Archives For Washington DC

I’m currently at the 2014 Sacred Space Conference in Laurel, Maryland. I’ve been to a lot of Pagan events over the years, big and small, but I’ve never immersed myself into a truly East Coast event, and it has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My Pagan life started in the Midwest, and then, I gravitated to the West Coast, and while I’ve met many fine East Coast folks, I knew that things were a bit different there. Thanks to a generous offer from the organizers of the conference, I was finally able to find out first hand.

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First off, the hospitality has been top-notch, and it’s clear that the board take their responsibilities seriously. As one of the largest indoor Pagan conferences in this region, one that will get even larger when it shares space with Between The Worlds in 2015, it’s clear they have a vision for growing into something unique. Secondly, everyone has been remarkably friendly, and I’ve been able to finally engage in-person with friends I’ve only known on the Internet. People like Byron Ballard, Beth Owl’s Daughter, Katrina Messenger, and Debbie Chapnick from Datura Press.

Yesterday (Friday), I gave both of my scheduled talks, so I didn’t get to see too much from other folks, but I did sit in on a very interesting talk on Neo-Platonism from Gwendolyn Reece, and I got to see the beginning of the Conjure Dance, featuring an amazing array of altars, drummers, and a number of people ready to trance. 

A detail from one of the Conjure Dance altars.

A detail from one of the Conjure Dance altars.

Today, I’m hoping to see and do more, including a much-anticipated panel of Appalachian Magick Workers featuring Orion Foxwood, Byron Ballard, and Linda Ours Rago. We’ll see what I can share with you here.

What have I learned from this East Coast event? Well, I think there’s a special focus on spiritual work. People here are looking for new technologies, though that isn’t to imply they aren’t interested in other things. Both of my talks were well-attended, and many have been concerned with issues concerning infrastructure, money, and the state of the Pagan umbrella. That said, I sense a keen desire to do The Work of spirit in the air, and there’s a palpable environment of ritual, even in the sanitized environs of a Holiday Inn.

There’s a lot more to come before I return home, but I hope that this short update will give you a taste of my experience so far.

Back in the Fall of 2011, the Open Hearth Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1999, signed a lease for a long-planned Washington DC Pagan Community Center. The goal of this new space was simple, provide an open community space for local Pagans.

OHF logo.

OHF logo.

“The Open Hearth Foundation (OHF) was founded in 1999 with the mission of launching a Pagan community center in the Washington, D.C. region. The organization was granted 501(c)3 tax-exempt status in 2000. “Town hall” meetings were conducted that year to determine what the Pagan community needed and wanted to see in a community center. […] In January of 2011, Pagan leaders from the area were called into a summit to weigh in on what they needed from a Pagan community center. In July of 2011, the Board began exploring rental properties, and signed a lease for a rental property in September. Organizers and members went straight to work on outfitting the space, and the DC Pagan community center opened its doors on December 31, 2011.”

In the Spring of 2012, OHF installed a library as well, and in the years that followed, several public events and private group meetings were held at the space. However, it seems that fiscal hard times have befallen the Pagan community center, and on February 18th local writer and Wiccan Priestess Literata Hurley reported at her blog that OHF’s current space would be closing down.

“For those who were not able to attend the Open Hearth Foundation town hall meeting last weekend, the biggest news is that OHF will no longer have its current location after the end of March. The board is currently working on making decisions about what OHF will do after that. […] During the last year the board went through a period of overhaul in order to keep the center afloat. The work that they did is why OHF has some assets and options at this point rather than having gone bankrupt around October of 2013. The current board deserves a lot of credit for that work.”

Considering the fact that dedicated community space for Pagans is still quite rare, this closure, like the closure of Sacred Paths Center in 2012, has far greater resonance beyond the immediate geographic area. Reaching out to the current leadership of OHF about their future, I received the following public statement.

Evelyn Wright provided professional facilitation services for the OHF 2014 Town Hall Meeting held Sunday, February 16th, 2014 in Takoma Park, DC.

Evelyn Wright provided professional facilitation services for the OHF 2014 Town Hall Meeting held Sunday, February 16th, 2014 in Takoma Park, DC.

During the meeting, OHF explained that it had reduced its footprint in a move to balance income and expenditures. The current business owner wishes to expand its business and will not allow OHF to renew a lease on the Library space. OHF announced that they would be vacating the space they currently occupy when their lease expires on March 31, 2014. Current donor income does not provide the resources to continue operating a full-service community center, a library and an art gallery. In order to maintain current assets (approximately $10,000; furniture, furnishings and equipment; and 3,000 library items) the board is using the move as a pivotal time for reevaluation. Participants in the meeting undertook a SWOT analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to provide a community perspective on the community center.

The board presented three restructuring options and participants discussed each with the following criteria: evaluating facilities, programs, services, timelines and costs in balance with the current community response. The board explained that it would review the Town Hall’s considerable input, the generous level of donor support and a variety of available options. To close out the meeting, each participant was given the opportunity to answer the question “What do you think is the most important resource OHF has to offer to the community?” The responses summarized OHF’s three main resources: A Pagan Community Library; A Resilient Leadership; A Hope for the Future. Town Hall participant and former OHF Governor Sherry Marts noted, “This meeting provided an excellent forum for direct communication between the OHF leadership and the community the OHF serves. I am leaving the meeting feeling assured that the resources and future of the OHF are in good hands. I’m hopeful that the DC Pagan community will step up to meet the needs for increased volunteer involvement as well as financial support for the OHF.”

When asked about her thoughts regarding the meeting, Vette Parker, current OHF Chair, stated, “I felt energized by the number of people willing to venture out on a cold, snowy Sunday afternoon to participate in this important discussion. The OHF Board is facing some very big decisions regarding the future of the organization and the information exchanged allowed us to get thoughtful, productive feedback and suggestions from all of the attendees before undertaking the decision-making process.”

As noted in their 2013 year-in-review, OHF had been working to keep part of the space open, namely the library. However it too will go into storage with the rest of the center’s possessions. OHF librarian Eric Riley, in a statement sent to me, said that whatever plan the board undertakes it will, quote, “require rebuilding our capital fund.”

Views of the OHF collection.

Views of the OHF library collection.

I have no doubt the board and supporters of Open Hearth Foundation will work hard to find a new direction, and hopefully a new space, in the near future. That said, their difficulties, and the difficulties faced by other Pagan infrastructure projects, are something that needs to be addressed on a larger scale. To be blunt, it all comes down to money, and our sense of what, exactly, we want “Pagan community” as a joint movement/construct to do. I have no doubt that questions will be raised by some as to why their funding wasn’t sustainable, but no matter what the reason, it is clear that such endeavors are fragile to the point where no income stream can be easily lost. We simply do not have a pervasive ethos of tithing for such things, and as much as some may love a community center, they do not inspire the same wide-spread devotion as a temple or tradition-specific house (like the Temple of Witchcraft’s new headquarters).

There are ambitious Pagan infrastructure projects underway, like the New Alexandrian Library, but the bulk of our fundraising efforts are still reactive, uniquely pressing in their need or urgency, or (relatively) small in scale. Maybe this will change as initiatives like the Pantheon Foundation mature, but we are still some distance from many of the fiscal safety nets, well-funded events, services, and buildings that many crave. Do our interconnected communities have enough cohesion to rally behind these dreams of infrastructure? The struggles of OHF make this an open question.

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!

Support in the Wake of Sandy: Pagan author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle and Solar Cross Temple have started a FirstGiving page to support Miriam’s Kitchen in Washington DC. The money for the campaign will help Miriam’s Kitchen buy sleeping bags, warm clothes, hypothermia kits and other necessities, along with feeding people, as they do all year long, but which is especially important in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

storm fundraiser

Solar Cross Temple will be coordinating locally with David Salisbury of Firefly House, who volunteers at Miriam’s Kitchen. If this campaign is successful, and raises its goal in a week, Solar Cross Temple will start another campaign to help food banks and/or first responders in New Jersey and NYC next week. They have currently raised 25% of their goal, and this could be an excellent joint statement from the Pagan community in response to the hardships and tragedies many on the East Coast are currently facing.

Cherry Hill Seminary Spring Symposium Features Historian Ronald Hutton: Online Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that they will be partnering with the University of South Carolina to co-host a symposium featuring scholar Ronald Hutton, author of “The Triumph of the Moon:A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft,” as their keynote speaker.

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes will take place on the USC campus in this old southern capital.  The agenda includes presentations by Hutton, CHS’ own Wendy Griffin, and Jonathan Leader, chair of the USC Dept. of Archaeology, and South Carolina’s State Archaeologist. This is an unprecedented opportunity to meet and engage in discussion with an international figure such as Hutton, an English historian who specializes in the study of Early Modern Britain, British folklore, pre-Christian religion and contemporary Paganism.”

The symposium will take place April 13, 2013, on the USC campus in Columbia, South Carolina. Scholars wishing to participate have until January 1st, 2013 to submit papers. More information will be posted to the Cherry Hill Seminary website in the near future. We’re hoping that a Wild Hunt reporter will be able to attend and report on the symposium.

Faith, Fern & Compass Raise Awareness & Funds for Hunger and Homelessness: The podcast Faith, Fern, & Compass, which focuses on nature spirituality, ecology, art, and other topics, and is hosted by Alison Leigh Lilly and Jeff Lilly, announced that they will be donating half of the first month’s subscription fee for all new Pro Members to the National Coalition for the Homeless through November 18th.

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“On this week’s Halloween/Samhain Special podcast episode, Jeff and I explore the disturbing and tragic stories that homeless children in Miami pass along among themselves about the war between angels and demons, and the role of Bloody Mary as the fearsome, heartless murderer of children, who causes even trusted adults to betray them. We hope to help bring some awareness to the problem of homelessness in this country, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy which, like most natural disasters, impacts the disenfranchised and impoverished hardest of all.

For everyone who signs up to become a Pro Member between Oct. 31 (today) and Nov. 18, FF&C will donate half of their first month’s subscription to the National Coalition for the Homeless, to help spread awareness and support those who work for the cause of social justice. We’re also encouraging our current listeners to donate to National Homeless or another homelessness or disaster relief charity of their choice.”

More information can be found at the Faith, Fern, & Compass site.

In Other Community News:  

  • Patrick McCleary of the blog Pagandad is launching a new series of ebooks entitled “Voices from the Grain” that is “devoted to the idea of getting the voices of Pagan men out there.” Their first edition is scheduled to be released in December with the topic being Yule.
  • The Heathen Anarchist collective Circle Ansuz Bay Area Leidang has issued a press release about their recent leafleting and postering near Counter-Currents Publishing, a white supremacist publisher. Quote: “As Heathens, San Franciscans, and human beings we are outraged by the presence of this mouthpiece for backward, bigoted beliefs in the city.”
  • The 5th Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Religion and Spirituality, organized by the Program in Religious Studies at Tel Aviv University, has announced its call for papers. The conference will take place May 28th and 29th, 2013.  Featured Keynote Lectures will include Prof. Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol, UK), Prof. Jeffrey J. Kripal (Rice University, US) and Prof. James R. Lewis (University of Tromso, Norway). Deadline for proposals is December 15 2012 (email link for proposals).

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

[The following is a guest post from Literata. Literata is a Wiccan who studies theaology and enjoys developing poetry and rituals. Her work has appeared in the anthologies “Queen of the Sacred Way”, “Anointed” and “The Scribing Ibis” from Neos Alexandria, in CIRCLE Magazine, and in the ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She also writes regularly for The Slacktiverse and blogs at Works of Literata. In between leading Rose Coven, reading Tarot, and communing with nature, she is writing her Ph.D. dissertation in history and enjoys travel and spending time with her husband and cats.]

The Hail Columbia movement is a way for Pagans to protect freedom of religion – and you can help.

At today’s Celebration of the Divine Feminine, I will lead a prayer to Columbia, honoring her as a patron goddess of the district that bears her name and as a protecter of our ideals of freedom, especially freedom of religion.

“Wiccans and Pagans are part of the American religious mosaic, and they’re here to stay. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison gave us religious liberty – and that means religious liberty for everyone. The followers of nature-based faiths are going to use it because they don’t want to lose it. What could be more in keeping with the great American tradition?” – Reverend Barry Lynn, United Church of Christ minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Hail Columbia movement grew out of concern over the efforts exerted by a small but increasingly influential group of conservative Christians to restructure America so that all aspects of life conform to their vision of a Christian society. Several Republican candidates for president have significant connections to the New Apostolic Reformation and other groups that have explicitly stated they intend to influence politicians so that the government will enforce their religious edicts.

The catalyst for Hail Columbia was a NAR project called DC 40 which involved organizing “prayer warriors” nationwide to “change the spiritual atmosphere over DC forever” by conducting “spiritual warfare” and renaming DC the District of Christ. As DC-based bloggers, Hecate Demeter and I found this idea not just preposterous but offensive. We started spreading the word and encouraging Pagans to respond by honoring Columbia and, ultimately, by participating in politics to help protect freedom of religion.

“The methods used by the NAR and other Dominionists are founded upon hate, fear, and ignorance.  Their demonization of our Gods and Goddesses uses inflammatory language that can lead to violence and discrimination against followers of minority religions.  We have choices in how to respond to this threat to our freedom and our faiths.  Many are resorting to prayer, some to writing letters, and some to defensive strategies.  We decided to honor the Queen of Heaven, the Goddess Inanna, in a public space, and demonstrate the very freedoms the Dominionists seek to destroy.” – Katrina Messenger, founder of Connect DC and the Reflections Mystery School in Petworth.

Star Foster and others created a Facebook page and Dash put together a website to spread information and coordinate Pagan responses. The results have been heartening; local coordinators are volunteering in states across the nation and we’ve raised awareness about the potential dangers posed by these would-be theocrats. But it’s not just about leaders – it’s about voters. NAR-related groups are working to register more evangelical Christians and to encourage them to vote for specific candidates who have expressed agreement with this radical agenda.

This is why it’s vital for Pagans to be politically aware and politically active. I want to work towards that goal by making the Hail Columbia project a nexus for information and action. It could include features such as information on candidates’ positions on religious liberty and action alerts for people to write to their elected officials about government infringement on freedom of religion. I’d like to hear more from the community about how useful something like that would be and any other ideas you have for how to move Hail Columbia forward. I’m also looking for additional contributors to the Hail Columbia blog.

Columbia represents the freedoms on which America is founded. She encourages us to protect what has been won and beckons us onward to expand freedoms, including religious liberty in a peaceful and pluralistic society. Will you help?

[You can read more about Literata’s work with the Hail Columbia movement, and why she thinks it is important, here. You may also want to keep an eye on the PNC-Washington DC site (here’s a pre-event post) for coverage of today’s gathering. I’d like to thank Literata for taking the time to share her thoughts with us.]

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.

I’ve written at some length about the upcoming prayer rally “The Response” and its problematic organizers and endorsers, and I have also devoted quite a bit of time to the New Apostolic Reformation, a neo-Pentecostal Christian movement that regularly engages in spiritual warfare tactics, displays a disturbing anti-Pagan emphasis, and has intertwined itself with Perry and his prayer event. While I use the terminology “spiritual warfare” quite often, I think that it’s hard to envision what this practice is like among the Christians who engage in it. I’ve mentioned that it is, in essence, malefic magic, but that’s often a difficult picture to square with the usual harmless image of devout Christians with heads bowed and hands clasped. But an upcoming New Apostolic Reformation-led event, brought to my attention by fellow Pagan blogger Hecate, does an very good job of illustrating how “spiritual warfare” works in their context.

The above video is from an upcoming prayer-war event called “DC40″ which will “lay siege” on Washington D.C. to change the “District of Columbia” into the “Disctrict of Christ” (they even issued a faux-legal “divorce decree”). This initiative is being co-led by Cindy Jacobs (who managed to find the spiritual bright-side in the Japan and Haiti earthquakes) and John Benefiel of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN), both influential figures in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, and both are national endorsers for Rick Perry’s “The Response.” In anther video, organizer and “prophetic artist” James Nesbit makes clear that the goal is to return Washington D.C. to Christ, and to eliminate compromise in our government.

That animus towards compromise isn’t an aberration. Benefiel’s HAPN released a “Declaration of Light” that made it very clear that they have “no power to purpose or accept any compromise of the promises of God, and we declare illegal in the earth any action of any people, Nation or nations that undertake what is contradictory to the Word of God.” In short, if it isn’t God-sanctified, it doesn’t apply to them.

Now many see these sorts of things and simply scoff. But for a large number of modern Pagans the focused intent of will, the use of prayer to achieve goals, the harnessing of intent towards a shared goal is taken very seriously, we call it magic (or magick). If we believe that groups of Pagans working towards some shared spiritual goal is effective, then by extension we can’t help but take an initiative to harness the wills and intents of thousands of Christians towards a goal that would marginalize or harm our faiths seriously. These prayer warriors make plain that their “struggle is not against flesh and blood” and that they “do not curse those deceived,” but disclaimers do not make malefic magic positive. These groups have made it very, very, clear that our gods are their enemies.

The question is how do we respond? Some want to respond with their own magical action, but would that simply feed their spiritual warfare paradigm? As the New Apostolic Reformation climbs the ladder of influence and power within politics, organizing their massive group spells, simply ignoring them seems to be quickly fading away as an option.

As I mentioned recentlyCherry Hill Seminary held the first graduation ceremony under their new program at the Sacred Space Conference in Maryland. On hand for the ceremony was a team from PNC-Washington DC (aka Capital Witch). They have put together this very nice video report.

“One of the first events of Sacred Space 2011 was hosting the first event graduation ceremony of Cherry Hill Seminary. Six students graduated from the ceremony with three in attendence. We had the chance to sit down with Cherry Hill staff and talk about the importance of the graduation and their work moving forward in the field of higher education for Pagans.”

Kudos to David and the team at PNC-Washington DC, and congratulations to the six Cherry Hill Seminary graduates! To find out more about CHS’s educational offerings, please check out their web site.

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

A Split in the Feri Tradition? In recent weeks there’s been quite a bit of activity online regarding a split within the Victor and Cora Anderson-founded Feri tradition, with several new web sites emerging that detail a separation on private/public lines. Author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, perhaps one of the best-known modern Feri initiates, writes an essay for Patheos that explores her own thoughts and feelings on this developing situation.

“It is said of late that the Feri Tradition has been broken in two, being named by folks on one side of the divide as a split between the “Mystery tradition” (taking on the old spelling of Faery) and “public religion” (Feri). While there have been splits and factions for almost as long as the tradition has been active, while the spelling of the name changed over time, and scapegoating, shouting, and long silences have abounded, I never before felt such an energetic sundering. As I write this, I can feel the mighty gates closing on what was. What will emerge, I do not know. Perhaps nothing will change, and perhaps everything will. Such are the times we live in, and various are the pronouncements of our egos trying to figure things out.”

Coyle, who no longer publicly teaches Feri to students, feels that this split is “a reflection of the tension seen all over the world right now, which is the tension felt in ages of transition.” Faery/Feri has been a very influential tradition in the history of modern Paganism in the United States, and currently counts many charismatic and influential teachers among its initiates. I feel this split is an important moment in our shared history, and I am currently putting together a longer article exploring this split, interviewing several individuals from both sides of this seemingly widening gulf. Expect the hear more on this very soon, if not this week, then most certainly next.

D.C. Commits To Opening a Community Center: David Salisbury from the Washington D.C. PNC bureau reports on a historic meeting of regional leaders and organizers to finalize plans for a joint community center.

“Yesterday I was invited to attend the Open Hearth Foundation’s Pagan Leadership Summit which met to discuss and finalize plans for the upcoming Pagan Community Center, an 11 year goal for the organization and the DC Pagan community in general. This day-long summit of leaders from around the metropolitan area shared views on details such as the centers location, size, programming, funding and when it actually plans to open the doors.

It’s a rare occasion when this many Pagan leaders from our area can gather. Rarer still is the fact that the leaders met to give input on this area’s most important Pagan land space project ever, a Pagan Community Center. Becoming, Reflections Mystery School, Ecumenicon, Firefly, Spiral Grove, covens and more spent 5 hours in a thrilling high-energy debate.”

A seeming consensus has been formed to achieve this in one year, by Imbolc 2012. If they manage to achieve this, it could set a new standard for cooperation towards building communal infrastructure among different Pagan groups within a community. The Washington DC-PNC will no doubt keep up updated and informed as this process goes forward.

Pagans and the Health Care Reforms: Masery at the Patheos-hosted Staff of Asclepius blog examines the religious breakdown of a recent Associated Press/GfK poll regarding health care reform and decides to drill down into that pesky “other” category by creating a nearly identical survey aimed at the Pagan community.

The health care poll was conducted by the Associated Press and Gfk Roper Public Affairs Corporate Communications from January 5 – 10, 2011. By telephone they spoke to 1001 Americans ages 18+  Religious affiliation: Protestant 25%, Catholic 25%, Mormon 1%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, Other 26%, No religious denomination 19%. Of the “Other” religion 87% were Christian and 13% were not. What do Pagans think? You can answer the same questions as the AP poll at www.surveymonkey.com/s/CZFX8TR

If you’d like to see what the Pagan community thinks about current health care reform laws, please spread the word to your own blogs and social networking sites, so that a significant sample size can be reached. I’ll be sure to share the results once they are available. Once again, the survey can be found, here. Also, while you’re there, do check out her interview with Kimberly Hedrick, PhD about the recent groundbreaking Pagan Health Survey (which I covered here at The Wild Hunt).

6th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival: An Internet tradition that began in the early days of the Pagan blogosphere continues!

It is that time of year again, when bloggers around the world post a favorite poem in honor of Brigid, the Irish goddess and patron saint of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. Brigid’s feast day is February 1st, so between now and then is the perfect time to publish a poem to celebrate. Last year many great poems were published all over the web. This year, I have set up a Community Facebook Page to help people easily view each other’s poems and to share them around as much as possible. If you post a poem on your blog, please share the link on the community page so we can all go there and read it. If you don’t have a blog or website of your own, go ahead and post your poem in its entirety to the community page.

I look forward to yet another year of poetry in honor of the goddess!

Final Note: If you haven’t been following along, do check out the Patheos Wicca series running through January. It features some interesting perspectives on what Wicca is, and where different individuals think its going.

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

Top Story: Some crazy things get said and done during an election season, and Pagans certainly haven’t been immune from that phenomenon this year, but this may take the cake. Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate Missy Reilly Smith, in an interview with The Daily Caller, talks about using her candidacy as a way to air her anti-abortion views and lets slip some rather interesting opinions about Wicca.

“The more that you’re involved in this organization [Planned Parenthood] the more demonic you realize it is,” Smith said. “Many of the employees of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills, the actual killing centers, the employees are actual witches. They belong to Wiccan and there’s nothing more valuable to Satan than the blood of innocent babies.”

She also proclaims on her website that the Tea Party’s “number one mission” is to “end legalized child killing” which might come as a shock to the pro-choice Tea Partiers in the movement who are more concerned with taxes. While it’s shocking to hear any (supposedly) mainstream candidate say this about Wiccans, it’s actually a fairly common belief within the hardcore anti-abortion groups. Do a search for “the sacrament of abortion” on Google and you’ll see a near-obsession with an obscure book written by Ginette Paris in 1992 that discusses abortion as a sacred act, and uses the metaphor of the procedure being seen as a sacrifice to Artemis. This, along with other isolated comments by a former abortion practitionerwas pounced on as “proof” that Satanic Witches were behind the abortion industry. Various “insider” accounts still push the Wiccan abortionist meme today, putting Smith’s seemingly random outburst into context.

“Since then the Toledo, Ohio, abortion clinic where Abigail’s mother worked has moved to a new location, although it is still owned by the same woman, a Wiccan when Abigail knew her. Abigail’s mother has also moved on, so I don’t know if the nefarious practices and conditions Abigail observed are ongoing.”

Star Foster at Patheos.com has already expressed her disgust and anger at Smith’s slandering of Paganism in the interview, and I imagine more responses are being written as news of this slur spreads. It should be noted that Smith does not have the support of the Republican Party, despite having won the primary. It is also very unlikely that she’ll win (Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in the District of Columbia). So, if anything, her candidacy should be a reminder of what the activist base of the anti-abortion movement believes about modern Paganism.

The Future of Pagan Lands: Pagan journalist Kathy Nance talks with acclaimed Pagan author and activist Starhawk during her visit to Diana’s Grove in Missouri;  the key topic of discussion is the fact that Diana’s Grove is currently on the market, and how land prices and the current economy are calling into question the future of Pagan-owned retreats and sanctuaries.

First, she said, the changing of the generational guard is being affected by a change in land values. Many of the groups—Pagan and otherwise—that bought land and set up intentional communities in the 1970s and 1980s were able to live off the land with little or no outside income. Now that land prices have increased so greatly in some areas, buyers need outside income to make the mortgage payments. Or, they need to be retired people with sufficient assets to invest and use for living expenses.

“I see now on my land in Northern California that the community is aging. The people who are moving in who can afford to buy tend to be retired,” she said. “You can’t ask Cynthea and Patricia to just give it (the Diana’s Grove acreage) away. That’s their retirement money. But the people who might be interested in taking it on, may not have the resources.”

It all comes back to the need for infrastructure, and how hard that can be to manage for a movement as decentralized and diverse as modern Paganism. While our growing (and aging) community often wants some of the amenities that other faith communities have (land, buildings, retirement communities, service organizations, charities), the individual faiths within Paganism are still too small to build/buy such resources, and the movement as a whole is often too diverse to effectively pool resources for such things. I have no doubt that eventually we’ll see more infrastructure within modern Paganism, but it may not come as soon as some would wish.

Baltic Paganism Around the World: After doing an article on the rise of new religious movements in the Baltic States (EstoniaLatvia, and Lithuania), the Baltic Times takes a closer look at Baltic forms of Paganism at home and in the diaspora.

“Evangelical movements along with neo-pagan movements locally and abroad are possibly the beginnings of something much larger. Next, we take a look at the rebirth of ancient religions. To call it an actual rebirth is somewhat of a misnomer since the neo-pagan movements are not a true revival of a religion once practiced in the region. Instead, as with the example of the Latvian Dievturiba (literally ‘keeping God’) movement, we see religion constructed from ancient practices.”

The article looks at Dievturiba, Romuva, Maausk, and Taaralased, many of which are seeing thriving communities growing in the Baltic diaspora. Also mentioned is the upcoming observance of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”), which share many commonalities with the holidays like Samhain.

Hiding Bones Because of Pagans? The Daily Mail reports on the trend of museums increasingly hiding or deemphasizing ancient human remains due to protests from various groups, including Pagans. Centered on the new book by sociologist Dr Tiffany Jenkins entitled “Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: The Crisis of Cultural Authority”, the article claims museums are over-reacting to protests by groups like Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD).

Since the late 1970s, human remains in museum collections have been subject to claims and controversies, such as demands for repatriation by indigenous groups who suffered under colonisation, particularly in Australia, North America and Canada. But Dr Jenkins says that such appeals are not confined to once-colonised groups. British pagans formed Honouring the Ancient Dead in 2004 to campaign for reburial and respect for pre-Christian skeletons from the British Isles. Dr Jenkins said: “The profession is over-reacting to the claims of small minority groups – such as the Pagan organisation, Honouring the Ancient Dead. Most remarkable of all is that human remains of all ages, and which are not the subject of claims-making by any community group, have become subject to concerns about their handling, display and storage, expressed by influential members of the museum profession.”

As I’ve noted before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. In fact HAD occupies something of a middle ground on this issue, only calling for the reburial of remains that “have no scientific or research potential,” as opposed to other groups who take a far harder line. Whether museum curators are “over-reacting” to demands by various Pagan groups is an open question. Who sets the metric for what’s an over-reaction? The Daily Mail? They don’t have a great track record for being fair and balanced when it comes to Pagan religion in the UK.

No Deal on Witch’s Wit? While I’m hesitant to bring this topic up again, it seem the New York Times was a bit too hasty in saying there was a deal between protesting Pagans and California brewery Lost Abbey over their witch-burning beer label. Peter Rowe with the San Diego Union Tribune interviews Tomme Arthur, Lost Abbey’s brewmaster and part owner, who says that he isn’t budging on this issue.

“I’m sorry we offended the pagan community. But our labels are original pieces of artwork. I’m standing behind the art and the artist’s imagination.” … At least one of Lost Abbey’s four co-owners would bow to these concerns. “I would change the label,” Vince Marsaglia said. “That’s one of a million labels you could put on that beer.” But Marsaglia said he’ll defer to the person who runs Lost Abbey day-to-day. And what would that person change about the label? “Nothing,” Tomme Arthur insisted.”

Observant readers will also note that Rowe interviewed me for the article. I’m afraid our nuanced conversation about Pagan opinions over this controversy were somewhat cherry-picked in the rather glib final version, but I tried to emphasize to him that there is no clear consensus within our communities over this issue. Whether this controversy dies down, or continues to gain stream, remains to be seen.

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

David Salisbury from PNC-Washington DC has a report up from last night’s Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Reception, including several Youtube videos and photos.

“Thanks to all the hard work from many people in our community and abroad, the Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Event went off without a hitch last night here in DC. Together, we helped make this a night to remember in Pagan history, and the history of the modern religious rights movement.”

You can also see recorded video from the live stream.

My thanks to David for covering this event, and congratulations to Lady Liberty League on their anniversary, may they continue their important work for 25 more years. Please visit the PNC-Washington DC site for more on this event.

I’d also like to note that the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has issued a press release regarding their Capitol Hill Reception from Tuesday night. Here’s an excerpt mentioning their honoring of Patrick McCollum.

The Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism went to Reverend Patrick McCollum, a leading chaplain of the Wiccan faith, who spearheaded an effort to overturn a hiring policy in California that limited the hiring of chaplains to five-faiths: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Native Americans.  Rev. McCollum also joined HAF and 40 other faith based and civil liberty organizations to advocate for the introduction and passing of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act.  He spoke on the need for America as a whole to recognize the need for plurality in society.

“I want especially to thank the Hindu American Foundation for even acknowledging people who do this work,” lauded Rev. McCollum. “In the spirit of accepting the award, I would like to be a representative of all the unsung heroes, men and women, who work daily to bring about pluralism for all people. So it isn’t just me, there are so many people who need to be recognized for this important work.”

Congratulations once again to Patrick McCollum on this honor.