Pagan Community Notes: University of Indiana, Asatru Folk Assembly, chaplain wanted and more

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Dave Sassman [public Facebook image].

INDIANAPOLIS — A panel about Paganism was organized at the university here, and appears to be have a success in terms of raising awareness about these minority religions. According to Rev. Dave Sassman of Circle Sanctuary, one of the participants, it included the only known Pagan affiliated with the school — associate profession Caron MacPherson — and had 40 to 50 people in attendance. Basic information such as the extremely wide variety of traditions that might be lumped together as “Pagan,” as well as dispelling stereotypes along the lines of human sacrifice were covered; panelists also shared something from their personal religious journeys.

According to Sassman, “Only one Pagan was known on campus at the beginning of the panel, but by the end there were two,” as one student in attendance came forward.  In his eyes, that’s a success in itself.

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TWH – The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), a national Heathen group based in California, was placed on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2017 list of hate groups. Founded in 1971, the SPLC is a civil rights organization that maintains a watch on hate groups around the world. While SPLC has listed other groups that claim a Heathen practice or are dedicated to Norse mythology, the AFA itself was not included on the watch list; now it is.

AFA has been placed in the category called Neo-Volkisch, which SPLC does distinguish from other forms of Heathenry. SPLC explains: “These myriad categorizations can be confusing, as not all Heathens are bigoted, and some actively distance their religion from neo-Völkisch dogma.” An SPLC spokesperson explained that while AFA was listed as part of the 2017 survey, those statistics were only just released publicly as part of its annual report on the previous year. That report is titled A Year in Hate  and published every February. Also new to the 2017 list  is the category “male supremacy.”

The Asatru Folk Assembly has not responded to our request for comment in time for publication.

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EXETER, England — Prison officials in England have posted a public job opening for a Pagan chaplain. HMP Dartmoor has a need for a part-time chaplain to carry out a number of services that cater to the facilities Pagan population. “The job holder will provide for the religious care of prisoners and staff in the Pagan faith tradition and appropriate pastoral care for all irrespective of faith or tradition.”

While the news of the public listing might surprise and delight the Pagan community, it has also surprised the mainstream media, getting significant buzz. A Guardian reporter asks, “Spiritual leaders for inmates who adhere to Pagan religions are being recruited around the country. What kind of advice can these faith advisers give?” and follows through with a positive answer that touts the importance of Pagan chaplains. Other sites were not as supportive, calling it a waste of money.  We’ll follow this story and bring you more as needed.

In other news

  • Dr. Francesca Tronetti has recently published her doctoral work focusing on the Maetreum of Cybele located in New York. As a priestess of that tradition, Tronetti has intimate knowledge of its work and its history, including its famous and successful 2014 legal battle to earn property tax exemption status. Maetreum leader Catherine Platine believes this is the first dissertation which is focused on the workings of a specific Pagan tradition.
  • In two weeks. two of the Pagan community’s largest indoor conferences will take place. In Minnesota, Paganicon will kick off on Friday, March 16. In Maryland, Sacred Space will open its doors on March 15. We will have reports from both in the coming weeks.
  • Only two weeks after those conferences finish, the first outdoor Pagan-themed camping festival begins. The Equinox in the Oaks is an annual event that takes place in the warmth of a Florida spring, not far from the famous Daytona Beach. In past years, the festival has been held on a weekend nearest to the equinox. This year, it will be held April 5-8.
  • As we turn the corner to spring, many Pagan and Heathen bloggers are beginning to reflect on the changes coming. Renee Lehnen at Humanistic Paganism discusses the meaning of naturalism and what it means to her. “Atheism and naturalism are two sides of the same coin. Atheism proclaims what is not, and naturalism proclaims what is. These two perspectives are deeply meaningful to me. And what of Paganism? I think it is a way to celebrate our existence on this tiny blue planet.”

Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte

Deck: Tarot of Druids by Giordano Berti & Bepi Vigna, artwork by Antonio Lupatelli & Severino Baraldi, published by Lo Scarabeo

Card: Aillen Mac Midhna, major arcana XVI (16) (represented as the tower in traditional decks.)

Aillen Mac Midhna is described in this deck as “demoniacal musician who put people to sleep with the music of his tambourine” though most Irish myths refer him as a fire-breathing goblin and his instrument as an Irish harp. As I look at this card, I cannot help thinking of Nero playing his fiddle while Rome burned. This week is liable to be filled with challenges. The potential is present for damage and punishment. Do not allow yourself to be seduced by the music.

[Decks provided by Asheville Raven and Crone.]

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