Pagan Community Notes: Week of July 19, 2021

Waste LandSACRAMENTO, Calif. – According to a recent article by The New York Times, the drought in the West is causing some to again look to alternative methods like dowsing for finding water. The practice of dowsing for water which is done by those referred to as “water witches”  or water dowsers or water diviners has a long history.

Droughts often bring a renewed interest in the use of these types of practitioners to find water. The Associated Press reported in 2014 on vintner Marc Mondavi who is also a water witch being sought out for his skill in finding water.

While the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) defines water dowsing it does not endorse the practice and says that there is little if any evidence that shows it is an effective way of find water. The National Ground Water Association an organization composed of groundwater professionals “opposes the use of water witches to locate groundwater on the grounds that controlled experimental evidence clearly indicates that the technique is totally without scientific merit.

Those that practice the art of water witching and the people who rely on their services are not swayed by government agency documents or association reports and claim it is a cheaper alternative to hiring a surveyor or hydrogeologist to find water.

Water dowsing or witching was historically done using a forked branch held out at 45-degree angle to the ground. When the water witch crossed above groundwater the branch would turn down, towards the ground. Today the art is typically performed using either two dowsing rods that are free to move, one each hand, and they cross each to form an “X” when the user crosses the water. Sometimes water witches also use a pendulum to find water.

By contrast, hydrogeologists use a variety of hydrologic tools like geophysical instruments, satellite imagery, drilling data, and geology to locate water sources.

Whether landowners employ a water witch or a hydrogeologist to find water, one thing is clear: when a drought is in place those who possess the ability to find water are in high demand.

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Image credit: J.-H. Janßen – CC BY-SA 4.0

GÖRLITZ, Germany – The neoclassical architectural and Art Nouveau-style Görlitz synagogue, which was set on fire and partially destroyed by Nazis during the 1938 Kristallnacht or Night of the Broken Glass, has been restored with the help of  the interfaith community. Originally opened to the community in 1911 to serve the Jewish community of 600, the synagogue was designed by the architects William Rossou and Hans Max Kune.

The synagogue sits near the border of Poland and Czechia (what was once part of Czechoslovakia) and roughly 109 km (67.7 miles) east of Dresden. After the end of World War II, it was the only synagogue that remained standing Saxony and sat in ruins for years with its roof eventually collapsing.

As detailed in a new book, The New Görlitz Synagogue by Alex Jacobowitz, the building changed owners a number of times and faced an uncertain future before it finally came to rest in the hands of the Görlitz community.

The restoration process took almost 30 years and cost approximately €12.6 million ($15 million). The newly completed renovation was revealed on Saturday via a livestream event. The New Görlitz Synagogue will now be home to both Jewish religious services and interfaith cultural events.

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Apollon Olympia – image courtesy of G. Reese

SICILY, Italy – New progress reported on a project to erect a temple to Apollo undertaken by the Associazione Tradizionale Pietas. So far Pietas has erected three other Hellenic-Italic tradition temples and the one to Apollo will be the fourth.

In the last update from the fundraising page, sponsored by Ilenia Contess:

We were able to do a lot thanks to your offers!

In the photos you can admire the new doors with lion heads 🙂

The area is cleaned weekly of various weeds and weeds, and in their place we are planting several trees such as laurels or a nice ginko biloba 🙂

As the next step, we need to do the following:

– completion of the staircase
– decorations of the capitals and the tympanum
– preparation of the Acropolis square
– purchase of a statue
– materials and equipment suitable for the construction of newsstands for other divinities (later we will let you know who they will be dedicated to :))

Our project is to make this place a sacred citadel filled with ancient Greco-Roman spirituality.

The other temples built by Pietas are the Temple of Minerva Medica in Pordenone, the Temple of Apollo in Ardea, and in Rome, the Temple of Iovis.

Crossings of the Veil

David J. Erwin – June 3, 1966 –  July 13, 2021

David J. Erwin is reported to have died unexpectedly last week. He made substantial contributions to the communities he worked, taught, and lived within.

Erwin held a number of degrees that included a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from Providence College, and a Master of Divinity through the Order of Preachers.

In his career, he worked as a clinical therapist for The Providence Center-Kent Hospital, was a Reiki Master, taught elementary school, was a bookseller, and a mental health clinician.

He brought his love of aroma, vibrational essences and herbs together to found the company Anam Cara of Rhode Island, which produces aromatherapy products and offers variety of other spiritual services and workshops.

Erwin was also a priest with the Temple of Witchcraft in Salem, New Hampshire. The Temple of Witchcraft will be holding an online ritual to honor his passing on Sunday, July 25, 2021. A tribute page has been set up on Facebook for Erwin where members of the community can share remembrances. Details for other services are listed on his remembrance via

By all accounts, Erwin was much loved by the community and his family and is oft remembered in tributes as possessing a “wise wit and wonderful, wicked sense of humor.”

Carol P. Christ – Dec 20, 1945 – July 14, 2021

Carol P. Christ was a feminist historian, theologian, professor, and longtime member of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Her work was considered to be foundational in both launching and elevating the prominence of the Goddess movement in the U.S. and abroad.

Christ held a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University and taught as a feminist scholar at a variety of institutions including Columbia University, Harvard Divinity School, Pomona College, and San Jose State University. In 1993, she served as an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies newly created women’s spirituality, philosophy, and religion graduate studies program.

She was also considered an expert on the archaeology, culture, and religion of Crete and authored two books on the topic: Rebirth of the Goddess and A Serpentine Path.

Christ was the author of a total of eight  books, which the ARR describes as “profoundly thoughtful and inspiring.” Several of her works were done in collaboration with friend and colleague Judith Plaskow.

Since 1987 Christ had been a resident of Greece and was the founder and director of the Ariadne Institute, conducting pilgrimages to the sacred sites in Greece which contained artifacts of matriarchal religion.

Many of the remembrances expressed online reflected on the power of the knowledge she brought to Goddess studies, helping steer many to Paganism. She was also remembered for how inspirational and impactful her work was and the fierce joy she shared with friends, colleagues, and students on the culture of ancient Crete.

In other news:

    • A UK woman who was the alleged victim of rape and assault was asked whether she was a “witch” and if she “was a practicing ‘witch'” by the defense counsel for the person accused of committing the crime. The judge in the case ruled the attorney out of order for the question in the first trial, which resulted in a hung jury. The defense counsel posed the question again the second time the case was heard and the defendant was acquitted. An organization that provides support to victims of sexual assault and abuse, The Survivors Trust, said that questions like this undermine victims and that it could be “incredibly damaging to survivors’ because it could ‘exacerbate feelings of shame, blame and guilt.” The defendant in the case was arrested again just a week after the acquittal in connection to another sexual assault charge and pleaded guilty.

    • According to articles in The UK London Times and the French newspaper, Le Parisien occult practice is not only increasing in France, but it is also profitable. Author Dominique Camus believes there are between 150,00 and 200,00 magical practitioners in France. In an interview with Le Parisien Camus said, “Witchcraft was secret in the past but it has become a flag that enables people to lay claim to ideas based on a fabric of supposedly historical nonsense. With social media networks and the democratisation of self-publishing, a multitude of people claim to have gifts and magic powers and publish their theories in blogs and in books. It’s mainly a very efficient way of selling books, spells, and training sessions for communicating with the spirits.” Some academics and researchers believe that a substantial portion of France’s population–as much as 39%–are distrustful of the government and this may be part of the reason they are turning to alternatives that encompass magical practices.

    Positively Noteworthy

    The annual Butterfly count in the UK kicked off last Friday, July 16 and runs through Sunday, August 8th. Last year saw a marked increase in the number of people who participated in the annual count with 111,500 people submitting 145,249 counts. While the number of participants saw a 25% increase and 1.4 million butterflies counted, the overall number of butterflies reflected a 34% decline in butterfly populations. This represents the largest decline in eleven years.

    The count is overseen by United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) which was established in 2009 is funded and organized by Butterfly Conservation (BC), the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

    The butterfly count has been an ongoing project since 1976. The data collected each year allows researchers to assess the health of butterfly populations and the environment, as well as the impact of changes to the climate and severe weather events when compared to previous years.

    Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck: The Divine Canine Tarot, by Zack Loup, independently published.

    Card: Six (6) of Swords

    The week ahead may call for a shift that requires letting go and moving on. Initially, there may be reluctance or regret but ultimately, changes will lead to a better, healthier, and more satisfying path forward.

    Conversely, holding on to the past and a refusal to accept necessary changes can lead to stagnation and feeling stuck or trapped.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.

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