Pagan Community Notes: Ram Dass passes, possible religious discrimination with credit card processor, and more!

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MAUI, Hawaii – Today the Official Ram Dass account on Instagram confirmed that Dass died on December 22, 2019:Dass, born Richard Alpert in 1931, may be most remembered for his counterculture spiritual works as well as his early psychedelic exploration work with Timothy Leary. As a continuation of their Harvard Psilocybin Project, which examined the use of psychedelics for potential therapeutic and spiritual use, they founded the non-profit International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) in 1962 to further their research. They went on to publish The Psychedelic Experience in 1964 with co-author, Ralph Metzner.

In 1967 Alpert traveled to India and eventually met Neem Karoli Baba, who became his guru at Kainchi ashram, and gave him the name, “Ram Dass” meaning “servant of God.”

Upon his return to the United States, he stayed at the Lamas Foundation in Taos, New Mexico and forged a friendship with Steve and Barbara Durkee and them to co-found their spiritual community. It was during his visit there that he wrote what would come to be considered a seminal work that helped pave the way for many New Age practices.

Published in 1971 Dass’ book, Be Here Now, was a focus on mindfulness and positivity. It was considered as a manual for conscious beings that included Dass’ account of his spiritual journey and offered spiritual techniques and quotes.

Dass would go on to publish another 14 books and be involved in over half a dozen short and documentary films. The most recent, Ram Dass, Becoming Nobody, was released in September of 2019 and follows Dass’ evolution of his spiritual journey and teachings.

The influence Dass’ works have had on both social and spiritual awareness is immense. In the 1970s, he founded the Hanuman Foundation which is focused on the spiritual well-being of society through education, media and community service programs. He co-founded the international Seva Foundation with Larry Brilliant and humanitarian activist Wavy Gravy in 1978, which joined with health-care workers to treat the blind in India, Nepal, and other developing countries.

Dass also helped Dale Borglum create the Dying Project, which became the Living/Dying Project and offered the first residential facility in the U.S. where people could come to receive conscious and compassionate support when faced with a life-threatening illness or imminent death.

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – Last Thursday, Heron Michelle, owner of The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions made a public post on Facebook outlining her denial by a credit card processor based on the fact that her business offers Witchcraft classes and “fortune-telling.”

While Heron Michelle’s post and circumstance might be the most recent and visible, credit card processors have a history of denying service or even canceling accounts as TWH has reported on in 2017.

The use of the term “occult” which many processors and underwriters include in their terms of service is so broad that it can be applied in a variety of ways. This is not a new problem and has been reported on by other media outlets.

Heron Michelle’s comment regarding Worldpay [Facebook]

Many banks and underwriters for credit card processors view anyone who does psychic readings or “fortune-telling” as high-risk due to the potential for chargebacks (disputing the charges) from unhappy customers.

In Heron Michelle’s case, in over 10 years of operating her business, she has only one pending chargeback and it was resolved in her favor.

A day later, Heron Michelle posted to the same thread part of the response she received to her appeal:

She also expressed her outrage at “occult” being lumped together with both illegal and questionable services.

“I got back the detailed letter of explanation for our denial and damn. I could not be more enraged. I’ve consulted with a lawyer and should just shut up about it for the time being. Know that I’m about to burn this shit to the ground. This screen cap is the short story for how they lump anything they consider “occult” in with the most egregious of crimes.”

Heron Michelle also underscored that while she has a high enough profile to either force them to make an exception for her or resolve the issue in some other way, she recognizes the problem as a larger issue.

This is a developing story, and TWH will continue to follow and report on.

In other news:

  •  The Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada (ATCC) announced last week that High Priestess Mary Malinski of Circle of the Sacred Muse, Vancouver Island will be elevated to the position of Archpriestess of the ATCC, succeeding Michèle Favarger who has served as founder and Archpriestess for over 30 years. Malinski first discovered the ATC in 2006, and joined the organization shortly thereafter and continued to study and rise through the levels of the church.
  • Last week, a Thai Buddhist Temple in Las Vegas, Nevada was the target of arson and a shooting. No one who was in the Temple was hit by any of the shots fired, and all managed to safely exit the burning building despite being shot at. The main temple sustained damage from the fire but is intact. Another small prayer building on the grounds was completely destroyed by fire. A man who was later identified as Derek Debrowa, 38, was responsible for setting fire to the temple and shooting at members of the temple who were there for meditation services. Debrowa was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot in a neighbor’s yard after his parents reporting him missing, along with their legally permitted handgun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI are investigating since the crime involves a place of worship. Investigators are also trying to determine if there is any connection to a fire that was set on October 25, at the Nevada Buddhist Association. Debrowa has no known connection to the temple.
  • Two young girls, Godgift Nyam, 11-years old, and Mary Gyang, five-years-old, accused of practicing “witchcraft” were attacked, beaten and set on fire. They were admitted to Plateau State Specialists Hospital in Jos, Nigeria where they are being treated for their severe injuries and burns.
  • Forty miles south of Albany, New York, in an abandoned quarry, researchers believe they have found evidence of the world’s oldest forest, dating back some 385 million years. “The scale of the root systems were really striking,” said William Stein, lead author and emeritus professor of biological sciences at Binghamton University, located about two hours west of Cairo. The new study is co-authored by  Christopher Berry, a paleobotanist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. The researchers think it is possible a flood of catastrophic proportions was responsible for killed the trees, and they have found fossilized remains all around the area of the trees’ fossilized roots.
  • A hillside circle on the isle of Lewis in Scotland, known as Airigh na Beinne Bige, shows clear signs of being struck by lightning. Only one stone of the circle remains, but the site is part of the famous Calanais Standing Stones. New research recently published seeks to show a connection between the construction of stone circles and monuments and possibly tapping into the forces of nature. Dr. Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews, said: “Such clear evidence for lightning strikes is extremely rare in the UK and the association with this stone circle is unlikely to be coincidental. Whether the lightning at Site XI [Airigh na Beinne Bige] focused on a tree or rock which is no longer there, or the monument itself attracted strikes, is uncertain. However, this remarkable evidence suggests that the forces of nature could have been intimately linked with everyday life and beliefs of the early farming communities on the island.”

In other seasonal “news”:

  • Hillside towns across Tyrol and Trentino reported an angrier than usual Krampus this year. Regional observers said that the number of “naughty” people had risen dramatically. One observer said Krampus commented, “I’m out of staff and coal” while gathering more birch twigs.
  • For the fifth year in a row, the elves have opted to outsource quite a bit of production and delivery to Amazon. We asked lieutenant crafter, Rinklefynk if there was concern about job security among the elves with so much outsourcing going on. “Pfft, are ya kidding? We can barely keep up, as it is! And all these electronic gadgets kids want… Just the licensing and distribution fees were killing our bottom line.” It’s also been noted that these days so many families travel during the holidays, and due to last-minute route changes to accommodate them for a delivery from the North Pole, many families received their gifts late. While Amazon has been criticized for getting deliveries wrong or being late, Rinklefynk had this to say, “Well now, they’ve only been at for a couple of decades, haven’t they? I’m sure they’ll get better at it, eventually.”
  • In an unprecedented move, the Yule Cat has issued the following press release: With so many people interested in trendy new socks, and their ability to now order socks online and have them delivered virtually anywhere, my ability to maraud and terrorize during the Yuletide has been severely curtailed. I also recognize that those guidelines in light of today’s ethics seem somewhat unfair. So I am instituting new guidelines, which will also be followed by my minions around the world; cats, feral and otherwise. My focus will now be on those who possess and insist on wearing ugly Yule sweaters. I feel this policy change will benefit everyone concerned. Effective 12/20/2019.
  • In a related story, a disappointed group of young men returned to Iceland after being rejected by K-Pop fans for their debut song “Meet the Spoon Licker.” A member of the band who goes by the name “Meat Hook” said the group thinks they were having issues with translation. “We will go home to re-group then take a stab at Eurovision 2020!”. One music enthusiast was less certain about Meat Hook’s analysis saying, “I don’t think ‘Say ‘Hi!’ to Window Peeper’ means what they think it means.”
  • Earlier this year, there were unverified reports from the reindeer village that Donner and Prancer suddenly developed difficulty flying. During a recent vacation in Siberia, they had eaten treats given to them by an old woman who traveled about in a rather curious mobile home (preposterously rumored to be powered by chicken legs!). Assistant reindeer trainer, Lyrinda Yllbisory said, “Well, we were quite concerned for a few weeks there. If we’ve told them once, we’ve told them all a thousand times, ‘Do not accept candy from strangers who ride around in houses on legs.’ But of course just because they can fly, they think they can do anything. Serves ‘em right they had to take a bus to get back home.” We reached out to Donner and Prancer for comment, but their media representative said they were too busy preparing for the big night and would have to get back to us.
  • In an apparently unrelated story, North Pole Containment Forces [NPCF] were spotted again this week near Melbourne, Florida. Beach-goers said a skirmish with an “elf looking person with a reindeer” reportedly began outside Cape Canaveral ended near the town of Palm Bay. One police lieutenant requesting anonymity said that NPCF is formally in charge of the case but added that “the accused was trying to sell a ‘flying potion’ to NASA.”
  • Mrs. Claus and La Befana were spotted on Ocean Drive having abundant cocktails at a somewhat risqué establishment surrounded by fawning attendants wearing somewhat less than expected. A TWH reporter has been returned to normal size after recognizing and asking for comments from the two women. The last thing the journalist remembers is La Befana yelling, “Life isn’t like in the movies! Life is much harder!”

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck:  Tarot of the Golden Wheel by Mila Losenko,  and published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Six (6) of Wands

This week there is an emphasis on earned rewards and well-deserved success. If there has been a feeling of being under- or unappreciated, the potential for recognition is prevalent. By contrast, those less invested in endeavors and their work, or have an overinflated sense of accomplishment, may be setting themselves up for failure or even betrayal.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.