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LA BELLE, Penn. — The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has approved one Wiccan inmate’s request for religious accommodations. Richard K. McCullough, who has been in prison for several decades, has reportedly been practicing Wicca for 30 years. In July, he was informed that the department has finally permitted his facility, SCA Fayette, to allow the “General Population inmates who identify with Wicca to communally view or listen to approved religious audio visual resources.”
In a letter to The Wild Hunt, Mr. McCullough wrote, “Ten years ago, I began a journey. One that would take me up and down, left and right, back and forth […] and in and out of the process of obtaining legitimacy, and acknowledgement of the Wiccan religion in prison.” In a 2007 article for a newsletter printed by “The Pennsylvania Prison Society,” Mr. McCullough described that journey, saying that he has been teaming up with people struggling with the same problem, and working to educate others about his beliefs.
The official letter of approval came July 8, 2016. Along with allowing Wiccan inmates to view recorded materials, the letter confirms their right to “practice [their] faith by obtaining religious, books, securing the services of a religious adviser, and participating in individual devotional practices in the privacy of his cell or dormitory quarters.” As a result, McCullough and others have formed the Alternative Spirituality Grove, using Wiccan songs and meditations “found on their tablets.”
But their struggle is not completely over. The department declined the request for “separate religious services and study groups […] until that time when an outside volunteer faith representative has been located to lead them.” However, McCullough remains upbeat saying, “What we have received thus far is a giant ‘baby step’ toward our overall goal, full ceremonies and services.” That, he says, is the next step in their work.
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SAN FRANCISCO – Aline O’Brien, also known as M. Macha Nightmare, recently attended a Table to Action meeting, a new interfaith and social justice project co-sponsored by the New York-based Auburn Theological Seminary. When she received the invitation, O’Brien was unsure of what the event entailed. “I really didn’t know quite what to expect,” she wrote on her blog.
The Table to Action concept is based on supporting positive communication over an evening meal. The website states that the project is a “friendship-inspired initiative that brings together leaders of faith, vision, and moral courage […] to build relationships that shape and sustain movements for social change. We do this by gathering for dinner parties that involve good food, great conversation and lots of dreaming.”
As O’Brien reports, the first initiative was held in Chicago and a second one in Atlanta. The event that she attended was the first of its kind in the Bay Area. She did report that “they plan more in other cities.” In her blog post, she details more about the event as well her observations on the religious diversity, or lack thereof, present at the Bay Area forum.
In the end, O’Brien was positive about her experience and the potential for this type of interfaith work. She said, “I’m eager to see what Table to Action does and to participate to the extent that a congregation-less Pagan can.”
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UNITED KINGDOM – The Telegraph and several other U.K. based news sources have been reporting that a group of Witches in Scotland planned a magical working to force Donald Trump out of the U.S. presidential race. On Oct 7, The Telegraph reported, “Donald Trump faces new threat as witches and pagans plan to ‘exert mental influence’ to persuade him to quit.” Several other outlets have since picked up that story.
After numerous attempts,The Wild Hunt was unable to reach this particular group or its reported founder, Peter Gower. They have no known affiliations to other public Pagan groups that could be identified, either in the U.K. or the U.S. However, we did learn that the reported call-to-action was made via a press release sent to The Telegraph and to several bloggers.
It is still unclear whether the reported press release was announcing a true campaign, or if it was a hoax or a joke similar to the one issued in July over Instagram by a cartoon artist. Regardless, it would not be the first time that Witches or Pagans have used magic to affect elections, political processes, or even influence Donald Trump’s campaign. As reported by Jezebel in 2015, Brooklyn Witches were hexing Trump’s campaign last fall. We will report on this story further as needed.
In Other News:
- This weekend’s 2016 Atlanta Pagan Pride Day event will be holding a special celebration. Attendees will be marking the 40th anniversary of Church of Ravenwood. The tradition was founded by Lady Sintana in 1976, and eventually went on to become the first Pagan church in Georgia recognized by the IRS. Lady Sintana and Ravenwood’s early ground breaking work paved the way for the many other Pagan organizations in the region.
- Immanion Press announced that it has launched publication of a new Pagan children’s book series. According to the website, “each book in the Pagan Children Learning Series is a beginner’s introduction that allows room for discussion of your family’s own beliefs.” The first book published is titled What is an Altar? and was written by Rowan Moss and illustrated by T.S. Lamb. However, this book is the fourth produced by Moss and Lamb. Immanion informed TWH that it is planning to re-publish those in the future as well.
- For those interested in the PAEAN online conference co-sponsored by the Pagan Federational International, the deadline for submissions has been extended to Oct. 15. This year’s theme is titled: Pilgrimage in Europe: Ancient and Contemporary Pagan Pilgrimage Practices. The day-long online conference itself will be held Nov. 7.
- The Witches Almanac 2017-2018 is now available for purchase. The popular guide has been in print since 1971, making it one of the oldest and longest running publicly available Pagan print media. This year’s issue is titled, “Water: Our Primal Source.”
- Similarly, the Gerald B. Gardner 2017 Calendar is available to order. GBG “Year and a Day” Calendar has been in print since 2011, and is filled with articles, history, feast day information and more. It features photographs of Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente and other figures in Pagan history. As creator Link wrote, “this year’s the calendar features Dayonis and Jack Bracelin, High Priestess and High Priest of Gerald Gardner’s Bricket Wood coven in England. 2017 is the first year where both a HPS and HP were featured.”
- Lastly, here are some photos from the 2016 Los Angeles / Orange County Pagan Pride Day festival courtesy of LA/OC PPD official photographer, Greg Harder [All Rights Reserved]:
Correction 10/10 8:03 p.m: An earlier version of this article noted that What is an Altar is the first book in the Immanion Press Pagan children’s book series. We contacted Immanion to confirm earlier information sent to TWH. Publisher Taylor Ellwood clarified.The book is, in fact, the first to be published by Immanion, but it is the fourth written by Moss and Lamb. We have clarified the note above.