Archives For shamanism

[Today journalist Nathan Hall reports on a national concern that is affecting Pagans and magic-workers. If you enjoy articles like this, please consider donating to The Wild Hunt. We are now at 43% with 11 days left. You make it possible for us to continue to provide a platform for our communities’ important news. What better way to celebrate the October season: Donate to a news organization that is, in part, for and about modern Witches. Donate today.]

UNITED STATES – Kratom is an innocuous medicinal plant, a drug, and herb used in religious ceremonies, or a killer, depending with whom you speak. A woman in Florida blames the drug for her son’s suicide; addiction recovery advocates say that it can be a useful harm-reduction tool; journey-workers believe that it’s good for relaxing the mind and aiding in trance work. Additionally, there are a growing number of people who find kratom to be an enjoyable intoxicant. They drink it rather than going to a traditional bar and ordering alcohol.

By ThorPorre (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

[Photo Credit: ThorPorre / Wikimedia]

The plant, which originates in southeast Asia and some islands of the South Pacific, has been used for centuries as a mild stimulant or pain reliever, as well as in religious ceremony. In the last decade, kratom has found popularity in Western countries, especially through kava bars. And, as a result, it has been followed by bans and laws limiting its availability.

Liz Johnson is the owner of Magus Books, a store serving the Pagan and magick-using communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The store sells kratom.

“As with all the herbs we sell it is supplied for the use that the person sees fit to use it for. Our intent is to provide magickal tools and resources and that herb, like all the other herbs, certainly falls into that category,” she said.

Johnson explained that one of the issues that creates problems for the herb is that there are different strains.

“Each of them have their own effects, each of them have their own purposes. This is one of those reasons for that regulation, a preponderance of people will have a typical reaction to a given strain. This doesn’t mean it will be your reaction to that strain, which is a typical thing with any herb,” she said.

There are a number of reactions that are considered to be standard, or what you would expect to see. However, since people each have their own unique body chemistry, there will always be instances where unexpected reactions occur, she further explained.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency attempted to add the plant to the list of Schedule 1 drugs, or  those substances seen as having no medical benefit, including heroin, MDMA, LSD and marijuana. On August 31, the DEA announced their intentions to schedule kratom as such by the end of September 2016.

The August announcement lead to a massive public protest, after which the DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson admitted, “I have been with the DEA for 20 years and have never seen this level of public response,”as noted by the Los Angeles Times,

In fact, 51 members of Congress, across party lines submitted their own protests to the proposed legislation, which forced the DEA to backpedal and open up a another 6 week period for discussion. That will close on Dec. 1.

At that point, the DEA will decide whether to move forward with the ban or begin discussing alternatives.

A sign in front of Magus Books in Minneapolis, prior to the DEA's extension of the discussion period about potentially banning kratom. (Photo from the Magus Books Facebook page.)

Sign in front of Magus Books in Minneapolis on Sept 27 prior to the DEA’s extension of the discussion period about the banning of kratom. [Courtesy Magus Books Facebook page]

For Johnson and Magus Book, a ban would have some serious implications for business.

“We’ll lose those sales; we’ll lay people off; there will be cutting of hours. It’s not an insignificant percentage. It will impact the business to lose that particular herb. But, it would impact the business [also] to lose white sage. [Kratom] is our most popular herb, make no mistake. It will have the largest impact the loss of a single herb would have. But at the same time with the number of herbs we sell, any loss we would have a noticeable impact,” she said.

As a tool for journey work, Johnson said that if kratom were made illegal, most of those folks would move on to another alternative.  However, if people are using kratom to maintain a regimen where they’re attempting to not use opiates or synthetic opiates, there aren’t a lot of alternatives.  Johnson said, “For the people who come looking to replace a physical pain reliever (that) they’ve become addicted to, I don’t have a great replacement for that. I have a protocol as an herbalist to help with the detox.”

Justin Kunzelman is the co-founder and director of Rebel Recovery, a nonprofit with several branches across the United States. He is based in South Florida.

“It could be used as a safer alternative replacement drug, but it depends on the individual. If an individual’s goal for harm-reduction is, ‘I don’t want to shoot heroin anymore,’ then our responsibility as a professional is to find the best way for them to do that. If it’s possible for them to do that in an abstinence-only setting then they should,” he said.

If they feel like kratom is a good alternative that could prevent them from being on heroin, then they should do that, he added.

“You also can’t tell people what their goals should and should not be and what they should believe. I don’t know that there’s really enough research to use it as a replacement therapy, but somebody that’s addicted is just looking to escape, could they use this to escape and use it as a replacement for heroin? Absolutely,” Kunzelman said.

Where he sees cause for concern is that it’s another drug and to people who suffer from addiction, trading one for another isn’t the ultimate goal.

“It has everything to do with the mindset behind using the drug,” he said. “Everything from caffeine, nicotine to kava, kratom, crack, heroin, it’s all going to set off the same cycle in their minds. It’s all gonna set off the same cycle in their lives.”

Kunzelman points to the openness of the internet as a likely source of fuel for the protests seen after attempting to ban kratom. The spread of information has lead to a lot of social change, including the attitudes of people who use kratom.

“I think a lot of them… understood the danger of putting another plant as a Schedule 1 narcotic and saying it had no value, while doing no research. […] Look at how many people could have been helped were we able to openly study marijuana in the 50’s. How many people’s lives could have been improved had we known then what we know now about CBD oil (cannabidiol, an extract of cannabis being studied for health benefits, including treatment of epilepsy)?” he said.

There’s a lot of potential research to be done with kratom, but having it as a Schedule 1 substance would prevent any of that from happening, Kunzelman said.

Liz Johnson feels that for Pagan or shamanic work, practioners should view the open access of plants and plant materials as a religious right.

“Every time we make a move to decide that we are not responsible enough as a society to handle these things, we take a step backwards evolutionarily, we take a step away from reaching those pinnacles of spirituality that we know create a better world,” she said.

As a recovery advocate and a person in recovery himself, Kunzelman sees the drug war as a failure, and the current heroin epidemic as a product of that.

“The last thing we want to do is add to that. Add one more thing to the list of things that we can kick in your door for, seize your home and your car,” he said.

SEATTLE — Over the weekend, the Pagan community in the pacific northwest learned that one of its beloved members, a fellow teacher, talented artist, and close friend, had committed suicide. Since then, shock has rolled through the community, turning into expressions of deep sadness.

Writer Rhyd Wildermuth posted, “The last time I saw you, you gave me a huge hug and called me ‘big brother’ like you always did, and then said, ‘I feel like I’ll never see you again.’ I smiled and laughed it off. Of course we‘d see each other again […] I was fucking wrong.”

[Courtesy S. Barnett / Linked In]

[Courtesy S. Barnett / Linked In]

“Hi. I’m Seb.”

Seb Barnett was born on a farm nestled at the edge of the Pacific Northwest’s Olympic National Forest with its temperate rain forests and majestic mountain peaks. Seb’s childhood was spent in the woods climbing trees, tracking animals, building forts, fishing, and exploring.

In addition, Seb’s world was filled with creating and making art. “I have been making things with my hands since I could hold a pencil. And the more things I create… the more I want to create,” wrote Seb in their Patreon account overview.

And create Seb did. However, as noted in a 2016 Miroir interview, Seb did not define themselves as an artist until 2005. “Before 2005, art was just about me. The mentality that made it more occurred when I started thinking about the impact my art could have on others.”

In 2006, Seb earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from the Cornish College of the Arts in 2006. While attending, they were awarded both the Kreielsheimer and President’s scholarships.

It wasn’t long before Seb was showing in exhibitions. Their first solo show was at the Seattle Georgetown Arts and Cultural Center in 2008, only two years after graduation. From that point forward, Seb continued to exhibit work annually, including shows in New York City and Vancouver.

Seb’s work found its way into print. In 2012, their work appeared in a book titled, “Ink on Paper: The Mary Alice Cooley Print Collection.” More recently, Seb was the featured artist for Hello Horror‘s 2015 Spring issue. Then, in early 2016, Seb’s work was published in the February issue of Miroir magazine, including a brief interview. Seb’s piece, titled “Butterflies,” graces the magazine’s cover.


Regardless of all the success and notoriety, Seb was still working to make ends meet as a professional artist. To assist, Seb opened a Patreon account through which their art could be showcased, sponsored, and shared. On the overview page, Seb explained, “One of the best things about this Patreon is that I’ll let you into my world. My world is full of magical ideas, philosophies, and lots and lots of techniques! Not only will I tell you why I make what I make, I will also tell you how.”

Along with being a prolific artist, Seb was also a practicing shaman and spiritual teacher, who “was always able to see spirits” despite a general Christian upbringing. On their website Green Stag Spiritwork, Seb explains their practice: “I do not follow the shamanic traditions of any one culture or people, as I was not mentored by another shaman or indigenous community. I feel that for me to do so would be a disingenuous impersonation. I am an American born of the temperate rainforests of western Washington.”

Seb held workshops and classes on various topics from meditation to divination. Through the Green Stag site, they sold prints depicting various gods, as well as handcrafted jewelry, medicine bags, and other items.

Seb’s upbringing and childhood experiences reflect not only their spiritual work and journey, but also in their creative work. Seb wrote, “The natural world became a great source of fascination” and it’s “tightly woven into [my] art.”

Many works feature plants growing out of the human body, or resting on it and around it. In these cases, the natural is literally penetrating humanity and engulfing it. While these images can be disturbing to view, they are peaceful and invigorating at the same time. And that is the very line that Seb’s work walked, and walked proudly: the strange and the lovely; the unknowable and the knowable.

In a blog post, Seb wrote: “What is often perceived as different, strange, unknowable or unexplainable is easy to be terrified of. However, when we have the chance to know these beings, (or people) we may find that what we thought was malice, was only them being curious. What we perceive as offensive, may just be scared of us. Act first with peace in mind, and be ready for friendship.”

Seb Barnett - The Now 8x10

“The Now” [All Rights Reserved. Copyright S. Barnett]

Seb’s success and vibrancy had no sign of stopping. In fact, Seb was hosting a nine-week S\shamanism class for beginners at the Sacred Garden Healing Center in Seattle. On October 14, Urban Light Studios was to exhibit Seb’s solo show titled De Trop. The studio advertised the event, explaining, “Seb examines what it means to be considered ‘de trop’ (in French, this translates to ‘too much’) in a vast, ever-changing emotional spectrum of day-to-day life.” And, Seb’s last post on Facebook, dated Oct. 5, demonstrates a real excitement for that exhibition.

However, something changed.

News of the suicide came on Oct. 8, shocking both the local art and Pagan communities alike. In a Facebook tribute, Brennos Agrocunos wrote that having Seb as a friend was a “fabulous prize.” Agrocunos wrote, “This world is hard and getting harder. We need more beauty, more art, more love, more wild. We need to hold each other close and make the world safer for people that don’t fit a mold. My heart aches.”

In another public tributeEric Angus Jeffords wrote, “Goodbye, Seb Barnett. My Big Queer Sibling. My Awkward Artist. My Beautiful Tree Person. My Urban Shaman with the Green Hair. You have returned to your grove, and I will sit under your branches and listen to your voice murmuring through the pines. I will read your words in the insects that crawl along the ground. I will smell you in the winds, and in the flowers. I will feel you in the bark and the stones. You have returned to where you were birthed. The leaves never looked so green.”

The sadness has come in waves, being expressed over social media and well beyond as people come to grips with this loss. Seb Barnett was a deeply loved person, a friend, a teacher, an artist, and a “modern shaman practicing old school shamanism.” Seb’s spirit will live on in the natural world of their birth, in their visual art, and in their words:

I want to honor pain, grief, ‘monsters,’ the strange, and the outsiders by portraying them in a beautiful, but also honest way. […] ‘Come here, this is beautiful… but wait, it’s also painful.’

There are some people who are so magical that we break reality. Rules don’t apply to us in the same way, and the laws of the universe warp like mirages in the heat of the intensity of us.  Do not wish to be like us. We break harder, love harder, die repeatedly to only continue living, and are alien in a world that won’t believe in us. We are mythic.”

What is remembered, lives.

*   *   *

A memorial fund has been set up to help cover funeral expenses. No date has yet been published for any public services, rituals or memorials

[Today, guest writer Zora Burden continues her conversation with author Patricia Keneally-Morrison. Burden is a poet, author, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. Her work focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism and the esoteric.The first part of this interview (side A) was published last Sunday. ]

“Patricia Kennealy-Morrison was one of the first female rock critics and journalists, having begun her career in the 1960s […] Along with her own work, Patricia was also the wife of the rock legend Jim Morrison. Her bestselling memoir Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison commemorates their life together and love for one another, and is one of the most candid and definitive books on Jim Morrison. […] Her prolific writing continues with the murder series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, the latest of which is set for release at the end of 2015. She is also the author of a series of Celtic-based science fiction novels, The Keltiad.

“In 1990, Patricia was knighted as a Dame Templar at Rosslyn Chapel, an initiate of the Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolymitani. She is a historian and archivist of Celtic traditions, as well as a High Priestess. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to boldly and publicly acknowledge that she practiced Witchcraft, during a time when feminism was barely in its second wave.” – Zora Burden, a condensed version of the introduction from side A.

  *   *   *

Zora Burden:  What inspired you to write your books? 

81I0a7TepgLPatricia Keneally-Morrison: They just came to me. I don’t have a lot of ideas, but I have very deep and complex ones. The Keltiad Celtic legends set in far future outer space, King Arthur meets Star Wars came first, when I was at college; in fact, Jim was the first person I told about it, and he was very encouraging.  I wasn’t ready to write it yet, though, and I tinkered with it for years. But when I had been let go from CBS Records, in one of the great purges of the early 80s, I found myself with both time and money enough to do it, so I stayed home and wrote. I got an agent right away, he sold it very quickly, and the first Keltiad book, The Copper Crown, came out in hardcover in 1984. There have been eight more, including one short-story collection.

My series The Rock & Roll Murders: The Rennie Stride Mysteries, about a rock newspaper reporter and her superstud English guitarist boyfriend, first appeared in 2007, with Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore, and the seventh one is just about to be published. There’s also ROCK CHICK: A Girl and Her Music: The Jazz & Pop Writings, a collection of my rock critical pieces for my magazine, and of course Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison.

Only the last three books of the Rennie series (Go Ask Malice: Murder at Woodstock, Scareway to Heaven: Murder at the Fillmore East and Daydream Bereaver: Murder on the Good Ship Rock & Roll), ROCK CHICK and the Keltiad short stories, Tales of Spiral Castle, are available on Kindle at the moment, But I’m working to get all the books up on it, including Strange Days, and the first four Rennie books are available on

I’m planning on three or four more Rennie books to wrap up her story, two more Kelts books to wrap up that series in a blaze of glory, and my long-in-progress Viking book, Son of the Northern Star, which has 140,000 words on it and not nearly finished. After that, I think I’m done. Unless of course I have another idea. Or two. Which I might.

ZB: Do you feel with your book series, that you’re channeling spirits or manifesting energies with your characters?  

PKM: Well, no, because that would imply that I am reliant on outside help to write my books for me. And nothing could be further from the truth. But I do feel that the characters speak to me and tell me what they plan on doing. I never argue with them.

ZB: How did you become the editor for the paper you first started working with?  What are some of your fondest memories and experiences working with the paper? 

PKM: In 1967, I saw a copy of Jazz & Pop on the newsstand in the midtown office building where I worked for Macmillan Publishing, writing a kids’ dictionary. It was full of stories about the new progressive rock I’d been crazy about for several years, and I fell in love with the magazine immediately. So I wrote to the editor and publisher, Pauline Rivelli, and asked if there might be a job there for me. She called me about two months later, and I began as editorial assistant, becoming editor at the end of 1968, best job in the world.

Publisher Pauline Rivelli announcing Patricia's appointment as editor in chief of Jazz Pop Magazine.

Jazz & Pop publisher Pauline Rivelli (right) announcing Patricia’s (left) appointment as editor in chief of the magazine. [Courtesy Photo]

I got to meet pretty much everyone but the Rolling Stones (who cares?), including all my really truly favorites like Jefferson Airplane and the Doors and Janis Joplin. It was a four-color, slick magazine published entirely by women (four of us) for a readership about 80% male; I’d say we did a pretty good job. Sometimes the old Marxist jazzbos on staff, male, gave me a hard time for editing them not to their liking, but hey, I was the editor, not them. 

It was a difficult time for women, but I had very little difficulty. Maybe because I gave off a vibe of “Mess with me and I will end you,” but the only real unpleasantness was the time backstage at the Fillmore East before Led Zeppelin’s debut, when Robert Plant called across the dressing room, “Hey, you in the lace nightie, get over here and sit on my face!”

I was wearing my lace-tablecloth Joplin-style lace pantsuit, and I declined his offer in no uncertain terms. I mean, we’d had dinner together, all five  of us plus manager and publicist, the night before, and he’d been fine as we discussed all sorts of  things, from Aleister Crowley to JRR Tolkien. Besides, I had a MUCH better rock star’s face to sit on…

After Jazz & Pop and Jim’s death, I went to work for RCA Records as an advertising copywriter. My first big assignment: David Bowie’s first American ad campaigns. I got to work personally with him on these, as he had studied advertising at school in London and understood how it worked. We did some beautiful stuff for the first four albums: Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups. David was a delight to work with, the second smartest person I’d ever met in rock. As I met him for the first time in the studio, and we shook hands, and I looked up into those extraordinary eyes, I was hit by just one thought: “This man has come to Earth to kill the Sixties.” Right again, as usual…

Three years later, I moved over to CBS Records, to write ads there. I was twice nominated for Clios for my work for Billy Joel, and also wrote ads for Wings, Barbra Streisand, Mott the Hoople, James Taylor, Boston, Aerosmith, just about all the acts on the label. In my capacity as director of the radio spots I wrote for all these people, I even got to direct John Belushi, Bill Murray and Jane Curtin: we used  the cast of Saturday Night Live as voiceover talent.

In the early 80s, I was let go, as were hundreds of others throughout the industry, and that’s when the books began…

 ZB: You have written about being disillusioned by the romantic poets of the music world but when you met Jim he embodied that. What about him was different from the rest and how much of yourself do you feel brought that (poet) out of him? 

PKM: Oh, he was so smart, of course. Probably the smartest and best-read person I had ever met (with David Bowie not far behind), and I’m no slouch in either department. And when he realized that, in all modesty, I was just as smart as he was (Mensa level IQs, both of us), I think he found that really attractive: a woman he could talk to on his own level, and a woman he could tear up the sheets with. Sometimes at the same time. Also he was rather nice to look at.

ZB: Do you feel that you and Jim were fated to be together and that he sought you out to mentor him and fill a spiritual void he had within himself? 

PKM: Definitely. There were actual blue sparks that showered the first time we touched, to shake hands in his hotel room at the Plaza the day after the Madison Square Garden concert. I could hardly look up at him, but he was smiling. “Portent”, he said. He was right.

About the mentoring part, sort of. Jim sought people to learn from and who could supply with information. The greatest thing about him was his curiosity, and he never stopped asking questions when he was interested in something.

And yes, he did have a great god-shaped void to fill. He was a seeking soul, and I think that when he found me, and realized that I could tell him all this marvelous stuff that spoke to his own Celtic heritage, that was a centering and very intriguing thing for him. Unfortunately, he was taken away before he could work this out to his complete satisfaction. He wasn’t a stupid man by any means, and in the end he didn’t want a stupid woman.

[Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

Patricia Keneally-Morrison [Photo Credit L. D. Bright]

ZB: What wisdom that you imparted to him really affected him and what had he taught you spiritually in turn? 

PKM: I can’t really quantify it like that. I told him things, he told me things, we found things together. Just like any other couple in love.

ZB: Did Jim express wanting to travel to certain parts of Europe in relation to your own beliefs?  

PKM: We had discussed going to our respective homelands of Ireland and Scotland for a honeymoon, and perhaps eventually to Rome and Athens. We would have visited sacred sites, of course, because that would have been part of it. Stonehenge was high on the list.

ZB: What were Jim’s favorite mythologies? What were his beliefs or magical focus? 

PKM: Jim was a natural seeker, and what he sought, as I said earlier, was to fill a God-sized hole in his life. He got very little out of his born Presbyterianism, and had rejected it as completely as I had rejected my Catholicism. He grabbed influences wherever he could. I don’t know what his real, true inner beliefs were: sometimes he seemed to reject the existence of a Supreme Being at all, other times he wrote things like An American Prayer (“O Great Creator of Being, Grant us one more hour to perform our art, and perfect our lives.”) I don’t think he was being ironic when he wrote things like that.

ZB: What fascinated Jim most about Paganism? What did he like to practice himself?  

PKM: I have no idea if Jim ever practiced when he was not with me. You can see from his writings that he was very much into it, though. I think the fact that it was part of his own Scottish heritage intrigued him, and he did mention that in a poem or two. I gave him an amulet to wear, but I don’t know if he ever did.

ZB:  What Pagan holidays did you and Jim celebrate together, if any? What do you currently focus on most in your practice in terms of ritual or ceremony?

PKM: Jim and I became engaged right at Beltane, ring, knee, and everything,  and I performed a little ceremony to bring that Beltane energy into line with ours.  And of course our handfasting, which literally almost knocked Jim out.

I generally celebrate Beltane and Samhain most elaborately; flowers, candles, food and drink, a formally cast and very protected circle. Imbolc, which I prefer to call Brighnasa, and Lughnasa, less so. Very occasionally, I attend a ritual at the house of friends, or, once, in a lovely Unitarian church rented out for a Yule ritual, but I haven’t for years.

Oh, and people who call the fall equinox “Mabon” drive me up the wall. “Mabon” was invented by Scott Cunningham in the 70s, with not a shred of evidence for it Plenty of well-known and very learned Witches have written screeds debunking “Mabon,” and I’m with them. If we’re going to make things up, I prefer to call it “Fionnasa,” the feast of Fionn, in line with Lughnasa (feast of Lugh) and Brighnasa (feast of Bríd).

ZB: Do you feel that the stigma attached to Pagan religions is the reason that people are dismissive of your handfasting marriage?  

PKM: I can’t speak for other people and how they think, or don’t think. I expect the reason people are dismissive of our marriage is that they are jealous of me with Jim, personally. Or they prefer to buy into the fiction that people like the late Ray Manzarek or the late Danny Sugerman propagated. Whatever. I can’t get worked up about their stupidity. Jim said he loved me. Jim said we were married. Jim gave me two rings. Jim called me his wife. That’s all I need to know. It should be all they need as well. If they disrespect it, they disrespect Jim and his choice.

 ZB: Will you mention any of Jim’s poems that were based on his spiritual experiences you had together or on his own?  What are some memories you have of his writing as a poet that people may not know about?”

PKM:  Artists don’t really care to separate inspiration from achievement in that fashion. In fact, I don’t think we even can: it’s all one fabric, one piece of creation. I’m absolutely sure that some of Jim’s work, whether songs or poetry, was indeed the outcome of his spirituality, but I wouldn’t presume to put words in his mouth and arrogantly say what this poem or that song was based on.

The Jazz & Pop cover of Jim was the September 1970 issue and, per his request, I brought 40 copies of it down to Miami with me when I joined Jim there for a week of his obscenity trial. We thought to enter it into evidence as proof of his status offstage, as a poet, because his poem “Anatomy of Rock” was published in it for the first time. Didn’t work, as we were denied. The photo is by his friend Frank Lisciandro,  taken at Maximilian’s Palace, Mexico City, in front of a mural by Juan O’Gorman, and photographed in April of 1970

jazz-and-popI have a fair amount of Jim’s writings to and for me, that he left in my care. Gorgeous and erotic love poems,  songs, letters, even beautiful drawings and nude sketches of me (he was a talented artist, along with everything else).  Unfortunately, I cannot publish any of them.  According to law, the gift of such things does not include copyright, unless specifically stated, and in our romantic fervor, we didn’t think of such a thing back then. Well, what lovers would? So the Morrison estate lawfully owns the content of these very private things, even though they have nothing to do with them and the family has never seen them. I own the physical objects: I could sell them, or eat them, or even display them in public, say as an art show in a gallery. But the one thing I cannot do is publish them.

A while back, I had thought to be able to do this once Jim had been dead for fifty years, which was the state of copyright law at the time. However, thanks to Sonny Bono and Walt Disney and the desire to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain, the law has been changed, and now there is no hope of publishing these wondrous things in my lifetime. Still, you never know: should I ever be diagnosed with a fatal illness, I may just decide to self-publish Jim’s words to me and the estate be damned. That would be a fitting way to go out, don’t you think? Very rock and roll. I think Jim would like it…

ZB: Do you write poetry yourself? 

PKM: Sometimes. Songs also. They have nothing to do with my practice. I use the songs in my rock & roll murder series, The Rennie Stride Mysteries, and  the poems in The Keltiad.

ZB: As his wife, great love and mentor in the arts of magical traditions, how do you feel you affected Jim’s work in music? 

PKM: Again, I can’t speak for him and the sources of his inspiration. On the other hand, he informs my own work, as the daemon, the God, the male spirit, to a serious degree. Most of my male characters are based on aspects of him to some extent, either physical or spiritual: Gwydion and Morric in The Keltiad especially. Funnily enough, the only male character not based on Jim is the only rock star character, the superstar lead guitarist co-protagonist of the Rennie Stride books, Turk Wayland. He is most definitely not Jim in the slightest degree.

ZB: With poetry as a form of spell work, did Jim see his lyrics and songs as spells in essence? 

PKM: They can be, and it might have been. He liked to think of it that way, at least, and he was probably right to do so. Writing and poetry are the means by which ritual and spells are performed. I mean, how could they not be the means? You need words, obviously.

ZB: To many of his fans, Jim Morrison was considered a shaman. Do you feel this is something a person is born with innate abilities or the skills have to be learned?  

PKM: It’s usually idiots who have no glimmer of an idea of what a shaman is or does who are the first ones to bray about Jim being one. He wasn’t, not really, though he might have become one in time. He had no training, no teacher, no real idea. He certainly had no way of protecting others, or even himself, on his shaman journeys. Acid wasn’t really going to do it for him. If he got into shamanistic ways, it was purely instinctual. Which may be the best way to do it. I won’t say he didn’t see a ways ahead of the rest of us, because he did, and sometimes staggeringly so, but I would hesitate to say that that of itself made him a shaman. There’s too many other factors such a calling demands.

ZB: Will you talk about the lore of Jim being possessed by the Native American shaman after witnessing the accident in his youth. Do you feel he contained this other spirit or that the event triggered a prior knowledge within himself that he was born with shamanistic talents?

PKM: Complete bogus. Yeah, yeah, the accident happened, and clearly affected him, since he was only a little boy, but he did not believe he was actually possessed by some dead Indian who was almost certainly not a shaman. Oliver Stone has a lot to answer for, having made much more of the incident than Jim ever did. He just needed a hook to hang his execrable movie on, and that was what he picked.

ZB: How accurately do you feel you were portrayed in The Doors movie as a Priestess? What should they have included in the script that would have better defined you and your relationship to Jim?

PKM: That movie was an evil, monstrous spiritual rape of Jim, me, the Doors and the Sixties, and I will never forgive Oliver Stone for it. I was billed as a “consultant” to the film, and wrote my own lines for the ritual scene, but my advice was largely ignored otherwise and Oliver made me look like a naïve dupe, to be laughed at in a later scene. Jim was completely serious about our wedding and never at any point mocked it or me.

On the other hand, the movie was also the most public exposure with Jim that I ever got, horrible though it is, and Kathleen Quinlan, who is a dear friend to this day, portrayed me beautifully. (Though she took me aside before we shot the scene and bade me be very mindful not to accidentally marry her to Val…) So…two blades of the axe, right? I could have really used an axe… Still, it’s interesting how after that movie Oliver became a national laughingstock and punch line. I haven’t really kept up with his career, but I don’t think he’s done much, if anything, to equal his pre-Doors output. Hmm, almost as if someone put a curse on him…but no. He called down his karma upon himself. I just hung the karma mirror.  And, of course, it got me to write Strange Days, which I would never have done otherwise.

1020234ZB: Is there anything you wish you would have included in Strange Days that you didn’t? 

PKM: Well, I wish I’d known as much about the horrific circumstances of his death as I do now, and whom to blame for it. Because certainly that would have gone in, and a little of it did, in the paperback version. And I didn’t include anything in Days that I wish I hadn’t.

ZB: With regards to mainstream society’s attitudes towards paganism and witchcraft, do you see these changing?

PKM: I do think attitudes are changing, yes, and I’m thrilled to see it. What we do is analogous to what Native Americans do, a nature-based shamanic religion, and we should get the same respect. Of course, it’s taken hundred of years for them to get respect as well. But that too is changing, at least culturally; politically may take longer.

ZB: How do you think we can change this prejudice?  

PKM: I’m not sure we can. But maybe coming forward, getting out of the broom closet, is the way to show people that our religion is worthy and real, that we’re regular folks just like them. Only, our church is a teensy bit different from theirs. The more of us stand up and declare ourselves, the more “normal” our faith will look to the scaredy-cats

ZB: What else do you feel is important people should know about yourself?  

PKM: If I want people to know anything about me, I’ll tell them in my own way and in my own good time. It’s all in my books, really. Otherwise, it’s none of their business and they don’t need to know. That’s all. And thank you, Zora, very much. Brightest Blessings to you and all in The Wild Hunt.

Modern shaman and best-selling author S. Kelley Harrell’s new book, “Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism,” out May 30 from Soul Rocks Books, is a light-hearted and informative handbook introducing shamanism to today’s young adults and beginning seekers. Author and journalist Beth Winegarner’s latest book, “The Columbine Effect: How Five Teen Pastimes Got Caught in The Crossfire and Why Teens Are Taking Them Back,” addresses how certain interests — including alternative spiritualities like shamanism, neopaganism and others — have been unfairly blamed for teen violence. Kelley and Beth got together for a chat about alternative faiths, cultural misperceptions and the importance of trusting youth as they find their own paths.

Teen_ShamanismBeth: I know practitioners within Santeria and Palo Mayombe who say that those paths are gaining in popularity among teens. Are you seeing anything similar with shamanism? Do you think more teens are feeling the call? Why does this book make sense at this particular time?

Kelley: I do see this is the case with modern shamanism. It makes sense to put this book out now because so many young people aren’t satisfied with the status quo of religious paths, lifestyles, gender issues, philosophies, and even career concerns, in general. Their processes and options are very different, even from when we were that age. There are so many conflicting messages in media, that having a supportive, yet, disciplined way to examine the unseen and engage with it, connect it back to mundane life, is very grounding.  Young people are looking for ways to bring personal meaning more into everything they do. That’s what rebellion is about. Expressing that need in a compassionately supported context ultimately benefits us all.

A key thing I see that’s different about young people, now, compared to older generations, is a lack of fear, which manifests in a couple of important ways. First, they aren’t afraid of intuitive or even supernatural experiences. They express being a great deal more capable to accept them for what they are. Even when they don’t have an understanding of what those experiences are, they don’t run from them. There’s a greater willingness to just accept that life is bigger without having to define that what means. Likewise, teens, today, aren’t afraid to diverge from their elders’ philosophies and viewpoints. While they may not wave that difference around, they recognize that they approach life differently, and seem more able to express compassion for difference, period. It’s when they are not shown compassion for the difference that shadow becomes a factor.

Side note, but I’m also tired of information on paths such as shamanism coming from outside the shamanic community. The broad resources that flit through media read copied and pasted from some 1970s text book. There is a real need to see the path as alive and evolving, and in seeing it as such, a possibility for personal connection to the unseen.

Beth: I hadn’t thought about the possibility that younger generations might be more open to supernatural experiences without being scared of them. I wonder if that’s a product of growing up in a more agnostic, or even atheist society, rather than being raised in more dedicated religious households and not being so exposed to the idea that anything outside the church is scary. One of the things I noted when I was researching “The Columbine Effect” is that kids — even young kids — have a very clear idea of what they’re comfortable with and what’s too scary or out of bounds. So even if they’re less afraid of things that might make their parents or especially grandparents uncomfortable, they still show a propensity for defining boundaries for their exploration.

Those findings connect with something I noticed in “Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism.” In the beginning of the book, you say that we often don’t think of children as wise. Where do you think that idea comes from, and why is it wrong?

Kelley: I think it comes from old virtues around control and a general need to see children as creatures to be shaped, rather than allowed to unfold. That ideology hasn’t worked for myself or anyone I’ve worked with. I find so many wounds around suppressing the wisdom of childhood. What’s wrong about that is obviously that it denies the intrinsic value of the child, though it also creates a rut in which adults become stuck and don’t grow. The education system in the US is a great example of that. Instead of realizing that forcing all kids down the same curriculum the same way doesn’t work, we keep finding ways to narrow the system. It’s a pattern of, “This is how we’ve always done it, ” rather than allowing individuality and creating ways to meet needs more openly.

TCE-frontcover-med copyBeth: I think that probably leads to something else I found in my research, which is that many kids explore a pagan or other alternative path in part because they become so disillusioned with the church or even with a lack of spirituality in the household, and they crave something that helps them create meaning in their lives and maybe also validates those kinds of supernatural experiences you mentioned earlier. Whether it’s neopaganism, Thelema, or chaos magic, these inquiries can turn into meaningful and sincere spiritual paths for teens. It might start out as rebellion but it turns into something else.

That said, many assume that kids who explore a non Judeo/Christian/Islamic path are only “dabbling” or “rebelling,” that children aren’t capable of seriously following a spiritual path they weren’t raised in. But what’s interesting among shamans, even modern shamans, is that the “call” often comes in childhood, doesn’t it? What makes shamanism different in this respect?

Kelley: It does come in childhood. I think shamanism is different in this respect because we are all born animists, which is realizing that all things are innately alive. Children pretend their stuffed animals talk to them. Plants, rocks, cars — everything is a companion to be interacted with, that contributes to the child’s understanding of life. We come in wired for that experience, then as we age into a social system larger than our immediate family–becoming school-aged–we are taught to shun that perspective. We’re taught that imagining livelihood is bad and displays immaturity, possibly lower intellect, or emotional problems. In that light, the connection between judgement of mental state and the unseen starts very early in life, as well. Our natural way of sensing and engaging life is quickly redacted.

Beth: You also write about the line between shamanic experience and what we might consider schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I’ve written a great deal about youth violence being linked to paganism, Satanism, the occult, etc., when in reality we need to look more at violent kids’ mental health and state of mind. How can parents, and culture at large, get better at telling the difference between a child who is experiencing visions or trance-journeys and one who is experiencing delusions induced by illness?

Kelley: In anyone, of any age, the difference between invoking trance and delusions is control. If a young person can control the unseen experiences s/he is having, that isn’t mental illness. If s/he can change the dialogue between self and spirit guides, that isn’t delusion. Control is the key component of trance work — moving into trance at will, directing what happens within, and leaving trance when desired — these are the intended, willed choices that a shaman makes. Someone who can’t control going into trance, who feels victimized or controlled by the experiences within trance, or can’t make trance stop, is experiencing a state of being that could be considered a mental or biochemical condition.

What do you think is the cultural motivation to assign ‘spiritual’ deviation to a youth’s errant behaviour , rather than explore it as the result of mental illness? How does this emphasis shape our view of young people, and these spiritual paths?

Beth: Well, keep in mind that until a few hundred years ago, we didn’t have much of a concept of mental illness at all; the feelings and behaviors we now recognize as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or even neurological issues like epilepsy and migraines, used to be explained in terms of demons and possession. And I think that when it comes to kids, the same social impulses that lead us to assume children can’t be wise or capable of their own agency have also given us the idea that kids aren’t capable of being very mentally ill, that it’s something only adults suffer from seriously. For example, a lot of people don’t think teenagers are capable of being sociopaths, but in Dave Cullen’s book on the Columbine High School shootings, he makes a very strong case for the argument that Eric Harris was a sociopath.

So, if you don’t believe kids are capable of being so ill that they’re likely to commit violence, it’s easier to look for other causes when they become violent. And if they happened to be exploring an alternative spirituality at the time, it’ll seem like an obvious culprit.

Of course, one of the reasons those explanations can make sense to people is that they don’t actually understand pagans or Satanists or occultists all that well. They’re relying on what they’ve heard on TV news or horror films, which is far from accurate. It’s like what you said about relying on the wrong sources of information about shamanism earlier. Instead, people who have a teenager exploring an alternative faith need to read and talk with legitimate sources. I talk about that a lot in “The Columbine Effect,” along with the ways various minority faiths and paths are misunderstood by society at large. So, what are some of the misconceptions people have about shamans and shamanism? Are those perceptions harmful to the practice?

Kelley: This is a personal button. The overlap of New Age ideology and earth-based paths hasn’t always been a service to shamanism. Out of the New Age movement, a lot fluffy, everything-is-always-good perspectives emerged, regarding shamanism. One of those is the idea that all mentally ill people are shamans, which is erroneously based on some nebulous tenet that tribal cultures revere the mentally ill as wisdomkeepers. This is always contrasted with the derision of the mentally ill in the west, which is virtually incontestable.

Every person contributes valuable intuitive insights, regardless of mental state. Everyone. No one is elite and special in that regard. The thing is, tribal spiritual leaders know the difference between someone who is mentally ill, and someone to whom they can completely turn over the spiritual reins of the tribe.  Someone who can’t control their ecstatic experience isn’t acting in the role of shaman, and that is the difference. Being able to go into trance doesn’t make you a shaman. Having a spirit guide doesn’t make you a shaman. Just having visions or interaction with spirits doesn’t make you a shaman. Being able to bring those experiences back and shape them into some improved, manifest state for the community makes you a shaman. It’s not the technique, but the role. This has been a steep learning curve in the modern path.

How can practitioners of minority faiths bring awareness of their paths to wider society in a way that is non-threatening, yet informative? What I see is compartmentalization of faiths. Practitioners/Leaders of faiths are out there, writing, speaking, engaging in their own community. They don’t step out, often with good reason, based on maltreatment by the larger community. Rarely does wider society venture in to fact check, let alone learn more. How does that education happen?

Beth: That’s an excellent question. As you point out, many don’t want to speak out in the larger community because they could face backlash. It’s already tough to walk an unorthodox path, which means many people don’t want to go the extra mile of being an ambassador for their faith. And in some cases, as with chaos magic and Satanism, I found that there was a vocal faction who decidedly didn’t want to work toward more societal acceptance. They enjoyed being seen as evil and scary by outsiders to their faith and weren’t interested in anyone accepting and tolerating them.

Fortunately, I think there are at least a few out there — writers, journalists and people who are willing to make themselves available to the press as sources — who are helping bridge the gap between spiritual communities who maybe don’t want to be their own ambassadors, and a culture who otherwise wouldn’t make the effort. Sometimes, this can unfortunately come across as one of those “Gosh, isn’t this weird/fascinating/cool” feature stories, but not always. For example, when the so-called “Craigslist killer,” Miranda Barbour, claimed she belonged to a Satanic cult, both the Satanic Church and the Satanic Temple — the ones who are designing the Oklahoma monument — were quick to talk with major news outlets and say, “This woman has nothing to do with us and we don’t kill people.” That’s exactly what we need more of, and it’s great that the Church of Satan Peter Gilmore, who comes across as a calm, diplomatic and sensible representative for a church that still has many of negative stereotypes to dispel. With time, more groups are learning that a spokesperson like Gilmore is a real asset, and I think that will help a lot.

Learn more about Kelley’s work and writing at Soul Intent Arts.

Unleash the Hounds is one of my longest running, and popular, features at The Wild Hunt. It is, in essence, a link roundup. A place where I find stories in the mainstream media concerning Paganism, occult practices, indigenous religions, and other topics of interest to our interconnected communities. The birth of this series came out of necessity, as more stuff is being written now than I could possible write about in-depth week-to-week. If you enjoy this feature, please take some time to make a donation to our Fall Funding Drive, so we can continue to bring you this, and other features, for another year. Thank you to everyone who helped us raise over $4000 dollars in the first few days of our drive, let’s keep the momentum going, and be sure to spread the word! Now, on to the links!

  •  A House Oversight Committee hearing this Wednesday got so intense, that Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) decided to inject a little levity by asking Affordable Care Act Office Director Sarah Hall Ingram if she was a witch. Quote: “A Democratic Congressman mocked the GOP’s effort to demonize an IRS official during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday by asking her if she was a witch consorting with the devil. The official, Affordable Care Act Office Director Sarah Hall Ingram, said in response to questioning from Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) that she has never worked with the devil, could not fly, and was not responsible for perverting the youth ‘in Salem or anywhere else.'” One can only imagine what would have happened had the answer been: “yes, I am a Witch, one of the many New England traditional covens.” Whatever the case, satire is a tricky thing these days.
  • Speaking of witches and witchcraft, they are so very, very, hot right now (in pop-culture). Just ask CNN“So, maybe they’re a kind of gendered response to the suave, seductive male vampire figure. Or maybe it’s just cyclical, and all of the childhood fans of ‘Hocus Pocus,’ ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ and ‘Charmed’ are writing for TV now! […] The featured supernatural characters on those shows are usually men, too (not exclusively, but overwhelmingly). These new witch characters are giving women more power and agency to control their destinies, instead of just being objects of desire in need of saving, which is a nice change.” The article notes that “Hollywood now can’t seem to get enough of witches.”
  • Did Roman aristocrats fabricate the story of Jesus? Probably not. But here’s a documentary claiming exactly that! Quote: “On October 19 Atwill will present some provocative new findings in London. Atwill’s thesis is that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats who fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ. Per Atwill: ‘The Caesars committed a crime against consciousness. They reached into the minds of their subjects and planted false concepts to make them easier to control.’ Atwill claims to have iron-clad proof of his claims.” Hey, remember all those religions that disappeared after various individuals debunked them? Yeah, me neither.
  • Fox News reports on the witchcraft tourist trade in Nicaragua. Quote: “Americans get dressed up for Halloween, take kids trick or treating, and tell tales about ghosts and witches. But in Nicaragua, some locals and curious tourists seek out real, live witches—or brujos, who claim to be able to cast spells on people and cure all sorts of ailments, including impotency, male pattern baldness and more.” The reporter spends a lot of time trying to see if the local witches will reveal secrets or do malefic magic for him. They seem, understandably, hesitant to indulge him.
  • Hammer Films has purchased the film rights to Jeanette Winterson’s novella “The Daylight Gate”, about one of England’s most infamous witch-trials. Quote: “I was interested to take the Hammer novella commission to write a good story around the notorious Pendle witch trials of 1612. Now I am intrigued and excited to see what new form these ghosts can inhabit. Stories from the past are always present; it is our imaginations that make it so.” The pop-culture witch trend continues…
A promotional still from American Horror Story: Coven.

A promotional still from American Horror Story: Coven.

  • A Flavorwire, Michele Dean can’t wait for pop-culture to embrace witchcraft once more. Quote: “In the 1990s, when I was a teenager, witches were everywhere. Today people often reference the Fairuza Balk/Neve Campbell movie The Craft as though it were the driver of that trend in the culture. But it actually came awfully late in my experience of fellow young-nerd-women who retreated into Wicca and Paganism as a way of coping with social ostracization. They weren’t the ordinary-looking witches of Charmed or even Buffy, but people who enjoyed wearing velvet chokers and thanking the Goddess and drawing Celtic runes. It was very often very silly, I agree, and there were certainly paths that even my extremely socially disenfranchised self declined to follow them down. But while their actual powers were a matter of dispute, just the practice and ritual seemed to be enough to give them a measure of much-needed self-respect.” A message to my fellow Witches out there, prepare for a new deluge. Seriously.
  • The Huffington Post interviews Incan Shaman Elena Radford. Quote: “That’s what a shaman does — tune into the energy of the environment: mountains, animals, plants, people in the past, and energies from other worlds. These skills that come through the heart allow a shaman to communicate with these different realities.” 
  • Oh, and did I mention that the New York Times has also chimed in about the pop-culture resurgence of the witch? Quote: “There’s something very beautiful about witch stories — the full moon, the mystery, the chants — but it’s also a way to explore female power […] To me, witch stories are really female versions of superhero stories. They’re fantasies. And there’s something very potent about those fantasies. On one level, this is a fun yarn about women learning to use these supernatural gifts, but it’s also a metaphor for things that we all need to do in our lives, in our adulthood, to own who we really are and feel comfortable with it. To not be afraid to use our gifts.” Also, Glamour is totally on board with the return of witches.
  • Dangerous Minds (almost) attends a Gnostic Mass. They do not eat the Cakes of Light. Quote: “This is a special, invitational Gnostic Mass, and a couple, like me, are invitees (though presumably bona fide neophytes rather than tremulous hacks). At least one seems a little nervous, while the OTO initiates—mostly middle aged men with either long hair or none, each with unusually pale blue eyes—inspect us with that slightly salacious curiosity with which people on one side of an experience examine those at its verge. In the pub Adrian had referred to magick as ‘psychological transgression.’ I can see what he means! The atmosphere is a distinct mixture of the religious and the illicit—as if we were all here for an afternoon of metaphysical dogging.”
  • There’s a new edition of Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess” out, you can read an excerpt at Quote: “This labyrinthine and extraordinary book, first published more than sixty years ago, was the outcome of Robert Graves’ vast reading and curious research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion, and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet’s quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explored the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry. This new edition has been prepared by Grevel Lindop, who has written an illuminating introduction. The text of the book incorporates all of Graves’s final revisions, his replies to two of the original reviewers, and a long essay in which he describes the months of inspiration in which The White Goddess was written.”

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. Don’t forget, make a donation to our Fall Funding Drive so The Wild Hunt can run for another year!

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.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

Damien Echols, showing off his Theban tattoo.

  • South Korea, one of the most Christian countries in Asia, is witnessing a revival of interest in its indigenous shamanistic practices, with local mudangs (priests or priestesses) being consulted by politicians and featuring on popular television shows. Sociology professor Shin Kwang-yeong thinks the popularity is due to Koreans dealing with the “strong uncertainties” of their modern existence, with many crediting shamanism with bringing healing and piece of mind to their lives. Quote:  “I felt something from my heart. This ritual has everything in there – happiness, sadness, anger and fun […] Sometimes tears pour out from my heart. Sometimes it’s just fun when everyone is dancing and bowing. And, it’s healing.”
  • Father Thomas Euteneuer, a star in the Catholic pro-life activist ranks, and vehement anti-Pagan exorcist, admitted to having inappropriate sexual relations with at least one woman back in 2011. Now, a Jane Doe is filing suit against Euteneuer, alleging that the priest sexually abused and assaulted her, using his position as an exorcist as a means to force sexual contact. This spiritual/physical rape of the Jane Doe has caused the Catholic church to recall him for counselling and remove his “priestly faculties,” meaning he can no longer perform mass or other sacred rites.
  • There’s a deep connection between synthesizer music and the occult, Klint Finley explores it for Boing Boing. Quote: “You can find traces of the occult throughout the history of electronic music. The occult obsessed Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo built his own mechanical instruments around 1917. The famous Moog synthesizer made an early appearance in Mick Jagger’s soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s occult film Invocation of My Demon Brother in 1969. And in the late 1970s Throbbing Gristle built their own electronic instruments for their occult sound experiments, setting the stage for many of the occult themed industrial bands who followed. The witch house genre keeps this tradition alive today.”
  • The Border House looks at the controversy surrounding the upcoming game SMITE, and the protests from Hindu activist Rajan Zed over the depiction and ability to control their gods and goddesses, most notably Kali, in the game. The Border House also calls out the “pornification” of Kali. Quote: “This is truly disgusting. Not only is a faith appropriated, but it is done so in a way which turns a widely revered deity into a male sexual fantasy. A goddess in non-sexual nudity is somehow less preferable to a caricature in which she is put in a costume for the male gaze. Whether you agree with Rajan Zed or not about controlling Hindu deities as combat tools is not the issue. The cultural imperialistic mindset which allows a westerner to pornify symbols of Hinduism and yet think he has the right to lecture a Hindu about the religion, this is the issue.”
  • Associated Press reporter Christopher Torchia says that ancient Greek myths lend valuable context to the country’s current fiscal and political crisis. Quote: “Greek mythology is full of examples of how mortals should find the middle way in order to live a happy life, or as it said on the walls of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, ‘Nothing in Excess,’” Peter Meineck, associate professor of classics at New York University, wrote in an email. He noted that, according to the Greek poet Hesiod, “the first divine agent that caused creation was Eros — the spirit of erotic drive or the impulse to create anything.”
  • Tammy Trotter-Bazzle, a Pagan priestess living in South Carolina, shares her experience advising the pastoral staff at AnMed Health after a Pagan patience was admitted. Quote: “I feel blessed and honored to have had that opportunity. At the end of a day, good was done for the greater good. Pagan patients will be better understood at AnMed. And that was, after all, the reason for this class; to help the patient. I, along with many of the local Pagan community, are happy to see this step forward.”
  • A majority percentage of Jews, Catholics, Mainline Protestants, non-Christian faiths, and unaffiliated religious believers favor same-sex marriage rights. Yet we are told that we must “protect” the conservative Christian viewpoint on marriage by denying all other faiths and traditions the ability to perform legal same-sex rites. How is this about religious freedom again?
  • Is polyamory ready for its close-up? A Showtime reality program is on its way, featuring neo-tantra practitioner and “bliss coach” Kamala Devi. Will Paganism make an appearance? Are we ready for the questions if and when it does?

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.

I’m out of town today, attending a doctor’s appointment in Ashland, Oregon, so I don’t have the time to do my usual exploration and analysis of news of interest to the Pagan community. Instead, I’d like to offer some links from across the Pagan media world that have drawn my attention. So enjoy, I’m hoping to hit the Oregon vortex on my way home!

That’s all I have for now, have a great day, I’ll be back tomorrow.

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.

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.

Today I have some updates and new developments in stories previously covered here at The Wild Hunt.

Georgia School Harassment Case: Last week I reported on an official joint statement sent out by the North Georgia SolitariesDogwood Local Council of the Covenant of the GoddessLady Liberty League, and its parent organization, Circle Sanctuary, on the difficulties faced by the Turner family of Bowden, Georgia, whose son, Christopher (11), was facing religiously-motivated harassment by his school (as originally reported by the Atlanta IMC). Now, that coalition, The Turner Family Support Task Force, has sent out an update calling for ongoing spiritual and fiscal support.

“Please send your prayers, your energy, and your personal messages through the Facebook page. They are being read by the Turners throughout each day. And, secondly, if you would like to contribute funds to help alleviate the financial burdens that have been placed on the family, please make your donations via the Pagan Assistance Fund, operated by the North Georgia Solitaries through the Church of the Spiral Tree. Donations are tax-deductible and will be used to offset a variety of expenses such as gas, child care, home-schooling supplies, and other related family expenses as they arise.”

The task force is hoping their efforts will lead to “a peaceful resolution and a future of fair and equal treatment in the school and school system.” My contact within the task force says that there will be more news on this front soon, so stay tuned!

Saudi Arabia’s Sorcery Beheading: On Monday, news broke that Saudi Arabia had executed yet another person for the crime of “sorcery,” bringing the estimated total of state-backed executions to 79, a massive increase from the previous year. Amnesty International called the beheading Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser “deeply shocking,” while the BBC reports that it is the country’s religious police force (the Mutaween) who are pushing for executions.

“The London-based newspaper, al-Hayat, quoted a member of the religious police as saying that she was in her 60s and had tricked people into giving her money, claiming that she could cure their illnesses. […] Amnesty says that Saudi Arabia does not actually define sorcery as a capital offence. However, some of its conservative clerics have urged the strongest possible punishments against fortune-tellers and faith healers as a threat to Islam.”

The Wild Hunt has spent quite a bit of time reporting on Saudi Arabia’s harsh laws against fortune telling, sorcery, and witchcraft. There was the case of Lebanese citizen Ali Sibat, who was nearly executed for the crime of sorcery in Saudi Arabia but given a last-minute reprieve due to protests and political maneuvering, and finally freed. Also significant is the case of Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali, which drew the public attention of Pagan and international interfaith figure Phyllis Curott, a Trustee of the Council for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, serving on its Executive Committee. In many cases, like Fawza Falih’s, we never learn their ultimate fate. This trend of executing fortune tellers and “sorcerers” is troubling, not only because Saudi Arabia is ostensibly our ally, but because there are modern Pagans living in the Middle East, and having to live under the threat of death for witchcraft in the 21st century is a scandal to any who believe in progress and human rights.

Peruvian Shaman Slayings: Back in October I reported on the murder of fourteen shamans in Peru, allegedly ordered by Alfredo Torres, the mayor of Balsa Puerto, and carried out by his brother. Author and indigenous leader Roger Rumrrill claimed these killings are part of a wider witch-hunt by the brothers, who are members of an unnamed protestant Christian sect. Now, progressive news site Truthout brings us an update on the story, alleging that more than mere religious animus is behind these murders.

Alberto Pizango, Peru’s top indigenous leader and president of the country’s most powerful indigenous organization, the Interethnic Development Association of the Peruvian Rainforest (known by its Spanish acronym, AIDESEP) paints a more complex picture of the case, blaming cash and pressure from legal and illegal industries in the Amazon who poach natural resources from indigenous lands. “What is happening now in my community is organized crime,” said Pizango, himself a Shawi medico who studied for seven years under a master shaman.

Pizango goes on to tell how traditions are being distorted to support the murder of shamans who oppose the growing criminal enterprises in Peru, or their political allies. noting that “when the people come out to defend their territorial rights, their rights to their natural resources, then the mayor has the perfect criminal organization to shut them up, accuse them, say that someone was killed because he was a brujo.” At this point the death-count is now estimated at 20, and the government investigation into these charges are still ongoing. No arrests or public statements have been made. For ongoing updates see the Alianza Arkana news blog.

Dan Halloran Responds (by Proxy): I’ve been waiting to hear Dan Halloran’s response to the divisive Village Voice piece that I feel unfairly sensationalized his Heathen faith, and dinged by religion journalism criticism site Get Religion for its unnecessary mocking tone.” Now, it seems a response was sent out this past Thursday, albeit indirectly through Halloran’s spokesman Steve Stites in an email to the Queens Tribune.

“The liberal press, such as the Voice, based in downtown Manhattan, and knowing zilch about Northeast Queens, have stooped to some pretty creative new lows in trying to bash the Councilman,” Stites wrote in a furious email. “It makes you wonder why they’re so afraid of him, or so fascinated by him. My guess is that the left-wing press doesn’t like the Councilman because he’s outspoken, effective and conservative, and he doesn’t play by their rules of political correctness and go-along get-along politics.”

Voice staff writer Steven Thrasher defended his piece, saying he wrote it “because it made such a good story—a politician with a faith unlike any other,” and that comparing Heathens with Civil War reenactors was meant to be a compliment. Sadly, neither Halloran or Stites have directly addressed the religious content of Thrasher’s article, nor do I expect them to any time soon.

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

Last week the government of Peru issued a statement saying that fourteen shamans in the country’s north-eastern region have been killed in the span of twenty months. The provincial prosecutor’s office alleges that these killings were ordered by Alfredo Torres, the mayor of Balsa Puerto, and carried out by his brother. Author and indigenous leader Roger Rumrrill claims these killings are part of a wider witch-hunt by the brothers, who are members of an unnamed protestant Christian sect.

“The provincial prosecutor’s office said that the murders were allegedly ordered by the mayor of Balsa Puerto, Alfredo Torres, and carried out by his brother, Augusto, locally known as “the witch hunter.” Only seven bodies have been found, however —either shot, stabbed or hacked with machetes. The seven other shamans have been reported missing. Rogger Rumrill, a leading researcher on Amazonian issues, said the murders are related to “protestant sects” that Torres and his brother belong to, the daily said. “For these protestant sects, the shamans are people possessed by demons, so they have to be killed,” Rumrill said.”

Torres denies these allegations, saying the shamans, all 14 of them, were killed by vengeful families unhappy with their services.

“For many years they have practiced the ancient custom of killing the witches, making them responsible for the death of some family member who was receiving treatment from the shaman.”

The shamans, all from the Shaui community, were planning to start an association to share knowledge. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies has called for supporters to contact Peruvian authorities, asking them to act in addressing these atrocities, and to prevent further murders. Things have been tense, to say the least, between indigenous communities and the Peruvian government, but that has shifted somewhat as the South American “pink tide” sweeps through Peru, bringing center-left politician Ollanta Humala to power. While Humala is no Evo Morales, the fact that the government is making these allegations seems to be a positive sign that some sort of investigation is underway. What we don’t know is how much religion, specifically these “protestant sects,” are involved. While I won’t rule out religiously-motivated violence, I think the political implications of the shamans forming an association could also have something to do with it.

We’ll keep you posted as any further updates come our way. My thanks to Andras Corban-Arthen for bringing this to my attention.

ADDENDUM: The Guardian confirms that the Peruvian government is sending a team of investigators. Quote Gregor MacLennan at the NGO Amazon Watch: “The death of these shamans represents not just a tragic loss of life, but the loss of a huge body of knowledge about rainforest plants and the crucial role shamans play in traditional medicine and spiritual guidance in indigenous communities.” Also, this blog post gives some excellent background on the killings.

“One of those who must die, however, survived. Inuma Bautista, apu shawi community of Paradise, was ambushed, but survived a machete attack that cost him an arm and left deep scars on the body. That was probably the beginning of the media scandal. After recovering from the wounds, gave a testimony Inuma which directly accuses Augusto Torres, brother of Mayor Balsapuerto as one of those who wanted to kill him. Similarly, one of the alleged gunmen, Solomon Napo, appeared in a video, confessing his involvement in the death of Mariano Apuela. Among his statements, the figure having been hired by Torres brother to commit the act in exchange for five thousand nuevos soles, which were not delivered.”

More on this as I find it.