“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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
(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.”
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.
“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
“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.
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!
Results 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.
T. 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.
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.”
Pagan musician Damh the Bard has posted a new song entitled “The Wicker Man.” Quote: “Inspired by the many Wicker Man ceremonies that are becoming more and more popular at Pagan festivals, but particularly the one at the mighty Mercian Gathering in the UK.”
For a real treat, check out Erynn Rowan Laurie’s blog about her adventures in Italy! Quote: “Robert Browning lived in Asolo for a while, and I can see how a place like this would appeal to an English poet of the period. It’s a beautiful little town on a high hillside with a lovely view of the mountains and the surrounding countryside. I wouldn’t mind spending a little time there myself, once I’m settled in and have the option of going places by myself and taking my time at things.” Laurie is a talented writer and poet, so don’t miss out!
“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
“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.”
“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.
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
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
“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
“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.
“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”.
[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
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.
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.
“He is one of the most prolific authors in Australia on contemporary occultism and Paganism. He co-authored a defining early work “Other Temples Other Gods” (1980) on occultism and magical practice in Australia, directed a film “The Occult Experience” and wrote a key work on Rosaleen Norton, a Witch who lived in Sydney Australia in the early 1900s. He was awarded a doctorate for his work on Norton, and authored many other books on magic, shamanism, and related topics. He will be sadly missed.” – Douglas Ezzy, author of “Sex, Death and Witchcraft: A Contemporary Pagan Festival”
For many Pagans and occultists of a certain age, one of Drury’s most famous contributions to our movement may be his involvement in the 1985 film “The Occult Experience,” of which he was co-producer, researcher and interviewer. That documentary was many people’s first glimpse of Pagan practice outside of books, and included luminaries like Selena Fox, Margot Adler, Alex Sanders, and Janet Farrar doing ritual on camera.
“This was a wonderful experience for me and came on the back of a television series on holistic health that I presented on ABC-TV in the early 1980s. I was approached by Sydney-based documentary-maker Frank Heimans to plan a 90-minute television programme on occult beliefs and practices around the world and Frank managed to raise $350,000 to finance it, which at the time was quite a lot of money. We filmed in Perth, Western Australia, where there were several Wiccan covens and also in the Yanchep caves north of Perth where a group of local enthusiasts carried out rituals based on ancient Egyptian magic – that made for some spectacular visual imagery. We also filmed a group of Sydney-based Christian fundamentalists ‘casting out demons’. However some of the most spectacular sequences took place overseas. We filmed well known American witch Selena Fox and her close associates conducting a ritual in the snow in Wisconsin; a wonderful, spontaneous ceremonial gathering of radical feminist Goddess worshippers in Oakland, California – including interviews with Z. Budapest and Luisah Teish – and a meeting with Dr Michael Aquino and his wife Lilith, key members of the Left-Hand path Temple of Set in San Francisco. We also filmed a shamanic workshop with Michael Harner and conducted an interview with Margot Adler in New York in the ritual space at the back of Herman Slater’s Magickal Childe bookshop. In Europe we visited visionary artist H.R. Giger at home in Zurich amidst his remarkable, hellish paintings. We also filmed an initiatory sequence with Janet and Stewart Farrar at their coven in Drogheda, north of Dublin, and visited the founders of the Fellowship of Isis at their Jacobite castle in Clonegal. Later we conducted an interview with Alex Sanders at home in Bexhill, Sussex and filmed him invoking an Aztec deity – a somewhat surprising variant on Wicca! – where he nearly set his pants alight with the flaming torches he was holding.” – Nevill Drury, on the making of “The Occult Experience,” from a 2013 interview with Ethan Doyle White.
“After working in the Australian book industry as an editor for Harper & Row and Doubleday between 1976 and 1982, Nevill co-founded Craftsman’s Press with Judy Hungerford and Geoffrey King. Craftsman’s Press specialized in limited edition monographs, including publications on such artists as Justin O’Brien, Brian Dunlop and Lloyd Rees. But in 1985 a decision was made to change the direction of the company, moving its orientation more broadly into the visual arts – including printing, ceramics, sculpture, graphic design, jewellery and architecture – and making the books substantially more accessible, both in price and style. Nevill proposed changing the name of the company to Craftsman House but the essential focus remained the same: the aim was to produce high quality books on the Australian visual arts and publish monographs on the emerging generation of mid-career artists who had not yet earned widespread recognition across the country – something no other publishing house was doing at the time.”