Archives For Patrick McCollum

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!

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

Patrick McCollum with Jane Goodall.

September 21st marked the United Nations International Day of Peace, and Pagan activist Patrick McCollum was there. McCollum, who is a board member of the NGO Children of the Earth, escorted a group of refugee youth to participate in the UN’s ceremony and held meetings with UN officials and prominent activists like Jane Goodall. In an update sent to The Wild Hunt, McCollum described some of the interactions and experiences he’s had. Quote: “I got to shake hands with the Secretary General of the United Nations, and to have casual conversations with numerous other movers and shakers on the world stage. In particular I was moved to meet Monica Coleman who has been designated as the UN’s Ambassador for women’s and girls rights. Having given one of the two Keynote addresses on empowering women at the largest gathering of women in the world last February in India, I feel powerfully called to work together with Monica to change the status of women worldwide. As I have said in the past, until women have equality worldwide, we can never achieve world peace or planetary sustainability.” Of the refugee children he worked with, McCollum said that he “was quite proud of both their presence and their projects toward peace. They are the future, and to have a part in sharing the path with them and helping to mentor them, is wonderful to say the least.” You can read further updates at the Patrick McCollum Foundation website, or the Patrick McCollum Foundation Facebook page. This an important and historic moment of inclusion for modern Pagans on the world stage, one that has come about through Patrick’s tireless service on behalf of modern Pagans, and a pluralistic, peaceful, world.

vikingdomOn September 16th, Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried of the Norse Mythology Blog published an open letter to the makers of Vikingdom, a low-budget Malaysian production with Norse themes. In it, critiques the production for “wholeheartedly accepting the darkest propaganda of the Christian missionaries and their allies who violently persecuted followers of the Old Way.” Quote: “I hope that you have not set out to insult the memory of the many, many followers of the Old Way who were tortured & murdered for their refusal to abandon their ancient faith. I hope that you have not set out to insult the international community of followers of Ásatrú, the living religion that venerates the Norse gods & takes Thor’s hammer as its holy symbol. I understand that this is simply “a fantasy, action adventure” aimed at a mass market. However, pop culture can make a serious statement, as well. What statement are you making with this movie?” This open letter ended up getting nearly 25,000 likes, over 60,000 views, and the attention of Malaysian news media. This prompted director Yusry Abdul Halim to respond in Malaysian media, insinuating that Dr. Seigfried may not be qualified to criticize, that the jury is still out on the existence of vikings, and that the film is ‘just fantasy’ (despite the film trumpeting their research). You can read Dr. Seigfried’s reactions to Yusry Abdul Halim’s response, here. He’s inviting people to respectfully give feedback to the production company, and suggests that the filmmakers donate “all profits to interfaith charities that build bridges between religions, for that is the truly righteous path.”

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

Pagan teacher and activist Shauna Aura Knight reports that The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater in Catskill, New York, was attacked by a young man throwing rocks and epithets at the order’s house. Quote: “Last night while I was enjoying talking to Cathryn Platine at the Maetreum of Cybele, a teenager/young man started throwing rocks at the house. At first we thought it was just branches falling, but then the window in the kitchen broke from two rocks that were thrown through the window. It was just Cathy and I downstairs so I followed her outside. The young man ran from the bushes near the road across the road, and then began taunting us [...] Cathy called the police, who responded a few moments later, but the police didn’t catch the guy. Cathy filed a report and they took a cursory look at the rocks and the window, but they wouldn’t file this as a hate crime.” Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum added that “unlike the past, the police response time was fairly fast but they didn’t even take a proper report and ignored my telling them it was a hate crime as evidenced by one of the little bastards hiding in the bushes screaming anti LGBT slurs, swearing and taunting us [with] anti Pagan slurs.” The added expense of the broken window is one the order can scarcely afford, as they are still locked in an expensive ongoing legal battle with Catskill over their tax exempt status. A “stop the hate” rally is planned at the Maetreum on September 28th.

The Warrior's CallThe Warrior’s Call, a public Pagan ritual to protect Britain from fracking, to be held at the Glastonbury Tor, is coming up on September 28th. Here’s a description from a recent press release sent to me: “We, as Pagans, believe that the natural world is profoundly sacred. In particular though, sites such as Chalice Well are our holy places. To have them desecrated is a direct attack upon our ways and upon us. Fracking will not alleviate fuel poverty, nor will it provide us with greater fuel security. Its long lasting destruction to land and water is neither needed nor wanted. There are many practical alternatives, yet they are being ignored (with catastrophic consequences) because of corruption and ideological extremism within the government. Corporations should not dictate state policy. Around the world on the 28th of September, rituals (both large and small) will be held to protect these sacred islands from harm. Although we all come from many different pagan paths, on that day we will speak with one voice. The Warrior’s Call is that unified voice. And it sings with the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses.” One prominent supporter of this action is Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm who has posted a suggested ritual/meditation for those who want to join in, but cannot come to Glastonbury on that day. Quote: “If you would like to protect the Earth from the invasive and toxic process of fracking, you might like to join in spirit with thousands of people around the world who will be holding rituals and meditations at 12 noon GMT on Saturday 28th September 2013.” You can read my previous reporting on this upcoming event, here. I’m hoping to bring you more insights before the action begins, and reporting after the fact as well, so stay tuned!

In Other Pagan Community News:

Abraxas #4 Launch Party. Autumn equinox 2013 Speeches

Abraxas #4 Launch Party. Autumn equinox 2013.

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

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!

Patrick McCollum

Patrick McCollum

The Association of Correctional Food Service Affiliates (ACFSA) international conference in Reno Nevada is this week, and Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum will be addressing them to give guidance about requests for special diets from Pagan inmates. Quote: “Rev. McCollum will share information about basic Pagan practices and beliefs, and the give guidance to the Association on how to accommodate religious diets for Pagans. In the past, Pagan traditions have not been considered legitimate religious practices in correctional facilities and as a result, Pagans have not been been afforded equal accommodation in this area. Many practicing Pagans are vegan or vegetarian, but are forced to eat meat while other mainstream faiths are offered alternatives. The ACFSA has decided to utilize Rev. McCollum’s expertise in this area to change prison policies worldwide to be more receptive to Pagan beliefs. This is a huge step forward toward equality for Pagans, and bodes well for a better future for all minority faiths.” According to McCollum, this is the first time that a Pagan has addressed this body. Here’s hoping this will lead to a better understanding of our diversity, and the valid needs of Pagan inmates. You can find all of my coverage of Patrick McCollum, here.

41SC-bWNDqL._SY346_Professor Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon” and “Blood and Mistletoe,” has a new book coming out in November of this year in the UK ( and February of next year in the United States) from Yale University Press entitled  “Pagan Britain.” Quote: “Britain’s pagan past, with its astonishing number and variety of mysterious monuments, atmospheric sites, enigmatic artefacts, bloodthirsty legends and cryptic inscriptions, has always enthralled and perplexed us. Pagan Britain is a history of religious beliefs from the Old Stone Age to the coming of Christianity. This ambitious book integrates the latest evidence to survey our transformed – and transforming – understanding of early religious behaviour; and, also, the way in which that behaviour has been interpreted in recent times, as a mirror for modern dreams and fears. From the Palaeolithic era to the coming of Christianity and beyond, Hutton reveals the long development, rapid suppression, and enduring cultural significance of paganism. Woven into the chronological narrative are numerous case studies of sacred sites – both the well known Stonehenge, Avebury, Seahenge and Maiden Castle, and more unusual far-flung locations across the mainland and coastal islands. Celebrating the powerful challenge and stimulus offered to our imagination by relics of Britain’s deep past, this rich book reveals much about archaeological and historical endeavour and our modern quest to know.” Hutton was host of the recently aired documentary about Gerald Gardner entitled “Britain’s Wicca Man,” and was elected a Fellow of the British Academy last month.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

Philip Carr-Gomm at the fracking protest.

The process of hydraulic fracturing to harvest natural gas, infamously known as “fracking,” isn’t only controversial in the United States. Fracking operations are underway in Britain, and several Pagans, including musician Damh the Bard, participated in a protest against a well in Balcombe, Sussex. Quote: “This afternoon’s visit is not a happy return to a childhood stamping ground, but rather a way of supporting brave people in their fight against the madness of greed. What can I do? Add myself to the numbers, add my voice by taking my bouzouki with me and playing Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) at the top of my voice!” Other Pagans of note at the protest were Druid leaders Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. At his blog, Philip Carr-Gomm penned an open letter in opposition to fracking. Quote: “The same story is repeating itself with fracking. Although people like money, when the chips are down they don’t want their countryside ruined, their roads clogged with lorries, their water and air risking pollution. They want to protect their country – if necessary from the government who promised to be the ‘greenest ever’. Remember your party has 130-177,000 members, the National Trust has 3.8 million. People really care about the countryside.” You can watch a video of Damh the Bard performing at the Balcombe, Sussex protest, here.

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • The annual Festival of The Dead in Salem, Massachusetts is coming up! That includes the official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball, and presentations by authors and teachers like Christopher Penczak. Quote: “The Witches of Salem honor this time with Festival of the Dead, an annual event series that explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories, and strange rituals. Presented by Salem Warlock Christian Day and hosted by the foremost authorities on the spirit world, Festival of the Dead beckons guests to step through the veil into a realm where spirits await.”
  • The fist issue of the Melbourne-based magazine The Green Man Quarterly is now out and available for order. Quote: “The Green Man Quarterly is a new project based in Melbourne, Australia that aims to present an in depth exploration of Pagan, Witchcraft and Occult issues. Our ambition is to produce an affordable, high quality resource that is able assist in the promotion and growth of our diverse community.”
  • Speaking of magazines, a Starwood 2013 themed issue of the venerable Green Egg has been released. A direct link to the free PDF is here. In the introduction, the editor has announced they they plan to finish scanning all the back issues of Green Egg, to make them available as a resource. Quote: “When all the issues are put up, hopefully by one year from now, if not sooner, I plan to send out a mass email mailing to university departments and teachers about a wonderful resource for them and for their students. And it’s free!”
  • Congratulations to the Covenant of The Goddess Facebook page on surpassing 15,000 “likes”! 
  • Pagan Pride Day season is fast approaching, and press releases from local events are starting to be sent out. Here’s one from Philadelphia Pagan Pride, being held August 31st. Quote: “Entry to the event is free, but we do request the donation of a canned food item or other provisions for our beneficiaries. This year, our beneficiaries are the food bank at the Mazzoni Center, Forgotten Cats, and In-Reach Heathen Prison Services.”
  • Speaking of Patrick McCollum, the issue of American Jails that he contributed an article to won an award for journalism! Quote: “The issue that Patrick wrote the featured title article: Keeping the Faith – Religious issues in Jail, just received the Apex Award for Journalism, the top award for a print magazine in 2013!” You can read the article he wrote, here.

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

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!

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

Starhawk. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

Starhawk, noted activist and author of “The Spiral Dance,” took to Facebook to speak out on the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, and to also speak more broadly about race, and “stand your ground” laws. She initially posted: “I’m enraged and heartsick at the injustice of the Zimmerman verdict. I stand with the black leadership and their allies calling for a Department of Justice investigation, for an end to racial profiling, and the end of the dangerous laws that encourage vigilantes to target anyone they consider ‘other’ with impunity! So much work to do!” Then, followed up to expand on her previous statement. Quote: “I am indeed heartsick and enraged at how many young women are given long sentences for fighting back against their abusers. But people, both those cases underline one of the core ways racism and patriarchy work–by defining who gets to use violence and who does not [...] I advocate nonviolence. But nonviolence is not passivity. It calls us to actively acknowledge that racism and patriarchy are deep, inherent, endemic forms of perpetual violence that infuse our society deeply, and will take much thought and work and courage to transform.” She finished by addressing critics who would rather she focus on “spiritual stuff” rather than her activist work by noting that “this IS my spiritual stuff.”

pent-o-clockA new Pagan-themed community television program and videocast has launched, with a mission of serving Pagans in Oregon while also covering national and international Pagan news. Called “The Pent O’Clock News” the 30-minute program will air on Salem’s CCTV Channel 23 and Corvallis’ CCAT 29 television stations. Quote: The monthly show includes stories on the national and international level that impact our Pagan Community. The focus of the show is on news about the Pagan Community in Oregon. Hosted by Oregon Pagans Carl Neal and Michelle Hawkins [...] The show is an opportunity not only to more deeply connect Oregon’s Pagan Community, but it is also an opportunity to introduce ourselves to our non-Pagan neighbors. Understanding begins with knowledge and it is hoped that both Magick Moment and The Pent O’Clock News can help to provide that knowledge.” The Pent O’Clock News joins other Pagan-themed community television programs like Keepers of the Flame in Connecticut, along with several ongoing Pagan videocasts

a2514629697_2Pagan singer-songwriter Sharon Knight has released her new album “Neofolk Romantique.” Quote: “A collection of Celtic traditional and original songs ranging from romantic and fanciful to dark and brooding. Faery lore, lively jigs, and haunting ballads of pirates, murder, love, death, and the quest for poetic inspiration, sung by a feisty redhead. Comes with a 21-page booklet of lyrics and song notes.” This is Knight’s first solo album since 2005′s “Song of the Sea,” though she’s hasn’t been idle in those intervening years, releasing an album with her band Pandemonaeon in 2010, and two album of chants with T. Thorn Coyle in 2008 and 2009. Sharon Knight will be hitting the road to promote her new album at the end of July, which includes a stop at the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon, where she’ll be sharing a stage with Pagan-friendly artists like Omnia and S.J. Tucker. In a recent interview Knight said that she’s already working on her next album, a collaboration with her husband Winter. Quote: “I am finishing up my next album with my husband Winter. He is my main collaborator and a fantastic musician [...] over the years we have developed such an outstanding rapport, we practically read each others’ minds in the studio, it is such a great working relationship, I can’t imagine doing this without him.”

Nora Cedarwind Young

Nora Cedarwind Young

Back in March I reported that that Circle Sanctuary Priestess, Death Midwife, chaplain, and Green Burial advocate Nora Cedarwind Young is terminally ill, and wasn’t expected to live for much longer. However, Young has beaten the estimates and predictions, and is still with us. This happy news has created a financial crisis for Young and her family as they deal with ever-increasing medical bills and a fundraiser has been started to help them cover the costs. Quote: “One of Nora’s favorite adages, “The gift you give is the gift you get!” is the theme for our efforts here.  This amazing and beloved priestess has stayed with us much longer than anyone thought possible!  Nora has been somewhat stabilized with a strict routine of medicines and wound care, but the cost of such endeavors, as you can imagine, has been quite a burden on the couple, even though they have insurance. The intent of this fundraiser is to alleviate the extreme stress they have been under by providing some financial help for the non-covered costs that have accumulated, and cover additional treatments, like intravenous vitamin and mineral therapies, that Nora says really make a difference in how she feels.” If Nora Cedarwind Young has touched your life, please consider helping out.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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!

James L. Bianchi

James L. Bianchi

Earlier this year, I reported on an emergency Pagan conclave in California to discuss proposed regulations by the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) relating to religious items allowed by incarcerated Pagans. This “Religious Property Matrix” would significantly change the way religious materials were handled, and Pagan prison chaplains wrote impassioned editorials both for and against the new guidelines. Now, James L. Bianchi of the House of Danu’s chaplaincy program, who called the initial conclave, has issued a press release on proposed revisions to the property matrix that address many (but not all) concerns voiced by Pagans. Quote: “Though the revisions in the proposed Matrix represent substantial progress, we need to remain vigilant to ensure that the spiritual needs of our people are accommodated as required by federal law, and that Pagans enjoy the same religious freedoms as other religious traditions as required by the 1st, 5th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.” You can see the proposed revisions, here. Public comments on these changes are open until July 16th at 5pm, and can be sent to Timothy M. Lockwood, Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Chalice & Blade

Chalice & Blade

From our “better late than never” department: Pagan band Chalice & Blade, which features songwriter and podcaster Mojo of The Wigglian Way, had one of their most popular songs, “I Hear You Calling,” featured on the US television show “Being Human” earlier this year. The episode “One is Silver and The Other Pagan” aired in February of this year, and is available for rental at Amazon.com for those who’d like to see it. As one might expect, the episode features a Wiccan coven: “In order to begin reconstructing a new life for herself, Sally seeks out Bridget, her old best friend. Bridget is unusually calm about Sally’s sudden reappearance as a flesh and blood human, which prompts Sally to ask a few questions. Bridget, it seems, has taken up with a local Wiccan group.” Due to the renewed interest in their music, Mojo, along with singer Wendy, have re-formed the band as a duo and are now playing gigs again. Chalice & Blade’s last album was 2006′s “Wild Hunt,” available at CD Baby. Congratulations to Chalice & Blade!

Glenn Turner (Photo: OaklandNorth)

Glenn Turner

The 2013 TheurgiCon, is coming up this Weekend, July 13th, at the Bay Area Thelemic Temple in Oakland. TheurgiCon was founded in 2010 by Glenn Turner, who also founded PantheaCon, and features discussions on Neo-Platonism and theurgy. This year, featured speakers include Don Frew (who provides a look at the non-Greek Hermetic texts), Richard Reidy (speaking on Iamblichus and divine possession) and T. Thorn Coyle, who will be talking about theurgy in practice. Quote: “Theurgists such as Iamblichus instructed us to work from gross to fine in our operations. But what does this mean? How can we best approach this? There is a simple formulation: Thought. Energy. Emotion. Matter. The contemporary magic worker can use these levels to gauge what is missing from her magic, uncovering how best to approach the Gods and any theurgic operation. This session will include discussion and a diagnostic meditative working.” This one-day intensive costs $40, and includes meals. You can read previous Wild Hunt coverage of this event, here.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.19.50 AMOn June 21st, a new book entitled “Cults and Criminals: Unraveling the Myths” was published, co-authored by Dr. David Oringderff, co-founder of Sacred Well Congregation, and “occult crimes expert” Don Rimer, who passed away at the beginning of 2012. The book claims to take you “beyond the hype” of occult crime. Quote: “There is likely no term that strikes holy terror in the western mind more than “Satanic Cult!” Most cults are not “Satanic.” Most criminals who commit horrific crimes, leaving satanic symbols, often in the victim’s blood, at the crime scene are not “Satanists.” This book takes you beyond the hype, hyperbole, misinformation, disinformation and urban legends of pop culture and mass media that suggest that all cults, cultic and occultic activities are inextricably intertwined with criminal activity. That is a fatally-flawed assumption. The truth is that most criminals are criminal and most cults are cults, and sometimes their paths cross.” The book makes it sound like it debunks the majority of “occult crime,” which would be a welcome narrative within law enforcement. Don Rimer was quoted in 2011 saying that “occult crime happens all over the world and it’s growing,”  so perhaps Mr. Rimer had a change of heart in the last years of his life? Anything is possible, and I certainly respect the work of Dr. Oringderff highly, so I’ll approach the book with an open mind.

 In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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!

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

Patrick McCollum and members of HAF with the resolution.

On Monday in California a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett was unanimously adopted by the State Senate. SCR-32 designates October as Hindu American Awareness and Appreciation Month, and was backed by the Hindu American Foundation. Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum, who was honored by HAF in 2009 due to his work on behalf of minority religions, was invited to be a part of this moment, one that he called “historic.” McCollum added that “Pagans and Hindus have supported one another for equal rights and recognition and we stand together for a better world.” This is the first such resolution to honor American Hindus, and one of very few resolutions to honor a non-Christian minority faith in the United States. As State Senator Corbett says in her official statement, quote, “I am honored to represent constituents from many diverse backgrounds, including a significant number of Hindu Americans, California is home to a thriving community of over 370,000 Hindu Americans that enrich our state’s diversity and professional assets in fields as diverse as academia, science, technology, business, arts and literature.” You can see a picture of Rev. Patrick McCollum with Senate Majority Leader Corbett, here. Congratulations to our Hindu cousins!

COVR Award

COVR Award

The International New Age Trade Show (INATS) was held this past weekend, and the annual COVR (Coalition of Visionary Retailers) awards were handed out. Pagan and metaphysical publisher Llewellyn Worldwide took home four COVR awards, including a First Runner Up award (Wicca/Paganism category) for Rev. Mark Townsend’s “Jesus Through Pagan Eyes” (reviewed here). The big Pagan winner of the weekend was author Christopher Penczak, who took home First Place awards for “Buddha, Christ, Merlin: Three Wise Men for Our Age” and “The Gates of Witchcraft,” a Runner Up prize for “Feast of the Morrighan,” and two awards for his spell coins. Penczak said he was “humbled and grateful” for the recognition he received. You can read more about this year’s COVR nominees and winners here, here, and here. For an insiders perspective of INATS, and the future of the occult/metaphysical market, I found this blog post very interesting.  Congratulations to all the winners!

Adocentyn Research Library

Adocentyn Research Library

The Adocentyn Research Library in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the process of building what they hope will be “the premier Pagan research center in the Western US,” have reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, their online catalogue has surpassed 4,500 volumes, with far more volumes on-site and in the process of being catalogued. Quote: “There are over 6000 volumes currently on-site (plus hundreds of periodicals) with another 5000+ coming (plus ephemera such as correspondence, notebooks, etc.). Cataloguing takes time, but we have 19 volunteers helping us move things along. We will be opening soon.” This is exciting progress for the library, and you can keep up with the latest announcements at their official Facebook page. As I’ve reported previously, Adocentyn is in preliminary talks with the New Alexandrian Library Project (currently under construction) and other institutions in forming a Pagan Libraries Organization so that they can share information, and offer inter-library loans.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Blue plaque ceremony.

Last week’s Summer Solstice saw the dedication of a commemorative blue plaque at the Brighton, UK home of Dorren Valiente, called by many the mother of modern religious Witchcraft (you can read my previous coverage of the plaque here). Druid leader Philip Carr-Gomm, who attended the ceremony, said that this was a historic moment for more than one reason. Quote: “This is a first for Wicca and Paganism but this was also a historic moment for another reason – it is apparently the first blue plaque to appear on a council block.” The Centre for Pagan Studies has posted a video of the unveiling which I’ve embedded below. You can see additional coverage of the event at The Argus, which has also posted a video from the ceremony. John Belham-Payne, who inherited the bulk of Valiente’s Pagan-oriented estate, says he plans to open a museum in Brighton. Quote: “I’ve been contacted by museum owners in Salem but Brighton is the only place for the collection.”

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

[On May 13th I ran a guest editorial from Joseph Merlin Nichter on a proposed Religious Property Matrix (RPM) for California prisons. Knowing that Joseph's views only represented one perspective within the Pagan community, I reached out to the Rev. Patrick McCollum for his own thoughts on the issue. Patrick has been working as a Pagan chaplain and activist for well over twenty years. He was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League, and has been involved inumerous legal struggles involving modern Pagans. In 2008, he testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights on prisoner’s religious rights, saying he “found discrimination against minority faiths everywhere”and that the problem was “endemic.”]

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

As a longtime activist for both Pagan and minority faith religious rights, a recent post by volunteer chaplain Joseph Nichter about the so called “Religious Property Matrix” created by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has raised serious concerns for me and prompts me to respond in detail to his thoughts and comments.

I’d like to begin first by laying a framework for the discussion by sharing a little history regarding the fight for equal religious accommodation for Pagans in the California prison system and also express why I feel I am qualified to speak to this issue.

First let me provide a little background on my own qualifications and experiences with both the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and religious accommodation in corrections in general nationwide.

In 1981, after several years working in the California prison system, I became the Statewide Wiccan Chaplain for the California Department of Corrections for all 33 California correctional facilities. This was a position that was designated by the Director of the California Department of Corrections, Cal Terhune. At that time, there were no other Pagan chaplains at any correctional institution in the United States, and so I was breaking new ground. In California alone, I facilitated multiple religious prison programs, created dozens of Pagan prison libraries, traveled from institution to institution, and interacted with as many as 1,800 Pagan inmates. I also interacted with Wardens and senior administrators at the highest level at the CDCR headquarters. Later, I was drafted by the Colorado Department of Corrections to establish a Pagan religion program for that state. Over the years, I gradually became the Pagan religious advisor or helped establish Pagan religion programs for over twenty different correctional systems nationwide, and also became a volunteer Pagan Chaplain and Pagan religious advisor for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Over the last 15 years, I have served in multiple capacities in national correctional activities, including holding prominent positions

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

in several of the foremost national correctional organizations. I currently serve as the Director of the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association, one of the foremost training agencies on religious accommodation in US Prisons. The NCCDA is comprised of the highest level directors and administrators who oversee all correctional religious activities for their respective states. We currently have over 22 state’s systems represented. I am also a member of the Executive Council for the American Correctional Chaplains Association, the oldest and largest chaplain’s organization in the world with roughly 2,000 chaplain members. In addition to being on the Executive Council, I am also the Chair of the Minority Faiths Issues Committee for the ACCA. On another front, I serve as the Chaplaincy Liaison for the American Academy of Religion, the world’s largest academic body for religious studies, with over 10,000 members. I have also advised correctional administrators or been involved in correctional programs in three other countries. In 2009 I was selected by the United States Commission on Civil Rights as both an advisor and a panelist, to prepare a report for Congress and the President of the United States on religious discrimination in US prisons. Lastly, I was selected last year to author a special edition for the American Jails Magazine on religious accommodation in US jails, and am currently contracted to write the chapter on accommodating minority faiths in prisons for the American Correctional Association which represents all correctional facilities in 50 states. With all of that said, here are my thoughts and comments on the Religious Property Matrix for the California Department of Corrections.

Mr. Nichter addresses the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation’s (the CDCR’s) actions as though they are acting in good faith and making reasonable attempts to “standardize” religious practices to improve access to religious items for inmates. Nothing could be farther from the truth! In order to see what is really going on, one must step back and take a look at the history of the CDCR’s accommodation of minority faiths over the years, and the strategy that they have consistently used to thwart Pagan religious practices and minority faith practices in general.

In roughly 1979, over thirty years ago, Pagan inmates in the California Department of Corrections began asking to be treated equally and to have equal religious accommodation in California prisons as required by law. You see, while people who are incarcerated in the United States loose many of their constitutional rights when they go into prison, the law is very clear regarding their religious rights. All incarcerated persons no matter what their faiths, retain their religious rights in prison! That is … they retain the right to both practice their religion without coercion or discrimination from prison custody staff, prison administrators, prison chaplains, and the California government in general. Included in these constitutional protections, is the right for religious practices of all faiths to be treated and accommodated equally. Then on top of that, the federal court long ago added an additional twist to religious accommodation in prisons. The courts ruled that while in all other instances the government is constitutionally required to stay out of the business of religion, in prisons, they have a special duty to actually help facilitate religious practices for inmates, because inmates are institutionalized wards of the state and as such do not have free access to be able to facilitate their own practices or to obtain their own religious items or access to clergy. This gives the CDCR a special mandate to actually advocate for inmate’s religious needs.

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)

Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

Instead of doing so when Pagans came forward and asked the CDCR for equal accommodations in California prisons, the CDCR took the official position that Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidry, Heathenism, and related beliefs, were evil and “against God and the Bible” and would not only not be accommodated in California prisons, but would be actively quashed. All Pagan books were officially labeled as pornographic or as security threats and our religious items were openly referred to as instruments of satanic practice or devil worship.

Around this time, a Wiccan inmate named William Rouser challenged the state’s position and took them to court in the Ninth Circuit federal court case Rouser vs White. Rouser asked the court to order the CDCR to comply with the Constitution and to make them provide him with at least basic services including a Wiccan Chaplain, scheduled Wiccan religious services, and access to his religious items. The CDCR fought Rouser tenaciously for years using the full power of the State to both intimidate and discourage him. They put him in solitary confinement and took many other actions to try to stop the practice of Paganism in California prisons. After around twelve years of litigation with the state denying Pagan religious services at every turn, the Martin Luther King Civil Rights Clinic at the University of California at Davis took Rouser’s case. When it became obvious that Rouser was going to win, the CDCR utilized a tactic that they have now become famous for … they offered to settle the case.

In the settlement, the CDCR agreed to allow Rouser several very basic religious artifacts, and to provide him with both access to a Wiccan Chaplain and at a minimum, access to participate in the eight Wiccan Sabbats. The court added to the settlement agreement that other inmates could also attend the Wiccan services, and that the services must be posted as a part of the regular chapel schedule.

I was recommended to serve as Rouser’s chaplain, and thus began my career in Pagan chaplaincy and as an advocate for Pagan prisoner’s rights.

Immediately and from the very beginning after the settlement, the CDCR proceeded to break every aspect of the settlement agreement. On one occasion where I reminded administrators from the California Department of Corrections that they were under a court order to provide these services, they responded, “You don’t see any federal judges here now, do you!” It was then that I first learned that the CDCR uses the tactic of settling minority religion cases in order to get them out of the direct overview of the courts, and then proceeds to violate the settlements knowing that it takes years for the inmate to get back into court. In Rouser’s case after he won the settlement, it took 15 years for him to actually get back into court to get the judge to make the CDCR comply, and they are already violating that second order! Rouser’s is not the only Pagan prisoner’s religion case with a similar story, there are many!

During the years that Rouser battled, many other inmates also litigated their rights with exactly the same results. During that time, in addition to helping CDCR administrators develop policies more in line with Federal mandates, I also went to work to fight for equal religious accommodation for all of our Pagan traditions, both in California and in many other states. I successfully won the rights for inmates to both practice and for them to possess many religious items. Each item in California was a battle with total opposition by the CDCR. In every case, there was no legal justification for the state’s position. There was no security threat or penalogical interests involved, just arbitrary denial with lots of conversations about how allowing Pagan religious items and practices in prisons was evil or immoral. Even so, we made progress, and over time we gained a number of rights already guaranteed by our Constitution.

Throughout this long process, the CDCR also utilized another tactic to minimize minority faith rights. This tact involved two fronts. First, they formed Religious Review Committees, both at the institutional and at the state level to review and approve or disapprove religious items. This was to give them legal cover in court so that they could say that they had not arbitrarily made the decision to deny religious items, but instead, that a qualified body of diverse religious experts had made the decision. The only problem was that the CDCR wouldn’t allow any representatives from the minority faiths to participate on the committees. In other words, they stacked the committees with members of the very faiths who had been fighting the advance of Pagan practice in prison to begin with. They had Rabbis and Protestant ministers, and Catholic Priests deciding what was appropriate and allowable for Pagans to have access to. The other and considerably more ominous tactic the CDCR used was to search for Pagans who would be willing to support the CDCR’s position, in exchange for money, recognition, or position. This has happened several times over the years, and when stepping back, was quite obvious to any informed onlooker. The CDCR has always had access to members of our community who are well known to be experts on Pagan practices to consult, but instead, the CDCR always searches out individuals who they can manipulate instead. They have also drafted so called experts on Paganism who are Christian ministers, to both testify against us and to determine what appropriate practices are for our community.

The CDCR has not stepped up in good conscience as Mr. Nichter has indicated; instead, they have actively and intentionally blocked all minority faith advances as much as possible for many years. They have neither conducted themselves with integrity or moral fortitude in the past, and they have done little to give us reason to believe that they can be trusted now!

In recent public documents and court testimony it has come to light that the CDCR has actively destroyed thousands of court ordered documents relating to discrimination toward Pagans, used coercion, committed perjury, and spent millions of taxpayer dollars fighting a religious war to quash Pagan faith practices.

In examining the Religious Property Matrix and its development, it is clear that no credible experts on Pagan practices were consulted, and the end result is the removal of many already established and approved religious items from Pagan inmates. Under the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act, inmates are allowed any religious items that are not a safety and security risk to the institution. Since most of the items being taken away in the new Religious Matrix have been allowed for years without any safety or security issues, there is no credible argument that they have now all of the sudden become a problem. The Matrix also changed the term “Religious Artifacts” to “Religious Items”, a seemingly small and inconsequential distinction. But again, being educated as to the facts reveals that the devil is in the details. Religious Artifacts are protected items under law, requiring that staff handle them with respect and that a specific procedure must be followed to insure their safety. For example, they can only be inspected in the presence of the inmate, and a supervisor must be informed and sign off before they can be removed or destroyed. Religious Items on the other hand, can be summarily handled, removed or destroyed at any time by any staff member without consequence and with no recourse on the part of the inmate. This is a huge change in policy and definitely not designed to forward religious tolerance or accommodation.

druids

Druids and Druid chaplains in prison.

There is a long history of California correctional staff disrespecting Pagan religious items. For years they have regularly destroyed them without reason, made jokes about them, or called them devil worship. The designation of Religious Artifact was instigated to protect against such actions. Now it is being taken away. No small act!

We as a community must take great care in publically supporting CDCR policy that takes away our rights as it makes it appear as though there is a justification for their actions. Also, if we do choose to speak up on behalf of our community, we must first have in hand documents authorizing us to do so. When I fought for the items that already have been approved in the CDCR, I received official letters of authorization and support from many Pagan traditions, leaders, and individual solitary practitioners nationwide. As a result, I have been able to speak on their behalf.

I closing I’d like to say that I respect Mr. Nichter’s work to help serve our prison community and I fully support his efforts to continue in that direction. I was his mentor in that regard. His efforts at Pantheacon this February to establish the new National Pagan Chaplains Association is commendable, and as soon as we get some members and time under our belt I believe we can become a credible organization. I also believe that Mr. Nichter’s family ties to the CDCR administration may help open doorways in the future that may have been more difficult in the past. We need more people like Joseph to step forward and learn the ropes in the prisons and we need more people to educate themselves more widely both about inmate’s religious rights and also the history of religion in corrections so we can make good decisions as a community going forward.

While it’s true that the Religious Property Matrix provides inmates with a list of items that they are supposed to be allowed access to, they already had legal access to those items before the Matrix came out and so it hasn’t changed anything in that regard. But in publishing the Matrix, the CDCR has cleverly taken away access to many other items that were also already approved, and that is the change that the Matrix is truly designed to make!

Last year, Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who oversees Canada’s penitentiaries, eliminated all paid part-time chaplain services, effectively making government prison chaplaincy a Christian-only affair. This came after he retracted a paid part-time position for a Wiccan prison chaplain. The result, as you may have guessed, was litigation.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

“The suit was triggered by Ottawa’s announcement last October that it was canceling the contracts of all part-time prison chaplains to save an estimated $1.3 million. The non-Christian chaplains ministered to Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, and Buddhist inmates, and those who follow aboriginal spirituality. The legal action, brought against Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, charges that Christian prisoners continue to have access to Christian religious services, Bible study sessions and other faith-based activities.”

Then, one week ago, the federal government announced that it was restoring some of the minority-faith part-time chaplaincy positions, while stressing that this wasn’t a change in course regarding policy.

“CBC News has learned at least four of the part-time chaplains are being offered a chance to return to work. All four provided service to non-Christian inmates.  Buddhist chaplain Charmaine Mak says she’s eager to resume working with prisoners. ”They’ve been cut off from spiritual development and education, so I think that’s a really good step for them,” Mak said.”

Patrick McCollum, an advocate for Pagan prisoners in the United States who famously testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights regarding prisoners’ religious rights, has now revealed to The Wild Hunt that he was going to be involved in the litigation against the Canadian government and implies that it was this pending litigation that created movement on this issue.

Patrick McCollum

Patrick McCollum

“The Prisoners’ Legal Services just confirmed that the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has agreed to reinstate chaplaincy services to minority faith prisoners!

‘We are very pleased that, once faced with court action, the government has acquiesced and has voluntarily reinstated services by tendering contracts to all five minority faith chaplains in British Columbia. As this is precisely the remedy we were seeking by way of injunction, we have consented to withdraw our application for injunction as it is no longer necessary.’

The letter goes on to say that this restoration of contracts is an interim service model meant to ensure that the immediate spiritual needs of the prisoners are met while CSC develops a new service delivery model for federal prisons in BC and across Canada. Prisoners’ Legal Services will monitor and evaluate this new model as it develops and is implemented to ensure it meets appropriate and professional standards.”

In addition, I was privately shown the letter from Prisoners’ Legal Services, confirming what Patrick attests (you can read the entirety of Patrick’s letter to me here). So at least one lawsuit has been avoided, but this is, as a government spokesperson termed it, an “interim measure,” so what of the future? It appears that the government is looking for a private company to shift all chaplaincy services to.

“Going forward, CSC will consolidate this contractual process under one national contractor,” Sara Parkes wrote in an e-mailed response to questions. “In conjunction with CSC, the national contractor will ensure the provision of chaplains who are qualified, official representatives of their faith traditions and capable of ministry in the correctional environment.”

So far, most commenters seems to be staying on the fence regarding this move, with some expressing some cautious optimism. I suspect that the company the federal government contracts with will have a lot of bearing on how advocates of minority faiths in Canada react. Until then, it seems like a resolution of sorts has been reached, albeit not one that will fully address the problem of serving the spiritual needs of all prisoners. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted on further developments in this story.

Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case of Hartmann v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation which clears the way for a direct challenge to California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents. Judges stressed that while the prison did not intentionally limit the religious rights of Shawna Hartmann, Caren Hill, and other Wiccan inmates, the neutrality of California’s chaplaincy policy could be challenged. 

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)

Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

“Although the state is not required to “provide inmates with the chaplain of their choice,” it must use neutral standards when deciding how to spend money on prisoners’ religious needs, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. California prisons have long employed chaplains for Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Jews. After American Indian inmates sued the state in 1985, the prison system began providing spiritual advisers for them [...] the court said the women may be able to prove that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is violating the constitutional ban on a governmental “establishment of religion,” which prohibits a state from endorsing one faith over another. That ban requires the prisons to use “neutral criteria in evaluating whether a growing membership in minority religions warrants a reallocation of resources,” the court said in a 3-0 ruling.”

This ruling is part of a larger effort by Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum to nurture cases that would challenge the policy after the 9th Circuit Court upheld a lower court decision stating he doesn’t have standing. McCollum told The Wild Hunt back in November of 2012 that “if the court rules that those inmates who are on that case do have a right to a chaplain then I can walk right back into the court and forget the ruling made by the 9th Circuit or anybody else.” Now, with the way cleared for a direct challenge to California’s policy, McCollum has released the following statement.

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

Patrick McCollum with California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and aide (08/25/12)

Today I bring good news after a long fight. And while the fight is not over, the victory I have the privilege of sharing is significant and particularly meaningful to me.

This morning, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that if the allegations presented in the Complaint filed in the case Hartman v California Department of Corrections are true (which they are) that the California Department of Corrections violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by not having hired a paid Wiccan Chaplain at the California Correctional Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California.

As many of you know, I have led the fight in this quest for nearly twenty years to establish equality for Pagan prisoners nationwide and an equal right to our own paid chaplains under the law. There have been many difficult and challenging twists and turns in this battle to expose the truth in this matter, and many personal hits on the part of myself and my family to sustain it. And while I say little about the sacrifices made to bring justice, just the commitment and the loss of irretrievable years of one’s life in litigation taking on the system is in itself wearing.

It has not been easy!

I have always known that the only way to change discrimination and misinformation against our community, is to take it on openly and to refuse to accept anything other than success.

 As with all court battles, there are still many issues to work out and lots of hard work still ahead, but the tide has turned, and it has turned in our favor, thank the Goddess!

 I’d like to thank our attorneys, Jones Day of San Francisco, who believe in this cause and have never given up, and I’d also like to thank Dr. Barbara McGraw who has argued our cause diligently from the very beginning. Without their combined help, none of this would have ever happened.

I’d like to also thank the inmates, Hartman & Hill, and all of the other incarcerated Wiccan sisters and brothers who have continued to have the courage to stand up against a flawed system in which they too have sustained continuous adversity and hardship for merely standing up for their faith. Today’s ruling is a testament to their commitment, and and to the sincerity of their beliefs.

Let us all remember, that united we can transform ignorance and hatred in the world into understanding and beauty, and that it only takes one voice to start a chorus. Let us each rise up and be that voice!

In addition, the Patrick McCollum Foundation, an organization formed to support Patrick McCollum’s work as an activist and interfaith ambassador, released the following statement yesterday at the publication of the ruling.

This morning, the 9th circuit published its opinion on a prison religion case involving Wiccan inmates: Hartmann and Hill v. the CDCR, et al.. Procedurally, the case is only at the complaint stage, but the court’s ruling is very significant because the court ruled that the facts alleged in the case are sufficient to state a First Amendment Establishment Clause claim under the U.S. and California constitutions on behalf of Wiccan inmates.

The complaint alleged that the five faiths policy, which permits the hiring of chaplains in only five faiths (Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, and Native American), “favor[s] some religions over others on a preferential basis” and that the CDCR defendants do not apply any “neutral, equitable, and unbiased criteria” to determine chaplain hiring needs or other religious accommodations for inmates of various faiths. The court concluded that if, during the course of the case, the Establishment Clause allegations are proven to be factually correct, the CDCR would be in violation of the Establishment Clause for its five faiths policy chaplain hiring policy. (The court affirmed the dismissal of the other claims largely on procedural grounds: First Amendment Free Exercise, Equal Protection, and RLUIPA.)

David Kiernan of the Jones Day law firm, which handled Patrick McCollum’s case, argued the case before the 9th circuit pro bono. Barbara A. McGraw also served as a pro bono attorney on the case.

This is a major victory for those wanting to change California’s chaplaincy policy, and create better access and resources for inmates. The struggles of religious minorities in American prisons, particularly Pagans, has been well-documented here at The Wild Hunt. Noted Pagan leaders like Starhawk have personally experienced the poor treatment and lack of respect our religions often receive from prison officials. Recent studies have shown that minority faiths can make up significant percentages of a prison population, and according to the women in this lawsuit, Wiccans outnumber Jews and Muslims at their facility, two faiths that are accorded funds for paid chaplains.

This ruling, in the end, isn’t about paying a Wiccan chaplain, or a Pagan chaplain, it’s about access. Volunteer chaplains, especially those outside the dominant Christian paradigm within our prison system, often face a number of hurdles. Ease of access is often decided arbitrarily, and with little knowledge of the faiths being serviced. While some Pagan chaplains are able to make headway, those are isolated instances, and on the whole there is “endemic” discrimination against Pagan prisoners. The Wild Hunt will be keeping track of this case, and will keep you posted as new developments occur.

 

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!

Pagan Spirit Gathering Announces Location for 2013: Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), a Midwest Pagan festival that’s been running for more than 30 years, and broke attendance records last year, has announced that their festival will be held on the same lands in Illinois as the previous year, albeit under new ownership.

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

“We are absolutely thrilled to be holding PSG at Stonehouse Farm,” said Sharon, PSG Manager.  “This will be our third PSG at this location, and we are excited to work with the new owners of the property to make this event a success and to grow PSG.” [...]  “Our goal for PSG has always been to create a community where like-minded people can meet one another, learn, and develop tools and ideas that they can take home with them to deepen their spirituality in the year to come,” said Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary’s founder and Executive Director.  “This year our theme is ‘Connections’ and we hope to incorporate many ways for participants to connect with Community, connect with the Land and connect with the Divine!”

Stonehouse Farm was previously Stone House Park, whose owners had come under fire from locals over noise and complaints about illegal activity. This was the second PSG site to suffer from such complaints, though they never originated from Pagan Spirit Gathering. PNC Minnesota has the full story about the sale at their site.  With the site secured for another year, registration is now open!

Cherry Hill Seminary Joins Youtube:  Wendy Griffin, Ph.D., Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary, has alerted me to the official launch of their Youtube account for the Pagan seminary. It will, in the words of Dr. Griffin, be used “to show people the caliber of teaching our students receive.” The first video in this new series is a talk by Sabina Magliocco, Ph.D. (who has gotten quite a bit of attention here lately) entitled “Folklore, Culture & Authenticity.”

2012 saw two major accomplishments for the Pagan learning institution: the awarding of its first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling, and graduate, Sandra Lee Harris having her credentials examined and accepted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc., the credentials-examining body for the Association of Professional Chaplains. No doubt 2013 hold even more in store for them as they journey towards accreditation and partner with The University of South Carolina for the “Sacred Lands and and Spiritual Landscapes” symposium.

The Pagan Voice Holds Fundraiser: Pagan Living TV, a non-profit media organization that seeks to create a world “where Pagan spirituality and philosophy is an influential voice in mainstream culture,” has launched a new IndieGoGo campaign for their weekly video news program “The Pagan Voice.” Dr. Todd Berntson, Executive Director of The Pagan Voice, said in a press release that the money raised will be used “to fund the purchase of equipment and build-out of our new studio space.”

“Up to this point, we have relied on borrowed equipment that is not well-suited for television production, such as digital cameras, cheap floodlights, and a mix of whatever microphones we have available to us at the time. This has made the production process very challenging and stressful. In order for The Pagan Voice to continue to grow, it is necessary to have the proper equipment.”

They are trying to raise $33,500 in 40 days, an ambitious sum for a newly launched organization and media outlet. Still, you never know, they have certainly raised the bar in production values for Pagan-oriented video programs, so perhaps The Pagan Voice will find the supporters it needs now. Check out the perks, and how they plan to spend the money raised, here.

In Other Community News: 

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

In his book “Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America” Pagan scholar Chas Clifton notes that the environmental awakening of 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, “was a year when Wicca (in the broad sense) became “nature religion,” as opposed to the “mystery religion” or “metaphorical fertility religion” labels that it had brought from England.” Since then, modern Pagans of many stripes, particularly Wiccans and Druids, have placed a special emphasis on being religions that care for, and have concern about, our natural environment. A who’s who of Pagans, both high-profile and not, have told the press, and the world, that we give special concern to problems facing our natural world, and further, that our faiths represent a positive shift away from abuse and towards sustainability.

“I think only spiritualities of sacred immanence are capable of doing earth justice, and I think that we, as Pagans, have a responsibility to act and speak in defense of this planet that has blessed us into existence.  If anyone can it is we who can argue for and sometimes introduce others to a direct experience of the sacrality of the earth. [...]  Far from being anti-human, we need only enlarge that part of us which may be most unique, our hearts, to embrace what [Aldo Leopold] terms a “land ethic.” Such an ethic: ‘simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.’” - Gus diZerega, Patheos.com

As Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum continues his historic visit to the Kumbh Mela in India, one of his primary messages to our Hindu cousins has been ecological awareness and restoration. From mucking trash in the Ganges river, to leading and blessing a march of Indian school children who are pledging to preserve the planet.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

Patrick McCollum leads a march in India for preserving the Ganges and the planet.

“Today I led a march of 5,000 school children along the banks of the Ganges to both clean up the sacred river, but also to call for world peace and the preservation of our environment generally. All of these things have been quite spontaneous, and our single act of mucking trash in front of all of the pilgrims has gone viral across the world.  There were TV stations from many countries and newspaper reporters everywhere.  The Governor and Minister and many other officials have joined with us, and banners and such are literally being created in the moment.  One TV station said this is the most significant event toward saving our planet in modern history. Swamiji got this idea to have the kids take a pledge to clean and preserve the planet, and it turned into a huge gathering.  I sat up in front with 5,000 children behind me and we all took the pledge together.”

Bron Taylor, author of “Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future”, believes that religions which embrace an ethos of environmentalism, or ecological sustainability, will thrive as our world’s climate troubles worsen.

“The forms I document in Dark Green Religion are much more likely to survive than longstanding religions, which involved beliefs in invisible, non-material beings. This is because most contemporary nature spiritualities are sensory (based on what we perceive with our senses, sometimes enhanced by clever gadgets), and thus sensible. They also tend to promote ecologically adaptive behaviors, which enhances the survival prospects of their carriers, and thus their own long-term survival prospects.”

But how far are Pagans, collectively, willing to go in defense of an Earth they call sacred? In a guest review of John Michael Greer’s new book “The Blood of the Earth” (Scarlet Imprint, 2012) from last year, UK Pagan Paracelsian wonders how deep our commitment to being “nature religions” actually goes.

“I’m not suggesting that individual Pagans are never involved with environmental activism, but I am convinced that this is not a priority for the vast majority of individuals who would identify as being Pagan. Greer’s work (and that of other authors who seek to engage contemporary Pagans with these issues: Emma Restall Orr, for example) should at least be encouraging members of the Pagan community to be asking some questions about what it means, in practice, to espouse a nature-based spirituality. This discussion is long overdue, and needed now more than ever, or Paganism will be never be any more than the “virtual religion” critiqued by Andy Letcher. How many self-identified Pagans can honestly live up to Chas Clifton’s challenge to “live so that someone ignorant about Paganism would know from watching your life or visiting your home that you followed an ‘earth religion”. It seems obvious to me that thinking about these questions is imperative if Paganism is not only going to survive, but also to make a positive contribution to the way that humanity relates to Nature in the future.”

It is from this lens that I think we should view the news that the Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest environmental organization, founded by famed conservationist John Muir, has for the first time advocated civil disobedience to its membership.

Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune

Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune

“For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest. Such a protest, if rendered thoughtfully and peacefully, is in fact a profound act of patriotism. For Thoreau, the wrongs were slavery and the invasion of Mexico. For Martin Luther King, Jr., it was the brutal, institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow South. For us, it is the possibility that the United States might surrender any hope of stabilizing our planet’s climate.” 

The first test of this new call for civil disobedience will be at a Washington DC rally this February in opposition to the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, even if no arrests are made at this rally, it marks a major shift for the Sierra Club, which has preferred lobbying, deal-making, and advocacy over the more direct methods of groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. It erodes the idea that mere advocacy, or being ideologically behind better environmental policy, is sufficient in the current environment. It means that support for the Sierra Club implicitly means supporting civil disobedience for the environment.

This is a moment of challenge for those Pagans who espouse an eco-spirituality, who want to practice an Earth or nature religion. If the “safe” moderate environmental group says it’s now time for civil disobedience, do we follow suit? Do our leaders also say “enough” and call for civil disobedience? For direct action in the face of climate crisis? Such calls have usually come from “activist” Pagans like Starhawk, and her critics have often accused her of politicizing Paganism, but are we now at a different moment? Is this the moment where we move beyond recycling and buying the Sierra Club calendar, into advocating for direct action? Not just prayers and spells, but our bodies on the front lines? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but perhaps it’s time we had a renewed discussion about what, exactly, Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagan faiths that espouse the natural world as sacred and alive, should do in the face of a now impossible to ignore climate crisis. The Sierra Club has made a decision, and perhaps that should press us to collectively make one too.