Pagan Community Notes: Religious harassment at Florida Gathering, Calif. school removes Bible verse, and more!

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LAKELAND, Fla. – On May 3, 2019, it was reported on social media that a Lakeland company, Skyspot Advertising, a night aerial advertising business flew over the grounds of the Florida Pagan Gathering (FPG) and displayed Christian evangelical messages. The plane circled the grounds of FPG during a concert by Hekate’s Wheel, disrupting the performance. FPG headliner, Patti Wigington was the first to post publicly about the flyover.

Several attendees reached out to Skyspot to complain about the flyover as inappropriate and disruptive. The company replied to attendee messages with, “Skyspot Advertising LLC, was hired to display a message, with the understanding that it was a church picnic. We were not able to verify who the audience was, given the private nature of the event. This led to the misunderstanding of the purpose of the messages. We apologize for any inconvenience, since we were led to believe it was a church event.”

It’s not clear how Skyspot arrived at the conclusion that the event was Christian. Temple of Earth Gatherings sponsors FPG, and is in fact a church recognized by the state of Florida, just not a Christian church. Information about Florida Pagan Gathering is provided on both the festival’s main pages display including contact information for it and Maddox Ranch.

TWH has reached out to Skyspot, Temple of Earth Gatherings, and various attendees. Temple of Earth Gatherings replied with the following statement:

On Friday, May 3rd at 8:00pm The Florida Pagan Gathering was hosting Hecate’s Wheel for our festival concert. A few minutes after 8pm, a man came up to our registration table requesting to know what group we were, why we were here, and what we were doing. Our registration staff told him that we were having a religious retreat. He continued to press them with other questions and they asked him who he was and how could they help him. He immediately left the registration booth and got in his car and left.

Approximately 10 minutes later an airplane with night signage flew over the festival grounds. The sign’s messages were “God loves you” and “John 3:16” and the name of the aerial advertising services. The flyovers continued for about 10 minutes. One of the board members attempted to call the Lakeland airport’s flight services but was unable to contact anyone. He then contacted the Polk County Sheriffs Department to inform them of the harassment of a religious event.

The airplane did one more fly over and then broke off and flew away. We did not receive any more fly overs and there were no other people questioning us at our registration booth.”FPG continued to enjoy beautiful weather for the remainder of a great Beltane festival. Temple of Earth Gathering has not received an apology from Skyspot and the only response we have received from them is that they were hired to do a fly over and had no way to verify who we were. This is false as Maddox Ranch is a long time event venue in the area for weddings, and gatherings, concerts and birthday parties. The company could have either called Maddox Ranch to find out what event was there, or sent a representative to our location to speak to the Event Coordinator to ask if the flyover was something we wanted.

The Temple of Earth Gatherings, presenter of The Florida Pagan Gathering, is currently discussing the issue with our attorney and legal action has not been taken off the table.”

Skyspot responded to TWH‘s request for a statement with the exact statement as others had posted on Facebook. Further they added, “With due respect, since we believe that our response is truthful and clear, we do not see any reason for further discussions on the matter.”

We continue to follow this story and report any new developments.

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EDWARDS, Calif – Last week a Bible verse that had been written on a retaining wall outside the office of Desert Junior/Senior High School, a Muroc Joint Unified School District property was been removed.

According to a report by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) a concerned parent had contacted FFRF to complain about the verse last August. In February, Christopher Line, Patrick O’Reiley Legal Fellow for FFRF, sent another letter requesting that if the Christian Bible verse had not already been removed, that the school district do so immediately and provide photographic proof. Line went on to cite local, state, and federal laws regarding religious displays on school property. The verse was Epistle to the Hebrews 13:20-21 of the New Testament.

In a letter dated April 29, 2019, Kevin D. Cordes, superintendent for the Muroc Joint Unified School District, informed FFRF that the verse had been removed, and included before and after pictures.

“The illustration of a Bible verse on school property undeniably paints the picture that the school endorses that religious message,” noted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It sends the signal to minority religious and nonreligious students that they are outsiders in their own community.”

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In other news:

  • Last month, the Birmingham Crown Court heard evidence of examples of Alice Cutter, 22, wearing earrings with swastikas which she said she bought in a “Pagan” shop in Lithuania, and shawl woven in a pattern of swastikas was also a “Pagan religious” item that a friend had given her. Cutter had also been a contestant in a “Miss Hitler” beauty pageant titled, Buchenwald Princess. Cutter, 22, and her boyfriend, Mark Jones, 24, are on trial in England on charges of being members of the banned neo-Nazi organization, National Action. Two others are also charged and are standing trial with Jones and Cutter, Garry Jack, 23, and 18-year-old Connor Scothern.
  • Hartmut Hegeler, a 73-year-old retired Protestant pastor in Germany has started a campaign seeking the pardons for the tens of thousands of people who were executed as “witches” between the 15th and 18th centuries across Europe. Hegeler began researching the subject in 2000. He found that 25,000 accused “witches” were executed in Germany alone, and as victims they should be pardoned and commemorated.
  • The trial for the two people accused of murdering Annalise Johnstone, 22, at the “witch monument”, called Maggie Wall’s memorial in Perthshire, Scotland. Jordan Johnstone, 25, and Angela Newlands, 19 are both charged with murder, and obstruction of justice which the English court defines as “attempting to defeat the ends of justice to avoid detection, arrest and prosecution.” Johnstone and Newlands allegedly murdered Annalise Johnstone at the monument, dumped her body at a different location, burned items connected to the crime, and gave false information to police. Both accused deny murdering Annaise Johnstone.
  • A three year research project titled, “Bottles concealed and revealed” is being conducted jointly by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and the University of Hertfordshire, Arts & Humanities Research Council. The focus of the project is to provide a more complete historical context and clearer understanding of 17th century “witch-bottles,” such as their origin, how the magical practice spread and was adapted over the following centuries, the types of places such bottles have been found, and what connection the magical practice may or may not have to medicinal practices.
  • Pat Noone, 52 who owns a 60-acre farm in Galway, Ireland, says 16 acres of the land is a fairy field. According to Noone, his father was a historian and folklorist and an authority on local history, “When I was small, people would bring him a half quarter of tobacco and he’d bring them around and show them the fairy forts and the fields.” The field contains a fairy fort, a fairy tree and a tunnel running through it. The land is also home to two monuments: a megalithic cairn and a fairy stone. In the past, tourists have even come to visit his field in hopes of seeing the fairies. Noone claims that some visitors have come out of the field frightened.

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins, Ph.D., artwork by Joyce Eakins, M.F.A, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Death – Major arcana 13 (XIII)

Look for a potentially big shift or transformation this week. The process of death and rebirth often requires facing ones deepest fears. Prepare accordingly.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone