Archives For Witch School

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!

Pagan Studies Journal The Pomegranate Releases New Issue: At his blog, editor Chas Clifton announces that issue 13.2 of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies is now available online. There are number of interesting pieces, including two free review articles, one from Tamara Ingels on shamanic artist Joska Soos, and one from historian Ronald Hutton entitled: “Revisionism and Counter-Revisionism in Pagan History.”

Good Hutton Pic

Ronald Hutton

“During the past few years, a series of heated arguments have broken out among Pagans across the Western world, but much more particularly in North America and Australia, about the historical context of modern Paganism. This has been provoked by extensive scholarly revision of the traditional portrait of that context, which has caused dismay and anger among some Pagans. Their reactions have in turn produced similar emotions among some of their co-religionists and professional scholars (the two groups often overlapping). This review essay is intended to clarify the issues that are being debated; to examine the potential for Pagans to write their own history; to look at points at which the arguments may have provided useful historical insights; and to suggest a likely outcome for the controversy.”

I can already hear the partisans regarding Hutton preparing their talking points, but I do hope everyone reads the article first, as Hutton attempts to explore the recent trends of revisionism and counter-revisionism in Pagan history, notes places where he has changed his thinking, and suggests a way forward for all parties. He also, if I may indulge my ego for a moment, name-drops The Wild Hunt.

For those not terribly invested in the ongoing debates regarding Hutton’s work, let me urge you to subscribe to The Pomegranate, as subscribers also get access to fascinating articles like: “Robert Cochrane and the Gardnerian Craft: Feuds, Secrets and Mysteries in Contemporary British Witchcraft” by Ethan Doyle White,  “The Heart of Thelema: Morality, Amorality, and Immorality in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Cult” by Mogg Morgan, and more. This is the beating heart of Pagan Studies, and we should treasure the work they do.

Witch School International Welcomes New Leadership: Popular online learning hub Witch School International has named a new leadership team. The new team includes  Lindsay Irvin, Director of Operations, David Moore, President of Tarot College, and Chief Technician Mike Ferrell will become Witch School’s new CEO. Outgoing CEO Ed Hubbard praised Ferrell’s skills, and said that “he has a deep understanding of how the Internet works, as well as working with global members. He will also be able to implement the move into other forms of interface such as tablet and mobile. WSI, Inc. is facing a wonderful future; Michael is the individual who will lead that effort.” In addition, Rev. Don Lewis announced that he was stepping down as Chancellor  of Witch School, though he will still take an active role in developing content for Witch School in the years ahead.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO is second from the right.

Witch School circa 2007, Rev. Don Lewis is in the center, and incoming WSI CEO Mike Ferrell is second from the right.

“Some people are asking if I will still be Chancellor of Witch School. The answer to this is no. This last year has necessitated many changes, and I have found that I cannot effectively be Chancellor of both Witch School and Chancellor of the Correllian Tradition. Witch School is independent of the Tradition with widely different duties best handled by Michael and Lindsay. I will however continue to be highly involved with Witch School. I will be continuing to provide content for Witch School, Tarot College, and Magick TV, and I am very happy in that role. In particular I have spent much of the last year working on the long-anticipated Correllian video lessons which will be making their debut soon, and which I feel will be a revolutionary development in their way. I am also working on a variety of other instructional materials for the future.”

As for Hubbard, who with the Rev. Don Lewis helped shape Witch School, he will, quote, “act as a support consultant, to ease the changeover to new leadership.” He will also remain active in the Pagans Tonight Radio Network. We wish them the best of luck during this time of change and transition.

Pictures from Patrick McCollum’s India Trip: For those of you who enjoyed my article about Pagan chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum participating in the Kumbh Mela, the Patrick McCollum Foundation has started to post photos of his experiences there.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum participates in a blessing at the Sangam.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

Patrick McCollum and H. H. Puja Swami Saraswati set an example on how to restore the beauty of the sacred Ganges River by personally mucking trash.

“We must be the example of what we want to see.  If we want our brothers and sisters to honor our planet, we cannot walk on flower petals and drink milk and honey.  We must instead choose the filthiest example of what we want to change and get down in the mud and clean it up.”Patrick McCollum, in a statement to Indian press about mucking trash in the Ganges River.

For more updates stay tuned to the Patrick McCollum Foundation blog and Facebook page.

In Other Community News: 

  • Coru Cathubodua Priesthood and Solar Cross Temple are hosting a devotional blood drive at this year’s PantheaCon in San Jose. Quote: “Every three seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. The Coru Priesthood and Solar Cross are hosting this blood drive as an act of kinship, hospitality and devotion to our community and to the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of sovereignty, prophecy, and battle. We encourage all people to donate the gift of life, whether in the name of your own deities, the Morrigan or without devotional intent.” Interested parties should register, here, and use the sponsor code “PCon.” More here.
  • The excellent Invocatio blog announces that the Network for the Study of Esotericism in Antiquity (NSEA) has launched their new website, AncientEsotericism.org. Quote: “The website is designed as a one-stop resource for pretty much every thing you might want to study in antiquity. (Seriously, the amount of things we have collected in one place is massive!) Even more, it is hoped that through the contributions of others working in the field the website will continue to grow.”
  • CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism, and Neo-Nazism, have issued an official statement of solidarity with the Idle No More movement. They also counsel non-Native/Indigenous/First Nations peoples against appropriation or hijacking the movement from its primary focus. Quote: “We urge our members and supporters of CAORANN to support Idle No More if their conscience leads them to do so. But we ask that non-Natives attend Idle No More events to support the Indigenous people, and to follow their guidance – to be there in solidarity, not to try to lead, and to listen more than they speak. We stress that this is a movement led by Indigenous women, and we are committed to making sure that remains the case.”
  • Ethan Doyle White at Albion Calling has posted the most recent interview with Pagan Studies scholars, this time with Caroline Tully. Quote: “Most Pagan Studies scholars seem to be in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, religious studies, theology, history and archaeology. I didn’t go to university in order to be a Pagan Studies scholar specifically, but to study ancient pagan religions and to compare them with modern Paganism.”

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

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at PanDianic.org by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!

On April 21st, Katrina Kessler, known by many in the Pagan community as Foxglove, passed away after a car accident in San Diego, California. An up-and-coming figure in our community, Kessler worked at the World of Witches Museum in Salem, starred in, and helped produce, “The Young Witches of Salem,” did reporting and production work with MagickTV, and hosted the video series “Foxglove’s Lost and Found.” Shortly before her death she was working with a community service organization called The Circle in California.

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

Katrina "Foxglove" Kessler

“Katrina had left the Museum and moved on to California, where she was part of a group who traveled around to help Pagans in need. Katrina and I still spoke frequently and were still working on collaborative projects. We last spoke just a few days ago, which all the more grateful for now, and in that conversation she spoke about being very happy with her new life and the directions it was taking her in. That is how I will always remember her, not as the omni-competent Museum Manager, nor as the gifted video artist, but as a passionate and idealistic young woman hurtling into a bright future that truly excited her. Her soul’s journeys will take her to a different future now than we spoke of that night, but one that I pray will be just as bright and as exciting to her in its own way.” Rev. Don Lewis, The Correllian Tradition

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

Katrina Kessler, Selena Fox & Lexi Renee at PantheaCon 2012

“I am thankful that I was able to spend time with Katrina Kessler on several occasions, including as part of my speaking engagements in Salem, Massachusetts in 2010, and most recently at PantheaCon 2012 in San Jose, California this past February.  Katrina was bright, caring, creative, & dedicated to helping others.  Like a shining comet, she brought a beautiful brilliance to this world and was gone too quickly.  May we take comfort in knowing that she lives on in the cherished memories of those of us who knew her, in the lives she enriched with her service & wit, & in her creative works.  Blessed Be.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

“In our community, leaders emerge in each generation that make a difference. In Katrina was that wonderful balance of compassion, intelligence and drive that made her a effective young leader. Her goals were to help organizations that would make a difference, and she was learning from the leadership directly. Even though she had her life cut short, as the Goddess so needed her elsewhere, she had already been a major force for creating a movement for Young Pagans, through her video and her actions. She is an example that the next generation of Pagans can be and are truly amazing. I will truly miss her physical presence and honor her spirit for what she taught me.”Ed Hubbard, Witch School International

Author and prominent Salem-based business-owner Christian Day said that “she was a warm, kind, and magical person. Those closest to her have been blessed with a most wonderful guide in the realms of spirit.” Terry Milton, “The Stone Lady,” who worked closely with Kessler, adored her “enthusiasm for life, and her ability to inspire others.”

“During the fall, Katrina did daily postings of the “wisdom of the elders” on Facebook, and collected words of inspiration or advice or wisdom from you and I, Therese, Phaedra and “elders” associated with the museum. I often thought it was ironic that Katrina was asking for our “wisdoms”  when she appeared to have  so much more wisdom in her short years than all of the “elders” combined.”

There will be a wake at the Dockray and Thomas Funeral Home in Canton, MA, on Sunday from 4 – 8. The Memorial service will be at 10 AM on the morning of Beltane Eve. There is a page at the Dockray site where people may leave condolences for Katrina’s family. There will also be an on-air memorial for Katrina on Pagans Tonight Radio on Friday, May 4, at 8 PM Central / 9 Eastern.

Speaking personally, it is always a great loss when our future leaders, activists, and thinkers are struck down prematurely. Sometimes, I think that there is such an emphasis on our elders and “big name Pagans,” and who will inherit their mantles in the next ten or fifteen years, that we sometimes don’t see the young people in their teens and twenties who are absorbing our teachings, attending our talks and rituals, and volunteering for our efforts. The men and women who will represent us to future generations. I had heard from Ed Hubbard that Foxglove had very much wanted to meet and speak with me at PantheaCon 2012, and I now very much regret that this never happened. We always assume that with the young there will always be more time; years, decades, of time to make a connection, to pass the torch, but fortune can be fickle, and we can lose our brightest sparks in an instant.

If there is a lesson in the tragic passing of Katrina “Foxglove” Kessler, it is to always honor the contributions of the young, to make passing the torch a daily occurrence, and to ensure that “Pagan community” is always a multi-generational endeavor. May Foxglove rest in the arms of the gods, and return to us again.

Last weekend saw the World of Witches Museum in Salem, Massachusetts permanently close its doors. Opened in the Summer of 2010, the museum represented “a coming of age for the Witch movement, which allows us to recognize that we do have a history worthy of sharing” according to Rev. Don Lewis, Curator of the Museum, and chief executive officer of the Correllian Nativist Tradition. However, due to a string of  misfortunes, staying open was no longer a viable option. In a statement sent to The Wild Hunt, Rev. Don Lewis recounted the many challenges the museum faced, and the health problems that  finally made him decide that closing was the best option.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

Rev. Don Lewis and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll at the museum's opening.

“This last Halloween season was especially hard for a lot of Salem businesses. The whole season was somewhat slow, but the snowstorm on Saturday of Halloween weekend, which would be anticipated as the biggest shopping day of the season, was devastating. I had hoped that this winter would be better than the previous one and it turned out to be as mild a winter as the previous year’s winter had been severe -but in a town geared to a single holiday off season business was just as hard and slow with a mild winter. A number of Salem businesses have found it necessary to either close or move to new locations this spring, especially in the Pickering Wharf area.

At the beginning of the March I found myself in the hospital with cardiac problems exacerbated by stress and exhaustion. It was made clear to me that I needed to make some changes in my life and could no longer sustain the workload I had been carrying. Although there were people I could trust and rely upon to help in the short term, and they did help tremendously, there was no one available that I could see as a long term manager for the Museum. Closing the Museum was a very hard choice, but it is one I felt I had to make.”

The World of Witches Museum is the second Witch-related business in the Pickering Wharf area to close its doors in recent months. In January, Laurie Cabot, Salem, Massachusetts’ official Witch, announced that she would be closing the doors of The Official Witch Shoppe at the end of that month, bringing to an end Cabot’s 42-year run of owning and operating Witch-related stores in Salem. Some observers, including Salem business-owner and promoter Christian Day, noted that in addition to a weak Halloween season in 2011, tourist foot traffic has shifted somewhat away from the Pickering Wharf area towards the renovated Peabody Essex Museum and the Bewitched statue.

“I think there are a constellation of issues keeping the Wharf in the situation it’s in. As Ed [Hubbard] pointed out, my own marketing of my shops on Essex Street has probably contributed to the shift in foot traffic to that area but I have, over the years, hosted events there in hopes of spreading around the work that I do but it was hard to make it work due to the space limitations of venues. A huge factor in the popularity of Essex Street is the 2002 renovation of the Peabody Essex Museum, which created an enormous buzz around the street. The Bewitched Statue brought people even further down, which is what inspired me to put HEX at it’s slightly off-the-path location. As a member of Destination Salem, we’ve often discussed ways of encouraging that area to help market itself better but it was hard sometimes to get buy-in. My own opinion is that the landlord needed to do a lot more as the owner of the space to brand it more clearly as a shopping and dining destination. Laurie Cabot has, perhaps, the most recognizable brand of all of us, including the Peabody Essex Museum, and she had trouble at the Wharf as well. I think, though, that the largest factor is probably the economy. With so many people unemployed and money as tight as it is, I think people are spending more carefully. We’ve had at least two closings on Essex Street recently so the downturn is effecting people there as well. While both my shops and Crow Haven Corner are doing well, both Lorelei and I have had to spend quite a bit of money in advertising to maintain that success. It’s a hamster wheel that’s not easy to keep running on but we’re determined. That said, I don’t think I could make it work at Pickering Wharf myself.”

One obvious question is how this closing will affect the larger Correllian Tradition, and Witch School, the successful Internet-based learning program that has been closely intertwined. According to Ed Hubbard, a Correllian Elder and CEO of Witch School International, the closing would make no difference in the day-to-day operations of the school. Meanwhile, many of the museum’s Correllian-oriented artifacts and exhibits are being moved to the Sacred Sea Temple in Georgia, overseen by Stephanie Neal, Temple Head and Arch Priestess within the tradition. Neal expressed that she felt the museum, ultimately, was a good idea that moved the Pagan community forward.

“Even though the World of Witches Museum had a relatively short life span, it greatly advanced Pagan thought, to the wider community and its influence continues to reaffirm it was a good decision to open the Museum.”

While Salem has become the epicenter of Halloween in America in recent years, that’s no guarantee of success, especially in these uncertain times as we slowly crawl our way out of one of the worst recessions in our nation’s history. New businesses are especially susceptible to failure, and just one factor not going right can make things unsustainable. The World of Witches Museum faced many challenges, and in the end, the smarter move was to walk away than lose money or further risk the health of the curator. No doubt the Correllian Nativist TraditionWitch School, and other related projects like Pagans Tonight will continue their impressive successful track-records, learning important lessons from this experience. I wish them all well, and hope that Rev. Don Lewis makes a full recovery.

Modern Pagan religions are growing, this is a fact backed up by surveys and census data, and many believe that we are growing even faster than these somewhat imprecise methods can track. Historian Ronald Hutton has estimated that there may be as many as a quarter of a million Pagans in the United Kingdom, far more than the figure of 40,000 from the 2001 census, and Pagan groups in Australia and Britain have engaged in campaigns that they hope will bring in census results closer to their own estimates. That said, until we get better figures, better surveys, we have to go by what we have. That means around 40,000 Pagans in the UK, around 30,000 Pagans in Australia, around 22,000 Pagans in Canada, and recent Pew Forum and ARIS data that places modern Paganism hovering somewhere around a million adherents (give or take a hundred thousand or two) in the United States.

Not going to become the 3rd largest religious group any time soon.

Not going to become the 3rd largest religious group any time soon.

However, even if we grant that the larger estimates by friendly scholars and movement insiders are more accurate (and I’m hoping 2011 census data will bear our larger estimates out), that would still only mean around 3-5 million modern (ie “neo,” revivalist, and reconstructionist) Pagans worldwide. We are far from taking anything over, despite our advances and achievements. Yet the mere idea of Paganism’s return has sparked some atavistic fears within certain segments of Christianity, and has caused them to use shoddy estimates to falsely bolster our numbers in order scare their audiences into buying products. Many are gloomily predicting that Wicca will soon be America’s third-largest religion. Naturally, what scares certain conservative Christians excites some Pagans, leading them to use these explosive estimates to their own ends.

Wicca is America’s Fastest Growing religion, and it is anticipated by some Christian religious experts that it will become the third largest religion in the United States early in the 21st century, behind only Christianity and Islam. Just this week, a press release for the new book God’s Ghostbusters, by Defender Publishing quoted editor Thomas Horn “In the United States alone, there are now more than two hundred thousand registered witches and as many as 8 million unregistered practitioners of ‘the craft’.”

Witch School Co-Founder Ed Hubbard recognizes that the statements and numbers put out by Horn are similar to his own viewpoint. Hubbard offers “There is such a rapid spiritual reorientation in America occurring, that the need for thousands of Wiccan teachers over the course of the next decade will be required to meet the demand for basic teachings. Because of Wicca’s liberating beliefs and useful skills, people want to understand and embrace it, and learn how to awaken their inner abilities.”

That’s from a brand-new press release issued by Witch School, using these largely invented figures to sell their product. In fact, Witch School co-founder Ed Hubbard knows Horn’s figures are overblown, because he told me so right here at The Wild Hunt.

“I know how they got the 8 million. It has to do with a series of articles from 2005. Basically if we had doubled every eighteen months as we did in the beginning, we would be facing 8 million. I know much of where this is coming from. I can give the strange math if you ever want it.”

In fact that there is a “spiritual reorientation” going on in the West, but it isn’t really about modern Paganism. The numbers point to growing numbers of the religiously unaffiliated more than anything else. That may be good for us societally speaking, and may even spark some growth, but we aren’t the primary recipients of this shift into post-Christianity. Witch School may have had over 200,000 people take classes with them, but I highly doubt they’ve managed a 100% retention rate of students who stuck with Wicca or some other form of modern Paganism over the years.

Speaking frankly, I think it does our movement no favors to peddle misinformation and wishful thinking in order to self-promote. Spreading inaccurate narratives, no matter how positive they may seem, actually harms our attempts to establish ourselves. Muddying waters with “strange math” simply sets us up as opportunistic self-promoters instead of building the bridges we need in areas like chaplaincy, intrafaith, and interfaith work. I’m disappointed that a popular Pagan service would validate the Christians who want to see us as a encroaching menace, even if may flatter our conceptions of rapid growth. The narrative of explosive growth does us no good, I hope that Pagans will drop it in favor of statistical data that will support our claims.

Just a few quick news notes for your Saturday.

Thorn Coyle Launches New Video Series: Pagan author and mentor T. Thorn Coyle has announced the launch of a new subscription video teaching series entitled Fiat LVX. For $20 dollars per month subscribers will have access to two professionally produced instructional and informational videos featuring T. Thorn Coyle each month.

“The first installment will examine a different spiritual idea as it directly relates to our lives; the second video will guide you through the steps of putting that concept into direct experience. A forum led by Morningstar Mentors and Thorn will enable you to ask questions, delve into your experience with other participants, and hopefully inspire us all to keep practicing! Twice monthly practice prompts will support and further the work.

Topics include: Becoming the priestess, able to mediate the space between the Twin Pillars of yes and no, push and pull, light and dark. The power of Integrative Magick that enables us to bring all parts of life to bear on our great work. Aligning the parts of our soul, connecting our animal, human, and divine natures. The series will grow and expand over time, facilitating our own growth and expansion.”

Funds raised through Fiat LVX will go into covering production costs, with any remainder being funneled into the non-profit Pagan organization Solar Cross. While there have been Pagan instructional videos in the past, and a growing number of Pagans are utilizing Internet video and communication services to conduct classes, I believe this is a unique service, particularly considering the professional production values.

Ten Years of Fort Bragg Open Circle: Today, Fort Bragg Open Circle, one of the longest-running Pagan military groups in the United States, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Attending and speaking at the event is Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, who had this to say about this milestone in the group’s history.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary

“The Fort Bragg Open Circle is one of the oldest and longest running Pagan military groups in the United States of America. Also known by its original name, Bragg Pope Open Circle, it has been providing ceremonies, education, and other support for Pagans at Fort Bragg since its founding in 2001. It was among the Pagan military groups that took part in the successful quest to have the US Department of Veterans Affairs add the pentacle to its list of emblems of belief that can be included on veteran gravemarkers. I look forward to being part of the Fort Bragg Open Circle’s 10th Anniversary activities on Saturday and celebrating this milestone for this group — and for Paganism as a whole!”

The Fort Bragg Open Circle was formed not long after some conservative politicians, specifically former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr,  tried to institute a ban on modern Pagans in the military. That uproar in 1999 would echo for another decade, denying military Pagans the full honor and respect they deserve. So here’s to the Fort Bragg Open Circle for standing up and being out during a time when it truly was risky to do so. Congratulations on your 10th anniversary!

The Young Witches of Salem: Tonight sees the premiere of “The Young Witches of Salem,” a reality web series produced by Ed Hubbard of Witch School that follows a group of young Witches living in Salem, Massachusetts during the city’s busiest month of the year.

“October 1st, 2011 With the cool fall winds of fall and we enter the month of October, America turns to Halloween, seeking out fun and entertainment. Starting Saturday Night, October 1st, the world will be able to visit the Halloween Capital of the World, Salem, Massachusetts, aka The Witch City and follow the exploits of real live Witches during the Haunted Happenings Season. The Young Witches of Salem will begin broadcasting their own web series and sharing their lives as part of the season. The series will follow The Young Witches Lexi Renee, Caitlin Rose, Peter Murphy and Danielle Young as they learn their craft from Salem leaders and Witch Elders, while dealing with the daily reality of their jobs, school, and personal lives. They are inviting the world to become part of the celebration known as Haunted Happenings, as seen through their eyes.

The cast members are not actors, but real members of the Witch community, a community that extends far beyond Salem itself, and they each have a different way of looking at the world. The web series will allow each of the Young Witches to have their individual voice and will allow the audience to have a voice as well with the inclusion of interactive video.”

I believe all the videos in this series will be posted to the MagickTV Youtube account for those who’d like to follow it there. It should be interesting to see how this develops, and who gets involved. Good luck to the Young Witches!

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

Just a few quick news notes to start off your Monday.

American Mystic Director on Pagan Centered Podcast: The Pagan Centered Podcast has just posted its latest episode, featuring an hour-long discussion with Alex Mar, director of the new documentary “American Mystic”. You can download the program, here.

“The PCP Crew interviews Alex Mar of American Mystic, the first movie branded as a Pagan movie to be released to the general public in theaters! The crew discusses their thoughts about the movie with Alex and we all explore the movie at a greater depth. Don’t worry, even though we screened the full movie, we were able to negotiate the right to release the trailer to you as part of this episode so you will have some idea about what we are talking about. Special thanks again to Alex Mar and Empire 8 for making this happen on such short notice!”

Alex and “American Mystic” has been making the rounds of Pagan media lately, doing interviews with The Modern Witch Podcast (not to mention The Wild Hunt), and receiving positive reviews from a number of national Pagan outlets. The DVD will be available for sale at PantheaCon, and will be distributed exclusively to the Pagan community for a few months, before going “wide” this Summer on Netflix and iTunes. This year’s Pantheacon will feature a special screening of “American Mystic”, which will be followed by a Q&A led by me with the director, Morpheus Ravenna, and members of Stone City Pagan Sanctuary.

Witch School Names New President: The Internet-based WitchSchool has named Rev. Anna Rowe, Head of School for Europe and the UK, as the learning institution’s new president.

“Towards the end of January Ed Hubbard CEO of Witchschool asked me to consider the position of President of Witchschool. Ed has said that he has faith and trust in me to do the job so therefore I accepted. I have an extensive knowledge of how Witchschool works from the bottom up as I have been a member of Witchschool since it was originally just the Daily Spell going out via email. [...] I hope that every member of Witchschool will support me in our continued effort to provide anyone, anytime, anyplace with a Magical, Pagan and Wiccan Education. Witchschool is a valuable and growing aspect of the Pagan and Wiccan community and we are open to anyone who wishes to become a member and participate in our peer to peer learning.”

CEO Ed Hubbard commented that this move shows “that Witch School can develop global Pagan leadership.” While WitchSchool has drawn quite a bit of criticism and controversy during its existence, it has also developed a truly global network of students and practitioners, boasting ties from India to Brazil. Will the appointment of a president outside the United States denote a new focus on its international students? How will this affect their Salem campus? I’ll be paying attention as these issues develop.

A (Witchy) Romanian Valentine For You: The Canadian Press notes that a number of Romanian witches, led by Witch Queen Mihaela Minca, have performed a public ritual to help you find love on this Valentine’s Day.

“Joined by a handful of apprentice witches, queen witch Mihaela Minca led Monday’s outdoor ceremony, casting spells with peacock feathers and rose petals. The witches wore colorful, glittering robes in freezing temperatures to perform the ritual in the lakeside village of Mogosoaia.”

In addition to these amorous actions, Minca has been vocal lately in opposition to Romania’s new laws regulating witchcraft and fortune-telling. An issue I’ve covered quite a bit recently. Under proposed new regulations, could she be penalized if you fail in your romantic pursuits? It seems a silly thing to conceive of, but that’s exactly the road Romania’s been traveling down lately.

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

A reader has tipped me off to the fact that Andrew L. Thomas, a youth minister and track coach in Rossville, Illinois, has been charged with five counts of sexual exploitation of a child in Federal Court (additional link). This is in addition to local charges of criminal sexual assault with an underage boy from earlier this year.

“According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Thomas used a scheme in which he identified himself on social Internet networking sites and in text messages or e-mails as a female under the names of Stephanie, Jenn, Jessica or Kayla. Thomas is accused of using the personas to entice the minor-age boys, sending them pornographic female images and in return soliciting pornographic images of the young boys. Thomas, the charges indicate, also used the names Stephanie Danielson, Kayla Wilson, Jennifer Martinez, Jessica Gonzalez, Justin Danielson and Justin Williams with the e-mail addresses: justjock89@aim.com, Kaylaw21to@aol.com, Foryouhopeulike@aol.com, Luknfrmystudboy2@aim.com, Stephaniedanielson89@hotmail.com and stephaniedanielson1989@yahoo.com. The indictment alleges a timeline for each of the counts, starting as early as January 2007 and running through March 2010.”

This is relevant to our communities because while Thomas was allegedly abusing young boys, he was also leading an anti-Pagan crusade in order to drive Witch School out of Rossville, Illinois.

“Andy Thomas, youth minister at the Rossville Church of Christ, said residents had a spiritual responsibility to drive the witches out. If they didn’t, he said, young people were in danger of being pulled off the Christian path …”

The tensions between the residents of the Rossville-Hoopeston area of Illinois and Witch School are touched on in the documentary “Hoopeston”.

Ultimately, the ongoing local hostility did prove successful in driving the Witches out of the area, and Witch School relocated to the friendlier climes of Salem.

“Witch School Headquarters are closing in the Rossville-Hoopeston area of Illinois. Witch School settled from Chicago to Central Illinois in 2003, and became the center of protest by many of the Christian Churches in the area. A well-documented spiritual battle has been waged for the last six years, with open hostilities and long quiet truces by various Christian factions. Simply put, this has not allowed Witch School the staff and resources needed to keep up with their growth. On Halloween, Witch School Rossville will close permanently, and Witch School will be moving its HQ to ‘The Witch City’, Salem Mass.”

If there’s a larger lesson to be learned from the sad incident, it may be that those most willing and eager to persecute others often have some sort of dark secret of their own to deal with. Usually these secrets are pedestrian when exposed to daylight, an affair, simple hypocrisy, fraud, but occasionally true monsters are exposed when scrutiny is shifted from the targets to those pointing the finger. Andrew L. Thomas was considered a pillar of his community, a moral leader, and there’s no telling how these revelations, and the resulting trial, will affect a community that is already dealing with severe problems. Here’s hoping the victims will see justice done.

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!

A Celtic Temple in Minneapolis: PNC-Minnesota reports that on September 18th a temple constructed by the Old Belief Society in Northeast Minneapolis will be consecrated and opened to the public.

September 18 heralds a new piece of Minnesota Pagan history: a Celtic Pagan temple,  in Northeast Minneapolis, opens to the public. Andrew Jacob, priest of the Temple of the River,  (TOR) will lead a purification ceremony in the Mississippi River. After the ritual, participants can dry off in the new temple, also called the Irish Cottage Building.

The temple is the first official structure of the Old Belief Society, a community intended to train Celtic priests by combining academic and spiritual teachings. Temple of the River, a smaller subset of that society led by Jacob, formerly occupied a space in Dinkytown before moving their meeting space to his home in Northeast. He conceived of building a physical temple after helping construct a Native American style pavilion in 2006. “We made it a priority to have a physical temple in a permanent space – because a welcoming meeting space is one of the first things you need for community.”

While there are many instances of Pagan-owned lands, Circle Sanctuary, for instance, Temple of the River priest Andrew Jacob claims this is the first temple of its kind in North America. Considering the fuzziness of the term “temple” within our communities, it’s hard to gauge if this claim is true. If you know of any other free-standing structures that are solely dedicated as Pagan temples and open to the public please drop a note in the comments. Whether unique or not, this is a remarkable accomplishment, and one that will no doubt benefit Pagans in the Twin Cities.

Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Reception: Founded in 1985 by Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, the Lady Liberty League is one of the most active and effective Pagan-run religious freedom organizations in existence today. On September 15th in Washinton DC, at the Universalist National Memorial Church, they will celebrating their 25th anniversary.

“This special evening includes networking, refreshments, and remarks by Selena Fox of Wisconsin, Lady Liberty League’s Founder and Executive Director, and Patrick McCollum of California, LLL Chaplaincy Affairs Director and among this year’s recipients of the Hindu American Foundation’s Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism.

The evening will include an overview of the history and accomplishments of Lady Liberty League, including its origins in September 1985 in the networking that defeated federal anti-Wiccan legislation. Lady Liberty League activists and Circle Sanctuary ministers from across the country will be helping with the reception. Among the national Pagan leaders already planning to take part in the reception are Marci Drewry of Virginia, Director of Military Affairs, Sacred Well Congregation and Holli Emore of North Carolina, Executive Director, Cherry Hill Seminary.”

This event is free and open to the public. To find out more, check out the LLL reception page on Facebook. PNC-Washington DC reporter David Salisbury is planning to be in attendance and will be covering the event. Congratulations to Lady Liberty League on their 25th anniversary, here’s to 25 more!

Patrick McCollum at HAF’s Capitol Hill Reception: Since the Circle/Lady Liberty League press release has given it away, I assume it’s now safe to announce that the Hindu American Foundation will be honoring Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum with the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism at their 7th annual Capitol Hill Reception on September 14th.

“Join us as we honor Congressmen, government officials and individuals for their commitment to promoting understanding of Hindu American issues, pluralism and tolerance.”

A prominent Hindu organization honoring a Pagan chaplain and activist is a big deal, and could signal a new era of cooperation and communication between American Hindus and Pagans. I’ve been in contact with HAF concerning this, and will be bringing you more on this story after the ceremony.

Wendy Rule Plays for a Pagan Nonprofit: Australian singer-songwriter and Pagan Wendy Rule is currently on a American tour to promote her latest album “Guided By Venus”. In addition to playing at the Pagan music-heavy StrowlerFest (as reported here previously) on September 10th and 11th, Los Angeles Pagan Examiner Joanne Elliott reports that she’ll be wrapping up the tour with a benefit concert for the Temple of the Goddess on September 15th.

“Australian singer-songwriter Wendy Rule – a self-proclaimed witch – will make the sole Los Angeles area appearance of her 2010 U.S. tour at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 15. Rule has agreed to make this a benefit concert for Temple of the Goddess (TOG), a nonprofit religious organization committed to the spiritual well-being of the Los Angeles and world communities. TOG will also sponsor this intimate, 60-seat, open air twilight performance under elder oaks at a private residence in Pasadena.”

For more on the concert, including information on purchasing tickets, click here.

Return to Stoudtburg Village: Some of you may remember the drama last year over a Pagan group holding a small festival at the tourist-trap Stoudtburg Village in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Several Christian-owned businesses, offended by Pagans holding a gathering at the village, boycotted by shutting down their stores in protest. The situation soon made national news, and gained the attention of prayer warriors and Pagan organizations like the Lady Liberty League. Ultimately, the event happened, a few businesses shut down, and things were largely peaceful and productive. Now, the Reading Pagans & Witches are holding the event again, expanding it to two days, September 11th and 12th, and having Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox speak at the event.

“At 10 am on Saturday, Selena will open the festival with a blessing that includes the ringing of a memorial bell to coincide with the bell ringing at the Flight 93 National Memorial (www.honorflight93.org) in Shanksville in western Pennsylvania to honor those who heroically died when the plane crashed there at 10:03 am on September 11, 2001. At Noon, Selena will facilitate a Circle of Freedom and Remembrance. This 9th anniversary September 11 memorial ritual is a remembrance for all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on America that day. The rite also focuses on healing as well as will include an honoring of Freedom and America’s religious and ethnic diversity. Pagan first responders and Pagans in the US military – present and past - are invited to be part of the procession that begins this rite.

At 1 pm, Selena will give the Festival Keynote: Earth Spirituality & Religious Freedom. She will give an overview of Paganism across time and cultures and speak about ways Pagans of many paths can work together for greater religious freedom in society.”

The event is free and open to the public. You can find out more about the event, here. This whole situation shows how religious freedom and acceptance can happen if we don’t back down in the face of opposition and protest, congratulations to the Reading Pagans & Witches for making this happen.

Happy Anniversary Witch School: In a final note, today is Witch School’s 9th anniversary. Here’s an excerpt from a statement by co-founder Rev. Donald Lewis on the occasion.

“Today is the Ninth Anniversary of the founding of Witch School!! Witch School was founded on September 4, 2001. Co-founders Ed Hubbard, Don Lewis, and Lisa Tuit created Witch School as a response to the tremendous success of the Daily Spell e-zine, which had been offering the Correllian First Degree teachings. The school was initially run out of Rev. Don’s kitchen. With its philosophy of an “Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere online Pagan and Magickal education” the school grew rapidly, filling a void created by the lack of accessible teachers. Witch School was and is a revolutionary educational system utilizing peer-to-peer teaching and the power of the Internet to bring Pagan religious and magical education to people around the globe. The Witch School system was able to reach people in remote geographical areas who were otherwise unable to connect with teachers, and to provide training in an extremely flexible and effective way. Today Witch School has students on all seven of the Earth’s continents (yes, even Antarctica) and is the most trafficked Pagan site in the world. We are very proud of our school and its students and salute each and every one!”

Rev. Lewis goes on to explain the significance of the Sept. 4th debut, and connections between Witch School and the Correllian Tradition. While Witch School has certainly been controversial during its years of operation, few can deny that it has become a prominent Pagan organization, and looks to be around for a long time to come. Congratulations to Witch School on their anniversary.

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

As a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, I’m starting 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!

Patrick McCollum at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture: Cherry Hill Seminary has announced that Pagan chaplain, Circle minister, and CHS instructor Patrick McCollum will be presenting at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture in Kazakhstan this October. McCollum is the first Pagan invited to address the forum.

“The World Forum of Spiritual Culture is hosted by the Kazakh government, the International Association of Peace Through Culture, the Congress of Spiritual Concord, and other other Kazakhstan, European and Russian organizations. McCollum will become the first Pagan leader to address the World Forum of Spiritual Culture, his remarks becoming part of the international journal published following the event.

The World Forum hopes “to find a solution to the systemic crisis of the modern civilization by realizing the priority of spirituality and culture above all other public values.” The Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, will address the group during the conference.”

McCollum will be joining luminaries like Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter to search for solutions that will “cure our modern civilization from the virus of greediness.” McCollum, whose star is rising across the globe as an ambassador for modern Pagan faiths, is still fighting to get equal treatment for Pagan prisoners in the state of California and across the US.

The World of Witches Museum Opens in Salem: The Witch School-backed World of Witches Museum in Salem is having its official opening today (Friday). Salem’s Mayor Kim Driscoll will be cutting the official ribbon to the museum.

“In celebrating this Independence Day weekend we are reminded that our founding fathers fought for our freedom. In honoring this American tradition, on Friday, July 2nd, The World of Witches Museum will officially be opened in Salem, Massachusetts. This will be a unique museum as the focus will be on the history of Witchcraft from a positive point of view. As part of the opening the Mayor of Salem, The Honorable Kim Driscoll will officially cut the ribbon at a noontime ceremony along with members of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, Staff of the Museum, Bewitched in Salem, and many other friends and supporters. This will be a major milestone for the Wiccan and Pagan community as this will be the first time that their history will be shared with mainstream society in such a public way. It is a showcase for the community that is fighting for the right to practice their religion in modern America.”

Among the displays will be one focusing on Witch School’s travails in Hoopeston, Illinois, which eventually drove them to the more welcoming arms of Salem, Massachusetts. Rev. Don Lewis, Curator of the Museum, says that this project represents “a coming of age for the Witch movement, which allows us to recognize that we do have a history worthy of sharing”.

Voices of Pagan Pacifism: A new initiative from Alison Shaffer, the Voices of Pagan Pacifism project, is working to spotlight voices of pacifism and peace-making from within the Pagan community.

“We hope this website will become an archive of helpful resources, inspiring stories and challenging essays available to the Pagan pacifist community, as well as the larger community of Pagans, Witches, Druids, Heathens and others interested in pre-Christian and earth-centered spirituality. It’s important to know that we are not alone, and to showcase the work and lives of our fellow peace-makers and social activists!

We conceive of this project as providing a showcase and permanent archive for the many voices of Pagan peace-making in the modern world. For this reason, we gladly accept submissions that have already been published elsewhere, provided they are submitted by (or with prior permission from) the original author and are accompanied by appropriate references and credit to the original publication source (including a link, if available). We also welcome new and original work never published before, by aspiring and previously-published writers alike!”

I’ve long thought that pacifism within modern Paganism needed a clearing-house so that conscientious objectors could use it as a resource should the need arise. Kudos to Alison Shaffer for getting this started. They are looking for writers and interviewers now, I recommend checking it out.

Making Mischief With SJ Tucker: Pagan singer-songwriter SJ Tucker’s new album “Mischief” is due to be released on July 16th and is now available for pre-order from her web site. On her personal journal, Tucker has been talking about the process and meanings behind the songs on the new album.

“Love changes us all, makes us broken, makes us brave, makes us deny ourselves and our very breath, makes us refuse to listen when our hearts tell us that the time has come to move on, to break the surface. “Neptune” is the story of what can happen after you’ve drowned yourself willingly in someone else’s hopes and dreams, and you find that saltwater and shadows no longer sustain you. “Neptune” is the story of what can happen when you’ve lived in sin with a god for long enough that the respective piles of dirty laundry and broken promises have started to really get on your nerves.”

Tucker is currently planning a big Fall tour, but you can catch her this Summer in Oregon as part of Tricky Pixie at Faerieworlds.

A Fundraiser for Joe Credit: Musician Joe Credit, a member of the Pagan band SONA, is trying to raise money to remove a a grapefruit sized hernia in his groin area.

“Joe Credit has a grapefruit sized hernia in an especially uncomfortable location on his body. Imagine getting kicked in the groin several times a day. This is his life. He is having trouble finding a way to get the operation because he is currently without insurance. He is slipping through a very unfortunate loophole. Unable to really work because of the hernia, yet unable to get disability or medicaid. He is expected to live with this hernia until it is “life-threatening” at which time he will be able to get an operation with no problem. Joe’s family does not want him to have to wait until his hernia is life-threatening. I wish we could somehow come up with the money ourselves but times are tough. Hence this fund-raiser. Joe has a lot of friends. If we could all pitch in maybe we could raise enough to get him the operation. Or at least get him enough money to be evaluated by a real doctor, not the emergency room. Thanks!”

Living without health insurance, living in pain until a problem is “life-threatening”, is no way to live at all. If you have a few bucks to spare, why not help out one of our own to have a better life.

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