Archives For Reclaiming

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!

TFST_Guilds_1-300x300The team behind getting Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing” turned into a feature film have announced that they are seeking volunteers to become a part of their new guild production system (one that takes its inspiration from the book). Quote: “Here at TFST, we’ve been very busy creating legal, financial and creative infrastructure for the development of the film. This includes concept art, original music, perfecting the screenplay, fostering connections with green businesses, pitching the film, and creating our promotional video (watch it here). We’ve designed the foundations of a green, sustainable film project from the ground up, building important alliances and this includes you. The outpouring of support was so profound we decided to create Guilds (yes, like the novel!) to activate participants. Each Guild will operate like a team, with a Leader who will oversee tasks and report to the producers for effective communication.” Those interested are pointed to a contact form on the film project’s website. In 2011, Starhawk raised over $75,000 dollars through Kickstarter to help fund a pitch-reel in order get a feature film based on her post-apocalyptic 1993 book made. You can read all of my coverage of this project, here.

b26b6501f8c7ce428e52cf912ba6aeeeThe historic Pagan periodical Green Egg, which re-launched 2007 as a digital-only publication, has announced that they have signed on with a print-on-demand magazine self-service platform so that their content can be made available in print, and at stores, once again. Quote: “Green Egg, the famous Pagan magazine which was first published in 1968, proudly announces that it is now back in print. The popular Pagan journal was founded by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and has featured articles by such luminaries as Jacques Vallee, Robert Anton Wilson, Starhawk, Joanna Macy and many articles by Oberon himself, as well as articles and poems by his wife, Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart [...] The new print version will also be available in i-Pad version for 2.00. The print version is available for purchase for $8.00. Both versions include a digital version.” You can find the new issue in this new venue, here. As announced previously, Green Egg continues to work behind the scenes to digitize their extensive back-catalog, which they now estimate will be done come the Summer. For a best-of retrospective of the magazine, check out “Green Egg Omelete.”

TShirt_black_Coven_Oldenwilde_lo-resThe Asheville, North Carolina-based Witch/Wiccan organization Coven Oldenwilde announced that they have signed a contract with a reality television production company. Quote: “We’ve signed an agreement with a reputable California production company that has previously filmed series for the History channel and the Discovery channel, etc., to be filmed for a TV series showing how we teach magical apprentices, and exploring what attracts Seekers to Wicca, as well as their experiences while aspiring to the Priest/esshood. No contest, sensationalism, or monetary compensation involved; rather, this is an opportunity to present the Craft well to a national and international audience, and to show viewers how folks from all walks of life can master magic. The series will likely be filmed in our Covenstead in West Asheville, NC, and if it gets the go-ahead for production, the filming could commence anywhere from 4 to 6 months or so from now. We would teach apprentice/cast-members material from Coven Oldenwilde’s upcoming online School of Witchcraft courses.” I’ve made my feelings about Paganism and reality television rather clear, so I will simply wish them the best of luck, and hope that the program is as positive as they portray.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • The 2014 Gerald B. Gardner “year and a day” calendar is now available for order. Quote: “Since 2010, this unique calendar project has shared photos, news clippings and quotes from Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Eleanor Bone, Monique Wilson and Lois Bourne, covering five decades of Craft history.” If you’re of the Wiccan persuasion, it makes a neat gift. I’ve embedded a sample image above. For each calendar sold, a donation will be made to the Doreen Valiente Foundation, and England’s Museum of Witchcraft.
  • I recently pointed to photos of Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun’s visit to California, where he interacted with several local Pagans. Now, COG Interfaith Reports features a write-up from Don Frew and Rachael Watcher about the visit. Quote: “This first ceremony was for Tata to introduce himself to the spirits of this place – my home, the Bay Area, California – and to the spirits of the people who have lived here, especially of the various native tribes.  This was to be polite and make sure that there would be no resistance to the work he would be doing.” 
  • Congratulations to Wiccan author and musician Kenny Klein on starting his own blog at the Huffington Post. Quote: “I plan to do a lot of speaking on this venue about life in New Orleans: our celebrations, our lifestyles, and the hardships we still suffer in the wake of Katrina, eight years later. But as a professional musician, I tour frequently, and speak about the things I see on the road.”
  • Pagan writer Jason Mankey is raising some money on IndieGoGo to fund his expenses for when he goes on the road this Spring. Quote: “Maybe you want to donate some cash because you enjoy Raise the Horns or like my workshops.  Perhaps you want to support one of the hardest working guys in all of the Pagan Blogosphere (that would be me).  I’ve been giving my all to greater Pagandom for the last several years and I want to be able to continue to do that without worrying about bouncing a check.” He’s raised $420 dollars of his $600 dollar goal so far. So if you appreciate his writing/speaking, send a few bucks his way.
  • The annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance was held this past Saturday in San Francisco. Reclaiming co-founder Starhawk noted after the event that it was “another beautiful Spiral Dance! Thanks, everyone, for the hard work, the creativity and the inspiration–dancers, musicians, altar builders, organizers, trance leaders, invocations, and of course, the indispensable cleanup crew!”

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. Pagan Community Notes is just one of the many regular features The Wild Hunt brings you to help keep you informed about what’s going on in our interconnected communities. If you appreciate this reporting, please consider donating to our Fall Funding Drive (and thank you to the nearly 200 supporters who have already donated). Now, on to the news…

TCE-frontcover-med copyJournalist Beth Winegarner, who moderated a panel on Pagans and the press at the 2013 PantheaCon in San Jose, has a new book coming out in December that explores how different teen pastimes got “caught in the crossfire” after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Quote: “‘There are stories in The Columbine Effect from teens who got themselves through horrific incidentsincluding severe burns or parent who might dieby listening to heavy metal. Other teens told me about discovering themselves and finding a network of friends through Wicca or Satanism. And there’s research to back them up,’ Winegarner says.’The Columbine Effect’ highlights the voices of academics, authors, legislators and others whose work supports the idea that some of the most demonized pastimes are actually good for kids. From Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to pagan author and NPR reporter Margot Adler, the book is filled with experts who see no harm in letting teens explore these interests.” It should be a thought-provoking work, and I’ll be lining up an interview with Winegarner in the near future to talk about Paganism within the context of her book’s thesis. For now, you can see a promotional video and read a sample chapter of “The Columbine Effect” at Winegarner’s official web site.

spiralheartSpiralheart, a community within the Reclaiming tradition, is launching Alchemeet, a once-a-month “Pagan meeting-of-minds that takes place online and is available to anyone who would like to join.” Quote: “The views presented in Alchemeet are designed to spark creative discussion in a safe environment and may be controversial by nature. These views do not represent the Spiralheart community as a whole and indeed may not even be the opinion of the host. Instead, the topics are meant to be edgy mental exercises in spirituality and to foster online community each month. Our hope is that you may feel infused or inspired to take these discussions and allow them to influence your daily practice—or not. It’s up to you.” The first talk will be held on November 5th, hosted by Boneweaver, on “The Necessity of Cutting Off One’s Legs In Spiritual Work.” Quote:  ”I’ll explain my symbolic missing legs and what I’m willing to sacrifice for my deep work—and why!—and then I’d like to hear from you. Are you willing to be brave for the spiritual realizations you seek?” Details on how to join the Google Hangout-based discussion/symposium can be found, here.

10279415704_0dda6c8066_mGuatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun, who got quite a bit of press a couple years ago debunking the 2012 Mayan calendar “doomsday” hype, recently visited Oakland, California where he led a Mayan Fire Ritual for a gathering of the People of the Earth Community. M. Macha Nightmare published her impressions of the event back in September. Quote: “What appealed to me was the obvious care and reverence with which everything was brought together and performed, the sense of fellowship I felt, the beauty of the surroundings, both natural and human-made, the quiet filled with actions but not with talking, and the flames.  I’m grateful to have had this opportunity.” Now, photographer Gregory Harder has posted his photoset from that event to Flickr. For those clued into the California Bay Area Pagan scene, you’ll see several notable folks, including Luisah Teish, Don Frew, Gus diZerega, and more. Below I’ve included one of the photos, from the ritual in progress.

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

Guatemalan Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun

In Other Pagan Community News:

That’s all I have for now, please remember to support The Wild Hunt during our Fall Funding Drive so that we can continue to bring you reporting from our interconnected communities!

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.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

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

[The following is a guest post from Abel R. Gomez.  Abel R. Gomez is a student, community organizer, writer, and ritualist dedicated to collective empowerment and ecstatic ritual. An initiated Shakta Tantrika through the SHARANYA Devi Mandir, he is also a priest and witch in the Reclaiming Tradition.]

Reclaiming the Myriad Forms of Divinity: Revisions to The Principles of Unity

Reclaiming is an American grown tradition of Witchcraft with roots in Feri Tradition, ecofeminism, anarchist politics, and the psychology movement. The Principles of Unity document is one of the only unifying threads that define Reclaiming communities internationally. Along with a general Reclaiming style magical practice, acceptance of the Principles of Unity is the single prerequisite to identify as a Reclaiming Witch. The document was originally written in 1997 when Reclaiming was collective. After the document was written the collective structure subsequently dissolved in favor of a working group/spokes council. In addition to discussing what made the tradition unique, the group chose to state explicitly that all genders are welcome, which differentiated Reclaiming Tradition from groups like some Dianic lineages.

As an organic, living tradition, Reclaiming strives to be flexible to the changing needs of the community. One of the structures to address those needs has been the creation and facilitation of BIRCH (Broad Inter-Reclaiming Council Hub), a meeting open to representatives of all Reclaiming communities during the Dandelion Gathering. Concerns around language in regards to non-binary gender and Deity in the Principles of Unity were addressed at the fourth Dandelion Gathering in 2010. It was decided that community leaders would discuss the issue with their home communities and return to the Dandelion Gathering in 2012 with a possible resolutions. Specifically, the group endeavored to revise the following sentence in the original Principles of Unity:

“Honoring both Goddess and God, we work with female and male images of divinity, always remembering that their essence is a mystery which goes beyond form.”

Conversations about theology are complicated, and in a community like Reclaiming where beliefs and experiences of the Sacred can vary so widely, this is especially true. I believe another complexity that is important to acknowledge is that our theology cannot be truly divorced from our commitment to social justice. Referring to the Goddess as the embodiment of the natural cycles, for example, is both a theological statement and a political statement. It is an expression of the living cosmos and a form a resistance against all the ways the feminine has been denigrated throughout history and in the world today.

The political and theological values of Reclaiming, along with a desire to include representation for those in our community who identify as transgender, genderqueer, third gender, or other non-binary gender played a major role in our discussion during the BIRCH meeting held August 2nd and 3rd at the Fifth Dandelion Gathering near Portland, Oregon. My experience has always been that Reclaiming acknowledges the divinity of all people, simply because they are alive. I believe the only real issue that we dealt with during the BIRCH meeting was finding the language to fully articulate this. As an embodied tradition and a community that honors the fierce courage needed to identify as a non-binary gender, it felt particularly important that these members of our community be also mirrored in our vision of divinity. After hours of intense conversations, including moments of passionate debate and compromise, the entire group gathered reached consensus to revise the original sentence to the statement below:

“Our diverse practices and experiences of the divine weave a tapestry of many different threads. We include those who honor Mysterious Ones, Goddesses, and Gods of myriad expressions, genders, and states of being, remembering that mystery goes beyond form.”

Our revision included the Mysterious Ones, which refers to deities and spirits that can take many forms, including gods, goddess, and deities of multiple and no gender. We added “states of being” to include divinity that can take the form of various species and forces of nature. Many believed it was also important to include the last statement, that our experience of the divine can take many shapes and patterns, but the essence of all divinity is boundless, not limited any single form. While gathered, it felt important that we revise an additional sentence in the document to reflect that we honor “all gender histories”, that is, we honor all who have transitioned gender identity and welcome them as valued members in our community. The additional revision reads:

“We welcome all genders, all gender histories, all races, all ages and sexual orientations, and all those differences of life situation, background, and ability that increase our diversity.”

Reclaiming is a community of Witches of many genders, orientations, and identities willing to rise to the challenge of further inclusion and celebration of diversity. To me, our ability to gather together and make decisions for the betterment of the larger community is an indication that we are growing as a tradition. Using consensus process to make decisions, especially when there are over a hundred people in a meeting and particularly when the issue is so sensitive, makes the fact that we are able to reach a unanimous agreement quite spectacular. I see the revised document as a new spell we are collectively weaving, one which will open the way for stronger inclusion and greater dialogue, leading us one step closer to the world we are so deeply yearning for.

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!

Judge Rules Against Maetreum of Cybele Exemptions: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, has just lost their exemption battle before the New York State Supreme Court. While Judge Platkin acknowledged the Maetreum as a valid religion, he denied their building tax exemption on the grounds that the charitable purposes of the building were incidental to  its function.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“The Court finds that petitioner has not satisfied its burden of demonstrating that the primary actual use of the property is in furtherance of the Maetreum’s religious mission. Rather, the record developed at trial establishes that the property primarily is used to provide affordable cooperative housing to a small number of co-religionists, with the religious and charitible uses of the property being merely incidental to that primary non-exempt use.”

Rev Cathryn Platine says she is devastated by the news, and doubts she has the fiscal or physical resources to continue this fight, noting that the process has “taken a huge toll on me personally regarding my health.” That said, Plataine says an appeal of this decision, and filing for a stay on foreclosure against the property are probably the next steps she will take. In a previous public statement, Rev Platine noted that the town has spent an estimated quarter of a million dollars to deny their exemptions, while the Maetreum is over ten thousand dollars in debt from the proceedings. Acting Catskill Town Supervisor Patrick Walsh stated in 2011 that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation to their $10,000+ legal bill, you can do so directly via paypal to: Or you can contact them through their website.

Reclaiming Co-Founder Withdraws From Tradition: M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien), a co-founder of the Reclaiming tradition, and co-author of “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying” with Starhawk, has announced on her blog that she is parting ways from the tradition she helped found, saying she “no longer feel[s] that its principles and practices accord” with her own.

M. Macha NightMare on the cover of the upcoming issue of Witches & Pagans.

M. Macha NightMare on the cover of the upcoming issue of Witches & Pagans (out in September).

“I have long felt alienated, estranged, and out of sync with how I’ve seen the tradition devolving. The incompatibilities between Reclaiming and me also trace to loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences; lack of coherent theology; lack of intellectual rigor; and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.” 

NightMare/O’Brien, who also serves on the board of Cherry Hill Seminary, is not the only prominent Reclaiming Witch to express discomfort with the tradition as it exists today, Anne Hill, who co-wrote “Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions,” declared herself “Remaining” in 2007 and that she is “staying connected on my own terms, choosing my battles, and letting the rest go.” What this development means for Reclaiming, and its development, is uncertain. What is certain is that an elder and co-founder publicly severing ties with a tradition they helped found is a call to reflection on how this state of affairs came to be.

New Alexandrian Library Raises Funds to Finish Construction: At the end of 2011 the New Alexandrian Library, a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, officially broke ground on their physical space in Delaware.  Last month the foundations for that library were poured for the dome structure that will be erected. Now, an IndieGoGo fundraiser has been launched to pay for the next stage of construction.

“The NAL will serve to support and advance serious academic study for new, non-mainstream, esoteric, ‘living’ religions that are most likely to be the guiding forces in guiding the Earth and Humans back to health and evolution of Spirit in the coming century. Like the original Great Library of Alexandria, the schools of Qabala in medieval Spain, and the flourishing of magick that occurred in renaissance Italy, the diverse confluence of minds and resources would result in great leaps forward in theory and practice. The NAL will be one of the cornerstones (of many created by various groups across the globe we hope!) of a new magickal renaissance. The benefits of this growing network for future generations will be incalculable.”

The goal is $12,500 by September 11th. So far NAL has raised $1345 towards that goal. The NAL project has already started building an impressive collection, one that includes the recent acquisition of rare Dion Fortune paintings gifted by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. As NAL board member Ivo Dominguez Jr says in the video above, this is a project initiated by us, for us, one that deserves our support so that it can become a reality. For more information check out their Facebook page, or go to their official website. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the New Alexandrian Library project, here.

Spiral Scouts Honor Eagle Scout Protest: Due to an ongoing policy of the Boy Scouts of America “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals,” one recently affirmed by its leadership, a growing number of Eagle Scouts, the organization’s elite members (including Circle Sanctuary Minister  Bob Paxton), have been resigning their membership and sending back their badges and medals. Now, alternative scouting organization SpiralScouts International has announced that they are offering any Eagle Scout who returned their badges in protest their highest honors.

“SpiralScouts International respects the leadership, and responsibility demonstrated by these brave men, who have returned their Eagle Scout badges over this disagreement. We offer each of you the honorary status of ‘PathFinder’, and the Award of ‘Founder’ (our Eagle Scout Equivalent) within SpiralScouts. This is our highest rank, and as you have set forth to hold to the ideals of understanding, equality, and leadership, that we strive for within SSI, it would be our honor to extend this to you. Our program, which began in 1999, was developed to be as inclusive as possible in all areas: it features coed groups and leaders and is nondiscriminatory in all regards (sexual orientation, religion, gender). The program is available to all children, and we are happy to be able to offer this option for scouts.”

SpiralScouts International, which is a project of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, says that “although it cannot repair the hurt that has been caused, we hope this gesture lends support to those who are struggling, and helps us take a step forward into a future that embraces all of us as the sacred beings that each of us are.” Contact information for the SpiralScouts can be found, here.

That’s all I have for now! As always, if you have community news you’d like to share, please drop me a line.

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.

David Chaim Smith, Blood of Space 2, 2009. Graphite/ink on digital print. 18x22” NFS.

David Chaim Smith, Blood of Space 2, 2009. Graphite/ink on digital print. 18x22” NFS.

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

The Feri Tradition of Witchcraft (aka Anderson Feri), while a relatively small grouping within modern Paganism, has had an immense impact on our movement through its initiates. Starhawk is a Feri initiate, and many of the individuals that would form the nucleus of the Reclaiming tradition were also initiates. In turn, many of those Reclaiming/Feri initiates (Aline O’Brien, Anne Hill, Deborah Oak Cooper) would go on to hold prominent positions within our interconnected communities. Bard, activist, and Feri initiate Gwydion Pendderwen had a pivotal role in developing the idea of a “Pagan music” in the United States, and his shadow still looms large over many modern Pagan musicians. Over the years Feri initiates have played a role in several achievements and milestones within modern Paganism (the founding of COG, for instance), and in many instances have cross-pollinated with other Pagan traditions, creating new paths as a result.

Today, Feri is more visible than it has ever been. Several initiates have become high-profile teachers, including T. Thorn Coyle, Storm Faerywolf, Anaar, and Valerie Walker (among others). There are hundreds of individuals who are being taught, or have attended classes, led by a Feri initiate. In addition, Feri initiates like Morpheus Ravenna co-run a Pagan sanctuary, and are featured in documentaries, while others, like Sharon Knight, create music much-beloved by today’s modern Pagans. But Feri’s increasing popularity and visibility, amplified by the Internet, have also intensified long-standing tensions within the Feri community. Recently three web sites, The Faery Tradition, Faery Roads, and Free Feri, emerged claiming that there has been a split within the tradition.

“We dissociate and emphatically disconnect ourselves from the practice of those who seek to define the name “Feri” exclusively to themselves and from the public face they have created.”The Faery Tradition

Shortly after I was made aware of these sites, and started making inquiries in order to cover this very public move for a tradition that highly values its privacy, T. Thorn Coyle wrote an essay for about the split.

“At core, I feel the sundering of the Feri Tradition is a reflection of the tension seen all over the world right now, which is the tension felt in ages of transition. It has been said that we are moving from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age. Pisces wants to hold things close and in reclusion, within existing structures, striving for a beautiful purity. Aquarius wants to open up the windows of the Witch’s hut—or sometimes bust down the walls – and let in some fresh air, while figuring out how to build something new. While I have great sympathy for the Pisceans, and think that likely there will always be those needed to hold that polarity, my work is firmly on the side of the non-conforming Aquarians, even when we vehemently disagree. The world needs us. The world is in trouble. We must bring the souls of body, culture, and spirit back together, or we shall surely perish, whether alone or together. To do this requires stepping out of the nurturing cave, and into the light.”

This sparked quite a bit of comment, and a lengthy response from Henry Buchy, a Feri initiate, teacher and member of The Covenant of Rhiannon.

“Concerning the ‘Blames’, this sundering has been ongoing for decades before I received initiation into the tradition. I would add ‘not listening to the counsel of peers’, as one of these ‘Blames’. Concerns about this issue and all of the ramifications and possibilities have been continuously put forth over the years, and went unheeded. Those who have decided for themselves to teach Feri publicly, to teach it enmasse, to make Feri practices available to the public indiscriminately decided on their own to withdraw from discussions. Some few claimed autonomy. Some few claimed they as initiates had the right to do whatever they saw fit to do in regards to teaching, to materials held in common, and that any criticisms to the contrary were simply attempts for power over or control.

And yes, there were heated exchanges and impassioned discussions and things were said on both sides that were regrettable, but there were also attempts to reconcile which were refused out of hand, that were taken into the public arena well before this, and mischaracterized to support claims that initiates on the whole were dysfunctional and irrational in their disagreement and sought only power over and elitism.”

After that, the matter of this split spread all over the Internet. Thorn offered further explorations of the issue at her blog, several outsiders weighed in on the matter from different angles, while Feri initiates like Happydog1960 and Eldri Littlewolf offered their own personal takes.

“We are still working out our ‘standards’ here. To Stop kinstrife this Had to happen–It Did Happen. That part is done. Nobody is ‘better’,'more Feri’, or ‘less Feri’. We are Different, and that is Good. When tribes get too big, they often divide—bands go different Directions- (hunt different game)–sometimes they meet up and camp together, later, then go separate ways once more. This is not war–only clan division”

As a Pagan journalist I believe that what happens within our communities is important. When this split started spilling out into the public eye, I knew that it would be irresponsible for me to simply ignore it. Feri has become too influential, too seminal in our history, too “big” to escape our notice when something like this is revealed to non-initiates. However, I was also somewhat vexed on how to frame this schism for the readers of The Wild Hunt. There are different narratives and nuances as to why this happened, and I hesitate from making a rush to judgement as to what “the” reason was. So in addition to the links from various opinions and essays above, I have uploaded statements from several Feri/Faery initiates that I personally contacted, or who contacted me, regarding this schism. Some follow a simple three-question format, and some do not, but I hope all of them will provide deeper context into the issues and history involved.

Splits and schisms are nothing new in the history of Paganism, ancient or modern, or indeed in the history of religion as a whole. What separates us from some religions and traditions is that we are generally able to carry on and coexist with each other after these splits, sunderings, and schisms happen. We can still attend the same conferences, attend public rituals together, break bread, preserve friendships, and eventually, find the wisdom and humor in experiences that were once so wrenching, and possibly even find a way to unite once more. Feri, or Faery, may be split, but it will carry on. This notion is touched on in a thoughtful essay from Morpheus Ravenna.

I wish to say that what the initiates of the Feri tradition are experiencing is not just another witch war. It is not a petty personality conflict – it is the fruit of long-standing, deep-seated and substantive differences in philosophy and practice. Some kind of change or divergence of paths was probably inevitable for a tradition growing as fast as ours. In the minutia of the process, of course personal conflicts have arisen, but that is not what’s really driving this, and I feel like it would be demeaning and harmful to our process to frame this as a Big Personality Conflict between two opposed sides. “The Sundering”, as it’s being called, is not nearly as severe as that title implies. The reality is, people are still in communication across all sides of the philosophical debate, and the community as a whole is far from divisible into two camps.

Schisms happen to Pagans, and we should take them seriously when they do, because they can ripple through and affect our own spiritual lives, but we should take heart that these splits are not impediments to our growth, or insurmountable obstacles that trigger the scorched earth campaigns of some faiths. I wish the Feri, and the Faery, well in the future, and hope that these developments bring growth, positive change, and new beginnings for those who need them.

Top Story: We are still in the midst of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, but that event seems to be increasingly haunted by the upcoming/overlapping UN summit on climate change in Copenhagen. This reality was noted by Reclaiming Witch and community organizer Zay Speer at the Pagans at the Parliament blog.

“The Parliament may be taking place on the other side of the world from Copenhagen, but Copenhagen is not very far from peoples’ minds. There are at least eight talks here with “climate change” in the title, more in the descriptions, and it is appearing as a persistent subtheme throughout the conference, from all traditions. Despite not having a voice on any of the Ecology panels, we Pagans are working it in too. The Community Night Pagan ritual hosted by Melbourne Reclaiming ended with an activist-style raising of energy for the healing of Mother Earth, ‘all the way through to Copenhagen!’”

Can religious groups influence the debate over a new global climate pact? U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon seems to think so, saying that religious leaders “can have the largest, widest and deepest reach”, and hundreds of religious folks are coming, some directly from the Parliament, to make their voice heard.

“[Sister Joan Brown] will be among numerous preachers, rabbis, ministers and other faith-based figures who are bringing a spiritual presence — and, often, a strong point of view on the political issues — to Copenhagen. At a time when political leaders are struggling to pass environmental legislation in the USA and elsewhere … as many as 100 religiously affiliated representatives from the USA plan to attend the summit, estimates Tyler Edgar, assistant director for the environmental arm of the NCC. Worldwide, she says that number will likely run ‘in the hundreds.’”

What will these mainstream religious voices for a tougher climate change pact at this “Woodstock of the environmental movement” say? According to reports from the Parliament, they may sound amazing like Pagans, even if the Pagans weren’t invited to most of the panels on climate change and the environment (with one exception). Don’t believe me? Check out the blog of a Franciscan Nun heading to Copenhagen for a beautiful evocation of sacred Earth. We may not be there, but the nature-reverent ethic many of us hold does indeed seem to be traveling “all the way through to Copenhagen”.

In Other News: We turn once again to the international epidemic of witch-hunting. Some think I’m trying to equate Western Paganism with innocent folks accused of sorcery and witchcraft in Africa and the Middle East, but my reporting isn’t about questions of identity, but about a simmering religious and cultural phenomenon that won’t be contained much longer in the mostly-ignored developing nations. This isn’t merely about controversial blessings, or even American-funded witch-hunting churches, but of this madness spreading right to our doorstep.

“An evangelist church leader who tortured his 10-year-old daughter and kept her prisoner for four days with no food because he was convinced she was a witch was jailed for eight-and-a-half years today. The twisted 39-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, dripped boiling hot plastic over his terrified daughter’s feet and beat her senseless after she became ‘possessed by evil spirits’. The girl was held prisoner and force-fed olive oil and milk for four days after the man became convinced she had powers to make people fall asleep, Coventry Crown Court heard.”

Even when it does happens “here”, some may be tempted to write this off as an “immigrant” problem, but that ignores how easily we “rational” and “civilized” folks in affluent first-world nations drift into the same madness when certain triggers are pushed. We need to address this problem, not because the accused “witches” are Pagan, but because hysteria is an easily exportable commodity, and some very prominent people here at home seem to be very tempted to see if it can make them a prophet profit.

Turning to my ongoing coverage of the Pagan presence at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia, I present an audio interview with Reclaiming Witch and community organizer Zay Speer. Speer works with the Onondaga Nation, part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, on environmental and interfaith issues. We talk about how she came to be a part of the Onondaga delegation, what the Onondaga hope to accomplish at the Melbourne Parliament, working to end the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and her own experiences as a Pagan at the Parliament.

If you are a Pagan podcaster, or host a Pagan-friendly radio show, you are welcome to download this file to play on your program. Be sure to credit the Pagan Newswire Collective as the audio source. For more Parliament-related audio, check out my discussion with Ed Hubbard, a PNC correspondent, and my interview with Pagan Scholar Michael York. For more great Parliament coverage, stay tuned to the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest news. gives some more coverage to the upcoming documentary about Norway’s black-metal scene “Until the Light Takes Us”, which I’ve mentioned here before. Movie critic Andrew O’Hehir wonders if the documentary-makers went too far towards making controversial figures like Varg Vikernes seem like “misunderstood Robin Hoods” instead of  “Satanic church-burning maniacs”.

“Do Aites and Ewell owe the viewership a clearer explication of Vikernes’ ties to white nationalist groups, his long record of troubling racial, sexual and religious rhetoric and his public flirtation with Nazi ideology? You won’t learn this in the film, for instance, but Vikernes is viewed as the philosophical father of the musical-political subgenre called “National Socialist black metal,” or NSBM. Or is it fairer to this disturbing and complicated figure to present him on his own terms, without recourse to prejudicial buzzwords? (For the record, Vikernes has not called himself a Nazi since the late ’90s, preferring the invented term “Odalism,” said to signify “paganism, traditional nationalism, racialism and environmentalism,” along with an opposition to modern civilization in all its forms.)”

I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment, but it does seem like a calmer, even friendlier, tone may be welcome after the waves of sensationalist reporting and media on the topic. I certainly couldn’t see the film-makers gaining the trust of the local black-metal scene had they gone in looking to portray “Satanic church-burning maniacs”. Again, whatever its flaws, I still think this will be a welcome asset for those wanting to explore Pagan and Heathen spirituality in underground subcultures.

In a final note, according to Cumbrian Witch Marcus Katz, Wicca is no stranger than pigeon racing.

“We offer a very open, authentic and down-to-earth approach. We don’t consider it any stranger than people joining a pigeon-racing club, which is something I find bizarre!”

So there you go. Wicca is equal-to or less-strange than the sport of pigeon racing. Please take note.

That’s all I have for now, don’t forget to check the Pagans at the Parliament blog for the latest updates and links from Melbourne,  and have a great day!

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About a year ago, I reported on a University of Nebraska employee who was allegedly fired for being a Witch. “Jane Doe”, who is a member of Reclaiming, claimed that once her superior found out about her religious beliefs she was fired and replaced by a non-Pagan. Now, the Journal Star reports that the University has settled the case, though they still won’t admit that her claims of discrimination have any validity.

“A woman who sued the University of Nebraska saying the school fired her after learning she is a witch has agreed to settle the case for $40,000. The university made the offer “solely to compromise the claim … without admitting the validity of plaintiff’s contention or any allegations of wrongdoing by the defendants,” attorney David Buntain said in an October letter.”

The University very likely settled because the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission had already ruled that Ms Doe’s rights were violated in the run-up to the lawsuit. So rather than potentially lose a lawsuit, and gain lots of unwanted attention in the press, they settle. Better a lump sum than humble pie. A trend we may well see repeated in the Bath & Body Works and Google firings.

Thanks to Religion Clause for the tip-off on this story.

Interview with Starhawk

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 28, 2009 — 8 Comments

Few living modern Pagans have had as much influence on our interconnected movements as Starhawk. Author, outspoken activist, and co-founder of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft, she, along with several others, helped shape threads of modern Paganism that were more explicitly feminist and eco-activist in nature. She is perhaps most famous for her 1979 book “The Spiral Dance”, a work that synthesized elements of spiritual feminism, Wicca, environmentalism, and the teachings of Victor Anderson into something entirely new. This year we not only approach the 30th anniversary of that book, but of the yearly Reclaiming-sponsored Spiral Dance Samhain ritual, which has evolved from a small Bay Area community-based ritual into an international event that draws nearly 2000 people. I was lucky enough to recently conduct a short e-mail interview with Starhawk about both of these anniversaries, and her vision for the future.

This interview will be part of a larger piece about the 30th anniversary of the Spiral Dance to be published by the Pagan Newswire Collective in late October/early November.


What started out as a release party for your book “The Spiral Dance” has evolved into a massive multi-day ritual pageant, complete with original art, music, and dance, that draws people from far outside the San Francisco area. To what do you attribute this success, and what do you think the Spiral Dance represents to the hundreds who attend?

Let me just start by saying that the Spiral Dance has always been, first and foremost, a ritual. Although the first one was also a book release party, uppermost in our minds was the desire to create a powerful, public ritual on a scale that we had never tried before. And I wanted to involve friends of mine who were artists, musicians, poets—to honor the arts as sacred activities. In retrospect, we did crazy things. We had Goddess dancers in porcelain headdresses sculpted by Medea Maquis, and wearing macramé costumes all hand-made by my dear friend Kevyn Lutton. Another sculptor, Eleanor Myers, made sixteen porcelain headpieces for the chorus. They were all beautiful—and you can see them in the video that’s on our new website. But they were incredibly hot, heavy, and breakable!

But that was the spirit in which we approached the ritual—let’s go all out, over the top, and see what we can create. And I think that’s why it has become a tradition.

Now, the Spiral Dance is many things. It’s a performance, that we hope moves people both esthetically and spiritually, and that serves as a vehicle for many, many people to express their creativity in different ways: building altars, creating dances and invocations, singing in the chorus. It’s a place where we can come together to mourn our dead and reconnect with their spirits in deep meditation. And again, beyond everything else, it’s an amazing, participatory ritual where over a thousand people dance together and raise focused power for our vision of healing and renewal.

Your book is also seeing its 30th year in print. In those intervening years you’ve become one of the most visible modern Pagans, acting as a panelist for the Washington Post’s “On Faith” project, and making international news with your activism. Has your notoriety changed how you view The Spiral Dance – the book, and the event?

I don’t know if ‘notoriety’ is actually the word that fits—that, such as it is, and a quarter might get me on a bus. Actually, these days it would probably take a couple of dollars.

Thirty years ago, books had more impact than they do today. Merlin Stone’s book When God Was a Woman came out in 1976. In 1979, three important books came out: mine, Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, and the anthology edited by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow, Womanspirit Rising. Together they helped to take what was really a tiny movement of a few of us in our living rooms doing circles, and boost it up into a major movement—really several intercepting movements—the womanspirit movement, the earth-based spirituality movement, the Pagan movement.

Throughout the eighties, Harper SanFrancisco was looking for books on feminist spirituality to publish. They saw it as a niche, but a large enough one that they could do well by serving it. In the nineties, sometime perhaps around the time Harper Collins was bought by Rupert Murdoch, they shifted focus. They dropped a huge number of contracts—not mine, but many other quality books, and like publishing as a whole, moved away from serving specific communities and toward a general mass-market focus. Harper SanFrancisco now publishes mostly Christian books. And publishing overall is in turmoil, losing readers to the Internet.

So, while its easier than ever to publish—all you have to do is set up a blog and you can publish yourself—it’s harder than ever to find publishers for deeper, more thoughtful works or for them to find an audience. HarperSanFrancisco did a tenth anniversary edition and a twentieth anniversary edition of The Spiral Dance, but they didn’t want to do a thirtieth unless I significantly rewrote the book, which I decided I didn’t want to do. I think the book still stands on its own, especially with the commentary I’ve added in the later editions. Perhaps because I wrote it when I was young, fervent and in the first throes of my love affair with the Goddess, it has an energy of its own that I didn’t want to mess with. If I were going to rewrite it, I’d rather write something new, which I did a few years ago, The Earth Path.

As for the ritual—I still love it! I work on it every year in some capacity, as part of the ‘cell’ or collective that puts it on. People join the cell by taking on a coordinating role, whether that’s directing the chorus or directing the cleanup—a truly vital role! We have a visioning meeting early on, and invite a large group of people who have a connecting to the ritual. From that, we draw our theme and intention and imagery for the year.

Reclaiming works collectively, and we try to pass around roles of leadership and responsibility. So—I’ve done many things for the Spiral Dance, from writing or rewriting parts of it, to unloading the storage space and hoisting the platforms for the altars. Some years I lead the trance—other years I’ll take a smaller role in the ritual itself and let someone else take the central roles.

One change—for many years we did not allow photography at any of our rituals. We felt there was a power in the ritual happening at the moment, and that photographs were intrusive and made people feel paranoid. However, in recent years we’ve changed that policy for the Spiral Dance. The world has changed—and communication now is visual, on the web. We found we couldn’t get calendar listing without good photos. So we experimented with asking a couple of the photographers and videographers in our community to shoots some photos in a limited and respectful way. They did an amazing job—and we learned that photography, too, can be a sacred art when it is practiced in the right spirit. I’ve put together two short videos that have let over 20,000 people catch a glimpse of our ritual. They can be viewed on our website.

This year our theme is ‘the next generation’, and we’re bringing many of our teens and youth into ritual roles, together with some of our elders. I’ll be co-leading the trance with my dear friend Rose May Dance, one of our early Reclaiming members, and with a young teen, Julian Litauer-Chen, who has also sung in the chorus for many years.

Reclaiming, the Witchcraft tradition that sponsors the annual Spiral Dance, has become a vibrant international presence within the modern Pagan movement. How do you think this growth and evolution have changed the event?

Bay Area Reclaiming used to be Reclaiming—now we are just one community among many. The Spiral Dance used to be the Big Event for all of Reclaiming—now it is one ritual among many, including other rituals in the Bay Area and all the rituals people are doing in their home communities. I’m thrilled that Reclaiming has grown, and our vision has always been one of many linked, decentralized communities with their own identities and characters.

But people still love The Spiral Dance—and many people come from far away to participate. This year, our house is full with visitors from Vermont, Boston, Montreal, L.A. and San Diego. We’ve had guests from England, Australia, New Zealand—all over the world.

What are your personal feelings on this 30th anniversary?

I’m thrilled at what we’ve accomplished, excited for this year’s ritual, and a bit shocked to think that I wrote the book thirty years ago!

How have your visions for the future shifted during the first 30 years? What do you envision the 60th annual Spiral Dance will be like?

I see two roads for the future—and that’s part of the theme and imagery of this year’s and previous Spiral Dances. On one road, we continue to pump fossil fuels into the atmosphere and pump the poisons of fear, racism, hate, and war-mongering into the psychic atmosphere. By 2039, we’ll face a world of drought, famine, endemic war, potentially a loss of our civil liberties, hundreds of millions of deaths, oceans rising…

Then there’s the other road, the good road, the road of life…where we make the tremendous shifts we need to make, where we recognize the sacred in every human being and in the interconnected web of all life, where—as our litany says—“we draw our power from the wind and sun.” “May the old ones and the young be loved, and all the forms of love be blessed, and all the colors of our skin be praised, and all the cycles of life be saved.”

That’s the vision we raise power for at The Spiral Dance, that’s what we dance for and sing for, and what we work for all the other days of the year. It is my deepest hope that, thirty years from now, we are walking firmly on the good road, and that a new generation is still dancing the Spiral.

Previous Wild Hunt interviews: Gus diZerega, Jeff Sharlet, Brendan Cathbad Myers, Rita Moran, Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, Phyllis Curott, Tim Ward, Lupa, J.C. Hallman, Margot Adler.