Archives For The Juggler

Happy May Day everyone! 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 lets get started!

Sacred Paths Center Announces Closure: Sacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), sent out an email today announcing their imminent closure. Executive Director Teisha Magee cited a lack of money, resources, and volunteers as reasons for this decision.

“After much heartache, soul-searching and tears, it has become clear that Sacred Paths Center cannot continue. Our expenses are too high in this location and we are just not getting enough money coming through the door. All of our resources are tapped, and our volunteers are worn out.”

This decision comes in the wake of a rocky 2011, one that featured an emergency fundraising campaign, and being temporarily closed  pending internal and external financial audits. It seems that Sacred Paths Center wasn’t able to overcome the many obstacles towards long-term sustainability, and it raises serious questions for other communities looking to follow in their footsteps. Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for further follow-ups on this story.

Maetreum of Cybele Denied Tax Exemption for 2012: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, has been denied religious property tax exemption yet again, even though they meet all federal and state qualifications. In a public statement, Rev Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum of Cybele noted that the town has spent an estimated quarter of a million dollars to deny their exemptions.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

“Despite the fact that the Town of Catskill offered no credible theory in court for their continued denial of exemption, I was just informed that the Maetreum of Cybele has been denied property tax exemption for 2012 meaning another entire round in this ongoing drama. The wheels of justice turn very slowly in Greene County, New York. The actual trial was split between two days last November and December but the final arguments in our court case still have not been submitted at this time. They are supposed to be due in about two weeks and then we will have to await the Judge’s actual decision after that. In the meantime we will once again have to go to the Board of Review hearing later in May and almost certainly be denied again and have to file yet another lawsuit against Catskill. Despite claims to the press for several years that Catskill did not question our legitimacy as a religion, the entirety of their case was exactly that we were not a legitimate religion under the IRS guidelines. Again despite the IRS recognition we are. We proved in court we met every one of the IRS “fourteen points” for determining what is or isn’t a church.”

As I’ve mentioned before, the law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first. Acting Catskill Town Supervisor Patrick Walsh stated in 2011 that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation to their $10,000+ legal bill, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

SAPRA’s Annual Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts Comes to a Close: With the issue of witch-hunts, witch-killings, and dangerous exorcisms very much in the news lately, I thought it appropriate to mention the work of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), under the banner of ‘Touchstone Advocacy,’ has been doing since 2008 to raise awareness with their “30 Days of Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts” campaign, this year held from March 29th – April 27th. In 2011, the campaign won support from a government commission, and they continue to work to protect victims of witch-hunts while combating laws that seek to criminalize “witchcraft” as a solution.

“Since 2008 the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has repeatedly appealed to all Commissions for Human Rights internationally to encourage all governments to: a. halt the persecution of suspected or accused witches, b. uphold and strengthen a culture of human rights for all equally, c. respond appropriately and humanely to incidences of accusations of witchcraft, d. make the eradication of violence against suspected witches an international priority, e. train local police to manage witchcraft accusations and violent witch-hunts in a way that affirms the dignity and humanity of those accused of practising witchcraft, f. create victim support units to facilitate reintegration and conciliation of those accused, g. adopt comprehensive public education and awareness programmes aimed at eradicating the real causes of witchcraft accusations, and h. reform legislation that currently seeks to suppress witchcraft or criminalize accused witches.”

You can receive year-round updates on their campaign at their Facebook group page.

In other community news:

- At Lewelllyn, author and magician Donald Michael Kraig (“Modern Magick”“The Resurrection Murders”) has announced that he’s writing a book about his long friendship with Scott Cunningham, the seminal Wiccan writer who authored the paradigm-shifting “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.” Quote: “I hope you get an idea of who Scott Cunningham was. Many of the anecdotes and stories have never been published before. The stories and his magical methods pepper chapters on his theories and methods of performing natural magic, his approach to The Goddess and Wicca, and his love for the land, people and magic of Hawaii.”

- San Jose State University will be running a Pagan Studies conference semi-concurrently with the 2013 PantheaCon. Organized by Lee Gilmore (SJSU), author “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man,” and Amy Hale (St. Petersburg College), “Pagans in Dialogue with the Wider World: A Pagan Studies Symposium” seeks to, quote, “focus on Paganism’s contributions to and engagements with broader cultural and religious dialogues in an increasingly pluralist world.” You can read the full announcement and call for papers at Chas Clifton’s blog.

- PNC-Washington DC covers the recently held 2012 Ecumenicon, an interfaith conference that was founded in 1987, and features significant Pagan and esoteric involvement. Quote: “The group that would ultimately found Ecumenicon realized that there was a hunger for actual religious education as it applied across all religions and particularly to alternative religions.  Ecumenicon comprises an ecumenical conference and ecumenical ministry, for those who seek such a path.”

- Is Pagan Spirit Gathering’s current home in Illinois in danger? PNC-Minnesota reports that a group of local citizens are petitioning to have Stonehouse Park rezoned back to agricultural use only (more on this here), complaining of noise and drug-use (none of the complaints are about PSG, but to other, non-Pagan events). PSG/Circle organizer Sharon Stewart is working with local officials, and hopes to obtain a special permit if the worst should happen. We’ll keep you posted on this as news develops.

- PNC culture blog The Juggler has an interview up with Pagan author Christopher Penczak (“The Inner Temple of Witchcraft”“The Outer Temple of Witchcraft”), talking to him about his career and teachings. Quote: “I think if you focus on your intention in the ritual, and then think which of these paths support that overall vision, you’ll be doing great. Avoid the “Everything but the kitchen sink mentality.” Every ritual doesn’t need every path. I think determining if it is inhibitory or exhibitory is the first step, then which paths will help in that method?”

That’s all I have for now, have a happy May Day!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale: Pagan activist, leader, and first responder Peter Dybing was with Occupy Fort Lauderdale in Florida on Wednesday, giving training in non-violent resistance as those gathered prepared for a forced eviction. Dybing, current president of Officers of Avalon, and former First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, has been a vocal supporter of the right of people to peaceably assemble, and was prepared to be arrested for that principle. Here’s a short excerpt from a statement Dybing sent to members of the Pagan media.

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

“Arrived about 2 p.m. and discussed the city having posted a “New” set of rules that would ban tents ( safety issue, direct sun no shade) and ban protesters in the late night hours. Engaged organizers in discussions about the consensus process. Identified a need for training in non violent resistance civil vs. criminal resistance, Ethical considerations and strategy considerations. Conducted training. My self and one other protester invited to “negotiate” with City manager. Did this while another organizer was working on a court order with a  attorney. Word came at about 6 p.m. that the court had ordered the city to take no action until Dec 2 or the next court hearing […] I was ready to go to jail tonight, glad I did not have to.”

As Dybing mentioned, a judge granted a temporary injunction on the new rules until a court hearing can happen on the issue. Dybing is just the most recent high-profile Pagan leader to engage and participate in the Occupy movement, joining figures like Starhawk and T. Thorn Coyle. In addition, Officers of Avalon, the Pagan police and first responders organization that Dybing currently serves as president, recently spoke out on police violence in regards to the Occupy movement. Religion scholar Lee Gilmore recently noted that the Occupy movement contains “an invitation to mindfulness and participation in ways that are simultaneously spiritual and earthly: Occupy the Earth, Occupy your Life, Occupy Everything.” With that mixture of the spiritual and the earthly, it seems natural that modern Pagans are drawn to become a part of it. We’ll keep you updated on the intersections of modern Paganism and the Occupy movement as things progress.

Solar Cross Raises Money for Native Elders This Winter: Bay Area religious organization Solar Cross Temple has started a new initiative to raise money for Native American elders at Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and other reservations who have a hard time keeping their homes heated in the winter due to a lack of money for heating fuel. Solar Cross Temple co-founder T. Thorn Coyle says that “gratitude is the seed of great magic, I want to use this Thanksgiving holiday to pass on some good fortune.”

Solar Cross Temple founders: Jonathan Korman, T. Thorn Coyle, and Robert Russell

Solar Cross Temple founders: Jonathan Korman, T. Thorn Coyle, and Robert Russell

“Each year, the elders at Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and other reservations have trouble heating their homes. 61% of the population lives below the poverty line. I won’t detail the years of injustice and neglect that have contributed to this situation, and right now, I don’t have the time, energy, and funds to rebuild every inadequate home on the reservation. What I do have the time and energy for is to collect money to help these families  – particularly the elders, some number of whom freeze to death each year – heat their homes. There is great injustice reflected in the way these people are living, and we can tip the balance slightly toward the good.

Solar Cross Temple is collecting donations and will send money directly to the heating companies who maintain a list of families who need propane fuel. 100% of the money after the paypal fees will go to this cause. The more money we collect, the longer into winter these families will have heat. We suggest donations of anywhere between $10-100 (or more for those of you who are truly blessed). Please put “Donation for Winter Fuel Drive” in the subject line so we know where to send the donation. And please pass this information along via any networks you are part of. There is a “donate” button in the left hand column of this page, if you scroll down.”

Solar Cross is a temple, so all donations are tax deductible. Send donations via paypal to solarcrosstemple@gmail.com, please note: “Donation for Winter Fuel Drive” with your contribution. There is also a Facebook event page for this initiative if you want to spread the word there. We will check back with Solar Cross Temple in the weeks to come to keep track on the progress of this initiative.

New Alexandrian Library (Really) Ready to Break Ground: Back in March of this year I reported that the New Alexandrian Library in Delaware, a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, and the history of our magickal communities,” was ready to break ground on their physical structure. However, that impending ground-breaking ended up being delayed for months due to what NAL call a “sea of red tape.” Now, that sea has been traversed and the necessary permits are now in hand for construction to begin.

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

Plans for the New Alexandrian Library

“After working through unexpected delays, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW) has obtained the building permit to begin construction of the New Alexandrian Library (NAL) and the contractor is preparing to lay the foundation. “We are very excited to finally be able to break ground,” said Jim Dickinson, the NAL Project Manager, “It is ‘a dream whose time has come’!”“This project is about preserving our past and building our future. It is a dream becoming manifest that will inspire scholarship and a deepening of magickal culture. It is proof that our community is maturing,” said Ivo Dominguez, Jr., founding member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and one of the driving forces behind the NAL.

The New Alexandrian Library will be primarily a research and reference library. It will provide onsite workstations and other facilities, and is examining housing options for people engaging in long-term research. The NAL resources will act as a magnet that will draw together teachers, authors, and scholars from many paths. Like the original Great Library of Alexandria, the schools of Qabala in medieval Spain, and the flourishing of magick that occurred in renaissance Italy, the diverse confluence of minds and resources would result in great leaps forward in theory and practice. The NAL will be one of the cornerstones of a new magickal renaissance. The benefits for future generations are incalculable.”

Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Elder Helena Domenic notes that much will be needed in the way of donations to make this project successful, NAL needs to raise $125,000 dollars more in the next six months to complete the construction phase. A Ground Breaking Ceremony will be held on Saturday, December 17th, 2011, and will include a brief presentation and speakers, and a ritual for the laying of the foundation (more info here). While the construction project is underway NAL is already in the process of building its collection, including the recent acquisition of rare Dion Fortune paintings gifted by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. We will be sure to bring coverage of the ground breaking ceremony in December, congratulations to NAL and ASW!

Other Community Notes:

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

A somewhat lazy Sunday today, exacerbated by the fact that I have a lingering upper respiratory infection. So I thought I’d do a quick round-up and check in with my colleagues at the Patheos Pagan Portal and the Pagan Newswire Collective.

  • To start off, Gus diZerega’s latest column for Patheos expands on the distinctions between “cultural” and “religious” Paganism, using Lithuanian Romuva as an example. Quote: “For my present purposes, what is most important is that for many Lithuanians cultural and political values were the major motivation for their interest in her Pagan past. Religious and spiritual values were not so important. Lithuanian Paganism was for them a kind of “identity politics.” A ritual was more a political and cultural statement than a religious one. It seeks to build solidarity within the community, not better connections with the Sacred.”
  • Meanwhile, fellow Patheos columnist P. Sufenas Virius Lupus talks about the importance of indexing, and wonders what would be revealed if we indexed our own day-to-day speech. Quote: “Would this kind of indexing look different if it were a workday for you as opposed to a day off? Would this type of indexing’s results depend on who you’re around, or what your activities of the day end up entailing? Would the “chapters” of your life in which you’re at a big pagan gathering feature certain words more frequently, as opposed to the days in your life that are more “mundane” and not inclusive of specific spiritual events? Would this indexing vary more if it involved a tabulation of the words of your thoughts as opposed to the words of your speech? And if there are large patterns discernible within each of these possibilities, and they are patterns that you find unexpected, uncomfortable, or upsetting, what can you do to change them and bring them more into line with what you would hope they would be rather than what they are at present?”
  • At the Pagan Newswire Collective’s culture blog The Juggler, Tim Titus takes notice of the “Wicca Club” on the popular television show “Glee”. Quote:  “What, if anything, will the show do with a Wicca Club?  The season has hit the middle of sweeps and there is a constant need to find new controversy to fuel the plots.  One of the show’s challenges is to remain light and funny while tackling some important issues like homophobia, bullying, and physical/mental disability. Could Wicca be next?”
  • The Bay Area bureau of the Pagan Newswire Collective has had some excellent event coverage recently: the 32nd annual Spiral Dance (more here), the 16th Annual Festival of the Bones, and the Answering the Call; Battle Goddesses in Times of Change weekend intensive. Here’s what T. Thorn Coyle told the PNC about that intensive: “This event feels important for many reasons. One, people around the world are obviously sensing a need to gather together and better learn how to support each other. We see this in the rise of community gardens, in the relearning of the skills of our grandparents, in the “Occupy” movements, Arab Spring, and in the outpouring of creativity with which people have met times that feel really hard for many. These times of difficulty are also times when a lot of energy is rising, and it feels right to take some of that energy and channel it toward our personal training and effectiveness. We can become stronger, more capable, and more kind. We can rise up for what we love.”
  • Finally, the PNC’s nature and environment blog, No Unsacred Place, continues its quality run of essays and explorations of how modern Pagans engage with the world around us. Meical abAwen writes about the “hand of man” in nature,  Crystal Tice discusses the importance of walking outside, and Juniper Jeni follows the trail of the Lord of Animals. Quote: “Margaret Murray read Breuil’s work and combined with her other studies, and with her desire for a revival of Pagan practices, she built upon Breuil’s theories. In her work “The God of the Witches” she called The Dancing Sorcerer “…the earliest known representation of a deity”.  An idea that became so poplar even Breuil himself adopted it. So did many others, including Gerald Gardner.”

There is, of course, much more to be found at the Patheos Pagan Portal and Pagan Newswire Collective websites. So be sure to check in often! As for me, I’ve got some great stories coming up this week, and I’ll also be heading off to cover the American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting, so lets all take a breath before we dive back in! Have a great day!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note series, more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce 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 lets get started!

Open Hearth Foundation Signs Lease on Community Center: On Thursday, PNC-Washington DC reported that the board of the Open Hearth Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned DC Pagan Community Center. This places the foundation ahead of schedule in its goal of opening a community center by Imbolg 2012 (February 1st).

An interior shot of the new space.

An interior shot of the new space.

“The property is on the second floor of a stand alone building at 1502 Massachusetts Avenue NE, in the Eastern Market neighborhood of DC. The space has two partitioned rooms that will be reservable, one of which will double as a library, a foyer area, full bathroom, a kitchen, and two refrigerators.  Build out is minimal and will include a fitting one room with book shelves, installing an electric stove, as well as installing a wheelchair lift. The two-year lease begins on October 1 and the official date the center is open for business is still to be determined. It likely will not be until November 1st or later.”

Stay tuned to PNC-Washington DC (aka Capital Witch) for future updates on the progress of this community center. As for the Open Hearth Foundation, they are in the midst of fundraising to meet their fiscal needs once the center is open. You can view their goals checklist, here, and the OHF business plan, here. Our congratulations go out to the Open Hearth Foundation on this major step forward!

Gender and Earth Based Spiritualities Conference: Today, September 24th,  is the 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths. The theme for the one-day conference in San Francisco is “Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities,” and  speakers will include Vicki Noble,  T. Thorn CoyleJoi WolfwomynLady Yeshe Rabbit, Diana Paxson, and acclaimed social theorist Judy Grahn. The recently revamped PNC-Bay Area has an article up on the conference, interviewing Bay Area Pagan Alliance Board President JoHanna White, joi wolfwomyn, who is representing the Holy Order of the Epicene, and Yeshe Rabbit, Presiding HPS of Come As You Are Coven.

JoHanna White, Board President of the Bay Area Pagan Alliance

JoHanna White, Board President of the Bay Area Pagan Alliance

“The issue of gender inequality in the pagan community addresses a problem, to be sure: a problem of education,understanding, privilege, and biological determinism. But the issue that really showed itself to be the disease of which the gender issue is but one symptom was that of a lack of shared set of guidelines with which we can approach challenging topics together safely, compassionately, and mindfully.” – Lady Yeshe Rabbit, CAYA Coven

This event is being cosponsored by Circle of DionysosSolar Cross Temple, Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, CAYA coven and the Earth Medicine Alliance. You can learn more about the issues that led to this conference happening, here. I look forward to more reports and reporting from PNC-Bay Area on this event, and hope to get reflections from organizers after the fact.

Merlin Stone Memorial: A memorial benefit celebration for influential author and art historian Merlin Stone, who died earlier this year, is being held today, September 24th, in Clearwater, Florida (Facebook event link). Stone was author of the seminal book “When God Was A Woman,” and a successful Kickstarter campaign was recently held  to produce a memorial documentary project in her honor. Speaking at the event will be Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary.

Poster for the Merlin Stone Memorial.

Poster for the Merlin Stone Memorial.

“Merlin Stone was an artist, art historian, author, and visionary feminist. She focused attention on Goddess reverence of the ancient past. She gathered together Goddess imagery, symbols, and lore from many peoples and shared with others through her books, radio appearances, and other endeavors. She inspired the emergence of multicultural Goddess spirituality in contemporary times. Her memorial is an wonderful opportunity to celebrate Merlin Stone, her works, her life, and her legacy”

Other speakers include Z Budapest, Ruth Barrett, Barbara Walker, Susun Weed, and Margot Adler. The memorial will also include music by Hecate’s Wheel, Emmet Bondurant, and Ruth Barrett. The memorial, which is open to women and men, will take place 11:30 am – 3 pm EDT at Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, 1470 Nursery Road in Clearwater. Free, open to the public. Donations welcome, but not required. For those who cannot attend there will be live-streaming of Merlin Stone’s memorial. For more information, head to the official Merlin Stone site.

In Other Community News:

  • At PNC-Minnesota, Nels Linde interviews Roger Williams of Magus Books & Herbs on the store’s 19th anniversary. The secret to their success? “What you need is to be persistent. You can have all the talent in the world, if you are not persistent, you are not really going to make a difference.”
  • Writing for Patheos, Gus diZerega tackles the issue of mainstreaming modern Paganism. Quote: “I suspect we will see a deep differentiation within our community. There will be the “shamans,” those who work with little institutional connection and who have developed a reasonably reliable set of skills, be they healing, divination, something else, with which to interact with the spirit world for the benefit of others. I suspect they will do more psychological work than physical healing, but the best can do both. There will hopefully in time be priests tending temples, such as exists today in Japan. That may be a good model for what will develop here. And there will be a rank and file, people focused primarily on other activities, but hoping to live in better harmony with the more-than-human by some involvement in Pagan community activities and a more mindful living of their day to day life.”
  • This Sunday Raven Radio will be holding a live panel discussion between Folkish, Universalist, Moderate, and Tribal Heathens. Quote: “We have an outstanding panel.David Carron, Randolf Millesson, Camille Klein, Cynthia Norris-Brooks and Mike Smith. As fine of panel of Heathens as one could ask for, This show can and will touch nerves, but I expect all to act with Frith and do not disrespect OUR house.” More information can be found, here.
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus discusses what is reasonable and what’s insane when it comes to religion. Quote: “Absolutism of one religious viewpoint over another is the real problem, not the assertions themselves.”
  • Scott at The Juggler watches the debut episode of The Secret Circle so you don’t have to.
  • Lupa on social justice and the shaman as intermediary.

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

Last year at this time the popular HBO cable television series “True Blood,” a show loosely based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris, announced that 2011 would be the “year of the witch.” The cast of (generally sexy) vampires, werewolves, and the humans they interact with would be joined by an array of spellcasters of various inclinations. The previous season had already introduced a Wiccan character, Holly Cleary (played by Lauren Bowles), and this season they’ve introduced a small coven lead by Marnie Stonebrook (played by Fiona Shaw), a local palm-reader and shop owner, the spirit of a dead Witch that inhabits her, and a family of Catemaco Brujos. This being “True Blood” there’s plenty of violence, sex, and mayhem mixed in. With all this witchy-ness about it was only a matter of time before news outlets started tracking down some real Witches and Wiccans to get their opinion. It looks like the news agency Reuters is first out of the gate.

A Witches' Coven in "True Blood"

“I’m absolutely disappointed with the portrayal of Marnie,” said one witch — and professor of biology at a college in New England — who goes by the magickal name Taarna RavenHawk. […] Elaanie Stormbender, a witch and mother of five who lives in Jackson, Mississippi, said all the members of the small community of witches to which she belongs are displeased with Marnie’s behavior.”

In addition to the opinions of Taarna and Elaanie, Reuters also asks two prominent Pagan authors/teachers, Christopher Penczak and Ellen Dugan, for their take on the “year of the witch.”

“Marnie does communicate with the dead but she comes into witchcraft lacking groundedness,” said Penczak […]  “A witch who gets good training usually learns to balance that with discipline, strength and focus. I would have liked to see a witch who was more competent and had a clearer sense of will and purpose.” […]  “My witch friends are rabid fans of ‘True Blood,’ and watch it every week,” said Ellen Dugan, a witch and priestess of a six-member coven she co-founded in St. Louis, Missouri. Dugan […] conceded that Marnie’s portrayal contains a sensational element, but noted that her witch friends laughed during a recent levitation scene. “Most witches have a good enough sense of humor,” she said.

Since I don’t have cable, and probably won’t be able to watch this latest season until it comes out on DVD, I don’t feel qualified to comment on the opinions given in this piece. So I turned to my Pagan Newswire Collective colleague Laura LaVoie, who writes for our culture blog “The Juggler,” and has been covering this season of “True Blood,” for her take.

“I think as soon as you add vampires and werewolves to a story, all bets are off. Sure, Wicca is real but it now exists in this fictional world created by Charlaine Harris and the writers and producers of the television series. I want to see Pagans portrayed in a positive light in the media as well, but I’m not sure we have the full story on the Bon Temps witches yet. I have also read the series of books, and while the portrayal there is by no means perfect either, there is a sense that Harris tried to research the real Wiccan community to write about her witches. If the producers stay close to the story line, there might be more to the witches than meets the eye. However, I do not want to spoil anything.”

LaVoie also points out that attitudes concerning the portrayal of Witches and Wiccans in “True Blood” may come down to how you’re watching the show, summing up one recent episode as “we just want to be left alone to practice our religion.” In the end LaVoie believes “there are bigger things to worry about,” and “if we spend all of our time raging against a fantasy television series that has yet to even prove whether it is pro- or anti- Wicca, we lose a lot of our power when we try to defend our religious choices against real threats.” As for the Reuters article, I think this is only the first of its kind. We can surely expect more opinions from “real” Witches as this season progresses. Possibly some examining what was only briefly mentioned in the Reuters article, that “True Blood” is creating more interest in Witchcraft among younger viewers. A narrative that was in full bloom for many years during the height of the Harry Potter craze.

When a newspaper, newswire, or tabloid calls us up looking for a “real Witch” to give an opinion on “True Blood” we need to decide which narrative we are going to feed. Whether we feel positively, negatively, or don’t really care, we should always emphasize that we realize this is simply fiction, and that we are engaging with it on that level. That we are dealing with a show that places a priority on melodrama, blood, and sex. We should reference the Harry Potter years and point out that it never turned out to be a significant recruiting tool for Witchcraft traditions, and that we don’t expect “True Blood” to be either. If “True Blood,” when the season closes, ends up being a largely positive portrayal of Wicca or Witchcraft then all better, but even if it isn’t we have bigger things to worry about than a television show that mainly exists to show off attractive people in various states of undress.

I wanted to point out a couple of recent Pagan-themed interviews that I think are worth checking out. The first is with Ben Whitmore, author of the book “Trials of the Moon: Reopening the Case for Historical Witchcraft,” conducted by Star Foster at Patheos. This self-pubished study/critique of Ronald Hutton’s “Triumph of the Moon” has generated quite a bit of notice, and respectable amount of criticism from Pagan academics, so this opportunity for Whitmore to make his case seems very appropriate.

“At first, I hoped it would make Triumph a more useful resource for pagans and Wiccans. As I started talking with others about what I was doing, though, I discovered that Triumph had become something of a cult, and I risked getting a dressing-down for even questioning it. A fairly typical response was condescension followed by condemnation, and being told that I obviously hadn’t read Hutton very carefully, and only fluff-bunnies still cling to the old myths. Pointing out that I wasn’t clinging to the old myths didn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, “Wicca” seemed to be turning into some sort of derisive joke, with “Ronald Hutton” as the punch line. Some people were quite vicious about it. I started to feel that my critique might help restore some dignity to the Craft, and turn Triumph back into just a book; a book with no greater claim to infallibility than any other.”

Whitmore also notes recent criticisms of his work by Peg Aloi (who is currently working on a longer-form criticism for Pagan academic journal The Pomegranate) and Chas Clifton, saying they make “a big fuss about me not being an academic,” and accused him of “being too lazy to write a proper critique.” One academic in Whitmore’s corner is Max Dashu, who recently penned a lengthy and glowing review of “Trials.” Then again, one could argue that Dashu isn’t exactly a fan of Hutton’s work to begin with, making her positively predisposed to a Hutton critique. In any case, it seems that this renewed debate isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

The second interview I wanted to bring your attention to is with musician Arthur Hinds, a member of the popular Celtic-American folk rock band Emerald Rose, and a longtime fixture on the Pagan festival circuit. Laura LaVoie from The Juggler interviews Arthur about being an “out” Pagan musician in honor of International Pagan Coming Out Day (May 2nd, 2011).

“The idea of a formalized pagan coming out day I think I has two edges. First of all, I hope that, for many people, it may give them strength or the moment to speak of who they are. I also hope that they have the wisdom not to speak it where it doesn’t belong. I do not believe in rubbing it in people’s faces anymore that I enjoy having another faith splashed in mine. I also hope that eventually the purpose for the day will simply fade away entirely and Pagans need not feel imprisoned by the secrecy they fear is necessary.”

Hinds is planning to release a new single “about the path of being Pagan” on May 2nd in honor of IPCOD. For more about Arthur Hinds’ work, check out his 2008 solo album “Poetry of Wonder”. Arthur is an extremely talented individual, and a friend, and I’m extremely pleased to see him throw his support behind this new effort. Be sure to read the entire interview!

Let’s check in on what’s happening around the Pagan blogosphere!

The Fate of Fate: Chas Clifton at Letter From Hardscrabble Creek comments on the grim prospects of the classic metaphysical/Fortean magazine Fate. Once owned by Llewellyn Worldwide, and then sold to former employee, the magazine has gone from being a monthly, to bi-monthy, and now, it seems, PDF download only.

“The magazine death pool is so close you can smell the fetid waters. Fate’s blog keeps putting up new entries, but discussion of the magazine’s own fate is oddly missing. The economics must be rough. Perhaps this is a case of flat advertising revenues versus rising printing and mailing costs. PDF files are not the answer, and a Web version of the magazine would have to be re-thought from the ground up.”

I first commented on Fate’s fate back in 2008, and didn’t find much cause for optimism. The new, younger, audience they were hoping to attract hasn’t seemed to materialize, and very few magazines return from Internet-only to print. This just isn’t a good time for niche magazines, and I agree with Chas that PDF files aren’t the answer. It remains to be seen if a new web-only version of Fate can blossom before the whole enterprise goes under.

A Pagan Looks at Rand Paul’s Libertarianism: Beliefnet Pagan blogger and political scientist Gus diZerega gives a Pagan perspective of libertarianism, civil rights, and Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy in Kentucky.

“In all honesty I think it is even harder to be a hard-core libertarian Pagan than a libertarian in general, though I have known some and they were often nice people.  In Paganism as I understand it and have experienced it the non-human world is also sentient and alive to a degree denied by mainstream society.  This means that issues of appropriate and inappropriate relationships penetrate even more deeply into our interactions with the world than they do for the average Christian or secularist.  For Pagans issues of appropriate relationship include plants, animals, and for some, myself included, the earth itself.  The libertarian assumption that my property is what I own and control appears as morally immature and even childish.”

As for Rand Paul, this week, despite his primary victory in Kentucky, has been very bad for him. Meanwhile, many have been questioning if Paul really is a libertarian considering some of his political stances, and arguing over where he is or isn’t a racist. Not exactly the narrative a recent primary winner wants swirling around him going into an election.

Paganism, Feminism, and Abortion: Over at the On Faith site, they toss out the question to their panelists of whether you can be feminist and oppose all forms of abortion, or a religious person and support some forms of it. You just knew that author and Pagan panelist Starhawk would have something to say on the subject.

“I don’t accept that frame. The core issue, for me for the pro-choice movement, is this: Who gets to decide what goes on inside a woman’s body? My answer as a feminist is: The woman herself must have the right to make that decision, to wrestle with her own conscious, to encounter for herself those great issues of life and death that all of us must face in this mortal world. Those decisions are never cut and dried, and no one makes choices in a vacuum. The opinions of others, of partners and doctors and friends and respected mentors of faith all come into play. So do the rights of others. But ultimately, the right to self determination begins with the right to make basic decisions about one’s physical self.”

I too reject the frame that On Faith worded their question to panelists, as it removes the pregnant woman’s agency from the center of the issue, and instead, once again, turns the issue into a political football. You can read my own views, and the views of other Pagans regarding abortion, here, and here.

A Pagan Perspective on the Stolen (Secular) Cross Memorial: Over at the Patheos Pagan portal Cara Schulz (who also blogs at Pagan+Politics) shares the history behind the now-controversial Mojave WWI Christian cross memorial, and criticizes those within the Pagan community who have lauded or defended its recent vandalism.

“Chances are, no one in our community was responsible for this criminal act of theft. We didn’t do this. But what some in our community are doing is celebrating the desecration of the memorial. They are joyful it happened and supportive of the person(s) who did it. Justifying the act with claims of how it was a laudable example of civil disobedience. No. Civil disobedience is done in the light of day by brave and principled persons willing to take responsibility for their actions. If you want a Hellenic example of civil disobedience, read up on the life of Socrates. His crime was to make the youth of Athens think for themselves and his punishment, which he did nothing to avoid, was death. If you want a celebrated American example, read up on the life of Rosa Parks. Her crime was to sit in a seat reserved for whites, her punishment was being arrested and fined. The criminal(s) who stole the WWI Memorial was no Socrates or Rosa parks.”

You can read my full coverage of the Mojave cross memorial saga, here. Be sure to also check out the ever-expanding amount of Pagan content at the Patheos Pagan portal, including recent interviews with Erynn Rowan Laurie, Lon Milo DuQuette, and yours truly.

A Quick Look at the PNC Blog Family: Finally, I want to remind everyone of the great content that is coming from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s blog family. Pagan+Politics, Warriors & Kin, and The Juggler. Over at Pagan+Poltics you can read about food criminals, the political nomination process, the importance of voting, and the right to openly carry a firearm. At The Juggler they’ve covered Paganism “coming out” on television, Wicca in the movies, the new Robin Hood film, and mixing art with ritual. Lastly, at Warriors & Kin they’ve explored homecomings, digging up details regarding OPSEC rules, invocations in the military, and an in-depth review of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”.

Tick postulates the problem of PTSD as a failed warrior initiation. This failure is not entirely the fault of the veteran but, he says, of society as a whole. It is the fault of the technological changes in warfare that have stripped war of its mythologized meanings and resonances. In treating PTSD as the potential result of a warrior initiation, he specifically positions it as the result of a male adulthood rite gone wrong. Of course, this framing ignores women’s service entirely. In framing PTSD as a “failure” he, perhaps inadvertently, places blame on men and women who are already struggling with issues of responsibility, reintegration, and physical and emotional traumas.

I hope you’ll check out all three blogs, subscribe to their feeds, follow them on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

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

The Pagan Newswire Collective, an open collective of Pagan journalists and writers who are interested in sharing and promoting primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities, is proud to announce the launch of two new group blog projects. These new blog projects will join the already launched Pagan+Politics site, and provide more topic-focused coverage and opinion on subjects of special interest to modern Pagan readers.

Warriors & Kin: A Blog of Military Pagan Voices

The first new group blog project, Warriors & Kin, will give a voice to Pagan men and women who are serving, or who have served, in the United States military. Military Pagans have often been at the front lines of many Pagan rights issues, and their honorable service has endured prejudice and misunderstanding from politicians, government agencies, and even the Pagan communities they call home. We are hoping that this project will not only shine a light into the struggles of both Pagan veterans and active duty personnel, but serve as a tool to build bridges within our faiths between those who have served and those who have not.

In addition, the blog will also see contributions from military spouses, family, and supporters, including a Pagan mother whose son is entering the armed forces, a military spouse who wrote an award-winning book concerning Pagans in the military, and a volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, a nonprofit personal support group for deployed troops overseas.

Participants of note include Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, a teacher at the Air Force Academy who helped create a Pagan worship area for cadets, gaining national attention in the process, Lorie “Sunfell” Johnson, an Air Force veteran who was one of the first active-duty Pagans to be open about her faith back in the 1980s, and author Erynn Rowan Laurie, a Cold War era disabled Navy veteran who is a speaker on Military Sexual Trauma and women’s issues in the military. They join active duty personnel in the Marines and National Guard for this project.

http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com
Facebook page, Twitter feed, RSS feed

The Juggler: Arts, Culture, and Pop-Culture from a Pagan Perspective

The second new group blog project, The Juggler, will explore the arts from a Pagan perspective. While modern Paganism has waged high-profile campaigns for equal treatment in the military, in our schools, in the public square, and even in our prisons, it is often within the arts and popular culture that we have gained the most attention. Not all of these depiction have been fair or balanced, but few can deny that television, movies, novels, theater, the visual arts, and even fashion have been inundated with pagan themes, both ancient and modern, in recent years. In a world where “The Wicker Man” and “The Craft” get name-checked on a regular basis by those commenting on modern Pagan religions, where sexy vampire dramas invoke Maenads, and a critically acclaimed science fiction series portrays conflicts between polytheists and monotheists, a sustained critical engagement with the arts is increasingly vital.

This site will provide reviews, editorials, analysis, and coverage, both local and abroad, of the wide and varied world of the arts. No medium or format will be off-limits, everything from reality television to gallery exhibitions will be within the scope and reach of this project, providing a steady stream of up-to-date and gloves-off Pagan perspectives.

Participants of note include Peg Aloi, Media Coordinator for The Witches’ Voice website, and long-time film critic who has written for The Boston Phoenix, Art New England, and Cinefantastique online, Sara Adrian, a fine artist and illustrator who holds bardic grade in OBOD, Lauren Bernauer, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, Australia, who specializes in the portrayal of pre-Christian and minority religions in Popular Culture, and New York Shakespearean actor Zan Fraser, author of “A Briefe Historie of Wytches”, a review of the Elizabethan/Jacobean Witch-Plays. They join several other talented writers and journalists with a background in arts coverage.

http://culture.pagannewswirecollective.com
Facebook page, Twitter feed, RSS feed

I hope you’ll support both of these projects by subscribing to their feeds, commenting on their posts, and spreading the word to your friends, family, and co-religionists. These topic-focused group blogs are a vital first step in the PNC’s larger goal of building a primary-source journalism collective for the modern Pagan movement. Please warmly welcome all the participants as they start this exciting new endeavor.