Writer, Welsh Bardic Tradition priestess Kathryn Hinds passes

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Pagan musician Arthur Hinds remembers the time four years ago when he and his late wife, Kathryn, were “honored-slash-condemned” – he said with a soft laugh — to lead the main ritual at Pagan Spirit Gathering.

“That is a huge thing,” Hinds said from the couple’s home in Dahlonega, Georgia., where they led a circle in the Welsh Bardic Tradition they founded. “We prepared, we rehearsed, we got everybody together. There are hundreds of people in the circle, and you look back and there are hundreds more in a line still coming in. We just looked at each other and swallowed and asked for the help of the gods and said, ‘Ok, we either go or we don’t.’

“That was a really, really good time. We didn’t even talk to each other. We didn’t have to talk to each other. We were connected and responded. Even when things didn’t go as planned, they happened the way they were supposed to be, and we both knew it and we rolled with it. She was such an awesome partner of mine.”

Arthur and Kathryn Hinds at the 2014 Green Spirit Festival at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve [Selena Fox].

Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, who died Jan. 30 at age 55 from complications after a series of heart surgeries, was an academic, college English professor, Middle Eastern dancer and teacher, novelist, poet, and writer of more than 50 nonfiction books on world history and mythology for children and young adults.

She also was a Pagan since at least the late 1980s, when she and Arthur met while taking classes in the Pagan Way tradition in Manhattan. Along with being a priestess in the Welsh Bardic Tradition, she was a regular attendee of large Pagan events, such as PSG and Paganicon, as well as Atlanta Pagan Pride and similar festivals.

On her website kathrynhinds.com, she wrote: “Growing up outside Rochester, N.Y., as a proverbially ‘sickly child,’ I learned early on to revel in the experiences and adventures offered to me by the combined forces of books and my imagination. As soon as I learned to write, I started writing stories of my own, and I’ve never stopped.”

While attending college at Barnard in New York City, she “explored” becoming an archaeologist, concert cellist, composer, conductor, and an actor-singer-dancer before becoming “serious about writing fiction and poetry,” she wrote on her website. She ended up with an interdisciplinary arts major with a double concentration in music and writing, while also studying Latin, literature, and religion.

She worked as an administrative assistant, an early childhood educator, and an executive secretary before attending City University of New York, where she earned a doctoral degree in comparative literature with a concentration in medieval studies. She also studied Old Norse, Old Irish, and courtly lyrics in Old Occitan, Old French, and Middle English.

A job in the publishing industry led to an opportunity to write middle-grade history and mythology books for the school and library market. Her series Cultures of the Past included books on the ancient Celts, Romans, Vikings, Incas, medieval England, and the Venetian empire. Other series included Life in the Middle Ages, Life in the Renaissance, Life in the Roman Empire, Life in Ancient Egypt, Life in Elizabethan England, and Life in the Medieval Muslim World.

She also wrote two six-book series: Barbarians! (featuring the volumes Ancient Celts, Early Germans, Scythians and Sarmatians, Huns, Goths, and Vikings) and Creatures of Fantasy (featuring the volumes Unicorns, Dragons, Mermaids, Sphinxes and Centaurs, Griffins and Phoenixes, and Water Monsters).

A review in School Library Journal of the Creatures of Fantasy series, which noted the books were intended for grades 5-8, said: “This is a well-referenced and ambitious collection that delivers. The books breathe new life into mythology while offering historical perspective for the fantastical stories kids know and love, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle.”

While Kathryn was making her way in the writing world, she also was finding her way along her Pagan path, hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart with Arthur.

“We met in Pagan Way and we have been working partners since the very beginning,” Arthur said. “We started our training together, in the back garden of a store near Alphabet City in Manhattan called Enchantments. I had been there for three classes, something like that, and then she showed up on Beltane.”

Their meeting was “not quite” love at first sight, he said, but added: “We were paired to worked together in the class and then it became very clear that there was a deep, profound, multi-life connection.”

Soon the couple were training in the Welsh Tradition, which Raven Grimassi notes in his Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft had its U.S. origin in New York during the Wiccan revival of the early 1970s.

“Then we expanded it to become more Welsh,” said Arthur, whose family tree has roots in Wales. He and Kathryn “stirred in what we called the Welsh Bardic Tradition, really embracing the Welsh aspects and really digging deeper and expanding that.” This direction eventually inspired Kathryn to co-write with Carl McColman the book Magic of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses: a Guide to Their Spiritual Power, Healing Energies, and Mystical Joy, which was published in 2005.

Kathryn and Arthur moved from New York City to Georgia in 1995, first to Atlanta and then to the small town of Dahlonega in the North Georgia mountains. Kathryn worked for a time in the local library, and in 2011 she began teaching in the English department at the University of North Georgia — a post she held until her death.

Kathryn’s writing took another turn from the youth market to adults in 2013, when she released her poetry book Candle, Thread, and Flute, which collected poems she had published in SageWoman, Circle Network News, Hole in the Stone and other magazines both Pagan and muggle. In 2015 she released her self-described “feminist fantasy novel” titled The Healer’s Choice.

That novel led to a collaboration with her husband.

“In The Healer’s Choice and the unfinished sequel, Kathryn wrote lyrics that were songs in the tale,” Arthur wrote in a Facebook post. “Over the years I set some of them to music and recorded them, pretty much one per CD. I collected them, remastered them, added several other cuts not available anywhere else, and released them as an EP, The Beech Tree and the Ravens.” It and Arthur’s other CDs are available online at cdbaby.com/arthurhinds.

Bolstered by Arthur’s role as singer, guitarist, and bodhran player in the now-defunct Celtic folk band Emerald Rose, he and Kathryn became a fixture on the Pagan festival circuit.

Arthur Hinds, Selena Fox and Kathryn Hinds connecting with Welsh traditions at Unity Chapel near Spring Green, Wisconsin at Lughnasadh 2014 [Dennis Carpenter].

“I’m a Pagan musician, so I’ve played a bunch of different festivals,” Arthur said, “but really I would have to say our hearts were at PSG. Not to slight anyplace else that I’ve played. I’ve ritualized with a whole bunch of great folks and played for a bunch of great folks, but that was what we considered to be our home and our tribe.”

Rev. Selena Fox, high priestess of Circle Sanctuary and founder of Pagan Spirit Gathering, recalled Kathryn as “a beloved friend and a wonderful writer. I consider her a bard as well as a teacher in academia and the larger world.

“Kathryn and Arthur have been a part of our Pagan Spirit Gathering community for a number of years. They’ve done ritual work and many types of workshops. They’ve performed. They’ve also presented at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve. They’ve both been just wonderful community people, working with people from many different backgrounds. They had particular specialized knowledge in Welsh traditions.”

Fox recalled Circle Sanctuary’s efforts to have the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs add the awen, a Druid symbol, to its list of emblems of belief that can be included on grave markers for deceased veterans. She, Kathryn, and Arthur visited a cemetery near Spring Green, Wisconsin, that is home to graves of people who came to America from Wales.

“And lo and behold, what did we find in that old cemetery but a form of the awen on some of the grave stones,” Fox said. “Part of our inspiration for the form of the awen that ended up on the VA list came from a Welsh American family cemetery dating back to the 1800s. Arthur and Kathryn were part of that journey with me. That’s part of what I call the magic of them.”

Arthur is, understandably, uncertain whether the Welsh Bardic Tradition circles that he and Kathryn led in North Georgia will continue.

“I am really wrestling with it,” Arthur said. “I am so wrestling with it. I (breathes deep sigh) don’t know if I can. You’re hearing my despair at the moment. I just don’t know.”

A memorial for Kathryn will be held the afternoon of Mar. 18 near the couple’s home in Dahlonega. In keeping with a Hinds tradition, the occasion will be a pie party.

“In 2009 she had her last big surgery, and our community really came together and kept us whole,” Arthur said. “To give thanks to them and for just being alive, we threw a one-time covered dish party where everyone brought pies. Because who does not love pie? We were only an hour into it when everyone starting talking about what they were bringing next year. So, it became an annual thing.”

The memorial, Arthur said in a Facebook post, “is going to be a pie party to end all pie parties. Imagine a covered dish supper where everybody brings all kinds of pies, sweet as well as savory, and you get the idea.”

In another Facebook post, he apologized for not getting invitations to everyone and added that all friends are invited.

“I remember and celebrate Kathryn’s grace, brilliance, creativity, and strong spirit,” Fox said. “I am thankful for her service as priestess, bard, author, poet, and teacher, and cherish memories of our magical adventures together over the years. Support to her loving partner and husband Arthur, to all her family, friends, and fans as we mourn her passing and celebrate her life and legacy. May we all take comfort in knowing that she lives on in our hearts, in her writings, in her teachings, and in the many lives she touched and enriched. Blessed be.”

“I’m ok and then I cry,” Arthur said with a wistful sigh. “She was just an awesome woman in so many different ways and facets. She was an awesome woman.”

What is remembered, lives.