In the weeks prior to PantheaCon, the area was hit with heavy rains, eventually causing the local reservoir to overflow and sending excess water into a creek that runs through the city. Coyote Creek then overflowed, sending flood waters into the city. According to the reports, the entire disaster happened too quickly for proper evacuations. As the L.A. Times noted, residents and officials “were caught off guard by the severity of the flooding and vowed a full investigation into what went wrong.” Nearly 14,000 people had to be evacuated.
Author, Witch, Pagan nonprofit board member, and blogger Angus McMahan lives in the neighboring coastal town of Santa Cruz, where they also had the torrential rains but no flooding. While he wasn’t personally affected, he knows many people that were and has been watching the situation carefully. McMahan said, “Evacuation puts your life into sharp focus, and the list of priorities hasn’t changed much in the entire history of our humanity: Family, friends, pets, shelter, precious items, currency. (Really the only modern addition is finding places to charge our phones.)
“What the ‘atmospheric rivers’ have done for the Bay Area is taken us out of our absurdly modern, post-everything brains, and put us straight back into our older, pagan gut: mornings spent watching the creeks and rivers, afternoons spent with axes cutting and clearing, evenings spent cooking over an open flame and playing games by lantern light.”
McMahan observed that many locals, who are now “cut off from society by downed power lines, trees and infrastructure,” are “reconnecting with their tribe.” He said, “Even the non-pagans in San Jose (and all over California) are out in nature more, hugging their loved ones, celebrating the visible emergence of the coming spring, and always watching the skies.”
In Other News
- Just as The Satanic Temple worked to get a Baphomet statue placed on Oklahoma state capitol grounds, the organization is now working to have the statue placed on the Arkansas state capitol grounds. In January, the arts and grounds subcommittee advanced the request to a public hearing. However, the hearing was cancelled before it was even scheduled due to a legislative turn: all grounds monuments must be approved by the legislature and not just the committee. TST placed this request in response to a Ten Commandments display approved in 2015.
- In another religious freedom note, Americans United (AU) is reporting that “Science Education May be Devolving in South Dakota.” AU is concerned that the broadly-worded senate bill 55, if approved, could open the door to creationism being taught within the state’s public school system. AU has labeled it the “alternative facts” bill because it allows for teachers to help students understand the “strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses.” According to the article, “legislative phrases like science’s ‘strengths and weaknesses’ or ‘controversies’ usually are code words for the fundamentalist, anti-evolution concepts of creationism and intelligent design.” AU claims that there are similar bills on the floor in Oklahoma, Texas, and Indiana.
- In Canada, advances have been made in the military to help people practicing minority religions. According to the CBC, the military has appointed the first indigenous adviser to the Chaplain General. With that appointment, “the Canadian Forces’ spiritual leaders have someone to help them understand how best to support indigenous soldiers across the military.” The appointee is Sgt. Moogly Tetrault-Hamel, and he is reportedly ready to “fight for indigenous soldiers’ spiritual needs and their rights.”
- According to Arizona Sonoma News, Witchcraft is “growing in popularity among young Latinos.” Reporter Maxie Ruan writes,”More and more younger Latinos are identifying as brujos and claiming to practice brujería, much to the bewilderment of others who grew up in fear of it.” Ruan interviews several brujos, one of which is quoted as saying, “There is a certain amount of power when you think of a brujo. You don’t tend to think of a weak person.” Arizona Sonoma News is a project of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
- Across the country in Boston, the city of Salem is preparing to build its official memorial to the 19 men and women executed in 1692 for witchcraft. The Boston Globe quoted Salem’s Mayor Kim, who said, “Having this site memorialized, especially as we prepared to mark the 325th anniversary of that tragic event, presents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, recognize the injustice perpetrated against those innocents in 1692, and recommit ourselves to the values of inclusivity and justice.” It was in early 2016 that the actual site where the executions took place was finally located. Now the building can begin.
- Former child star Dylan Sprouse openly practices Ásatrú and has since his college days. Sprouse and his twin brother Cole starred in the Disney Channel sitcom The Suite Life of Zach and Cody and sequel The Suite Life on Deck. In a recent interview done at the opening of his new All-Wise Meadery in Brooklyn, Sprouse talks about brewing, Ásatrú, and his life as a Heathen.
- Speaking of brew, Pagan Kathleen Cuhlane was recently featured in an issue of Minnesota’s City Pages. Cuhlane co-owns and operates the Sidhe Brewing Co, which she says is “the place of her dreams.” In the article, she talks about her work, her Wiccan beliefs, and the brewery. We spoke with Cuhlane in 2015 as her St. Paul-based brewery was opening.
- In the past, we have seen world fashion designers employ what they perceive as “witch” or even “wiccan” aesthetics in their designs, especially in the fall. However, Belgian designer Walter Van Beirendonck took this idea to a different level. Rather than his clothing being inspired by Pagan themes, his presentation at a fall 2017 fashion show incorporated Pagan messages. Seidä Pass, a Perchten band from Austria, performed as the models walked to the beat. Van Beirendonck told the New York Times, “I think the world is black. That’s why I wanted to add all those ingredients about paganism, and rituals, and animals — to heal the world.” The article contains photos of the models surrounded by the musicians in full costume. Below is a video from a May 2015 performance by the group.