Pagan Community Notes: West Coast fires, Hurricane Sally threatens the Gulf, and more!

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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 west coast of the U.S. continues to be heavily impacted by major fires with 4.6 million acres burnt across multiple states.

There are 91 major fires in eleven states with the majority in California, (25), Washington (16), Oregon (13), and Idaho (10). The other states affected with fires are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

The Holiday Farm Fire has burned over 160,000 acres in Willamette National Forest, just east of Eugene, Oregon. Entire towns like Detroit, Oregon, have been almost completely lost to the fires, and the number of those who have died or are missing continuing to climb.

Over 1 million acres have been affected statewide, with many of the fires are projected to continue to burn until the winter rains begin. Tens of thousands of people have had to evacuate, though it was initially misreported as over 500,000 people being ordered to evacuate, which would be more than 10% of the state’s population.

M. Macha Nightmare, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area pointed out the damage the fires are having not only people and property but also on the ecosystem and the wildlife of the area:

Fortunately we don’t live very near to any big fires.  There has been a smaller one, however, called the Woodward fire about 20 miles from here in the glorious Point Reyes National Seashore, part of the greater Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), the first and one of the largest of metropolitan-adjacent public open spaces and one of our national treasures. This site is unique in many ways.

First, it is on the Pacific coast rather than inland in more mountainous regions where the larger fires burn.

Second, the entire area forms a peculiar arrowhead peninsula pointing out to the vast Pacific Ocean. It is separated from the main part of California by Tomales Bay, part of the San Andreas fault line. This is the fault line that was widened by the 1906 earthquake that set San Francisco afire. The Point Reyes peninsula is on a different tectonic plate than the counties of Marin and Sonoma to its east.

Third, it is home to the majestic Tule Elk, a native species threatened with extinction before a small herd was give open land on the Point Reyes Peninsula. They were dying of thirst when the ponds they relied upon dried up. There were watering places beyond a fence that separates cattle ranch land from the national seashore, and thus inaccessible to thirsty Tule Elk. One evening last week after it was too dark to fight the fire, a group of animal activists drove out there with 200 gallons of fresh water.

Fourth, Western Marin County is home to a subspecies of mountain beaver, Aponditia rufa, which is endemic to the region and found nowhere else in the world. Unlike most beavers, this unusual rodent doesn’t build dams. It has a small tail and it burrows. Being nocturnal, it’s seldom seen. There’s no way to rescue them from the fire. We can only hope that they managed to survive safe in their burrows. However, a 1995 conflagration called the Vision Fire in the same area left only 0.4 to 1.7% of the mountain beaver surviving. The population was beginning to recover when this Woodward Fire broke out.

And fifth, the command center for fighting the Woodward Fire was set up at the Bear Valley Visitors Center where there is a recreation of a Coast Miwok village called Kule Loklo (“bear valley”).  The fire came very close, but the village was saved.

She also gave a vivid description of what the past week has been like, “I awoke on Wednesday to an eerie dark orange sky, foggy and smoky and lingering. This orange gloom lasted for days, slowly clearing so the sky was visible.”

Air quality remains an issue for most of the West Coast and makes travel outside problematic. The threat of rolling power outages adds another layer of complexity to the danger the fires present, besides the ongoing restrictions of the pandemic.

M. Macha Nightmare explained, “However, the air remains thick with smoke, eyes burn, lungs are endangered by ash and particulate matter, and we must remain indoors with windows closed and air purifier going — unless, of course, we lose power.”

“Clean air centers” have been opened in Oakland, California for those who have nowhere else they can go since many facilities remain closed to due statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

TWH will continue to follow the news of many wildfires and report on new developments. If you or your community has been affected, we would like to hear from you. 

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Hurricane Sally. Courtesy: NOAA

NEW ORLEANS – Sally has strengthened and become a hurricane this afternoon and it is projected to intensify further before making landfall sometime late on Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami wrote “Sally could approach major hurricane strength” before landfall in their 4 PM CDT advisory.

Hurricane warnings have been expanded along the gulf and now stretch from the Alabama-Florida border and most of the southeastern part of the Louisiana coast. The NHC added that an extremely dangerous storm surge is possible as well as damaging winds and flash flooding.  They urged individuals to follow the advice of their local officials.

With New Orleans potentially in the crosshairs of Sally, storm preparations are being undertaken by many of the city’s residents.

Lilith Dorsey, who relocated to New Orleans about four months ago and lives in the upper 9th ward (which is about 2 miles from the French Quarter) said, “I do what I can to strengthen protection on the house. It’s an ongoing process the times like these mean it’s time to kick it up a notch. Obviously I make practical preparations as well.”

Dorsey also interjected a little levity, “I’ve been laughing a bit today because I won a prize from our local radio station WWOZ, it’s a solar-powered radio and phone charger called Hex.”

While her new appropriately named charger would come in handy for the storm, Dorsey said, “Unfortunately it won’t be here for a while.”

Meanwhile, there are currently five named storms in the Atlantic region. Hurricane Paulette is currently a category 2, and not projected to impact any major landmasses but is having a major impact on Bermuda.

Paulette is the first hurricane to actually make landfall in Bermuda since hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in October of 2014 made back-to-back landfalls there. According to news reports, wind gusts as high as 117 mph were recorded at the Marine Operations Center. Forecasts through today include warnings for flooding rains, hurricane-force winds, and dangerous storm surges. 20,000 people are reported without power.

Tropical depression Rene is out over open water in the Atlantic and expected to continue to disintegrate over the next few days, posing no threat to land.

Tropical Storm Teddy is in the Atlantic, expected to become a hurricane within the next 36 hours and predicted to evolve into a major hurricane with four to five days. Current forecasts have Teddy remaining over open water. Tropical Storm Vicky is forecast to be a short-lived storm and projected to degenerate into a remanent low by Thursday.

Of the list of storm names for the 2020 Atlantic season, only “Wilfred” remains. The hurricane center will switch to the letter names of the Greek alphabet.  If there is a storm after Wilfred, it will be the second time in history that Greek names have been used.  The previous time was during the historic 2005 season that included storms like Katrina, Rita and, Wilma.


In other community news:

  • The 15th annual Puget Sound Pagan Pride was this past weekend and held online. The event featured a variety of presenters, featuring Selena Fox, Phyllis Curott, Diana Paxson, Ed Hubbard, Byron Ballard, Lupa, Courtney Weber, and M. Macha Nightmare. Puget Sound Pagan Pride has its own Youtube channel and all the workshops offered are available for viewing.
  • Red Wheel Weiser (RWW) announced a new release by, Hoodoo Cleansing and Protection Magic by Miss Aida, “a seasoned magickal practitioner.” RWW describes the book as being a collection of “personal magickal formulas for removing negative energies, breaking malevolent spells, banishing harmful people, distinguishing between reputable ghost hunters and frauds, recognizing bewitched or possessed objects (and removing their effects) and more.”

In other news:

  • The CEO of the mining company responsible for the destruction of a 46,000-year-old aboriginal site in Australia has resigned. Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive officer and executive director, along with two other high-ranking executives, Chris Salisbury head of the iron-ore division, and Simone Nivens head of corporate relations are leaving Rio Tinto. While the actions of the company in the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia was not illegal, company chairman Simon Thompson said in a statement last week, “what happened at Juukan was wrong.” Thompson also stated, “We are determined to ensure that the destruction of a heritage site of such exceptional archaeological and cultural significance never occurs again at a Rio Tinto operation.” A statement released by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation while having no comment on the shift in executives at Rin Tinto did express how they intend to move forward: “We will continue to work with Rio Tinto in the aftermath of the Juukan Gorge disaster. Our focus continues to rest heavily on preserving Aboriginal heritage and advocating for wide-ranging changes to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again. We cannot and will not allow this type of devastation to occur ever again.”
  • In the northwestern Cumbria town of Barrow-in-Furness in England, Carolann Evison, a Wiccan was harassed and threatened by her neighbor, Phillip Gilroy. It was testified in court that Gilroy approached Evison and her husband in their driveway over a dispute about a fence and said, “You white witch. We are going to stick pins in you all.” Gilroy, who has a rather lengthy record of past transgression–31 offenses, 16 of which resulted in convictions–admitted he was inebriated, and plead guilty to the charges of abusive and threatening language which the magistrate deemed as “religiously aggravated.” Gilroy was sentenced to community service, fined and assessed court costs, as well agreeing to be confined to his current residence from 7 pm to 7 am for the next four weeks.
  • As reported by TWH in May of 2019, the restoration, conservation, and excavations of the Lagina Sanctuary to Hecate in western Muğla province’s Yatağan district in Turkey continues.  The site is over 3,000 years old and Bilal Söğüt, head of the excavation team, said Lagina was the religious center of ancient Stratonikeia. Söğüt explaining that both the city of Stratonikeia and the Lagina Sanctuary are being worked on simultaneously said, “For example, we are excavating a section in the area in front of the Propylon (monumental gateway) in Lagina, where there are many materials. At the same time, we are also carrying out restoration works related to the architectural blocks of the Propylon.” One of Söğüt’s goals is to be able to showcase the artifacts from the site so visitors can see the religious importance of the site. “We knew previously that the half-round entrance of the Propylon was on the west side. To the east of the same door was a section with a triangular pediment, and the blocks of this area are now about to be completed with our excavations. We will restore this part and the northern pediment of the Lagina Hecate Temple in the coming period,” he said.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Medieval Cat Tarot artwork by Lawrence Teng, text by Gina M. Pace and Lawrence Teng published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Major arcana, Strength

There is likely to be a focus on patience and acceptance this week. Too often being strong is considered in terms of brute force, when the reality is that patience is a better measure of actual strength. There is also the potential for an element of survival, and what follows. “Time to Thrive, not just Survive.” While survival is important, equally so is the path followed beyond that point.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.