TWH – Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the 2017, we look back, one last time, to review this historic year. What happened? What didn’t happen?
What events shaped our thoughts and guided our actions? In our collective worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions? How did Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists face world issues and local crises? What were the high points and the low? Join us on this reflective journey.As the light began to return and the daze from the 2016 holiday celebrations faded into the past, the new year promised to be an interesting one, as the U.S. presidential inauguration drew closer. However, as American politics took and held center stage for much of the year, there were other things going on in the collective communities that make up the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist worlds.
In the beginning…
The early months saw continued concern for the future as the new presidential administration was poised to take office Jan. 20. Pagans, Heathens, and others joined in voicing their opinions, protesting, and being mindful of the sociopolitical shift taking place. Early in January, UU Pagans made their voices known in a statement. “The short daylight and the fear and pain among my loved ones are adding layers of weight on my mind. So many of my friends have realistic fears about being able to survive, much less prosper, during the next four years,” wrote Amy Beltaine, CUUPS president.
Beltaine’s sentiments were echoed repeatedly throughout the early months of 2017, with words and actions. In February, T. Thorn Coyle joined in to create a “wall of love” to support a local church that had been vandalized. In North Carolina, Byron Ballard and Laura LaVoie offered support to the Asheville Jewish community after it experienced a rash of attacks. Similarly, Aline “Macha” O’Brien, a strong proponent of interfaith relations, had reached out to the local Jewish community in California, and in Canada, Pagans stood together with others to support the Muslim community after an attack on a Quebec mosque.
The Women’s March took center stage on the political front at the end of January with members of many religious communities joining the historic mass protest. That same month, the “Whiting 41,” a group of citizens arrested for protesting a BP oil refinery in 2016, used its court date to stage a political statement and rally. There were protests at airports throughout the United States during that month, and arguably the most famous action was the public hexing of the Trump administration. While that particular event was not the only hex action, it garnered the most attention at any given point. We spoke to several people about the ethics of hexing, as it is a controversial practice within the global Pagan community.In an editorial, Heather Greene took a larger look at the trends, and explored the role that political propaganda plays in history, as it relates to current events. In a later article, Greene looks more specifically at the Trump administration’s continued use of nostalgia as a method of propaganda, and its role in shifting current social rhetoric. In that vein, she also explored the history of the Johnson Amendment, explaining what it is and why that hot-button issue is important for minority religious communities.
Outside of politics and deep within the trenches of the Pagan, Heathen, polytheist worlds, other events and issues were making news. At long last, a Druid symbol was added to the list of emblems allowed on veterans’ grave markers and memorial plaques. Patheos bloggers received their new updated contracts after BN Media took over in 2016. The new contracts set off a wave of controversy, with some Pagan bloggers staying and others leaving.
Throughout the world, Pagan, Heathens, and polytheists continued to build practices, organizations, schools, and temples; some successfully (Poland) and some not (Canada). At the same time, in Australia, the Pagan community had something else entirely on its mind: Robin Fletcher, a convicted sexual predator and someone who identifies as Wiccan, was released back into society without constraints. The community had to engage in the commonly had discussion on the merits of integrating prisoners back into community.
During these early months, we also lost Dana Eilers, author of the book Pagans and the Law, and priestess Velvet Reith, a leader in the New Orleans Pagan community.
Tiptoe through the tulips…
As March moved into April, earlier political tensions did not leave with the winter winds. In May, Trump signed an executive order regarding religious freedom, and we looked at what that actually means.
Pagans and Heathens could be found at many protests and marches throughout the spring months, including those that saw violence such as the April conflict in Berkeley, California as well as marches and actions to support various environmental protections.
Despite the very loud and active political arena, the biggest news of the spring involved the former Pagan circuit musician Kenny Klein. The long-drawn-out court case finally ended with him being convicted of “one count of pornography involving a juvenile under the age of 13, and 19 counts of possession with intent to distribute pornography involving juveniles under the age 17.”
Only days later, Scott Holbrook, a Druid from North Carolina, pleaded no contest to the accusation of the “dissemination of obscenities.” He accepted “a suspended sentence as well as six months of probation.”
Also in legal news, New York-based Wiccan Carl DeLuca filed lawsuit against the Health + Hospitals Corporation (HHC), charging them with religious discrimination. The case has not yet gone to court. Further north in Wisconsin, Pagan couple Brandon Wantroba and Elizabeth Percy Ryder were arrested for attempting adverse possession at Kickapoo Indian Caverns.There was also uplifting news of new growth and expansion, as one might expect during the spring months. Conversations circle around Pagan-dedicated lands, which is a subject that brings its own controversy. Despite any objections, the attempts to build infrastructure continue on. Ground was broken on a new Heathen hof in Georgia. The Buckland Museum settled in its new Ohio home and, eventually, opened its doors.
However, as proven this spring by news coming out of Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary, maintaining a Pagan festival land can be as difficult as it is rewarding. The large campground and event space was faced with reports of a disease outbreak and poor sanitary conditions.
Legal strides were made both in the U.S. and Canada. The U.S. Department of Defense added Heathen and Pagan religions its list of recognized faith groups, and in Canada, the parliament began a serious debate on the elimination of antiquated and, for many people, discriminatory Witchcraft restrictions in its criminal code.
In May, another big announcement was made. The Parliament of the World’s Religions would be held in Toronto in 2018. The last parliament was held in Utah in 2015, and it attracted the largest Pagan contingent of any past event. Since the announcement Pagans have begun preparations for another strong showing.
Into the summer …
Heading into the warm summer months, Pagan festival season hit its stride. Columnist Nathan Hall reviewed the summer music tour, and what that looks like for Pagan musicians. During that time, Mystic South, the new Atlanta-based indoor conference, opened its doors. Going into its second day, the hotel’s air conditioning and water systems stopped working, making the climate of the indoor conference similar to the campground festivals happening elsewhere.
During the same time, Pagan Pride Day season began.This year, Louisville Pagan Pride faced a lawsuit threat after one attendee was unhappy with accessibility accommodations.
Also making news in the summer, a Heathen musician and filmmaker based in California was robbed for the second time. A fire destroyed Raven and Stephanie Grimassi’s home. The Pagan community was shocked to learn of the murder of Jaime Johnson in a domestic attack, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche was named a hero, after being killed during his attempt to stop a man from bullying a Muslim woman on a Portland train.
Coming from our international news team, Witchcraft was facing new challenges in the U.K. There was a reported uptick in Witchcraft-related complaints in the city of Nottingham. However, at the same time, the U.N. held its first-ever conference to address Witchcraft- and occult-related violence worldwide.
Our Australian columnist Josephine Winter reports that Druidry is taking root, and our South African guest contributor Damon Leff writes a memorial to priestess and elder Donna Darkwolf, who died in July.
During these warmer months, protests and actions, small and large, continued to garner much attention, including those happening in social media and in real time.Some of such events and actions included the controversial hashtag campaign #HavamalWitches, the historic “Ain’t I a Woman” march, and the London march against animal cruelty.However, the single event that attracted the most attention during this period was the tragic and violent protests, conflicts, and actions occurring in Charlottesville, West Virginia. “The events of Charlottesville hurt me to my very soul,” said guest columnist Dianne Daniels in an interview at the time. This sentiment was echoed by many throughout the country for weeks after that weekend.
Outside of political actions, there were other stories that held our communities’ interests, including the “Great American Eclipse,” the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series, Doreen Virtue announced her official conversion to Christianity, and occult merchants continuing to battle online services and occult bans.
Serious concerns over plagiarism of Pagan books and other material once again began to surface.
What just happened…
By mid-September, as autumn approaches, the mainstream media world turns to Witchcraft. By early September, Witchcraft was already trending, as the continued political hex actions, youth-driven Tumblr communities, and pop culture products, such as the upcoming Sabrina show, fueled this growing interest. By December, Breitbart noticed what they essentially called the emergence of “feminist witchcraft.”
While Witchcraft became the buzzword of the season for many, the period was plagued by a rash of natural disasters, including fires in California, hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and an earthquake in Mexico City. Pagans and Heathens were affected by all of these disasters, and the collective communities have come together to join others in offering assistance and relief, including magical efforts.
Other national stories that we covered in the fall included the possible rollback of net neutrality, the landmark Masterpiece Cake Supreme Court case, and the ongoing religious liberty actions taken by the Satanic Temple. In addition, U.K. correspondent Liz Williams reported on the opening of the London-based Mithras temple, and editor Terence Ward shared the UN’s display of a 3D printed replica of the Palmyran Athena statue.
While the global and national scenes continued to draw attention, as was the case most of the year, there were a few big Pagan-specific news making events in the fall. MInnesota-based WiCom faced a difficult situation when one of its priests was charged with sexual misconduct and abuse of position. In Georgia, CalderaFest organizers announced that they would not be holding that festival, saying that this decision was due to lack of ticket sales and volunteers. They promised to return in 2019. Similarly, WitchFest International was also put on hold.
As we reported, a Wiccan woman in Michigan was reportedly called a devil worshiper in her doctor’s office, and a woman in South Africa filed an official complaint claiming that she was fired because of her religious beliefs. In another story, a man in Georgia was reportedly bullied into not starting a Pagan after-school club.
Perhaps the biggest shock to hit the news was the death of Raymond Buckland.Within the fall there were uplifting moments as well. The Maryland-based Frederick CUUPS chapter received a large Pagan library donation, and began work to make that a public venue. We reported on the growth and spirit of the popular annual Glastonbury Goddess Conference, and on the new Troth conference Frith Forge. In Australia, columnist Josephine Winter reported on new Pagan groups dedicated to supporting the queer community.
In the legal world, the Supreme Court declined to hear the New Mexico religious freedom case brought to court by Wiccan priestess Janie Felix. The city of Bloomington appealed to SCOTUS in an attempt to keep the Ten Commandments on public property. Due to its refusal to hear the case, the city will have to remove the monument.
Two more Pagans announced they were running for office. In Minnesota, John Slade announced his candidacy for the state’s legislature. He is currently seeking his party’s support. In North Carolina, Megan Longstreet ran for city council. She did lose the election, but like others was still happy that she ran.
As the year came to a close, Virginia-based Pagans attended an action to keep oil pipelines out of the area. Together with others, they formed a magical circle around the state capitol in Richmond.
While many have expressed gratitude for the end of 2017, Wild Hunt columnist Crystal Blanton finished the year with a column that looked at the positive. She concluded ed her column on the use words saying, “I am choosing to be reflective about the close of 2017, focusing on what I want from the coming year and the power of the tools we have at our disposal. Too much pain, marginalization, disconnection, directed anger and confusion have been actualized in . What happens if we take the intention and words of our magic into our everyday relationships? What impact could we have? Words can equate to change. Words can be the catalyst for hope. Words can bring about revolution.”
Blanton wrote with hope, “As we turn the corner of this year let us choose our words wisely, speak with integrity, inspire one another, and follow the path of our gods.” The Wild Hunt is nothing but words, and we leave our words reflective of both the greater community and ourselves here every day to inspire, educate, and bring about a better world inward and out.This retrospective only lists a very small fraction of the stories that TWH covered or that happened over the year. Along with our own team’s work, we invited a number of guests to share their unique views, voices, and stories from their local regions. Some of these guests include: Yeshe Matthews, ZB, Byron Ballard, Star Foster, Dianne Daniels, and Lou Florez-Tanti.
We also spoke directly with Pagan artists, authors, activists, and occultists, all of whom candidly took time to share their work and their inspirations. These included Penny Slinger, Markos Gage, Laura Tempest Zakroff, Jason Mankey, Paul Beyerl, Grandmother Elspeth, Kristoffer Hughes, and Abby Willowroot.
Now we move into 2018. It will be our 14th year of serving our readers. We have come a long way and we continue to evolve in order to better serve our collective communities. Many writers have offered their words on this site. We are ever thankful to everyone who continues to support this nonprofit, independent news service.
As editor Terence Ward wrote, it is both a labor of love, a commitment to community, and type of ministry. Going forward, we invite all of our readers to join our Sustainers’ circle with a monthly donation. Your commitment will help us continue, day in and day out, to serve you with news, to serve our communities with a valuable resource, to serve future generations with a history of what happened now …
…. and to use our power of words as seeds to grow our future.
Here is a sample of writings from our 2017 TWH team:
Kronia – Sweetness, Sacrifice, Healing by Clio Ajana
Paganism in Mexico by Jaime Gironés
When the Gods Hide in Songs by Lyonel Perabo
Red and White by Eric O. Scott
Radical Religious Terrorism by Karl E. H. Seigfried
Honoring Differences in Energy Perception by Tamilia
Money Has No Smell by Manny Tejeda-Moreno
Pride After Pulse, Gay Pagans Reflect on a Tragedy by Tim Titus
Loki and Dionysos by Heathen Chinese
Queer Paganism in Australia by Josephine Winter
Connecting with the elders at the 7th Annual Pan African Festival by Crystal Blanton
Living the Superunknown, A Letter to Chris Cornell by Nathan Hall
News stories and more:
Religious Liberty or Religious Bigotry? by Heather Greene
Pagans, pipelines, protests, and the public trust by Terence Ward
Glastonbury – “Pagan Central” by Liz Williams
Canada 150 sparks celebrations and protest by Dodie Graham McKay
The 2017 Winter Solstice Guide by Cara Schulz