Archives For Salem

[On a weekly basis, we bring you the news and issues that affect Pagan and Heathen communities around the world. If you value our work, please consider donating to our fall fund drive today. Bringing you important news and stories, like the one below, is what we love to do. Your support makes it possible for us to continue. Thank you very much.]

 

LC BookSeventeen years after the release of her last book, Laurie Cabot has returned to the world of publishing with a new title called Laurie Cabot’s Book of Spells and Enchantments. Produced by Copper Cauldron Publishing, her new book details the “nuts and bolts” of spell creation, including some of the recipes, rituals and secrets contained within her own family grimoire. In the book, Cabot also discusses the place of magic in life, a Witch’s apothecary, divine power and her own spell-making tips for both the beginner and lifetime practitioner.

Laurie Cabot is arguably one of the most well-known witches in contemporary American culture, outside of Pagan circles. In the 1970s, Governor Michael Dukakis honored her with the title “The Official Witch of Salem,” a name she accepted proudly.

Throughout much of her magical life, Cabot has owned and operated witchcraft stores in the historic New England town of Salem. Through those stores, she was able to do what she loved most: sharing the beauty, reality and power of Witchcraft. In 1973, Cabot opened her very first store, called The Witch Shoppe, and, as it turned out, it was one of the very first stores of its kind in the United States. At one point, she also owned the well-known Crow Haven Corner and, more recently, The Cat, Crow and Crown, which was eventually renamed The Official Witch Shoppe.

In 2012, at the age of 79 years, Cabot announced that she was finally closing the doors of the Shoppe. She explained to The Boston Globe, “The Witch City has dipped to the point where a brick-and-mortar store is no longer sustainable.” Despite the downward turn in business at its physical location, the store has maintained an online presence to this day.

During the 1990s, Cabot wrote and published four books including, The Power of the Witch (1989), Love Magic (1992), Celebrate the Earth (1994) and The Witch in Every Woman (1997). Writing books became another way for her to share the magic and joy of Witchcraft with new audiences and new seekers. However, after publication of the last book, she turned her attention away from writing to focus on other pursuits and didn’t publish again … until now.

We talked with Laurie Cabot about her new book, the current state of Witchcraft in today’s society and her future projects. At 81 years of age, she was enthusiastic to answer our questions and share her thoughts. Her passion for teaching and for the art of Witchcraft was very evident in her voice as she answered the questions. Please note that the conversation was not recorded and, therefore, will not be presented in a traditional interview format. 

After a 17 year hiatus, why suddenly return to print?

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

When answering this question, Cabot was very candid. She explained that writing books had become very cumbersome. She is not a computer user and, therefore, her books were all written long-hand with paper and pen in the old-fashion way. The task was enormous and, in 1997, she didn’t want to devote the time and energy into producing another one. Then, several years ago, she finally agreed to produce a new spell book because, as she said, “I had a wonderful person who could type as fast as I could talk.”

That person was Christopher Penczak. In the forward of the book he says:

…on a Beltane evening, while discussing the state of publishing, I suggested that she release a spell book because she loved sharing the majick. She agreed, but asked for my help in organizing it, along with her daughter Penny, and thus the seeds of the book you hold now in your hands were planted.

Cabot added that Penczak having his own publishing company, Copper Cauldron Publishing, “made it easy.” After the process was complete, she said, “I could have done three volumes because we have collected and created spells for over 50 years. But I wanted to do something that was easily understandable to all people.” The result of that collaborative work is this new book – a “how to” guide to spell making born from sixty years of Cabot magic.

The book is aimed at a general readership; not only Witches or magical practitioners. Why?

Cabot said, “There’s a little witch in everyone.” She believes that the science of magic is “what is vital” and, as such, “can be used by anyone.” She added, “Quantum physics tells us what we are doing is real.”

In the book’s introduction, Cabot says:

You don’t have to be a Witch to borrow majick. Some think you do, but I say absolutely not. Anyone can use majick. We teach the science and art of Witchcraft separate from religion, so you can be a scientific Witch. You can be an artful Witch too. And you do not have to practice the religion at all.

She went on to describe how she dervived at such a science-focused understanding of Witchcraft. She said that it was the “finding of science” within the spiritual experience that became so important to her development. As a child she had many psychic experiences, after which her father would always say, “There has to be a science behind it.” She said that it was those conversations that “led [her] in search of that.”

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Laurie Cabot [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Why the “j” in majick?

In the book, Cabot uses the term “majick” rather than magic or the popular magick. When asked what the spelling difference meant to her, she simply said that a “j” is used in place of a “g” to identify her particular system of Witchcraft with its focus on science. She has been using this spelling for over a decade.

What major observations have you made concerning the changes, beneficial or otherwise, in the practice of Witchcraft today as compared to past decades? 

When answering this question, Cabot focused on the retail experience, which has dominated much of her “majical” life. When she opened The Witch Shoppe in 1973, there were no witches anywhere. She said that the store was the only place where people could find a witch. Now, there are stores everywhere.

She said that, unfortunately, today, “it seems that people open stores to become rich.” She said, “You don’t become rich with one store. It may pay for the mortgage but you won’t be rich.”

Cabot also observed that the focus of modern Witchcraft stores has changed. In opening any store, her intent was always to “help people understand that Witchcraft was real.” She wanted to teach and share her passion. All her products, including incenses, spells, potions and oils, were handmade. She said, “I know the ingredients. I know how to make them real.” The store was an experience for the buyer that she created from her experience as a Witch.

Now, most metaphysical shops get their products from vendors. She laments this system saying, “the spells may not work. They may not have anything to do with the right energy.” This commercialization of the Witchcraft industry saddens her, and she added that people just seem to be “jumping on the band-wagon.” However, Cabot did acknowledge that the increase in stores has significantly helped with the sharing of magical practices, making them more widely accepted.

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

Cabot with Chris Levasseur outside Enchantment in Salem [Courtesy of P. Cabot]

As awareness has grown over the years, Cabot has noticed a recent influx in the number of international students coming to her classes. She said that, just last week, 6 Brazilians flew to Salem in order to attended her Witchcraft 101 class at Salem’s magickal store, Enchanted. In addition, her online classes have been attracting an international audience. She said, “They want to learn the science,” which she thinks is “wonderful.”

What would you say is the most important legacy or message that you would like to leave for future generations, Pagans or not, as the Official Witch of Salem?

Cabot said, “I would like everyone to know that magic is real.” She said that there has been “so much propaganda.” She explained that, as children, we all know in our hearts that magic exists but we are told by adults that it is just imaginary. But it does.

She also wants more people to accept and learn the scientific aspects of magic. She said, “I want it to be used to better the world.” Then she added, “Isn’t that what the world needs right now?  A little magic.”

One would be hard pressed to argue that point.

Now that the book is finished and due to be released in digital and paperback formats later this month, what other projects are on the horizon?

Along with her teaching at Enchanted, Cabot has several new projects in the works. She enthusiastically shared that she is working on her memoirs. Although she does not have a time frame for it’s completion and release, it will be published by Copper Cauldron Publishing with the help of Christopher Penczak.

Cabot is also developing a Tarot Deck, one that she hopes to release in the spring of 2015. She said that it does not have a name yet, but the deck will be focused, as one might expect, on scientific and the numeric spirit in the occult system.

As the conversation ended, Cabot added, “I’m using my time carefully now. I want to make sure that I leave something for people to gain knowledge. I don’t know everything. There are people that know far more.” But what Laurie Cabot does know, she wants to share in ways that will foster a better and deeper understanding of the self, the outside world and of the art of Witchcraft.

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!

Ellen Evert Hopman

Ellen Evert Hopman

Our Freedom: A Pagan Civil Rights Coalition, has released an anti-abuse statement, signed by eight members of the coalition, including Ellen Evert Hopman and Patrick McCollum. Quote: We absolutely condemn the practices of child abuse, sexual abuse, and any other form of abuse that does harm to the bodies, minds or spirits of individuals. We offer prayers, therapy, and support for the healing of the victims of such abuses. In recent years the victimization of children has been brought to light in a manner not seen in the past. Efforts are underway in schools and other youth organizations to teach children and adults to be aware of and respond proactively to violence against others. Examples of victimization have also come to light in religious circles and many victims’ rights groups have emerged to advocate for and support those who were abused as children. We stand strongly against the victimization of children, students, women and men. We call for persons who have witnessed such atrocities to speak up and actively seek to protect the powerless and prevent further abuse.”

10333636_300691860099884_3714864147161992297_oLast year saw the debut of “OCCULT,” an arts-based event/salon held in Salem, Massachusetts and co-founded by Aepril Schaile (you can read our 2013 interview with Schaile here). Now, the event returns in 2014 this September, featuring a number of presenters, performances, and workshops. Quote: “To recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together. To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. Though art as entertainment has its place and time, this Esoteric Salon moves us well past materialist commercialism. We recognize the power of Art to create spiritual movement and full expression to the divine Will–dancing, singing, painting, acting, sculpting, filming, poeting the ineffable. We confront the notion that the meaning and content of Art is not as important as its form and materials. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunction of non-opposites.”

P2150159-bAdocentyn Research Library, a Pagan-run library located in the San Francisco Bay area, has reached a new milestone. According to Adocentyn board member and co-founder Donald H. Frew, the institution has now catalogued over 6,500 books. Quote: “The Adocentyn Research Library has passed another milestone with over 6,500 books on our shelves and in our online database (6,558 to be precise)! You can see what we have at [their Library Thing page] and use the “tags” to find books of interest. Our goal is to collect, archive, preserve, and make available 1) information on every subject Pagans might study as part of their Paganism, and 2) materials useful for the study of Pagans, our diversity, and our history. (We use “Paganism” in the broadest sense, including indigenous, tribal, polytheistic, Nature-based, and/or Earth-centered religion, spirituality, practice, and culture, around the world and throughout human history.) We are centrally located in San Francisco’s East Bay, easily reachable by public transit, and close to many restaurants and cafes. While our max capacity in this location is about 13,000 books, we’ll be opening once we have our core collection – about another 1,000 books – in place. We look forward to serving the Pagan community!”

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • The Pantheon Foundation’s crowdfunding initiative for The Diotima Prize has crossed the 50% mark in its goal. The prize will “support the educational goals of one Pagan student who is currently in at least their second year at an accredited seminary program.”
  • A crowdfunding campaign is underway to produce a play about Robert Anton Wilson. Quote: “Daisy’s adaptation recounts the period of Bob’s life around the inspiration for, writing of and theatrical culmination of Illuminatus!, a period where he also met iconic countercultural figures like Timothy Leary, Alan Watts and William Burroughs, all of whom feature in the play. The narrative slips in and out of Illuminatus! itself and the production employs song, music, projections and stagecraft to evoke the real-life hallucinogenic trip through conspiracy, paranoia and enlightenment that transformed Bob from a simple Playboy editor into the influential countercultural figure he is today.”
  • Singer-songwriter Sharon Knight has launched a membership support circle called “Ring of Enchantment” that offers exclusive content in exchange for direct fiscal support. Quote: “This insider circle is my experiment in creating a culture of mutual support. Winter and I get some really great gigs. We also need to fill the gaps between those great gigs. This doesn’t always go according to the ideal scenario! In the old music industry, record labels offered tour support to help their artists through rough patches. In the new music industry, this doesn’t exist. The Ring of Enchantment was created to generate tour support for us while bringing inspiration and beauty to you.”
  • PaganSquare is now on Tumblr. Here’s the official announcement. Quote: “Although this may seem a bit sudden, we’ve actually been considering this move for several months, though we’ve only recently gotten all of our ducks in a line. We look forward to becoming a part of the wider Pagan community on Tumblr and hopefully even finding new content of interest to our readers.”

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

salem

WGN America’s Salem Promotional Poster

The WGN America network released the new show Salem last month, once again bringing the character of the “Witch” to the television screen. There continues to be an influx of witch-related shows in the last several years, and this has not gone unnoticed by the general Pagan community.

American Horror Story: Coven (2013), Witches of East End (2013) and Sleepy Hollow (2013) are all new shows that feature witchcraft as a prominent theme in the storyline. The new show Salem has reignited a firestorm of concern around shows that feature witchy characters, bringing even more fear of greater society response than other shows before it. Salem appears to have gathered Pagan community attention because it is based on a Puritan perspective of witches in a time when it was thought that witches were evil and aligned with Satan. The inclusion of Marilyn Manson’s song “Cupid Carries a Gun” adds a creepy layer to the already demonic storyline as do the creative moving camera angles.

Much like with the American Horror Story franchise, Salem is a fantasy horror show that capitalizes on the fears of its audience. These fears are that witchcraft is about pacts with the devil, animal sacrifice and being decorated with blood in the woods. They are based on old-fashioned bigotry and rekindle a lot of misconceptions of those on the Pagan path. Concerns of modern-day witch hunts and fears around the identification of practitioners continues to expand among modern day Witches.

This brings us to question whether these fears are warranted in this day and age, or whether the total of our community identifies with a trauma-based history that is not ours? A loaded question indeed, and one that is very complex in nature. Do modern Pagans over-identify with the profile of persecution from our past further perpetuating fears of persecution in our present?

Today we know that those who were executed for witchcraft in the Salem witch trials, or in the burning times, were not actually Witches by modern-day definitions. While theories of ergot poisoning and church conspiracy are used to help explain away the happenings in the Salem Witch trials of 1692, today we have an understanding that they were not practitioners of the Craft and were common citizens of their time that became victims. So why is our community so concerned with a fictional television show that we know to be a warped reflection of history and no real reflection of Paganism? The responses to fears of shows like Salem within the community have been vastly different. Posts on social media sites and on the previous Wild Hunt review have not shown across-the-board similar concerns.

The range of responses vacillate from viewing the show as pure entertainment to views that are encouraging a call-to-arms from practitioners of the Craft. Lady Pythia, elder and Priestess with Covenant of the Goddess, posted on her Facebook page a retelling of her experience of a Witch hunt in the late 70’s:

Please know that naiveté will not make all of our work up to this point enough. Another tide is coming, and I ask you all to prepare now, so that there isn’t a last-minute scramble, as we’ve had to do 3 times now, all since March! I share the following in solidarity with all who have survived real-world oppression as Pagans, Witches and/or Wiccans, in a far more objective mode than at that time, and not from mere self-indulgence or any need for personal ego-reinforcement. Our struggle has been going on for decades.

Communications Coordinator at Circle Sanctuary Florence Edwards-Miller posted on the Wild Hunt article about the release of Salem. She took a different angle in examining concerns with the new show:

What bothers me here is the use of a real historical event that was plenty horrific even before you add in scary camera work. At base, a whole bunch of people were accused of crimes they didn’t commit, but couldn’t prove their innocence, and several of them were tortured and murdered. That’s terrifying, and it says something really disturbing about the human condition that it happened then and continues to happen in other contexts to this day. I think that, even in a fantastical way, retroactively going back and making some of them actually guilty of something like what they were killed for is very distasteful, even if the storytellers are trying to insert another social message in there.

In approaching several others who are currently watching the show, I got yet again more inconsistencies in response to this issue.

“I feel the same way about Salem that I have felt about most of the other “Witch” shows made for TV. I appreciate that there is enough interest to warrant shows about witches and witchcraft while always keeping in mind the need for Hollywood to twist it into what it wants in order to provoke the reaction from mainstream viewers that it’s targeting. Salem is a straightforward horror show made as dark and disgusting as possible. There is little historically accurate information being portrayed regarding the characters and plot. The horrors are created from the old witch hunters “lore” and atrocities. The period costumes and settings are nicely done.” – Cynthia Jurkovic

Taylor Ellwood, Managing Non-Fiction Editor of Immanion Press, took a totally different approach to the idea of shows like Salem bringing attention to magic in helpful ways:

“I think the show Salem is hilarious because of how over the top it is. It’s clearly a horror show, which draws on some rather quaint stereotypes about witchcraft. Precisely because it is so over the top I don’t feel concerned that it’ll reflect poorly on the modern day practitioner, especially because there are so many other shows on magic available as well which show various depictions, none of which are all that accurate. Salem is one presentation, but it is one that is primarily done for entertainment purposes and we need to remember that. Additionally, its important to remember that any depiction of magic and the supernatural only makes such topics more and more acceptable to mainstream culture. While such shows draws on stereotypes, they nonetheless fascinate people and highlight the necessity of magic. At one time there were similar concerns with the Harry Potter movies, Charmed, etc., and nonetheless our community has actually benefited from such media because of how they’ve piqued the interests of the mainstream” – Taylor Ellwood.

I like it for a fantasy show. My only concern is the sexual nature of the two main witches, and sensationalizing of a couple of women, one being a woman of color with power that is linked to evil.

I think that we as a community do a great job of showing people we are not devil worshipers or evil hags. Why do you think there is a fear of shows like this in the Pagan community? I think that we don’t think a person can separate reality from fiction. This is a fictional show that is for entertainment purposes…it is no different than AHS Coven or Bewitched.” – Melissa Murry

WGN America's Salem Promotional Poster

WGN America’s Salem Promotional Poster

Several posts and opinions on the internet have been aligning shows like this with active or past oppression of Pagans – expressing concerns that shows like this warp the minds of the general public who are unaware of what Paganism is. There are many different ways that oppression is categorized in society, and the Pagan community does not seem to be in accord about this classification. Is this an issue of the active oppression of Pagans that is exacerbated by the perpetual image of evil that is associated with Hollywood depictions of the Witch? Or are we looking at the reality that minority religious experiences are going to be vastly different than the mainstream religious over-culture? This type of marginalization of a minority group is not necessarily the same as oppression of a group. In reality the fear of oppression can be just as damaging as oppression itself. Should we be afraid?

“These kind of shows/movies plant seeds. even though they are fictional, there is the resonation factor. People will have these messages mixed into their mental margarita, and drink it up.” – Wild Hunt commenter Boo-Boo.

“I think the Pagan community fears such shows because of the stereotypes drawn upon and the fear that fundamentalist Christians will take that and use it as an excuse to attack Pagans, with an additional fear that people in the mainstream will believe that’s what Paganism is about. However, I think the community greatly overestimates the power of such shows to do that. While there are stereotypes drawn upon, the manner in which they are depicted is so theatrical and over the top that it actually shoots holes in the stereotypes, while also making people curious about what magic is really like.” – Taylor Ellwood.

Every time a movie or tv show about Witches is made, we are confronted with the reality of the past, and the fear that the atrocities of that past could potentially happen again. I have participated publicly in spiritual activism in  working to educate the mainstream about what Witches really are and what we do.“ – Cynthia Jurkovic.

We do know of many different stories of individuals that have had some horrific experiences of discrimination due to their Pagan beliefs. Various forms of discrimination happen in many facets of society, and Pagans are not exempt from this societal concern. Language and cultural nuances within the Pagan community refer to “coming out of the broom closet” and other references that imply a culture of minority discrimination.

Whether the individual accounts of problems related to a person’s Pagan beliefs are enough to say we are an oppressed religious group is not something easily answered. Yet I personally feel that attempts to categorize Pagans with historically-persecuted and oppressed groups of people, like African Americans, the Natives or Jews, are a big stretch. But I do recognize that prejudice does happen to those who follow a Pagan path, contributing to a fear of persecution and concern. Shows like Salem might have the potential of confirming concerns for those who already question the modern concept of a spiritual Witch, but those people are the ones that are the hardest to reach regardless. The people who are critical thinkers, and not romanticized by fictionalized Hollywood versions of super powers and evil pacts with Satan, will be the ones to remember that television is rarely true, and is meant purely for entertainment.

 

On Sunday WGN America debuted its first originally-scripted TV series: Salem. Crafted in the horror genre, the show follows in the footsteps of the popular American Horror Story: Coven.  WGN uses the tag line: “The Witch Hunt Has Begun – In Salem, witches are real, but they are not what they seem.”

On opening night Variety reported that the show earned “1.5 million viewers” which is “seven times the network’s season-to-date average in the 10 p.m. timeslot.” WGN is capitalizing on the recent popularity of witches in order to launch its new original production offerings. In July the network will premiere its second series, Manhattan, and then in 2015, Ten Commandments.

WGN America's Salem Promotional Poster

WGN America’s Salem Promotional Poster

WGN’s Salem is the latest in a very long-line of television and film productions using the city as its setting. Hollywood began its love-affair with the trials in 1909 with the release of Edison’s In the Days of Witchcraft. Perhaps the most famous rendering of the Salem story is Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” which transforms the city’s history into an allegory for McCarthy-era politics. Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem said, “The Salem Witch Trials are a rich and compelling subject for novelists and screenwriters…”

In this latest adaption, the witches are rendered as actual creatures. WGN’s Salem presents a historically-derived Puritan world complete with “witch” panics alongside the genuine existence of Satanic-based witchcraft. In doing so, it attempts to offer a far more complex ethical structure than past Salem or witch stories.

When production was initially announced, a group of Salem citizens and business owners discussed the potential for damage caused by yet another Hollywood show conflating history and horror. Should they protest? Elizabeth Peterson, director of Salem’s Witch House, said:

The Witch House is the only historic site left that was an absolute witness to the conversations and phenomena [of that time].  It is our responsibility to dignify and intellectualize that history. 

After multiple conversations, the group opted for a different approach. Fox said, “I will welcome the opportunity [the show] will afford to talk about the destination Salem with viewers who may find a new interest in our town.”

Salem Witch House [Photo Credit: Scott Lanes]

Salem Witch House [Photo Credit: Scott Lanes]

After seeing the show Peterson said, “I’m not worried that [Salem] could be mistaken as historical because it is so fantastical.” She points out that show contains many inaccuracies but it’s presented in such a way that there is no danger in mistaking it for fact. In other words, WGN’s Salem is not even pretending to be real. It is pure horror entertainment.

Due to the continued fascination with the trials, Salem and New England in general have ascended historicity to become a modality within American popular myth. Salem as a backdrop is strongly rooted within Hollywood’s own narrative symbolism. Even Samantha makes a trip to Salem for a Witches Convention in 1970. If you make a witch movie or show, it should be set in a small town in New England.

Just as it capitalizes on historical lore, WGN’s Salem also makes use of the archetypal Hollywood Satanic witch. Narratively speaking these witches are villagers who have sold their souls to the Devil for personal gain. They perform magic with oils, frogs, lizards, hogs, blood and fire. They hold sabbats in the dark woods wearing beastly masks. They have familiars and understand the nuances in “life, love, war and death.”

Visually speaking the witches are monstrous, zombie-like creatures that only appear in quick cuts or extreme close-up. Such shots are often flanked by tilted visions, screams and flashes of light. These are all very typical elements of the modern horror montage. To counter that extreme, these same witches appear as their respectable former selves during the day and are shot in a non-dynamic simple composition.

At first it might seem WGN’s Salem is yet another horror show fostering the negative representations of witches. It is after all presenting a typical Satanic witch story. However it does do something a bit different. It offers an atypical dynamic morality that embraces the complexity of contemporary social issues. This complexity is best demonstrated though three characters: John Alden, Cotton Mather and Mary Sibley.

John Alden is defined as the imperfect but good secular American. He fights for “his country,” befriends Native Americans and stands against the Puritan moral panic. At one point he tells Mather, “She needs a doctor not your prayers.” John is the open-minded, modern cowboy who believes in love and even Paganism. When Anne Hale explains that Mather calls drawing “idolatry” or nature worship, Alden responds, “There are worse things to worship.”

Cotton Mather is the polar opposite. He represents the religious zealot who publicly defines life through absolutes found in the testimony of his books. Giles Corey describes Mather as the “most dangerous type of fool…The kind that thinks he knows everything.” Mather is further demonized through his apparent hypocrisy. While inspecting the wounds on an hysterical young girl, Mather pushes her dress up to her thighs. At that point, the camera rhythmically cuts between his face, her face and his hands on her thighs. Then the show abruptly cuts to a salacious scene of Mather in a brothel. The viewer is left wondering if Mather abused the girl.

WGN America's Salem Poster

WGN America’s Salem

To complete the triad, there is Mary Sibley, the witch.  As a young unwed pregnant girl, Mary is led to witchcraft by Tituba in order to escape public shame and punishment. The show posits that Mary and ostensibly the others turn to the Devil in order to escape the horrors of Puritanism. However at the same time, Mary is also depicted as cruelly toying with John Alden, driving a young girl mad and killing Giles Corey. Her vengeance knows no boundaries.

These witches are morally complex representing a type of social defiance that is very contemporary. The show appears to oppose the tyrannical religious teachings of its conservative Christian environment.  At one point Giles Corey says, “Puritans know their sun is setting. Nothing like a new enemy … to get people behind ya.” This statement recalls recent discourse surrounding the religious climate in the Unites States.

Similarly Puritan leader George Sibley yells out, “We cannot expect God to be on our side if we tolerate abominations or those that commit them.”  While he is referring to “fornication,” his line resembles language used to counter the Marriage Equality movement.

WGN’s Salem explores the progressive ethics that are now appearing within contemporary American discourse. It is mediating the mythological Salem story through very current cultural politics. The witches themselves are the tipping point that places the viewer into the uncomfortable position of liking the goal but disliking the means. Through them we can ask, “success at what the cost?”

Are these witches representative of real Witches, Wiccans or Pagans?  No they aren’t.  As with the use of Salem, the witches are merely typical Hollywood archetypes representing social defiance. In fact the narrative makes a direct distinction between a “nature worshipper” and the Witch.

How the show proceeds over its run will be interesting. How will it negotiate the issues presented? How will it handle race and explain the origins of the young, beautiful Tituba as instigator of Salem’s witchcraft?  What is Nathan and Anne Hale’s story?

With all that said, was it a good entertainment? It was average, sensationalistic and at times campy. It falls into the category of recent shows pushing the limits of television horror by exploring the limits of our humanity. If the show continues on its current course, it may hold a season worth of interest beyond that, who knows.

 

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. This week? It’s (almost) all about Halloween, and Pagans, and Witches, and how we celebrate (or don’t) during this time of year. So pull up some of that leftover candy, and let’s get started…

Ashley Bryner, senior Druid at CedarLight Grove. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Ashley Bryner, senior Druid at CedarLight Grove. Photo: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

  • Let’s start with the New York Times, who decided that this Halloween was going to be about Druids. Quote: “How many folks will spend the next few days and nights worshiping the old gods? The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey put the number of American Druids at 29,000. But then, many Druids connect with the practice of paganism, and the survey counted 340,000 souls in this category. Add another 342,000 wiccans (fellow travelers), and Samhain starts to look like a pretty big party. Of course, that number would swell if you were to include the ancestors who have passed on — and Druids do, especially in this liminal season.” Author Ellen Evert Hopman, and members of Ár nDraíocht Féin are quoted in the piece.
  • CNN decided to go with Witches for Halloween, and found one who isn’t fond of the secular holiday. Quote: “Trey Capnerhurst dons a pointy hat and doles out candy to children who darken the door of her cottage in Alberta. But she’s not celebrating Halloween. In fact, she kind of hates it. Capnerhurst says she’s a real, flesh-and-blood witch, and Halloween stereotypes of witches as broom-riding hags drive her a bit batty.” Capnerhurst goes on to claim that “traditional” Witches are hereditary, and Wiccans are converts. Which is a new one on me, since “trad” Witches generally means Witches who are members of an established initiatory line. Anyway, the article also interviews sociologist Helen Berger, who shares some basic data on the number of Pagans in America. Amusingly, the American Spectator got their underwear in a bunch over this article, so there’s that.
  • Some Wiccans have no real problem with Halloween, it should be noted.
  • While I’m making the rounds of the big-name publications, I can’t not mention the Newsweek article on how Witchcraft and occult practices are becoming, like, super-hip among young people these days. Quote: “We’re currently in the middle of an occult revival, says Jesse Bransford, a New York University art professor who co-organized an occult humanities conference earlier this month. He sees a connection between increasing interest in the occult and postrecession anxiety. Magic ‘has always been a technique of the disenfranchised,’ he says. ‘It’s something you do when the tools you have available don’t seem like they’re enough.’ These people aren’t just wearing black lipstick and watching witches hex each other on-screen; they’re also experimenting with, well, sorcery.” Let’s hope this augers an uptick in the quality of Pagan music.
  • Meanwhile, Paper Magazine interviews some event promoters in Bushwick, who are drawn to Witchcraft as an aesthetic oeuvre to operate within. Quote: “I think people just want to believe in something. But with Bushwick I think there is this underground movement, or a want to bring people together, that doesn’t have any formality to it. It’s just people who have their own rituals coming together. I think the social commentary aspect of it is there, but it’s super-subconscious. And I do think there’s a dark energy that people are now willing to talk about in a playful way. At least for us it’s playful. We’re definitely the entertainment side of Wiccan culture. Bushwiccans.”
  • For this Halloween, Reuters decided to focus on psychic scammers. Quote: “The law relating to such activities is not always definitive, Little said, noting that fortune-tellers and others who offer occult services often use a ‘for entertainment purposes only’ disclaimer to prevent legal problems. Even as people who sell occult services move online, some continue to run storefronts, offering psychic readings for a small fee and trying to talk customers into paying more to resolve problems.” However, I suspect that most party-goers looking for a quick tarot readings are fairly safe. Just don’t let anybody “cleanse” your wallet. Seriously.
shutterstock 1114023

Tarot cards.

  • Well played Yorkshire post, well played.
  • If you enjoy reading about Christians freaking out about Halloween, you’ve got your pick of the litter. Right Wing Watch, as always, picks a doozy. Quote: “Why am I concerned about the way Halloween, the media and our current culture encourage the celebration and trivialization of spiritism, occultism, Satanism, hedonism, witches, zombies and walking on the dark side with demons? Because the supernatural world is real, and no one is immune to it regardless of their education or worldview. God is real. Angels are real. Satan is real. Demons are real. Real gladiators and real Christians died in the Colosseum and circus even though many Roman leaders and citizens just considered their destruction an evening of entertainment.” See also: Southern Baptists talking about the “theological complications” of Halloween, and the Christian Post runs an editorial about the dangers of Wicca. Fun stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing. You know, feasting with Satan!
  • The Christian Science Monitor debunks the Salem Witch Trials, while scholar Owen Davies notes that the suspicion of witches has lived on far past those infamous trials. Quote: “Two centuries on from Salem and many Americans were still living in an essentially similar social, cultural, economic, and religious environment. The vicissitudes of life on the edge were all too real, and so was the fear of witchcraft as an explanation for misfortune and envy. Over the last three centuries, thousands of Americans, mostly women, have been abused for being suspected witches. Hundreds of court cases arose from accusations of witchcraft. Most startling of all, it is clear now that we know of more people murdered as witches in America after 1692 than were legally executed before that date.”
  • At the Washington Post, Starhawk contributes a piece on the holiday, noting that on Halloween “the past and future live.” Quote: “For us, Halloween is the time of year when we come together to honor our ancestors, to mourn our beloved dead and celebrate their lives.  In this autumn season, when the year itself appears to by dying.  As the leaves fall, and the harvest is gathered in, we celebrate the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain or Summer’s End.  The veil between the worlds is thin, we say, and those who have gone beyond can now return and visit us again, reminding us that death does not destroy our connection to those we love.” Elsewhere at WP, playwright Jeffrey Stanley extols the freaky fun of the supernatural.
  • UC Berkeley’s blog focuses on Americans and the occult, noting its ongoing popularity throughout this country’s history. Quote: “We have no polls, of course, to track occult beliefs before the mid-20th century, but, as I pointed out in a prior post, early Americans were deeply immersed in an enchanted world of spirits, incantations, and witches. Puritan ministers in colonial New England struggled to point out the contradiction between, on one side of salvation, pleading with God to shed His grace on an ill loved one and, on the doomed side, casting a spell to drive out an evil spirit that one believes caused the illness.”
  • The Los Angeles Times profiles Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, which is deemed “authentic in the way of a great London bookstore, yet with a glint of religion about it.” Quote: “[Co-owner Vicky] Adams is not a witch herself, she says, merely a pagan who says there are thousands of others like her across L.A., and she’s just here to help, no matter your chosen deity. ‘It’s hard,’ she says at the end of a busy day. ‘I had a customer who watched me work. When I finally got to him, he said, ‘I’m a psychologist and I get $400 an hour to do what you do.””

That’s it for now! There are a lot more Halloween-themed articles that feature Pagans, Witches, or occult practitioners, out there, but I feel this is a representative sample of what’s out there. Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a 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 over 50 supporters who have already donated). Now, on to the news…

Outdoor temple at the Maetreum.

Outdoor temple at the Maetreum.

The Maetreum of Cybele in Catskill, New York, which was recently attacked by an individual hurling rocks and epithets, has been in an ongoing property tax fight with the Town of Catskill over religious exemptions. They are currently appealing a State Supreme Court ruling against them on the issue, and are asking that all Pagans and supporters pray and work for justice. Quote: “The Maetreum is entering the final stages of our appeal process. We ask ALL Pagans and witches to do work to ensure justice, that the panel of judges will see the truth behind our case, that the Goddess speak through the mouth of our attorney during the oral arguements. I’ve said it before and will repeat it. This case is vital for the equal treatment of all minority religions in the US, particularly Pagans but not limited to them by any means. Please forward this request widely and quickly… and please do the magically [sic] work required.” Members of the Pagan religious order feel their case for appeal is strong, and note that this decision “should terrify ALL minority churches, Pagan, Christian and others because it set standards almost impossible for any small congregation to meet.”  We’ll keep you posted as this develops.

S.J. Tucker

S.J. Tucker

Popular Pagan musician S.J. Tucker follows up her release earlier this year of the mold-breaking soundtrack “Ember Days” with a new collection of songs entitled “Wonders,” inspired by author Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland novels. Quote: “All of the songs on Wonders were inspired by Cat Valente’s lovely book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  Many of you may recall that I got hired to be the narrator for the audiobook of the sequel last summer.  Cat’s Fairyland books have been on my mind for quite a while now, so it’s really great to get to share with you ALL of the songs that those stories have inspired thus far!  Finally!  Yay for making a little bit of free space in my brain again!  Happy sigh…” The third installment of Valente’s series was released at the beginning of this month. You can see a promo video for Tucker’s new album embedded below. In addition to all that, Tucker has also released a mix for October of seasonally appropriate music (for a good cause).

with_love_from_salemThe documentary film from director Karagan Griffith, “With Love from Salem,” which I reviewed here back in August, is seeing its cinema debut on October 25th at CinemaSalem in Salem, Massachusetts. Quote: “This is it. Are you coming? If you want to be part of the Cinema Premiere of ‘With Love from Salem – the documentary’ buy your tickets now. Tell us if you are coming. […]  This is the documentary about the Temple of Nine Wells, Richard and Gypsy Ravish and their journey of more than 20 years of rituals in Salem. […] The Temple of Nine Wells has been walking to Gallows Hill on Samhain night for more than 20 years to honor the dead and the victims of the witch hysteria of 1692. This documentary will walk you through this event, from preparation to ritual, as well as through the differences between Samhain and Halloween, the sacred and the profane. An inside perspective of Samhain night in Salem, and of the men and women who through dedication and personal commitment continue to make a difference.” You certainly couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere than Samhain season in Salem to debut this film, one that I called a “surprisingly personal” and “intimate look at the lives of two elders whose duty to Salem has become deeply intertwined with their faith, their friendships, and how they interact with community.”

In Other Pagan Community News: 

  • In more Pagan music news, the project known as Kwannon, spearheaded by singer and songwriter Jenne Micale, has released a new album entitled “Ancestor” an “exploration of the Western Isle of the dead, of sunset, and the edges of things.”
  • John Beckett reports on the Dallas/Fort Worth Pagan Pride celebration that happened this past weekend. Quote: “The main ritual at noon was led by a local Sumerian group.  It was light in tone, it conveyed a good message for a community of diverse traditions and experience, and it was very participative – perfect for a Pagan Pride Day main ritual.”
  • The always fascinating Hedge Mason blog reports on the passing of Mestre Didi, a highly regarded Afro-Brazilian artist and priest of the Egungun tradition. Quote: “He believed there was no dichotomy between the arts, and that all the stories of his people were Afro-Brazilian songs. They were meant to be heard, sung and danced. This is why Master Didi was also recognized as a multifaceted artist, a Renaissance man of Afro-Brazilian culture.  He made the world a richer place for us all!” What is remembered, lives!
  • At the Llewellyn blog, Donald Michael Kraig announces a live “webinar” this Saturday entitled “How to Make and Use Talismans and Amulets.” Quote: “Throughout history, humans have used objects to bring health, safety, good luck, and to fulfill desires. Today, these objects are known as talismans and amulets. In this live, worldwide webinar, you’ll learn how to create them, how to turn them into powerful magickal tools, and how to use them effectively and safely.”
  • My excellent friend Cosette, who now lives in Australia, reports on Christian opposition to a Pagan/New Age event in Wedderburn. Quote: “Is there anyone or any organization to defend those rights, to assist festival organizers Jacquie Stallinga and Gaye Washington in engaging the local Christian community to assuage their concerns, and move forward in a cordial manner?” Hopefully more on this soon.

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!

September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,” a “weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together.” In anticipation of OCCULT’s launch next month, I conducted a short interview with co-producer Aepril Schaile to talk about the event, why this is the right time for it, and supporting the arts within a Pagan context.

Aepril Schaile. Photo by Cheryl Fair.

Aepril Schaile. Photo by Cheryl Fair.

OCCULT is called an “Esoteric Salon,” merging artistic and metaphysical pathways through performance, workshops, and talks. What inspired you to help make this event happen? Why is now the right time?

Sarah Jezebel Wood and I began talking about this vision last year. We are both Witches, and Thelemites, and practicing Artists. Sarah is an accomplished bellydancer and teacher, and she is devoted to nurturing the work of artists in her communities. Sarah worked with Alex and Alison Grey at CoSM for several years, and so this idea of Art and Magick being one unit is not a new one for her. The timing was an intuitive thing—we felt that the fact that the vision was forming for us both with such excitement in that very moment meant that its time had come–synchronicity! We also recognize a movement into a New Aeon, and with it comes new ways of doing things. At the time of the Parisian Salons of the turn of the last century, there was also a renaissance in occult and Magickal consciousness in connection to Art. We have the romantic notion that the time is now for this mixing of art, magick, thought, creativity, personality, passion, vision, and spirit to take place.

You are an artist who has worked in several mediums, most notably dance and music, do you think the Pagan community engages with the arts in a constructive way? Are we paying enough attention to the importance of art within our traditions, are we supporting our artists? If not, is OCCULT a step towards addressing that issue?

I personally feel that my work has been recognized and supported in wonderful ways by the Pagan and Witchcraft communities. In particular my work in dance, which probably most widely known, but music, too; I receive mail by email and even paper letter (fun!) with heartfelt and thoughtful words, and it is incredible to me what power art has to animate and inspire the spirit and imagination. I also tend to bring the Witches and Thelemites out of the woodwork wherever I travel for performance–they make themselves known in my workshops and after shows, as they come out to see me, and this is amazing to me! The Thelemic community has been great in supporting this work; OCCULT has many Thelemic presenters and artists on board for our debut year, and the full support of our local body, Knights Templar Oasis. That said, I am greedy; I’d like more overall engagement. Our Artists are our Shamans; they are our Seers and Healers and Guides. OCCULT is an effort to make this connection more conscious and enlivened. I’d like to see more Pagans, Witches and Occult practitioners support the arts by coming out to shows, explicitly recognizing each other’s work, and continue developing a more sophisticated sense of what art is and why it matters. OCCULT is, to us, a step in that direction.

occultYou live and work in Salem, and that’s where OCCULT is being held. Is there something special about Salem that makes an event like this possible?

We are here doing this work on the shoulders of those who came before us. As all things move in cycles, we feel that the time is correct for the coming together of new ideas and approaches. We feel that Salem is indeed an epicenter, and that is undergoing a renaissance of ideas and vision. Many of the old Witch wars have run their course, and there is a thirst for more visible and inclusive happenings that go beyond Witch-Disney type money making tourist hype. We have perceived that there is a new generation that seeks to engage with the magickal arts in a more sophisticated and integrated way. The greater Salem area is full of artists, and many of the Pagans, Witches, occult practitioners, Thelemites and Ceremonial Magicians we have in our circles are also creative artists. We are building on some of the occult themed art shows and events that have already happened in Salem, and expanding upon those ideas and happenings.

OCCULT’s vision statement seems to call for a return to meaning in art, a process of re-enchantment that rejects mere commercialism as the end-all, be-all of making art. That art needs magick just as much as magick needs art. How should the Pagan community start living this ethos? How should the world of fine art?

I hold a Master’s of Fine Art, so I am acquainted with the art world from both an academic and a practicing artist’s viewpoint. I felt alienated early on by the emphasis that I perceived on materials and form, as opposed to content and meaning. I was also, quite naively, stunned by some of the divorcing of spirit from the artistic process. I had automatically perceived art as being inherently spiritual, and magickal. I found that what I recognized as ancient mythological and archetypal patterns would often be dismissed as “cliché”. Would the ancient Greeks at Eleusis have said, “Let’s not do this ritual theatre thing anymore…its been done to death already…so…cliché?” Of course not! But there is a place for keeping art innovated and contemporary, and to keep it growing while honoring these ancient patterns. Many of the artists that Sarah and I chose for OCCULT create work which has this quality: it is informed by contemporary fine art, but it honors and expresses beyond that. Some of the work is deeply self-exploratory and shamanic, some is talismanic, some is ritualistic, some is qabalistic, some surrealistic, etc.

Assuming OCCULT’s success, what’s next? Will this be the first of many salons? Will you take it outside of Salem? Can OCCULT become a new model for Pagan and esoteric engagement with the arts?

Thank you for assuming our success! Wonderful! Yes, Sarah and I plan is to make this a yearly event. We hope to stay in Salem; one of the great challenges that we have had has been space, as it is as a premium in Salem! We have had great experience with the First Universalist Society, both with their open minded and all inclusive spiritual vision, and they have just been super easy and supportive to work with. It turns out that their event coordinator, Alex Coco, is also a Pagan, and along with his wife Nicke, runs Eastern MA Pagan Pride Day! So we lucked out! We’d like to keep it here in Salem, and continue to attract the caliber of teachers and artists that we have this year. We have been so very blessed thus far in manifesting this dream!

***

You can find out more about OCCULT at the event’s website.

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!

Witchesmustdie001jpg-2568309_p9Last week, several Pagans became aware of a Facebook page entitled “Witches Must Die By Fire,” and a group called “Those Witches And Wizards Must Die By Fire By Force.”  While hate speech complaints seemed to initially work, the page is back up, and Facebook is sending back an automated message saying it doesn’t violate hate speech guidelines. A number of Pagan responses have emerged from the controversy as growing numbers of our interconnected community discover the page and group. These responses include a petition, a group on Facebook dedicated to removing hate pages and groups, a call to involve Interpol, and an overview of the issue from South African Pagan Damon Leff, who notes that rhetoric about burning witches shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Quote: Throughout Africa women, men and children frequently become targets for witch-hunters. Incitement to burn Witches anywhere in Africa must be taken deadly seriously and response to such credible threats of violence against Witches on Facebook aught to be immediate and decisive.” As an Atlantic Magazine article published yesterday about Saudi Arabia’s ongoing and deadly hunt for witches and sorcerers illustrates, the global problem of witch-hunts and witch-killings are not merely idle talk, and rhetoric underlying these actions should not be simply dismissed. The Wild Hunt is currently in contact with several Pagan organizations about further responses and constructive paths forward.

The Warrior's CallA call has gone out to Pagans in the United Kingdom to participate in a public ritual at Glastonbury Tor designed to “protect Albion from Fracking.” Quote: “Albion is in peril. Her sacred sites threatened like never before. Chalice Well and the Goddess Sulis (Bath’s geothermal springs) are in danger of becoming toxic. The Great Mother’s flesh is to be cracked open and drained dry, uncaring for consequence to bird and beast, land and life. All those of good intent are summoned hither – regardless of age or gender, color or Creed – to gather at noon on Saturday the 28th of September atop Glastonbury Tor. There, we are to engage in group magickal working for the betterment and protection of this sacred landscape.” One of the co-sponsors of the ritual is Wiccan Marina Pepper, a politician and environmental activist, who has made the issue of fracking a key concern. Pepper’s concern seems well founded, as Heritage Daily has also sounded the alarm over potential damage to the famous wells of Aquae Sulis by hydraulic fracturing. As I mentioned last week, prominent UK Pagans like Damh the Bard and Philip Carr-Gomm have already been protesting fracking operations, and it seems like concern over this issue is only intensifying as Britain’s natural landscape is threatened by this process.

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

This past week Pagan activist Peter Dybing, a logistics specialist who works in disaster management, has been in Idaho helping to fight the wildfires raging through Sun Valley, the biggest fire in 25 years. Wildfires are currently spreading throughout the Northwest region of the United States, which has been plagued by drought and dry weather. In a missive posted to his blog, Dybing noted how his Pagan faith, and his work fighting these fires intertwine. Quote: “Today I am back from a fire, in Boise, resting, planning and preparing to respond again. As I reflect on my actions it is clear that the most profound influence my beliefs have had on me are my instinctive actions in crisis. When direct decisions are necessary NOW, they are laced with compassion, internal tears for the destruction Gaia faces in this firestorm and the need to be of service. The most profound expression of my Pagan beliefs and practice shine through most brightly when I have little time for piety.” Our prayers go out to Dybing, and all the brave first responders fighting these fires. May the rains return soon.

In Other Pagan Community News:

  • Modern Witch Magazine is now accepting submission for its fifth volume, entitled “Veils and Visions.” Quote: “The theme is centered on working with the other side, ancestors, energy work, and psychic development.” Deadline is September 25th, you can find guidelines and more information, here.
  • Water, the quarterly newsletter of the Pagan Educational Network, has just released its Lughnasadh edition. The publication is for members only, but you can get a membership subscription on a sliding scale.
  • September 27th through the 29th in Salem, Massachusetts will see the debut of “OCCULT,”“weekend long Esoteric Salon honoring, exploring and celebrating the intertwining vines which feed both Magick and Creative Art.” Co-produced by Aepril Schaile and Sarah “Jezebel” Wood the event promises to “recognize that, especially together, both Magick and Art are greater than the sum of their parts, and each in dwells the other; they are rooted together…To raise consciousness, challenging false perceptions of separation between these so-imagined opposed sorceries. With OCCULT, we seek to challenge old beliefs through the juxtaposition of beauty and magick, of art and ritual, blending the ingredients to make an event of highest harmony, a conjunctio of non-opposites.” You can see a lineup of OCCULT workshops and events, here. Artist line-up, here. Presenter bios, here. There will also be a masque.
  • This Saturday, August 24th, Friends of the Gualala River are starting a public action campaign to convince a winery to spare 154 acres of Gualala River’s redwood forest in California. Pagan author and activist Starhawk will be on hand to do a ritual that will (hopefully) turn “wine back into water.” Quote: “I’ve been working with Friends of the Gualala River and representatives from the Kashaya Pomo to help build a campaign to save an important Kashaya heritage site from being clearcut for vineyards.  Artesa, a Spanish company and the third largest wine corporation in the world, is planning this conversion.  It’s the last redwood-to-vineyard conversion planned in California, after the defeat of the huge Preservation Ranch proposal, which thankfully was defeated.”
  • Medusa Coils reports that the Lammas issue of Seasonal Salon, the online publication of the Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess International, has been released.
  • On September 22nd, the Stella Natura festival, held in Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness will begin, and will include the Norwegian experimental runic band Wardruna in an exclusive American performance. Meanwhile, Circle Ansuz, a Heathen Anarchist collective, has begun a series of posts digging into the beliefs and past of influential Heathen Stephen McNallen, whose Asatru Folk Assembly is acting as co-sponsor for Stella Natura. I will be following this story in the coming weeks, and will update you on any responses or new information.
  • As I noted previously, the Gerald Gardner documentary “Britain’s Wicca Man,” renamed “A Very British Witchcraft,” was finally aired in the UK after being shown in a truncated version in Australia. You can see the 46-minute version of the documentary on Youtube, here (for as long as it lasts). Enjoy!

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

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

1892 Lithograph depicting a somewhat exaggerated presentation of the Salem Witch Trials.

1892 Lithograph depicting a somewhat exaggerated presentation of the Salem Witch Trials.

Image of Ann Tuitt and Cornelius Jarvis. Part of a larger photograph of people serving prison sentences for obeah in the Antigua prison, 1905. TNA CO 152/287. Courtesy of The National Archives, UK

Image of Ann Tuitt and Cornelius Jarvis. Part of a larger photograph of people serving prison sentences for obeah in the Antigua prison, 1905. TNA CO 152/287. Courtesy of The National Archives, UK

  • The BBC reports on the abolishment of punishments for the practice of Obeah in Jamaica, and whether this development will lead to a resurgence of the practice. Quote: “Until recently, the practice of Obeah was punishable by flogging or imprisonment, among other penalties. The government recently abolished such colonial-era punishments, prompting calls for a decriminalisation of Obeah to follow. But Jamaica is a highly religious country. Christianity dominates nearly every aspect of life; and it is practiced everywhere from small, wooden meeting halls through to mega-churches with congregations that number in the thousands.” More on Obeah’s history, here.
  • Is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, a favorite to win a Senate seat for the Democratic Party, a stealth Religious Right candidate? Quote: “Cory Booker is very, very tight with the religious right wing — but he’s also very careful about what he says, since he hopes to run for president one day and cultivates strong LGBT support. The problem is, he hangs with the Dominionists […] So here’s the question: Does Cory Booker simply cultivate useful relationships with a lot of un-American, unsavory, pro-corporatist, right-wing religious extremists — or is he one of them? I can’t read his mind, but I’ve had enough of giving so-called Democrats the benefit of the doubt on this stuff.” Is this all mere speculation? Talk2Action has some more background. All I know is that the New Apostolic Reformation is bad news, and some deeper questions should be asked of Booker if he’s truly allied with them.
  • Welsh, one of the surviving Celtic languages, is in trouble. Quote: “Only half of 16 to 24-year-olds consider themselves fluent, compared with two-thirds of over 60s, and only a third of the younger generation use Welsh with their friends In the language’s stronghold of Carmarthenshire there were five electoral areas where more than 70% of the people spoke Welsh in 2001, now there are none. The statistics have led to calls to protect the language, and 84 per cent of people indicated that they would welcome the chance to use it more.” The article notes that living next to a “language superpower” makes preservation difficult. Let’s hope things don’t get as bleak as it once did for Cornish
  • Practicing Witchcraft isn’t actually legal grounds to have your children taken away, no matter how much some would wish it to be so. Quote: “‘Nobody was able to articulate specific crimes associated with the ideology,’ wrote one officer. ‘Nobody on scene was able to articulate specific reasons (to remove the daughter) besides the religious views of the (boyfriend). All parties were advised that religion was constitutionally protected.'” 
  • The Pew Forum asked various religious leaders about the morality of life extension, and while they didn’t talk to any Pagans, they do interview Unitarian-Universalist, Hindu, and Buddhist leaders. Quote: “According to Michael Hogue, associate professor of theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, a Statement of Conscience on life extension ‘would probably come down [against it].’ Opposition would likely stem from ‘ecological concerns as well as concerns about economic justice,’ he says, referring to the environmental impact of faster population growth and the possibility that only the wealthy would be able to afford life-extension therapies.” Hindus, on the other hand, maybe be OK with life extension. Quote: “According to Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion at McGill University in Montreal who has written about Hinduism and life extension. ‘The normal blessing in Hinduism is ‘Live long.’ So why not live longer?’ he says.” 

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

Pagan Community Notes is a 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!