Archives For Wendy Griffin

[This tribute to the life of Layne Redmond was written by academic, activist, and performance artist, Wendy Griffin. Wendy Griffin is the Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary and Professor Emerita from California State University in Long Beach. She and Layne have been friends since the early 90s.]

Layne Redmond, author, mythologist, teacher, historian and drummer par excellence, passed over early Monday morning on October 28, after fighting breast cancer for several years.

Layne Redmond 1952 - 2013

Layne Redmond 1952 – 2013

Born in 1952, Layne lived her early life in Florida, graduating from the University of Florida and doing Master’s work in art. A move to New York put her in touch with well-known drummer Glen Valez, who promised to teach her how to play the hour-glass drum known as the dumbek. The Fates intervened, however, for when Layne arrived for her first class, Glen told her his ceramic dumbek had fallen and broken. He handed Layne a frame drum and, in a very real sense, Layne never put the frame drum down.

As she grew more proficient as a frame drummer, she began to teach other women and formed performance groups that did drumming rituals on the solstices and equinoxes. Traditional holidays were reimaged, as Valentine’s Day became a ritual dedicated to Innana and Demuzi and reenactments were done of the procession of women drummers on the walls of Hathor’s temple in Egypt.

During her 15 year research on the drum, Layne discovered a large number of ancient images of women playing the frame drum from the Mediterranean and almost no images of men and the drum. Incensed by one museum’s description of these drummers as women with cakes, Layne began writing “When the Drummers Were Women,” the book that explored the little-known history of the frame drum as a sacred tool, the fact that the primary percussionists for a period of almost 3000 years in the Mediterranean were women, and the reasons why that changed and the information was lost.

The book was immensely popular and translated into German, Dutch and Persian. Layne collected thousands of images, and in the majority, the drummers were Goddesses or their priestesses. The many images and histories of women with powerful spiritual authority and the use of the drum as a sacred instrument resonated strongly in the contemporary Pagan and Goddess communities. Some women’s groups began to incorporate the frame drum into their sabbat rituals.

In 2000, DRUM! Magazine listed Layne as one of the 53 Heavyweight Drummers Who Made A Difference in the ’90s. She was the only woman on the list, as well as the first woman to have a Signature Series of drums with Remo, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of drums. Layne recorded, taught and performed internationally. Among the many things for which she will be remembered is returning the frame drum to Malta, and the group of women she taught there still performs spiritual rituals.

While performing at the UFBA Percussion Festival in Salvador, Brazil, Layne became fascinated by the spiritual tradition of Candomble. She spent the last few years filming the living presence of the Orixas in modern Brazilian culture.

When her breast cancer returned this year, Layne faced it with fierce courage, deciding to live her life fully until the very last moment. A few months ago, she began to turn her film on the Orixas into short videos she could post on Youtube. She wanted to make sure those who contributed to her filming on Kickstarter would see the results of their generosity. When she went into hospice, she told friends that she was only alive to finish that work.

Thirteen days before the very end, a friend helped Layne slip out of hospice in North Carolina and go to her 43rd high school reunion. From there she went to Manatee Springs, a place from her childhood. “Really,” she wrote on FaceBook the day of her last visit, “I was raised in the womb of Oxun.”

And now Layne Redmond, High Priestess of the Drum, has returned to Her. We are impoverished by her loss but immensely enriched by her life.

Pagan voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Wendy Griffin

Wendy Griffin

“To me, whether or not to have professional ministry is the wrong question. We have one even if we don’t call it that. The real question is do we want an educated ministry? Do we want Pagans who will serve in these ministerial situations who have been trained in things like ethics and boundaries, family dynamics, substance abuse, social justice issues, interfaith dealings, counseling techniques – all from a Pagan perspective? As Paganism continues to grow and more Pagans feel safe to practice their religion openly, I don’t think we can afford not to have a professional priesthood, and by that, I mean men and women who have been systematically educated to minister to Pagans in need. I believe we owe that to ourselves and to our gods.” – Wendy Griffin, Academic Dean at Cherry Hill Seminary, on the subject of a professional priesthood within modern Paganism.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“When I say I am not a believer, it doesn’t mean I believe nothing. It is that belief is not central to my religious and spiritual life. As a matter of fact, belief holds little importance to me at all. Belief doesn’t structure my experience; my experience structures what few beliefs I might have. My spiritual life consists of praxis first, theoria second. Any theories I hold are simply there to explain — or give context to — experience. Sometimes gnosis enters on a flash of synaptic lighting, but the pathway is usually opened by practice first. The times when this process is reversed, it is still practice that shows me whether or not the flash of insight was an aberration. Like the scientific jolt that happens in the bathtub or while stepping on a city bus: after the big event, we return to the processes that test and compare.” – T. Thorn Coyle, at the Huffington Post, explaining why she isn’t a believer.

Michael York

Michael York

“At the Pagan Federation Conference in London yesterday, we got to see *The Spirit of Albion* and loved it. The dialogue may present a bit to be desired for, and Richard considered the film to be an English pagan *Umbrellas of Cherbourg*, but the viewer is drawn in all the same. The film is an astounding collaboration of volunteers and a low-budget enterprise, but it presents ‘what is always there’ beneath and behind the ‘illusion of modernity’. A wonderful work for explaining paganism to the wider community. Patrick and Barbara, it has already been used most helpfully in prison work and with prison authorities. All the music has been composed by Damh the Bard, and the movement between the worlds is fascinating. I strongly recommend Gary Andrews production.” – Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism As A World Religion,” on the Pagan film “The Spirit of Albion.”

Hope M.

Hope M.

“It is only when I fully accept what I am powerless over that I can take my rightful place of power in the center of the pentacle and access the powers of spirit, earth, air, fire and water. At that moment, I finally understand myself in right perspective to the things that are around me. A witch cannot shape reality until she understands it. Admitting that there are things in the world, in nature, that she is powerless over is acknowledging that she is part of the tremendous web of life in which all things are connected. Humans, no matter how impressive our cognition, cannot set ourselves above or apart from the forces of nature. We are all bound by the laws of physics. We are all touched by death. To admit we are powerless over things is to claim our birthright as people of this Earth. It is to lay our heart out open and say “Yes, I am vulnerable. See how strong my heart beats” And yet, In their efforts to rewrite the Twelve steps for a more Pagan-friendly model, many authors have written the concept of powerless out of the first step.” – Hope M. of the 12 Step Witch blog writing about the importance of understanding powerlessness at PaganSquare.

John Beckett

John Beckett

“The liberal religions (which include virtually all forms of Paganism) are not proselytizing religions – we have no desire to convert the whole world to our ways. But there are plenty of folks who need what we have. They feel the call of the old gods and goddesses. They feel the call of Nature and the spirits of Nature. They feel the call of magic, of the alchemy that refines not base metals but human souls. Do we welcome them? Do we have a place for them? Do we help them find their way to Druidry or Heathenry or Humanistic Paganism or whatever flavor they’re best suited for? Or do we close ourselves off in our box pews and let them fend for themselves?” - John Beckett, discussing box pews, both physical and metaphorical, at the Patheos Pagan Portal.

Thom Swanson

Thom Swanson

“Our original (pieces are) heavily Pagan oriented.  Because a lot of them – at least, mine – have come from either when I’m invoked, or through trances, or at drum circles . . . they just pop in.  To help bridge that gap, we throw in some traditional Irish songs, as well as traditional English ones.  And that sort of helps at our concerts  . . . it makes sort of welcome listening for everyone.  That’s the way I see it should be.  Whether it’s Pagan music or mainstream music, it should be able to appeal to the masses.  Because that’s what music is: a voice, and an entity that wants to be heard, that needs to be heard, and especially with today’s society, the music needs to be heard by as many people as possible.” -Thom Swanson, of the Celtic folk-rock band Raven’s Call, in an interview with Diane Morrison at PaganSquare.

Fire Lyte

Fire Lyte

“I believe modern Pagan thinking, Wiccan-influenced Paganism especially, could take a tip from the evolution of the Muses in Classical Greek mythology. There are nine classical muses that represent all sorts of areas of interest, ranging from science to literature to music and theatre. We could, and should, recognize that people walk all sorts of different paths, and that our instinct is to relate to gods that resemble those paths. As was said before, we like gods that look like us, but the flip-side is that we find it hard to relate to – at least when it comes to worship and having a personal relationship with – gods and goddesses that look nothing like us, whose domain of influence is alien to our personal worldview. Anthropotheism says that we made the gods look and act like us, but the confusion here is that we think that’s where it stopped. That we created archetypes and deities and gave them names and faces and associations and carved it in stone somewhere and said THIS IS HOW THINGS ARE AND HAVE TO BE. Good news! You can continue to evolve your concept of the divine just as much as the divine continues to help you grow and change. We work together, us and the divine, because we are part of it, of them. As above, so below, right? If you need the Goddess to wear different mantels, then so be it.” – Fire Lyte, of Inciting A Riot fame, discusses the triple goddess at The Witches’ Voice.

Cherry Hill Seminary's Holli Emore

Holli Emore
Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary

“Wild Garden will explore and report on Pagans in the growing – yes, like a garden – interfaith landscape. I’ll be posting, as well as hosting a number of other Pagan bloggers who are out there somewhere in the blackberry patch. Wild Garden will place a particular emphasis on the local and regional grassroots movements happening around the country. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire readers to put on a sunhat, grab some gloves and come on out into the sunshine. Some of you have read my past accounts on Palimpsest, about months of my religion being listed as “Other,” about the minister who made an apology to me and all Pagans the subject of his Sunday sermon, about my role on the board of directors of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. I’ll continue to share those stories here at Wild Garden, along with my observations and the personal lessons I learn. Maybe you have a story to tell? We at Wild Garden will be all ears to your comments here at the blog. We want to hear what you are doing, what has worked for you, scared you off, intrigued you and inspired you.” – Holli Emore, introducing the new group Pagan interfaith blog “Wild Garden,” at the Patheos Pagan Portal.

Alan Moore

Alan Moore

“I think that the current interest in occult and magical activities among musicians and artists is kind of to be welcomed, and in some ways perhaps predictable and inevitable. I think that our culture has gone about as far as it can in having no content or meaning to its art, and I think that an attempt to invest meaning in our culture and in our art by imbuing it with a sensibility of magic is probably necessary, and, like I said, probably inevitable, and certainly long overdue. I salute it considerably.” – Alan Moore, writer and magician, in an interview with The Believer magazine.

 

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

[The following is a guest post from Holli Emore.  Holli Emore is the founder and priestess of Osireion and Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary for Pagan Ministry, where she previously served as Chair for the Board of Directors. Committed to building interfaith relationships, Holli is a member of the board of directors for the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. Holli often teaches public groups about the rapidly-growing NeoPagan religions, and has served as a regional resource for law enforcement and victim services since 2004. Holli is the co-founder of the original Pagan Round Table. Osireion is a Pagan tradition which draws its inspiration from the religions of ancient Egypt.]

“Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes” was the first academic symposium presented by Cherry Hill Seminary, in partnership with the University of South Carolina. More than a year in the planning, Sacred Lands took on a topic which turns out to be very popular this season for other academic groups (ASWM Regional Symposium, St. Paul, MN; ). It’s a subject which can also be puzzling for contemporary Pagans, mobile, multi-rooted and fiercely self-determining as we are.

SacredLands100dpi

The range of papers illustrated the complexity of the theme:

  • “Traveling the Land Within” (Wendy Griffin, about the lesbian land movement in 1960s-70s America)
  • “Spiritual Landscapes: An ecofeminist process philosophy view” (Lisa Christie)
  • “Into the Sacred Woods: The inner and outer value of a Pagan sense of place” (with a focus on boys’ experiences in woods) (Elinor Predota)
  • “Born Again Pagans: An industrial band discovers ‘sea, hill, and wood’” (Hayes Hampton on the band “Coil”)
  • “Betwixt and Between the I-and-Thou: Imaginal dialogue and the psychic cartography proposal” (Jeffrey Albaugh)
  • The Tour as Pilgrimage: The seduction of Avalon” (Christina Beard-Moose)
  • “Song of the Chattahoochee: On being a southern (Pagan) Witch in Atlanta’s urban landscape” (Sara Amis)
  • “Rock-Candy Cairns: How the Irish and Scots-Irish diasporas produced Pagans in Old Appalachia” (Byron Ballard)
Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Sacred Lands opened on Friday with greetings by Holli Emore (CHS Executive Director), Wendy Griffin (CHS Academic Dean), and greetings by proxy from Jonathan Leader, Chair of the USC Department of Archaeology, and South Carolina’s State Archaeologist. Jonathan had a back injury on Thursday which prevented him from attending any of the symposium, much to his and our disappointment. He has plans to present his paper to a small group on campus soon and videotape it so we can share with symposium attendees. On Saturday, Carl Evans, Chair Emeritus of the USC Department of Religious Studies, was able to join and address the group briefly.

Our guest keynote speaker, Ronald Hutton of Bristol University in England, then gave a talk about his current research on the actual records of the witch trials in Europe. As might be expected, the information was tantalizing; unfortunately, it will not be published for several years. Meanwhile, the group in attendance heard fascinating insights:

  • It appears that more men than women were killed in several areas;
  • Most victims were not burned alive, but after execution by another means, such as strangulation or beheading, to dispose of a body deemed unworthy of a Christian burial;
  • Where there was strong centralized government, there were fewer executions of witches: the body counts soared wherever a heavily localized system of justice effectively put the accusers in charge of the trials. Small German states were one example of this latter situation, Scotland another.
  • Areas of Celt cultural influence had far less witch trials;
  • Professional inquisitors made very little money from witch trials.

A subsequent reception at the S.C. Institute for Archaeology & Anthropology gave attendees the opportunity to discuss Professor Hutton’s talk and meet the man himself, as well as visit with each other, before walking down the street for dinner out. Columbians Pam and Mary put together a lovely reception, assisted by volunteers Deb and Jeff of North Carolina.

Ronald Hutton

Ronald Hutton

On Saturday morning presentations began in earnest, with critique offered by guest respondent Chas Clifton, editor of The Pomegranate. Professor Hutton delivered his keynote address, “Britain’s Pagan Heritage” with astonishing mastery and aplomb. The speech used the story of the Lindow Man (a bog body) discovery and subsequent controversy to illustrate the nature and value of historical research to society in general, including those of us who call ourselves Pagan. For years Lindow Man has been used as evidence that ancient druids practiced human sacrifice when, in fact, several forensics experts gave the opinion that the body was more accurately dated to the Roman period of Britain. The original assertion that Lindow Man showed wounds indicating ritualistic killing was challenged by several scholars, among them Hutton. About a decade’s worth of visitors to the British museum read display materials about druid human sacrifices before the exhibit was finally changed. (Unfortunately, the misleading copy is still found on the museum’s web site.) Note that Professor Hutton does not dispute ritual sacrifice as one possibility, but rather he insists that the actual evidence be examined without bias. Lindow man may have been the victim of a mugging, or an executed criminal, or simply an unlucky victim of an accident. Professor Hutton also devoted as much time to discussing interpretations of Stonehenge, and ended with a plea for individual people to be left ultimately to make up their own minds about the nature of ancient British religions; he also recognized how difficult in practice this was.

After more papers by independent scholars in the afternoon, the group moved outside to close the symposium with a drum circle. Many who stayed overnight gathered for brunch on Sunday morning before scattering back to the 18 states and one country overseas from which they had journeyed. More thanks go to volunteers who managed the registration and support areas at the symposium: Susan, Elizabeth, Sabina, Gin and Doug. Melissa, Juan, Destiny and Clyde loaded up drums and rattles, carried them onto campus for our drum circle, then packed them back up and took them away again on Saturday.

While “Sacred Lands” was an academic symposium, it was marked by a distinctly celebratory mood. Jon Leader of USC was genuinely pleased to be approached last year about collaborating on the symposium; he teaches the undergraduate anthropology course “Magic and Religion” using Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon as a text, as well as a film documentary of the Pendleton witch trial, and had met Hutton in England during a past visit. We at CHS were very happy to be deemed worthy of such a collaboration by our esteemed colleagues at this more than two centuries-old institution.

While some of our participants sat through the de-icing of their plane before departure, and others skirted tornadoes and flooding rains, Columbia, South Carolina, was dressed to impress in a spring display of flowering trees and swelling green. With weather in the low 80s, visitors soon shed their jackets to enjoy the sweet air on the historical part of the campus. (Professor Hutton commented that he loved the humid, warm air, which reminded him of his native India.) Spin-off outcomes from the symposium included discussions with potential new board members, CHS being approached by two publishers, the possibility of a new library volunteer, and many new relationships. While no plans have been made yet, USC has invited CHS to return in 2015 to do a next symposium, and Professor Hutton has offered to serve on our CHS Advisory Board.

What did we learn from this experience? Professor Hutton reminded us that we should be continually testing our assumptions, and that history is never completely written because we continue to learn and adjust our theories of the past. Hutton was also strongly affirming of Pagan practitioners, reminding us that the authenticity of our religion need not rest on ties with antiquity, though we may be proud that such ties exist.

An account of the symposium would be incomplete without reporting the two comments most frequently heard: that Hutton was “brilliant” and that he is one of the kindest and most courteous people one could ever hope to meet. But the event was about more than our illustrious keynoter. The variety of presenters and guests gave a rich texture to the weekend. Even with the depth of paper topics, a great many more aspects of the topic remained unaddressed, a fertile field for future gatherings and discussion.

[I would like to thank Holli Emore for taking the time to write a report on this symposium for The Wild Hunt's audience. For those wanting to hear more from Ronald Hutton, Cherry Hill Seminary has just posted a short interview with the historian.]

Pagan voices is a new spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution  in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Star Foster

Star Foster

“When I look at the trajectory of Jonathan Merritt’s life, I often think there but for the twist of fate go I. Had I stayed in that church, and in that culture, I don’t know that I would have become Pagan. My Pagan spiritual life was borne of having a vacuum, a space, in which to explore the concept of religion from a new perspective. If I had remained in that culture and church, I would likely be a frustrated minister’s wife today. I would have attended a Christian college and be putting in 20 hours a week at church. I read Jonathan’s writing, and sometimes it feels like the ghost ofthe-Star-that-might-have-been is speaking to me. In my adult life I have used Jonathan as a strange sort of window into the life I could have had.”Star Foster, on her shared childhood with Southern Baptist leader Jonathan Merritt, who was recently outed as being gay.

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

Dan Halloran (left) receiving the endorsement of the Queens County GOP. (Photo courtesy Queens County Republicans)

“I guess you asked the question by begging the question by saying your viewers don’t know about it, and it hasn’t impacted in my public life as a Council member [...] Again, race, religion, these are things that are non sequiturs to public office. I think, as Mitt Romney has gone through the machinations of his Mormonism being an issue, the more people turn it into an issue and sensationalize it, the more problematic it becomes for all of us.” – New York Republican congressional candidate Dan Halloran, responding to a request to explain his membership in a Pagan/Heathen organization. Halloran also says he hasn’t considered that, if elected, he’d be the only Pagan member of House, “because I look at myself as an American, so my concern is representing my constituents in the Halls of Congress.”

Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey

“If you want to connect with currents and thought-forms that take you back to antiquity, why not worship the deities that shaped antiquity? I’m sorry, but I’m always going to feel closer to my ancient pagan ancestors while doing ritual outdoors with the gods they worshipped. You can keep your air conditioning, and your lack of understanding concerning my religion. I don’t care whether or not people agree with my faith, but it’s certainly just as real as anything else.”Jason Mankey, responding to the same tired attacks that certain Christians always make towards Pagans, which they think are devastating, but really just miss the point.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“I want to continue to practice, to try, to live, as though your freedom is important. It is so easy to slip into self-centeredness. It is so easy to forget that we are connected, when all we can see is our own hurt, our own pain, our own needs. Restorative justice is not about subsuming my needs for yours. It is about saying ‘We are in this together. Can we remember that?’” – T. Thorn Coyle, from a tribute to Nelson Mandela on his birthday earlier this month.

Eli Effinger-Weintraub

Eli Effinger-Weintraub

“Here’s where I felt the deepest sense of spiritual connection: walking the two-mile mini-pilgrimage from my apartment to the Mississippi River, experiencing the wondrous aliveness of my body and humility in the presence of this ancient and majestic river. Ghost-writing letters to the editor for a conservation and renewable energy campaign, placing mind and hand in service to the Earth I loved. Making a game out of how many days in a row I could go without starting my car, challenging myself to do better, to be better, for Gaia.”Eli Effinger-Weintraub, from her Witches & Pagans blog.

Wendy Griffin

Wendy Griffin

“Most of what I did was deadly serious, and in the late 70s and 80s, pretty discouraging.  But I’m a fan of Saul Alinski’s and especially liked the part where he said something to the effect that you need to have fun while you are being political or you’ll burn out. Ok. He didn’t say exactly that, but that’s part of what I took from Rules for Radicals. A Zap action is one where you get in, make your point, and get out quickly. We decided that we would make a point about Bork’s stand against abortion and have fun while doing it. We had been so serious for so long. So, of course, three of us decided to attend as tap dancing sperm, performing a rousing chorus of Monte Python’s Every Sperm is Sacred.” - Pagan scholar Wendy Griffin, on being an activist, and having fun while doing it.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

“There’s a lot to recommend polytheism as a viable, sensible, and practical theological system to underlie one’s religious notions and spiritual practices. Star Foster has talked a bit about the fact that modern paganism is really the only modern religion that can lay claim to polytheism over and above all else (despite the disagreement with this assertion that some of the commenters on the entry had). The diversity it entails as a necessity; the mutual respect for other paths and multiple ways of doing things, even when it comes to approaching the same gods within the same overall cultural framework; the preference for multiple possible answers and a variety of truths as opposed to one singular, irrefutable, unquestionable, “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to most theological questions…and the list goes on. But, one thing that I also like about it, and that I think some people still tend to miss despite being polytheists in name, is that in a polytheistic framework, the gods are interdependent, not independent. No god arises in a vacuum, really, and thus no god is “bigger than” or “more important” than any other, because all of them rely on at least a few others, even for their very existence.”P. Sufenas Virius Lupus on the virtues of polytheism.

That’s all I have for now, 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!

Cherry Hill Seminary Names Two New Department Chairs: Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has announced the appointment of chairs for its Community Education and Pastoral Counseling departments.

Rev. Dr. David Oringderff speaks with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould during a dedication ceremony for the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle May 3, 2011. Oringderff is the executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation and represented the Earth-Centered Spirituality community during a religious respect conference at the Academy in November 2010. Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

Rev. Dr. David Oringderff speaks with Lt. Gen. Mike Gould during a dedication ceremony for the Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle May 3, 2011. Oringderff is the executive director of the Sacred Well Congregation and represented the Earth-Centered Spirituality community during a religious respect conference at the Academy in November 2010. Gould is the Academy superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)

“Cherry Hill Seminary is pleased to announce two new academic appointments.  Valentine McKay-Riddell, Ph.D., is the new chair of Pagan Community Education, and David Oringderff, Ph.D., is the new chair of the Department of Pagan Pastoral Counseling.

A long-time professor for the department, Oringderff is well known for his role in the founding of Sacred Well Congregation, as well as many years of advocacy on behalf of Pagans in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Oringderff is a graduate of Dallas Baptist University, and holds an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University (Maryland) and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from The Union Institute School of Professional Psychology in Cincinnati, Ohio. [...] The second new appointment is that of Valentine McKay-Riddell, Ph.D., as Chair of Pagan Community Education (PCE).  McKay-Riddell is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and a member of the adjunct faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, where she earned a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology.”

Academic Dean Wendy Griffin, Ph.D., noted that Oringderff’s “combination of broad life experience and professional background are what our students need as they prepare to serve in the real world. As more and more individuals serving in the military turn to Cherry Hill Seminary for training for ministry, Dr. Oringderff’s extensive network will be a tremendous asset.” Our congratulations to both Valentine McKay-Riddell and David Oringderff on their new roles within CHS. You can read more about these appointments, and CHS, here.

An Interview With Langley Air Force Base’s New Wiccan Representative: While we’re on the subject of pastoral duties to Pagans in the military, Dead Hour Radio will be featuring an interview with Langley Air Force Base’s new Wiccan representative this Sunday. The host of the show, Carrie Lynn, is an Air Force veteran who started the very first Wicca group at Langley in 2000.

“This Sunday at 10pm EST, on our show we are hosting Langley AFB NEW Wiccan representative to talk about military pagan issues today and the Wiccan faith.”

You can read more about Pagans in the Air Force, here. You can read a piece written by Carrie back in 2000, here. It should be an interesting and enlightening show!

PaganSpace Moving to Member-Owned and Run Model: The Pagan social networking site PaganSpace is moving to a member-owned and run model. In a message to members, outgoing owner Starrfire Price explains the reasons for the change, and how the transition process will work.

“Following a recent announcement regarding the desire to sell PaganSpace I came to the conclusion that the best way to assure the future of PaganSpace is to basically sell it back to the community thus allowing PaganSpace to be placed into the hands of the community who helped bring it to where it is today.

I’ll still be on the site daily and retain admin privileges, I’ll also be training all the new people who step into their positions. I will also be remaining on the board of directors at 10%, under a newly formed corporation (PaganSpace, Inc) that will be formed once the polling ends and board members are elected. I’ll also retain the network site and the domain names for at least the first year (those things will be placed into the corporation name but I know no one will have the means to harm the site with it remaining in my hands). So, I’m not technically going anywhere but I will be freeing up time to complete the many goals and tasks that are in front of me.”

A FAQ has been up for contributors, and those who’d like to have a hand in running the site. PaganSpace is one the few survivors of the DIY social networking boom from a few years ago, a time that saw many Pagan-themed social networking hubs emerge. It will be interesting to see how they progress under this new model, and I wish them luck.

Other Community Notes:

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

Top Story: The planned movie adaptation of Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” has officially launched its Kickstarter fundraising campaign (complete with fundraising pitch video featuring Starhawk). They are looking to raise $60,000 dollars in 60 days. There has been just over $10,000 dollars pledged in the first two days. The money will be used to make a professional pitch video to the major film studios.

“Now we’re asking for your support.  What will we do with the money?  You’ve seen in the video some of the brilliant artists who inspire us, and who want to work with us.  With your help, we’ll be able to create the next phase; designs for sets and costumes, visuals of key scenes, and storyboards for the action.  We can secure the rights to the music and art we need, and do those dull but oh-so-necessary things like finalizing contracts, budgets and financial plans.  To ensure that we are able to continue to develop the strongest possible project, we estimate that we’ll need about double our Kickstarter campaign goal of $60,000, and we’re certain that with your help, along with the tremendous support we’ve been receiving from our entire community, we can do it.”

The official website for the film is here.  They are also encouraging folks to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. If this succeeds it will be the largest sum of money collectively raised on the Internet for a campaign originating with modern Pagans. Doubling what was raised earlier this year for Japan relief. I’ll have more on this project soon, hopefully including an interview with Starhawk about the proposed film.

Interview with Iceland’s Allsherjargoði: Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried at The Norse Mythology Blog interviews Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, chief priest of Iceland’s Ásatrúarfélagið. In the interview they discuss art, mythology, working with Sigur Rós, and the question of pre-Christian survivals (among other things).

KS – Do you see contemporary Ásatrú in Iceland as a continuation of a living tradition that goes back to ancient times, as a recreation and revival of a practice that had ended, as a descendent of 19th century nationalist romantic mysticism, as a post-war rejection of modernity, or as a post-1960s counterculture movement?

HÖH – I think, probably, I would say “yes” to all those things. The influence of this seems to resonate with Icelanders. The poems never really went away, and they’ve been treasured ever since they were handed down orally and written down. I’m pretty certain that the people in the learned places of Oddi and Reykholt and [elsewhere] were reading Ovid and Roman mythology, and they realized, “My god, we have this thinghere which is a living and vibrant thing, and this is what my great-grandfather believed in,” and stuff like that. I think it never really went away.

It was said – after the conversion in 1000 or 999 – that you could not worship the old gods except in secrecy. That was part of the truce. People carried on secret worship for at least two centuries. I don’t think it ever really went away. To illustrate that, I met this old man in the shop yesterday. He came up to me and shook my hand, and he told me that – when he was confirmed in the early 1920s – his grandmother came to him and gave him a book with the Eddic poems and said, “You should read that, because this is what we also believe.” She thought, “Christianity is okay, but you should not forget your roots.” Ha! I think that’s really a telling story.

The whole thing is worth a read, and that’s only part one! Check out the entire blog, which is chock-full of interesting interviews, including one with Jóhanna G. Harðardóttir of the Ásatrúarfélagið.

A Wiccaning at PSG: Cara Schulz from PNC-Minnesota has posted a brief report and pictures of a Wiccaning that took place earlier this week at the 2011 Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois.


“Rev. Fox blessed the child with element of earth, air, water, fire, and spirit and gifted Arden with a feather found on site.  Arden enjoyed the first half of the ceremony, especially when Fox played peek-a-boo with him.  But as the sun came out, so did some tears.  Rev. Fox noted that was just what Arden should expect from  life, times of laughter and times of tears.  The parents, Kidril and Twitch, then gave their baby his first drum and gave him their blessings.  The community was then invited to grant Arden blessings such as friendship, comfort, peace, and love.”

I realize that a Wiccaning (or ‘saining’) at a festival isn’t the biggest news, but I don’t feel enough attention is paid to our faiths outside of big events or inadvertent scandals. Depictions of modern Pagans living their faith, going through life’s many transitions, can be an important tool for outreach and understanding. I’d like to thank Selena Fox, Kidril, Twitch, and Arden for agreeing to share this moment with the world.

My Take on Religious Exemptions: My latest panelist response for the Washington Post’s On Faith section is now up. This time I tackled the issue of religious exemptions in New York’s proposed gay marriage bill.

“Often overlooked in this wrangling over exemptions are religious groups that fully support equal rights and protections for all American citizens, even the gay ones. Gay marriage is almost wholly uncontroversial among modern Pagan faiths. Druid group Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF)has “never believed that the institution of marriage could possibly be threatened by the existence of married people of any gender,” while Pagan scholar Michael York, author of “Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion,”underlines that sentiment by proclaiming that “freedom has to be the highest Pagan goal and virtue.” Gay marriage has been endorsed by notable Pagan leaders like my fellow co-panelist Starhawk, along with leading Pagan organizations like Covenant of the Goddess (COG) and Cherry Hill Seminary. Yet, despite this, few seem unconcerned that one religious moral view concerning marriage is allowed to override another. The simple fact is that certain Christian and Catholic groups are used to getting their way, and it matters little to them if a moral world-view they endorse overrules the world-views of other religious groups. So the more exemptions granted, the more we’re tacitly saying a socially conservative Judeo-Christian approach to these issues is the de facto “religious” perspective.”

You can read my entire response, here. You can responses from the entire panel, here.

In Other News:

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

If one topic dominated the Pagan web this week it has to be repercussions over the exclusion of transgendered women at a public women-only ritual during this year’s PantheaCon, and the subsequent discussions between Dianic Goddess worshipers, transgender advocates, and eventually, Pagans of all stripes, that emerged from it. When I first mentioned the matter on Sunday, only a few sites were addressing the issue, that ballooned by Tuesday, grew further the next day once official statements were released by CAYA Coven and PantheaCon organizers, and has now gone truly viral in scope. One of my entries relating to this discussion has garnered around 400 comments, and the topic is buzzing on Pagan blogs, social networks, e-lists, and message boards.

I’m going to provide a fresh round-up of voices on this issue, but first I wanted to quickly touch on why this one incident, clearly not intended to cause hurt or offense by CAYA organizers, has grown into a far larger conversation than many could have foreseen. In short, CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.

Here are a new batch of links relating to this discussion:

We are at a crossroads now with this discussion, and despite a few sour notes, most of exchanges I’ve seen have been reasoned, open, empathetic, passionate, and willing to create a dialog that is inclusive and productive. I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. I think the future that Foxfetch demands will become a reality far quicker than any of us might realize, and that modern Paganism, a movement so ready to accept change, challenges, and differences, yet still remain identifiable and vital, will ultimately benefit from it. The collective maturity and willingness we’ve displayed so far in these discussions is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this time they will say “this is when transgendered Pagans began to receive the full embrace and respect of their coreligionists.”

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!

Selena Fox & Southern Pagans: The latest issue of Witches & Pagans is now out, featuring a cover story on Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox and an in-depth look at modern Pagans living in the American South by Hank Eder.

But it’s not just the stars of the movement that deserve our recognition and support. Hundreds of thousands of Pagans live — quietly, passionately, devoted to their faith — in every part of the Western world. Some may believe that its impossible to be Pagan — especially out of the Broom Closet — in the so-called “Bible Belt” of America. But, in fact, there are many thousands of Pagans that live — and thrive — in the American South. Meet them, and learn more about what it’s like to be Pagan in a deeply Christian region in our 13-page story “Southern, Pagan & Proud” (complete with a directory of over 100 Pagan groups and stores in the Deep South.)

The piece on Southern Pagans is worth the price of admission alone, the kind of in-depth work that print publications should be pursuing in this era of instant and immediate news. You can browse a preview of the issue, here. You can also purchase a PDF download version of magazine, or become a subscriber.

Cherry Hill Seminary Names New Academic Dean: Preeminent online Pagan learning institution Cherry Hill Seminary has appointed academic and sociologist Wendy Griffin, Ph.D. as their new Academic Dean.

Perhaps the first American academic to be openly Pagan, Wendy has published numerous academic articles on Pagan women’s groups and is the editor of Daughters of the Goddess: Studies of Healing, Identity and Empowerment, a 13-essay survey of contemporary Feminist Witchcraft and Goddess Spirituality by British and American writers.  She is a founding co-chair of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group in the American Academy of Religion, and serves on the editorial board of Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. Wendy recently completed work as co-editor of the first scholarly series in Pagan Studies published through an academic press, AltaMira.

Griffin said of her appointment, “I am excited about being part of Cherry Hill Seminary and making a contribution to the growing reputation and professionalization of the Seminary. When I entered the academic world as a brand new Ph.D. 26 years ago, I had no idea I would be able to end my career helping to build an institution that would serve such a diverse and committed international community.”

Fellow Pagan academic Chas Clifton says on his blog that CHS “made a good choice,” and praises Griffin’s ability and acumen. This is certainly a major recruiting coup for CHS, one that places them in an excellent position as they move forward towards accreditation and building a robust faculty. Congratulation to both Griffin and CHS (full disclosure: I have both taught and worked with CHS in a professional capacity).

Treadwell’s Big Move: First-rate esoteric London book shop Treadwell’s is moving into a bigger space in February.

“Treadwell’s will Moving in February 2011! It is good news, as we move to a slightly larger place in Bloomsbury, north of the British Museum – 33 Store Street, WC1. Do come and pay final visits to the much-loved (cosily cramped) shop in Tavistock Street in the next weeks. We’ve been filling the shop to the hilt with new books, rare books, featured books and gifts. We warmly invite you to visit in person. And friends overseas, we will gladly post mail orders to you of special books. We do vouchers, too, which are a favourite gift.”

You can see a video of the old shop, along with owner Christina Oakley-Harrington, above. Congratulations to a worthy business on their success and expansion!

Patheos Begins Wiccan Series: The Pagan portal at Patheos.com will be focusing on Wicca in January, the beginning of new series that will focus on a different Pagan tradition every month in 2011. Many noted thinkers and practitioners within Wicca will be participating, and readers are invited to send in their responses as well. Portal manager Star Foster has already posted the first question for the start of the Wicca series on January 3rd.

We will be launching a similar series on January 3rd as part of our monthly focus on different Pagan traditions in 2011. We will be putting the spotlight on Wicca in January and here’s our first question: What makes someone Wiccan? Dedication? Initiation? Practice? Belief? If you’d like to weigh in just e-mail me your short response (250-500 words) before Jan 3rd. It’s sfoster at patheos.com.

I look forward to seeing the responses, as well as the future series on other Pagan religions.

That’s all I have for now, I hope all of you have a great 2011!