Pagan Community Notes: Metaphysical shop in NC defaced, West Coast fires continue, and more events impacting the Pagan community

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crime tape

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Over the weekend The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions was defaced with a threatening sign.

It was discovered by Courtney Varnadoe, the store manager when she arrived for work on Sunday.

The bogus sign was placed on the outside of the door, obscuring the store’s own sign advising shoppers of the state’s mask policy. The threatening sign proclaims to be “ANTIFA Hunting Permit” and is sold online by a company that offers a variety of right-wing paraphernalia, confederate flags, and other items bearing slogans that parody the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“Antifa” is shorthand for anti-fascist and refers to those who oppose authoritarian and oppressive policies and regimes.

Greenville television station, WITN, Channel 7, interviewed Varnadoe who told them finding the sign both scared and angered her. She also pointed out that the store has a diverse customer base and is frequented by many families, some who bring their small children with them to shop.

“We definitely stand for rights for all sorts of people, you know? We’ve got Black Lives Matter Flags outside, we support the LGBTQIA Community, everyone is welcome here,” Varnadoe said.

In a public post on her Facebook page, Varnadoe expressed her anger over the defacement and noted that she frequently brings her child with her to work.

To all of my FAMILY and FRIENDS who just don't understand: THIS IS YOUR WAKEUP CALL. I came to work this morning and…

Posted by Courtney Varnadoe on Sunday, September 20, 2020

Store owner Heron Michelle filed a report with the Greenville police who reviewed footage from city surveillance cameras and have clear images of the suspects, as well as the make, model, and license plate on the vehicle the alleged perpetrators drove.

The responding sergeant who filed the report told Heron Michelle that he believes the act of placing the sign qualified as a hate crime, and the sign itself constituted hate speech, in addition to being an act of vandalism. She has also asked that law enforcement consider adding the crime of “communicating threats” to the list of charges.

Heron Michelle told TWH that, “Every incident like this needs to be taken seriously, reported, and prosecuted. We cannot allow actions like this to stand.” She likened the placement of such a sign as being similar to the way members of the Jewish faith were forced to display the yellow star identifying them during WWII.

TWH reported on a similar incident of a store being defaced in Columbus, Ohio in August of 2019.

This is a developing story, that TWH will continue to follow and provide a follow-up later in the week.

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A beach in the San Francisco Bay area on Wednesday, 9/9/2020, where even at noon the world was orange due to smoke from wildfires [M. Elison, courtesy]

TWH – The National Interagency Fire Center reports that there are currently 78 fires burning in twelve states and that 3.9 million acres have been burned. Since the beginning of 2020, there have been 45,983 fires that have consumed 6,982,242 acres. This total is one million acres higher than the year-to-date, ten-year average.

While the states with higher numbers of fire like California (22) and Oregon(12) have received the lion’s share of the news coverage, climate change has impacted the entire West Coast so that Arizona (1), Colorado (4), Idaho (14), Montana (8), Nevada (1), South Dakota (1), Texas (1), Utah (4), Washington (7), and Wyoming (3) are all being affected.

Further complicating issues in Oregon and Washington were the wild rumors that began swirling around online nearly two weeks ago that Antifa, (a decentralized movement of people who generally seek to meet and combat far-right, extremist, or neo-Nazi groups on the street versus by means of policy change), were somehow connected to the fires.

It appears the origin of the rumors is that the acronym for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been confused with Black Lives Matter, and that further conflated the Black Lives Matter movement with a poor or inaccurate understanding of what Antifa is and what it stands for. Individuals against Black Lives Matter or Antifca have disseminated those unfounded assertions through apps, social media, and online groups.

Most federally owned land has signs posted declaring it under the authority of Bureau of Land Management, or BLM.

As a result of the confusion, many people have become erroneously convinced that Black Lives Matter protesters or members of Antifa have purposely started or exacerbated the wildfires, and are also standing ready to loot and destroy structures and homes.

Despite state and federal authorities repeatedly and publicly debunking these conspiracies, individuals who favor conspiracy theories continue to believe in them and defy mandatory evacuation orders to protect their property. In doing so, they further risk not only their own lives, but also those of law enforcement and firefighters who are attempting to get everyone to relative safety.

Various law enforcement groups, including the Douglas County Sheriff’s office have implored residents to disregard these rumors and to seek reputable news websites for accurate updates on the fires and evacuation orders.

Rachel Mohan contributed to this story. TWH will have further wildfire coverage later this week.

In other news:

  • In an update to the story about a church that the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) purchased in the town of Murdock, Illinois, residents have formed the Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate and held their first candlelight walk through the neighborhood last week in protest of the AFA. The group defines the purpose of their alliance as one to inform the community about the AFA and the elements of white supremacy connected to them. Community members became concerned when they began researching the AFA after it was learned they had purchased the building that had housed the Calvary Lutheran Church and intended to use it for their third Hof or meeting hall.
  • Harvard Divinity School (HDS) has announced that the Program for the Evolution of Spirituality will hold its first conference on April 7-10, 2021. According to their call for papers, there is a marked focus on earth-based religions, and that they are interested in a broad range of submissions that encompass practices from a wide range of traditions and geographical regions. “This new branch within the HDS community seeks to support a range of scholarly approaches to the study of emerging spiritualities. The central theme for the spring 2021 conference is ‘Ecological Spiritualities.’ The discussion will focus on the evolution of earth-centric systems as well as to explore innovative spiritual practices that are emerging in response to the painful realities of climate change, mass extinction, biodiversity loss, and the disruption of local and global ecosystems.” The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2020.
  • Photographer Alice Smeets will be releasing a new 78-card “Gift of Life” tarot deck featuring real life scenes from real people from all around the earth in unstaged photos . The images feature daily life scenes, different religious practises and rituals or festivities. The 78 photo-cards are rooted in classical tarot interpretations.  Smeets said “I will launch the deck with a crowdfunding campaign on the 19th of September. The campaign is being created in the name of the Belgian non-profit-organisation Consciousness Rising VOG, which will receive 100% of the funds. After the project costs have been covered, the organisation will use 80% of the profits to support regenerative projects for our earth. Our mission is to help Mother Earth in places where she has been hurt, which in turn will help all of us. We will plant trees and restore the natural ecosystem where it has been destroyed.” Information on the project is available on Indiegogo.

[Images from the Gift of Life Tarot by Alice Smeets: Courtesy]

In environmental news:

  • A highway project originally proposed in the 1990s outside of Cairo, Egypt that was suspended due to international public outcry, has been renewed and expanded in scope. Two highways are in the process of being built will each be eight lanes wide, with one passing near the Step Pyramid of Saqqara – the oldest pyramid – and the Dahshur area, home to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. There is concern among archaeologists and Egyptologists that the impact from the highways and traffic will have a negative effect on the ancient structures, and the paving could possibly obscure undiscovered artifacts or features connected to the sites. The construction of the northern highway began in a stretch of desert in March but was not detected by satellite monitoring until the progress became more pronounced. The Egyptian government insists that the highways will help to secure the future of the country and are necessary to ease the overgrowth and congestion of Cairo.
  • According to a new study that was released last month Greenland’s ice sheet has hit the point of no return as a result of a warming climtate. The release of the study got less attention than normal in the mainstream media due to other crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, and the raging wildfires on the West Coast. According to Ian Howat, co-author of the paper, and an Ohio State University Earth scientist, “Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss,” he said. “Even if we were to stabilize at current temperatures, the ice will continue to disintegrate more quickly than if we hadn’t messed with the climate to begin with.” The findings are disturbing, and even if there were to be unexpected record snowfall, the ice sheet would still continue to deteriorate with the expected rising temperatures. By the year 2100, sea levels are expected to rise anywhere from one to four feet, further impacting island nations. Greenland contributes a substantial amount of meltaway to the ocean base.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Tarot of Pagan Cats by Magdelina Messina, artwork by Lola Airaghi published by Lo Scarabeo.

Card: Major arcana, IX (nine), The Hermit

This week the desire to take a step back or set time aside to evaluate or gain a greater understanding of a situation or pending decision is likely and warranted. Conversely, dodging responsibilities or avoidance of facing fears will only provide temporary relief, and will offer no viable solution.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.