Archives For Tarot

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!

Fort HoodYesterday, a shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas killed 3 people, and injured 16, before the shooter took his own life. This tragedy comes after the 2009 base shooting that claimed 13 lives. I mention this here because Modern Pagans in the military and Fort Hood have a long history, and that history became controversy back in 1999 when several politicians made an issue of Wiccans and Pagans having religious gatherings on-base. Today, Pagans are an accepted part of military life at Fort Hood, and there is a regular open circle held there, with military spouse Michelle Morris serving as Distinctive Faith Group Leader. Circle Sanctuary, which has supported the Pagan circle since its inception in 1997 and is currently its sponsor, released a short statement calling for prayers of healing and support. Quote: “I, along with others with Circle Sanctuary, are networking support for the Fort Hood Open Circle as well as all in the Fort Hood community & beyond who have been impacted by today’s shootings.  We are encouraging Pagans and those of many paths to send prayers, rituals, meditations of healing, strength, and support.” We will be following up on this story next week, and speaking with Pagans on-base. For now, our prayers go out to them.

Florida_Pagan_Gathering_58705The Florida Pagan Gathering’s Beltaine festival is coming up at the end of April, and concerns are being raised over the event allowing Gavin and Yvonne Frost to present there. The Frosts, founders of The Church and School of Wicca, have had controversy follow them for decades over material published in their “Witch’s Bible” that included instructions on ritually deflowering underage youth. While a disclaimer was added in a later edition of said book, their sexual politics have often seemed very out of step with the rest of the Pagan community. I think it would be fair to say that their reluctance to remove or recant the material first published in 1972 have kept these controversies alive over the years. Now, a joint resolution signed by a number of Florida Pagans, plus supporters outside of Florida, has called for the festival to not let the Frosts teach at FPG. Quote: “We stand together, as modern Pagans, to urge the FPG Board to listen to our concerns and to help host and foster discussion about this critical issue. We call for a removal of the Frosts as presenters at FPG and a ban on any distribution or vending of their materials.” Meanwhile, the board of FPG seems to be, for now, standing by their decision to allow the Frosts to present. Quote: “Over the last 24 hours there has been several emails sent to the Board and many messages on Facebook in protest of the attendance of Gavin and Yvonne Frost as guests and workshop presenters at our upcoming FPG. At the same time we have gotten a flood of emails supporting FPG and its staff and guests. Our attendance numbers have not been affected and we are confident that this Beltaine will be well attended by the people who were truly meant to be there.” We will have more on this story on Sunday.

unnamedpathsquaresAfter the unexpected passing of Eddy Gutiérrez (aka Hyperion) back in January, there were questions as to what would happen with The Unnamed Path, a shamanic path for men-who-love-men that he had founded. Now, with the blessings of Hyperion’s family, the Brotherhood of the Unnamed Path has pledged to carry on the work of their tradition. Quote: “Hyperion has left a legacy and although nobody can replace him, we The Brotherhood recognize that we have a calling to continue this legacy and reach out to other Men-Who-Love-Men through the teachings of the Unnamed Path. His vision has become our vision and will continue to flourish despite his recent transition. This path WILL continue for Hyperion and for our selves. Classes are continuously forming for Men-Who-Love-Men seeking apprenticeships that lead to initiation by wonderful teachers who have gone through teacher training under his loving and knowledgeable guidance.” The Unnamed Path has an open group on Facebook, and you can also keep an eye on the official Unnamed Path website for further updates.

In Other Pagan Community News:

The Sigilic Tarot

Draft from The Sigilic Tarot

  • Hey tarot lovers! There’s a new tarot Kickstarter, this time it’s The Sigilic Tarot by Olivia Cox. Cox, who runs the popular The Living Wiccan Tumblr, says the deck emerged from extensive craft work using sigils. Quote: “The Sigilic Tarot is unique in its design, with 50 cards made up of 5 suits of 10 instead of the traditional 78 of major and minor arcana. Each suit represents a different aspect of our lives.” Do check it out, the designs seem very inventive!
  • Pagan elder, and avid Second Life user, Circe (also known on Second Life as Nepherses Amat), is terminally ill and raising money for home hospice care. Quote: “Circe has no money to pay for professional care. Over the last two and a half months wonderful friends and family from around the country have come to spend a week or more with her as she cannot live alone and needs assistance.”
  • For the third year in a row, The Norse Mythology Blog has won the Best Religion Weblog category in the Weblog Awards (aka “The Bloggies”). Quote: “THANK YOU to everyone who voted & asked others to vote! I hope that this groundbreaking win will send a message that the Old Way still lives in the modern world. However people approach the myths – as simple stories, as exciting adventures, as ancient truths, or as sacred writ – there is something for all of us in this wonderful tradition.” The blog now enters the hall of fame of this contest, and will no longer be eligible to run.
  • Immanion Press has issued a call for papers to be collected in an anthology on Pagan leadership, group dynamics, community activism, and healthy boundaries. Quote: “This anthology will explore leadership for real Pagans and real groups. We’re looking for essays and articles that detail leadership success stories, best practices, and ways you have worked through challenges and obstacles. Our specific focus is on techniques to help Pagans build healthier, stronger, and more sustainable groups and communities. We’d like to see a combination of hands-on how-to, personally-inspired, and academic pieces that will offer readers tools they can use in their own groups.”
  • Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum will be participating in a Peace Ambassador Training lead by James O’Dea. At this gathering once can, quote, “learn from the world’s top peace visionaries, and become an impassioned ambassador for inner and outer peace.”
  • Pagan Spirit Gathering has announced its featured presenters for this year’s festival. They include Byron Ballard, T. Thorn Coyle, musician Arthur Hinds, and several others.

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

Art and Tarot

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 25, 2014 — 5 Comments

While I love attending PantheaCon year after year, it certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum of Spring events. This is particularly true for me, as the very next weekend I found myself in Seattle working at FaerieCon West in Seattle. I’ve been a part of Faerieworlds Events for a couple years now, working on event programming, and they are truly vibrant gatherings that should please any Pagan who loves art, music, performance, and craft. This year, I was honored to moderate a panel of artists who have created tarot and oracle decks. The panel included Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, creator of the Shadowscapes TarotLinda Ravenscroft, illustrator of the Mystic Faerie Tarot, and Amy Brown, who created the Faery Wisdom oracle deck with her mother.

Amy Brown, Linda Ravenscroft, and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Amy Brown, Linda Ravenscroft, and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

We discussed the creation process, their experience with tarot and oracle decks, and future projects. Later in the panel with were joined by Satyros Phil Brucato, who is working with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law on a new oracle deck. I was lucky to record the entire panel, and you can listen to it at Soundcloud (or embedded below).

Often with tarot decks we speak with the writers and experts who craft meanings from the commissioned images, so I think it is important to give voice to the artists and illustrators who bring these tools to life, who make them into true art objects. Whatever their level of commitment in the creation process, without the art these decks would lose their impact, their connection to deeper symbolic pathways.

The Hermit, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

The Hermit, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

I continue my work with FaerieCon for exactly these confluences of talent, these instances of connection and inspiration. While formal Pagan events often have a lot going for them, sometimes, when you cross into the borderlands where Paganism intersects with other cultures, and subcultures, you can enter into circumstances that enrich you in ways you might not anticipate. I’d like to thank the artists for taking the time to share their stories and creation process with me this past weekend. Enjoy the panel!

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!

open_halls_squareThe Open Halls Project, an organization serving military Heathens, has announced a letter writing campaign to urge the U.S. Army and Department of Defense to expedite allowing Heathens to choose “Asatru” or “Heathen” as their religious preference (which they currently can not do). Quote: “We’ve already processed this request twice, with the support of the Asatru Alliance and the Troth. That was over two years ago now and we are being told we will have to wait even longer. The OHP would like to initiate a letter writing campaign to our legislators, in the hopes that putting congressional pressure on the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense will have some positive effect. We specifically are calling on those who live in a district run by a member of either the House Armed Services Committee or the Senate Armed Services Committee. These are the folks that can really bring some political muscle to bear for us!” You can download and edit a sample letter, here. With the recent publicity over the approval of the Thor’s Hammer for veteran grave markers and headstones, now seems like opportune time to press this issue forward.

AREN_ACTIONThe Lammas edition of ACTION (plain text version), the official newsletter of the Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN), has been released. This edition has a special focus on Pagans in South Africa, and according to editor Christopher Blackwell “deals with the development in the community from coming out until today.” Interviewees include Dr. Dale Wallace, who wrote her doctoral thesis on South African Pagans, Damon Leff, director of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), Donna “Darkwolf” Vos, founder of Circle of The African Moon, and more. This is a rare, in-depth look at Paganism in South Africa, and these interviews deserve to be read widely. Here is a quote from Dr. Dale Wallace’s interview: “Far more than Paganism per se, it is the witchcraft issue that affects almost all religions in South Africa with many divisions arising over differences of opinion, experience and interpretation. Where these become really important is in finding some consensus over a definition of the terms in light of the repeal or replacement of current legislation, and also the very real possibility of this not being adequately addressed. Different outcomes will have some serious consequences for many communities.” In addition to the section on South African Paganism, this issue of ACTION also features an interview with Taliesin Govannon, director of “Dark of Moon.”

terra mysteriumThe Chicago-based performance troupe Terra Mysterium, who create “experiential works of music, theatre, and performance art that are rooted in the Earth mysteries,” has launched a new IndieGoGo campaign to fund their 2013 season. Quote: “This year we are looking to add even more exciting elements to two wonderful new productions – a full-length play that will feature animations and light mapping, as well as a touring production – and, as a stretch goal, two more music videos. In addition to these artistic projects we will incorporate this year as a non-profit theatre company with the intent to achieve a 501 (c)(3) status in the near future. Both these actions will help to make Terra Mysterium a sustainable troupe.” Terra Mysterium is trying to raise $6,500 in 30 days, and have raised nearly $2000 dollars so far. You can see samples of Terra Mysterium’s work at their official Youtube channel. I’ve embedded their official 2013 fundraiser pitch video below. You may also want to check out Terra Mysterium’s official Facebook page for further updates.

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

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

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

Starhawk. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

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

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

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

Nora Cedarwind Young

Nora Cedarwind Young

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

In Other Pagan Community News:

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

The Magician

Eric O. Scott —  May 17, 2013 — 16 Comments

the magician

Your humble author.

The sewing machine’s name is Elizabeth. I am borrowing her from my girlfriend’s sister. Her manual, produced on clean white paper with green ink by the Babylock Corporation, refers to her exclusively with feminine pronouns. Elizabeth is a very talented seamstress. She will help me with all of my sewing projects. She knows dozens of stitches and has a built-in arm.

I am more than a little afraid of Elizabeth.

The first thing Elizabeth needs is a bobbin. I have never heard of a bobbin before. When I finally get the white thread to spin onto the tiny plastic cylinder, Elizabeth makes a noise like she’s being minced to death, feet first. I call my girlfriend in a panic, asking if this is normal. It is. Elizabeth just makes noises like that sometimes; she is an excitable girl.

Beltane is in three days. In that time, Elizabeth and I need to assemble the collection of squares and triangles of white cotton laying on the floor of my living room into a robe. We will also need to make a red overcloak, for which I haven’t yet bought the fabric. I also need to buy wine, cakes, plastic wear, ribbons, and at least five other items that I haven’t even thought of.

We are having Beltane in Tower Grove Park this year, in one of the beautiful, ancient Victorian pavilions that Henry Shaw bequeathed to future generations. I have been envisioning this ritual for months now: a sweeping ceremony, full of spectacle and pomp, set against the backdrop of St. Louis’s most picturesque public park.

It is supposed to rain on Beltane.

I still haven’t written the damned ritual.

I am not a very good magician.

* * *

We are going to do all the sabbats.

That’s a simple goal, but when I and the other members of my generation in Sabbatsmeet took it up seven years ago, it seemed scary as hell. I had never led a ritual before we did that first Lughnasadh together in a park near the edge of the city. I had no idea of how to write a ritual, really, and no idea of what I actually wanted in one. I was twenty years old and had no idea what I was doing.

I am twenty-six now. It feels weird to talk about twenty-six as though that were some kind of advanced age, worthy of an experienced master – I mean, I’m an adult, but just barely. But it’s hard to look back on your past with any other perspective. That kid thought he knew everything, but he was barely even sentient. I’m sure at fifty-two I’m going to look back at forty-six and think that guy was an idiot, too.

One thing that twenty-year-old me did was put a bunch of rules into place for our Sabbats, and I have done my best to honor his wishes. Sarah, my best friend and High Priestess, and I do one sabbat per year. That sabbat is always based on a particular mythology and its attendant culture. Everyone in our age bracket, a group that has had as few as four and as many as ten depending on the year, gets a part in the ritual. We don’t repeat sabbats. We don’t repeat gods. Not until we get to Samhain.

So we’ve had Norse Yule and Roman Harvest, Egyptian Imbolg and Greek Litha, always invoking different gods, always doing our best to do right by them. But we had hit most of the low-hanging fruit as far as mythologies go years ago, so we stretched our definitions a little bit. Sarah, being something of an Anglophile, really wanted to do a Victorian-flavored festival, and given my love for Tower Grove Park, I was okay with that. But what would we actually do in the ritual? What were we going to invoke?

And then I thought: the Rider-Waite Tarot. What could be more Victorian than that?

And then I thought: I don’t know anything about Tarot.

And then I thought: what’s the worst that could happen?

I am not a very good magician.

* * *

Elizabeth cannot tell me how to hem a neck-hole. Neither can my girlfriend, Megan, who is asleep down the hall. Elizabeth and I are running thread through the edges of my robe, folding the cloth over into something approximating a hem. But the neck-hole is a strange and terrifying part of the garment, and I’m afraid that I’m going to accidentally give myself a plunging neckline if I mess with it too much.

I look at the clock and see that it’s almost three in the morning. It’s the night before Beltane, and as much as I would like to get the Mystery of the Unhemmed Neck solved, it’s probably more important to get the ritual finished. I bid Elizabeth goodnight and sit down to finish writing the ceremony.

I was stumped by how to write a ritual involving the Tarot. The biggest problem, of course, was deciding on which figures to include. We don’t draw enough of a crowd to justify 22 named parts, and besides, that ritual would take hours. I have to cater to the needs of my audience of the young and the middle-aged; they don’t have patience for that kind of thing.

john fucking madden

Above: John Madden presents Beltane.

As usual in these circumstances, I turned to my father, who suggested I cut it down to seven: the trumps corresponding to the classical planets, The Sun, the High Priestess, the Magician, the Empress, the Tower, the Wheel of Fortune, and the World. (“Why is the moon the High Priestess and not, uh, The Moon?” “Ask the Golden Dawn, son. I didn’t make up that list.”) As it happened, I needed exactly ten speaking parts to accommodate my rules, and this gave me exactly that many: six trumps plus four suits plus one Maypole for the Wheel of Fortune. I declared this a miracle and accepted it immediately. We got together three weeks before Beltane and drew up an outline of the ritual, complete with a strangely football-esque diagram; all I needed to do was sit down and write out the text. Nothing to it.

I finish the Empress’s speech at four AM the night before Beltane. Only three more trumps to go.

the high priestess

Above: Look at that hat!

It is the day of Beltane. It’s cold, and the sky is thick with clouds, but it doesn’t rain. As people start to arrive, I realize that we’ve cast our spell too well: we planned for an English festival, and the weather has complied. As always, the danger of magick is getting what you asked for.

Small things go wrong throughout the course of the day, mostly in the realm of things I never got a chance to buy. Thankfully my friends are both dutiful and clever, and the only thing of real importance missing is a bit of salt for the ritual’s opening. More troubling is that we had not one but two people set up to play the King of Swords, and neither of them made it to the ritual. Oh well. That’s one not in costume.

The defects don’t matter much, in the end; they rarely do. Because when the circle is cast and the wind picks up and blows my red cloak around me, I can feel the power of ritual overwhelm me, bubble over me and drown me. When I raise my tools to the sky and call upon the elements, I feel them with me and within me, responding to my summons as they have my entire life. This is a thing which is always rote and always strange.

We take a deep breath, each of us looking ahead at the Maypole, at the Wheel, at the spokes on that wheel each of us represent, and we begin.

Sarah is draped in blue, her head covered by a hat in the shape of the three-fold moon. A hush comes over our congregation as she casts the circle. Sarah, the High Priestess, the Moon.

I, clad in red, the infinity sign on my brow, hand the Priestess her tools. All of the exhaustion and worry of the past few days melts away, fading into the ritual. I am ready now for the Great Work, the creation of something full of wonder and hope.

I am now something more than myself; I am Mercury. I am The Magician. And a pretty damned good one, too.

We each silently mouth the words in unison with her, the words we have heard so many times before, the most powerful words we know:

This is the circle.

This is the space between the worlds.

Here be magick.

Here be love.

So mote it be.

And, gods willing, so it always will be.




 

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!

A Fundraiser for Kyrja Withers: Since Florida Pagan and children’s author Kyrja Withers had her home shot at this past March, followed by a chemical bottle-bomb attack, which required Withers’ daughter to seek medical care after inhaling fumes, the Lady Liberty League, Everglades Moon Local Council of COG, and other local Pagan community members have been mobilizing to assist Withers. At the behest of Lady Liberty League, their household is now raising funds to install security measures to protect against future attacks.

Kyrja Withers (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

Kyrja Withers (Photo: Tampa Bay Times)

“Lady Liberty League [...] has provided a variety of resources to my husband, Randy, and I during this time.  They also provided a comprehensive on-site Threat Assessment Report of our home in an effort to de-escalate the situation and provide long-term safety for our family. We are seeking assistance to comply with the security measures recommended by Lady Liberty League.  The bulk of the funding received will be to purchase the security cameras necessary to provide surveillence of our unique, colorful home.  The cameras would provide visible deterents to those who would seek to further harass and intimidate us, as well as a means to secure evidence should additional incidents occur.”

They are seeking to raise $1,100 dollars, and have already raised nearly half of their goal. For those seeking to concretely help in this situation this seems to be a pragmatic and sensible way to do so. The Lady Liberty League asks that those who are interested in contributing suggestions of resources, ideas for strategies, and volunteering security consulting and other help” to send them an e-mail, or comment at the organization’s Facebook page.  A focus image has also been provided for those who want to do magical/prayer work for Kyrja and her family. We will update you here with further developments.

Emergency Pagan Conclave Called in California: The Wild Hunt has received a notice that an emergency conclave is being called for Sunday, May 5th in Oakland, California to discuss proposed regulations by the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) relating to religious items allowed by incarcerated Pagans. The call is being put forth by The Pagan Alliance and House of Danu.

Central California Women's Facility (CCWF)

Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF)

“The California Department of Corrections (CDCR) has issued proposed regulations that threaten the ability of Pagans who are incarcerated to possess many of the religious items customary for the religious practices of our people. The proposed list excludes items out of ignorance, or for convenience, without regard to the required legal standard permitting personal religious items. Public comment on the proposed regulations ends May 7, 2013 at 5:00p.m.

The last great struggle for religious freedom in this country may very well be in the California prisons. At this historic Conclave. Dr. Barbara McGraw will give a presentation on the history of abuse endured by Pagan inmates, and there will be a panel of Pagan chaplain volunteers to share their experiences. Each of you will be given a guide showing how you can help the people of your tradition within the scope of any budget or time availability. We ask that each tradition send one or more representatives to the Conclave.”

Details on location, time, and how to participate can be found at this Facebook event listing. The proposed changes to what inmate religious property will be allowed can be found, here. The rights of Pagan prisoners has been an ongoing area of coverage at The Wild Hunt, and we’ll have more on this as the story develops.

Houston Pagan Conference: The first Pagan conference in the Houston, Texas area in over 30 years is being held May 18th  at the Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands. I reporter earlier on the fundraiser to get this event started.

“There has not been a conference for Pagans in the Houston area for over 30 years. Now is the time to change that. The Houston metropolitan area has a wonderful, rich, and vast Pagan community which should be celebrated. The Houston Pagan Conference was started to not only bring this community together but to also bring forth ideas and discussions on various aspects of faith and practice.”

Guest of honor will be author Raven Grimassi. In addition, OBOD Druid, CUUPs Vice President, and Patheos blogger, John Beckett will be in attendance, so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about how the event went. Congratulations to the Houston-area Pagan community on getting organized!

In Other Community News:

 

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

Within the realms of Witchcraft and modern Paganism Raymond Buckland has long been seen as a trailblazer. Buckland was an integral part of the introduction of Wicca, specifically Gardnerian Wicca, to North America in the 1960s, and later, he was one of the first major figures within Wicca to embrace the idea of self-initiation and solitary practice. Buckland’s career boasts a list of firsts, and his literary career (over 50 books published) in turn set the stage for the boom in Pagan titles that would follow. Now, the beloved author and elder ventures into new territory with the publication of his Buckland Romani Tarot as an application for the iPhone and iPad.

Buckland's Romani Tarot iPad app title screen.

Buckland’s Romani Tarot iPad app title screen.

“The magic and mystery of the Romani people, or Gypsies, comes alive in The Buckland Romani Tarot! The Buckland Tarot clothes the familiar archetypes from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck with images of Romani people and culture. The Romani, or Gypsies, have always been fortune tellers as they traveled through the world, learning the wisdom traditions of every nation. Now expert diviner Raymond Buckland, half-Romani and the father of American Witchcraft, reveals Romani wisdom at the turn of the card. Beautifully illustrated by Lissanne Lake, the art of The Buckland Romani Tarot will enchant you.” 

Software studio The Fool’s Dog, who partnered with Buckland on this app, specialize in iOS tarot applications and have been producing a line of high-quality tarot apps which includes John Matthews’ and Mark Ryan’s Wildwood Tarot. Founded by developer Jason Linhart and shamanic healer Caroline Kenner (who also helps organize the Sacred Space Conference), the duo strive to bring the world of virtual tarot reading to new levels. For example, the app features a state-of-the-art randomizer for drawing the cards designed by Linhart, while Kenner uses her 40 years of card-reading experience to “frame the app, decide what features were important, and how best to translate the divinatory experience into pixels.” But can you do an accurate, personal, reading with a virtual tool? Kenner says that you can, and that the app can be “spookily accurate.” She attributes this accuracy to very special wedding present:

“I attribute this to the spell Ivo Dominguez, Jr. encoded into “junk” code, which is included in every app.  Ivo’s spell was a wedding present from him and his husband, Jim Welch, both of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel.”

Raymond Buckland

Raymond Buckland

As part of the promotional rollout for the Buckland Romani Tarot app I was able to conduct a short interview with Raymond Buckland about this new project, what his thoughts are regarding tarot apps, and what his future plans are.

Why did you decide to pursue making a tarot “app” at this time? Have you used other tarot applications? Why was this the right time for you to do this project? 

“I am fairly new to the Apple world and am somewhat in awe of all that is available, especially the variety of apps. I was somewhat surprised to see tarot decks presented that way but, on looking at one or two, could appreciate how this could be a very useful presentation. It means you can do a reading very privately on an airplane, in a waiting room, or just about anywhere, without having to find room to spread out cards. It struck me that my own deck could certainly be offered, along with these other decks. It was, perhaps, the “right time” in that apps are still relatively new and this is a wonderful way to offer the deck, basically, world wide.”

Do you think a tarot application can work just as well as a physical deck, or do they, in your mind, work in different ways? Some readers place a high value on the physicality of the tarot deck, so I’d be interested to hear your views on tarot and tarot readings in a virtual realm. 

App screenshot.

App screenshot.

“I do think they work in slightly different ways, though both effective. The app I would view as a convenience form of reading. As I said above, it can be used virtually anywhere. But for a truly in-depth reading, I personally would prefer the physical touch, the “feel”, of the cards themselves. Yet it is probably all a question of what you get used to. I am sure that readings of both types are equally valid, so far as results go.”

The tarot deck being adapted is your Buckland Romani Tarot. What is your relationship with this work today, over a decade since its initial release? Are there any specific qualities about this deck that you think suit it for this new digital format? 

“This is a deck of which I am extremely proud. Lissanne Lake (the artist) interpreted my ideas and pictures of the cards to perfection. Consequently I use these cards myself and have done since their first introduction. The “color” of the Romani/Gypsy lifestyle together with the actual coloring of the cards makes this deck especially suitable for the digital format, I feel. The cards are eye-catching and attention-holding; important for a divination deck.”

Finally, is this just the beginning in terms of you exploring ways to adapt your work for an age of social media sites and mobile devices, or is this more an isolated experiment? Have you any plans for future projects like this?

“We have to move with the times. I have a number of my books available on Kindle and other e-readers. I would very much like to see my Alchemy Deck & Book as an app. I have put out a DVD (Witchcraft: Rebirth of the Old Religion) and a couple of CDs. As I get back the rights to works that have gone out of print, I am definitely looking to offering them in a newer format. Yes, I am most certainly exploring ways to adapt my work. One of the joys to this new digital age is the ease with which so many things can be brought to so many people around the globe.”

The Buckland Romani Tarot is available now at the Apple app store. The Fool’s Dog is currently working to port their tarot apps to Android devices and hope to have something on Android before the end of 2013.

The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a fraternal and religious organization which boasts magician and philosopher Aleister Crowley as its most famous member, and subsequently are legal caretakers of much of Crowley’s intellectual property, recently made several important announcements concerning one of Crowley’s most important co-creations: The Thoth Tarot. The Thoth deck was a joint effort of Crowley and the artist Lady Frieda Harris, and is one of the most influential tarot decks of our modern age. The deck drew from many of Crowley’s magical theories, and incorporated substantial changes from the dominant Rider-Waite deck. In their April 10th news release, the O.T.O. announced that Lady Harris’ tarot art, which has recently been restored by a conservation specialist at the Warburg Institute (which own the original paintings), will be given a major showing at the Venice Biennale.

"Adjustment" by Lady Frieda Harris

“Adjustment” by Lady Frieda Harris

“The Biennale is the first time so many Thoth paintings will be on public display for such a length of time—about 5 months. Attendance at the last Biennale approached 400,000, so this will introduce the Thoth Tarot to a large, new and sophisticated audience. [...]  The nine paintings included are: Atu VIII – Adjustment, 1940, Atu XII – The Hanged Man, 1938–40, Atu XV – The Devil, 1938–40, Atu XVI – The Tower (or: War), 1939, Atu XVIII – The Moon, 1938–40, Atu XIX – The Sun, 1938, Queen of Wands, 1938–40, Ace of Cups, 1940, Queen of Cups, 1938–40.” 

This is amazing news for those who’ve longed to see Lady Frieda Harris’ work in person, but perhaps the even bigger news is that the O.T.O. has also announced that it will be litigating against U.S. Games over their publication of the Thoth tarot deck.

“O.T.O. is filing suit in U.S. Federal Court against U.S. Games Systems, and perhaps others, over the Thoth Tarot Deck. Years ago O.T.O. licensed the Thoth Tarot to AGMüller (whose assets are now part of Königsfurt Urania, a division of Carta Mundi, the world’s largest card producer). In an attempt (clearly misguided in retrospect) to “make room” in the deal for U.S. Games, who had long published the deck under an arrangement with Samuel Weiser dating from the days when the deck was public domain in the U.S.A., we set up the deal to let U.S. Games continue in North America, supplied with the decks by AGMüller, with U.S. Games executing a separate license with O.T.O.—the U.S. copyright to the Thoth Tarot had by then been restored, in 1996. We concluded our contract with AGMüller for world distribution less North America. The “set-aside” of North America to accomodate U.S. Games gave rise to a last-minute clause in our contract with AGMüller that allowed AGMüller to ship decks to U.S. Games royalty unpaid—it being understood that U.S. Games would take care of its royalty obligations for North American English sales through the separate contract that they were expected to conclude with O.T.O. To my surprise and dismay U.S. Games then refused to sign the contract—or even discuss the contract any longer; and this was the contract that O.T.O. had negotiated hard with AGMüller to get for U.S. Games. Sadly, this loophole in our AGMüller contract has been exploited ever since, to the detriment of both copyright owners of theThoth Tarot. The grand total paid to the copyright owners for North American English language deck sales (by far the largest market in the world) has been exactly zero.”

If I understand this correctly, the allegation is that U.S. Games is exploiting a contract loophole to avoid paying royalties due the O.T.O., and doing so under the pretense that they don’t have to since they’ve never signed a contract. If this is accurate, then it would make two very popular tarot decks that U.S. Games is enriching itself with on uncertain legal footing. As I reported back in December of 2012, U.S. Games claims to have sole control over the Rider-Waite tarot deck despite A.E. Waite’s works entering the public domain in much of the world starting in 2013. In that case, U.S. Games is claiming Rider-Waite artist Pamela Coleman Smith as a full co-creator despite evidence that points to her paintings being done as “work-for-hire.”

"The Lovers" by Lady Frieda  Harris

“The Lovers” by Lady Frieda Harris

“Starting in 2013 the primary question will rest on what rights, if any, deck illustrator Pamela Colman Smith had to the work. Were they work for hire, or is Smith to be considered a co-author, blocking the deck from entering the public domain? In the past U.S. Games itself has acknowledged that their copyright claims rest with Waite, and that it all ends in 2012 [...] However, a 2008 interview (published in 2010) with U.S. Games founder Stuart Kaplan makes it very plain that the company has changed course and now believes their rights extend until 70 years after the 1951 death of Smith.”

In the case of the Rider-Waite deck, U.S. Games is betting that no one will have the time or resources to commit to a major legal challenge before their time finally runs out in 2021 and the original deck unarguably enters the public domain, but it’s a different story with the O.T.O. who have already fought and won legal battles relating to their control over the Thoth deck.

“OTO filed suit in US Federal Court in Southern California against Focus Features, NBC Universal and Vivendi for copyright infringement in connection with the appropriation of images from the Thoth Tarot cards to promote the Woody Allen film “Scoop,” where they were used on the poster, DVD packaging and in the press kits. The case has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. Under the terms of the agreement, the details of the settlement are confidential. This was a significant legal case, since OTO took on the world’s largest media conglomerate, represented by the best law firm in Hollywood. We have long taken on corporations many times our size before, e.g. Simon and Schuster, Doubleday and Harper and Row, but NBC Universal Vivendi is many, many times larger and more powerful than all these combined.”

Further, the O.T.O. seems completely unafraid of U.S. Game’s litigious muscle saying they are “prepared thoroughly for the case, both legally and financially,” that they “fully expect a typical American-style defense strategy that seeks to pit their considerable financial resources against ours” and are “confident of winning.”

To say it will be interesting to see what happens next is a vast understatement. Though some may not realize it, the market for tarot, divination, novelty, and gaming cards is huge, and U.S. Games has been making millions of dollars over the past several decades thanks to its control over popular decks like the Rider-Waite and the Thoth. If the O.T.O.’s confidence in their case bears out, it could mean a new American publisher for the Thoth deck, the deck going out of print in America for an undetermined period, or possibly a large settlement from U.S. Games (or some combination of these). Further, this case could raise troubling ethical issues relating to how U.S. Games has been doing business, issues which might concern authors and artists contracted with the company.

I have contacted U.S. Games for an official statement or response to the O.T.O.’s allegations, and will print that here once/if I receive anything. The Wild Hunt will continue to follow this story as it develops.

ADDENDUM: Stuart Kaplan, founder of U.S. Games, sent me the following statement in reply to my queries.

“U. S. Games Systems is a distributor of the Crowley decks which are published by AGMuller who we understand holds a license from OTO. AGMuller no longer publishes the extra Magus cards, and they are not available. U.S. Games Systems has not received any filing of litigation. The company has not done anything wrong and it will vigorously defend against any lawsuit.”

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!

The Maetreum of Cybele Launches Crowdfunding Initiative: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, has been in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, a battle centered on whether their building should be afforded a property tax exemption. The most recent round of this fight, before the New York State Supreme Court, did not go well for the Maetreum, though they feel their case for appeal is strong. However, to file that appeal, they need money, money they simply don’t have after years of legal challenges. So, the Maetreum has now launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $5000 to continue their fight.

“We are now in the process of filing an appeal and this matter will need to go up to the higher levels of New York’s court system.  Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a pro bono attorney to take the case and many of the legal advocacy organizations that we contacted were unable to help, either, thus forcing us to foot the legal bills ourselves.  These have now exceeded $30,000 over the years (and, mind you, we have never even taken in $30,000 in a year!).  According to our best estimates, the Town of Catskill has spent easily six figures of taxpayer money on our case:  more than they could ever get from either taxes on the property or proceed from a foreclosure sale!  The Town Supervisor even went on the record and told a reporter for the local paper, the Daily Mail, that the town considers us to be an “illegitimate religion”.  They have not done this to any other local religious group or church.”

In an exchange with Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum, she stressed that time and resources were running out, quote, “our attorney wants the entire fee by the filing date which is Feb 4. We have an excellent chance of winning and have raised half the needed fees ourselves but the winter expenses along with the balance is making it difficult. Viktoria and I are selling off our antiques acquired over a lifetime to raise additional money.” So, if this is a case you care about, if you’d like to see the Maetreum continue its work, or are worried about the precedents established if they cannot continue to fight this case, spread the word and donate to their campaign. The Wild Hunt will be keeping track of the Maetreum’s tax battle as things progress.

ADF Marks the Passing of Former Preceptor Rev. George Lee:  Druid organization Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) announced on their official Facebook page yesterday that Rev. George Lee (aka Raven Mann) a liturgist, ritual leader, and former preceptor within the ADF, had passed away at the age of 49.

Rev. George Lee (Raven Mann)

Rev. George Lee (Raven Mann)

“Raven Mann was an effective priest and ritual leader, and also an accomplished liturgist. He served as the ADF Preceptor during the latter half of Rev. Skip Ellison’s term as Archdruid and made many contributions to the deliberations of the ADF Clergy Council. His passing will be a great loss to ADF.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Rev. Kelly Kingston (Carrion Mann) and their daughter Morrighan at this sad time. We also pray that he may pass quickly to the Otherworlds in the company of his Ancestors.”

For any that wish to make donations to Reverend Raven Mann’s family to help with funeral costs and things, 6th Night Grove, ADF has started a Raven Mann Memorial Fund. We here at The Wild Hunt offer our sincerest condolences, may Raven Mann rest with his gods and return to us again.

A History of New York Paganism: The New York Pagan podcast has posted audio of the first of four Pagan Way 40th Anniversary Lectures that took place in November. Presented by the New York Pagan Alliance, the First Unitarian Congregational Society of Brooklyn, New York, and the New York pagan community, the first lecture features Margot Adler, author of “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America,” and Michael Lloyd, author of “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan.”

Margot Adler, Michael Lloyd, at Anniversary Pagan Way Lecture Series; photo by Brian Brewer

Margot Adler, Michael Lloyd, at Anniversary Pagan Way Lecture Series; photo by Brian Brewer

“New York Pagan History: How We Got to Where We Are Today, the first in the series, featured author Michael Lloyd, whose painstaking efforts to chronicle the historic and cultural forces that influenced the establishment, rise, fall, and rebirth of the New York Pagan community have produced a treasure trove of well-documented insights into the earliest beginnings of the Pagan movement. [...] Margot, who provides the foreword to Bull of Heaven, shares in this talk how her earliest encounters with the Craft were deeply influenced by Eddie Buczynski and the emerging New York City Pagan community of the early 1970s.”

For more on this lecture series, see Zan Fraser’s write-up at The Juggler. To download the audio of the lecture, head over to the New York Pagan podcast site. I look forward to hearing the rest of this series, and I encourage my readers to subscribe to this podcast. For some more background on what The Pagan Way is, check out Aidan Kelly’s recent post on the subject.

In Other Community News:

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

The Rider-Waite tarot deck, also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck to honor illustrator Pamela Colman Smith, is cited by many as the most popular tarot deck in the English-speaking world. Most of the popular tarot decks around today reference, or pay homage to, its designs and structure. The deck has been a perennial money maker for U.S. Games, who publish the Rider-Waite deck and several variations of it (Universal Waite, Radiant Rider-Waite, etc). Now, starting in 2013, all works by scholar and mystic Arthur Edward Waite are supposed to be entering the public domain, but it’s very likely the Rider-Waite tarot he co-created will remain on hazy copyright grounds for another decade.

Pamela Colman Smith & A.E. Waite

Pamela Colman Smith & A.E. Waite

For the UK, the European Union, Russia, and most of the world, copyright lasts the life of the creator plus 70 years. Which means that Waite’s oeuvre enters the public domain in most of the world starting on January 1st, 2013. Here in the United States, we do things differently, but any works published before 1923 are in the public domain, which in theory includes the Rider-Waite deck, originally published in 1909. Despite the deck technically being in the public domain in the United States, that hasn’t stopped U.S. Games from aggressively policing their rights to the deck here.

“According to correspondence from various parties, US Games is currently still, as of 2003, enforcing its copyright vigorously, charging licensing fees that can range from several hundred dollars a year and up to use the RWS Tarot deck, including similar or related images.

Starting in 2013 the primary question will rest on what rights, if any, deck illustrator Pamela Colman Smith had to the work. Were they work for hire, or is Smith to be considered a co-author, blocking the deck from entering the public domain? In the past U.S. Games itself has acknowledged that their copyright claims rest with Waite, and that it all ends in 2012.

“The Rider-Waite Tarot works (cards and books) have 70 years from date of death of the author. A. E. Waite commissioned the drawings from Pamela Colman-Smith and under the old UK Act the copyright owner is the person who commissions the drawings. Therefore, copyright will expire 70 years from A. E. Waite’s date of death. He died in 1942 so copyright will expire in 2012.” - U.S. Games

However, a 2008 interview that folklorist Stephen Winick conducted with U.S. Games founder Stuart Kaplan makes it very plain that the company has changed course and now believes their rights extend until 70 years after the 1951 death of Smith.

“The copyright protection on the Rider-Waite Tarot runs to 2021, which is seventy years after the date of death of the artist, [Pamela Colman Smith],” he said.  The only way to test this understanding would be in court, but Kaplan doesn’t recommend this approach:  “In the past several years, U.S. Games Systems has had to sue two large companies for copyright infringement,” he said. “In both instances we were successful, and received full reimbursement of substantial legal costs. U.S. Games Systems and its partners actively monitor and seek to protect all of its intellectual property rights.”  If you want to use the artwork from the Rider-Waite Tarot, the simplest approach is to contact U.S. Games Systems and discuss licensing possibilities.

This new position on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck’s copyright was on full display in 2009 when they sent a letter to Mystic Games about their “Popular 1910 Tarot” (In essence the original Rider-Waite deck).

1909 original (left) and 1971 revisions (right) of the Rider-Waite tarot.

1909 original (left) and 1971 revisions (right) of the Rider-Waite tarot.

“You are using the Rider-Waite illustrations without permission from US Games Systems who legally hold the copyright and trademark.  We ask you to cease and desist telling customers that the images are in the public domain.  Mystic Games does not have authorization to use the images on their site.  The images are only to be used with proper authorization so please contact me.  Pamela Colman Smith, the artist, died in 1951 and the deck does not go into public domain until 2021, 70 years after the artist’s death.” 

In talking with some contacts in the field of copyright law, the consensus seemed to be that, quote, “the public domain isn’t 100 percent legally sacrosanct and contracts are messy.” In short, the only way the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is entering the public domain before 2021 it through a long and expensive (and possibly international) lawsuit with U.S. Games. Kaplan intentionally uses fear-mongering in talking about the copyright by invoking successful lawsuits against “large companies.” What isn’t said is that those lawsuits didn’t happen after the works of A.E. Waite passed into the public domain. Still, what company is going to spend their resources in order to wrest U.S. Games’ prized possession away from them? I don’t see it happening.

I’m personally ambivalent on this matter. On one hand, I think Pamela Colman Smith should be credited as a co-creator of the Rider-Waite deck, it is her images that made Waite’s deck immortal, that helped revolutionize tarot itself. However, I also think that the public domain is vitally important to the growth of the arts, and the efforts by corporations and companies to keep works out of it, long after the creators have passed, hinders the natural ecosystem of ideas. If these illustrations were indeed work-for-hire, which they do seem to be from all accounts I could find, then the original tarot deck created by Waite and Smith should be free and available for all to use starting in 2013. Further enriching U.S. Games does not honor Smith in any appreciable way, and their control only stifles the art form.

So, while Waite’s works are passing into the public domain, I would be cautious about assuming the same concerning his most famous (co-)creation. I’ll be watching with great interest in the years ahead to see if any significant challenges to U.S. Game’s control emerge.

I’d like to thank Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack for their input and resources in the shaping of this story.