Archives For The Druid Network

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The Druid NetworkOn September 29, the Interfaith Network of the United Kingdom (IFN UK) admitted both The Druid Network (TDN) and The Pagan Federation (PF) into its organization as members. Previously, both Pagan groups were denied membership because they did not represent “one of the big nine faiths.” According to The Druid Network, “This refusal resulted in TDN becoming involved in dialogue with IFN, with a view to reviewing their membership policy to become both more inclusive and to remove any suggestion of discrimination against minority faiths.”

The Pagan Federation and others were also involved in the talks, which eventually led to a presentation before the House of Lords. TDN says, “The eminent human rights lawyer, John Halford, from Bindmans LLP publicly issued a legal opinion for the event.” After that official meeting, IFN began a “strategic review” of its membership policy that has resulted in revised criteria by which both the PF and TDN are eligible. Additionally, Rev. Prudence Jones of PF will be serving on IFN’s executive committee. She marks the first Pagan to hold such a position within that organization. TDN says:

This is an historic achievement on many levels, it is the fruition of the work of many people seeking to find resolution within conflict, those people coming from many diverse backgrounds, professions and faiths. The Druid Network extends its appreciation and thanks to all who helped bring about this momentous.

conference-logo-transparent-background1The 11th Conference on Current Pagan Studies will be held January 24-25, 2015  in Claremont, California at Claremont Graduate University. This year’s theme is “Fecundity and the Richness of the Dark.” Conference organizers explain, “Monotheistic notions over the past two millennia have separated and polarized our manner of being in the world into realms of light and darkness, positive and negative, holy and desacralized, valued and devalued.  Polytheists, Pagans, animists, et al view differently the interplay of light and dark, and seek to revalue, re-sacralize, and retrieve the dark. How do we interpret the Darkness?” 

This year’s keynote speakers will be Viviane Crowley and Orion Foxwood. The deadline for submissions is now October 15. They say, “We are looking for papers from all disciplines. A community needs artists, teachers, scientists, healers, historians, philosophers, educators, thinkers, activists, etc.” 

10689864_296726883849996_5087655294117168377_nThe Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists (MCPA) is holding its debut exhibition at the Stevens Square Center for the Arts from Oct 25 – Nov 15, 2014. The public exhibition is titled, “Doorways to the Underworld” and will feature Ali Beyer (Artemis Namaste), Anne Marie Forrester (Helga Hedgewalker), Paul Rucker, and Roger Williamson. MCPA says, “In this exhibit, Halloween is explored through the eyes of those who experience the season as a profound time to commune with the ancestors and the spirit world.  For these artists, the work is an extension of their spirituality, allowing a glimpse into what is often an unseen tradition.”  The opening reception includes a dance performance by Alana Mari and live music by Comets Ov Cupid.

In Other Pagan Community News:

 

That’s it 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!

pageHeaderTitleImageThe Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, has just published a special double-sized edition, catching the publication up after a delay. Quote: “Welcome to a double issue of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. We regret that our publication has fallen behind schedule, but this 2013 double issue will help bring it more in synch with the calendar. Thanks to guest editors [Manon Hedenborg-White] and Inga Bårdsen Tollefsen, both of the University of Tromsø, Norway, this issue includes a section of interesting papers on gender issues within several varieties of contemporary Paganism and occultism, ranging from Canada to Russia.” Also covered are articles responding to a 2012 critique of Pagan Studies. There are also a number of interesting (and free to download) book reviews. 

The Druid NetworkThe Druid Network performed a global ritual in honor of peace on August 10th. Quote: “Last night, on 10 August 2014 members of the international organisation, The Druid Network, performed a ritual all across the globe in honour of peace. Crises of war are happening all over the globe, and members of TDN gathered together on the member-only social network site to discuss matters. What evolved was the creation of a ritual for peace, that could be enacted by anyone, anywhere, at this August Supermoon. Over 300 people responded to the Facebook event, and even more Pagans from all over the globe performed either this version or their own with the intention of creating peace.” The press release includes the ritual format shared amongst the participants, and they intend to perform the ritual at every following full moon.

Kraemer-Eros-Touch-coverEditors Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow have announced a call for entires in a new anthology concerning Pagan consent culture. Quote: “This collection will define Pagan consent culture; articulate widely-held Pagan theologies of the body; examine theological resources in various Pagan traditions for building consent culture; explore strategies for making seeking consent to touch a normal community practice; give recommendations for safeguarding policies at events for children and adults; provide procedures for communities to use when responding to accusations of sexual abuse; consider the role of unequal power dynamics in relationships in Pagan communities; and examine the ethics of sexual initiation, erotic healing, and other Pagan religious practices involving the ritual use of touch.” The deadline for first full drafts is Feb 1, 2015.

Janie Felix

Janie Felix

We had previously reported on the case of Janie Felix and Buford Coone, members of the Order of the Cauldron of the Sage, who had challenged a 10 Commandments monument being erected on government property in New Mexico. Well, on August 7th, a federal judge ruled that the monument was unconstitutional. We reached out to Janie Felix, who sent us the following statement: “We are delighted (the many people I represented) with the court’s decision.  It feels that the law was upheld and that the court reflected the Founding Father’s plan for our country.  This is an important victory for all the non-Christian folks here in New Mexico and around the country … I, personally, hope that the monument will be removed to a prominent spot on the grounds of the largest local church where it can be admired and not impinge on the lawful rights of the non-Christian community here in Bloomfield.  It saddens me that the local comments in dissent to the ruling reflect the prejudices of the folks in favor of the monument staying where it is rather than understanding the reasons for the suit in the first place. Comments were made, i.e. ‘if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to look at it’ … ‘she can just move’ … ‘she is ruining our country.’   We, the plaintiffs, have always expressed that this was impinging on our rights as citizens and was not opposition to the commandments per se.  By staying out of all matters of faith and spirituality, the government gives all religions an equal chance to thrive in our country.  Indeed, that was the purpose of the religious liberty causes in the 1st amendment.” 

open_halls_squareLast week we reported on the news of the Air Force adding “Asatru” and “Heathen” to their religious preferences list. For more on the background of this story, check out The Norse Mythology Blog’s interview with Master Sergeant Matt Walters, who worked with the Open Halls Project to make it happen. Quote: “I got a notification that it would be shortly that the approval would go through, and on a whim I decided to check. Apparently only hours before I checked, the personnel office had made the inclusion of the two requested denominations, and I was able to officially be recognized as a heathen. Now any airman can identify themselves as Ásatrú or Heathen in their military records, if they wish.”

Victor_WellesleyVictor Kazanjian, the Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative (URI), was hosted at a reception held by the Northern California Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess (COG). Quote: “This was an opportunity for him to meet the Pagan community of the San Francisco Bay Area and for us to meet him.  A reasonable sample of the many groups of the Bay Area attended.  The Fellowship of the Spiral Path graciously donated their monthly time-slot at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists (BFUU) hall as a welcoming space to hold the reception. [...] I have the highest of hopes for Victor, and the URI, and for the growing relationship between the URI and the Pagan community of the Bay Area and the world.  I will give everyone a chance to introduce their groups soon, but first it is both a pleasure and a privilege to welcome Victor Kazanjian.” Be sure to also check out COG Interfaith Reports blog for their summary report on the Global Indigenous Initiative meeting

Book-Fault-Lines-Gus-DizeregaThe results for the 2014 Independent Book Awards have been released, and Gus diZerega’s “Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Cultural War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine” won the Silver prize in the New Age/Mind-Body-Spirit category. DiZerega’s book was tied for Silver with “Garden of Bliss: Cultivating the Inner Landscape for Self-Discovery” by Debra Moffitt, which was published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Quote from the book’s blurb: “The United States is suffering its greatest upheaval since the Civil War—politically, economically, socially and religiously. In Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine, author Gus diZerega explores the complex causes leading us to this point, comparing them to giant fault lines that, when they erupt, create enormous disturbance and in time new landscapes.”

Pantheon FoundationWith the Pantheon Foundation’s funding campaign for The Diotima Prize successful, the process to award the prize has begun. A selection committee has been announced, as well as an essay contest to decide the winner. Quote: “The Pantheon Foundation, dedicated to building 21st century infrastructure for Pagans, calls for you to apply to receive the Diotima Prize. By the power of the Pagan community’s generosity $1,000 has been crowd-funded to support your studies this year. Send us a 1,000 word essay on the nature of Paganism and Pagan ministry, and the author of the best, selected by our committee, will be awarded this year’s prize.” Deadline for essays is September 1st. Applicants must be currently in an accredited seminary program.

Patrick McCollum in IndiaA crowd-funding campaign is has been launched to help fund Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum’s participation in several world peace-oriented Fall events. Quote: “While Patrick’s service and presence at these powerful events is clearly of high value, the organizers of the events do not have the financial means to provide for his airfare. Our desire is not only to get him there, but to insure his safe travels and maximize the outreach of the important messages he has to share. We are aiming to raise $6,000 for this trip. What this would afford us are the round-trip tickets to India for Patrick and to have some money for other travel expenses. It will also be used to support the youth. If we receive more than our funding needs, the extra money will go towards the foundation and to supporting the various work that Patrick is a part of.” McCollum’s efforts were recently mentioned in the LA Times.

10541858_10152353140474755_4646233186467081917_nDebbie Chapnick, owner of Datura Press, has released a new book that melds tarot and food entitled: “The Journey of the Food, Snacking your way through the Tarot.” Quote: “In a deep sleep a voice said to me ‘The eight of swords… that’s a Mississippi mud cake’. The phrase repeated over and over again. When I finally woke up in the morning I was exhausted, but I knew what I had to do… write a cookbook! That’s where it began, ‘The Journey of the Food.’ I cook for my friends all of the time and get hired to do desserts for the occasional party. It was the perfect for me. The two things I love doing the most all together.” You can order yours by emailing Chapnick at: daturapress@gmail.com.

David Oliver Kling

David Oliver Kling

Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that that faculty member David Kling, M.Div., will serve as the new Chair of the Department of Ministry, Advocacy & Leadership. Quote: “I started the long journey to become a chaplain after my mother and I made the decision to take my father off life support. During the seven months he was in critical care not once did we see a chaplain. His death was particularly difficult for me and every death I experience since transforms me. It is my intention to be of service to others who are suffering physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is a wonderful yet often very emotionally painful career path, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I may not have had a chaplain when I needed one, but I hope I can be there for others when they need one. [...] It is my hope that I can assist current and incoming students navigate through their programs successfully and graduate and settle into various ministry and leadership roles that will be as fulfilling for them as mine is for me.”

1980427_666404363420110_559223200_oCamilla Laurentine has issued a call for submissions for a new devotional anthology dedicated to the Beloved Dead. Quote: “Calling for submissions for Crossing the River: A Devotional to Our Beloved Dead, edited by Camilla Laurentine (and possibly others to sign on at a later date). Submissions open August 7th, 2014 and close February 28th, 2015. The intention of this devotional is to build a source book of modern meditations, hymns, prayers, and other resources for death workers working in our greater community. All Pagan and Polytheist traditions are welcome and encouraged to submit to this project. Submissions should fall into one of three categories: Vigil of the Dying, For the Recently Deceased, and Funerary Tools. They may include, but are not limited to meditations, poems, hymns, prayers, original retellings of myths, rituals, and scholarly articles with a focus on historical practices within one’s tradition. Artwork is also welcome and encouraged with a preference for pieces that are easily reproduced in black and white.”

a3269500119_2Sharon Knight and Winter have announced a collaboration with urban fantasy author author Ellie Di Julio, a collection of songs based on the work  “The Transmigration of Cora Riley.” Quote: “Sharon Knight and Winter, have teamed up with author Ellie Di Julio to produce original songs inspired by her urban fantasy novel, “The Transmigration of Cora Riley.” This album tells three different character stories – Cora’s, Jack’s, and the Mistress’ – through their own eyes, echoing the book’s themes of change and desire. The sound ranges from light-hearted pop to driving metal to haunting folksong, giving each character their own flavor and adding new layers of meaning to the original text.”

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

This week a law was passed that will make same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales. The landmark legislation, approved by Queen Elizabeth II, clears the way for legal marriages to start in 2014. The way the new law is structured, religious organizations must “opt in” in order to perform a legally binding ceremony. This historic move follows recent advances for same-sex marriage in parts of the United States and for all of France. Just as I collected reactions from modern Pagans in America following the DOMA/Prop 8 Supreme Court decisions, so too did I want to see how Pagans in England and Wales felt about this development.

web-gay-marriage-getty

Mike Stygal, President of the Pagan Federation, celebrated the “wonderful development,” though pointed out that inequalities remained.

Mike Stygal

Mike Stygal

“Finally the Marriage Act (same sex) has made it through all the hoops our political system presents. This wonderful development is the result of many, many years of persistent effort to secure equality for the LGBT community. There are still inequalities towards LGBT that will need to be challenged and that will require persistent effort to overcome. There are still inequalities with regard to spirituality and faith too. The Pagan Federation is no stranger to persistent effort to challenge and change inequalities and we know just how hard it is to achieve success. Congratulations to all those people who kept at the cause of legal same sex marriage, and to all those who challenge inequality, take heart that inequality can be beaten.”

Yvonne Aburrow, a Pagan from Oxford who also writes for the Patheos blog Sermons From The Mound, noted that Pagans in England and Wales cannot perform legal wedding ceremonies of any kind (which became a point of contention in the lead-up to this law being passed), though was still “delighted” over this advance for marriage equality in the UK.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“I am delighted that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can now marry someone of the same sex in England and Wales, and that some religious groups will be able to marry same-sex couples in their places of worship. Unitarians, Quakers, and Liberal Jews campaigned particularly hard on this, and Derek McAuley, Unitarian Chief Officer, Paul Parker (Recording Clerk, Quaker Yearly Meeting), and Rabbi Danny Rich, should be applauded for their lobbying efforts. It is a shame that Pagans in England and Wales are unable to marry either opposite-sex or same-sex couples in a legal ceremony, but it looks as if the House of Lords have left open the possibility of humanist weddings, and weddings for other religions too.”

Aburrow added that her optimism was “cautious” and that “tomorrow, we keep fighting for LGBT rights around the world, and for human rights generally. Until it is safe everywhere to be Black, disabled, LGBT, a woman, or a member of a religious minority, then our work is not yet done.”

Like Aburrow and Stygal, Sophia Catherine of the Divine Community podcast brought up the fact that Pagan weddings can still only be symbolic in nature, and not legally binding, but also raised true gender equality as a primary concern.

“My one sadness about this Act is that, initially, it was to be called the Equal Marriage Act, but the name was changed to make it clear that ‘same-sex’ marriage was involved. There are more than two genders, and that the Act upholds the gender binary that society is obsessed with. However, this Act does take a step forward, in that regard, Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, for mixed-sex married couples where one member changed their legal sex, the couple had to divorce and obtain a civil partnership. Now that marriage is available to all regardless of sex/gender, this will no longer be the case. It is a shame that couples who were forced to go through this process will not automatically regain their marriages, but they will be able to ‘convert’ these civil partnerships back into marriages. Of course, this does not make up for the indignity of what they had to go through, but in the future, this won’t happen to any more couples where one changes their legal sex.”

Vivianne Crowley, author, Jungian psychologist, and faculty at Cherry Hill Seminary, is currently in Paris, and gave a broad perspective informed by France’s recent legalization of same-sex marriages.

Vivianne Crowley

Vivianne Crowley

“The last three centuries have seen in western culture a shift towards recognition of the autonomy of the individual and the right to freedom of self-expression. It is a tide that dictators and others have sought to suppress. It has been subverted – sometimes the tide has turned; but slowly consciousness has undergone a shift.

Major social changes occur when almost unconsciously the greater mass of people sense that an idea is self-evidently right. At first, such evolutions of thought are the preoccupation of a few who are ahead of the zeitgeist. In the late eighteenth century and nineteenth centuries, recognition of the unique value of each individual led inevitably to the abolition of slavery in Europe and the United States. The political impetus that overthrew absolute monarchs led to democracy and the recognition that every adult male should have the right to vote for who should rule his country. In the twentieth century, an inexorable tide saw that right extend to women. Now the west is ready for a new right – the right of individuals to choose to marry their life partner regardless of gender and to make a public commitment that is recognized and honored by the state.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa, among others, set the trend. Now the United Kingdom and France have followed almost simultaneously and other European countries will do the same.

Here, in France, Catholics marched against same-sex marriage, but the law has been swiftly passed. July 14th is Bastille Day, France’s equivalent of the 4th of July – a celebration of revolution past and national identity present. There are major celebrations in all French towns, and particularly of course in Paris. This July 14th the iconic Eiffel Tower was lit up with rainbow colors and songs filled the Paris night sky, celebrating equal marriage rights for all.

Where Canada and Europe can go, other nations can go too. But in the meantime, Vive la France –liberté, égalité, fraternité! And well done, Britain!”

Perhaps the most succinct response that encapsulates many of the recurring themes heard from UK Pagans on marriage equality is from Cat Treadwell, a Trustee of The Druid Network, and ordained Awenydd (Priest) of The Anglesey Druid Order.

“Consenting adults have loved each other for centuries, with or without permission, and will no doubt continue to do so; the law slowly moves forward to accommodate this. We can only hope that as society becomes more accepting, Pagan unions will also be recognised in our own lifetimes.”

Let us hope that society continues to move forward on accepting the simple reality of consenting adults loving each other, and that the desire for modern Pagan clergy in England and Wales to perform legally recognized unions within that tapestry of love is soon realized.

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

spirits

 

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

In November the media, along with The Wild Hunt, reported that The Charity Commission for Wales and England declined the The Pagan Federation’s request for charity status in the UK. Upon hearing the unfortunate news, I worked with my fellow Covenant of the Goddess Board members to offer support, “across the pond,” to those diligently working to achieve that coveted status.  As a result, I had the pleasure of corresponding with the president of The Pagan Federation, Chris Crowley. Our brief exchange gave me a much better understanding of the situation and I present my findings to you.

Pagan Federation

In a letter dated October 4, 2012,  The Charity Commission for Wales and England, a government organization charged with the regulation of all charity organizations, informed The Pagan Federation  that its application for charity status had been rejected. The Commission summed up its reasoning with the following statement:

“The commission is not satisfied that The Pagan Federation is established for exclusively charitable purposes.”

To reach a decision, the Commission brought in senior level advisors to evaluate The Pagan Federation’s application.  Under the Charities Act of 2006, all religious organizations must, like any other, prove to be a benefit to the general public or, as they say “advancing religion for public benefit.” Previously most religious organizations were exempt from these criteria.

It is not enough that an organization does something in the name of religion in order for it to be a charity advancing religion. It has to be shown that the aim of the organization is to advance the religion in a way that is for the public benefit, and not to further some other, non-charitable, aim. (The Advancement of Religion for Public Benefit, section C4)

The Pagan Federation felt its application established legitimacy as a non-profit, community-based religious organization that worked for public benefit. Its listed programs include community service, sponsorship of workshops, rituals and festivals, prison ministry, hospital visitations, Inter-faith outreach, and public awareness. In Scotland, where hand-fasting or wedding ceremonies are legally recognized, Pagan Federation clergy perform marriage rites.

In our interview, Chris Crowley explained:

The Pagan Federation was founded 40 years ago. Initially, it was set up to counter negative publicity concerning Witchcraft, primarily, and other Pagan Paths….From the 1980s onwards, however, we expanded our remit to also campaign actively for Pagan rights for all Pagans and also to become a contact network… We have had some success in establishing positive working relationships with some government departments. The most significant of these is the Justice Ministry who invited us, in the 1990s, to set up a prison ministry service to administer to Pagans in prison. It is still running very successfully. 

40th Anniversary Pagan FederationLater he added, “[Last year] we had a 40th Anniversary celebration in London which included a conference and a tree planting of 40 trees.” The entire event attracted 4-500 attendees, both Pagan and non-Pagan alike.

So where’s the problem?  While the Commission did acknowledge the Federation’s positive public work, the application seems to have gotten stuck in a quagmire of religious semantics. In the Charities Act of 2006 and UK Charity law, “religion” is defined as such:

[A] belief system involves belief in a god (or gods) or goddess (or goddesses), or supreme being, or divine or transcendental being or entity or spiritual principle, which is the object or focus of the religion (referred to in this guidance as ‘supreme being or entity’)  (The Advancement of Religion for Public Benefit, Section C1)

Specifically, section 2 of the Charities Act states that the term ‘religion’ “includes a religion which involves a belief in more than one god, and a religion which does not involve a belief in a god.”  It goes on to say:

The intention of the legislation was to make clear that religions that involve belief in more than one god and those that do not involve a belief in a god are included within the meaning of religion derived from existing case law. ) (The Advancement of Religion for Public Benefit, Section C1)

These statutes do take into account polytheistic practices. In fact, these are the laws that allowed The Druid Network to earn charity status in 2010. They were the first faith-based, Pagan organization to achieve this type of public recognition.

Charity CommissionHowever, in the case of The Pagan Federation, the Commission appears to be befuddled by the term:  Pagan.  Where “Druidry” defines a small subset of Pagan religious beliefs, Paganism itself is an umbrella term for a much broader group of religious practices that have no clearly delineated guidelines, no dogma or required practices.  The Commission feels that the term “Pagan” describes a “philosophy or way of life,” rather than a religion.

In its report, the Commission expressed a real concern over the fluid and dynamic nature of Pagan tradition and practice.  Responding to the concept of solitary practice and the Wiccan Rede, “an ye harm none, do what ye will,” the Commission remarked, “It appears that individuals are free to develop their own guidelines.”

Without the easily identifiable structure of monotheistic religions, Paganism and its organizations are a mystery to outsiders, even to those government officials who, like the Commission, appear to be making allowances for alternative religions.  Belinda Winder, Vice President of The Pagan Federation, told a Third Sector reporter:

“The first time we approached the commission, 15 years ago, one of its officials asked us if we sacrifice humans. I think we have come an awful long way in public understanding since then.”  (The Third Sector)

The Druid NetworkWith the language set forth in the Charities Act of 2006 and the success of The Druid Network, there’s hope for The Pagan Federation.

In November the Federation made its first appeal to a Charity Tribunal, part of the UK court system that answers annually to Parliament. I asked Chris why the organization is willing to go through this difficult fight knowing the potential cost in both time and money.  Aside from the tax breaks, he explained:

Mainly, [we will] achieve recognition as a valid religious and spiritual path and…have the same legal rights as, and parity with, other religions and…take our rightful place as part of the richly diverse community that lives in these islands.

Under the current conditions The Pagan Federation can only, as Chris notes, “represent individuals if they feel they have been victimized or unfairly discriminated against on a case by case basis.”  There is no uniformity in practice or legislation to fall back on.  UK Pagans are left out in the cold.  Fortunately, as Chris remarked, The Pagan Federation will “not give up and keep hammering away” until it can proudly stand as a recognized charitable Pagan organization.

 Pagan Federation International

Additional Note:  The Pagan Federation operates throughout the UK  It also has many international chapters, including one in the U.S.A.  To learn more about the organization outside of the United Kingdom, go to its international website.

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

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

  • Is the Chico Goddess Temple doomed? According to the Chico News and Review, noise complaints for an illegal festival held four years ago has led to a much larger struggle to survive and gain the permits needed to stay open. Owner Robert Seals thinks that hostility to Goddess religion might underlay the resistance he’s encountered in obtaining the permits he needs. Quote: “This is nothing new, worship of the Goddess, but it goes up against a lot of fundamental religions.” You can learn more about this struggle, and the upcoming appeal hearing, here.

That’s it for now! Happy Friday the 13th! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Last night the ABC news program Nightline ran a “Sign of the Times” segment featuring Sgt Simon Wood of the Hampshire Constabulary in the United Kingdom. Wood is a member of the Pagan Police Association, an organization that formed in 2009 and was officially recognized as a Diversity Staff Support Association in 2010.

The report mentions the tabloid-headline generating Metropolitan Police diversity handbook, which discusses the fact that some Pagans practice skyclad, and may be bound and blindfolded during rituals, and (inaccurately) references the UK Charity Commission’s approval of The Druid Network‘s application for religious charity status as Paganism “being given the status of a religion” (Pagan faiths in Britain were already recognized as legitimate religions long before that).

While it’s nice to see a mainstream news outlet pay some attention to gains made by modern Pagans, the segment was something of a flashback for me. The announcer invoking “goats blood” at the introduction, the overly theatrical narrator, and the flashing jump-cuts that emphasize the strangeness of Pagan ritual all brought to mind the more sensationalist days when network news channels would go out to find a Witch for Halloween and bring the smoke-machines along for added effect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible, but it also could have been much better. There was very much a tone that set modern Pagans up as a strange fringe phenomenon. Then again, Nightline isn’t exactly the pinnacle of serious news reporting any longer, as they are devoting their Summer coverage to psychics, exorcism, and out-of-body experiences. So I suppose a report on Druids, with mention of naked initiation rituals, hit the sweet spot for them.

Maybe I’m expecting too much, but a nice sit-down interview in the studio, one that confronts various issues but avoids trying to be cute or salacious, would be a nice change of pace.

ADDENDUM: Sgt. Simon Wood weighs in with his take on the program.

“Considering that they spent quite a lot of time with me throughout the day and filmed the whole ceremony they could have made a longer film. But then how many regular watchers for their program [would] watch an hour on witchcraft? At least it is of a positive nature rather than the usual pap we normally get. I agreed to do it simply to try and get more positive things out there about Pagans in general.”

I’d like to thank Sgt. Wood for sharing his perspective, and for his service.

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

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

[You can read part one of this entry, here.]

05. The Druid Network Receives Charitable Status in UK: Perhaps the biggest Pagan-related story coming out of the UK this year was the Charity Commission’s decision to approve The Druid Network‘s application as a religious charity. In Britain, there’s a marked difference between a charity and a nonprofit, and The Druid Network was the first Pagan organization to take advantage of the the Charities Act of 2006, which lowered the hurdles towards becoming a religious charity. This not only caused a wave of press in the UK, but in America as well. Guest author Alison Shaffer did a remarkable job summing the whole issue up back in October.

“So why all the fuss? Because the rights and freedoms granted to religious practitioners of Druidry and Paganism in the UK are, as in the US, not necessarily guarantees that they will also have access to all of the same benefits available to more mainstream faiths — benefits such as nonprofit status, state-recognized holidays, prison and military chaplaincy, clergy who are legally empowered to perform marriages and burials, and so on. In short, although British law provides freedom from discrimination for practitioners of all religions, the freedom to participate fully and equally in civil society is something that rests on a foundation of legal precedent. For many religious minorities, securing the latter means buckling down to a long process of challenging numerous individual instances of oversight and exclusion, in order to push past the tipping point from legal tolerance into social acceptance and support.”

This was an important moment for Druidry in Britain, and for modern Paganism as a whole. Despite the occasional press exaggerations that the UK had recognized Druidry for the first time in “thousands of years, “ this moment does mark a new level of respect and understanding towards our family faiths.

04. Military Pagans and The Air Force Academy Circle: 2010 was the year the Air Force Academy tried to clean up its public image when it came to religious tolerance. Long accused of being a focal point for evangelical Christian takeover of the military, and still struggling to create an environment friendly to all faiths, much was made in the press about their support for the installation of a Pagan worship area, though perhaps even more press was generated at the subsequent vandalism of said site.

“The Air Force Academy, stung several years ago by accusations of Christian bias, has built a new outdoor worship area for pagans and other practitioners of Earth-based religions. But its opening, heralded as a sign of a more tolerant religious climate at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was marred by the discovery two weeks ago of a large wooden cross placed there. ”We’ve been making great progress at the Air Force Academy. This is clearly a setback,” said Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the academy. He is founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and has often tangled with the academy over such issues.”

This concession to the religious lives of Pagan cadets also spurred some religious and political figures into saying some rather stupid things. What was largely missed through all the media glare was that this circle wasn’t some media relations band-aid, but a response to a genuine need among Pagan cadets, one that has permeated all aspects of life there. Sadly, a lot of coverage treated the whole story as something of a joke, instead of acknowledging the important steps forward being taken. The Air Force Academy circle wasn’t the only military-oriented Pagan story of 2010, but it was certainly the biggest, and one that was highly symbolic of our overall struggles for equal treatment.

03. Christine O’Donnell’s Dabble-Gate: I tried to dismiss it, but few could withstand the hurricane force of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (a local Tea Party favorite), who completely dominated the election news cycle this year thanks to comments made over ten years ago that she had “dabbled” with “witchcraft”. Faster than you could twinkle your nose, media outlets from all corners started interviewing “real” Witches about the controversy, while political pundits scored cheap laughs. Then, just when everyone thought the news cycle had died out, O’Donnell’s campaign released the following campaign ad.

Committing one of the classic blunders in politics (right up there with starting a land war in Asia), O’Donnell sparked a new landslide of negative news coverage, and a host of Pagan-created response videos. Her image damaged beyond repair, she lost handily to the Democratic candidate. While the abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office, O’Donnell’s largely unexplored connections to conservative Christianity and how they influence her politics made few Pagans regret her loss.

02. Vodou & Haiti: Under any other circumstances, I would have welcomed with joy the emergence of our cousins in Vodou into the media spotlight, but it was not to be. Instead, 2010 has been a year of death, horror, suffering, and media smears, all triggered by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-PrinceHaiti’s capital. The quake killed nearly a quarter of a million people, and over a million are still homeless.  Within hours of the tragedy triumphalist smears concerning Haiti’s history from a noted Christian pot-stirrer emerged, then there was a veritable onslaught of pundits, many of whom had never set foot in Haiti, opining on how Vodou was the main detriment to its forward progress and recovery.

“The kind of religion one practices makes a huge difference in how the community lives — for better or for worse. I suppose it’s at least arguable that the Haitians would be better off at the Church of Christopher Hitchens rather than as followers of voodoo.Rod Dreher, Beliefnet

But amidst the wave of stunningly wrong-headed criticism,  there were also several pro-Vodou voices,within and without Haiti, that came to the fore. Most notably Max Beauvoir, the appointed “supreme master” of a coalition of Haitian houngans, who ended up being the de facto voice for Haitian Vodou to the Western press in the months after the quake. While I counselled reporters to remain aware of the decentralized nature of Haitian Vodou,  the much-publicized attack on Vodouisants by evangelical Christians in Haitiand its aftermath, created little room for nuance in those hectic first weeks (not to mention tensions over insensitive and controversial missionary activities). Sadly, the centrality of Vodou in Haitian society was often ignored, though there were the occasional nods in that direction.

That suffering was bad enough, but now Haiti, still in political turmoil and further damaged by a rampant cholera outbreak, is seeing angry mobs turning against Vodou practitioners, killing over 40 so far. Sadly the religious press has either ignored or downplayed Vodou during these events, focusing instead on (Christian) charitable giving to Haiti, and an accusation of trafficking. From all this tragedy we can only hope that a new birth, a renewed flowering, is to come. That Vodou, and the Haitian people will overcome the massive obstacles in their way.

01. Patrick McCollum’s Fights and Triumphs: Patrick McCollum has made my top ten list before, but 2010 was truly the year when his efforts started to gain wider notice and recognition. McCollum has been working as a Pagan chaplain and activist for well over twenty years. He was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League, and has been involved in numerous legal struggles involving modern Pagans. In recent years he has received attention for his appearance before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, to speak at a briefing focused on prisoners’ religious rights (full transcript of the proceedings), and for his meeting with Obama Administration officials concerning interfaith relations and discrimination against minority faiths in America. On Imbolc of this year, McCollum was installed to the Executive Board of Directors of a United Nations NGO, Children Of The Earth. McCollum currently serves as an unpaid statewide correctional chaplain for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in all 33 CDCR correctional institutions.


Rev. Patrick McCollum

His current fight, which has been in litigation for over five years, and is currently before the 9th Circuit, centers on the State of California’s “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents. The case itself has yet to be heard, as legal counsel for the CDCR has been arguing that McCollum doesn’t have the standing to bring the case (an assertion that is rejected by McCollumAmericans Unitedthe ADL, and other groups). This battle is about overcoming what McCollum has called an “endemic” level of religious discrimination against minority faiths in our prison system, and if the courts swing our way, 2011 could finally see a full court trial on this issue.

2010 was also a year that has seen many triumphs for McCollum. He was honored by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) with the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism at their 7th annual Capitol Hill Receptionfeted at the Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary reception, participated in the 2010 International Day of Peace at the United Nations in New York, asked for feedback on Pagan practices by the Washington Department of Corrections, and attended the first World Forum of Spiritual Culture in Astana, Kazakhstan. He has, in short, become a globe-trotting emissary for modern Pagan faiths. If one figure represented and defined the public face of Paganism in 2010 it was McCollum, and there is every indication the 2011 will see even more from this tireless advocate for Pagan rights.

That wraps up my top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2010. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2011!

Top Story: Outrage is spreading across the Internet over The Lost Abbey brewery’s decision to feature a woman being burned at the stake for their “Witch’s Wit” wheat ale.


Detail from the “Witch’s Wit” label.

“First of all, it’s an insult to me as an ordained Pagan minister and long-time practicing witch. If you want to capitalize on the beer’s name in order to sell more brews, at least use a more tasteful image. Hex, I could accept a picture of the stereotypical wart-nosed, green-skinned ugly old hag over this. But to show a buxom woman standing helplessly as the flames engulf her… while a group of onlookers (presumably male monks) surround her gawking at the sight is simply degrading.”

In a widely-forwarded e-mail message about the beer label, Motherpeace Tarot co-creator Vicki Noble calls the image dehumanizing and outside the bounds of good taste.

“Can you imagine them showing a black person being lynched or a Jewish person going to the oven? No, of course not, such images are simply not tolerated in our society anymore (thank the Goddess) and this one should not be either. Please call them or write them a letter to protest this hateful and dangerous expression which dehumanizes women.”

So far no statement has been issued from the California brewery, and there’s no mention of the controversy on their Facebook or Twitter feeds, though a discussion thread has been started at their Facebook page. Considering the fact that women are still being killed and imprisoned for crimes of “witchcraft” it does seem rather tone-deaf of the company. I’ll keep you posted as this story develops.

UPDATE: Lost Abbey responds:

“I encourage you to look at all of Lost Abbey’s beers and consider them in context. Each of the Lost Abbey beers features a label which depicts a theme of Catholic excess — good and bad — on the front, and tells a moral story on the back. (Our founder is a recovering Catholic.) In the case of Witch’s Wit, the back label is a story of the bad consequences of religious intolerance and oppression. The woman on the front is referred to as a “healer” on the label and accuses the Church of being narrow-minded and violent, threatening the same fate to anyone who would help the woman. The label ends with a note that this beer — a light, sweet and golden ale — is brewed in honor of that woman (and all those who died for their convictions).”

I’ll be interested to see how Noble and others who were offended will respond to this.

Pagan elected Trustee of International Interfaith Organization: Covenant of the Goddess National Interfaith Representative Don Frew has been voted in for another term as an At-Large Trustee for the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative.

“The URI is the world’s largest, grassroots interfaith organization, with 496 local branches (“Cooperation Circles”) in 77 countries, involving millions of people in interfaith programs around the world (www.uri.org). The purpose of the URI is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation; to end religiously motivated violence; and o ctraete cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”  I worked with many others – including CoG’s Deborah Ann Light – in the writing of the URI’s Charter in conferences in 1998-2000.

This is my third term on the URI’s Global Council.  In 2002, I was elected to be one of three Trustees from the North American Region on the URI’s first elected Global Council.  In 2006, I was asked to be one of two At-Large Trustees on the URI’s second elected Global Council.  This time, on the third elected Global Council, I am again one of two At-Large Trustees, the other being Swami Agnivesh of New Delhi, India.”

This election to a third term as a trustee of the URI comes not long after Covenant of the Goddess member Rachael Watcher, a longtime interfaith activist, was elected to the Executive Board of NAIN. In addition, Phyllis Curott, President Emerita of COG, is one of three Pagans currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Council For A Parliament of the World’s Religions. It’s clear that COG is an organization that is leading the way for Pagan involvement in the interfaith community. Congratulations to Don on his election.

Druids vs The Daily Mail: One of the ongoing side-stories to The Druid Network being granted charity status in the UK (a process that was explained in-depth here at The Wild Hunt) was reaction to a scathing editorial by Melanie Philips of the Daily Mail, who called the situation both “absurd” and “malevolent”. TDN founder Emma Restall Orr sent out a lengthy rebuttal to Philips, while a 4100 signature-strong petition calling for an apology was hand delivered by around 30-50 Druids and Druid-supporters to the Daily Mail offices.

“The Daily Mail had someone waiting for us on the steps to take the petition. I handed it over and he promised that he would get it to Robin Esser. I made damn sure I got a handshake and thankfully, someone was quick enough to take a photo of that. At the PCC, Simon Yipp, the gentleman who has been dealing with complaints RE this article, came down personally to recieve the petition. I’m going to give it a week and email both the DM and the PCC for updates, if I don’t hear from them before then.”

In attendance at the petition-delivery were noted UK Pagans like Arthur Pendragon, Vivianne Crowley, and Andrew Pardy (Chairman of the Police Pagan Association). It remains to be seen if this petition will have the desired effect. No doubt Philips thrives on controversy, and I can’t imagine her backtracking on her views.

Moving Halloween? Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, some communities are moving observances to Saturday. Some for practical reasons, and some because they believe Halloween to be “pagan” or “Satanic” in origin. News10 in California covered the mini-controversy and spoke with PNC-Sacramento coordinator David Shorey, from Sacramento Grove of the Oak.

“David Shorey. a practicing Druid (a form of Paganism) with Sacramento Grove of the Oak, says “Halloween or as we call it Samhain, is a time to honor the ancestors, look at the past year and honor those who have passed on.” Shorey recognizes that Halloween has evolved into a secular holiday for most Americans and says he and his fellow Druids celebrate with candy and costumes as well as in a traditional Pagan manner. “We’re actually going to be celebrating on the following weekend where we’re going to do an ancestors feast, where folks come together and bring a dish that recognizes and honors their ancestry,” Shorey said.”

Catholics in the UK are trying to “reclaim” Halloween, while animal shelters halt adoption of black cats, partially due to rumors that Witches are out sacrificing cats. All seem to be rooted in the anxiety that Halloween, at its true root, isn’t really associated with the Judeo-Christian backdrop most people are comfortable with. In any case, I think David did a good job with the interview, and stressed that this time of year is one of religious observance for most Pagans.

Invoking Artists: In a final note, artist Jeffrey Vallance, participating in the annual Frieze Art Fair, decided to hold a massive séance involving famous (deceased) artists.

“There were some spooky goings on this week at the fair around the Frieze Project devised by the artist and Fortean Times contributor Jeffrey Vallance, who asked five psychics to channel the spirits of blockbusting artists Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock, Leonardo da Vinci and Marcel Duchamp. Before the mediums—and the artist phantoms—arrived, the spiritualists predicted: “There might be some problems with electricity.” Before you could say Doris Stokes, the internet crashed during the séance, which meant that a live web broadcast had to be scuppered. It was all to do with “forcefields”, apparently.”

Of course the Internet crashed! Artists, particularly great artists like Kahlo and da Vinci, are/were some of the most potent magic(k) workers around. You don’t invoke them lightly. It’s unseemly, and it’ll play havoc with your electronics.

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