Archives For Pagan Pride Day

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Robin Hood's Grave. Photo: Nigel Homer, CC

Robin Hood’s Grave. Photo: Nigel Homer, CC

  • What’s it like being a Pagan in Wyoming? Pretty hard, apparently, as locals attending a Pagan Pride Day event in Laramie discuss being closeted and how “people are not so nice here.” Quote: “They’re closeted,” said Jo-Ann Aelfwine of Laramie, who has been practicing paganism for 50 years. Wyoming is a conservative state, and people aren’t always open to differences, Aelfwine said. “We have to worry about things like losing your job, having your kids taken away from you,” she said.”
  • The Kirklees estate in West Yorkshire, believed to be the final resting place of the legendary Robin Hood, is up for sale and the British Psychic and Occult Society want to turn it into a tourist destination. Quote: [David Farrant, president of the British Psychic and Occult Society said] “The special place the tomb holds in the hearts of many local people is heartened by tales of ghostly sightings and chilling experiences from those who have made the pilgrimage to the grave, defying the vicious brambles, dense canopies of twisted trees, and watchful gamekeepers and guard dogs.” Personally, I think the legend of Robin Hood deserves more dignity than to be turned into some sort of ghost-walk, but what do I know? Maybe this will be a positive thing.
  • The Senate heard testimony on domestic hate crimes this week, a move that comes in the wake of the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre from August. Testimony focused on how violence and hate crimes committed against Sikhs have gone unnoticed and un-tracked by the government. Quote:  “I have filmed, chronicled, combated hate crimes against this community for 11 years,” Valerie Kaur, a Sikh filmmaker and community activist, said in testimony at the hearing. “In the aftermath of Oak Creek, reporters came up to me and asked me, ‘How many hate crimes have there been? How many hate murders have there been?’ ” Kaur said. “And I couldn’t tell them … because the government currently does not track hate crimes against Sikhs at all.” You can read more about the inciting incident, and Pagan reactions to it, here.
  • Will Witches replace vampires and zombies? Maybe!
  • South African Pagans are challenging plans by the South African Police Service to start training specialists in “occult-related crimes” saying they could lead to religious minorities to be targeted by those looking for a scapegoat. Quote from the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA):  “This newly envisioned scope of investigation must be viewed with suspicion and be of concern to anyone engaged in the practice of Witchcraft, Traditional African religion, and other Occult spiritualities (including Satanism). Given the already evident bias expressed by ex-members of ORC and new members of provincial Religious Crimes Units against Witchcraft, SAPRA believes the new mandate potentially threatens religious minorities who may be scapegoated on the basis of belief alone.” Considering how “occult experts” have been used to smear occult and Pagan traditions in other countries, I think their skepticism and worry are well founded.

  • Check out a new Pagan-y (and human-sacrifice-y) video from Swedish folk act First Aid Kit. “Wolf” is off of their new album The Lion’s Roar.
  • Fashion house Paul Frank shows you how to respond after you’ve been accused of offensively appropriating Native and indigenous imagery. Quote: “It is embarrassing to reveal that, say, you don’t employ anyone who might have the perspective to point out to you that a “pow-wow” is not an okay thing to do, or that a news organization airs information it found on Google without verifying it. But cauterizing those wounds and explaining how you’ve worked backwards to make sure you don’t make the errors again is a short-term pain it’s worth enduring.”
  • The Gary Johnson campaign seemed to have enjoyed my piece about them yesterday. Quote: “Thanks to Cara Schulz for help organizing and promoting tomorrow’s event. This isn’t the first time Ms. Schulz has helped the campaign. Last year she help put together a press conference with the governor and lesser-known religionists and non-religionists. She truly is the type of individual thinker for which the campaign wishes to provide a Big Tent. Here’s the story of the “pagan” vote.” 
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Satan’s nemesis!
  • John Morehead deconstructs hater Janet Mefferd. Quote: “…we live in a post-Christendom America. Surveys indicate that while Evangelicalism is still numerically large and influential, it has lost ground, both in terms of membership, and in terms of credibility within among young people, and on the outside as well, where both groups see it as judgmental and oppressive. Engaging others in a post-Christendom environment means that we can no longer assume either a monoculture, or a pluralistic culture with non-Christians who will sit quietly on the sidelines while hope to exclude them and describe them as a toxic fume creeping under the door of America’s political process.” More on Mefferd, here.
  • Hey, it’s September 21st, where’s Jason post about the Fall Equinox? Check your nearest observatory, it’s not till tomorrow!

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

As I mentioned yesterday I’m off to the Columbia-Willamette Pagan Pride in Portland, Oregon. Once there I’m scheduled to have a public discussion with Anne Newkirk Niven, editor of Witches & Pagans, about Pagan media (3-4pm for those attending). Also, if you haven’t already, check out the article The Oregonian about the Pagan Pride event, featuring an interview with your’s truly. Because I’m about to hit the road, I don’t have time to do a normal update today, so consider this an open thread to discuss whatever you’d like. I’ll try to update this post later with pictures (and maybe some audio) from the event.

If you’re in the Portland area, why not drop by?

As always, keep it civil, be kind to your neighbors, and have a great day. Normal content will resume on Monday.

I think that modern Paganism has hit some sort of landmark when hip(ster) touchstone Vice Magazine features a new music column spotlighting a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan headlined by a band called ‘Wiccans.’

Wiccans in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Photo: Vice)

“Last night I walked into Encore Records, the best record store in Ann Arbor and one of the best anywhere, where Wiccans front women Aran Ruth and Kelly Jean Caldwell had cleared a space on the floor to spread out a flowery blanket on top of which they were busily setting up an altar made out of spellbooks, incense, a silkscreened tapestry of a tarot card Empress, and candles—one of them in the shape of a kitten because there’s apparently no rule against mixing magick and cute shit. When they had everything properly arranged and lit Aran picked up an acoustic guitar, Kelly picked up a flute, Fred Thomas (who plays in Saturday Looks Good to Me, which Kelly used to sing for) picked up a set of bongos and a djembe, and the thirty or so representatives of Ann Arbors sizable indie rocker, weirdo artsy crust punk, and hardcore witchcraft scenes sat in a semicircle around them.”

Not to be confused with the hardcore punk band of the same name, Wiccans sounds like “Pentangle meets Pentagram” and sings songs with titles like “Invocation of the Horned God,” “Moon Door,” and “Oh Holy Maiden.” In a perhaps unintentional nod to the past of modern Pagan music, their release is available only on cassette. This raises many questions, are Wiccans Wiccan? Will they be releasing their music in a format other than cassette?  Will they play at a Pagan festival if we asked them nicely? In any case, it’s an interesting development, one that speaks to how Wicca is mainstreaming, while still holding on to enough counter-cultural edge that bands are being named after it.

In other news, it’s Pagan Pride season and tomorrow is the Columbia-Willamette Pagan Pride in Portland, Oregon. I’ll be there to have a public discussion with Anne Newkirk Niven, editor of Witches & Pagans, about Pagan media. It should be fun! I was lucky enough to be interviewed by local paper The Oregonian in advance of the event, and you can read the results here.

“Basically, we’re just like you. That is the message all minority faiths try to tell the world: We have the hopes and fears of everyone else. We just follow a different religion. We have a message and wisdom that we can share, about being more aware of the natural world, that the divine can have a feminine face. Some real potent elements within pagan faith can be helpful to the wider world as we deal with ecological calamity and the basic rights of women. The message from the closing ceremony of the Paralympics was universal in scope. There can and should be a space where our poetry and our world are integrated with everyone else’s.”

I thought it turned out very well, do check it out if you have the chance. If you’re in the Portland area, why not drop by? It’s being held at an amusement park! For real! I’ll try to post photos and experiences from the event tomorrow.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

Bull of Heaven publication party. (photo: Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

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

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Patrick McCollum’s India Speech: On February 26th, Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum spoke at the International Conference on Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis at the School of Management Sciences in Varanasi, India. McCollum shared a Pagan perspective toward resolving the questions raised at the conference, and his remarks were captured on video and recently posted to Youtube. You can read McCollum’s account of his India trip, here.

Rachael Watcher, Public Information Officer at Covenant of the Goddess (COG), and a trustee of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), was also in India at the same time as Patrick McCollum, and gives an account of her trip  to attend a conference produced in part by the International Center for Cultural Studies. You may also be interested in my recent post about the Hindu-Pagan panel at PantheaCon. For more on Patrick McCollum’s work, check out his recent guest-post on the Pew Forum’s survey on religion in American prisons.

2011 Pagan Pride Day a Success: Every year between August and October dozens of local events are held worldwide to educate the public about modern Paganism, build local bonds in the community, and hold food drives to give something back. These events happen under the banner of Pagan Pride Day, an all-volunteer organization that has been coordinating the event since 1998. At the end of February the Pagan Pride Project sent out a press release breaking down the statistics of the previous year, declaring it a “huge success.”

Pagan Pride Day logo

Pagan Pride Day logo.

“There were a total of 83 events on four continents: in the United States, we held 66 events, Canada held 8 events in 4 provinces, Latin America saw 6 events in 5 countries, and the European Union held 3 events. In total, 42,799 attended our events worldwide, which was less than 2010, but still much higher than 2009 and 2008. Pagan Pride Day events will continue to grow in 2012 and beyond. These celebrations are free to attend and are geared towards increasing public understanding and acceptance of members of our religion and bringing the Pagan community together.

Pagan Pride Days are also giving back to our communities. At our 2011 events, people gave 29,073 pounds of food for local shelters and food banks in the United States and around the world. People attending Pagan Pride Day events also donated blood for local blood banks, financial donations to the Humane Society, food pantries, the Red Cross, SPCA, Cystic Fibrosis and the Spiral Scouts. Never forgetting our animal friends, 340 pounds of pet food were collected along with pet supplies. Also, some events donated money to charities in their communities, totaling over $1,700.00, in lieu of donations of food and goods.”

The Board of Directors also thanked the local event coordinators, volunteers, and public sponsors for their support in making the 2011 events a success. Events like these destroy the notion that Pagans aren’t interested in giving back to their community, or in joining charitable efforts. While Pagan Pride Day is now almost taken for granted by the wider Pagan community, we should never forget the important on-the-ground work they do every year to change people’s conceptions. If you want to get involved, there are instructions here. In addition, several local Pagan Pride Days have Facebook pages and other resources, consult your local search engine for more details.

Good News for Fans of Pagan Chants: Ivo Dominguez Jr, author of the recently-released book “Casting Sacred Space: The Core of All Magickal Work”, and co-owner of Bell, Book, and Candle in Delaware, has restarted the classic website “Panpipe’s Pagan Chants,” an archive of Pagan chants to be used in ritual and celebrations.

“In the early days (1996) of the pagan internet explosion, I maintained a Pagan chants archive that has long gone to dust. It is now being revived a chant at a time. All the chants need to be re-recorded as they were originally done in a low fidelity Real Audio format. This was fine in the days of slow connections, but it will no longer do. The chants will now be available as MP3 files. I hope you enjoy them and if you are interested in adding your chants here, contact me. Whenever possible I will list authors and if it has been recorded by them.  Please buy their works if they are available. You may use any of the chants I have written for noncommercial purposes.”

So, if you’ve been recycling the same two or three chants during ritual, you now have an opportunity to broaden your group’s repertoire. If you find the service useful, and would like to see it grow, Ivo asks that folks make a donation to the New Alexandrian Library Project.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day! Happy Easter to my Christian friends.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

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

While the mainstream media continues to figure out this whole “dabble-gate” thing with Christine O’Donnell I think I’ll take a quick moment to focus on what’s going on with some actual Pagans. After all, September is Pagan Pride season, so why don’t we check in with how coverage is going of these events.

The Salem News covers the Eastern Mass Pagan Pride, and produces a rather charming video piece to accompany the main article called “Faces of Pagan Pride Day”.

“This (festival) is a place for folks to get together and express themselves without the fear of persecution,” said Carol Fairbank, the local coordinator of EMPP. “(Paganism) is just starting to be something that is acceptable to practice out in the open. We’re hoping people will come to this festival, look around and think, ‘Wow. Look how many of us there are.'”

They also interview Salem Witch Lori Bruno, who co-hosts the show “Hex Education” with promoter and shop-owner Christian Day. It is, on the whole, a very positive piece.

Also fairly decent, though not quite as good, is the write-up of the 10th Annual Central North Carolina Pagan Pride Day Festival by the News & Observer who begins their piece with “it’s no longer scandalous to be a pagan”.

“At the entrance to the festival, there were barrels filled with donated cans and boxes for the N.C. Food Bank. On Saturday, a Rex blood mobile unit was stationed nearby. Sure, there were the occasional women wearing pointy black witch hats and a few girls walking around with butterfly wings attached to their backs, but overall it was hard to tell this crowd apart from fairgoers. Asked whether pagans still suffer from discrimination, Michelle Basnett of Cary, the event’s coordinator, said, “It’s gotten amazingly better.” Back in 1999, the YMCA of Greater Durham backed out of an agreement to lease its Wake Forest campground to a pagan group. But these days pagans are no longer considered devil worshippers or Satanists with blood-dripping rituals.”

Pagans! Not the blood-drenched Satanic worshipers you once thought we were! The paper also has a photo gallery from the event, but the photographer seemed more interested in capturing a sword-fighting demo than getting shots of the attendees. Still, this is most likely a massive improvement in coverage for Pagans in North Carolina, so kudos to the organizers for putting together such a popular event.

America isn’t the only place that’s holding pride events. A paper in Italy covers a Pagan Pride celebration in Rome (Pagan Pride Italia) and uncovers some tensions between Pagan factions in that country.

Only peace, singing, dancing and joy? At Villa Pamphili, [it] should be so. But [that] some plot in the shadows of the ritual seems to be something well known, even among neo-pagans [there] are jealousies. “There are religious organizations that [work] to rebuild the original Roman worship of the pagans,” explains the neo-pagans. Just two weeks ago in Bologna, the European Council of Ethnic Religions [took place], representing the traditionalists. “But we who have nothing to do with the conservatives of pagan worship, we always showed openness and willingness to face [the public?]: after all, our inner search is similar to [their’s],” recalls Vanth Spirit Walker. Who knows if the spirits will agree, Saturday 18 at Villa Pamphili, could also make their head, the guardians of tradition, Mithras, allowing the peaceful god, but gave the rain from the world began, unwelcome gift in the middle of a ceremony in the park.

So yes, even in Italy there are splits between traditionalists and eclectics. The Pagan experience truly is universal.

Finally, while not under the umbrella of the Pagan Pride campaign, in the UK the Pagan Federation North East is holding a conference this week, and even the Lord Mayor of Leeds is dropping by.

“The Pagans have persuaded Leeds’s Lord Mayor, Coun Jim McKenna and his wife Andrea to drop into the conference and Mr Speight hopes his visit will encourage others to attend. “We are delighted the Lord Mayor is coming along, and we hope it will help dispel many people’s misconceptions about us,” he said. The Lord Mayor – who is keen to point out he is not a pagan and has never been to a pagan event before – will have a quick tour of the day-long event. Activities for visitors include talks by witch and high priestess of Sheffield Patricia Crowther, and author Philip Heselton, who has published books about witchcraft and paganism.”

I know the Lord Mayor dropping by is big news, but as Pagan I’m more excited about the fact that Patricia Crowther will be there. Still this must be major PR coup for the Pagan Federation NE, so good for them.

There are quite a few more Pagan Pride write-ups floating about up there, including some written by Pagans. Did your Pagan Pride day get written up? Was it good? Bad? Share with us in the comments.