Archives For Pagan Pride Day

TWH –This is the time of year when, in advance of the nearly-inevitable “real witch” stories that are written in October, many Pagans try to shape the public image of their religions by participating in local Pagan Pride Day events. While not all of these are affiliated with the Pagan Pride Project, that organization’s model is why the bulk of PPD celebrations take place in late summer or early autumn. Sanctioned events are expected to include press releases inviting media coverage, public rituals, and fund raising for a charitable cause.

Pagan Pride Day logo

According to the Pagan Pride Project website, the rationale for a charitable component is:

A food drive or other charitable activity, to share our abundant harvest with others in need, and to make a clear statement to those who have misconceptions about Paganism. We know that our ethics, based on concern for ecology, personal responsibility, and individual freedom, mean that we feel strongly called to actions of social responsibility. It is important for us to highlight our similarity to other religions in that regard.

The Wild Hunt contacted the organizers of a number of Pagan pride events to find out how they selected causes for which to raise money.

Food for thought

As these events mostly take place during the harvest season, which culminates with the secular Thanksgiving in countries such as the U.S. and Canada, food drives are the most common type of charity effort undertaken at the events surveyed. Some organizers expressed that they believed it to be a PPP requirement. A few events include raising funds in addition to or instead of a food drive. However, asking for canned goods is common enough that any amount collected is tracked by the organization, along with numbers of attendees.

Some themes did emerge regarding how specific charities were selected. Serving people local to the event was frequently cited as a concern, as well as whether or not any kind of religious test was required either for the receipt of donations or other benefits.

[Photo credit: Waldo Jaquith / Flickr]

[Photo credit: Waldo Jaquith / Flickr]

In Frederick, Maryland, The Foodbank Program was selected “because we wanted to focus our charitable efforts on our own local community,” Frederick PPD organizers wrote, and because “they not only help those who are in truly desperate straits, but also moderate-income families who find themselves in a sudden financial bind.” The Foodbank Program serves some 600-800 families monthly.

Local was an important factor in selecting the Community Cares Food Bank for the Southeastern Massachusetts PPD, but organizers had another criterion. This particular food bank doesn’t “require attending their church services to receive help.”

Food collected in Washington, D.C. is donated to So Others Might Eat, as detailed in a blog post:

SOME is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of our nation’s capital. They meet the immediate daily needs of the people they serve with food, clothing, and health care. They aim to help break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness.

New York City Pagans are, according to PPD organizers, quite generous. Like those in the District of Columbia, serving the homeless population is part of the agenda. “During our event, attendees have donated food by the truckload, out of their own hearts. With the food they receive, City Harvest services not only the homeless, but many local food programs as well. We selected them because by helping people who need it most, they’ve given us an opportunity to share more of ourselves with this amazing city we call home.”

While there is a food drive held at PPD in Athens, Georgia, a local food pantry doesn’t get the proceeds; they go to Project Safe, in part because there was no religious affiliation. Organizer Gwen explained:

Our little tribe essentially picked up the flag after the organizers of the first Pride Day in town backed out: it was quite a rush that year and they were the first and only secular charity I could turn up in the area. Most of the general food charities around here are actually coordinated through a Christian group and kind of big central collection and distribution so far as I could tell at the time. (Sometimes with Christian charities you can’t donate unless you hide that it comes from Pagans.)

I’ve worked with and around various unofficial domestic battery shelters in my time, so I thought Project Safe might just be somewhere our little food drive might actually be of meaningful help, rather than a drop in a bigger bucket. (We’re not a big event.) There was no disagreement regarding their worthiness, and there we are. That was in 2008 or 2009, and, well, that’s our charity ever since. Any other charitable ventures are anonymous.

The York, Pennsylvania PPD event benefits a cancer support organization, and collections reportedly spill over beyond the actual Pagan Pride Day. “We have chosen H.O.P.E. (Help for Oncology Patients and Emotional Support), located in New Freedom as our designated recipient,” organizers advised. “Past years, we only collected at the actual event. This year, we would like to be able to give a much more significant amount of food to H.O.P.E. We will be placing empty decorated boxes to local businesses from Aug. 15 until Sept. 15.” They have set a goal of 1,000 pounds.

Robert Schreiwer confirmed that Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day also directs food donations to a specialty organization. In this case, it is Vivian’s Cupboard, which “aims to help clients maintain optimal health and improve the efficacy of HIV treatment regimens by providing them with a consistent, nutritious supply of food.”

Crossline Food Pantry [From website]

Crossline Food Pantry [From website]

While religious ties can be a barrier in some areas, the Cleveland pride celebration benefits the Southeast Clergy Hunger Center. Organizer Matthew said it is “because they feed the local hungry and provide Meals on Wheels to local shut-ins. Similarly, PPD organizers in Springfield, Missouri, selected a Christian charity, Crossline Food Pantry, after donations were rejected by others. Matthew said:

With thousands of people experiencing a lack of safe and nutritional food we felt that, while it is a charity run by the Counsel of the Churches of the Ozarks, it includes services for people in the entire county (meeting certain guidelines of course) and we could do the most good for the most people through this organization. In addition, they were more than happy to work with Pagan Pride Day here in Springfield; we experienced the disappointment of several food pantries that turned us away when they discovered who we were.

According to organizer Alice Liddell, Crosslines uses an unusual approach, offering “a ‘client choice’ model that is different from other food pantries in the area. Each person or family is partnered with a volunteer to take them through their grocery store style pantry. Each client can select items that better fit their family’s tastes and dietary restrictions. They also have a mobile food distribution method and a holiday center for those in need.”

Beyond the food drive

While food donations dominate, many Pagan Pride Day events include support for other, non-food charities, either alongside or occasionally instead of a food bank or pantry. The bulk of those named by organizers benefited animals. In Connecticut and Vermont, that means the Humane Society. In Philadelphia, cats are cared for, and organizer Robert Schweirer recounted why:

Forgotten Cats provides humane trap, neuter, and release services and also provides affordable health services for cats throughout the region. We chose them because of their work. Many veterinarians donate their time to the service, and I really admire that. Plus, in the past, I have personally used their services when a mother cat gave birth to six kittens on my front porch on Mother’s Day shortly after I had made an offering to Freya.

Cats occupy a special place at the Greater Chicagoland PPD, as well, with both Gypsy Cats and CatVando being provided space in the vendor area, along with SpiralScouts International.

From London Humane Society [Photo Credit: Ansel Edwards / Flickr]

From London Humane Society [Photo Credit: Ansel Edwards / Flickr]

The Front Street Animal Shelter will be a focus at the Sacramento Pagan Pride Day. In a statement, pride project president Shawn Carlino said, “Sacramento Pagan Pride represents a community of people who believe the care and compassion for all animals should be part of our human experience. . . . Many of us have pets who are rescued dogs and cats. Some of our community have even rescued poultry! Life is sacred and by having knowledge of the good works of the Front Street Animal Shelter of course we would see how it would be a good fit to be a sponsor.”

Other events double down on supporting the homeless by raising funds as well as food for their care. That includes a warm-clothing drive in central New York and Denver. In Chicago, a suicide-prevention service is on the list.

All told, Pagans use the pride season to share in abundance and prosperity, as well as to remind people, who belong to more mainstream faiths, that charity is a value we all can share.

1930212_1044474605610182_2135655129642865778_nDENTON, Tex.– Eight months after a fire damaged its building, Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship came together in a newly constructed space to celebrate and recommit to its mission. As we reported in December, the Denton church was repeatedly vandalized by a single teenager, who eventually set fire to the building. At the time, Rev. Pam Wat said, “The damage from the fire is significant, but not overwhelming.”

Since that point, members were invited to hold their services in the First Christian Church, located across the street. As noted by Denton CUUPS chapter coordinator John Beckett, “They displayed the best of Christianity.” Specifically, the CUUPS group was able to hold regular Sunday meetings at the facility as well as seasonal events, including its “Imbolc, Ostara, Summer Solstice, and Lughnasadh circles.”

Meanwhile, the damaged building was being rebuilt. Construction was completed just in time for the annual “Ingathering Service” that the church uses to “kick off its year.” Beckett was an integral part of Saturday’s event, helping to “compose two of the liturgical elements” for the service, as well as delivering a “colloquy as the Act of Reconsecration” together with Rev. Wat. Beckett, who wrote in a blog post, “It was a perfect example of collaborative ritual, and of how a UU service can be truly multi-faith without being bland and soulless.” The colloquy is posted in full on his blog.

 *    *    *

cuupsSALEM, Mass. — In other CUUPS news, this weekend marks the start of Convocation, the organization’s annual gathering. This year’s conference event, themed “Awakening Our Tribe,” will be held at the First Church in Salem, Massachusetts. CUUPS organizers have scheduled three full days of workshops, rituals, lectures, and entertainment, inviting people to join them “for this special gathering as we return to the roots for inspiration.” The current schedule and guest speaker list is posted on their website.

Additionally, with the event being held in the “Witch City,” organizers have built time into the plans for attendees to get out and stroll the streets or take self-guided historical tours. Rev. JK Hildebrand will speak on the subject. “Why are there so many of us [in Salem]? When and how did it all come to be? What have been some of the lessons of religion vs. commercialism? How does CUUPS fit in?” There will also be a discussion and viewing of the documentary With Love, from Salem, which focuses on the practice of modern Witchcraft in the historic city.

Convocation runs from Aug 26-28.

 *    *    *


The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) is stirring up controversy on social media after newly-selected Alsherjargothi Matt Flavel posted a short statement on AFA’s Facebook page. Sunday night, Flavel wrote:

“Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning.”

While the post has generated some visible support for the organization and its new leadership, there has been a growing wave of protest and, simultaneously, calls to publicly denounce the AFA. One Facebook user asked for clarification, “Am I misunderstanding the message here or does this mean that if someone wasn’t white or if they were queer they wouldn’t be welcome in the AFA?” Flavel responded in part, with “You are not misunderstanding.”

No official reactions have come out yet from other Heathen or Pagan groups, or individuals, by the time of publication; nor has the AFA made any further comment. We will continue to follow this story and report as needed.

In other news

  • As noted in late July, the court case for musician Kenny Klein was due to start on Aug. 15. However, it has once again been delayed. According to the latest report, defense attorneys have hired a professional to analyze Klein’s computers and provide a report. They are also asking for copies of the photographs. However, prosecutors will only allow them to see the originals, rather than provide them with copies. With all the various motions on the table, the trial date has been pushed back to Sept. 29.
  • Hellenion, a US-based religious organization “dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism,” has opened a new ritual group, or “Proto-Demos” located in Southeast Michigan. The new group, called the Apple Blossom Proto-Demos of Hellenion, was formed in late spring and held its first ritual July 16 at the Pagan Pathways Temple in Madison Heights. Apple Blossom joins eleven other such Hellenion groups located around the US.
  • A new metaphysical store is coming to Oregon. The Sacred Well, located in the Bay Area, announced that it will be opening a second location in Portland this October. The Sacred Well employs and serves Pagan, polytheist, and Witchcraft practitioners with readings, ritual supplies, temple events, and classes. The new store will open at 7927 SE 13th Ave in the Sellwood neighborhood. To follow their progress, go to the Sacred Well Portland Facebook page.
  • Don’t forget it is Pagan Pride season. Denver Pagan Pride kicks off its local festivities on Saturday as do many others around the country. Pride events associated with the Pagan Pride project are listed on its website.
  • Everglades Moon Local Council (EMLC), the Florida-based affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess, released its 24th seasonal podcast. The 2016 Lughnasad edition contains music by Emerald RoseGinger Doss, and Mama Gina. Members discuss everything from tarot tips and Nervine Tea to “getting inebriated at festivals.” The regular seasonal podcast can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, or on the EMLC website.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list to ensure you don’t miss a single Wild Hunt story.

Advertise with us? Contact

  *    *    *

CORRECTION (8/24/2016 12:50 pm): The original article stated that an online exchange between a user and AFA leaders had been deleted. At the time of original publication, that short exchange was not publicly visible and assumed to have been deleted. However, it has since reappeared and is publicly accessible on the organization’s Facebook site.


BUTLER, Mo. —  The Sacred Well Congregation, an “independent, non-evangelical Wiccan Church,” announced Thursday that it has become an “Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organization for the Department of Veterans Affairs.” The announcement reads, “We will now be able to endorse qualified clergy from Wicca and Earth-Centered Spiritualities who wish to apply for chaplaincy positions with the VA.”

The Sacred Well Congregation needed to meet a number of very specific criteria to qualify for this designation. These requirements included things such as functioning exclusively as religious ministry, being a tax-exempt religious organization, and agreeing to abide by “all federal, VA, and VHA laws, regulations, policies, and issuances on the qualification and endorsement of persons for service as VA chaplains, federal employment, and veterans health care.”

The requirements also ask that the group “Acknowledge that acceptance of an ecclesiastical endorsement by VA does not imply any approval by VA of the theology or practices of a religious organization.” There are many different religions represented on the current VA list; however, none are Wiccan or Pagan. Sacred Well’s Board of Deacons wrote, “This is a tremendous breakthrough, and will enhance our standing with professional chaplains organizations such as COMISS and APC, as well as strengthen our position as we move forward in our endeavors to secure status as an EEO for military chaplains.”  We will have more on this story in the coming weeks. 

*     *     *

Charlie MurphyLANGLEY, Wash. — It was announced this weekend that songwriter and musician Charlie Murphy (1943-2016) has died. In spring 2015, Charlie was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). At the time, a group of close friends called The Charlie & Eric Hope Well Team wrote, “[The diagnosis] was a heavy blow for him and his husband Eric. They are fortunate to have loving families and to live in a supportive community with people who are doing so much to help them cope with the reality of this disease.”

The team set up a YouCaring funding campaign to support Murphy’s husband with the mounting medical bills. Along with traditional medicine, Charlie was working with “doctors of traditional Chinese medicine using acupuncture, herbs and nutritional supplements.” The funding campaign has raised $109,400 USD since its creation.

Charlie is best known in the Pagan world for his song, ” The Burning Times,” that, as we reported last year, “weaves a captivating story of the end of matriarchal, earth-based religions in Europe.” That popular song was first recorded in 1981 on Charlie’s solo album Catch the Fire. BOver the following decades, it was rerecorded many times by Charlie and others.

Aside from his musical career, Charlie was also known for his work as co-founder for Partners for Youth Empowerment (PYE) an organization which trains people to empower children through art and the creative process. This group has set up a dedicated fund to assist his organization continue in its community service work.

Charlie died Aug. 6 at home with his loved ones present. His legacy will live on through his music, the PYE organization, and the many fond memories left with friends and family. A memorial celebration will be held September 1 at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island. What is remembered, lives.

*     *     *

12958923_1468587901.5275HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — The Grove of Nova Scotia Druids is looking to buy land for Pagan worship. Founded in 2002, the Grove is an ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship)-affiliated organization located in eastern Canada. Its website explains, “Our core beliefs are in honouring the Kindreds, serving the Family, Grove and Community, living a more naturally-balanced lifestyle, and above all that the Grove should be an extension of family.”

Since its founding, Grove members have been involved in an number of public works, including rituals, meet and greets, and interfaith efforts, as we reported in June. The group is now looking to purchase and maintain land specifically for the Pagan population in the province.

On the GoFundMe campaign site, the group explains, “The Grove of Nova Scotia Druids hopes in the long term to build and facilitate a place of worship for the maritime Pagan community. We wish this place of worship to be all inclusive to all peaceful paths in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes inclusive. From either an outdoor location or a sheltered location to even a permanent structure we hope to provide all pagans of all paths a open and welcoming space.” Their current goal is set at $50,000 CAD, and they are looking into multiple forms of fundraising to earn that figure.

In Other News

  • Tuesday is voting day, and our own TWH journalist Cara Schulz is running for a city council seat in Burnsville, Minnesota. Over the past few months, Schulz has been out in the community speaking with journalists and residents about her platform. If she wins Tuesday’s primary, she will move on to the general election. There are currently two open seats with no incumbents running. This is Cara’s second run for public office. TWH will report the results in coming week.
  • Covenant of the Goddess will begin their annual business meeting, Grand Council, and the corresponding conference, Merry Meet, on Thursday. The four-day event is held in a different location around the country each year. San Jose, California is the host city this year, with CoG’s Northern California Local Council sponsoring the event. Nonmembers are welcome to attend.
  • Another upcoming weekend event is Witches in the Woods held in Ben Lomond, California. The annual camping festival begins Friday and runs through Monday. It includes guest speakers, rituals, workshops and “witchery.” This year’s theme is “Engaging the Invisibles: Calling Forth the Helpful Spirits, Ancestors and Allies.” Registration closes on Tuesday.
  • Pagan Pride Day (PPD) season is upon us once again, and people around the world will be coming out to celebrate, educate and enjoy a community of like minds. It is impossible to acknowledge the many Pride events that occur throughout the season. These festive events, only some of which are connected to the sponsoring organization the Pagan Pride Project, begin in early August and run through November. Pagan Pride UK, one of the first such independently organized Pride days, kicked off its 2016 festival Sunday morning. Held in Nottingham, the well-attended festival was captured in the video embedded below. PPD events will continue to pop up around world on weekends throughout the late summer and early fall, with the majority scheduled around the equinox. These festivities attract a large diversity of Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist guests and vendors, as well as many other locals curious about the unique community, its culture and beliefs.

Advertise with The Wild Hunt? Contact our editors today.

In Search Of Pagan Pride

Terence P Ward —  September 10, 2015 — 5 Comments
Pagan Pride Day logo

Pagan Pride Day logo.

UNITED STATES –To acknowledge the many Pagan Pride Day events that take place at this time of the year, The Wild Hunt endeavored to learn more about the staying power of this movement by answering the question: what’s the longest-running pride event out there, and to what can it owe its success?

The answer is somewhat obscured by the autonomy which touches every corner of Pagandom; even though there is a Pagan Pride Project  (PPP) dedicated to supporting these events, it is by no means the official arbiter and archivist of all things prideful. Indeed, the term is not copyrighted out of a sense that no one owns it. However, because of the support structure it provides, PPP has a decent institutional memory. We tapped into that memory through National President Brian Ewing, who has been promoting pride since before the turn of the century.

“There are rumors of single, local events using the name of Pagan Pride as early as 1992, though no documentation of these events has been found.” — Dagonet Dewr and Brian Ewing

The above quote comes from a Pagan Pride Day history written in 2007 by Ewing — then membership director of PPP — and the organization’s founder, Dagonet Dewr. The organization does hold records of events that met its official criteria (e.g, autumn events with a harvest theme, food drive, public ritual, and media outreach) dating back to 1998. All but one of those first events were in the United States. The lone Canadian pride day immediately made the movement an international one.  And, of the dozen to dozen and a half Pride events held that year (the online history says it was 18, but in emails Ewing claimed there were only 15), only one has been continuously held to this day. It is in Indianapolis.

A year later, Ewing was one of two people who started the Los Angeles Pagan Pride Day. We spoke with him more about the history and the planning of Pride events.

The Wild Hunt: How difficult is it to put on the second Pagan Pride Day in a location? How many groups succeed at repeating their efforts?

Brian Ewing: I think it generally gets easier to put on second, third, and fourth events at the same location. After the first year of working with a specific location, that local committee learns the application process and the permits required for the location, and it becomes easier to do them in subsequent years and it becomes easier to plan the event’s activities around the site itself as the site becomes more familiar to the local committee. I do not have data for how long events are held at one location, because it varies from event to event. Some events have been at their location for a long time. But other events, especially in their initial years, often move because they have outgrown their location or they find a location that offers better facilities that help them add specific activities to their event (for example, a stage).

TWH: Does your organization provide any tools for transition from one set of organizers to the next?

BE: We do have tools that can be used during a transition. We have a Local Coordinator handbook that is written not specifically for a transition, but for any new Local Coordinator. We do not publish it, but we release it to all Local Coordinators for their use, and it contains a significant amount of generalized information for Pagan Pride event planning, and information about the organization’s structure. The Regional Coordinators are also available to answer questions, and we have a private national discussion email list where one Local Coordinator can ask all the Local Coordinators for feedback.

TWH: Do you find that new challenges arise as a particular Pagan Pride Day matures?

BE: New challenges arise as events grow. Sometimes, the size of an event grows faster than the local volunteer committee, and the volunteers end up shouldering more work. Or, as I noted earlier, an event might outgrow its location. As events grow, it also becomes a challenge adding activities or elements to the event to keep people interested, for example, more varied workshops, more entertainment, etc. We want to give people a reason to return from year to year, although events that have vending tend to attract people for the shopping alone. Shopping is very useful as a way to attract guests and raise money, and also allows the vendors to network with each other, but it is not our primary purpose.

Nationally, one challenge we are facing is that growth in the number of events is slowing. We have to find new ways to expand to new cities, and other countries.

TWH: Is there a secret to making sure Pagan Pride returns, year after year?

BE: One of the secrets of ensuring an event returns from year to year is to listen to the community. Be responsive to their needs and they will continue to support you. It also helps to have stable local committees or stable local boards of directors that always have some members returning, instead of the entire committee or board turning over from one year to the next. That makes transitions much easier, passing information from the seasoned volunteers to the new ones, and ensures the event will continue without drastic changes or problems caused by the learning curve of planning your first event.

TWH: What about questions from the media, and the tone of coverage? Has it become more or less accurate, more or less favorable?

I think media coverage of Pagans has improved from year to year, and not just for Pagan Pride events. Through the efforts of not only our organization but many other organizations, more of the public are at least somewhat familiar with the basics of our religions and have heard of some of our paths. I can tell you that in Los Angeles, media coverage is becoming a struggle because we are not “novel” anymore. However, in other sections of the country, like the South or Midwest, where the Pagan community needs positive publicity the most, events are still receiving coverage and it is generally favorable to them. I do not believe the questions reporters ask have changed, however. News articles are not long, and reporters are still looking for the basics and the sound bites.

TWH: Have food bank staff become more or less welcoming of Pagan donations over the years, or will they just take food and not give a hoot who is donating it?

BE: There is often one or two local events who have trouble finding a food bank. That has not really become any worse, or better, over the years, and it is rare. I have heard of donations being turned away by a food bank after the event, but that occurs less frequently because the Local Coordinators have typically met with the food bank already and made the arrangements. More often, we hear that a Local Coordinator is having trouble finding a food bank before their event occurs, because they meet with food banks in advance and they get turned down. But again, this happens only once or twice a year. The vast majority of food banks are very appreciative of our donations.

TWH: What works when promoting the event to the public?

BE: Social Media has been very beneficial for publicizing our events to the community and the pubic. But it can be a challenge to publicize to the public through other avenues because it is expensive. Newspaper community listings help, as do radio PSAs. Ideally, events are held in very public places. That way, the public is already there for other reasons, walks through the Pagan Pride event, and stops for a few minutes to see something interesting, or shop. That ability to get walk-through traffic is just as important, if not more so, than advertising to the public.

One thing I hope Pagan Pride starts to do in the future is, instead of waiting for “them” to come to “us,” is to find ways to go to “them.” There will always be annual Pagan Pride events, but we can expand our outreach, possibly by having booths at non-Pagan events, or participating in interfaith events. Some Pagan Pride events are already starting to do this, and opportunities like that will help us reach non-Pagans who would otherwise not attend our event. I also want to see events get so large and interesting, that media will have to cover them. Parades attract more attention than stationary events. That will require financial and volunteer support from the community.

TWH: What works when recruiting volunteers?

BE: Recruiting volunteers is a challenge. I understand the dilemma, because everyone is just so busy. It helps to target groups, instead of just individuals. Pagan Pride events that can enlist a couple covens to help them will get most of that specific group to volunteer, then suddenly you have 10 or 15 people. Also, events can spread the word through meetups and social media that volunteers are needed. It helps to ask for help and also list specific things that people can do to to help, so that people can sign up and choose tasks they are interested in. Targeted networking helps bring in volunteers and speakers.

I believe some events are now trying to go to high schools or colleges and offer Pagan Pride as a way to fill required community service hours, but I am not sure how successful that has been so far.

*   *   *

A guide to all the pride events organized under the auspices of PPP can be found here. If there’s no event nearby in 2015, it’s not too soon to consider organizing a new Pagan Pride Day celebration for next year; contact PPP to find out how the organization can support those efforts. If there is an event close enough to enjoy, don’t forget to bring a food donation to celebrate the harvest. It’s the reason for the season.

four quartersFour Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary, a farm and campground located in Pennsylvania, was in the news after a festival-goer reported being attacked. Four Quarters opens its land to a number of yearly external events. One of these events is Big Dub, a 4-Day EDM festival that brings together “40 of the regions biggest electronic dance dj’s to perform and hold workshops.

On the final day of the festival, a women reported to festival security that she had been drugged and raped. Security turned the case over to local police who launched an investigation. Both Four Quarters and Big Dub are reportedly cooperating fully with authorities. Four Quarters spokesperson Orren Whiddon told local reporters, “We are allowing the law to work its course.” Unfortunately neither Whiddon or Big Dub organizers answered our requests for further comments or updates. Currently, Big Dub’s website is down.

Despite the investigation, Four Quarters is moving forward with its own extensive schedule of fall events and happenings. Upcoming this week, the organization is hosting its own 5 day festival called Stones Rising. The sanctuary is also home to the Four Quarters Meadery, which earned 4th place recognition for its sweet brew back in the Spring.

*   *   *

starhawkStarhawk is in the final hours of her Kickstarter campaign to self-publish City of Refuge, the sequel to her novel The Fifth Sacred Thing. As we have reported in the past, Starhawk’s manuscript was rejected by her former publisher. While she was initially both frustrated and angry, Starhawk decided to take a leap and publish the book herself.

Starhawk describes the new book, “Do you choose to imagine a future filled with food gardens and community or guns and isolation? City of Refuge offers the world an alternative vision of the future- one where we can face down the oppressors and the violence with confidence that a peaceful and abundant world is possible.”

Starhawk launched the City of Refuge crowd-sourcing campaign on Aug. 5 with a goal of $50,000. However, she has surpassed that goal, raising $73,136. The campaign closes later today and, according to the site, a special first edition of the novel will only be available through the Kickstarter event. Additionally, Starhawk announced that, if she reaches $75,000, she will create an audio book version of City of Refuge. The book is due to be released for sale in 2016.

*   *   *

Pagan Pride Day logo

Pagan Pride Day logo.

We have now officially entered Pagan Pride Day season. A few events have already taken place but most are still in the final planning stages. Pagan Pride events offer a wide diversity of opportunities, which often reflect the flavor of the local community. At the Patheos’ blog Heathen At Heart, guest writer Náf Andrewson shares a unique reflection on representing Heathenry and the group Nebraska Heathens United at Pagan Pride Day Omaha. Andrewson wrote, “My purpose was simple; represent Heathenry at this event and make the distinct voice of all of Heathenry clear compared to other Pagan religions.”

Generally speaking, Pagan Pride events typically contain three main elements: public ritual, a food drive and media outreach. While not every event is run the same, these elements are reportedly required in order to be considered a part of the Pagan Pride Day project. For example, in July, Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day sent out its press release announcing the event’s return on Sept. 5. Others have made similar efforts. The Pagan Pride Day website has an easily searchable list of all local Pride events even some happening in Latin America and Europe. In addition, many of the local Pride organizations host Facebook pages and groups for community support.

In Other News:

  • EarthSpirit Community has announced its schedule for the upcoming Parliament of the World Religions in Salt Lake City. Members will be involved with at least 6 different scheduled programs, serve on various host committees and will be speaking on panels. The organization has launched a fundraising campaign to offset travel costs to the big interfaith gathering.
  • For those of you who missed the Many Gods West conference, Morpheus Ravenna’s keynote address has been published in full at In her speech titled “Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods,” Ravenna said, “The key, in my mind, to understanding the nature of the Gods and what makes Them distinct from archetypes, is agency. And this is a theme I am going to emphasize a lot here.”
  • Circle Sanctuary will be hosting its fall festival on Sept. 19-20 in Wisconsin. The event is called an “Old Tyme Community Harvest Faire: a Celebration of Hearth and Harvest.”  It includes rituals, workshops, crafting and more. For more information and for tickets, Circle has set up a dedicated web page filled with information and photos from past events.
  • Humanistic Paganism has opened a call for submissions for its September theme: Gaia philosophy and the Earth. Editors write, “This month in 1965, James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia Hypothesis, started defining the idea of a self-regulating Earth … In the meantime, also in September … one of the fathers of Neo-Paganism, Tim (Oberon) Zell had his a vision which inspired him to articulate vision of the earth as a single living organism.” In honor of that work, editors are looking for papers that focus on Earth Stewardship and related topics. All deadlines and requirements are posted on the site.
  • The Association for the Study of Women and Mythology has put out a call for proposals for its 2016 conference. “ASWM’s supports the work of those whose scholarly/creative endeavors explore or elucidate aspects of the sacred feminine, women and mythology.” The conference, to be held in Boston in April, is themed: Seeking Harbor in Our Histories: Lights in the Darkness.” Specifics on the conference and submission guidelines are listed on the organization’s site. In addition, ASWM is seeking nominee’s for its Kore award and for its Sarasvati book award.
  • The Pagan band Taibhsear has just released its debut album called “Tears Upon the Water.” The band’s sound is described as “somewhere between Pink Floyd and Damh the Bard.” The new album is available through iTunes, Amazon and other outlets.


That is it for now! Have a nice day.

[Our Fall Funding Drive is still going on. Your support and your donations are what make our work possible. If you like reading our articles, like the one below, and commentary on a daily basis, please consider donating today to help keep The Wild Hunt going for another year. We are now very close to our goal. Will you help us reach it? Donate here. Thank You.]

October means many things to many people. It brings apple picking, pumpkins, falling leaves and a bevy of journalists looking to interview a Witch. October is the month that mainstream newspapers around the country feature stories about Witches and the Craft. Although this media attention may seem off-putting to some, others view the seasonal interest as a golden opportunity to dispel myths and demonstrate the beauty and breadth of their spiritual beliefs.

Public Domain Photo

Public Domain Photo

In New Mexico, the Daily-Times published a story titled “Wiccan group in Bloomfield celebrates nature and a shared path.” The story features Janie Felix, the High Priestess of The Order of the Cauldron of the Sage and, as noted in the sub-heading, “the woman behind the Ten Commandments lawsuit.” After Felix, the local witch, made headlines in the spring, it perhaps seemed only appropriate for the local paper to feature her in an article in October.

A Daily-Times reporter visited Felix and other coven members at her home and covenstead, where they shared information about Wicca and their tradition, as well as stories from their own personal spiritual journeys. Felix told The Daily-Times, “I was exploring my spirituality after the Christian church just did not appeal to me. I sat there and turned the pages [of Starhawk’s Spiral Dance] and said ‘Yes.’ Everything she said worked for me. It spoke to my feminism and my soul.”  The news article even includes a video of part of a ritual.

In addition to an exploration of Wicca, the Daily-Times reminds readers about Felix’ involvement in the town’s recent religious freedom battle. The article reads, “The [Ten Commandments] case sparked a fair amount of vitriolic reaction, mostly online, which some coven members feel is as unfortunate as it is unnecessary.” The City of Bloomfield is currently appealing the court’s ruling, requiring the removal of the monument. Unfortunately, this legal battle and the accompanying “virtriolic reaction” appear to be on-going, which means that Felix, the local witch, may find herself in the news once again.

Similarly the Gainesville Times interviewed author Lydia Crabtree, a Wiccan living in Buford, Georgia. In this small town paper in the Bible Belt South, the reporter focused on the religious nuances of Wicca more so than the New Mexico reporter. Crabtree answered a number of questions touching on subjects such as “What is Wicca?” “Are there pastors?” and “Why do people confuse Wicca and Satanism?” When asked if she wanted to share anything else about “the Wiccan faith,” Crabtree said:

That it is just as deep and meaningful and daily and present as any other sacred belief someone might hold. And just because I may do it a little differently doesn’t take away how serious it is to me. It’s my life breath.

In Utah, Weber State University‘s student-run newspaper, The Signpost, published an article entitled, “Wiccans, Pagans Worship the Earth.” It opens, “Come Halloween, witches, wands, cauldrons and pentagrams seem to pop up everywhere … For students who practice Wicca or Paganism, wands, pentagrams and magic aren’t just meant for Halloween, they’re a lifestyle.”

The Signpost spoke with Wiccan student Austin Toney, event planner Kirsten “Fluffy” Blake, and Cecilia Delgado, the owner of As Above, So Below metaphysical shop. All three Pagans answered questions about Wicca, in general, and touched briefly on the broader concept Paganism. In this article, Delgado encourages Weber State students “who have questions” to visit her store and to “not just assume that because TV and popular culture has painted one image or another about Wicca that that image is reality.”

Pagan Pride Day logo

Pagan Pride Day logo.

The secular holiday of Halloween, in all of its commercial glory, sparks a definite type of mainstream news story, which often leads to directed interviews with individuals who identify clearly as Witches or Wiccans. However, the season also throws a spotlight on a population of people who practice a broader spectrum of minority religions. Pagan Pride Day often becomes the launching pad for many of those seasonal media stories.

In Nevada, the Reno Review offered an expansive look at its local Pagan community. Titled “Pagan it Forward,” the article introduces the reader to the diversity of practice in the Reno area, rather than focusing on one person’s or group’s tradition or opinion. The Reno Review first attempts to answer the very difficult question, “What exactly is Paganism?” and then adds, “It really depends on who you ask.” From that point, the article discusses common misconceptions, highlights community activity and features a discussion with Misty Grayknight the co-owner of the Reno Magick Store.

After attending the Northern Nevada Pagan Pride Day, the Reno Review reporter describes the event as “easily overwhelming, sparking sensory explosions from the wafting smells of incense, multiple symbols prevalent around the booths …” But she then adds that, as an outsider, she felt welcomed by the unexpected diversity of people and feeling of acceptance. The article concludes, saying:

Northern Nevada is home to a wide range of Pagan practitioners, from shamans to druids, wiccans to polytheists. Shattering clichéd renderings of wickedly deviant devil worship, mastery of cheap parlor magic, and conventions for naked treks through forests, the diverse Pagan population of Reno has broken down cockamamie notions of evil and established itself as a positive force.

Similar to the Reno Review, a California-based newspaper, the Redlands Daily Facts, focused its fall article on the spirit, community and diversity of Pagan Pride Day. The article opens with details from a past legal entanglement, which forced the Inland Empire Pagan Pride Day event to move from Redlands to Riverside. According to the paper, city spokesman Carl Baker created problems when he noted “a [Redlands] city ordinance prohibiting fortunetellers, card readers and other prognosticators from operating without a license if they receive some kind of compensation.” Organizers moved the festival to a state park where they have had no further problems.

After noting that past hurdle, the Redlands article turns its attention to Pagan Pride Day, highlighting the many reasons people attend the event. The reporter featured comments from attendees of various spiritual backgrounds, including a few non-Pagans who were there just to enjoy the fall festivities. One of the interviewees, Sheri Wells explained to the Redlands reporter that she was Pagan because “being close to the Earth makes me a better person. It keeps me grounded. It keeps my life in perspective, and it makes me appreciate more the blessings that I have on a daily basis. When you respect the land, you respect life. When you respect life, you respect humanity.”

[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

The mainstream news also turned up at the Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride Day held in Tacoma, Washington. Like California’s Redlands Daily Facts, the Bellingham Herald gave a general overview of the day’s event. However, the Herald provided a more expansive look at the population’s religious diversity. The reporter interviewed PPD organizer and Wiccan Angela Wehnert, African-Caribbean Witch Uwanna Thomas, Heathen Dan McDonald, Druid Karen LaFe and others.

In Madison, the Wisconsin State Journal turned out for the city’s 17th annual Pagan Pride Day event. Reporters sat down to speak with Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox and PPD coordinator Jessica Maus. The article begins with, “There were no apparent Patronus Charms or any such sorcery going on at Winnequah Park Saturday as believers of various alternative stripes gathered for the 17th annual Pagan Pride Day.” Fox and Maus discuss their own practices, Paganism and the role of Pagan Pride Day within the community. Fox later told The Wild Hunt that she believes that this fall season “is a good time to do public education about the Craft and Paganism.”

The listed articles are certainly not the only ones currently circulating; nor will they be the last. Halloween turns the general public’s attention to witches, for better or worse, presenting an opportunity to share the reality of Witchcraft. As Fox suggested, “it’s a good time for education.”

Moreover, Pagan Pride Day events fall during the same season, which helps to capture the attention of a news industry already interested in related topics. Once again, an opportunity presents itself to openly discuss misconceptions, the distinctions of practice and, more importantly, separate the public’s passion for fictional Hollywood fare from, both the reality of Witchcraft and the reality and diversity of Pagan and Heathen traditions. While the published results of these interviews are not always perfect and often contain arguable points, the intent is generally positive, which can ultimately benefit Pagans and Heathens throughout the rest of the year and into the future.

[Terence P Ward is one of our talented weekly staff writers. He brings you the news and issues that most affect the Pagan and Heathen worlds. If you like his work and that of our other weekly reporters, help us by donating to our fall fund drive. Bringing you news and stories is what we love to do. Your continued support makes it possible for us to continue. Thank you very much.]

PPD logo

The recent equinox not only marked the change of natural seasons, but also the midpoint of the official Pagan Pride season, which runs from August 1 to October 31, 2014. Pagan Pride Days have been held for at least sixteen years, and probably a lot longer than that. The popularity and success of these events continues to rise, according to some metrics. However there’s an ongoing debate over whether or not the movement is achieving its softer goal – outreach beyond of the Pagan community.

According to reports from the Pagan Pride Project (PPP), the organization behind many of these events, the numbers look great. Carla Smith, Vice President/Membership Director of the PPP provided these statistics:

We have 110 events scheduled for 2014 and 15 of these are new events. We have events in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Italy and Austria. In 2013, we had 98 events across the USA; Canada; Mexico City; Brazil; the Dominican Republic; Rome; and Vienna, Austria. Our 2013 attendance was 65,717: an increase in attendance by over 20,000 when compared to 2012. We collected 39,962.80 pounds of nonperishable food and donated $6,918.48 to charities including the Wounded Warrior Project. We donated 1,262.60 pounds of pet food as well as dog collars and leashes along with other necessities for animal rescue groups. We collected and donated items for Operation Circle Care for Pagan military personnel, clothing and baby items to a charity for infants, coats for the homeless, [and] 53 pounds of sugar for a bee apiary. Our attendees donated 54 pints of blood for the Red Cross and local hospitals. We donated 78 books to prisons for Pagan inmates to further their knowledge.

The events which were new this year included nine in the United States, half a dozen in Brazil, one in Colombia and another in Canada.

Charitable donations, specifically food drives, are a requisite part of any Pagan Pride Day event supported by the PPP. Organizers must also agree to coordinate “a public gathering where Pagans can network with each other and celebrate an Autumn Equinox ritual.” In addition, they are charged with reaching out to local news outlets with press releases for “media coverage of [the] events in order to present the truth about Paganism to our communities, refute common misconceptions, and draw political attention to Paganism in order to try to prevent legislative discrimination against Pagans.”

The success of that public outreach is hard to measure, and that may be what has spurred a discussion about the purpose of PPD events in the Official Pagan Pride Project Facebook group. One member expressed a concern that many PPD events seem to be geared towards Pagans alone, not the wider community. He wrote:

I have gone to many PPDs over the last several years all the activities, workshops, rituals and etc. are geared towards Pagans. No what is Paganism workshops, no this is what and why we do what we do. Rituals take place unexplained. Advertising is strictly to Pagan groups. Media involvement has become unwelcomed. Have we given way to PPDs just being another Pagan exclusive festival?

The Wild Hunt reached out to the Pagan Pride Project, and spoke with several PPD local coordinators to get their take on the issue of public outreach. While it’s basic to the PPP’s mission, the implementation can be complicated.

Location, Location, Location

14524_454460254591551_559255499_nWhere a pride event takes place can determine if it’s a Pagan party or public outreach event. Public parks are the venue preferred by the Pagan Pride Project, but between fees and insurance requirements, they can be cost-prohibitive. Some events are hosted at Unitarian Universalist churches, but an indoor location never has as much visibility as a similar outdoor one, which means extra efforts are needed to draw people in who wouldn’t normally stop by a UU church.

Changing locations worked well for Gina Leslie, who said:

Three years ago we moved our Los Angeles/Orange County event to a much more public location for that very reason. We loved where we were and the park personnel were great to work with but it wasn’t something the public would see driving by and stop to investigate. Now we are in the middle of a very active tourist area in Long Beach, on a very busy main street and we have lawn banners announcing that the event is free and open to the public.

A visible location hasn’t been the sole solution in Kansas City, according to local coordinator Sam Shryock. “We are in a Farmer’s Market shelter,” he said, “so I believe we are on neutral ground and easily accessible.” However, he added, “I struggle to find the angle that would make people want to come to this event.”

In Morgantown, West Virginia, Marc Roney reported that it was difficult to get local Pagans to show up for something in a public setting at first. However, the PPD there has grown from about a dozen people in 2009 to about 110 this year.

Preaching to the Choir

button2Concern about religious persecution is very real for some Pagans, and none of the local coordinators interviewed actually tracks whether attendees identify as Pagan, seeker, or something else. While the lack of data is understandable, it can lead to suppositions about whether or not the public is actually involved.

“This year we are trying something new, and providing name tags that state, ‘I’m a Proud Pagan because…,” said Shyrock. We will see how well that turns out.” At the same time, the Kansas City event has de-emphasized the word “Pagan” and instead markets itself as a harvest festival. His experience has taught him, “People do not seek out different [sic], they avoid it. I think most people are not interested in knowing about Paganism, they would prefer to avoid it or argue with it.”

Roney said that “some courteously curious Christians” have attended, and he adds, “a small part of our funding for this year came from a Catholic couple who were curious about our event.” But most of those who show up at the Morgantown PPD are, indeed, Pagan themselves. Roney attributes the rise in the number of Pagan attendees to the fact that fears about “trouble with Christians” have not manifested.

10615513_10154561726860254_5127674005610753054_nTimothy Anderson and his group, the Hellenic Temple of Apollon, Zeus, and Pan, have been involved with the Rhode Island Pagan Pride Day as both vendors and main ritual organizers for several years. “[I’m] not sure how many non-Pagans are getting involved, [but] it seems like it is mostly if not all Pagans,” he said.

Limited Promotional Outlets

With small budgets, local coordinators rely on as much free publicity as they can muster. That means much of the advertising and publicity comes through Pagan-owned businesses like metaphysical shops. It can be an effective way to reach local Pagans and seekers, but not for reaching those people who may have the preconceived notions that PPD is intended to dispel. Free web sites and event calendars bolster those efforts. However, without a means to track the religious affiliation of attendees, determining who actually shows up continues to be a challenge. Privacy concerns will likely keep that from changing anytime soon. This leads to a frustrating irony. When the day comes that all Pagans are comfortable acknowledging their religion publicly, Pagan Pride events might no longer be needed . . . but, in order to reach that day and overcome false assumptions, the impact of such events on the community is needed.

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!

Let’s start off this week by taking a tour of the ‘big four’ Pagan/Polytheist portals.

10513320_1519749801581160_4666587913269014328_nFirst stop is the recently launched (see our news story about the launch), which has debuted columns by P. Sufenas Virius LupusConor O’Bryan Warren, Niki WhitingTamara L. Siuda, and many more. Helenic Polytheist artist Markos Gage (aka The Gargarean) captures a bit of the general buzz and excitement of the launch of this new site. Quote: “Something like the PLC is a privilege, a gift. Although you dudes went to some hotel in a town with a weird name, gave lectures to one another for a weekend and went home, it has affected people outside. Reading and hearing the fallout of this event has really set a spark in my heart that makes me *want* to be part of the community. This is why I am honoured to be invited to write on this site and sincerely hope I contribute some insight to the beauty of polytheism into the future.” From what I’ve heard, this is just the beginning, so be sure to keep an eye on this site as it develops!

PatheosLogoDarkBG_bioAt the Pagan channel, John Beckett writes about the commodification of humanity, Sarah Thompson shares a prayer of compassion for Z. BudapestSterling shares on de-colonizing ourselves so we can help others, and T. Thorn Coyle writes on becoming leaders. Quote: “We can surround ourselves with a cloak of righteousness, or with sycophants, or just friends who won’t be honest with us, in hopes “oh please oh please oh please” that we won’t be honest with them, in turn.Sometimes I say that my primary work as a teacher is to help those who work with me to become better adults. A martial arts instructor I know often comments that what he really wants to teach is adulthood. I think he does. It just takes a long time. Why? Because of the process of becoming. We learn a little bit today, and the rest slides by, until an event happens, or we learn enough other things, and then all of a sudden, that thing we saw or heard four years ago makes sense. And those of us who are teachers or leaders or parents are involved in that same process. Continuously.”

376350_10151961862130725_916104467_nAt the Witches & Pagans hosted PaganSquare, Steven Posch shares a proverb from his favorite dystopian novelsKai Koumatos describes being a Witch in seminary, Taylor Ellwood talks about anthropomorphic assumptions that show up in magical work, Deborah Blake extolls basil, and Aline “Macha” O’Brien discusses when consensus decision making is not truly consensus decision making. Quote: “The most common problem I’ve encountered is what I will indelicately term the ‘bully factor.’ It’s always deliberate, if perhaps unconscious. It’s simply a fact of life that some voices carry more weight than others. And it has nothing to do with volume. I’ve just experienced, once again, decision-making by the ‘bully factor’ trying to pass itself off as consensus. When there is a call for a sweeping decision that doesn’t allow for individual voices to speak on different perspectives on an issue, it’s extremely difficult for one or more individuals to voice an objection. Even when the facilitator asks for any objections or concerns, anyone voicing such concerns risks derision and disdain, resulting in one’s concerns being dismissed. That person (or persons) may be viewed as being an antagonistic malcontent rather than a valued contributor to the process. Hence, alienation and a breakdown of communal trust.”

witchvoxFinally, at The Witches’ Voice, the normal selection of weekly essays is replaced by a special response to the “New Atheists” by Mike Nichols, author of “The Witches’ Sabbats.” Quote: “In this essay, I plan to analyze the following TWO questions: “Do you believe in God?” and “Do you worship Nature?” Although in my culture, the first is usually asked with reference to Christianity and the second is usually asked with reference to Paganism, I have come to realize the two questions are eerily parallel. And they both share the same crop of problems. Let’s start with ‘Do you believe in God?’ I have been asked that question with surprising regularity for almost as long as I can remember. It didn’t take me too long (high school, perhaps?) to come to the conclusion that this was one of the most absurd questions anyone could ever ask me –or anyone else. What could such a question possibly mean? In order to answer whether or not I believed in ‘God’, I would obviously need to know what my questioner meant by the term.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

  •  Óski’s Gift, a scholarship funded by the household of Galina Krasskova and Sannion, is quickly nearing its deadline for submissions. Here’s what Sannion had to say about the initiative: “Óski’s Gift is a scholarship our household is contributing $300 towards twice a year, awarded to people who are doing work on behalf of their gods and communities. All that one has to do to be eligible is send a short (900-1300 word) description of what that work is to Galina at Anyone, from any polytheist tradition, can enter. If you would like to contribute money in addition to what we are offering for the scholarship contact Galina.” Deadline is September 20th.
  • The Emergent Studies Institute is holding a webinar on the subject of eco-spirituality featuring Luisah Teish, M. Macha Nightmare, ecopsychologist Ginny Anderson, and several others. Here’s a quote about Luisah Teish’s presentation: “Examining the myths that have shaped our attitudes toward Woman as representative of Nature (Goddesses, Mermaids, Demons etc.) and to physical environment (Forest, Ocean or Earth). We delineate the ways that these myths have impacted our lives as individuals and as members of the global community. After exploring alternative myths from variety of cultures we discuss the worldview they represent and their effect on Woman and Nature.” The webinar takes place on October 4th.
  • Just a reminder that the I:MAGE London 2014 show is coming up at the end of October. Quote: “In most magical and esoteric traditions the end of October is a sacred time of year, a time for honouring the dead and communicating with the spirit world. It is a time to acknowledge the winter months and delve into the darker part of the year and of the self. The boundaries between the familiar and what is Other shatter. The veil is thin. The magic begins. For I:MAGE 2014, artists will explore what it means to communicate with spirits through art. They will give us a glimpse of a unifying theme across different esoteric practices and offer us the perfect opportunity to introduce you to a truly international show.”
  • September 26th will see the release of a new issue of the always excellent Abraxas Journal. Quote: “Abraxas journal Issue #6 offers more than 160 large format pages of essays, poetry, interviews and art. Printed using state-of-the-art offset lithography to our usual high standard, contributions for Abraxas #6 include an interview by Anna Dorofeeva with the artist, Penelope Slinger, who also kindly designed the cover for this issue; an evocative photographic essay by Victoria Ballesteros of Marjorie Cameron performing a Chen-style sword form of tai-chi, published here for the first time; Matt Marble explores the Hermes of Harlem, Robert T. Browne; Kelly Hayes shares with us a powerful series of images documenting the spiritual lives of an Afro-Brazilian community just outside Rio de Janerio; and we are especially pleased to offer a special feature on Leonora Carrington, with essays from two leading scholars; Susan L. Aberth and Wouter J. Hanegraaff.” 


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

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

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.


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.




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!