Archives For Passings

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!

Modrzyk MemoriesOn February 5th, it was reported that Stanley Modrzyk (1945 – 2014), founder & High Priest of the first Temple of the Craft of W.I.C.A., had passed away. Modrzyk was the author of two books on Wiccan practice, and was one of the founding members of the Midwest Pagan Council and of the Pan Pagan Festival, one of the first and oldest running festivals in the Midwest United States from which Pagan Spirit Gathering and Chrysalis Moon got their start. A longtime activist for his faith in the Midwest, Stanley made many media appearances, and organized to stop faux-witch-burnings during Halloween celebrations in the Chicago area. A wake will be held on Feb. 14th from 2-8pm at Joseph Nosek and Sons Funeral Home, 6716 W. 16th Street in Berwyn, IL. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that people donate to JDRF -Junior Diabetic Research Fund or The Chicago Lighthouse. The family is asking those that cannot make the wake to light a candle for him on Friday, Feb. 14th at 7pm. Stanley Modrzyk is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and daughter, Lizzy, who are both active within the Craft. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and Pagan Spirit Gathering said that she is “thankful for his many positive contributions to the Craft & Paganism.” What is remembered, lives.

1484086_253554558146286_1250339820_nA new Pagan organization has formed, one dedicated to supporting infrastructure and developing small Pagan institutions. Quote: “Announcing the Pantheon Foundation: building 21st Century Pagan infrastructure. We are a California non-profit religious corporation applying for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Our mission is to provide IRS group exemptions for Pagan organizations through fiscal sponsorship, develop Pagan ministry, study the history, promote the culture, and advance the social welfare of Pagans and the Pagan community.” Pantheon Foundation will be holding a reception at PantheaCon 2014 this weekend, Saturday, 9pm, in Suite 1060. One of its main functions, providing fiscal sponsorship, will directly benefit The Wild Hunt, and once final paperwork is done, donations to this site will be tax-deductible. Co-founder Sam Webster says that, quote, “we have finally built a Pagan religious non-profit organization to serve the many needs of our community and provide legal coverage for our small organizations.” More announcements will be forthcoming, for those who can’t be at PantheaCon.

polytheist leadership conferenceLast week I mentioned that a proposed Polytheist Leadership Conference was moving forward, now, co-organizer Galina Krasskova elaborates further on plans at the Witches & Pagans Magazine site. Quote: “The Polytheist Leadership Conference will take place Friday, July 11th through Sunday, July 13th – though we’ve made arrangements so that you can get the block room rate if you want to come in earlier on Thursday. We’ll begin on Friday at 3:00pm with an opening prayer to our collective dead and polytheist predecessors and then have a lecture and roundtable discussion with the rest of the evening devoted to socializing and networking. We’ll start at 10:00am on Saturday with a full day of workshops, lectures and roundtable discussions ending at 8:00pm. There’ll be half hour breaks between each session and an extended lunch and dinner. Sunday begins at 10:00am and has two sessions with a social lunch and then a closing ceremony at 3:00pm.” An official website is now up so attendees can register. You can also find further details there about the conference.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

I want to acknowledge the passing of legendary folk musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died on Monday at the age of 94 of natural causes.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama. For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.”

While not a Pagan, Seeger did briefly belong to a Unitarian-Universalist church, and ascribed to himself a kind of pantheistic view of religion

“I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature. Or looking up at the stars. [I used to say] I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”

Throughout his life, Seeger was an actively and unapologetically left-wing in his politics, which led to him being blacklisted by the entertainment industry for decades after his appearance at the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955.

“I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature and I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this Committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, or yours, Mr. Willis, or yours, Mr. Scherer, that I am any less of an American than anybody else. I love my country very deeply, sir.”

There are many, many, places out there paying tribute to Seeger, for his politics, for his environmental activism, for his role in (at least) two folk-music revivals, but I want to leave this short tribute on a more whimsical note. You see, Seeger had a hand in popularizing the filk-music classic “That (Real) Old Time Religion,” which became something of a classic amongst certain portions of our community.

In the end, Seeger was someone who wanted everyone to sing along, to be engaged, and for that alone, he should be remembered and honored.

“He was a person who believed deeply that people should sing, in groups, with harmony, in public — and not just in church. He was a passionate director of probably thousands of pickup choirs, formed at the beginnings of performances and disbanded when they were over. That became even more true as he got older and his voice weakened, but it was true all along.”

Rest well Pete, thanks for everything.

On Monday, Lithuanian news outlets reported that Jonas Trinkūnas, the krivis (supreme priest) and founder of Romuva, the revived ethnic Pagan religion of Lithuania, was transported to the hospital and died. He was 76 years old. On hearing the news, Andras Corban Arthen, the founder and spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community, posted a heartfelt tribute to his friend and colleague.

Jonas Trinkunas

Jonas Trinkunas

“My heart is broken — my dear friend Jonas Trinkunas, head of Romuva (the traditional pagan religion of Lithuania) died earlier today. I knew Jonas for twenty years; he was a great man, who kept true to his beliefs despite all manner of struggles and religious persecution. He was an inspiration not only to Romuvans, but to the Lithuanian people, and was honored for his work by the president of Lithuania last year. And he was also a great inspiration to those of us who had the privilege of knowing him — I am so glad that many of our EarthSpirit folks got to meet him last summer when he and some of his family visited us. Go in peace, my friend; I will find you in the fire, and the thunder, and the rich dark earth.”

Trinkunas was not only someone who spearheaded the revival of his country’s ethnic pre-Christian faith, he was also an activist who helped found the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (now the European Congress of Ethnic Religions), a major organizing resource for revived pre-Christian traditions across Europe. In acknowledgement for this contribution toward the growth of ethnic religions and ancient traditions, the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE) in Greece posted the following message on hearing of his death.

“Farewell into the world of your Ancestors, Jonas, our beloved friend, our respectable President. It was a big honor for us that our paths met in the struggle to restore the ancestral Traditions. You will forever live in our hearts.” - Marina Psaraki, Vlassis Rassias, Yiannis Bantekas, on behalf of the Supreme Council of the Ethnikoi Hellenes (YSEE)

Trinkūnas, and Romuva, inhabited a special place within the minds of those who practice ethnic faiths and reconstructed Pagan traditions, since Lithuania was the last pagan nation of Europe to convert to Christianity, and thus, could claim a strong connection to its ancient pre-Christian traditions. Nor did Inia and Jonas Trinkūnas remain content to quietly practice in Lithuania, forming a touring band, Kūlgrinda, which released several albums and helped spread the message of their traditions to a wider audience.

“Another great light has been dimmed in this world. May it’s memory live on in our hearts. I am so honored to have met such a great Spirit. We will call your name at Samhain. What is remembered lives. Until we meet again.” - Angie Buchanan, Gaia’s Womb/Earth Traditions

In recent years, Jonas Trinkūnas spent increasing time as an ambassador for Romuva, speaking at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and was rewarded with the prestigious Order of the Grand Duke Gediminas, one of Lithuania’s top civilian honors.

(l. to r.) Inija Trinkūnienė, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Jonas Trinkūnas

(l. to r.) Inija Trinkūnienė, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Jonas Trinkūnas

“The award was personally bestowed by Dalia Grybauskaitė, the president of Lithuania, who praised Jonas for his involvement with the underground resistance against the Soviet regime which ruled Lithuania for over forty years, as well as for his work in preserving traditional Lithuanian religion and literature.”

These honors and tributes are mere shorthand for an incredible and rich life, one lived in complete service to his religion, to his country, and to its ancient traditions and gods. You can read more about his life and his many accomplishments at Romuva’s official obituary for their supreme priest.

“I am very sad to learn that Jonas Trinkunas, the founder and leader of the Lithuanian Pagan movement Romuva, passed away today. He had some health problems in recent years, and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital in Vilnius. I first met him in 1996 on my first visit to Lithuania. I saw him for the last time in October of last year (2013). He was a true gentleman, that is, a deeply gentle soul, who tried to be helpful to everyone who came his way, but who also had a strong dedication to Lithuania and Romuva that carried him through many trials and tribulations. I will miss him deeply. My heart goes out to his wife Inija and his family.” - Michael Strmiska, author of “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives.”

A funeral is planned for Wednesday in Lithuania. May he be with his gods. What is remembered, lives.

Last night, Clayton James, the partner of Eduardo “Eddy”Gutiérrez (aka Hyperion), posted to Facebook that the prominent rootworker, podcaster, priest, and community leader had died from a sudden cardiac event earlier in the afternoon. He was 38.

Eddy Gutiérrez

Eddy Gutiérrez

“Today, at 3PM, Eduardo Manuel Gutierrez, love of my life, Died at the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital after suffering a cardiac event. He was 38 Years old. There are many, many people who will miss him and at this time it is difficult for his loved ones to contact everyone individually so I am publicly providing this notice. We will update everyone publicly as we try to move forward. [...] Thank you and love to all.”

At the news, the many, many people Gutiérrez had touched in his work started posting tributes and remembrances for a man who proudly labeled himself a “modern day witch doctor” and was a voice of love and empowerment for Pagan men-who-love-men.

“Creator didn’t bless me with a good brother by blood, but He did at least let me have a good brother for a good part of my life. I love you, Eddy Gutiérrez.”Mambo T Chita Tann

“A candle lit for my friend and brother of the art, Eddy Gutierrez; Rev. Hyperion; Dr. E., who died today unexpectedly at the age of 38. He was an initiate of several spiritual and magical traditions, and was the founder of the Unnamed Path, a shamanic tradition for men-who-love-men. I had the pleasure of knowing Eddy in overlapping spiritual circles, and am proud that he was my Reiki Master/Teacher. We shared several deep conversations over wine (and pomegranate margaritas!) about magic, spirits, and the nature of the gods. He was charming, intelligent, witty, bright, and passionate. Eddy, May your soul be surrounded by light, and may you find peace in the darkness. Your work and spirit has touched many. May the passion you had in life live on in the communities you served. I will remember you. And what is remembered lives.”Storm Faerywolf

“Eddy Gutiérrez, you were a wonderful brother, a compassionate leader, a voice of strength, and tender beloved to Clayton James, an amazing son, a true man of spirit. Thank you for all you did for us in this world, and please do watch over us from the next.”Yeshe Rabbit

“I just received the saddest news from Vicky Sirgo Gutierrez — my dear friend and fellow conjure doctor, Dr. E., Eddy Gutiérrez, died today of a massive heart attack. My soul is weeping for his partner, Clayton James, for his mother Vicky, and for all of us who came to know and love him over the years. He was a stalwart, strong, ethical, and loyal leader in both the Santeria and hoodoo communities, and there will never be another like him. Goodbye, my font-nerd buddy, dear friend, and great-souled fellow-traveller!”Catherine Yronwode

“Blessings of an easy transition to the spirit world for Eddy Gutierrez (Rev Hyperion/Dr. E). I’m still shocked about the news and going to light a candle to the ancestors. Remembering our first meeting at Kevin’s kitchen table over pizza on my first book tour…. Sad.”Christopher Penczak

“Blessed be, you, Eddy, Hyperion. May your spirit find rest, and then enter a joyous journey into your next adventure, whatever that may be. You were a true priest. What is remembered, lives.”T. Thorn Coyle

Gutierrez was the founder of The Unnamed Path, a shamanic path for men-who-love-men, a graduate of catherine yronwode’s Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course, and member of AIRR (Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers). He also founded the Stone and Stang gathering, and The Unnamed Path podcast. He was an initiated Wiccan High Priest, and an initiate in Santeria. You can read a fuller biography, here.

“Today, the world lost a great Santero and Conjure man; Eddy Gutierrez passed to his next realm after suffering a massive cardiac event. Eddy was, and is, one of my primary inspirations; his tireless and stunning body of work written to support his tradition with education, integrity, and a sharp eye (and tongue) for fraudulent practices of others has always been a source of inspiration to me… someone I always wished I could be and treasured as a friend and role model. Our world was greatly enriched by his presence and his knowledge, and he will be sorely missed.”Houngan Matt (aka Bozanfè Bon Oungan)

I was honored to meet Eddy/Hyperion back in 2011 at PantheaCon, where we were on a leadership panel together. I found him to be warm, funny, caring, and deeply passionate about his work. I know for a fact that he inspired great love and loyalty, and that the many who love him are grieving this transition. This is a major loss for our community, a leader cut down in his prime. My heart and condolences go out to all who were connected to Eddy Gutiérrez, what is remembered, lives.

ADDENDUM: A memorial fund drive has been set up to assist Eddy Gutiérrez’s partner and family during this time of need.

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!

worldwide heathen census asatru norse mythology blog norsemythResults from the 2013 Worldwide Heathen Census have been posted at The Norse Mythology Blog. According to Dr. Karl Seigfried, who initiated the project, “the results will give at least an approximate answer to a question on the minds of many heathens: ‘How many of us are there?’” So what is the estimated number of Heathens worldwide based on the results? From the over 16,000 entires, Seigfried believes there to be around 36, 289 Heathens in the world. As for what this project signifies? According to Dr. Seigfried it is, quote, “a wonderful take-home message from the census is that, when there is something positive for everyone to work towards, the often furious disagreements between various branches of the heathen community can be temporarily put aside. I was very glad to see posts by and receive emails from people who don’t agree with my approach to mythology and heathenry, yet still took part in the census and urged their friends to do so, as well. I was very happy to see members of diametrically opposed heathen communities urge people to take part in the survey.” You can see all of my reporting on this project here. It should be interesting to see how Heathen organizations like The Troth react to the projected numbers.

RandyDavidRIP-1024x1024T. Thorn Coyle has posted a moving remembrance of Randy David Jeffers (aka Randy Sapp), a musician, magician, incense maker, and co-owner of San Francisco-area metaphysical shop The Sword and Rose (currently closed). Jeffers tragically died from wounds sustained in a fire on Christmas evening. Quote: “Randy Jeffers was as kind to me the day I showed up at The Sword and the Rose – age 18, fresh to San Francisco – as he was twenty years later, when my first book came out, and as he was years after that, whenever I stopped by. I didn’t see him as often in the later years as those early ones, but when I did, there was always something of interest to talk about as he carefully packaged blessed oils and fragrant incense. This one to the Faerie Queen. That one to Ganesh. This one to the Djuat. That, to Tetragrammaton. [...] Every person who planned to visit San Francisco, looking for interesting places to go, I sent to the Sword and the Rose. People from many parts of the globe visited the shop. A hidden gem, tucked back behind two buildings and a small garden courtyard, fountain always burbling. Lit by a fire in winter. Warm or cool, depending on what was needed. Always hidden. If you didn’t know it was there, there was no way you could find it. Even people who had instructions sometimes missed the way inside. The shop is hardly big enough to hold much more than the rows of bottles filled with Randy’s art – everything blended and consecrated in sacred space. Magic. All of it. Just like Randy’s life.” Links to donate to his partner, injured in the fire, along with more remembrances, can be found at Thorn’s entry. What is remembered, lives.

304902_345967782158513_2076648666_nAfter last year’s successful event at PantheaCon in San Jose, Coru Cathubodua and Solar Cross Temple are teaming up again with Blood Centers of the Pacific to organize a blood drive in honor of, quote, “the Morrigan, your own Gods, or to help save a life.” To pre-register for the drive, simply head to this appointment form, and type “Pcon” into the top box to see available appointments. Here’s what Coru and Solar Cross had to say about the drive last year, which drew over 90 people: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” So if you can, sign up to be a Blood Hero!

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Pagan singer-songwriter Sharon Knight writes in honor of her friend, Teresa Morgan, who died on December 26th. Quote: “Teresa was a trained magician. And honestly, I have no better explanation for why her death was so much more majestic than my father’s. She departed this world in an array of lights, shimmering blues and golds and whites. I began seeing these lights as soon as we got the phone call on Christmas night, and they lasted several days after her passing.” What is remembered, lives.
  • Journalist Beth Winegarner, whose new book “The Columbine Effect” explores how different teen pastimes got “caught in the crossfire” after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, will be having her book launch, with reading and Q&A, at Bird & Beckett in San Francisco on January 13th. Quote: “Stop blaming teen violence on the wrong things–and…understand how Slayer, Satanism and Grand Theft Auto can be a healthy part of growing up.”
Selena Fox

Selena Fox

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

“The exploration of oneself is usually also an exploration of the world at large, of other writers, a process of comparison with oneself with others, discoveries of kinships, gradual illumination of one’s own potentialities.”Colin Wilson

On Thursday, December 5th, noted English author and philosopher Colin Wilson passed away at the age of 82. Wilson rose to prominence in 1956 on the publication of his book “The Outsider,” which explored alienation and creativity in the modern mind. However, for many individuals involved in modern Paganism, ritual magick, and the occult, Wilson is best known for his many works exploring those topics, including “The Occult: A History,” published in 1971,  “Aleister Crowley: The Nature of the Beast,” published in 1987, and a large number of explorations on unexplained phenomena, life-after-death exploration, and mysticism.

Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson

“Religion, mysticism and magic all spring from the same basic ‘feeling’ about the universe: a sudden feeling of meaning, which human beings sometimes ‘pick up’ accidentally, as your radio might pick up some unknown station. Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things.” ― Colin Wilson, The Occult

During an era when books on Witchcraft, magic, or the occult were still hard to come by, Wilson, and other authors, bridged the gap between the first books authored by modern Pagans, and the (comparatively) robust market that was to come in the 1980s and 90s. T. Thorn Coyle, in tribute posted to her public Facebook page, noted how Wilson’s books helped the spiritual teacher and activist as a young searcher.

“Rest well, Colin Wilson, chronicler of the esoteric, the occult, and the mysterious. I appreciated your books as a teen searching for something…more. Your thoughts were good companions, and the story of your own search strangely helped my own. What is remembered, lives.”

Author Vivianne Crowley, a Jungian psychologist and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, knew Wilson personally, and placed his death in the context of many others who’ve recently passed that had touched her life.

“Sad to hear of another death on Thursday of someone I admire – Colin Wilson, occult author and philosopher. I first read his books in the ’70s and was fortunate to spend some time with him in the 90s. This summer I had a personal project to re-read all his novels, which I’m glad I completed. So many deaths over the last few weeks – Nelson Mandela, John Tavener, Olivia Durdin-Robertson, our lovely friend Anne, and now Colin It’s sad that we’re losing the spiritual pioneers of the ’60s and ’70s. Let’s honour and appreciate them while they are still with us.”

At the film site Brutal As Hell, editor Ben Bussey pays tribute to the pulpy film (Lifeforce) made out of one of his stories (which Wilson hated), and notes that we should see this time as one of transition for Wilson, rather than sadness.

“Wilson believed wholeheartedly that death was not the end. As such, rather than mourn, I’ll wish him a comfortable period of transition, thank him for his lifetime of work, and congratulate him for having been able to devote his time on earth to that which was of greatest importance to him; reading, writing, and thinking. That in itself is a thoroughly admirable achievement to which I’ve no doubt a great many of us aspire.”

On that note, I will wish Wilson well in whatever adventure awaits him. For those who’d like to explore Wilson’s life and work in more detail, the site Colin Wilson World has many resources, interviews, and works by the author to peruse.

“May the road rise up to meet you in blessing, Grand-Father of our nation.”Damon Leff, South African Pagan, Penton Independent Pagan Media.

On Thursday, news agencies reported that former South African President, and legendary anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela, had passed away at the age of 95 after a prolonged illness. Immediately tributes to, and reflections on, Mandela’s life and work emerged.

In his lifetime, Mandela had already passed into a place of history, though he spent his post-Apartheid years working towards peace, reconciliation, and human rights at home, and across the world. Few were left untouched by his work and legacy, including groups and individuals within the modern Pagan movement. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, saw Mandela speak in 1999 at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in South Africa, and participated in a ritual for peace at the island where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. Fox says she has “powerful memories of an amazing person.”

“Remembering Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ‘Madiba.’  Thankful to have been among those at his inspiring talk at the 1999 Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Cape Town, South Africa which received a rousing standing ovation.  Celebrating him, his life, his work with peace and reconciliation, freedom and human rights, environmental preservation and interfaith cooperation.  May he continue to inspire humans everywhere now and in generations to come to continue these endeavors.” – Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Members of the EarthSpirit Community, who were also at that peace ritual in South Africa, describe the experience.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Pagans processing in South Africa, 1999

Pagans in South Africa, 1999

“Many religious leaders had prepared blessings for the pole, but, due to time restraints, a bishop from Johannesburg gave the official blessing for all. He blessed the pole with incense and water and asked that everyone there go forward to the pole before they left, place their hand — or even better their two hands — on the pole and fill it with their light, to bring it to life, so that it would not be a dead piece of wood, but a living beacon of light, of hope and of peace for all who come to that place. It was a beautiful blessing and, even though he was strongly based in his own tradition, he was very inclusive in his language – not only blessing in the name of Jesus, but in the name of all of the “great ones” of every tradition.

He was followed by a traditional African priest who made an offering and blessed the pole in the name of his ancestors and in the name of all of those who suffered and died on the Island. The pole was then officially given to the Island by Africa Msimang, the South African director of the Parliament. At the end, before we returned to the boats, all of the pagans there went to the pole and made our own blessing together.”

Andras Corban-Arthen of EarthSpirit, on learning of Mandela’s death, said that he was feeling “sadness, gratitude and admiration toward this truly great man, whose life will continue to be a source of strength and inspiration for a very long time.” The Covenant of the Goddess, another organization represented at the 1999 Parliament where Mandela spoke, released this short statement on the news of his passing.

Covenant of the Goddess joins the world’s tribute to honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013). We are humbly thankful for Mandela’s humanitarian vision, his perseverance in the face of adversity and his personal sacrifice in the name of freedom for all.  Although his initial efforts were aimed at atrocities found in his own country, Mandela’s message knew no boundaries and inspired millions across the globe. May his spirit live forever in the memory of his life and the legacy that he has left.”

Crystal Blanton, a member of COG, left a more personal tribute at the Daughters of Eve blog.

Crystal Blanton

Crystal Blanton

“Today Nelson Mandela passed away and moved on to rest in the land of the ancestors, in the arms of the divine. And as I am sad today, it is hard to be sad when his life reminds me of the incredible sacrifices others have made for me to be able to be who I am today. It is on the shoulders of the ancestors that I stand, and I am so very honored to live in a world that cultivated the incredible spirits of people like Nelson Mandela, Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Joy DeGruy, Michelle Alexander, Little Bobby Hutton, Bobby Seal, Angela Davis, Kathleen Cleaver, Malcolm, Martin, and so many more that are known to us and unknown; the slaves with no name, the activists, and the revolutionaries. What a beautiful thing to look back upon the faces of the brave, and know that I have been gifted this chance at life because of those who’ve been willing to lay their lives in front of the bullet for justice. A celebration of life is the gift that Mandela left, a gift he often was not able to enjoy for himself because he was too busy changing the world.”

Another tribute came from author, teacher, and activist T. Thorn Coyle, who shared a memory of how Mandela’s imprisonment inspired her to stand up against collaboration with the apartheid South African government.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“One day, the floor was going crazy. Paper was flying. Men were shouting. Blood pressure was rising. One of my Market Makers called me over to his trading pit and shouted an order for me to buy Krugerrands – the South African currency minted from gold. I looked at him and said, “No.” He stared at me. I stared back. His face flushed red, then purple, color rising from his neck up to his forehead. His mouth pinched. He threw his trading cards down and stormed out the of pit to buy the gold himself. Word spread around the floor like wildfire. At the end of the day, after the last bell had rung, I was collecting reams of paper for recycling – this was in the days before recycling was commonplace, I and another woman gathered the paper and carted it away. The lone African American trader crossed the floor, held out his hand, and said, simply, “Thank you.” Today, I say to Nelson Mandela: you were a giant in our minds. You were an inspiration. Your life was a clarion call goading us toward freedom and justice. Mr. Mandela, today, I hold out my hand in thanks.”

Pagan activist and first responder Peter Dybing said of Mandela that he “stood as the ultimate example of the struggle for human dignity in the face of oppression, confinement and political intrigue.”

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing

“For those of us in the U.S. his struggle represented an ideal.  In our deepest thoughts and desires we aspired to emulate this great man who was able to engage his oppressors with dignity, honor and true courage. Many of us believed by his example that a new world ethic of mutual respect, peace and cultural understanding was not only possible but also achievable. If Nelson could defeat the abomination that was Apartheid with love and compassion then all things were possible. For activists world wide, his example lead to a well spring of young idealists willing to engage in the great struggle for universal human dignity. It may be decades before the world realizes how profound his influence has been on international events. [...] Today we can imagine him being welcomed to tea by Gandhi, seated next to Dr. King, and engaged in conversation with Mother Teresa. It is a portrait that needs to be painted,; a legacy that will not be diminished.”

Quaker and Witch Stasa Morgan-Appel, notes that Mandela’s life was a gift, and that his death does not diminish what he gave to the world through his work.

“How many of us are sad to learn of Nelson Mandela’s death is likely not countable. We all die. Death is part of life. Mandela died at the end of a long and amazing life. He gave South Africa and the rest of the world the gift of his life and his service, and we are tremendously enriched by that. His death in the fullness of time is sad, yes — but it is not tragic. His death cannot make us poorer, cannot take away all he has done for his people and many peoples, cannot take away what he has given us. His legacy goes on. Who is remembered, lives; may his memory be a blessing. And a goad to work for justice.”

 I have no doubt that across different faiths, cultures, and nations, Mandela’s legacy is being honored. He has shown that peace can emerge from chaos, that reconciliation can emerge from hate, and that no system of oppression is inevitable or unchangeable. His memory, his legacy, will continue to watch over those who he worked to free. Our deepest respects go out to him.

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.

maetreum sign large

  • As I reported this past weekend, the Maetreum of Cybele has finally won their property tax fight against the Town of Catskill in New York. So far, the only mainstream media (non-Pagan) outlet to report on this has been The New York Law Journal (registration needed to read the article), who note that town officials are “disappointed” with the ruling, and are weighing whether to appeal the ruling to a higher court. “[Attorney Daniel] Vincelette said town officials believe the primary use of the property is as a ‘residential cooperative,’ not for religious purposes. He denied that the nature of the group’s pagan beliefs has been a factor in the town’s opposition to the property tax exemption. ‘It was never ever a consideration or an issue at all,’ he said.” That statement seems rather laughable, considering the lengths the town has gone to fighting their exemption.
  • So, anybody read the New York Times lately? In an article about Teo Bishop re-embracing Jesus, reporter Mark Oppenheimer interviews T. Thorn Coyle, Amy Hale, and myself, about the story (and the meta-story, I suppose). I thought that, all told, it was a fair and balanced snapshot of the situation, and I’m pleased that we weren’t subjected to a Christian counter-point for the sake of “balance.” This being a New York Times piece, it has gotten a lot of commentary and links, including from a local Portland paper, and our “friends” at Get Religion. For those dismayed at the amount of attention this is getting, I encourage you to help build our community’s journalistic apparatus so we can have a bigger influence on mainstream journalism. Journalism isn’t something that just happens to us, it is something we can do.
  • Religion Clause points to a Japan Times article on the growing influence of Shinto in Japanese politics. Quote: “‘They’re trying to restore what was removed by the U.S. Occupation reforms,’ explains Mark Mullins, director of the Japan Studies Center at the University of Auckland. If it succeeds, the project amounts to the overturning of much of the existing order in Japan — a return to the past, with one eye on the future. [...] Many of the nation’s top elected officials, including Abe and Shimomura are members of the organization’s political wing, Shinto Seiji Renmei (officially, the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership — eschewing the word ‘political’ from the title) [...] Seiji Renmei sees its mission as renewing the national emphasis on ‘Japanese spiritual values.’ [...] Since its birth in 1969, Shinto Seiji Renmei has notched several victories in its quest to restore much of the nation’s prewar political and social architecture.” This is a story I’ll be paying close attention to in the future, and one that Pagans who are interested in Shinto should also note.
  • Religion in American History looks at Vodou in the early American republic, and finds more questions than answers. Quote: “Finding the place of Vodou in the early republic presents problems of definition and problems of sources and evidence relating to the practice of Vodou and the experiences of Dominguan migrants. In considering these issues, I stand by my interpretation of the evidence for Philadelphia, and now agree that Vodou may have been practiced in Dominguan communities elsewhere in the United States; however, there is much that remains unclear.” 
  •  Last week major environmental advocacy groups walked out of the climate talks in Poland, stating that there’s been a lack of progress on achieving a sustainable future. Quote: “This is the first time environmental groups have walked out of a UNFCCC conference. In astatement, the groups said they had grown tired of the conference’s gridlock over issues such as aid to help poor countries adapt to and mitigate climate change, as well as the apparent disconnect between Poland’s commitment to coal and its job as host of this year’s conference.” News post-talks described this round of talks as “uneventful.” 
Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams.

Sylvia Browne and Montel Williams.

  • Famous psychic and author Sylvia Browne died last week at the age of 77. A Gnostic Christian, Browne emerged as a popular figure in the 1990s and oversaw a vast media empire that included talk-show appearances, bestselling books, and luxury cruise ship experiences for fans. During her life, Browne came under fire from many who saw her off-the-cuff style as irresponsible, especially when it concerned life-or-death matters. Quote: “Although Ms. Browne often appeared on shows like ‘Larry King Live’ and was a regular guest on ‘The Montel Williams Show,’ much of her income came from customers who paid $700 to ask her questions over the telephone for 30 minutes. She was frequently taken to task by skeptics, most notably the professional psychic debunker James Randi. But the questions raised about her abilities did not damage her appeal as an author. She published more than 40 books, and many were mainstays on The New York Times’s best-seller list.” No doubt Browne’s legacy will continue to be debated, and depending on your beliefs, perhaps she’ll still want a say on what that legacy was.
  • An Egyptian statue that had been rotating, seemingly of its own accord, has been explained. Quote: “An engineer, called in to look at the statue, found that that vibrations from a busy nearby road were causing the 3,800-year-old stone figure to rotate. The convex base of the figure made it ‘more susceptible’ to spin around than the cabinet’s other artefacts.” Sorry, folks, maybe next time.
  • Indian newspaper The Hindu has agreed to stop using the word “primitives” to refer to tribal groups. Quote: “The ‘Proud Not Primitive’ movement to challenge prejudice towards tribal peoples in India is celebrating a major success after ‘The Hindu’, one of the world’s largest English language newspapers, pledged to no longer describe tribal peoples as ‘primitive’. Several journalists from renowned Indian publications have also endorsed the movement, including Kumkum Dasgupta of the Hindustan Times, Nikhil Agarwal of the Press Trust of India, and V Raghunathan of the Times of India.” Congratulations on this step forward in respect for tribal and indigenous peoples.
  • Should artists form their own political party? Maybe? Quote: “In the main hall, a Salvador Dali impersonator acted as the compere as figures from the arts world mounted a kind of pulpit to deliver short sermons on the state of the arts.” Just so long as they don’t elect Koons as party chair, I’m down.
  • The American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting just happened, and I know a bunch of Pagan stuff happened. I’m hoping to get some of the inside scoop soon. Stay tuned!

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

“Be happy now. Don’t worry about if you were happy yesterday, or whether you will be happy tomorrow. . . eternity is between seconds. You find Deity, the Goddess, the God, now. And your home becomes your sanctuary. You have a sanctuary as your hearth – a candle, one candle, a stick of incense, wherever you are is Heaven. That’s what my message is – yes – wherever you are, should be Heaven.”Olivia Robertson, co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis

On Friday, the Fellowship of Isis announced the passing of their co-founder, 96-year-old Olivia Robertson.

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

“Sad news for the Fellowship and the wider Goddess community in the world, Olivia passed away last night. It was peaceful and she had her family with her. Her family ask that the families privacy is respected at this time. Many blessings.”Rt. Rev. Caroline Wise, Fellowship of Isis, London.

Robertson, along with brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, and his wife, Pamela, founded the Fellowship of Isis on the Vernal Equinox of 1976 with a goal of reintroducing Goddess worship into the world. This development came for the trio after working together since the early 1960s on metaphysical and spiritual projects, including the Huntington Castle Centre for Meditation and Study.

“With her brother, Derry Durdin-Robertson, she was one of the most influential Priestesses in the Pagan movement. Olivia was a beacon for those who felt drawn to the Goddess. Hers, and her late brother’s contribution to modern paganism cannot be underestimated. May she be surrounded by the wings of Isis on her journey.” – Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone

“Olivia and I were friends for nearly 40 years.  I cherish the memories of our conversations and times together, including her delight in my introducing her to some Native American friends at her very first Pow Wow in America. I give thanks for Olivia’s bright spirit and her many contributions to Goddess Spirituality and the world. Blessings to Olivia as she journeys in the Other World and continues to work her Goddess magic from the ancestral realm.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“I’ve just heard that Olivia Durdin-Robertson, who founded the Fellowship of Isis and at 96 was one of the great lights of Goddess spirituality and Druidry, died peacefully in her sleep last night. She was so familiar with the Otherworld, seeming to be often half-immersed in it, that I’m sure her journey to the Summerlands will be a good and peaceful one. She was always so bright and joyful, with a wonderful sense of humour – many blessings to you on your way dear Olivia.” – Philip Carr-Gomm, OBOD

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World's Religions in 1993.

Olivia Robertson at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1993.

Over the next 20 years the FOI grew a diverse international membership, and in 1993 Olivia Robertson was on-hand at the Parliament of the World’s Religions representing the Fellowship, and spoke at the opening plenary representing modern Goddess Religion. Part of a delegation of groups that introduced modern Pagan religions to the international interfaith community.

“Those who spoke from the platform ranged from Cardinal Joseph Bernadin [...] to Lady Olivia Robertson of the neo-pagan Fellowship of Isis [...] and when in her turn to offer a blessing, neo-pagan Robertson shook a rattle and shouted, `Holy Goddess Isis, mother of all beings, come to thy children’, nearly every one on the dais sat silently”.

In addition, Robertson was an accomplished artist, writer, and liturgist, who deeply shaped the organization she helped found with her creative vision. A legacy that will continue with the organization she helped found. You can find Robertson’s full official biography at the Fellowship of Isis website, here.

“Please join us in lighting a candle at your altars and wishing Olivia a good journey as the loving wings of the Goddess Isis guide her.”

Good journey to Olivia Robertson, may she rest in the arms of her goddess. What is remembered, lives.

[This tribute to the life of Layne Redmond was written by academic, activist, and performance artist, Wendy Griffin. Wendy Griffin is the Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary and Professor Emerita from California State University in Long Beach. She and Layne have been friends since the early 90s.]

Layne Redmond, author, mythologist, teacher, historian and drummer par excellence, passed over early Monday morning on October 28, after fighting breast cancer for several years.

Layne Redmond 1952 - 2013

Layne Redmond 1952 – 2013

Born in 1952, Layne lived her early life in Florida, graduating from the University of Florida and doing Master’s work in art. A move to New York put her in touch with well-known drummer Glen Valez, who promised to teach her how to play the hour-glass drum known as the dumbek. The Fates intervened, however, for when Layne arrived for her first class, Glen told her his ceramic dumbek had fallen and broken. He handed Layne a frame drum and, in a very real sense, Layne never put the frame drum down.

As she grew more proficient as a frame drummer, she began to teach other women and formed performance groups that did drumming rituals on the solstices and equinoxes. Traditional holidays were reimaged, as Valentine’s Day became a ritual dedicated to Innana and Demuzi and reenactments were done of the procession of women drummers on the walls of Hathor’s temple in Egypt.

During her 15 year research on the drum, Layne discovered a large number of ancient images of women playing the frame drum from the Mediterranean and almost no images of men and the drum. Incensed by one museum’s description of these drummers as women with cakes, Layne began writing “When the Drummers Were Women,” the book that explored the little-known history of the frame drum as a sacred tool, the fact that the primary percussionists for a period of almost 3000 years in the Mediterranean were women, and the reasons why that changed and the information was lost.

The book was immensely popular and translated into German, Dutch and Persian. Layne collected thousands of images, and in the majority, the drummers were Goddesses or their priestesses. The many images and histories of women with powerful spiritual authority and the use of the drum as a sacred instrument resonated strongly in the contemporary Pagan and Goddess communities. Some women’s groups began to incorporate the frame drum into their sabbat rituals.

In 2000, DRUM! Magazine listed Layne as one of the 53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made A Difference in the ’90s. She was the only woman on the list, as well as the first woman to have a Signature Series of drums with Remo, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of drums. Layne recorded, taught and performed internationally. Among the many things for which she will be remembered is returning the frame drum to Malta, and the group of women she taught there still performs spiritual rituals.

While performing at the UFBA Percussion Festival in Salvador, Brazil, Layne became fascinated by the spiritual tradition of Candomble. She spent the last few years filming the living presence of the Orixas in modern Brazilian culture.

When her breast cancer returned this year, Layne faced it with fierce courage, deciding to live her life fully until the very last moment. A few months ago, she began to turn her film on the Orixas into short videos she could post on Youtube. She wanted to make sure those who contributed to her filming on Kickstarter would see the results of their generosity. When she went into hospice, she told friends that she was only alive to finish that work.

Thirteen days before the very end, a friend helped Layne slip out of hospice in North Carolina and go to her 43rd high school reunion. From there she went to Manatee Springs, a place from her childhood. “Really,” she wrote on FaceBook the day of her last visit, “I was raised in the womb of Oxun.”

And now Layne Redmond, High Priestess of the Drum, has returned to Her. We are impoverished by her loss but immensely enriched by her life.