Archives For Spiral Scouts

“Time and again, parents and community leaders have recounted to me how the American conception of camp offers an opportunity for a cultural, religious and, in some cases, linguistic immersion with other American Hindu children. This is understood to be all the more important because within the dominant American and Christian culture, Hindus and Hinduism are often exoticized and maligned.” – Shana Sippy, professor of religion at Carleton College in Minnesota, on the value of Hindu-American summer camps for children.

The above quote comes from the recent New York Times article “Building on U.S. Tradition, Camp for Hindu Children Strengthens Their Identity.” In it we meet Neha Dhawan, a Hindu-American woman who says her life was changed by attending “Hindu camp” when she was eleven.

Like many children growing up in a minority religion, she felt set apart from her more mainstream friends. Her holidays were different; her culture was different and she dreaded questions such as “where do you go to church?”

At first Neha did not look forward to summer camp for Hindu children. But eventually she loved doing morning yoga, her hair still cool and damp from the shower. She discovered a favorite bhajan, a Hindu devotional song. She spoke with her peers and their college-age counselors about dealing with stereotypes and racism. “I realized,” she said, “it’s O.K. to be proud of who you are.” Neha is now the director of the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp.

The US has a long tradition of religious or ethnic summer camps for children. According to Professor Sippy, they help to “strengthen the denominational and ancestral identity of young people in a polyglot nation with an enticingly secular popular culture.” Because they are surrounded by their peers, children learn what living their religion looks like for them. They learn how to be more comfortable with their religion which allows them to be more comfortable in mainstream society. If that’s the case, are summer camps something that would benefit Pagan children?

Teens create a pattern using spices before the Rangoli at Sacred harvest Festival. [photo credit - C. Schulz]

Teens create a pattern using spices before the Rangoli at Sacred harvest Festival. [photo credit – C. Schulz]

“As a family, we are a solitary unit. We attend one Pagan Festival every summer, but that is the only exposure they have to us being part of a larger community. I would love for my children to have another opportunity to make those important connections,” says Kristin, a Pagan mother of two who lives in the Chicago area. She says that she would budget through the year to be able to afford sending her children, ages 5 and 8, to a Pagan summer camp and would spend up to $700 a week for a sleep-over style camp. She says not only would children benefit from knowing they aren’t alone, but Pagan communities would also benefit through a focus on instilling Pagan ethics in children.

Ashley Sears, a Pagan mom living in the Minneapolis area, also welcomes the idea of a Pagan summer camp for her three children, ages 15, 13, and 11.“Having raised my kids Pagan since birth, it’s been a struggle to help them find their own “identity” within our faith. We’ve moved all over the country and have been blessed with many Pagan friends and Pagan Parenting groups, but never a chance to expose them to an immersive experience in our faith.”

We sought opinions from many Pagan parents. Other than questions about affordability, there were no parents who were opposed to the idea. One parent did say that he wouldn’t send his children because he didn’t see a need for summer camp and declined to be interviewed. However, he wasn’t opposed to the idea.

Pagan summer camps – past and present
While there appears to have been a summer day camp for Pagan children in the past, there aren’t any operating now. So what options do Pagan children have for a summer camp experience? Not many.

The closest to a Pagan summer camp currently operating are programs like Indigo Camp. These are summer camps with no specific religious take, but with Pagan-friendly components such as spiritual drumming, yoga, and non-violent communication techniques. These camps welcome people of all, or no, religious background. However, they won’t be able to give a child the benefit of being surrounded by those of their same faith.

For a specifically Pagan camping experience, a family could attend a Pagan or Heathen camping festival. These can last from a weekend to a week or longer. Festivals vary in the programs offered specifically to children.  Some are increasing their offerings as more families with children attend.

One of those festivals with a robust child and teen program is Pagan Spirit Gathering. “Every year, Circle Sanctuary [the organization which produces Pagan Spirit Gathering] creates programs for youth of different ages as part of its Pagan Spirit Gathering,” says Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary. She says activities include storytelling, craft projects, playtime, and rituals. She adds, “It is a wonderful way for Pagan children and older youth to learn about Pagan spirituality as well as form friendships with peers.” Rev. Fox asks those with skills in youth programming to please contact her at psg@circlesanctuary.org

Yet these festivals aren’t the same as a summer camp just for children. The children camp and take meals with their parents, not with their peers. The environment is friendly towards them, but wasn’t created just for them.

Another option isn’t a camp experience at all, but an alternative to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts called SpiralScouts. SpiralScouts was created in 1999 by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church and is coed and nondiscriminatory. SpiralScouts was created to be specifically Pagan, but can be adapted to work with most any faith. Like other scouting groups, it focuses on woodland lore, camping, and outdoor living skills, but also includes the mythos of the ancient world. As of now, SpiralScouts does not host a summer camp and it can be difficult to find a local group.

Challenges in creating summer camps
If there are Pagan parents who want the traditional summer camp experience for their children, why aren’t there any Pagan kids camps available? There are many challenges that a group or organizer would face in setting up a summer camp.

The first is simply numbers. Although the American Religious Identification Study in 2008 reports that there are more Pagans and Wiccans in the USA than Hindus, [582,000 Hindu vs 682,000 Pagan and Wiccans – ARIS 2008 data], Hindus are more homogeneous than Pagans. Paganism isn’t one faith with denominations; it is many different religions with little in common with one another. The largest religion under Paganism, Wicca, is mostly either coven based or solitary, but it isn’t family based – although that may be changing. While Paganism may have the numbers on paper to host summer camps, in reality the number of Pagans practicing one specific religion is still very small. Yet it’s not impossible. There are an estimated 135 Hindu summer camps. That’s one camp for every 4311 Hindu-Americans.

Another challenge is the cost:  the cost to buy or renting land with the facilities for a summer camp; the high cost of insurance for taking care of minors without their parents on site; the cost of employees and volunteers to staff the camp and the cost to parents.

While parents may say they want a summer camp for their children, do they value the idea enough to pay for it? There’s a common misconception that Pagans are economically lower than the general population. Yet data from Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States shows Pagans are slightly higher than the general population in both education and income. The average cost of a summer camp stay is anywhere from $400 to $2000 per week, depending on whether it is a day camp or an overnight camp. In addition, parents need to transport children to and from the camp and pay for supplies. While other religious and ethnic minorities do find the summer camp experience of value enough to support, it’s unclear if the Pagan communities feel the same.

The last challenge is more nebulous – trust. Pagans generally are less trusting of organizations and less inclined to follow traditional organizational processes. While there are benefits of this, the downside can be poor business practices coupled with lack of support from the community, which is a reinforcing cycle. Recent and past sexual abuse within Pagan groups and gatherings, although similar to what other groups of any type face, may also cause some parents to be more cautious in sending their children away to camp.

Do the benefits outweigh the challenges? That’s a question which can only be answered by potential organizers and parents.

“Our children have met other Pagan children, but normally have to hold their faith close to their vest for fear of social exclusion or not being able to answer questions,” says Ms. Sears. “Having a Pagan camp for kids would be an amazing way for our kids [to] freely celebrate their love and faith in the Gods.”

There is one thing that the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) has become very skilled at accomplishing: making headlines. Whether it concerns the so-called “Perversion files,” the new sustainability merit badge, or membership inclusivity debates, the BSA seems to always be in the news. This puts an entirely new spin on their motto “Prepared. For Life.”

Photo Courtesy of Flickr's  deflam

Photo Courtesy of Flickr’s deflam

On July 28th NBC published an article entitled Wiccans, Earth-lovers, Do­-gooders, there’s a scouting group for your kid. It reports on the recent membership exodus from the BSA noting that “alternative groups are reaping the benefits ….whether they cater to God-fearing Girls, old-school camping enthusiasts or even pint-sized pagans.” That article highlights several organizations including Wiccan-based Spiral Scouts, secular groups like Navigators USA and Earth Champs as well as several Christian-based alternatives to Girl Scouts.*

According to BSA’s own records, Scout membership has indeed dropped. In the year 2000 the BSA had 3,351,969 total scouts. Today, that number is 2,658,794.

Policy “controversy” has caused many American families to look elsewhere for their scouting needs.  In recent years, these disillusioned families are coming from a much wider demographic than in the past. Why? The BSA has been playing a dangerous game of policy “teeter totter” that has only served to alienate more and more social groups.

The most well-known situation centers on the BSA’s long-standing policy of excluding gay members.  As stated in a 2003 BSA document, “We Will Not Allow… Avowed Homosexuals to Be Leaders or Members in the Traditional Programs.”  After SCOTUS ruled this policy legal, the Scouts suffered a series of significant losses.  More than 50 local branches of the United Way and a variety of large corporate sponsors such as Intel, UPS and Merck have severed ties with the BSA. In 2001 director Steven Spielberg resigned from the Scouts’ advisory board stating:

I thought the Boy Scouts stood for equal opportunity and I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial, and sexual orientation.  

Despite the backlash, the BSA held its ground. Then, on May 23 2013, it changed its position stating:

… the Boy Scouts of American (sic) voted on a resolution that maintains its current membership policy for all adult leaders and states that youth may not be denied membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. 

This revised policy led to a new exodus – this time from the conservative Christian groups.  As NBC noted, these organizations are forming their own programs that “focus on sexual purity.” In addition, many older scouting-style groups, like the Baptist’s Royal Ambassadors, have seen an increase in interest.

Unfortunately for the BSA, this revised policy has not garnered significant LGBT support.  The Houston Chronicle’s Wiccan blogger and LGBTQ member, Ed Nelson laments:

The Boy Scouts have always [omitted] Gay and… Bi men from being members…Although I disagreed, I respected their stance as a private organization to allow whom they wish into it. I see the money issues as the main reason for the sudden change of heart… It is sad to see when people change who they are for others.

On the surface Nelson’s assumption appears to be correct. The BSA’s partial policy change is a weak attempt to appease donors and lure back members. But it hasn’t worked. Additionally, the BSA is only inviting membership attrition through an environment where dedicated, BSA-educated children cannot become future leaders. These boys will take their skills and their own children elsewhere.

This game of “teeter totter” doesn’t end with the membership debacle.  Religiously, the BSA also teeters on the edge of a well-greased fence. The famous Scout’s Oath states, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.” Lord Baden-Powell, the founding father said, “No man can be really good if he doesn’t believe in God and he doesn’t follow His laws.”  These are, by their very nature, exclusionary statements that have, in fact, birthed many alternative scouting organizations.

Image by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Donna Weaver / United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers

Image by Artistic Infusion Program Master Designer Donna Weaver / United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Charles Vickers

Although they do still exclude atheists and agnostics, the BSA has developed an interfaith sensibility.  It provides leaders with an inclusive holiday calendar, offers multi-faith badges and encourages group discussions on the global community. BSA affiliated organizations do include several minority religions.  The BSA states,

Scouting encourages each young person to begin a spiritual journey through the practice of his or her faith tradition….While Scouting does not define religious belief for its members, it has been adopted by and works with youth programs of all major faiths.

While encouraging this personal “spiritual journey,” the BSA also produces a marketing pamphlet entitled “Bringing Youth to Christ through a Scouting Ministry.” The BSA uses this document to attract Church affiliates suggesting that the BSA program can be used to enhance their outreach ministry.  The document states, “When properly interpreted by an adult Scouter of strong faith to young people, even the unchurched begin to understand their need for God.”

How can an organization promote interfaith education and tolerance while also advertising itself as a potential tool for faith conversion?  Moreover, how can any public school system be legally allowed to affiliate or promote the BSA, as such, by allowing leaders into the classrooms? (Now that is another “can of worms.”)

Once again, the BSA straddles the proverbial fence in an attempt to maintain the integrity of its membership and its funding. The self-proclaimed values-based organization seems to be very willing to compromise or bend its values in the name of numbers.

Boy Scouts 2010 Jamboree. Photo Courtesy of Flickr's  Preston Kemp

Boy Scouts 2010 Jamboree. Photo Courtesy of Flickr’s Preston Kemp

As if that wasn’t enough, the BSA was recently chastised for excluding children from their Jamboree due to a high Body Mass Index (BMI.)  For an organization that advertises itself as a program for young people that “…develops personal fitness,” the exclusionary practice is contradictory.  It has now successfully ostracized yet another segment of its loyal membership.

Despite the BSA’s inability to maintain a position, it is still a social staple. In fact, a Salt Lake City-based Utah Pride Center has tried twice to become an affiliate organization. Why?

If you peel away all those sticky issues, you find a program that offers a very important experience.  It takes children outside, puts them in nature, forces them to interact with each other and engage their environment. These types of experiences are becoming as rare as the vinyl record.  Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, calls the problem “nature-deficit disorder” to which the BSA has a cure.

But …

For many of us, joining comes with significant compromise – in one form or another.  Do you pack away your beliefs and say yes when your son begs to join?  Or do you say no and take him hiking?

spiralIf you are lucky, you might find an alternative. Or, if you are tenacious, you can start your own as did the Central Pagan Florida Association. President Amber Moon has just finished the leadership requirements for Spiral Scouts and will be offering the experience to her organization’s children.

This is one of the many decisions facing parents. To Scout or not to Scout?  If the BSA would just stick to its policies and stay out of the news, the path to a decision might be clearer for everyone no matter the demographic.  Or just maybe it’s all this floundering that has made the decision easy…certainly not to the benefit of the BSA.

What route have you gone?

 

*NOTE: The Girl Scouts is a separate organization professing an open religious policy and calls itself a “spiritual organization.” The GSA is open to gay and lesbian participants.  

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

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

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 22, 2007 — 3 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

A hospital chaplain in Maryland was fired for preventing the Gideons from handing out copies of the New Testament in every hospital room. Jews on First reports that Peninsula Regional Medical Center, a publicly funded non-religious hospital, eventually demanded the resignation of the Rev. Kay Myers when she continued to bring up the health and privacy concerns presented by handing out non-sterile Bibles to every room.

“As director of pastoral care for a community hospital in Maryland, the Rev. Kay Myers halted the placement of sectarian Christian books in patients’ rooms. Myers said her decision was one of the carefully measured steps she had taken during her seven-year tenure to move her department to a professional level of pastoral care. The hospital’s response was not so measured. The CEO immediately countermanded Myers. Within months she was forced to resign.”

Sounds like grounds for litigation to me, in the meantime residents of Maryland might want to avoid a hospital whose administration doesn’t respect your health, privacy, or religion.

Monika Ann Dilmaghanian, an adherent of Asatru, has been sentenced for 15 years to life for stabbing her partner. The argument that lead to the stabbing was reportedly over the proper cleansing of a ritual blade.

“Monika Ann Dilmaghanian, 34, had pleaded guilty as charged last month to first-degree felony murder for the April 6 death of 24-year-old Nathan D. Harris at a campground near Causey Reservoir. Defense attorney Bernie Allen – who believes Dilmaghanian is guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter – said she refused to go to trial and seek a lesser conviction because she did not want her children to have to testify against her … family members agreed that Dilmaghanian acted out of anger and under the influence of alcohol, rather than intentionally.”

A friend and co-religionist of Nathan Harris claims that hundreds showed to his funeral, and that he is sure Dilmaghanian meant to murder her husband and will speak against her at any parole hearing.

UU World profiles alternative scouting organizations, including the Pagan-friendly (and founded) Spiral Scouts.

“The Unitarian Universalist Association parted ways with the BSA over those two issues after the BSA withdrew approval in May 1999 for a religious emblem the UUA awarded to Scouts who had earned it through a program of study in their congregations. Since that time some UUs have wanted a more inclusive youth program. SpiralScouts and Navigators are two such groups. Neither group is officially affiliated with the UUA, although UUs may lead them and participate in them. Some groups meet in UU buildings or are sponsored by individual UU congregations. Other UUs continue to participate in Boy Scout programs … SpiralScouts is directed primarily at children and youth whose families identify as Wiccan or Pagan and with Earth-centered spirituality, but it is open to anyone, says Janet Callahan, SpiralScouts International program director.”

It should be interesting to see if Spiral Scouts will continue to make inroads into communities that for one reason or another are dissatisfied with the Boy Scouts.

In an interesting article for those who prefer to practice skyclad or are committed to naturism, Slate.com explores the question of if children are harmed by seeing their parents naked.

“If the kid is younger than 3 years old, it’s probably harmless. At least, this is what many adolescent psychiatrists believe; there have been few rigorous studies of the subject. Very young children won’t notice anything odd about a parent who prances around the house in the buff. Likewise, babies who breastfeed at 12 months are physically intimate with their mothers and don’t think twice about it. Chances are good that a 2- or 3-year-old won’t form any lasting memories of seeing his parents in their birthday suits.”

The article claims that the issue becomes more complex between 4 and 8 when a child starts to learn the societal norms of dress and privacy. Of course there are still few academic studies on the subject, and naturist groups claim that there isn’t any problem with growing up in a clothing-optional house. Many parents seem quite sanguine about the issue as well.

Comic company BOOM! Studios reassures its Pagan readers that their new comic “Salem: Queen of Thorns” won’t vilify Pagans and Witches.

“We agree that a comic book that asserts Pagans are evil and destructive might well be considered insensitive, offensive and even slanderous. However, SALEM: QUEEN OF THORNS is not that book. We appreciate your criticisms, but feel they are based on a mistaken understanding of the true content of our story. In SALEM, the religious authorities are an evil force that persecutes innocents in the witch trials. They aren’t celebrated in any way and are, in fact, major villains … More importantly, one of our chief characters, Hannah Foster, is a healer accused of witchcraft. She is in no way the “demonized” villain of the piece. Rather, she is one of the key heroes on a noble journey to combat evil and save the world.”

Proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by blurb alone.

The Toronto Sun enlists local Witch Tamarra James to help the local soccer team score a goal.

“This ought to do the trick, soccer fans. “Zeus, Lord of Olympus,” Tamarra James cries out. “Receive this offering of precious incense and turn your eyes to this place.” A cloud crosses the midday sun over BMO Field. A gull keens. A security guard shifts nervously. Ms. James, 56, is high priestess of the Wiccan Church of Canada. She is this country’s top witch. We are here, with her deputy witch, Nicole Cooper, 31, to put a spell on Toronto FC. A good spell. A spell to bring a harvest of goals. Or at least one. Starting today, with Columbus in town.”

Makes you want to watch the game to see if her prayers were effective.

Finally, Boing Boing links to a post by Aranamuerta on how to make your own Witch Kitchen Jars.

“Making witch kitchen jars and ingredients is easy and inexpensive. Any jar or bottle of any size will do. I collect jars from my own kitchen, from friend’s houses, from garage sales, and from one of the thrift shops in town that always carries a vast and bizarre selection for very cheap.”

Only 39 days till Samhain! That is all I have for now, have a good day.

The East Bay Express has a long article up dealing with the children of modern Pagans, and the struggles faced raising them.

“At first glance, you’d never know that little Elizabeth Nettleton is Pagan. The vivacious four-year-old cuddles in her mother’s lap, floppy blond bangs dangling in her eyes as she clutches her green stuffed alligator and a red teddy-bear blanket. Then the girl reaches underneath her pink sweater and pulls out a long silver chain bearing a dime-size pentacle.”

Journalist Kathleen Richards explores many different aspects and challenges facing Pagan parents, including mixed-faith marriages (she highlights a Wiccan/Catholic marriage), alternative youth programs like The Spiral Scouts for non-Christian children, and the issues of acceptance with other children.

“Vibra Willow remembers having to warn her two kids – the eldest is now 27 – against disclosing their identity as part of the East Bay’s Reclaiming community. Reclaiming is a form of feminist, modern Witchcraft that includes kids in its rituals. “I know that was traumatic and unhealthy for them, having feelings about growing up different and weird,” she says.”

During the article Richards also interviews Patrick McCollum, a teacher at Cherry Hill Seminary and the first government-recognized Wiccan chaplain in the United States. In addition to discussing the challenges faced by Pagan families, he also talks about the explosive growth of modern Paganism.

“It’s grown from being obscure to becoming one of the top four faith groups in the United States,”

While I agree we are no longer obscure, I don’t think we are in the top four yet, unless our growth has been far more explosive than anyone could have predicted. Even if we are close to 1.2 million (collectively) as McCollum claims in the article, that still puts us behind Islam, Buddhism, and self-identified Agnostics. But McCollum’s larger points about the burgeoning growth of “Pagan babies” are still relevant.

“The increasing presence of children is transforming a community that has historically practiced behind closed doors. “Twenty-five years ago when the first Pagan children were coming out, there was no place for them in the Pagan community,” says McCollum, who has raised three children. “Now every major event you have for Pagans, they have playgrounds and directors that oversee children’s programs.” That’s a dramatic departure from Pagan parenting of the past. “It was dangerous to participate in Pagan events, and if you take your children, you might have someone come up and firebomb you,” McCollum says of the 1960s and ’70s. Parents who did involve their children faced the possibility of having them taken away…”

Custody battles where a parent’s Pagan religion are used against them are still very much with us, and are still destroying lives. McCollum claims that this trend is far more pervasive than we realize.

“In custody proceedings, even in the Bay Area, according to McCollum, it’s not unheard of for an ill-informed judge to revoke custody of a child based on a parent’s practices. “There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t get a call from some Pagan parents who are potentially losing their children because they are Pagan,” he says.”

The issues regarding Pagan children is only going to grow and become more complex as our growing population has more and more children. Eventually our collective size is going to mean that custody struggles and issues of accommodation within our overwhelmingly Christian nation are going to become more heated. But I don’t think we will be in this struggle alone. As the court case of Wiccan Cynthia Simpson showed, where several minority faith organizations rallied to file amicus briefs. But in the long-run, a re-strengthening of the separation of Church and State seems the only real solution to guaranteeing our continued rights, and those of our children.