Pagan Community Notes: Memorial Day, Manchester, Pagan Dawn, and more!

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TWH – Today marks Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day to honor the many men and women who have died in military service. According to a news report on ABC, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs together state that at least “1.2 million people have died fighting for America during its wars dating back 241 years.” The VA has a breakdown of the losses per conflict since the American Revolution. In a 2016 blog post, Druid John Beckett wrote, “Let us remember our warrior dead. Let us remember those who answered the call to do what had to be done and who sacrificed all they had. It is right and good to celebrate their courage and valor.”

Many Pagans, Heathens and polytheists have served and are serving in the U.S. military, and still others are members of military families. Memorial Day has a special significance to them. Veteran and Wiccan priest Blake Kirk said, “Memorial Day isn’t about veterans like me, who got to come home and go on with their lives. No, Memorial Day is supposed to be all about the soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who came home in caskets or in body bags. Or who never came home at all.” The modern military experience can be part of the modern Pagan, Heathen and polytheist experience. Those who are wounded and die in service to our country are not an anonymous “other” removed from our society and daily lives. Today many will honor our Pagan, Heathen and polytheist brothers and sisters who have fallen in the line of duty. What is remembered, lives.

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MANCHESTER, England —  The suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert May 22 naturally generated intense reactions from within the immediate community. Local Pagans were no different, focusing concerns on the atrocity itself, the safety of their family members and friends, and the need for compassion for the victims rather than a vilification of the Islamic community. Pagan Heather Veitch, told The Wild Hunt “articulating a response” was difficult, that the “shock was intense,” but after that wore off, she began doing what she could to help.

Veitch explained, “As I wasn’t in Manchester city centre at the time, and the emergency services were asking people to stay away, I began doing what I knew I could do: holding space, offering healing, and reaching out to my gods and goddesses to aid my healing work, to comfort the bereaved and broken, to midwife souls as they transition. I sent up prayers and offerings to protect those who were working to find and heal those caught up in these events, and waited on my own friends and family to check in.”

Veitch added that she is proud of the city’s emergency services units, and the wider community who has “stepped up and did what they could with what they, in turn, had: offering rooms, food, transport, comfort, and so much more,” but she also aches for victims and their loved ones. She said, “What started as an evening of excitement and joy ended in terror and death.”

She also said that she is angry, adding, “Once again a tragic event in the Western world has focused our attention on the war against terror — but events such as the bombing in Manchester are happening on a daily basis in other areas of the world. We need to remember, honour, and work to heal the suffering throughout the world, not just in white and/or Western societies. As a collective consciousness, we keep doing this, we keep perpetuating this, allowing it. We are all connected.”

[This is only part of a longer statement on the Manchester attacks. Read Veitch’s full comment here.]

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Kate Large

ENGLAND — In another story out of England, Kate Large has stepped down as editor-in-chief of the Pagan Dawn, the official and long-running publication of the Pagan Federation. Large joined the Pagan Dawn staff in 2013 as reviews editor, and moved into the editor position the following January, having been appointed by her predecessor, Atreyu Crimmins. Large said that she has stepped down because she felt it was time. “I have achieved so much with PD, thanks to an incredible team of people. I want to develop my own career, as well as spending more time away from the screen, improving my physical health (I have fibromyalgia) and working with my daughter, who is home educated.”

Large is a freelance writer and longtime media professional, having worked in the television, magazine, and film worlds. What is next for her? She said that she will return to her role as reviews editor, and also increase her paid media work. She added, “Political activism and social justice work are areas in which I want to deepen my engagement. I am closely following the post-Brexit political landscape in Northern Ireland, and am keen to increase the amount of am keen to increase the amount of work I could be doing to support causes that focus on peace and community reconciliation.”

As for Pagan Dawn, a new editor has not yet be selected, and the organization is currently looking for the ideal candidate. Large said, “It’s a demanding job, but incredibly rewarding, and many times, I have called it ‘the best job in Paganism.'” Reflecting on her time as editor, she added, “My most lasting memories are the phone calls in my kitchen with former PF Publications Officer, David Spofforth, and of the PF gathering at Moonhenge at which I was finally able to put faces to so many names. Leaving has been an incredibly difficult decision and many tears have been shed, but it’s time to trust to the process, and hand over to a new successor to build on our established work.”

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TWH—Staff members from the Pew Research Center responded to our questions on the categorization of minority faiths in this year’s global religious landscape survey. Conrad Hackett advised that religions with ethnic ties were “generally included” in folk religions, while Wicca and other new faiths were aggregated into the miscellaneous “other” category along with New Age traditions. “Generally speaking, we sought to distinctly measure those faiths large enough to be reliably measured in the censuses and nationally representative surveys conducted around the world. Unfortunately, in this project we did not have sufficient data to report on many of the important, fascinating but smaller faiths around the world.” Hackett said that the recent Worldwide Heathen Census was not used as a source.

Gregory Smith, associate director of research, initially provided information pertaining to the United States in particular, which appears to use a slightly different scheme. Smith said, “The Pagan/Wiccan category, which accounts for 0.3% of the U.S. adult population, consists of people who used one of those exact terms (or sometimes both terms in combination, as in ‘Pagan Wiccan’) to describe their religion. The Other New Age category includes a smaller number of people who gave a variety of responses that we placed within the New Age family. These include responses like Asatru, Druid, Eckankar, New Age, Pantheist, Polytheist, Satanism, Scientology, Theosophy, Transcendental Meditation, Urantia Book and Ancient Aliens.”

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Coming up this week: Two men were fatally wounded in Portland Friday after standing up to a man harassing two Muslim women. One of the victims is well-known in the Pagan community through his family: Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche. We will have more on the story and his life in the coming week.

In Other News

  • A number of Pagans in the D.C. area are reportedly preparing to join the upcoming Equality March for Unity and Pride to be held on June 11. “It is our time to march,” the event website reads. According to the organizers, there will be sister marches across the country. The event will happen just shy of the two year anniversary of the landmark ruling that legalized gay marriage.
  • Catland Books in Brooklyn, New York is holding another hexing event aimed at the Trump administration. As the store owners note, “Inspired by the template created by Michael Hughes, Catland’s own Dakota Bracciale will lead a group ritual to hex the Trump administration from further harm against the American people and the American government.” According to the Facebook event page, 37 people have already signed up to attend the June 10 event with another 290 people interested.
  • June is the month that many choose to get married or handfasted. Circle Sanctuary has provided a short guide to planning a Pagan wedding. The guide opens with this recommendation from Rev. Selena Fox: “By working together in deciding the answers to [the included] questions, you can strengthen your process of communication and decision making, plus you will create the framework upon which your wedding ritual can take shape in a planning session with me or whomever you choose to perform your rite.”
  • As June arrives, many Pagans are preparing for the solstice and the early summer festivals and events. Laura Gonzalez will be speaking with River Higginbotham and Selena Fox about the 25th Annual St Louis Pagan Picnic and Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG ) on her Pagans Tonight Radio Network show Lunatic Mondays – Lunes Lunáticos. The show will air at 8 p.m. EST.