Pagan Community Notes: Week of November 22, 2021

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Seal of the United States Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON – Two rather large announcements were made late last week concerning the U.S. Department of the Interior. First, the Senate unanimously confirmed Charles Sams III as director of the National Park Service (NPS), making him the first Native American in history to head the agency.

Sams is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon. During his committee hearing in October with members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sams voiced his concerns regarding how understaffed the NPS is. Over the past decade, the park service has lost about 20% of its employees.

“The National Park Service cannot achieve its mission without a well-supported workforce, and I am committed to focusing on the caretakers of this mission,” he said in his testimony. “Staffing, housing, and other issues are impacting morale and deserve our active attention.”

Sams also stressed that he would prioritize the inclusion of Native American tribal perspectives when it came to making decisions, in addition to working with state and local authorities.

The NPS oversees more than 85 million acres of national parks, monuments, battlefields, and recreation areas, and Sams will be its first confirmed director since 2017 when Obama-appointed Jonathan Jarvis left the position. Until now the agency had been under the supervision of acting directors.

A second announcement made last Friday by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland declared that the term “squaw” was derogatory and would be removed from sites on federal lands. Sec. Haaland ordered the creation of a Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force to find replacement names for valleys, lakes, creeks, and other sites on federal lands that incorporate the word.

Secretary Haaland said in a press release, “Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression. Today’s actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial.”

There are plenty of precedences to support Haaland’s order as a number of states have already removed the word from the names of places, most recently a Lake Tahoe ski resort.

November is also Native American Heritage Month and the White House recently met with some tribal leaders during a tribal summit to address concerns over violence and the environment. Tribal leaders in the past have pressed for changes to names of that places that they view as racial slurs and derogatory.

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The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick

CLEVELAND – Last week the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft & Magic opened its new exhibit of British artist Ray Robinson, The Third Door, curated and produced by the Stephen Romano Gallery.

Robinson was born in the United Kingdom in 1931 and began his professional career as a mathematician. In search of a major change in life in his late thirties, he discovered the works of David Bomber, Alberto Giacometti, and Paul Cézanne, “in their attempt to create a visually orderly perceptual space in their works. I was affected.”

In a press release, the exhibit is described as “kind of like Vincent Price’s, The Witch Discoverer General, except real life.”

According to the press release, “The exhibit of Robinson’s paintings produced between 2015 and 2016, the artist confronts his native England’s ‘often difficult — and contentious history with witchcraft.'”

The exhibition is available for viewing through January 15, 2022.

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PHOENIX – A new law signed by Arizona governor, Doug Ducey earlier this year made it illegal for public schools to prevent Indigenous students from “wearing traditional tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance at a graduation ceremony.”

Prior to the law being in place, Indigenous students were often told to remove items like eagle feathers and other ceremonial items from their graduation caps and gowns or their diplomas would be withheld and they would be removed from the graduation ceremony.

While Arizona now has a law in place to allow displays of cultural heritage for Indigenous students graduating, other states like New Mexico still do not.

Additionally, there have been laws enacted in other states, California and Montana to allow similar measures of expression, and Utah also introduced a similar bill for the general session for 2022. Whether New Mexico will eventually follow suit remains to be seen but like Arizona.


In other news:

    • Cherry Hill Seminary announced that Dr. Margo Wolfe will become the new Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary. Wolfe is an educator, writer, and Pagan with a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment from Walden University and a MA in English/Writing from Gannon University. Wolfe has written, taught, and assessed multiple curricula in a variety of subject areas and served as accreditation chair for programmatic and institutional teams. Wolfe has over 25 years-experience leading Pagan groups in Northwest PA and New York and has served in leadership roles such as Administrative Director and President of the Sisterhood of Avalon, helping to develop policies for better governance and creating curricula for youth members. She also has liturgical experience in the larger religious community, having presented at a variety of festivals and conferences, and is published in several Pagan anthologies. Executive Director Holli Emore said, “Dr. Wolfe brings to her new role a background which is particularly valuable at this time in our institution’s development. I am confident that she will be a worthy successor to Dr. Kant, who has served the Seminary for so many years.” Wolfe takes up her post on January 1, 2022.

    • A new mural was unveiled in Auldearn, Scotland that pays tribute to Isobel Gowdie. Records of Gowdie’s testimony that implicated 12 other women as part of a coven. While it is generally believed that Gowdie was spared execution but banished from the village, no one knows for sure. The artwork was done by Helen Wright, who was aided by Highland historian Andrew Grant-Mackenzie who supplied historical details. Wright is also a volunteer at Nairn Museum. In her mural, Wright includes scenes of the coven and a poem she has written with words on the story of Gowdie. “The last panel is of Isobel Gowdie disappearing into the hills after she was banished from the parish. She was married but she and her husband had no children. We just don’t know the truth of what happened to her.”

    • Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis vows to continue to seek the return of Parthenon sculptures from Great Britain. The Guardian reported that Mitsotakis told an audience gathered at the Science Museum in London, “My intention is to continue working hard until their final return to the Acropolis Museum.” This was just within an hour of the meeting having met with the U.K.’s prime minister, Boris Johnson. Greece has sought the return of the Parthenon marble sculptures which made headlines earlier this year when Johnson said they were acquired legally and would not be returned to Greece. Mitsotakis is reported as being undeterred and instead plans to embark on a campaign of “winning over the hearts and minds of Britons” and swaying public opinion in his favor for the return of the sculptures.


    Positively Noteworthy

    The positive impact of wolves on the ecosphere of Yellowstone National Park after their reintroduction in 1995 has been well-documented.

    Yellowstone was designated as the first national park by President Ulysses S. Grant in March of 1872 when he signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law. The law protected over 2 million acres of mountain wilderness, but it also made the removal of apex predators like wolves a priority in its misguided attempt to preserve the park and game animals.

    The reintroduction of wolves is credited with saving the park due to the number of environmental changes their presence created. By reducing deer and elk populations, wolves help to provide a shift in the ecosystem that allowed for plants that had been overgrazed by Cervidae populations, also known as a trophic cascade.

    The abundant return and expansion of plants brought in an increase in the diversity of wildlife within the park. They also reduced the number of coyotes, which meant an increase in the number of small prey animals, and even pronghorn antelope.

    The return of the wolves while having a profound impact on the park, are not protected outside of the park. Recently, Montana enacted a law that could severely diminish their numbers, threatening the delicate balance and all the positive changes their presence has brought.

    Yellowstone is also a diverse park when it comes to topography and features, containing half of the world’s hydrothermal features. It’s home to more than 10,000 hydrothermal features, which include hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles, travertine terraces, and its well-known geysers like Old Faithful.



    Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck: The Llewellyn Tarot, by Anna-Marie Ferguson, published by Llewellyn Publications.

    Card: Two (2) of Pentacles

    The week ahead is likely to call upon the skills of balance when it comes to finance and decision-making. Discernment and the ability to think and act quickly may figure prominently.

    Conversely, ignoring warning signs, poor planning or research, and not paying attention to details have the potential to derail and even cause the collapse of new ventures.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.