Pagan Community Notes: A. J. Gooch, Judicial Watch, Taylor Ellwood and more!

12795549_10207087385915921_6600200379585657996_nIt was announced yesterday that Senior Druid A.J. Gooch had died suddenly upon arriving at Sunday’s Winterstar Ball, a yearly fundraising event to honor the legacy of Jeff Rosenbaum. A.J. was a longtime member of the Rosenbaum’s Starwood Community, as well as the Barony of the Cleftlands, the Cuyahoga County, Ohio chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). A.J. was also member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) and the Ohio-based Stone Creed Grove. He regularly attended Cleveland Pagan Pride.

Along with his many community roles, A.J. devoted much time to his position as “the Senior Druid of Stone Creed Grove, and was serving as the Assistant Senior Druid at the time of his death.” Friends and family have been posting photos and stories on his Facebook page to commemorate his life and share the ways in which A.J. touched the community. Cleveland Pagan Pride organizers posted, “Our positive thoughts are with his wife and children in this time of mourning. Journey well our brother to your ancestors that await you in the Summerland. Blessed Be!”

Stone Creed Grove (SCG) is planning a memorial service and will post more details on its own website as plans are finalized. SCG Officers added that if anyone would like to offer assistance to A.J.’s family, contact them directly. They wrote, “We know that AJ touched many lives in the many groups he was involved in. He will be remembered with honor as he joins the Mighty Dead in the summerlands.” What is Remembered, Lives!

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Falcon CircleOver the past week, a number of conservative media outlets have been replicating a story originally posted by Judicial Watch, entitled, “Air Force Academy Uses Chapel Tithes and Offering Fund to Pay for Cadets’ Attendance at Festivals Celebrating Witchcraft, Faery Magick, and Voodoo.” The original report criticizes the Academy for using donated funds to send cadets to Pagan religious events, citing both Beltania and the Denver Witches’ Ball. Judicial Watch based its article on a number of receipts and documents obtained directly from the academy.

Since Judicial Watch published its initial report, it has attracted the attention of mainstream media sites as well as smaller conservative outlets. Additionally, a number of concerned Pagan organizations have gotten involved and are speaking out in defense of the Air Force Academy and the local Denver Pagan community. Rev. Joy Burton and Jo Butler, directors of Living Earth Church, published a statement on their website in response to Judicial Watch. In that statement, they said that nobody from Judicial Watch ever contacted them about these concerns. Living Earth Church hosts the annual Beltania retreat cited in the story. Rev. Burton told The Wild Hunt, “Living Earth has respect for all faiths and appreciates those who answer the inflammatory words with calm, reasoned responses.”

In addition, Lady Liberty League has gotten involved. Rev. Selena Fox stated that the organization “supports fair and equal treatment of those of the many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies serving in all branches of the US Military. We are thankful that the Air Force Academy supports the rights of its members to practice their religion or no religion at all.” Members of LLL’s Military Affairs Task Force have been working with Living Earth Church, the Sacred Well Congregation, and the Pagan Circle at the Air Force Academy, and others who have been or may be directly affected by the Judicial Watch article.

To thank Lady Liberty League for its support in Denver and elsewhere, Living Earth Church board members voted last night to donate “5% of Beltania Festival 2016 proceeds” to the LLL. Rev Burton said, “May these unkind and dismissive attacks never dissuade us from building bridges of understanding. May the ignorance and negativity only remind us of the need for greater learning and love. Beltania 2016 will be our most open-hearted and welcoming festival ever, and we invite all to join us this coming May to show support for our cadets and help build community.”

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Taylor Ellwood

Taylor Ellwood

Publisher and author Taylor Ellwood posted a third “Open Letter to Pagan Convention Organizers and to Pagan Presenters” on his blog. The post, dated Feb. 24, opens with: “Back in December of 2015 I wrote 2 open letters to Pagan Convention Organizers. In the first letter I explained that I no longer wanted to present at events where I was expected to pay to present and no compensation was offered for my efforts. In the second letter, I called for transparency on how guests of honor and featured presenters are selected.”

Ellwood went on to share several bloggers’ responses to his initial calls to action.Then he thanked convention organizers, renewed his request for transparency, and clarified his position. He wrote, “I’m not [selling out] … I’m just accepting that there are certain realities to putting an event together that involves a lot of expense and moving parts. I get that […] but I want what I have to offer acknowledged and valued.”

Finally, Ellwood announced his plans to host a virtual conference. He said, “It’s going to take a while for me to do it, but I will do it […] More importantly, I promise that you will have the potential to make money.”

In Other News: 

  • Artist and Author Lupa will be launching her second Tarot of the Bones crowdfunding campaign. The original IndieGoGo campaign was started last spring and ultimately raised $10,148 dollars toward the deck’s production This next campaign will cover “printing costs for the completed deck and book set.” The campaign will launch March 1 and will run for 60 days. Lupa said, “Campaign backers will be able to choose from a variety of perks, ranging from The Tarot of Bones deck and book set to original assemblage pieces used for the card art. Previous campaign backers and new supporters alike will be able to choose standalone perks like prints and limited-edition bone jewelry, as well as perk packages including The Tarot of Bones deck and book.” More information is on the Tarot of the Bones official website.
  • Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) has posted details about their upcoming summer event. The CUUPS board said, “We are very excited to announce that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans will host its Convocation on August 26-28, 2016. All CUUPS members, UU’s and those interested in UU Paganism, Earth and Nature Centered Spirituality are invited to register and attend.” It will be held at the “First Church UU in Salem has roots dating back to the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” This year’s speakers include, John Beckett, Byron Ballard, Silver Branch, Gypsy Ravish, and Rev. Shirley Ranck. More details on the event and the registration process are located on the CUUPS Patheos blog site.
  • The Wild Hunt is proud to announce the addition of a new columnist. Karl E. H. Seigfried will be joining the TWH monthly writing team. Seigfried is known for his dedicated work at the Norse Mythology Blog, which has been recognized as one of the top blogs on the topic. He will be joining us to share his expertise in Norse Mythology, comparative religion and media. His first Wild Hunt article will be published at the end of March.
  • Looking for some new music? Sencha the Vate has released an album called Mists on the Mountain. It is described as featuring “soothing Native American flute and guitar compositions.” Details are available on Sencha’s new website.


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10 thoughts on “Pagan Community Notes: A. J. Gooch, Judicial Watch, Taylor Ellwood and more!

  1. You cannot offer special privileges to Pagan communities. Active Military work every Holiday. And are not paid for Christmas or Easter Vacation. They are also no longer funded for travel during any vacation. The only vacation Military get is requested and approved vacation, and it is not funded. You pay out of your own pocket. As a Marine’s wife and Pagan, this idea that Pagan folks should receive these things is ridiculous. And it makes us look ignorant asking for something that nobody else gets. I hope you understand what I’m saying.

    • What you seem to be saying is that you accept the spin job “journalism” of a conservative culture war propaganda mill as the established facts of the story and an accurate narrative of what’s going on at the academy.

      “Special privileges” is a catch phrase coined, and almost exclusively employed by cultural/Christian conservative to de-legitimize all claims to natural and legal rights by anyone other than themselves. The way it works is that if you’re among the privileged majority – white, male, Christian, wealthy, hetero, usually all of the above – then any right – due process of law, religious freedom, equal treatment in the workplace is just self-evident and God-given. If you’re dark, poor, LGBT, an ethnic or religious minority, then assertion of these same rights becomes an outlandish demand for “special privileges.” You know, things never envisioned by the Founders. Some crackpot concept created by socialist America-hating Ivy League academics for the sole purpose of oppressing good, red-blooded Real Americans. In the Bizarro World of conservative culture war narrative, the privileged majority in all cases is the victim class, and the merest act of challenging their historic regimes of oppression is an intolerable act of oppression against them. It’s a tactic designed to stoke fear and rage and it’s very effective, but it cannot withstand even cursory fact checking or critical thinking (both nearly extinct in the MSM).

      I’ve been following and commenting on the Falcon Circle issue at the Air Force Academy for five years now, pretty much since the beginning. The insinuations that Pagans are somehow pulling one over on the taxpayer or demanding unreasonable concessions was asinine then, and it is asinine now, with the added insult of being completely unoriginal. Five years ago, the same culture war groups tried to cast the creation of a Pagan-friendly outdoor ritual space as “runaway spending.”

      The actual cost, about $80,000, was in fact trivial in the context of a Christian chapel which in inflation-adjusted dollars, had cost $25 million to build. In another context of the times, the stone circle construction budget amounted to 24 seconds of spending in Iraq. Almost one-third of the $80,000 budget was money which was going to be spent on landscaping and engineering work whether or not the worship space was created. The “story” at the time was pure high-test BS from the beginning, but the culture warriors know that headlines count, not the serious analysis which might come 10 news cycles later.

      This latest bit of “watchdog journalism” is also entirely BS. The money used to enable cadets to attend Pagan programming came from a fund that is not taxpayer money. It is contributed to be used exactly for such things. It has been used to underwrite prayer breakfasts and appearances by Christian motivational speakers. Curiously, Judicial Watch didn’t bother to report the annual expenditures of the Tithes and Offerings Fund or what slice the Pagan event spending represents (my guess is Abrahamic event expenses probably account for 99.9% of every dime every passed through the fund.

      In any event, the amounts detailed by Judicial Watch for Pagan events are positively pathetic on an absolute dollar basis. We’re talking about $400 for half a dozen cadets over two events over a year. Air Force cadets make something like $900 a month the first year, from which taxes and a whole host of educational, uniform and daily expenses are deducted. I probably had more discretionary money in my pocket from mowing lawns in high school in the 1980s than these men and women have most months. Are we really going to begrudge them $40 to attend one festival a year?

      The rest about special demands for holiday pay or vacation expenses is pure smoke and mirrors and has nothing to do with anything. We’re asking for things for our Pagan soldiers, sailors marines and airmen that everybody else gets, which we are entitled to by law and regulations, and which are very modest considerations for the sacrifices made by these men and women.

  2. I saw the article just a day or two after it was originally posted. It struck a nerve because I am a Air Force veteran and a member of Pagan clergy. I immediately sent a letter in support of the Air Force and pointed out the many discrepancies in the article. Of course, I never heard back from the originating “reporter.”

  3. Strange that the Air Force Spent something like five million dollars on that Cathedral that the Christians get to use and no problem back in the 1960’s. But spend any money at all for the Pagans and suddenly it is a biog problem. When are the Christians going to understand they don’t get special privilege any more. I am tired of their continued hypocracy.


  4. Cudos to Selena Fox for correctly referring to “religions” and not “faiths.” Monotheism has religions based on “faith.” To use that term as a synonym for “religion” is to lose control of the framing.

    “In addition, Lady Liberty League has gotten involved. Rev. Selena Fox stated that the organization “supports fair and equal treatment of those of the many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies serving in all branches of the US Military.”

  5. Oh, no! I’m so terribly to learn of A.J.’s passing. I enjoyed lots of socializing with him at the Starwoods I attended. My partner Corby helped A.J.’s wife with migraine. Their kids are young. Such a loss! May they be sustained in this time of grief by shared memories of A.J.

    • Actually, the eldest just started his freshman year of college. 🙂 His daughter, however, is (I think) 9. 🙁

      Of course, from our vantage, that is so young….