Quick Notes: Congregational Paganism, Pagan Metal, and a Pagan Millionaire

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A few quick Pagan news notes for you on this Wednesday.

Congregational Paganism in Arizona: The East Valley Tribune spotlights the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona, who recently received their 501(c)3 status, and explores why they abandoned the small-group coven model for a congregational model.

Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona - Beltane 2010

Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona - Beltane 2010

High Priestess Rosemary Szymanski disbanded her coven in favor of the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona in 2007, having gained 501(c)3 status, which means that the federal government recognizes the group as a tax-exempt church. The whole process of becoming a church took about two years, but the wait was mostly because of paperwork, Szymanski said. In the years since abandoning the title of coven, Szymanski, founder and president, has worked with her fellow witches to organize openly and spread knowledge about Paganism. “Covens are much more secretive,” Szymanski, a witch for 17 years, said. “So in 2007, I banned the coven and created the church.”

Sacred Spiral doesn’t have a physical space at this point, but they do say they are hoping to open a community center. While Sacred Spiral Pagan Church is hardly the only Pagan group to adopt a congregational model (just look at CUUPs), I think this article is interesting in that it showcases, albeit indirectly, a criticism of the small-group “coven” model (they are “much more secretive”). It also seems to reinforce the idea that Pagans are, broadly speaking, dedicated to building “community centers” instead of “churches.” So even a congregational Paganism is going to seem much different than congregational Christianity.

Bend Before the Ways of (Pagan) Heavy Metal: The Loyola University student newspaper, The Greyhound, interviews Jill Janus, lead singer of the band Huntress. In the interview, Janus makes clear that Paganism is a primary motivator for her musical career.



“I draw most my influence from witchcraft, I’m inspired by the beauty of Paganism. I’ve been compared to King Diamond and Rob Halford (Judas Priest) due to my vocal range and theatrics. […] We wanted to write an album that would transport the listener to another realm, we create our own reality and want you to experience that. Spell Eater is drenched in occult imagery. There are many secrets woven into our songs. I want our fans to seek the secrets.”

The debut album by Huntress, “Spell Eater,” is due out on May 8th. You can download or listen to their debut single, “Eight Of Swords,” now. Let it not be said that I don’t throw a bone to fans of Pagan metal now and then!

ADDENDUM: Juggler contributor Trevor Curtis adds:

You forgot to mention that Huntress is the opening act on the Paganfest 2012 tour, along with the amazing Arkona (Russian Pagan Metal) and headlined by Turisas, fine Finnish pagan metal band. I’m seeing the tour here in Charlotte on Easter, think I’ll have to post a review to The Juggler.

You can find the FB page for Paganfest 2012, here.

The Return of Bunky: Way back in 2007 Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett, a Wiccan, won over 40 million dollars in the Maryland state lottery. Since then he’s kept a pretty low profile.  There was talk of him opening a Pagan seminary, he threw one big party, and helped out a couple who wanted to get married. But for the most part, he’s stayed under the Pagan media radar, even the store he once bailed out and taught at has gone out of business. So I was somewhat surprised to see him emerge again on video-game news site Kotaku, trying to raise one million dollars on Kickstarter to build a fan-funded massive multiplayer gaming environment.

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

Described as “all of the good things in Second Life, World of Warcraft, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic and the like all rolled up into one game,” Bartlett’s Kickstarter project has been the object of much derision on Twitter today, where some have mocked its lofty goals and error-riddled language. There’s no concept art or even much explanation as to how the game will run. It only promises to be “nothing like what is out there.” But if Bartlett is a millionaire, why does he need Kickstarter? I tracked him down to find out. “A smart investor has partners,” Bartlett told me in an e-mail. “I will be investing as well. This also helps me to see if there is actual interest in the type of game I am proposing.”  I asked if he’s ever worked in game development before. “I have not, but I never owned an investment company or a pizza shop before, but I do now,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett has only raised around $300 dollars towards this dream project, with a 50-day window to raise the money. So it seems likely this project won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, at least not with this funding model. It should be noted that successful million+ Kickstarter campaigns are rare, and depend on a huge amount of goodwill and a good reputation. Still, I wish him luck in his endeavors (not that a lottery winner is having a luck problem).

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