Pagan Community Notes: Pastor at Jericho March calls for the deaths of “witches”, Heathen group challenges trademark application, Heathens react to Murdock AFA decision, and more news

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WASHINGTON –  On December 12, 2020, thousands of pro-Trump evangelical supporters gathered at the “Jericho March” at the National Mall to support the President’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results and “Stop the Steal”. Groups of protestors and counter-protestors also gathered in front of the Supreme Court and at  Freedom Plaza.  The “Jericho March” was described on its website as a “prayer rally” with speakers praying for the “walls of corruption and election fraud to fall down.”

One speaker was Bishop Leon Benjamin of  New Life Harvest Church in Richmond, VA. who ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Virginia’s 4th Congressional District. He lost in the general election on November 3, 2020.

At the Jericho Rally, Bishop Benjamin held a shofar, a musical instrument made from the horn of a ram and used during important Jewish religious observances, and called on the “patriots” to announce that “Jericho walls must come down” in the name of Jesus who “will rule in America.”  The call echoes the Biblical story of Joshua at Jericho.

Bishop Benjamin proceeded into a denunciation of plagues in America but primarily Marxism and Witchcraft.

“We are come together now, as American patriots, to let the Marxists know you will not have our educational system, you will not have our family system, you will not have our social media system, you will not have our religious systems, you will not have our governmental systems! The Jericho walls must come down!” he yelled.

The bishop then shouted, “This is what I learned about witchcraft. You gotta tell a witch, you gotta look ’em right in the eye and say, I’m coming after you! This is your last day! This is your last time! Every curse you cursed against our president, and against our nation, is gonna double fall back on your head! The Jericho walls must come down!”

He further said, “When you shout, and I got a few seconds now, but when you shout just understand you’re shouting for not only this generation but you’re shouting a legacy for the next generation, because the demons we kill now, our children will not have to fight these devils. These are our devils, and we will kill them now! They will not bite our children. The Jericho walls must come down!”

Bishop Leon then blew the shofar and said that he could see the walls coming down.

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A Thor’s Hammer pendant [Nyo, Wikimedia Commons]

DENVER – Last year, Forn Sidr of America (FSOA) formally filed for and received non-profit status as a church. Around the time of their filing, they received a “cease and desist” letter alleging they had committed trademark infringement from a company that identified itself as “Forn Sidr” and purported to be established in Norway, Canada, and the U.S.

Forn Sidr (pronounced fawrn-see-der) of America immediately turned the letter over to an attorney who advised them to also file for trademark within the U.S., which they then did. Since two entities had filed for the same trademark within days of each other it created a conflict on which trademark to grant for the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.

Normally, the entity who files first for a trademark has a better chance of obtaining it, but in this case, the person to file first is a foreign entity and preference is almost always given to U.S. companies and entities if there is a challenge.

FSOA grew out of the Facebook group, Shieldwall of the Rockies that was created originally created in the fall of 2018 to provide a place for people in the region of Colorado and surrounding area who were interested in Heathenry that was focused on inclusivity and progressive values.

By September of 2018, the group’s size had grown and they were receiving members from all over the U.S. and even other countries. At that point, they changed the group name to Shieldwall of North America to better reflect the people who made up the group. The number of people interested in joining the Facebook group continued to expand. In an attempt to meet the expressed goals and desires of those joining the group, the administrators decided to create a formal group, write by-laws, and eventually file for non-profit church status.

They changed their name to Forn Sidr of America to reflect the values that their members expressed and that were a part of their newly written bylaws and launched a fundraiser to help with the cost of filings. FSOA received a lot of positive response to their decision to become a non-profit, and they believe it was during this time that they attracted the attention of the company “Forn Sidr” which was registered as a non-profit in Norway, and holds a trademark there.

The Norwegian company is owned by Christopher Fragassi-Bjornson. He owns several other online businesses, like NORSKK which appear to offer training to be a modern-day Viking, though it claims no religious or spiritual alignment of values.

Amanda Mims [who is known in the community as Elisa Wynnter] is the Chairperson* for Forn Sidr of America and has been at the center of the establishment of the group and the filing to be recognized as a church. Mims said, “I think I am mostly really concerned that the focus of our fight here be focused on the Heathen community’s rights to identify with historically Heathen terms for our religion. Even if an American Heathen chooses not to identify as practicing Forn Sidr, I feel they should have the choice.”

Interaction between Fragassi-Bjornson and FSOA has been extremely contentious and he has used language in blog posts on his site to disparage the character of the group and their inclusive values.

“We would have never sought a trademark over our name without NORSKK’s attacks and intent to rip our own identity from under us,” Mims explained.

They went on to say, “NORSKK’s attempts to do this are also part of a larger problem that the Heathen community is facing as well. He isn’t the only person who has decided to capitalize and trademark our terms and symbols. This is a growing problem as Heathenry is seen more in media and pop culture.”

FSOA made the decision to file a challenge by the December 19, 2020 deadline to Fragassi-Bjornson’s application for a trademark on the name Forn Sidr. There is no guarantee they will win, and the choice to do so is costly for a small, non-profit like FSOA. But they are determined to not give up and continue to fundraise from their website and on social media.

Mims stated as to why they opted to move forward with the challenge, “If we don’t start pushing back on this trend now, we may never be able to get in front of it. Heathens have a right to our identity, terms, and symbols.”

  • Note: The role of “Chairperson” is an elected position and not a clergy position. Unlike most Heathen groups, FSOA has a separation of powers where one part of the organization ministers spiritually as clergy, and the other handles business and administration.

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MURDOCK, Minn. – In an update to a story we covered earlier this year, the Murdock City Council voted 4-1 to allow the permit for the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) to operate their Midwestern regional center out of the defunct Lutheran church they purchased earlier this year.

Members of the town council conducted their meeting online due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and kept cameras off during the meeting so it was no possible to identify who for voted for or against the AFA’s permit.

According to reporting by the Star Tribune, prior to the vote, Don Wilcox, the city attorney, advised the council that they could face possible legal jeopardy if they voted against the AFA based on its beliefs.

“There are certain constitutional protections that apply to religions,” Wilcox said. “I haven’t seen any evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that they are a religion, whether you agree with it or not.”

“There’s not a compelling interest in keeping that building from being used for meetings,” he added. “Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean they can’t do it.”

The arrival of the AFA and their intent to operate their center within the town has caused a new group to be founded, Murdock Area Alliance Against Hate. The group was co-founded by Victoria Guillemard, who said that the group would continue to work towards educating the broader community, “so that if the AFA approaches people and tries to do any recruiting, people are prepared and are aware of what kind of group they are.”

Several Heathen leaders from the Brooklyn Center in the Twin Cities listened in on the meeting, and released a statement sometime later that read:

The AFA represents an extremist faction within Heathenry. As longtime heathen leaders in the Twin Cities, we stand in solidarity with and share the concerns of the residents of Murdock. Our beliefs and practices are inclusive and do not support a racialized version of heathen beliefs.

Todd McCoy of St. Anthony, Sara Axtell of St. Paul and Val Miller of Brooklyn Center.

Heathens Against Hate spokesman, Ethan Stark released the following statement published by the Star Tribune,

We will continue to stand in solidarity with and seek ways to help the city of Murdock against this hate group and the AFA’s exploitation of local communities. Heathens Against Hate stand against the hate and extremism espoused by the AFA and their supporters. We support inclusive Heathenry, where we welcome all who welcome all.

Crossings of the Veil

Peggy Levasseur, born on November 24, 1944, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2020.

She had been a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW) for almost 30 years and had been one of the nurses tending to people at the Free Spirit Gathering in their healers’ team for many years.

Levasseur had been a member of several of the ASW’s covens and was one of their honored crones and wise women. Members of the community said she was known for her great heart and her kindness to others.

Levasseur had retired from her work as a nurse at Delaware’s Hospital for the Chronically Ill. Her earliest studies in witchcraft had been with Raymond Buckland.

She leaves behind her daughter Melissa and two granddaughters and a large community that loved her.

What is remembered, lives. 

In other news:

  • An archaeological excavation in southern Syria has revealed a temple to Zeus. The site of the temple lies in the village of Qanawat and is an important archaeological landmark. The new areas discovered were a result of clearing rubble and debris from the site which revealed two small doors. The rooms behind the doors also held a channel for water which fed the tanks of the temple. The site dates to the 1st century B.C. and was originally built by the Greeks.
  • Another “tower of skulls” created by the Aztecs that was discovered in 2015 during restorations to a building in Mexico City is yielding new information. So far 119 skulls have been removed and examined. Anthropologists who were working on the excavation were startled to find the skulls of women and even children used in the construction of the “tower” when they expected to find mostly young male warriors. Archaeologists have dated the structure’s construction to between 1486 and 1502 C.E. and believe it was done in three separate stages. Researchers believe that the skull tower was part of a skull rack known as the “Huey Tzompantli,” which stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli ( also called Uitzilopochtli, and sometimes Xiuhpilli) and recognized as deity of the sun and war, and the patron of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. The structure is near the Metropolitan Cathedral which was constructed over the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples of Tenochtitlan. Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said, “The Templo Mayor continues to surprise us, and the Huey Tzompantli is, without doubt, one of the most impressive archaeological finds of recent years in our country.” Anthropologists who were working on the excavation were startled to find the skulls of women and even children used in the construction of the Huey Tzompantli when they expected to find mostly young male warriors. Archaeologists have dated the structure’s construction to between 1486 and 1502 C.E. and believe it was done in three separate stages.

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Tarot of a Moon Garden by Karen Marie Sweikhardt, instructions by Laura E. Clarson, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Major arcana, III (3), The Empress

This week the presence of divine feminine energy has the potential to manifest abundance and prosperity underscored by empathy, and a focus on accomplishments. Conversely, anxiety, and an inability to connect and focus can contribute to a sense of stagnation and lack.

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.