Archives For The Witches Voice

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.

It doesn’t take a genius to predict that, barring some substantial new information, the mainstream press would go seeking out modern Witches and Pagans for their take on Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s unearthed comments about once “dabbling” in witchcraft while in high school. Though I’m a little surprised on how quickly it all happened. Sam Stein from the Huffington Post seemed to be the first out of the gate with an interview with Circle’s Sanctuary’s Selena Fox.

“Any political candidate that is going to equate witchcraft with Satanism is ill informed and is not likely to get the support of people involved in nature religion,” she said, noting that the pagan community was “multi-partisan.” ”I’m concerned,” she said. “I’m concerned that 25 years of work that the Lady Liberty League and other Wiccan and pagan civil rights and religious freedom groups have been involved in… that there will be more misinformation as well as ridicule and disrespect. We are living in politically turbulent times.”

Stein also included a comment from Diotima Mantineia at The Witches’ Voice, a Delaware resident who refuted any connection between Satan, bloody altars, and Wicca.

“So I don’t know what Ms. O’Donnell is talking about. I wonder if she knows what she was talking about.”

Then we have ABC News, who spoke with Sylvia T. Webb, the first officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, who called O’Donnell’s comments “bizarre”.

Webb scoffed at O’Donnell’s claims. ”It’s very hard to worship something you do not believe in and Satan is a Christian concept,” she said. “Wiccans don’t have Satanic altars.” While they don’t have Satanic altars, they do have altars, but “there would be no blood,” Webb said. “She might have had a date with some … want-to-be goth child who was into thinking he was Satanic or something,” Webb said. “There are a lot of misinformed young people trying to be wild.”

Even the AOL blog Parent Dish gets into the act while interviewing Lillitu Shahar Kunning from the Witch Mom blog.

“Oy! I don’t want to claim Christine O’Donnell. It’s kind of like when Sen. Larry Craig was caught in that airport bathroom. No gay person wanted to claim him, either. Actually, I haven’t seen the old footage from Bill Maher, but from what I understand, she was a dabbler, not an actual witch with religious principles.”

So what about actual Pagan Tea Party folks in Delaware? Individuals who may actually want to vote for O’Donnell? What do they think? Cara Schulz from the PNC blog Pagan+Politics has interviewed two Pagan Tea Party members about their reactions to the O’Donnell witch-revelations.

“If this witchcraft admission affects her or not depends on how she handles it. I would like her to come out and explain what happened, not denigrate witchcraft, and then move on. If it was some guy who wanted to get into her pants, that’s what I think happened, she should say so. Ideally she would talk about the difference between Paganism and 1980?s and 90?s style Plagans. I doubt that will happen. A mage can dream, right?

I haven’t seen anyone in the Tea Party throw a fit like they have in the media. When people make fun of her for dabbling in witchcraft they are making fun of us. I’m seeing Pagans do that, too. They are so interested in making a Republican candidate look bad that they are willing to hurt our own path. But no, I’m not seeing the Tea Party get too upset over this. They are saying that it doesn’t matter and is an attempted distraction, don’t fall for it.”

The whole interview with “C” and “D” is well worth reading, and should give some greater insight into this story. Thanks to Cara for doing the legwork and getting their perspectives.

On the whole, I wish the mainstream coverage had been a bit more nuanced. I think there are larger issues to confront than “Witches don’t worship Satan” involved here, and I’m disappointed that we may have lost our chance to raise them before the media machine moves on to the next controversy. Still, I suppose it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that representatives from several organizations and traditions were contacted by the mainstream media for our thoughts.

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a new 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!

Wren’s Nest Closes Down: Yesterday, on the Witches’ Voice Facebook page, site co-founder Wren Walker announced that she was closing down the long-running and popular Pagan news service Wren’s Nest.

“Greetings! As many of you already know – or have discovered via a TWV link – Wren’s Nest is closed. There are new ways by which media and people exchange information. This page is one of them. We would like to thank everyone who supported, shared, commented and otherwise made Wren’s Nest News the resource that it was. It was my heart-felt pleasure and deepest honor to serve you.”

This is truly the end of any era. Wren’s Nest paved the way for sites like mine, and there’s strong evidence that it may have been the very first Pagan blog, certainly the first to deal with Pagan news. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for Llewellyn’s 2007 Wicca Almanac concerning Wren’s Nest.

“The real revolution regarding Pagans and blogging began in 1997, with the launch of what would become the most popular Web site for Wiccans, Witches, and modern Pagans … While Wren’s Nest never identified itself [as a blog]. It is updated regularly (daily, in fact); it is organized chronologically, with individual posts one can link to, and it allows readers to comment on each post. While Wren rarely opines on the news links and essays she shares with her readership (aside from the occasional “Chirp”), this site proved that blogging is something that could work for Pagans as a mass audience. In the years that followed, many other bloggers have been inspired by (or have simply imitated) Wren’s approach. This paved the way for the blogging community we have now.”

While Wren’s Nest is closed, Wren herself is (along with other Witchvox staffers) still “chirping” news items at The Witches’ Voice Facebook page, so you can still get a selection of daily news items that way. Thank you Wren for your years of service, your contributions will be remembered and honored.

Pagan Health Survey: The American Public Health Association (APHA) has issued a call for papers concerning public health among religious minorities in the United States for their annual conference, and Kimberly Hedrick of the TriWinds Institute is conducting a survey of modern Pagan communities to relate our views concerning health at this event.

“As both a Pagan and cultural anthropologist, I felt it was vitally important that we help policy-makers and service providers understand our needs and beliefs. This will help us to meet the health care needs of our community and build public understanding of our religious and spiritual traditions. I designed the Pagan Health Survey to help people better understand us and our views on health. The results will be combined with what I have gained by being within the Pagan community and sitting in on healing panel discussions, workshops, and so forth, as well as interviews with Pagan clergy and health care practitioners. This research is being funded through my grassroots nonprofit, TriWinds Institute through donations.”

You can access the survey, here. Kimberly Hedrick, who holds a PhD in cultural anthropology, welcomes questions and inquiries into the project, its goals, and her own background. You can either e-mail her, or visit the survey’s Facebook group. To get a statistically significant sample it needs thousands of respondents, and she only has a couple of months to collect the data in time, so she’s asking the Pagan community to help distribute the survey far and wide.

Memorials for Isaac Bonewits: Many special memorial services are being planned for Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits, who passed away on August 12th. The family will be holding a memorial and remembrance of Isaac on August 21st at the First Unitarian Society of Rockland County (FUSRC) in Pomona, NY.

“I lost the love of my life last Thursday, but his life goes on in the influence he’s had on everyone. We will be celebrating his life next Saturday, August 21, in Pomona, NY” – Phaedra Bonewits

Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) is also holding a memorial service for Isaac on August 19th at the Summerland Festival.

“ADF will be holding a Memorial this coming Thursday (Aug. 19) at the Summerland Festival near Yellow Springs, OH at 9pm. We will call on Isaac as our newest Ancestor and also call on the Ancient Wise to welcome him into their midst. Afterwards we will hold a Wake in the dining hall.”

Word is that the ADF memorial ritual will be recorded, and pieces of it made available on the Internet. Other memorials are also being planned as well, check this Facebook thread for updated information to see if there’s one in your area. You may also want to listen to a special memorial episode of Pagans Tonight, which features Phaedra Bonewits, Selena Fox, Ian Corrigan, and Oberon and Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart sharing stories. You can download that show, here.

Covering the Sacred Harvest Festival: PNC-Minnesota is back from Sacred Harvest Festival and they are planning a special series of audio interviews and articles from the event.

“Over the next few weeks, as part of a special series, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to audio interviews with one of the founders of the Sacred Harvest Festival, a young man who arrived at the festival as a practicing Lutheran and left as a newly awakened Pagan, and musical guests such as Murphy’s Midnight Rounders – just to name a few. You’ll read about (and see) a broom that was created on Friday the 13th by at the festival by an artisan for a newly formed coven, the experiences of a man who started attending the festival when he was a young teen and how it has impacted his life, and the honoring of a respected community elder by over 100 people in his teaching lineage. This is just a small sample of was experienced.”

I’m very much looking forward to the coverage, and commend PNC-Minnesota for doing this work. If you haven’t already, subscribe to their site via RSS so you don’t miss a thing!

If You Couldn’t Make it To One of My Appearances: I’ve been giving talks at several festivals and events this past year, but I realize that many of you can’t make it out to see me in person (Bummer!). Luckily, some kind folks at MerryMeet got some excellent audio recordings of the two main talks I’ve been giving: Emerging Trends & The Pagan Movement, and Pagans & the New Media. You can click those links and stream or download my talks! Now you can find out what you have (or haven’t) been missing. Every “um”, “ah”, and awkward pause has been preserved!

Thanks again to the MerryMeet folks for hosting me and treating me so well!

That’s all I have for now, expect a Pagan News of Note soon to catch up on the mainstream news from the last few days.

Have a great day!

A have a few items that just can’t wait till Saturday! Starting with a rather awful editorial from The Chicago Tribune’s “The Seeker” blog that seemingly equates tolerance towards Pagan soldiers within the military with a look-the-other-way atmosphere that led to the horrendous Fort Hood murders.

“Fast forward to 1999, when an Austin, Texas newspaper published photos of a Wiccan ceremony at Fort Hood. Theologically conservative Christian clergy joined with indignant Congressmen to protest the Army’s acceptance of Wiccan practice. As reported in Hannah Rosin’s contemporaneous account for The Washington Post, these clergy threatened to disrupt the protests, going so far as to call on Christians not to enlist or reenlist in any branch of the military until Wicca was banned from military posts. But the Army brushed off the threatened protests. Again, according to the Washington Post article, Fort Hood spokesman Lt. Col. Ben Santos said at the time that as long as a religious minority does not interfere with discipline, the military will help it find an off-base leader and a place to practice its beliefs … in light of the fact that the Army and various government agencies appear to have disregarded warning signs about the shooter’s contact with religious radicals who have since praised his murders, a tragic irony bubbles to the surface: might the emphasis on religious inclusion and interfaith acceptance have allowed the sinister to walk, undaunted, disguised as the spiritual?”

It is hard to tell what, exactly, author Tom Levinson is suggesting. That the military should be less accommodating to religious minorities? That only certain faiths should be allowed or tolerated? That their fair treatment towards Pagan soldiers inevitably led to these shootings by a disturbed Major Nidal Malik Hasan? Frankly, using the story of the Fort Hood Pagans in conveying his “tragic irony” is insulting to the Pagan men and women who serve, and have served, in the military. Already several Pagans and Pagan vets have spoken out against Levinson’s badly-thought-out piece with more, no doubt, to come.

The James Arthur Ray sweat-lodge death saga continues to have repercussions. While the police investigation is still ongoing, the Lakota Nation has filed a lawsuit against Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center for fraud and the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”.

“In the aftermath of the tragedy at Angel Valley Retreat Center, where an incompetently conducted “sweat lodge” held by Californian self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three participants, political steps are being taken by several native people across the United States. While local Indians from Arizona are forming a Council for Indigenous Traditional Healing to reclaim native ceremonies, the Lakota tribe of North and South Dakota has filed a lawsuit against the United States, the state of Arizona, James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center.”

This issue seems to have truly galvanized some tribal nations and activists, leading to actions that could have long-standing repercussions in the often tense relations between Native peoples and New Age communities. Meanwhile the daughter of one of the victims wants Ray behind bars and is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. So it looks like only a matter of time before Ray is brought before a judge. Hopefully before his next “spiritual warrior” retreat, scheduled for September 18-23rd.

In a final note, blogger Rob Taylor has alerted me to a group of anti-pedophile activists who have allegedly uncovered the identity of a Wiccan man who brags of his sexual involvement with children and until recently was advertising for a coven on Witchvox.

“He is Wiccan and participates in and goes to Wiccan festivals in which he likes to view children running around naked.”

It seems Witchvox (or the person in question) may have removed the listings since word went out at the beginning of November, as they are now gone. Sadly, there isn’t a picture, or further outside confirmation, so we have no way of telling who exactly this man is at public gatherings (as he could no doubt use a variety of aliases if he wanted). I was planning use this information within the context of a longer investigation of predators within the Pagan community, but I felt it was important to pass this information along now if it could potentially help parents and children be safer at gatherings. As always, be careful, do your own research, and leave law enforcement to law enforcement officials.

That’s all I have for now, have a good night, see you tomorrow.

Over at The Witches’ Voice, Fritz Jung has posted a special tribute to his wife and site co-founder Wren Walker for hitting a milestone 20,000 posts on Wren’s Nest News since the news service’s founding in 1996.

“This morning I noticed that Wren has just passed the 20,000 articles posted mark – I claim this space to personally thank her for her dedication to posting ‘Spirit and community related news’ for all these years. Thanks honey! … Wren’s Nest has seen some 47,882,049 page requests over the past 12 years and has been called up in cell phones and on personal computers via RSS readers thousands of times daily since we introduced that option in 2003. As her husband, lover and friend, I can personally attest to her noting ‘Gotta post the news’, on a near daily basis, over all these years – Thank YOU honey for this gift to the Pagan communities. – I also take this space to thank our good friend Christina Aubin for guest hosting the ‘Nest during some of the darker times in Wren’s life.”

In my article on Pagan blogging for the 2007 Wicca Almanac, I pay tribute to Wren’s Nest as a vital precursor to the now-thriving Pagan blogosphere.

“The real revolution regarding Pagans and blogging would begin in 1997, with the launch of what would become the most popular web site for Wiccans, Witches, and modern Pagans. In that year, two Witches left the Witchcraft advocacy organization WLPA (Witches’ League for Public Awareness) to start their own website dedicated to fostering communication and unity within the Witchcraft (and later Pagan and Heathen) communities. Their website became The Witches’ Voice (www.witchvox.com). This site was radically different from most sites dedicated to Paganism at that time; it featured regularly updated content and essays, and it featured the first widely-read Pagan blog, “Wren’s Nest Spirit News”, by cofounder Wren Walker.

While Wren’s Nest never identified itself as one, it carries many of the identifying features of a blog. It is updated regularly (daily, in fact); it is organized chronologically, with individual posts one can link to, and it allows readers to comment on each post. While Wren rarely opines on the news links and essays she shares with her readership (aside from the occasional “Chirp”) this site proved that blogging is something that could work for Pagans as a mass audience. In the years that followed, many other bloggers have been inspired by (or have simply imitated) Wren’s approach. This paved the way for the blogging community that was to come.”

It isn’t hyperbole to say that without Wren’s Nest there may not have been The Wild Hunt. Her dedication and commitment to providing the Pagan community with news involving, or of interest to, modern Pagans cleared the way for those of us wanting a more robust and serious Pagan-centered look at the world around us. So thank you Wren, may you continue for another 20,000 articles!

I don’t know if you heard, but Barack Obama won the race for president of the United States of America last night. Though “won” doesn’t quite express the historic margins of victory on display here. The Obama campaign won commanding majorities of several key demographics.

“Mr. Obama built a coalition that included majorities of women, independent voters, political moderates, Hispanics, African-Americans, people of most income groups and education levels and voters under age 45, according to nationwide surveys of voters leaving the polls on Tuesday and telephone interviews of some people who had voted early.”

So the pollsters, psychics, practitioners of divination, and other “spiritually advanced people” who predicted an Obama win can rest easy in the knowledge that they were correct. Which brings us to the Pagans. How did they vote this election? Thanks to The Witches’ Voice, we have a rough snapshot of who our community supported in 2008.


Witchvox 2008 Presidential Poll

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pagans overall preferred Obama and the Democratic party, with nearly 3/4ths supporting Barack Obama. This is an improvement of almost 2 percentage points over Kerry in 2004. Republican-leaning Pagans on the other hand seemed deeply unhappy with their party’s nominee. While Bush garnered 17.7% of the Pagan vote in 2004, McCain dropped seven percentage points, with most of those voters migrating to the “None of the above” category. In contrast, only 1.5% of Pagans went with “other” in 2004. Could the appointment of Sarah Palin, with her ties to anti-Pagan “spiritual warfare” churches, have been a poison pill for conservative Pagans?

This election cycle also saw progressive Pagans vote for the Green party in larger numbers, 3.2% this year as opposed to 0.8% in 2004. Support for Ralph Nader, who ran as an independent in 2004 and 2008, remained stable with around 2.5% of the vote in both elections. Among the smaller political parties, the Libertarians were hardest hit this election. While 5.6% went for Michael Badnarik in ’04, only 2.3% voted for Bob Barr. I can only imagine that Barr’s anti-Pagan past came back to haunt him.

While Pagan Obama supporters must be very happy right now, it wasn’t all good news for us. Paganistan (aka Minnesota’s Twin Cities) saw the reelection of congresswoman Michele “investigate the liberals” Bachmann, a woman unafraid to dump money on anti-Pagan charities. It also isn’t looking very good for gay marriage in California (anti-gay marriage bans were also passed in Arizona and Florida). Earlier this year I explained how these marriage bans interfere with the religious liberties of Pagan clergy willing to perform ceremonies for gay couples.

Despite these political setbacks, I can say I’m truly happy that the age of George “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion” Bush is finally coming to an end. I’m also pleased to see the emergence of a more politically engaged Pagan movement. I look optimistically to the future of America, and the continuing growth and influence of modern Pagans in our world.

ADDENDUM: Nate Silver at the 538 blog has posted exit-polling data from the election and finds that the Witchvox poll numbers are pretty darn accurate (with 73% of religious “other” voters preferring Obama).

For Democrats worried that all those positive polls are wrong, Kenyan witch doctor John Radima is here to reassure you.


John Radima points towards the pro-Obama casting.

“A witch doctor in Kogelo, western Kenya, where Obama’s father grew up, on Saturday also predicted victory for the Democrat. John Radima, who lives not far from the home of Obama’s grandmother in Kogelo, threw stones, bones and shells on the ground and “read” them. The message was that Obama will be the winner in the November 4 election.”

The spirits may have spoken, but don’t let that stop you from making your own voice heard this Tuesday. Also, when watching the results roll in tomorrow, take the advice of Democratic and Republican pundits, and ignore the exit polls (and don’t forget to participate in The Witches’ Voice Presidential Poll).

I just wanted to take a minute to point everyone to the Witches’ Voice presidential election poll. It is embedded on their front page, and only takes a second to make your selection. The larger the sample the more accurate the results, so spread the word, and be sure to participate. I’ll be weighing in with some analysis of the results on Wednesday. You can look at the results (and some commentary) from four years ago, here.

You can also catch up on The Wild Hunt’s reporting from this election season. Oh, and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday! I’ve already voted here in Wisconsin, so I’ll be relaxing and watching the results come in.

Over at my podcast site A Darker Shade of Pagan, I have just posted a Winter Festival music special, featuring songs from Gwydion Pendderwen, Unto Ashes, Faith and the Muse, Dar Williams, and more!

[direct download]
[subscribe via iTunes]
[podcast feed]

For a semi-extensive accounting of news and commentary concerning Yule and the Winter Solstice, check out Wren’s Nest. Also, for an interesting discussion concerning news coverage of Solstice events, check out this Get Religion post.

As for me, I’ll be taking the rest of the day off from blogging to spend time with family. I’ll be back tomorrow, though blogging will be lighter than usual until after Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the birthday of the unconquered Sun, AKA December 25th). Plus, be on the lookout for my posts concerning the top Pagan stories of the year come the end of December.

According to their front page, this week marks the tenth anniversary of The Witches Voice being online. As someone who has been a fiscal supporter in the past, I would like to wish Wren, Fritz, and the entire TWV crew a happy anniversary. We Pagan bloggers hold a special debt to Wren Walker, who was reporting and commenting on news of interest to modern Witches and Pagans long before any of us were. Cheers! Here is to another ten years!