Pagan Community Notes: Mainstream Witch round-up, CoG turns 45, Circle Sanctuary cemetery remembers 25th anniversary of community service, and more.

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TWH – The mainstream fascination with Witches is rarely at a higher peak than during the end of October, this year is no exception.

There have been a variety of articles published this month that range from interviews with actual Witches to mildly amusing alars echoing The Christian Post from 2018 that Witches and Pagans not only outnumber Presbyterians in the U.S. but that those numbers were “growing astronomically.”

Articles that feature Witches in recent years compared to those that have been published in the past certainly seem to take Pagan beliefs a little more seriously and are far less sensational. The Shreveport News published a conversation with a former Witch and delineated a respectful understanding of Witchcraft and Wicca, Paganism noting, “Not all self-identifying witches are Wiccan, and not all pagans describe themselves as witches.”

The University of Toronto Mississauga’s independent student newspaper, The Medium, published a brief but interesting article on the use of Witches as feminist icons. The article presents an overview of the historical and current intersection between social justice issues that center around equality as it relates to gender, politics, and sexuality and the practices of Witches both real and imagined.

The Lily, a product of The Washington Post, published a humorous segment titled, 9 reasons why I would have been accused of witchcraft in 15th-century Europe featuring comic panes of some of the ridiculous reasons people, most of whom were women accused of being “witches” and in league with the devil.

Not to be left out of capitalizing on the season and the clickability generated by the word “witch” even The Space Review published an article titled, Applied witchcraft: American communications intelligence satellites during the 1960s. What is an otherwise fairly dry article on intelligence satellites does in fact include a cartoon drawing of a Witch orbiting the earth on her broom bearing a banner that says, “Applied Witchcraft.”The cartoon was included in a declassified Lockheed document from the 60s.

Unsurprisingly, Witches are everywhere in media this month.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. –  The Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) is celebrating its 45th Anniversary this weekend. The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest religious organizations representing Wiccans and Witches primarily in the United States of America.  Their membership, however, has started to grow worldwide.

The Covenant has taken part in spiritual and educational conferences, interfaith work and outreach, large public rituals, environmental activism, community projects and social action, as well as efforts to correct negative stereotypes and promote accurate media portrayals or Wiccans and Witches.  The Covenant has clergy who perform handfastings, preside at funerals and other rituals of life-transition, and provide counseling to Witches including those in the military and in prisons.

As part of their festivities, 45th-anniversary festivities, CoG will be hosting an “online” costume event asking everyone to “Gather your Familiars, don them in costumes and bling for the Covenant’s Familiar Costume Contest. There are two categories you can choose from to enter your amazing Familiar. You can choose from either The Funniest Familiar Costume or The Witchiest Familiar Costume.”  Details about the event are available on CoG’s Facebook. There will also be a contest for the Witches, and that information is forthcoming.

Janine Nelson, The Covenant’s National Public Information Officer said “This celebration is quite a milestone for the Covenant. CoG has been working for 45 years to become a worldwide organization supporting Witches and Pagans. This event will be a gathering to reflect and enjoy our achievements.”

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Veterans Ridge at Circle Cemetery

Veterans Ridge at Circle Cemetery

BARNEVELD, Wisc. – Circle Sanctuary’s cemetery is remembering it’s 25th year.  The cemetery was established as the first “green cemetery” in Wisconsin, one of the first in the U.S. The cemetery is open as a final resting place for the remains of members of Circle Sanctuary, those who followed a Pagan path, and those whose ideologies and practices were aligned with celebrating the sacredness of nature.

Circle Cemetery is part of the 200-acre nature preserve the group purchased in 1983 to establish the permanent home of Circle Sanctuary. The first interment of the cremains of Llynda Selby occurred in 2000. Four years later the group would begin expansion of the cemetery to its current 20 acres in order to allow for the inclusion and natural interment of complete human bodies and not just cremains.

Selena Fox, founder and priestess of Circle Sanctuary, has been at forefront of lobbying for and obtaining religious recognition and civil rights for Pagans through the creation and work of the Lady Liberty League.

Lady Liberty League (LLL), which celebrated its 35th anniversary this year, applied to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) in 2005 to have the pentacle included in the list of emblems of belief on the memorial markers of deceased veterans. The application was approved two years later and Arlington National Cemetery and Circle Cemetery both received the first markers bearing the pentacle issued by the DVA.

Circle Cemetery also has several sections that honor specific forms of service: Veteran’s Ridge, Circle Sanctuary Ministers, and Pagan Elders.

In 2011 Circle Cemetery performed its first full-body, natural burial after being established as Wisconsin’s first green cemetery the year prior. Since then, ten people have been laid rest to rest in a similar manner. During the pandemic this year the cemetery has seen the additions of cremains of Elizabeth Ellyenne Moran, and the full-body burial of John David “Dave” Erickson. The cemetery currently holds the remains and memorials of 58 people.

Circle Cemetery was also the first green burial site to participate in Wreaths Across America in 2013, a program that seeks to “Remember fallen U.S. veterans, Honor those who serve, and Teach children the value of freedom.” Circle will be participating again this year in the program.

Circle Sanctuary and Fox have hosted a number of discussions about the projects, ideologies, and practices surrounding the cemetery and its creation on their Blogtalk channel and in various articles, all of which are available via their website.

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Altar to Hecate – Image credit: Sosanna – WikiCommons

TWH – As Pagans and Witches move towards the celebration of Samhain this weekend, much of the mainstream aspect of society is focused on Hallowe’en. Sadly due to the increase in cases of COVID-19 globally, many of the countries and the communities within them who celebrate one or both observance, 2020 is going to be a bit different.

Concern over community spread of SARS-CoV-2 have led many communities within the U.S. and other countries like Canada, to either canceled large Halloween celebrations and trick-or-treating or altered the way celebrations are structured, and candies and treats can be distributed.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control updated its guidelines for U.S. fall holiday celebrations which include Halloween, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Thanksgiving. Each holiday is broken down into sections that outline lower, moderate, and high-risk activities as well as offering suggestions on how to minimize risks.

Most of the guidelines can be tailored for Witches, Pagans, and Pagan-adjacent practitioners who wish to honor their dead and celebrate Samhain. The majority of groups who usually offer public rituals or hold well-established events have largely transitioned to online rituals and presentations.

The lowest risk way to celebrate our collective dead is to do so at home with members of one’s own household, and participating or observing an online ritual.

What is remembered, lives!

In other news:

  • The Temple of Witchcraft (ToW) announced their “Great Pumpkin Project” in late September that allows members of their community to carve a pumpkin and leave it at the Temple for display. The project runs from October 25 through October 31. Each evening at dusk the founders of ToW will light the pumpkins, which will be placed on the front garden wall, and extinguish them the next morning. ToW will share photos of the display on social media, and they invite folks in the local area to drive by and view the display any evening this week.
  • An exhibit featured at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts is displaying 47 rare artifacts that have not been on public display in over 30 years. The exhibition titled, “The Salem Witch Trials 1692,” includes some of the original Salem “witch” trial documents from the museum’s Phillip’s Library. The library is the repository for over 550 documents from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the largest collection of materials relating to the Salem “witch” trials in the world. The exhibit also includes a copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, the handbook of European “witch hunters,” and a variety of objects and possessions that belonged to the accused.
  • Archaeologists excavating the ruins of the church St. Mary’s in Stoke Mandeville, England that is slated to be removed in order to make room for the high-speed rail, HS2, that is scheduled to be installed, made an interesting discovery. They found two stones bearing carvings and markings on them. The stones have a hole in the center with lines radiating outwards from the center. At first, one of the stones was thought to possibly be a sundial, but its placement on the west side of the structure would not be where such a time-telling device would have been installed. Researchers now believe the stones were marked rather as symbols of protection. The excavation has also allowed researchers to explore how the use of the structure shifted from a private chapel, possibly built for the lord of the manor, to that of a more public village church. Excavation will continue into 2021.
  • Recent tectonic movement detected on the moon’s surface may help disprove the long-standing theory that the moon is a dead celestial body and has no geological activity. A recent study conducted by Brown University found an upward movement of the moon’s ridges. Previous missions to the moon had placed seismometers on the surface which had detected small moonquakes periodically, but they were attributed to shrinkage and shifting of the cooling celestial body. These latest findings are also supported by past recent observances of cracking and other disruptions of the surface. The findings also show that the ridges are covered with boulders which are possible further evidence of tectonic shifting and movement.

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Halloween Tarot, by Karin Lee, art by Kipling West, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Ten (10) of Pumpkins (Pentacles)

The week ahead has the potential to provide satisfaction in endeavors undertaken, as well as reaping the desired rewards. A positive conclusion in the completion of a project is possible.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.