Pagan Community Notes: Memorial Day, Pagan college scholarship, Witchcraft conference and more

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Veterans Ridge at Circle Cemetery

Veterans Ridge at Circle Cemetery [courtesy].

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. The departments of Defense and  Veterans Affairs together reportedly state that over “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 or 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 is part of many modern Pagan, Heathen and polytheist lives. 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 actively 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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DETROIT, Mich. — It was announced Friday that Kristen Newcombe was the 2018 winner of the Michigan Pagan Scholarship. Newcombe is from Remus, Michigan and is attending Ferris State University. In her application, she listed her reasons for applying: “The first is growing up in a Christian community was difficult. The community always had perceived views of what Pagan means. Also, there were always people who looked down on my family for being openly Pagan. Even into adulthood I still meet people with misguided beliefs that Pagans or Wiccans are heathens who dance around naked and curse those who have wronged them. The second is the money would help pay for books and assist in stabilizing me as a college student.  Along with advocating for those who can’t, it lead[sic] me to look into teaching as a profession.”

The Michigan Pagan Scholarship is organized and supported by a number of organizations, including the Magical Educational Council, Candle Wick Shoppe, Coventry Creations, Michigan Witches’ Ball, Little Truths Artes & Crafts, and Wolf Run Spiritual Sanctuary.  The purpose of the fund is to “recognize and encourage young Pagans” who “demonstrate evidence of leadership and engage in community service.” Newcombe is the fifth winner of the scholarship since its inception. Her winning essay can be read on the scholarship’s website.

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UNITED KINGDOM — Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network is being used to host another conference with the aim of building “upon the positive momentum gathered at the U.N. workshop [on Witchcraft] by bringing academics, faith leaders, civil society actors, survivors and U.N. experts together to further develop understanding of the links between historic witchcraft beliefs and persecution, present day conceptualizations of witchcraft beliefs and practices, and potential strategies to prevent further human rights abuses in the future.” The interdisciplinary conference seeks to examine the many cultural incarnation of witchcraft found worldwide and across time. WHRIN organizers write, “[The event] will focus on how witchcraft accusations, practices and beliefs, and the consequences they generate, are understood, theorised and represented.”

The U.N. workshop was a landmark two-day event that was held in September, 2017. It marked, as we reported, “the first time that the U.N. has aggressively addressed this world crisis – one that sees adults and children beaten, dismembered, and even killed in the name of the witchcraft.”  In an interview at the time, WHRIN president Gary Foxcroft told The Wild Hunt that his organization is eager for more modern Witches and Pagans to get involved with this global cause and to share their voices on this complex human rights topic at the world table.

Along with fostering discussions on beliefs, the new conference’s agenda is intended “to identify the solutions needed to prevent human rights abuses, which have been widely reported across the U.K. and rest of the world, from persisting in the future. The outcomes of the conference will feed into the wider work of the U.N. and its academic and civil society partners in raising awareness of witchcraft-related human rights abuses and the development of an international guidance document to states and civil society on the issue.” The conference, which is being co-hosted by the U.N. and Lancaster University. will take place in 10-11 January 2019. The call for proposals is now open.

In other news

  • Leaders of the Doreen Valiente Foundation announced Friday that it is now a registered charity in England and Wales. Julie Payne said publicly, “This has taken years to fulfill. Now the work really begins in earnest. Thank you for everyone who has worked with our small but beautiful team of the Doreen Valiente Foundation.”  We will have more on this story in coming weeks.
  • The call for papers for the 2019 Conference for Pagan Studies has has been released. The California-based conference takes place annually in January. The upcoming theme is “The Changing Landscape: Taking Stock of Our Pagan Communities.” Abstracts are due by Oct. 31, 2018.
  • The Pagan Federation International will be hosting its summer symposium next week in the Netherlands. The afternoon event is the first for PFI Netherlands and will be hosted June 10 in the Hague. Subjects being discussed range from Italian folk magic to the nature zpirits of Iceland. The keynote speaker is Dr. Wilmar Taal. According to the site, registration is required.
  • Submissions are still open for Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Ascendant: Modern Essays on Polytheism and Theology. “The editors are primarily interested in essays exploring theology from a Pagan and  polytheist perspective, potentially with ritual scripts to demonstrate how theological concepts can be expressed in practice,” reads the site. The deadline is July 1.

Tarot card of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Fantastical Creatures Tarot by D.J. Conway, illustrated by Lisa Hunt, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Card: queen of swords

The energy of this week is likely to put to the test one’s determination and willpower to balance or cope with an emotionally charged event. Look to the positive female role models in your life if you need guidance. The queen of swords always manages to keep her head while sometimes taking the heads of those who oppose her.

The decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.