Pagan Community Notes: Circle Sanctuary, solstice and appropriation, April Cotte and more

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BARNEVELD, Wis. — Circle Sanctuary has officially “been accepted as a religious endorsing organization member of two important national chaplaincy groups: the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and the Coalition on Ministry in Specialized Settings (COMISS) network.

At a Jan. 7 annual meeting, COMISS officials announced that Circle Sanctuary had been accepted into its network, joining another Pagan organization: the Sacred Congregation. One day later, Circle got word that it had been also been accepted by APC, as the first Pagan organization in that roster. In a press release, Circle organizers said, “With Circle Sanctuary now being part of these groups, its advocacy and support work for Pagan/nature spirituality people in hospitals, prisons and in the military has expanded.”  We will have more on this story coming up.

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SunriseCAMBRIDGE, England — Georgia Humphrey, a Wiccan student at Christ’s College in Cambridge, has complained that Trinity Hall’s annual end-of-semester celebration is offensive to her religious practice. The school’s 2018 event is being held June 20 and themed after the summer solstice. Humphrey wrote in a Jan. 22 Facebook post: “Leave my religion alone,” and told a local student journalist: “I’m mostly upset that not only is a religious festival that thousands of people celebrate being made into an excuse for drunkenness, but the religious site at which pagans celebrate the solstice is even being used in their publicity with apparently no thought given to how insensitive that might be.”

Trinity Hall officlals responded, saying that they never intended to offend anyone. In a public statement published on its site, school officials wrote: “We recognise the importance of the summer and winter solstice to the Wiccan community. Our theme is intended to highlight and celebrate the beauty of an astronomical marvel. Our predecessors across the world were awed by the beauty of the solstice and, like so many before and since, we share in their wonder and celebration.”

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area community has lost a member. April Cotte died unexpectedly Jan. 25 during a private ceremony in sweat lodge. As is reported, two friends, who were guarding the lodge during that ritual, went to check on her when her chanting fell silent. When she didn’t answer their calls, they entered and discovered what had happened. It is reported that she died peacefully.

Cotte was known for her love of nature and her devotion to her earth-centered spirituality. Author and Witch Starhawk called Cotte a “good friend,” writing, “She was someone I could always count on, for warmth, for support, for a conversation, to help host a solstice vigil and stay up all night. She was such a warrior for the earth, and working with so many communities for justice and rights.” As a mother, one of the organization she loved was Gaia Girls, a nature-based mentoring program in the Bay Area for girls.

A four-day sacred fire ceremony to honor Cotte’s life and legacy began Jan. 28 and will last to Feb. 1. It is being held in Petaluma. What is remembered, lives.

In other news

  • The Children of Artemis (COA) are sponsoring a new event for 2018: WitchFest Market and Halloween Ball. The organization’s beloved festival WitchFest has temporarily closed its doors due to lack of funding and attendance. However, COA has since announced this new one-day event, which is scheduled for Nov. 3 and will be hosted in Reading from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Organizers write, “This is a market organised on a true Witchfest scale, truly everything the Witchfest visitor could possibly want to buy all in one place.” We will have more on this story coming up.
  • SUNY Professor Michael Strmiska is hosting a religious heritage trip to Lithuania and Poland in June 2018. He writes, “The trip involves visiting religious and historical sites related to all the religious traditions and communities in the region,” including Pagan ones such as Romuva in Lithuania. For those interested, the deadline for application is March 1.
  • Heathen Hearth is celebrating reaching 500 subscribers with a contest. The YouTube channel, created by Austin Lawrence, focus on Heathen foods, or recipes and diets using the foods of paleolithic Europe, pre-colonized people’s diets, pre-Christian Scandinavian and Germanic peoples, as well as fictional foods and more. The winner of the contest will get a copy of Pleyn Delit: Medieval Cookery for Modern Cooks.
  • For fans of the Czech folk duo Nemeur, the group has released a new music video titled “Descent to the Realm of the Dead.” The track is from their upcoming third album “Gardens of Babylon” which features ancient Babylonian lyrics. The album is set to be released Feb. 25.
  • The Conference on Current Pagan Studies, as we reported last week, kicked off over the weekend, wrapping up Saturday, Jan. 28. The event has been reported as a success. Organizers said it was “engaging and exciting” and that they can’t wait until next year. The next big indoor Pagan conference on the calendar is A Feast of Lights in Massachusetts, which is sponsored by EarthSpirit Community. It begins Friday, Feb. 2 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 4.

Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Sacred Rose Tarot by Johanna Gargiula-Sherman, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: major arcana XII (12), the hanged man

The week ahead may very well put some people and beliefs to the test, as it were. Sacrifice is generally a key attribute of the hanged man, but also so are suspension, and even suffering. Be mindful of your values, and realize that very often, selfish action paves the way to defeat. (As a political side note: I would keep this card in mind if you endeavor to watch the State of the Union Address on Tuesday.)

Decks provided by Asheville Raven and Crone