Pagan Community Notes: Norse Art Competition; Berlin Attacks; Wreaths Across American and more!

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skadi-copy - logo norseTWH – In November, the Norse Mythology Blog launched its annual art contest. Now in its seventh year, the competition is an opportunity for artists of all ages to show off their talent and their knowledge of Norse mythology. The 2016 contest theme was Midwinter Spirit. “During the winter solstice on December 21, those of us in the northern hemisphere will experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This may seem early in the season, but it’s really the middle. […]Throughout Northern Europe, there are local traditions that celebrate midwinter. Some of these practices preserve very old rituals.” As part of the challenge, the artists also had to somehow relate their piece “to the character and legends of the goddess Freyja.”

The winners of the 2016 competition were announced last week in all categories, including child, teen, and adult. This year’s judges included Norse Mythology Blog owner Karl E. H. Seigfried, artist Rufus Dayglo (Judge Dredd; Tank Girl) and author Diana Paxson (Taking Up the Runes; Essential Ásatrú). The first place winner in the child category was nine-year-old Rune Hatrak of Belleville, New Jersey. The first place winner in the teen category was eighteen-year-old Caitlin E. Terwedow of Ashton, Illinois. And, the adult first-place finalist was forty-five-year-old Chad Nelson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The winning selections and descriptions are all posted on the Norse Mythology Blog, along with the works from the second and third winners, the runners-up and other contestants.

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berlin-902693_640BERLIN – On Thursday, Dec. 22,  a lorry drove through the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market killing 12 people and injuring 48. The attack was yet another in a string of terror that seemingly continues to plaque our world. Days after the attack, the Berlin market was reopened, and the media has since reported that the local feeling is one of defiance, and not fear.

TWH spoke with German Pagan and Witch Konrad Reinhold about the incident and the reaction of his spiritual community. Reinhold said that he isn’t sure if any of the victims were Pagan, but for him “this question simply doesn’t matter; people have died.” Reinhold is the editor of the German Pagan magazine Damhain Alla.

“We will not do a special ritual for the victims, although we are shocked, and our thoughts are with them, their friends and relatives,” Reinhold added. “You have to know, that we are confronted with news about violence almost every day here. Right wing terror, Islamist terror, terror against the innocent and the weak ones – not only physical violence, but also a lot of hate speech and harassment. Almost every sabbat or esbat, that we had during the last year was about reconciliation and peace […] Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, about the environment, weapons and massacre […] The social climate in Germany has changed. Many people are full of hate and project it on everything that is other.”

For over a year, Reinhold has been volunteering in refugee camps, and he himself seen violence. One camp, he said, was hit with a Molotov cocktail. He said, “Things like this happen every day here. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to [confuse] Islamist terror with right wing terror. But I cannot see one without the other; I cannot see the terrorist attacks without seeing the right wing attacks or the wars that happen at the same time. Every attack shocks us in a new way, but almost nothing can surprise us anymore. So awful the attack in Berlin is, but it cannot shock us more than all the other things, that are happening the same time.”

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circle sanctuary wreathsBARNEVELD, Wis. — Each Yule, Circle Sanctuary participates in a program called Wreaths Across America. This year was no different. Despite the cold and snow, local members stepped out to Circle Cemetery to honor the lives of deceased U.S. military veterans, just as it was being done in other locations across the country.

To the left is a photo from this year’s ceremony. Pictured are Rev. Selena Fox with others placing a wreath on the grave of Patrick Stewart, the first Wiccan soldier killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. It was Patrick’s widow, Roberta Stewart, who helped first connect Circle Sanctuary with this national memorial program. Circle Cemetery, located on Circle’s nature preserve, was established in 1995; it is one of the first green cemeteries in the nation. It is open to the public.

The group provided the following video from this year’s wreath laying:

In Other News

  • As 2016 ends and we move into 2017, the Pagan indoor conference season kicks off. In Massachusetts, EarthSpirit will hold its annual Feast of Lights from Feb. 10-12. In California, the Conference of Current Pagan Studies 2017 will be held Jan. 28-29. Shortly after, the large San Jose-based conference, PantheaCon, opens its doors, running from Feb. 17-20. One week later, ConVocation will be hosted in Detroit and, in March, the Twin Cities’ Pagan community will convene for Paganicon.
  • The University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education will be holding a ten-week course on Western Esotericism. The class is part of the school’s public “short course” program. While this particular class will not be held online, Oxford does have a series of public short courses that are accessible over the internet. For example, there will be an online course starting in January on Greek Mythology.
  • For Pagan academics and writers, the University of California Press is always looking submissions for its Religion & American Culture Journal. As the editors note, “Religion and American Culture is devoted to promoting the ongoing scholarly discussion of the nature, terms, and dynamics of religion in America. Embracing a diversity of methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives, this semiannual publication explores the interplay between religion and other spheres of American culture. Although concentrated on specific topics, articles illuminate larger patterns, implications, or contexts of American life.”
  • In Arizona, Phoenix Hearthfire Gathering will be hosting its annual event, “Honoring Ancient Greece.” Held at the Irish Cultural Center, this daylong event is family friendly and includes vendors, speakers, and more. Phoenix Hearthfire organizers say, “In an attempt to find all the similarities that we all share, [we are] presenting Hellenic Greece in all its wonder for your entertainment and pleasure.” The festival will be held Jan 14.
  • From The Wild Hunt archives, we bring you our story on La Befana, the Christmas Witch. “There are many popular mythological figures associated with the winter holiday season. We’ve all heard of Santa Claus, Rudolf, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. This past December Krampus, a figure in Germanic folklore, became a household name through the release of a new horror movie. But there is another figure, who stands out within the canon of European winter holiday lore, and is beloved by those who honor her. She is called La Befana.”
La Befana Night in Northern Italian 2013 [Photo Credit: Bas_Ernst / Flickr]

La Befana Night in Northern Italian 2013 [Photo Credit: Bas_Ernst / Flickr]