space Coast. Although there are 5 or 6 Pagan Pride events in Florida each year, we are a big state and the closest Pagan Pride event is about two hours in either direction from here.  There’s a void.

The objective of these events is to encourage interaction between Pagans and non Pagans in local communities as well as being inclusive pan-Pagan events. This is an opportunity to combine the kinds of activities you and I have been talking about- let our neighbors see and know who Pagans are and get a feel for what we’re all about.  And get local Pagan groups and solitary folks together, talking to each other and working on something together. I’ve put an informal call out to the people that I know to see who wants to be involved, and I’m really excited about the level of interest.  We will start planning in January for a Fall 2014 event.

H: Thank you very much Kathy for you insight and retrospective.  On a personal note, I look forward to working with you on the CoG Board and watching all of your other work develop in Florida.

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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!

Raven Grimassi

Raven Grimassi

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re in the midst of Pagan Pride Day season, and sometimes certain folks aren’t too fond of Pagans gathering and expressing pride in their faith(s). Author and lecturer Raven Grimassi was at the Piedmont Pagan Pride event in North Carolina this past weekend, which experienced some disruptions at the hands of local Christians. Quote: “It was the first event for the Park and a group of Fundamentalists Christians descended. They prayed over us, and spent some time wandering amidst the crowds holding Bibles in the air while shouting ‘Praise the Lord’ and ‘Glory be to God’. One came up to me and tried to convert me, and two came to one of my talks to heckle and be confrontational. I always warm myself in these moments as the love pours out as only they can deliver it.” According to Grimassi, local police acknowledged that the Christians were attempting to disrupt the event, and praised the Pagans on their restraint. Commenting further, Grimassi said that the “New Testament gives Christians a mandate to convert others, and from that perspective I understand their passion to do so. I just wish that Jesus had added to the text: ‘Oh, and don’t be an a**hole about it’”

worldwide heathen census asatru norse mythology blog norsemythDr. Karl E. H. Seigfried of The Norse Mythology Blog has launched The Worldwide Heathen Census 2013, which “seeks 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. The census is anonymous, and asks that only individuals who “self-identify as a heathen and heathenry is your primary expression of faith and religion” or if “your core religious identity is as someone who practices any variation of Germanic paganism” participate.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

Phyllis Curott (third from left) at an interfaith gathering.

Pagan author Phyllis Curott, who currently serves as Vice Chair of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion’s Board of Trustees, is quoted in a public statement from that organization, defending their decision to back out of sponsorship of an event honoring the legacy of Swami Vivekananda, who represented Hinduism at the very first parliament in 1893. According to Curott, “as an interfaith body, the Parliament simply cannot co-sponsor an event with political parties, organizations, or individuals” and that “as an interfaith body, the Parliament also cannot co-sponsor an event with an organization that does not respect the independent nature of Jain, Sikh, and Buddhist communities.” The political organization in question is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India, currently backing the candidacy of Narendra Modi for Prime Minister. Modi self-describes as a Hindu Nationalist, and is banned from traveling to the United States due to his controversial role in anti-Muslim retaliation riots. In addition, a keynote speaker at the event, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, was removed from teaching at Harvard after he wrote a highly controversial op-ed regarding how Hindus should respond to Muslim terrorism. This statement from the Council was in response to the Hindu American Foundation’s criticism of the move, claiming the interfaith organization “turned its back on the Hindu community and drew its own fault lines defining politics and religion.” Sadly, it seems that by trying to extricate itself from the political fray of these issues by removing co-sponsorship, they have instead sunk deeper into an ongoing and divisive debate.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

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

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!

20130908_165455Adocentyn Research Library, a Pagan library located in the San Francisco Bay area, has reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, the institution has now catalogued over 5000 books. Quote: “At the end of last weekend’s cataloguing day, we broke the 5000 mark and reached 5150 books in our online catalogue! You can see them, here. The most recent additions are shown at the top. (Make sure the drop down tab at the upper left shows “All collections”.) There are over 6000 volumes currently on-site (plus hundreds of periodicals) with another 5000+ coming (plus ephemera such as correspondence, notebooks, etc.). Cataloguing takes time, but we have 19 volunteers helping us move things along.” You can keep up with the latest announcements at their official Facebook page. Adocentyn has had preliminary talks with the New Alexandrian Library Project (currently under construction) and other institutions in forming a Pagan Libraries Organization so that they can share information, and offer inter-library loans.

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

Speaking of the New Alexandrian Library, work and fundraising on the project is ongoing. A project of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, the library hopes to become “one of the cornerstones of a new magickal renaissance.” If that is something you’d like to be a part of, September might be an excellent month to donate. The Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund of the Luzerne Foundation has offered a $500 matching challenge grant to the library. Assembly of the Sacred Wheel member Leanne Pemburn asks supporters to “consider a $10 donation, that will become $20, or a $50 donation that will become $100″ and that “now’s the time to magickally grow your donation!” You can find donation information, here. In other New Alexandrian Library news, if you go to their official Facebook page, you can see some of the books in their collection awaiting opening day. As their websites says, “you can play an important part in bringing this dream into reality. The immediate need is for the funds to build the library, although donations of books and other materials will be welcome. The New Alexandrian Library will be located in the sacred woods of Seelie Court in Southern Delaware and will be under the aegis of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a 501(c)3 organization. All donations to the NAL are tax deductable.” You can see all previous reporting on this project, here.

Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey

The Patheos Pagan channel has launched a new blog entitled “Voodoo Universe” featuring the writings of Lilith Dorsey, author of “Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism,” and an initiate in Santeria, Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. In her first blog post, Dorsey lays out her spiritual journey. Quote: “My personal spiritual journey includes numerous initiations in Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, and Santeria. In 1995 I became editor and publisher of the Oshunnewsletter, providing accurate and respectful information about Afro-Diasporan Pagan religions. I hold an undergraduate degree in anthropology and my graduate degree comes from a inter-disciplinary program in cinema/television studies and anthropology. Training is vital in any discipline, but takes on special significance in a spiritual context. Voodoo, Vodou, Santeria, Candomble, Ifa, Obeah, Hoodoo, and for that matter any other African based religion survives on it’s lineage, history, and training of it’s devotees.” As Afro-diasporic and African Traditional Religions become more popular, and more Pagans become initiates into these traditions, good information and news from these communities will be increasingly vital. I look forward to reading Voodoo Universe.

In Other Pagan Community News:

Selena Fox (with Shauna Aura Knight) at Chicago Pagan Pride.

Selena Fox (with Shauna Aura Knight) at Chicago Pagan Pride.

In a final note, today is the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. My prayers and thoughts go out to all who have suffered and died as a result of that day. I think Heather Greene’s recent thoughtful piece on visiting the 9/11 Memorial in New York is an appropriate mediation for this day. You may also want to read my pieces from 2012 and 2011. Blessings to you all.

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!

6a00d83454ed4169e201901ee8f344970b-500wiThe Occult Humanities Conference: Contemporary Art and Scholarship on the Esoteric Traditions will be taking place October 18th-20th in New York City, hosted by Hosted by Phantasmaphile, Observatory and the NYU Steinhardt Department of Art and Art Professions. Quote:  “The conference will present a wide array of voices active in the cultural landscape who are specifically addressing the occult tradition through research, scholarship and artistic practice [...] The presenters at the OHC represent a rich and expanding community of international artists and academics from multiple disciplines across the humanities who share an exuberance and excitement for how the occult traditions interface with their fields of study as well as the culture at large. The small scale of this conference (approximately 100 attendees) will give ticket holders an intimate look at the presenters and their views.” Participants include Robert Ansell of Fulgur Esoterica, Pam Grossman of Phantasmaphile fameIthell Colquhoun expert Dr. Amy Hale, and author Gary Lachman, among others. If I had the budget for it, I’d be there in a heartbeat! If you’re in New York, you should check it out!

wp27cover1bIssue of #27 of Witches & Pagans Magazine is scheduled to be released on October 15th, and features an interview with Teo Bishop, conducted by T. Thorn Coyle. Quote: “This issue guest-stars a triplet of fascinating Pagan notables. Paranormal and detective novelist Alex Bledsoe sold his first magickal “Lady Firefly” story to PanGaia in 1998. Catch up with his journey in this conversation with Deborah Blake; then listen in as the inimitable T. Thorn Coyle talks with Pagan blogger, mystic, Druid and musician (aka Matt Morris) Teo Bishop; and visit with Renaissance woman, writer, and community leader Tish Owen.” Meanwhile, the rest of the issue is water-themed. Quote: “What would it be like to experience water viscerally? Susan Harper teaches us to become conscious of the sacral nature of this ubiquitous element in her article ‘Sensing Water.’ Loremaster P. Sufenas Virius Lupus writes about the ability of water ­ and even of drowning ­ to assist in the apotheosis of humans in his fascinating look at classical Greek and Roman paganism ‘Deification by Drowning.’ Leni Hester introduces us to the Lady of Fresh Water, Ochun, in ‘No One is an Enemy to Water.’” You can pre-order the issue, here.

The Warrior's CallLast week I reported on an upcoming Pagan-led public ritual in the UK to protect the land near Glastonbury Tor from the practice of “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing to extract oil an gas from the earth). Since then, more Pagan leaders have stepped forward to weigh in on the topic. Author and activist Starhawk said it was “almost unbelievable” that the UK government “would threaten the purity of Chalice Well in Glastonbury, a site sacred to both Pagans and Christians!” So far, over 1000 people have committed to attending the ritual, with many more promising energetic work in solidarity. In addition, Druid leader John Michael Greer writes at length about the false promise, and dangerous effect of the practice. Quote: “The increasingly frantic cheerleading being devoted to the fracking industry these days is simply one more delay in the process of coming to grips with the real crisis of our time—the need to decouple as much as possible of industrial society from its current dependence on fossil fuels.” Could fracking become a new rallying point for Pagans drawn to environmental activism? We’ll keep you posted as this issue develops.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • “Tales of Albion,” an 8-part web-based film series follow-up to the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion,” has posted several production pictures taken over the Summer. Quote: “We are now scheduling like crazy for the next few shoots which will see us tackle a legendary outlaw and the once and future king. We will travel to an 11th Century monastery, the Bronze Age and even Neolithic caves. We will see two world wars, the 95thRifles and a priest with writer’s block! It’s going to be quite a ride…”
  • The Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC has a library. Here it is in six seconds.
  • October 11-14th will be Twilight Covening, a yearly event held by the EarthSpirit Community. Quote: “Twilight Covening is a three-day institute of Earth spirituality held within a continual three-day ritual. It is a time for exploring ways to deepen Earth-centered spiritual practice and a time to develop our collective wisdom in a shared sacred space as we move into the dark time of the year.”
  • Friday, September 20th will see the launch party for Abraxas Issue Four, at Treadwells in London. Quote: “A night of partying,  40 minute session of speeches, short presentations and a few words from each of the contributors who can join us.  When you’ve finished looking at the art on the walls we will serenade you wtih three short readings. Think of it as a salon for magic and the imagination. Join us, meet the contributors, and revel in the delight of magic and the imagination.”
  • The Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival in Delaware happened yesterday. They had symphonic gothic metal band Cassandra Syndrome play, which you have to admit is pretty hard-core for a Pagan Pride Day event.

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

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!

Patrick McCollum

Patrick McCollum

The Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates (ACFSA) international conference in Reno Nevada is this week, and Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum will be addressing them to give guidance about requests for special diets from Pagan inmates. Quote: “Rev. McCollum will share information about basic Pagan practices and beliefs, and the give guidance to the Association on how to accommodate religious diets for Pagans. In the past, Pagan traditions have not been considered legitimate religious practices in correctional facilities and as a result, Pagans have not been been afforded equal accommodation in this area. Many practicing Pagans are vegan or vegetarian, but are forced to eat meat while other mainstream faiths are offered alternatives. The ACFSA has decided to utilize Rev. McCollum’s expertise in this area to change prison policies worldwide to be more receptive to Pagan beliefs. This is a huge step forward toward equality for Pagans, and bodes well for a better future for all minority faiths.” According to McCollum, this is the first time that a Pagan has addressed this body. Here’s hoping this will lead to a better understanding of our diversity, and the valid needs of Pagan inmates. You can find all of my coverage of Patrick McCollum, here.

41SC-bWNDqL._SY346_Professor Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon” and “Blood and Mistletoe,” has a new book coming out in November of this year in the UK ( and February of next year in the United States) from Yale University Press entitled  “Pagan Britain.” Quote: “Britain’s pagan past, with its astonishing number and variety of mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artefacts, bloodthirsty legends and cryptic inscriptions, has always enthralled and perplexed us. Pagan Britain is a history of religious beliefs from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity. This ambitious book integrates the latest evidence to survey our transformed – and transforming – understanding of early religious behaviour; and, also, the way in which that behaviour has been interpreted in recent times, as a mirror for modern dreams and fears. From the Palaeolithic era to the coming of Christianity and beyond, Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism. Woven into the chronological narrative are numerous case studies of sacred sites – both the well known Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge and Maiden Castle, and more unusual far-flung locations across the mainland and coastal islands. Celebrating the powerful challenge and stimulus offered to our imagination by relics of Britain’s deep past, this rich book reveals much about archaeological and historical endeavour and our modern quest to know.” Hutton was host of the recently aired documentary about Gerald Gardner entitled “Britain’s Wicca Man,” and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy last month.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

The process of hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas, infamously known as “fracking,” isn’t only controversial in the United States. Fracking operations are underway in Britain, and several Pagans, including musician Damh the Bard, participated in a protest against a well in Balcombe, Sussex. Quote: “This afternoon’s visit is not a happy return to a childhood stamping ground, but rather a way of supporting brave people in their fight against the madness of greed. What can I do? Add myself to the numbers, add my voice by taking my bouzouki with me and playing Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) at the top of my voice!” Other Pagans of note at the protest were Druid leaders Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. At his blog, Philip Carr-Gomm penned an open letter in opposition to fracking. Quote: “The same story is repeating itself with fracking. Although people like money, when the chips are down they don’t want their countryside ruined, their roads clogged with lorries, their water and air risking pollution. They want to protect their country – if necessary from the government who promised to be the ‘greenest ever’. Remember your party has 130-177,000 members, the National Trust has 3.8 million. People really care about the countryside.” You can watch a video of Damh the Bard performing at the Balcombe, Sussex protest, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The annual Festival of The Dead in Salem, Massachusetts is coming up! That includes the official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, and presentations by authors and teachers like Christopher Penczak. Quote: “The Witches of Salem honor this time with Festival of the Dead, an annual event series that explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories, and strange rituals. Presented by Salem Warlock Christian Day and hosted by the foremost authorities on the spirit world, Festival of the Dead beckons guests to step through the veil into a realm where spirits await.”
  • The fist issue of the Melbourne-based magazine The Green Man Quarterly is now out and available for order. Quote: “The Green Man Quarterly is a new project based in Melbourne, Australia that aims to present an in depth exploration of Pagan, Witchcraft and Occult issues. Our ambition is to produce an affordable, high quality resource that is able assist in the promotion and growth of our diverse community.”
  • Speaking of magazines, a Starwood 2013 themed issue of the venerable Green Egg has been released. A direct link to the free PDF is here. In the introduction, the editor has announced they they plan to finish scanning all the back issues of Green Egg, to make them available as a resource. Quote: “When all the issues are put up, hopefully by one year from now, if not sooner, I plan to send out a mass email mailing to university departments and teachers about a wonderful resource for them and for their students. And it’s free!”
  • Congratulations to the Covenant of The Goddess Facebook page on surpassing 15,000 “likes”! 
  • Pagan Pride Day season is fast approaching, and press releases from local events are starting to be sent out. Here’s one from Philadelphia Pagan Pride, being held August 31st. Quote: “Entry to the event is free, but we do request the donation of a canned food item or other provisions for our beneficiaries. This year, our beneficiaries are the food bank at the Mazzoni Center, Forgotten Cats, and In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.”
  • Speaking of Patrick McCollum, the issue of American Jails that he contributed an article to won an award for journalism! Quote: “The issue that Patrick wrote the featured title article: Keeping the Faith – Religious issues in Jail, just received the Apex Award for Journalism, the top award for a print magazine in 2013!” You can read the article he wrote, here.

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

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!

Esoteric Artists Gather for Exhibition in London: From May 19th through the 25th in London an international collection of esoteric artists will be on display in a special exhibition sponsored by Fulgur Esoterica, publisher of the Abraxas journal. Entitled “I:MAGE,” the show boasts a impressive lineup of artists, both classic and contemporary.

Jesse Bransford

Art by Jesse Bransford

“Fulgur Esoterica is pleased to present I:MAGE, a week-long exhibition showcasing the best international artists working in the emerging category of esoteric art. More than 16 artists will exhibit their work at Store Street Gallery, Bloomsbury, London, from Sunday 19 May to Saturday 25 May 2013. The week will culminate with the publication of a special issue of Abraxas titled, Charming Intentions: Occultism, Magic and the History of Art. Select Papers from the Cambridge University Conference, December 2012. The common thread between these artists is the internalisation of esoteric themes and the externalisation of the mythical, the magical and the mysterious in their many forms. Ranging from the post-1940 work of progressive women such as Ithell Colquhoun and Steffi Grant, to the contemporary dark symbolist wanderings of Agostino Arrivabene and Denis Forkas Kostromitin, and the exploratory audio-visual practices of NOKO, I:MAGE promises to be a landmark exhibition.”

In addition, famed London esoteric book store Treadwell’s will be hosting a range of talks, presentations, and discussions during the exhibition, and Abraxas will be publishing a special edition of its celebrated journal for the show. I’ve been in contact with Fulgur Esoterica, and hope to soon bring you an interview about the show. If you’re around London, I’d highly recommend attending this exhibition. I surely would if I could.

Llewellyn Titles Win Independent Publisher Awards: Llewellyn Worldwide has announced that four of their published titles have won an “IPPY,” from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. The four titles largely deal with various New Age topics (with one book being about sexuality), none are a the esoteric/Pagan titles the publisher is largely famous for.

“The 2013 Independent Publisher Awards (IPPYs) were revealed via an announcement on their website. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in New York on May 29. Our Llewellyn winners are below: Our Children Live On, by Elissa Al-Chokhachy (Bronze, Aging/Death & Dying), The Awakened Aura, by Kala Ambrose (Silver, New Age [Mind-Body-Spirit]), The Good Energy Book, by Tess Whitehurst (Bronze, New Age [Mind-Body-Spirit]), Great Sex Made Simple, by Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson (Gold, Sexuality/Relationships). In addition, one book from Llewellyn’s Midnight Ink imprint was also a winner (Hide & Snake Murder, by Jessie Chandler took Gold in the Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Fiction category).”

Congratulations to Llewellyn Worldwide and the authors on this recognition! You can find out more about the awards, here.

New Orleans Celebrates First Ever Pagan Pride Day: There are many Pagan Pride Day events each year, and while each brings its own local charm and significance to this movement, some firsts stand out. Such is the case with the first Pagan Pride Day being held this September in New Orleans, Louisiana. Being that this is a first for New Orleans, a place steeped in a history of cultures meeting and connecting, the event will include practitioners of Vodou, spiritism, and other syncretic traditions.

“While it is always a joy to to bring together the Pagan community with entertainment that appeals to their tastes, the over-arching goal of this day is to develop a dialogue between Pagans and non-Pagans in a city with deep (and overlooked) Pagan roots. It is also our great pleasure to include this city’s syncretic spiritual systems (i.e. Voudon, First Nation spiritism, Thelema, etc.) in our celebrations as well, so that we might bridge more gaps in New Orleans. Our theme of “spiritual gumbo” is meant to reflect our deep reverence for ALL the beliefs that make this city one of the most unique in the world.”

The event will feature Selena Fox, The Dragon Ritual Drummers, Edain McCoy, Christopher Penczak, and more. They are holding an IndieGoGo campaign to cover their festival’s ambitious first-year roster. So, if a New Orleans Pagan Pride festival is something you’d like to see happen, you should check it out, and add your support.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

In this modern, transient, and digitally-driven world, we find ourselves frequently discussing the meaning, development, make-up or even the apparent death of “community.”  For Pagans, this can be a particularly profound discussion due to the incredible diversity in our faith and practice.  How do we develop and nurture a positive and lasting Pagan solidarity across differences in belief and tradition?

Community Wreath

In Atlanta, the answer has come in the form of a wreath. In the spring of 2012, Lady Charissa, senior priestess of North Georgia Solitaries (NGS), began a community wreath project that has now been going for over nine months. She explains:

The idea behind [the wreath] is for people, groups, or covens to add a ribbon to the wreath symbolizing how connected we all are. We are connected to the people we like and work with; connected to the people we’ve never met, connected to the people that we don’t care for. All of these people, friends… make a community. By connecting to this wreath we are bringing …[manifesting] cohesiveness for the Pagan community. (From the NGS Website)

Several years ago, Lady Charissa and a fellow Atlanta Pagan, Kieran Nightstar successfully incorporated a unity wreath into an NGS Samhain ritual. The work proved beneficial and inspirational to all attending. In 2012, Lady Charissa decided to resurrect this idea when she was asked to lead an Ostara ritual at the Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas, an annual festival celebrating Pagan life. Lady Charissa remarked:

I had not considered making the wreath a long term project.  But, when I was leading the ritual and passing the wreath around, the words just came to me. “We will pass the wreath around the community during the coming year.”

Lady Charissa

Lady Charissa
North Georgia Solitaries

She started getting calls the very next week. Pagans from all over the Atlanta-area wanted to participate in her community wreath project. A few short months later, that simple grapevine circular form was covered with a menagerie of ribbons representing both solitary Pagans and covens throughout the north Georgia community.

Over the past 9 months, the wreath has been passed around the local community attending private sabbat rituals and open festivals. In September, the wreath traveled to Alabama to attend the first annual Auburn Pagan Pride Day.  As leader of the open ritual, Lady Charissa incorporated the wreath project into the evening’s work. Then, late in October, the wreath was displayed at both Atlanta’s and Savannah’s Pagan Pride events.

To date, more than eight covens and organizations, representing different Pagan traditions and faiths, as well as countless solitaries have participated in building Pagan solidarity through this community wreath.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how many people have wanted to bring the wreath into their circles and to be a part of this project. It has grown far past my original idea.

On Yule, my own group had the wreath. We tied our ribbons into its tapestry.  It was indeed transformative as we looked over the rainbow of interwoven ribbons – some from friends and others from strangers, but all a part of the community.  Through our shared experience, we were immediately connected.

In the upcoming months, the community wreath will continue to makes its way through Georgia’s Pagan world. Lady Charissa hasn’t firmly decided on its final destination. She said, “At this point, I will just see where [the project] wants to go, doing my best to facilitate the journey.”  Right now, she plans to circle the project back to its starting place at the 2013 Ostara ritual for Atlanta Pagan Marketplace of Ideas. From there, the wreath will grow in new ways, as Lady Charissa notes, just as “the community energy grows.”

Wreath building is one symbolic way that we can nurture Pagan solidarity within our diverse world. Have your local communities used any methods, magickal or otherwise, to bridge gaps, to build and maintain community in an effort to foster Pagan solidarity?  What ways have you used?

To start off my first column for the newly independent The Wild Hunt, I’d like to thank Jason Pitzl-Waters for letting me be a part of this valuable, community-supported news source. I believe in the work being done here, and it’s an honor to be blogging beside so many talented, thoughtful writers. I look forward to bringing the spirit of dialogue present on my blog, Bishop In The Grove, to my columns here at TWH.

_________________

When I wrote “I Felt Ashamed At Pagan Pride,” I had no idea it would elicit the response that it did. With over 100 comments, several thousand page views, and shares galore on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, this subjective account of my experience at Denver’s 2012 Pagan Pride Day event made waves through the community.

The dialogue generated around this post offered me new perspectives on the meaning of casting circle, the challenges of public ritual, and the possibility of a mythology of victimhood within the Pagan community. But there was one perspective missing: that of the person leading the PPD ritual, Joy Burton.

joyburton

Joy Burton, eclectic Wiccan priestess and founder and president of Living Earth, a Neo-Pagan open circle and church in the south Denver area.

I interviewed Joy via email with the intent to allow her the chance to voice her perspective without revision. Below is the full interview, unedited.

_________________

Thank you for your willingness to speak with me, Joy. Could you tell us a little about yourself, and about the Living Earth Center?

I’ve been an eclectic Wiccan priestess for about 20 years, with strong Reclaiming influences. I helped start Pagan Picnic in St. Louis, and have been advocating for and active in the Pagan community ever since.  I’m part of an open circle in the south metro area of Denver called Living Earth. We started in 2006 and now we have about 700 members of varying Pagan traditions. We offer a national-scale Pagan festival and musicfest called Beltania every May, hold regular Sabbats and Esbats, and this winter we’ll be celebrating our one-year anniversary at Living Earth Center.

The Center is our small but much-loved church facility and community center at Holly and Evans in Denver, hosting about 20 rituals, classes, workshops, drum circles, and other events per month. Other groups and individuals are welcomed at Living Earth Center to hold their own events and rituals too.

Community service has always been important to us, and since we’ve had our own facility, our outreach activities (called the Hand2Hand Project) have expanded to include more charitable giving, a food bank, and helping our elders and those with disabilities. We have a winter clothing drive going on now. We even have our own church bowling league raising funds for the food bank.

How would you describe Denver’s Pagan community?

Living Earth

The people I have met through Living Earth have been some of the kindest, most generous and caring people I have ever met. These are people with some really big hearts, great ideas, and are movers and shakers who have accomplished so much. They don’t just talk about creating community, they do it. There’s a willingness I see now to try new things, and connect outside their comfort zones in meaningful ways. I think Denver has reached a “critical mass” of people who want not only to be Pagan but also to create connections, develop infrastructure, and offer their gifts, time, and talents to the community.

The Denver Pagan community is growing exponentially, with more families and children now being raised Pagan than ever before. The Denver community has a high number of veterans, I’ve noticed. It’s also an aging community, with a greater need for community services and support for our elders. I worry about the disconnect in parts of our community between the older generations and newcomers.

We have a lot more people willing to be open now about being Pagan, and more mainstream acceptance of Paganism than ever before. You’re just as likely to see a khakis-wearing math teacher as a silver jewelry-bedecked hippie type in a cloak. So in that sense we are more diverse than ever. I’m seeing more people wanting to lend a hand and help their neighbors.

And like any other faith community, the Denver Pagan community is full of very human people. We are striving, like any other group, to more fully manifest our ideals of compassion, wisdom, honor, love, and so much more.

“I Felt Ashamed At Pagan Pride,” received a huge response. My post was a one-sided account, and completely subjective. Could you offer your account of what the Pagan Pride Day ritual was like?

Well at this point I think there’s been enough subjective accounting of the ritual. I just don’t see the benefit to it. I have no interest in negating anyone’s experience. If there were any less-than-ideal circumstances at that time, I would not use this forum to criticize the Pagan Pride Day organizers who so graciously invited us to lead the ritual.

I honor your experience and your right to share that experience in the forum of your choosing. I honor the homeless person who could not contain their verbal remarks which came across as heckling, and the several other homeless folks we were blessed to meet and also offer some food and water that day too. I honor the people walking through and skateboarding in the park, the man who wanted a cigarette, and their right to be there. I honor the Pagans who boldly stepped into the center that day to choose to participate in a ritual for all to see, and also those who chose not to participate.  I honor the learning experience so many of us are having as a result of Pagan Pride and the conversations afterward.

I can’t remember any ritual, public or private, where there was a consensus in critiquing it. Where one person is turned off, another is deeply moved. Where one person is uncomfortable with casting a circle, another would think it necessary and important. That’s why we are so blessed to have such a diversity of faith traditions, groups, and practices here in Denver throughout the year and at Pagan Pride Day’s multitude of workshops, booths, and rituals.

On occasion, as I move through our community, I find myself in a ritual that isn’t comfortable for me or I sense something isn’t quite going as planned.  In any case, I consider it my responsibility as a priestess and guest to prepare myself with centering and grounding, create my own connection to Spirit, and hold myself in a state of grace as an example for others. I also make a point of send positive energies to assist in a productive fashion. All of this can be done without saying a word. When we purposefully act in support of each other, it becomes not just the leaders’ ritual but everyone’s ritual, and our community is strengthened.

I really appreciate your emphasis on being a positive force within the community. How would you encourage people to serve in that capacity in their individual cities? How does one begin? 

Diana's GroveI would encourage anyone wanting a more positive community to read Diana’s Grove Cornerstones of Community by Cynthea Jones.  I didn’t discover the Cornerstones of Community until recent years, but they so accurately capture what I had to learn the hard way and what I’ve observed in those who make a difference in this world.

The five cornerstones include Choice, Thinking Well of the Group, Thinking Well of Yourself, Stewardship of the Self, and The Sacred Wound. We can make the choice to be the change we want to see in the world…or not.  Our very presence in this community is a choice. Thinking Well of the Group invites us to choose a new default attitude and behavior towards people that honors and respects them rather than assuming the worst and demonizing them when things aren’t as we expect or desire.  And if we don’t think well of ourselves, it’s difficult to think well of others and be a positive influence in the community. When we are stewards over our lives, we have a responsibility and obligation to fully manifest what we are called to do.  And lastly, we need to make our wounds sacred.  There isn’t a single one of us who isn’t wounded from our past experiences.  We can allow our wounds to be our teachers and agents of growth instead of allowing them to paralyze us.

A positive, healthy, open, giving community starts inside of each person.

_________________

Many thanks to Joy for this interview. She’s been nothing but kind to me.

I ask you, TWH readers:

If you were a part of that first conversation on BITG, does knowing Joy’s perspective change the way you read that post? Did her answers leave you with new questions?

What do you think about the “Cornerstones of Community?”

There’s been some good conversation sparked by my post yesterday on the effects of anti-Pagan propaganda (in this case from Catholic exorcists and the Catholic media outlets who shine a spotlight on them). First, for those who wanted to hear more about the incident I mentioned concerning the Indiana Pagan Pride event, and the tensions that resulted when a Catholic youth event overlapped with it, check out the inaugural post from the new Indiana PNC bureau.

Torcyr Storm Gull, who has been the security coordinator for Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day for the last nine years, commented, “Everything worked out beautifully. I had no issues with the organizers of CYO. There was I feel a lot of miscommunication between the parks and CYO. Honestly the only issue all morning was from a stereotypical soccer dad that threatened me with violence for conducting traffic safely so the children were NOT in danger. He seemed to settle down or at least grumble to himself after I pointed out if he wished I would let the park officers deal with his disruptive behavior. There were no vehicles driving across the grass. The problem is CYO believed they had free run of the whole park and tried to use it despite the fact that the 52 vendor locations were clearly staked out. I would like to thank CYO for being so understanding and helpful after things were explained to them. All of the uproar over this wonderful event is being caused by a few rowdy parents who have no clue as to what happened .

Of course, one of those “rowdy parents” called the media, which is what brought the entire situation to our attention. A few commenters here at The Wild Hunt pointed out that the matter was resolved peacefully, and thus wasn’t a good example of how anti-Pagan propaganda has negative effects, but I think that “rowdy parents” angry enough to call the media and essentially argue that we shouldn’t be allowed equal treatment speaks volumes about how ongoing rhetoric against our faiths erodes civility and peaceful co-existence. Propaganda, in my mind, doesn’t suddenly turn human beings into violent monsters, but it does erode our compassion for those branded as “other” (or demonic).

Here are some other thoughts from yesterday’s Wild Hunt comments that I thought were noteworthy:

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn't be able to use public parks.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn’t be able to use public parks.

“I find that in prejudiced people (like the “concerned Catholic Parent” shown in the video, there is a kind of “cognitive dissonance.” He considers the Pagans “silly” (even laughing at them), and yet he is OUTRAGED by them. Why be outraged by silliness? It just doesn’t make sense. (I think HE finds them “silly,” but his Church teaches that they are something to be outraged by. Therefore, he must keep these 2 thoughts in his mind, and the dissonance of those 2 thoughts is what is disturbing him.)”Obsidia

“Certainly there are adherents who cling to the party line and cause trouble for the likes of us and this absurdity with increasing exorcisms is definitely problematic for us. But the farther The Church goes against all sense and reason, the more members they will lose. They’ll be reduced to the whackadoos ranting about demons and throwing salt in people’s faces. And yeah, that’s dangerous, but I’m not going to hold any hostility or anger toward Catholicism because of the hard-line whackadoos.”Sunweaver

“Jason, props to you for highlighting a serious problem, not just within contemporary Catholicism, but contemporary Christianity as a whole. I first encountered the “Pagans worship the devil” narrative within evangelical Christianity, and it remains as entrenched in certain corners of the Protestant world as within the Catholic right. Meanwhile, please remember that many Catholics (and Protestants) seek to promote positive interfaith dialogue and psychologically healthy models of spirituality that eschew these kinds of narratives. Any religion is capable of demonizing outsiders (yes, even Neopaganism). It’s certainly more pernicious when Catholics or other Christians do it because of their social influence and privileged status within our society. But it’s a problem of the human condition that unfortunately can be found anywhere that people settle for ethnocentric rather than world-centric systems of ethics and morals.” - Carl McColman (a Patheos columnist, and former Pagan turned contemplative Christian)

“As Jason says, this is something that actually does trickle down. As a Pagan married to a Catholic, I happen to attend Mass every once in a while especially recently as I’ve just moved to Massachusetts and my wife wanted some support as she ventured into various churches to try and find one that she likes the best. Attending Mass a few weeks ago, during the homily, the priest was fairly specific in his denigration of Pagan practices. He didn’t specifically link them (us) to evil or to Satan, but it was still an unsettling moment for myself and for her.”Dashifen

“Occasionally, when listening to some of the more, shall we say excitable adherents of other faiths, I find myself thinking, “Hang on a minute, they’re talking about someone they think is me!”. Trying to ride out that uncomfortable moment is always problematic.”Purple Pagan

Thanks to everyone who’s contributed their thoughts on this matter. I think that openly discussing how anti-Pagan propaganda actually affects us personally helps put a human face on an abstract concept peddled by the Catholic exorcism lobby. It’s only by seeing us as human, as realizing that we  are simply adherents of a different faith, not demon-ridden monsters, that interfaith efforts and understanding can find fruit.

That there is a thread of hostility and distortion against modern Pagan faiths within Catholicism is well documented. My own journey in exploring this murky territory started in 2006 when Catholic pilgrims attacked and threatened Pagans in Glastonbury, leading me to wonder what exactly is being taught to Catholic youth about our faiths.

“Maya Pinder, the owner of the shop, said: “We’ve had to hear comments such as ‘burn the witches’, we’ve had salt thrown in our faces and at our shop, people were openly saying they were ‘cleansing Glastonbury of paganism’.”

I truly thought this was just an isolated, ugly, incident. A few bad apples who took the whole “crusader” bit a tad too seriously and thought that cursing and throwing salt on innocent people was a laugh. However, over time I realized that this incident didn’t happen in a vacuum, and that the Catholic Church was becoming radicalized around the notion of “occult” practices through the process of reviving exorcisms. The idea of demonic possession, and that it can be caused by involvement with modern Pagan religions, has been re-mainstreamed within Catholic thought.

“The second level of demonic influence is obsession. At this level, there is still no sign of anything paranormal happening. The person starts to give in to the temptation. He may become reclusive and secretive as he becomes obsessed with the evil that he is entertaining. This evil may be in the form of occult activity, violent video games or movies, pornography, drug abuse, sexual perversion, sexual promiscuity, or obsession with power and violence.

That’s  Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and he wrote that for Patheos. Which, I am assured, is a rather mainstream and prominent site for religion coverage.

But perhaps I’m overstating my case? I don’t want to be accused of sensationalism, or raising a question over phantoms and rumor, so let’s turn to an article in today’s National Catholic Register,  the oldest national Catholic newspaper in the United States, owned by a popular Catholic television network.

“Evil has not fallen out of fashion. Exorcism is a rite developed — and promulgated — to meet a need that still exists, due to more people delving into New Age and occult practices. And, yes, satanic worshippers are a reality.”

That, folks, is the opening paragraph. This is a Catholic reporter writing for a Catholic audience, and we start with how “New Age and occult practices” are tied to evil, and by extension Satanic worship. Then, after a completely unsubstantiated aside about how Satanists are routinely stealing the host (blessed wafer) from churches to use in their diabolic rites, they trot out their expert witness.

“The Rite was one of a handful of movies about exorcism released in the last two years, and a short-lived television series on the subject also launched. But that’s far from the point, says Father Thomas. “There is a greater need for exorcism because there is a greater frequency of the practices of the occult, New Age and Satanism, both on the part of Catholics and other people alike,” he said. Conference speakers explained that  people begin experimenting with other traditions and rituals, often simply out of curiosity. They don’t realize that they are, at the same time, losing their spiritual center and turning away from God.”

That’s Catholic exorcist Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins). He’s probably the most famous Catholic exorcist currently making the rounds. Thomas is also believer in Ritual Satanic Abuse, despite the fact that the moral panic that held sway during the 1980s and 90s produced no credible proof of a underground network of Satanic abusers.

So what is the problem if some Catholics think we’re demon-haunted dupes who need a good old “power of Christ compels you” moment? Isn’t this just Catholics talking to other Catholics, using exorcism as a form of boundary maintenance of their own traditions? The problem is that rhetoric has consequences, and we don’t live in a world populated only by Catholics. When we are framed as evil and demonic, tensions can arise in the real world.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn't be able to use public parks.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn’t be able to use public parks.

“Two very different cultures met on one large open field and it led to some tense moments Saturday afternoon. For the fourteenth year in a row, Broad Ripple Park was home to the annual Pagan Pride Day, an all-day event that started early this morning to commemorate the autumnal equinox. Saturday was also a cross country meet for the Catholic Youth Organization which involved hundreds of kids and parents. It turns out the festival rented the field for the day and the CYO participants had to run around the festival. “They can do it someplace else. It is inappropriate here. It is embarrassing. I was outraged by it,” said one parent.”

This was in Indiana, after a Catholic event ran long, overlapping with a scheduled Pagan Pride event. According to one source, it was the Catholics, not the Pagans, who called the local news to complain about the incident. The Pagans, on the other hand, went through all proper channels to hold their event, and worked with organizers of the Catholic youth event to accommodate their event running long. The about-to-be-launched Pagan Newswire Collective Indiana bureau is currently writing up the story (their first) and I’ll feature it here once it’s up. It’s hard to read about this story and not think about the National Catholic Register piece posted today. It seems increasingly improbable that these two events exist in universes entirely unconnected. You can’t have an ongoing stream of rhetoric and anti-Pagan propaganda emerging from the clergy, and not expect it influence the laity.

If people who hold spiritual and religious power say something is bad often enough, people will listen. It saddens me that no prominent Catholics (that I know of) will step forward and say “enough” to this propaganda masquerading as a spiritual technology. I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail as Pagans and Catholics increasingly cross paths in our secular world.  Otherwise, the risk of families being torn apart, and tensions rising to the levels of Glastonbury in 2006, will continue to increase to the detriment of all involved. This demonic possession narrative has got to stop.

ADDENDUM: Here’s the full report from PNC-Indiana.