Pagan Community Notes: Week of June 14, 2021

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Rainbow flag in NYC. [Image credit: Ludovic Bertron, CC BY 2.0

BARNEVELD, Wis. – Circle Sanctuary announced its support and participation as a cosponsor for the “Colors of Pride” celebration which highlights the intersectionality between queerness, racial justice, and religious identity.

The weeklong celebration is focused on creating opportunities for spiritual congregations to publicly support equality and forge stronger allyship with the queer community, and Black and Brown communities by combining the commemoration of Juneteenth and LGBTQIA+ Pride. The program seeks to have at least 300 congregations across the U.S. participate and partner together to raise awareness.

Rev. Selena Fox and Rev. Dianne (Minerva) Duggan released a joint statement highlighting the importance of the Equality Act of 2021 and calling for the Pagan community and beyond to support it:

Support the Equality Act of 2021. The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 5) and is now working its way through the U.S. Senate (S. 393). It will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by banning discrimination based on someone’s sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It goes further ensuring fairness in many areas, including employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and banking.

Many Americans don’t realize that equal protections afforded to some citizens do not cover all citizens or all possible areas of discrimination. Equal rights are a patchwork of laws across the country that leaves some citizens vulnerable to being refused service at a restaurant, denied by a lawyer or bank, or kicked out of a government-funded homeless shelter, for example, simply because of who they are.

The Equality Act does not benefit only LGBTQ+ Americans, it goes beyond that. Presently, there are no federal protections for people of color, women, immigrants, and people of minority faiths from being denied service and otherwise discriminated against in retail stores, shopping malls and similar places. Women are also not yet fully protected from discrimination in government services and federally-funded programs.

We must ensure these vital protections are for all Americans. It wasn’t that long ago when slavery was finally abolished and all the states were notified (Juneteenth, 1865). It was barely 50 years ago that race was included in these rights. It was about 40 years ago when women could get financial loans and credit without a man’s endorsement. We’ve still got so much work to do. We must continue to expand our care of citizens regardless of how they appear or identify.

Become an ally of those who are different than you. In the beginning, you couldn’t vote if you weren’t a land-owner, or if you weren’t white, or if you weren’t male. Take some time to remember that the Equality Act does nothing to limit anyone’s existing personal freedoms. Instead, it expands those freedom to everyone. Personal rights should not be limited by how one looks, acts, or worships. Everyone should have a fair chance to provide a home for their families and access essential services without fear of harassment or discrimination.

America was founded on acceptance and openness. People came to this country looking for new lives where they could be themselves. They came looking for opportunity and freedom. Let’s recognize that all Americans are entitled to the same rights and freedoms.

Join the many individuals, organizations, and faith-based groups supporting this legislation. The AARP, AMA, ABA, and many other groups want all Americans covered by the freedoms that we hold dear. Faith groups and organizations such as the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Circle Sanctuary (Nature Spirituality), and the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists are standing in support of the Equality Act of 2021.

Contact your U.S. Senators and ask them to support this important legislation. Find your U.S. Senators and contact them here

In a nutshell, the Equality Act is designed to streamline and standardize equal protection under the law at the federal level not just members of the LGBTQIA+ community but for everyone, equally.

In “witch-hunt” news:

Articles in this section may contain graphic descriptions of violence. We use lowercase letters and quotation marks around “witch” and “witchcraft” to denote those who are not Pagans or Witches but are accused and frequently murdered as a result of being labeled as such.

    • On May 12, Luka Dalabehera, 55, and his son, 22, who lived in Muthaguda village were called to a nearby forest and then beaten to death by villagers who believed they were practicing “witchcraft.” A child had died a month prior and about a dozen villagers confronted and began beating both men. Luka Dalabehera died in the forest, while his son Anaka Dalabehera despite being gravely injured, managed to escape from the mob and return home where he died from his injuries. Muthaguda village is in the tribal-dominated Gajapati district of Odisha in India. According to news reports, Adaba police have detained several members of the village, and continue to search for others who are suspected of being involved in the killings.

    • Yesterday was International Albinism Awareness Day. Despite renewed efforts to educate populations around the world about albinism, those with the genetic issue still face discrimination and frequently are murdered, particularly within developing nations. Albinism is genetic and individuals with the disorder produce no melanin and have no pigmentation in the eyes, hair, and skin. They are at a much-increased risk of skin cancer. Superstitions around those with albinism range from people believing they are ghosts or are magical which leads to individuals being either murdered or tortured for the removal of various body parts to be used in “witchcraft.” Children born with albinism also have a much higher rate of being abandoned due to the stigma attached to the condition. Over the course of the last decade, there have been hundreds of attacks and murders in 28 countries.

    • There has been a marked rise of women being violently attacked in connection to accusations of practicing “witchcraft” in Papua New Guinea. Sudden illnesses or outbreaks of disease, like COVID-19 that impact communities can result in more accusations of “witchcraft” or “sorcery” as TWH has reported on in the past. According to Human Rights Watch, at least five women have been attacked in connection to “witchcraft” accusations, and one woman, Mary Kopari, was brutally murdered by being burned alive in the Komo-Magarima District of Papua New Guinea. Kopari was falsely accused of using “witchcraft” after a young boy in her village died. While men are also accused of “witchcraft,” women are far more likely to be victims of accusations and as a result are frequently tortured, sexually assaulted, and held captive. Stephanie McLennan, senior manager of Asia initiatives at Human Rights Watch, told The Independent, “The Papua New Guinea government should urgently investigate all cases of violence following sorcery accusations, and prosecute those responsible for the violence. Gender-based violence is a persistent problem in Papua New Guinea, and the government is doing very little to stop it.”

    • A mob of armed individuals went from homestead to homestead in the Meru county village of Gitine in Kenya allegedly looking for suspected “witches.” Three people, Fredrick Kaini Nkabu, 70, Samuel Mwamba, 72, and Zachary Kaburu, 68 were all hacked to death by the mob, and then their homes were set on fire. Witnesses said the individuals who invaded the village and committed murder were armed with “crude weapons” and “pangas” which is a type of large, broad-bladed knife common to East Africa. According to reports, the gang also attacked a fourth person. Three men were arrested in connection with the killings, Collins Mwiti, 22, Morris Mwiti, 25, and Dennis Mwiti, 20. Magistrate Ezra Ayuka ruled last Monday the men could be held for seven days beyond the normal 24 hours due to the severity of the crime and to allow the coroner and investigators to conclude their initial work and findings on the case before the men’s arraignment concerning the charges. They were due back in court today.

    In other news:

    • The deadline for registration for the virtual online 41st annual Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) is Wednesday, June 16. Despite it being a virtual event again this year, the organizers must allow enough time for materials for the event that will be mailed to attendees and arrive prior to the event. PSG runs this year June 25 – 27.

    • The U.S. Mint announced in May that author and poet Maya Angelou and astronaut Sally Ride would be the first women to be featured on the reverse side of coins as part of the American Women Quarters Program beginning in 2022. Few women have been featured on U.S. coins – Susan B. Anthony in 1979, Sacagawea in 2000 appeared on the dollar and Helen Keller on the quarter in 2003. Last week the Mint announced the names of the three other women who will also be featured: Wilma Mankiller – the first female Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights; Adelina Otero-Warren – a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools; and Anna May Wong – the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, achieving international success despite racism and discrimination. The Mint intends to issue up to five coins annually, with each honoring a different prominent woman in U.S. history running from 2022 through 2025.

    • New observations by astronomers have revealed a giant, blinking star over 25,000 light-years away and near the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The star, officially named VVV-WIT-08 has researchers considering whether it should be placed in a new class: a “blinking giant” binary star system. Typically, stars may become less bright over time, or appear to blink due to being part of a stellar pair where one star obscures the other temporarily. What stars generally do not do is blink repeatedly and consistently, or become brighter after dimming, but that is exactly what researchers observed VVV-WIT-08 do. Researchers believe the giant star is accompanied by a disc of material that regularly obscures it and causes it to blink from our vantage point of observation. So far researchers have discovered six other giant, blinking star systems and intend to continue to search for more. “There are certainly more to be found, but the challenge now is in figuring out what the hidden companions are, and how they came to be surrounded by discs, despite orbiting so far from the giant star,” said Leigh Smith, discovery lead and research associate in the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, in a statement. “In doing so, we might learn something new about how these kinds of systems evolve.”

    Positively Noteworthy

    Last month LEGO® introduced its Everyone is Awesome set in celebration of Pride Month designed to reflect and celebrate diversity.

    Set designer Matthew Ashton, Vice President, Design said: “I wanted to create a model that symbolises inclusivity and celebrates everyone, no matter how they identify or who they love.

    “Everyone is unique, and with a little more love, acceptance and understanding in the world, we can all feel more free to be our true AWESOME selves! This model shows that we care, and that we truly believe ‘Everyone is awesome’!”

    Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck:  Fournier’s Frida Kahlo Tarot,
    by Lo Scarabeo/Llewellyn Publishing.

    Card: Knaves of Swords

    The week ahead may hold elements or situations that require vigilance, and the ability to quickly shift position mentally, emotionally, and possibly even physically.

    Conversely, be mindful of what is not being said or addressed, as well as what may be obscured from view. The potential across the board for willful misrepresentation is high.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.