Pagan Community Notes: Week of January 18, 2021

Moonrise over San Carlos Apache Land in New Mexico – Image credit: John Fowler

WASHINGTON – Last Friday the Trump administration approved a land swap with mining giant Rio Tinto that, if allowed to move forward, would destroy land sacred to the Apache tribe within Tonto National Forest, in the area of Oak Flat, also known as Chi’chil Bildagoteel.

Apache Stronghold, a non-profit organization that includes members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, filed a property lien on January 14 to prevent the federal government’s intentions to allow the global mining company, Rio Tinto, to take possession of the land for its Resolution Copper mine.

In the court filing, Apache Stronghold alleges that the U.S. government has illegally occupied the land for over 160 years, stating, that the “United States of America does not own that land,” and does not possess the right to give the land to anyone.

Previously, tribal members had filed suit to prevent the publication of the environmental study but the judge in the case on Thursday dismissed the attempt to gain a restraining order against its release.

Rio Tinto came under major scrutiny last year when they moved forward with an iron ore exploratory mining project that resulted in the destruction and loss of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia that are sacred to the Aboriginal people of the region.

Major public outcry and backlash from stakeholders over the destruction of what was considered one of Australia’s most significant archaeological research sites resulted in a number of senior executives forced to resign and the company repeatedly issue public apologies.

Rio Tinto was ordered to rebuild the caves as a result of an Australian parliamentary inquiry in December of last year that also suggested a change to heritage protection laws and a moratorium on mining. The inquiry also concluded that Rio Tinto “knew the value of what they were destroying but blew it up anyway.”

Rio Tinto’s plans for Chi’chil Bildagoteel involve a practice known as “block caving”, a process that opponents say leave behind a sinkhole and potentially pollutes groundwater.

The Apache have used Chi’chil Bildagoteel for over 1,500 years to perform ceremonies that form the core of their spiritual practices. The land also contains a number of other sacred and cultural sites such as Apache burial grounds and petroglyphs as well as spiritual and medicinal plants.

If Apache Stronghold loses in court and Rio Tinto ends up with the land, the mining company would still have to be granted federal permits before it can begin any work on the mine, a process that could take years.

There is also a plan by Arizona representative Raúl Grijalva and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders to introduce legislation, the “Save Oak Flat Act” to repeal the land exchange.

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Image credit: Pixabay

TWH – As the number of infections and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic surge in the U.S., two upcoming festivals have canceled their Spring festivals.

Trees of Avalon Gathering (TAG) based in Port Richey, Florida announced on Sunday they would be canceling Ostara Wars, originally scheduled for April. They are still planning to hold their Samhain event for 2021.

To Our Beloved Community,
It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to cancel TAG – Ostara Wars. We are just as heartbroken as you are, however, we just cannot in good conscience hold a festival while the pandemic is still not under control.
The vaccine is finally being distributed and the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight, it just not close enough for us to gather. Everything we are seeing points to August being the US’s turn around point. With that we are confident that TAG Samhain 2021 will be our returning festival and we can not think of a better way than to celebrate the new year with all of you!
We will have more information about TAG Samhain 2021 in the coming months.
Bright Blessings,
TAG Board of Directors

Phoenix Festivals also posted a brief message on Sunday notifying followers that Phoenix Phyre 2021  would not take place in March.

TWH will continue to report on changes or cancellations of events. Events that have shifted their scheduling or moved to a virtual event can submit a statement to TWH for publication.

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Halloween House burning [Courtesy]

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – In the early morning hours of January 14, the historic home known as the “Halloween House” at 27 South Clinton Street was reported on fire to the Poughkeepsie Fire Department at 5:12 AM.

The house was built in 1900 and was formerly owned by Joe “Netherworld” Mendillo, a longtime member of the Church of Satan. The house is known for the decorations that Mendillo created, drawing visitors during the Halloween season. Mendillo passed away last year, but the house was still a meeting place for members of the church.

According to news reports, surveillance footage captured an unidentified individual approaching the house carrying two gas cans, pouring and igniting the fuel on the front porch then running away. Two people who were inside the house managed to escape before the building was completely engulfed in flames.

Nine people, including an 11-year-old child, were given emergency aid by the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in connection with the fire.

Damage to the structure was extreme and in a statement posted to the Church of Satan website, Magus Peter H. Gilmore states that “It currently seems unlikely that the home could be restored, due to the severe fire damage.”

Gilmore went on to say, “I am convinced that Joe’s legacy will live on, even though the extraordinary home he so carefully cultivated has been destroyed through the hateful act of some deeply disturbed individual, regardless of his motivation.”

He also spoke of the possibility of converting the location, noting that “one day a “pocket park” could possibly arise on that space, filled with the same sort of lush plantings that Joe favored. He succeeded in creating a sanctuary of rare beauty that passers-by could enjoy, and perhaps in time he could be remembered in an evocative public green space.”

Other members of the church who live in the neighborhood, dubbed by Mendillo as “The Witchcraft District,” have expressed concerns about safety as a result of the fire.

The Church of Satan identifies itself as a group that follows the practice of, “an atheist philosophy of individualism, liberty, and self-fulfillment.”

No one has yet been identified as a person of interest nor has there been any arrests in connection to the arson that destroyed the Halloween House. There is a GoFundMe set up for the residents of the house.

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Covenant of the GoddessANAHEIM, California –  This morning, the Covenant of the Goddess released a brief, formal statement denouncing the violence at the capitol on January 6:

The Covenant of the Goddess is stunned by the violence at the US Capitol on January 6th. We are disappointed by the lawless actions of individuals that undermine the peaceful transition of power in the world’s most mature democracy.

We are reminded that above the US Capitol is a bronze statue originally titled, “Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace” who’s head is circled in stars as being the manifestation of the goddess Libertas.

We acknowledge the loss of life on that day and our sympathies go out to their family and friends. Additionally, we honor the lawmakers that serve freedom and liberty and the brave individuals who have and are currently shielding the US Capitol. We hold them all in protection.

So Mote it Be.


Crossings of the Veil

Image credit: Wdarling – CC BY-SA 4.0

Storm Constantine, sci-fi/fantasy author and the founder of Immanion Press crossed the veil on January 14.

Constantine may be best remembered for her Wraeththu series which developed an almost cult following.

She was also considered to be an expert on the occult and the tarot and authored two non-fiction titles, The Inward Revolution (1998, with Deborah Benstead) and Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra (1999, with Eloise Coquio).

She was the commissioning editor for both Immanion Press and Megalith Books, the imprint for Immanion’s non-fiction titles which include works on the occult and other magical practices. Immanion Press publishes a variety of science fiction titles including Constantine’s own work, as well as the works of Tanith Lee, among others.

In the 90s, Constantine in conjunction with Louise Coquio co-founded Visionary Tongue a sci-fi/fantasy magazine that provided new writers an opportunity to be published, gain experience working with a professional editor, have a better understanding of the industry, and hone their writing skills.

Constantine traveled down many paths in her life before settling into writing and publishing. In the 70s she attended art school and then moved on to working with and managing bands in the 80s and 90s. Her first works were published in the early 90s. She founded Immanion Press 2003.

What is remembered, lives!


In other news:

  • The discovery of a new a bat species, Myotis nimbaensis, in the Nimba Mountains of Guinea have researchers hoping creates enough excitement to help encourage better protections and preservation of bats species. Bats, in particular, in West African countries are often killed due to baseless superstitions, and their connections to disease. However, bats play a vital role in balancing the ecosystem by keeping insect populations from growing too large, functioning as pollinators, and spreading the seeds from the fruits they consume. The bat was first noticed in 2018, but only recently identified as a new species, has a fuzzy orange-colored body and black wings. 🦇
  • A new project in the process of construction on the Cornish moors is an elaborate labyrinth that will be composed of Cornish hedgerows. The new labyrinth is named Kerdroya, which roughly translates as “castle of turnings,” and is rumored it will be the largest of its kind in the world. Cornish hedgerows are constructed using both vegetation and stones and can differ depending on what part of Cornwall you are in. Kerdroya has already had its foundation boulders, or “grounders” as they are called, put in place. The stones were pulled from nearby Colliford Lake and transported by horse and sleigh. Will Coleman, the project director envisions that, in spring, the site will be an “outdoor university of Cornish hedging.” Over 60 apprentice hedgerow builders have signed on to help with the project and the opportunity to learn the art of hedgerow construction under experienced and expert builders. Coleman who describes the project as an art installation rather than to draw tourists said, “I really think this is the ideal project for these times. We will build it, then plant it and after that, we walk away, let it become what it becomes, tell nature: ‘Off you go, have some fun with that.'”
  • The Keystone XL pipeline that environmentalists have repeatedly fought to prevent and stop may finally see the project halted. President-elect, Joe Biden had often stated during his campaign that one of his priorities if elected would be to stop the pipeline. The New York Times reported today Biden plans to make good on that campaign promise by making one of the first executive orders signed on January 20 the one that will cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Critics of the 1,200-mile pipeline have repeatedly cited the potential of environmental damage to wildlife and the environment, in addition to its construction a move away from more sustainable energy sources.


Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: The Vision Tarot by Tim Thompson, published by CARTA MUNDI

Card: Major arcana XX (20), Judgment (Le Jugement)

The week ahead likely will offer resolution or “final outcome” to an ongoing situation, with the potential for a new beginning or fresh start. There is also present the possibility of reward for persistence and hard work. Conversely, possible delays in final reckonings with undercurrents of indecisiveness and mediocrity.


Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.

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