Archives For Pagan Pride Day

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.

A few stories for you to digest this Saturday, starting with the announcement yesterday from Isaac and Phaedra Bonewits concerning the closure of their Internet venture Real Magic School.

“Isaac and Phaedra Bonewits are sad to announce that Real Magic School is now closed. It was a wonderful experiment but it turned out to be too much for our time commitments (and our finances) to handle. We have arranged with the Grey School of Wizardry to take transfer student s from RMS. We apologize to everyone, but especially our lifetime members, that the life time of Real Magic School was so short.”

The school, which opened for business in February 2008, had an aspirational trajectory of academic excellence and eventual accreditation. A somewhat different M.O. from the arranged transfer school, the Grey School of Wizardry, with its Harry Potter-isms and courses that equip someone to become a “Journeyman Wizard” (as opposed to the associates degrees RMS was planning to award). No doubt the current fiscal climate made this new venture difficult to sustain, it would be interesting to know how other schools (loosely) built on the Witch School model are doing.

CBS affiliate WBOC in Delmarva, Delaware reports on this Sunday’s Delmarva Pagan Pride Day, interviewing author, Wiccan elder, and event co-organizer Ivo Dominguez Jr. in the process. Too bad they also felt the need to get some “balance” by also digging up a disapproving Christian pastor.

“Still, some like Salisbury Pastor Luther Hill disagree, and say nothing positive can come out of the event.” “Pagans in the Bible usually deal with witchcraft and sorcery and those types of things,” Rev. Hill said. “But even in the Bible when that type of thing has gone on, the power of God has always been victorious over it.”

I wouldn’t mind this somewhat mindless faux-viewpoint-balance if the standard was also applied to puff coverage of local Christian events as well. Needless to say, I’m still awaiting a call regarding my opinions on upcoming Christmas celebrations.

In a final note, it’s time once again to check in with our old friend Don “internationally recognized authority on Ritual Crime and the Occult” Rimer. This time he’s making an appearance at the Oklahoma Gang Investigators Association seminar to talk about Satanic and vampire-related crime.

“Guest speaker Don Rimer spent over three decades as police officer in Virginia, where he discovered crimes involving cult activity.  Satanists committed some of these crimes, but some culprits acted as vampires … Rimer says movies like “Blade” and “Twilight” made vampirism cool, and people commit themselves to being vampires.  Rimer shows the official vampire bible, and there are sanguine who legally practice the ritualist consumption of human blood by drinking each other’s.”

This time the paper also includes his disclaimer that Wiccans and Pagans are no more likely to be criminals than any other citizen, but that kindness is somewhat offset by the fact that attendees to Rimer’s lectures, like Lawton Police Gang Investigator, Tiff Poff, apparently believe that ” appearance is in beginning stages, and they don’t realize it leads to violence, and murder, and suicide and things like that”. So don’t get caught dressing goth in Lawton, they may think your on the fast-track to killing people.

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

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Will the Goddess Movement thrive after the Baby-Boom generation is gone? That’s the concern of Sage Starwalker, co-editor of the MatriFocus e-zine, which just released its Lammas 2009 issue. Starwalker argues that the Goddess Movement needs to be more engaged online in order to reach members of Generation Y and beyond.

“What can we do to make sure that the Goddess Movement lives beyond our generation? I’ve asked myself this question many times. Recently I asked a room full of Goddess Scholars[1] to consider: While some young girls are lucky enough to be invited to rituals, and some are educated about the Goddess by their families, many girls, young women, and nascent queens have yet to discover Goddess. If they’re not in our homes or attending our public rituals or our workshops, where do we find them? Or perhaps the better question is this: Where do they find us?  … If the serious archeological, philosophical, and historical Goddess work and the community of scholarship and shared discussion aren’t happening on the Web, the members of GenY (and their younger siblings) won’t be likely to find their home in it.”

Starwalker endorses the use of social media like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LiveJournal to reach out to younger people, a tactic that others in the Goddess Movement must agree with since you can find folks like Z Budapest, Susan Weed, and Carolyn Lee Boyd twittering away at Twitter. Whether this inter-generational networking will grow the Goddess Movement for the future remains to be seen, but you should all head over to MatriFocus and read the entirety of Sage Starwalker’s interesting editorial.

As much as it pains me to mention Robert Wright again after his rather disastrous essay on shamanism and neo-shamanism for Slate.com, both The Daily Dish and the Religion News Service Blog have mentioned an excerpt from his new book “The Evolution of God” on a subject near and dear to many Pagan hearts: “Did Yahweh have a wife?”

“One oft-claimed difference [between the pagan gods and Yahweh] is that whereas the pagan gods had sex lives, Yahweh didn’t … It’s true that there’s no biblical ode to Yahweh that compares with the Ugaritic boast that Baal copulated with a heifer “77 times,” even “88 times,” or that El’s penis “extends like the sea.” And it seems puzzling: If Yahweh eventually merged with [the Canaanite god] El, and El had a sex life, why didn’t the postmerger Yahweh have one? Why, more specifically, didn’t Yahweh inherit El’s consort, the goddess Athirat? Maybe he did. There are references in the Bible to a goddess named Asherah, and scholars have long believed that Asherah is just the Hebrew version of Athirat. Of course, the biblical writers don’t depict Asherah as God’s wife … However, in the late twentieth century, archaeologists discovered intriguing inscriptions, dating to around 800 BCE, at two different Middle Eastern sites. The inscriptions were blessings in the name not just of Yahweh but of ‘his Asherah.’”

For Wright, this is just further confirmation of his theory that “God” evolved into his/its current (mostly) benevolent  (and monotheistic) form (instead of it being mere religious revisionism). This “polytheism evolved into monotheism” idea has been a popular theory amongst certain Christian thinkers for ages. The trouble is that you have to ignore a lot of stuff (or make some rather insulting generalizations about non-monotheistic cultures) to make this idea work.

“How good is his theology? Wright has done extensive homework, and recounts the history of the Abrahamic faiths in detail, beginning with the animism of early hunter-gatherers and moving through polytheism and monolatry (the worship of several gods with one dominating) to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, ancient and modern. (What about other faiths? In his zeal to pull societies toward moral perfection, did the Lord of the Universe forget the Hindus, aboriginals, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Scientologists?) The problem is that Wright has a tendency, already demonstrated in Nonzero, to dwell on data that support his theory and to ignore those that do not support it.”

Wright’s idea of an ever-evolving (single) God bringing us all to benevolence is a fantasy to reassure nominal Christians and borderline agnostics that religion isn’t an obstacle to enlightenment and peace. The trouble with his theory is that it privileges monotheism with an ethical uniqueness that it simply doesn’t posses.

For a change of pace, let’s look at a newly released book that I’m looking forward to reading. The University of Chicago Press has recently released a new book by Cathy Gere entitled “Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism”, on how British archaeologist Arthur Evans’ excavation and reconstruction of the palace of Knossos on Crete helped inspire a generation of thinkers and artists.

“With Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism, Cathy Gere relates the fascinating story of Evans’s excavation and its long-term effects on Western culture. Gere shows how Evans’s often-fanciful account of ancient Minoan society captivated a generation riven by serious doubts about the fundamental values of European civilization. After the First World War left the Enlightenment dream in tatters, the lost paradise that Evans offered in the concrete labyrinth—pacifist and matriarchal, pagan and cosmic—seemed to offer a new way forward for writers, artists, and thinkers such as Freud, James Joyce, Georgio de Chirico, Robert Graves, Hilda Doolittle, all of whom emerge as forceful characters in Gere’s account.”

Sounds like a must-read for anyone interested in the cultural threads that ultimately fed into the rebirth of Paganism. You can view the table of contests, here, and read the introduction, here. You can read an interesting review of the book, here.

The Nanaimo Daily News has a by-the-numbers piece on a local Pagan Pride Day event in case you feel nostalgic for the good old days of journalistic accounts of modern Paganism.

“There will be no sacrifices, disembowelling of chickens of goats or the casting of spells to turn someone into a toad. But don’t be shocked if you run into your neighbour at the Pagan Pride Day celebration at Departure Bay Beach on Saturday … “They find out we all have children, so obviously we don’t eat them. They realize it’s a very gentle and personal religion,” she says.”

Come to Pagan Pride Day! We won’t dismbowl a goat in front of you, turn you into a toad, or eat your children!

In a final note, Google News has been slowly building up its newspaper archives, recently quadrupling the number of articles you can search at the beginning of August. As journalism’s history gets digitized, it will allow us to get a clearer picture of how coverage of modern Paganism has (and hasn’t) evolved. A neat function of the Google News archive search is looking at the cool little interactive news-volume graph when you search within a set number of years.

The above graphic is mentions of the word “Wicca” from 1970 to 2009. From it you can see that 1999 was a watershed moment in being noticed by the press. You can also see how it is now possible to do a daily blog centered on Pagan news. If only they had a digital record of British newspapers, we could really track the history of modern Paganism through journalistic accounts.

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 30, 2008 — 1 Comment

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The Vancouver Sun looks at how colleges in Canada are adapting to the changing realities of our religiously diverse society.

“At Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario, the official calendar listing holy days when students can be excused from classes or exams includes those central to Wicca and Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that originated in Iran and is now estimated to have about 200,000 members worldwide … In an effort to serve students’ spiritual needs, the University of Toronto counts two pagans, two Hindus, two Buddhists and a First Nations spiritual leader among more than 20 chaplains associated with the new multi-faith centre that opened last year. It features half a dozen prayer, meeting and worship rooms, says director Richard Chambers, along with facilities for foot-washing and a de-pressurized space that allows for fire and incense during worship ceremonies.”

The University of Toronto’s Pagan chaplains are Brian Walsh, who serves Celtic and reconstructionist groups on campus, and Catherine Starr, who serves the Wiccan community there. So if your thinking of going to college in Canada, this article is practically a guide for potential Pagan students.

A South African teen who killed a classmate with a sword and blamed it on Satan has brought forth the old “Satanic Panic” peddlers.

“[Pastor of Destiny Harvest Church in Umhlanga, Marc] Bredenkamp, who has been helping children involved in Satanism for the past 20 years and has housed recovering witches, said Satanic groups operated on fear and people could not get out because the group threatens to kill their family or do something to them. Apart from numerous death threats and attacks from Satanic groups, Bredenkamp recalled the time his eight-year-old son was abducted by Satanists. He said they threatened to kill his son and wanted him to offer his life in exchange for his son’s. He approached the young girl who had abducted his son and began praying for her. In so doing, he helped expel the evil spirits from her.”

“Uncle Marc” is a classic Satanic Panic con-man who used to be a part of the now-disbanded South African Police Service Occult Unit, and loves to warn of the dangers of heavy metal (and wearing black clothing). Bredenkamp is no doubt enjoying the renewed media attention, though he is “disappointed” that schools no longer tolerate his nonsense.

The Danville Commercial News in Illinois reports on the Correllian tradition Lustration ceremonies taking place this weekend in Rossville.

“[Rev. Don] Lewis conducts the ceremony, but a First Elder — a woman from Danville — performs the actual Lustration blessing. During the ceremony, Lewis also invokes an oracle, which means he receives a prophecy or message from the ancestors. Messages may involve events taking place in the next year or next few years. Some messages might talk about emotions.”

This event of “purification and blessing” will also highlight a new clothing line entitled “Wycked Velvet” (not to be confused with the similarly-named erotica web site).

While I’m on the subject of central Illinois, my former employer, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is featuring an exhibit on the paranormal and occult sciences at its Main Library.

“…the occult collection contains more than 16,000 items relating to occult sciences and parapsychology and was originally endowed by Merten J. Mandeville in 1966, a retiring professor of commerce. Not all the items that are part of the exhibit today were around when the collection started, but it continues to grow. “(The exhibit) is everything ‘X-Files,’” said JoAnn Jacoby, former selector for the Merten J. Mandeville collection. “It includes works on paranormal phenomena, werewolves, the possibility for occult powers, witchcraft, astrology and 19th century spiritualism,” she said.”

For more information about UIUC’s occult book collection, check out The Merten J. Mandeville Collection in the Occult Sciences’ web site.

Greek Pagan group Ellinais (aka The Holy Association of Greek Ancient Religion Believers) is planning to hold a service to Athena at the Acropolis this Sunday to protest the removal of statues and ask the goddess to protect the sacred site.

“Peppa’s Athens-based group, Ellinais, is campaigning to revive ancient religion and has defied Culture Ministry bans to hold prayers at several ancient temples. She said she would not seek state permission for the ceremony, to be held near the ancient Parthenon temple, built between 447-432 B.C. in honor of Athena. ‘We will just sing three hymns. It won’t be a big ceremony,’ Peppa said. ‘I don’t know how many of us will be there. People are afraid. The fact is that we are subject to religious persecution.’”

It was only in 2006 that Ellinais was granted the legal right to exist in the Orthodox-controlled country. There is still great resistance to the group, and they have had to partake in civil disobedience in order to worship at the old sacred sites.

The Delaware News Journal interviews Cherry Hill Seminary co-founder Kirk White at the sixth annual Delmarva Pagan Pride Festival.

“[Pagans] having outgrown the stages he called “forming and storming,” paganism now is “norming,” or becoming like some religions. Although pagans may continue to believe in magic, he said, “if we’re not careful, we’ll become the big white circle on Main Street where all the pews face forward.” He urged listeners to be of service — whether their calling is dance, music, drumming, ministry or filling out paperwork for government agencies so events such as the festival can take place.”

Also interviewed is author and Wiccan elder Ivo Dominguez Jr., who helped organize the event.

That is all I have for now. Have a great day!