Pagan Community Notes: Week of May 2, 2022

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WASHINGTON – A new unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court in Shurtleff v. City of Boston the Court ruled in favor of the petitioner, Harold Shurtleff.

The case centered on the denial of the city of Boston to allow a Christian group permission to fly its flag on one of the three flag poles in front of city hall. Two of the flag poles fly the U.S. flag and the Massachusetts state, with the third flying the city’s flag.

However, the city has allowed dozens of groups over the years to fly their own flags in connection with any special ceremonies various groups have held. While the majority of these occasions were in connection with national holidays of other countries, the third flag pole has also featured the flags of national Pride Week, emergency medical service workers, and even a community bank.

In fact, the city’s refusal to grant permission in 2017 to a group identified as Camp Constitution to fly what they called the “Christian Flag” was the first and only time it had done so.

Justice Breyer delivered the opinion for the Court and wrote, “When the government encourages diverse expression— say, by creating a forum for debate—the First Amendment prevents it from discriminating against speakers based on their viewpoint.”

Breyer summarized the case, “This case concerns a flagpole outside Boston City Hall. For years, Boston has allowed private groups to request use of the flagpole to raise flags of their choosing. As part of this program, Boston approved hundreds of requests to raise dozens of different flags. The city did not deny a single request to raise a flag until, in 2017, Harold Shurtleff, the director of a group called Camp Constitution, asked to fly a Christian flag. Boston refused. At that time, Boston admits, it had no written policy limiting use of the flagpole based on the content of a flag. The parties dispute whether, on these facts, Boston reserved the pole to fly flags that communicate governmental messages, or instead opened the flagpole for citizens to express their own views. If the former, Boston is free to choose the flags it flies without the constraints of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. If the latter, the Free Speech Clause prevents Boston from refusing a flag based on its viewpoint.”

Breyer made it clear that no matter how the law was applied, the city of Boston, with no current policy for refusal in place, must allow the group Camp Constitution to fly its flag just as it has many other groups.

Breyer summed up the Court’s opinion with, “We conclude that, on balance, Boston did not make the raising and flying of private groups’ flags a form of government speech. That means, in turn, that Boston’s refusal to let Shurtleff and Camp Constitution raise their flag based on its religious viewpoint ‘abridg[ed]’ their ‘freedom of speech.’


    • TWH columnist, Storm Faerywolf has announced the release of his new book, The Satyr’s Kiss: Queer Men, Sex Magic and Modern Witchcraft published by Llewellyn and available from at your favorite local book seller and online beginning May 8, 2022. The book is described by the publisher, as “offer[ing] a vision of modern Witchcraft that centers the lives and experiences of queer men in a spiritual practice that includes an awareness of queer history, a reverence of queer ancestors, and a celebration of queer sex.”While many of us were enduring the pandemic, Faerywolf has clearly been industrious since this release follows the March 8, 2022 release of his other title, The Witch’s Name: Crafting Identities of Magical Power. The Witch’s Name “focuses on the power of names and how they can help shape the bearer’s consciousness to better serve in magical work.” And, “examines myths and stories from various cultures that give credence to the practice of taking a new name and gives practical advice, exercises, and rituals for helping to choose a name that best suits one’s particular needs.” Congratulations, Storm!

    • Cherry Hill Seminary announced the keynote address for their summer virtual intensive, The Shifting Religious Landscape: Ministry in an Interspiritual World, which is scheduled for August 12-14 will be given by Adrian Bird, Ph.D. Dr. Bird currently serves as Assistant Professor of History at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, and teaches courses in history and inter-religious encounters. He has lived in a variety of diverse international settings, including Zimbabwe, India, the United Kingdom and the United States. A particular focus of Bird’s life journey has been work within and alongside marginalized communities, including the displaced children of Zimbabwe, the Dalits of India, and the neglected children within the United States. Bird will deliver his keynote address on the evening of August 12.

    • In March, TWH published in announcements the request that Lezlie Kinyon, Ph.D., president of the Society for Ritual Arts, and the editor of Coreopsis: Journal of Myth & Theatre sent out for help with funding for the six-week, science fiction, fantasy, and horror writing workshop often referred to as the “Ghost Class” at Clarion University of California San Diego. The fundraising effort with 11 days to go has only managed to hit 42% of the total needed to make sure all of the eighteen students who were accepted into the special class out of the 1,000 who applied can attend. Some of the students accepted into the six-week program are coming from as far away as Kenya and face skyrocketing expenses to travel, on top of the trauma and trials of the past two years of the pandemic.

    In other news:

      • The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry in Egypt announced the discovery of the ruins of a temple for the ancient Greek god Zeus in the Sinai Peninsula last week. The temple ruins were found in the archaeological site of Tell el-Farma, also known by its ancient name Pelusium, in northwestern Sinai. The site dates as far back as the late Pharaonic period was also used during Greco-Roman and Byzantine times, and also contains remains that date to the Christian and early Islamic periods. An excavation done by French Egyptologist Jean Clédat in 1900 noted the find of ancient Greek inscriptions that reflected the existence of the Zeus-Kasios temple but according to the Ministry, the temple was not located. Zeus-Kasios is a combination of Zeus, the Greek God of the sky, and Mount Kasios in Syria, where Zeus once worshipped. This latest discovery is just the most recent series of new finds in Egypt.

      • Last week, as reported by NPR, Chaz Stevens, a Florida activist, filed a petition asking the districts to “immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material,” and “Additionally, I also seek the banishment of any book that references the Bible.” This comes after Florida governor, Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that allows parents to object to educational materials. The bill seemed to target books that had LGBTQ content and themes, as those were the books some parents most complained about. Stevens was spurred to file his petition after the state rejected 54 math textbooks, claiming they contained references to Critical Race Theory. In his petition, Stevens cited the Bible’s “casual” references to murder, adultery, sexual immorality, and fornication. “Do we really want to teach our youth about drunken orgies?”

      • On Earth Day, Yale Divinity School hosted its first-ever non-Christian service for the occasion. The event was led by Divinity student, Tasha Brownfield and was held outside of Marquand Chapel on the school’s campus. Roughly 80 students attended to celebrate Earth Day with songs, speeches and non-denominational prayers. “There aren’t many spaces where people who fall outside a very particular Protestant lens can worship authentically at Yale Divinity School,” Brownfield said. “So for my colleagues and myself, I decided to make a space where people could worship authentically and include Black Theology, Indigenous ecology, some southern charm that separated from the elitism of the institution to something that’s really embodied and grounded within this space.” The ceremony incorporated a diverse range of practices and beliefs and also used the Unitarian Universalist tradition of Chalice Lighting, as well as a prayer to the Hindu personification of Mother Earth, Prithivi. Yale Divinity School has been in operation since it was founded in 1822

      Crossings of the Veil

      R.G. “Rod” Bennien – March 25, 1942 – April 27, 2022

      R.G. “Rod” Bennien is perhaps best recognized by the name Tarostar under which he published many of his written works on Witchcraft and spellcrafting.

      Bennien was born in Cleveland, Ohio into a family that followed the beliefs and practices of the Re-Organized Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. When he was still a child his family relocated to Las Vegas.

      In his early life and career, he served in the military and as an Army Security Agency as a Voice Intercept Analyst. Bennien attended the Defense Language Institute at Presidio of Monterrey, California, trained at NSA at Fort Mead, Maryland, and was deployed to West Berlin during the Cold War Era.

      Eventually, he found his way to occult practices through Charmaine Dey (June Day) and her occult shop, the Bell, Book & Candle in Las Vegas where he worked. He also worked at the Psychic Eye shop. It was through Dey that he met Sybil Leek and together with the collaboration of others founded the North American arm of the Horsa tradition.

      It was out of this affiliation with Dey and Leek, along with Laura LaTegis that the Circle of Starmeadow was born, and what is recognized as the Ancient Order of the Bell, Book & Candle, or Sacred Pentagraph, as it is known by today. They also founded The All Saints Church of Mystic Science in Nevada.

      After the deaths of Dey (1983) and Leek (1982), Bennien opened and ran his own shop, Ye Olde Herb Doctor in Las Vegas until the late 1980s.

      In 1989, he relocated to Toronto and became the manager of The Occult Shop, where he worked for many years. Even once he retired, he continued to offer his astrology and divination services through the shop.

      Of Bennien’s many books which include The Witch’s Spellcraft, The Witch’s Formulary and Spellbook, A Book of Shadows, and Spiritual Workers Handbook, are crowned by what he considered his most important work, The Sacred Pentagraph: A Craft Work in Five Volumes.

      The Sacred Pentagraph defined Bennien’s system of practice and belief and offered practitioners a bird’s eye view of the tradition he helped to develop and found. By his own words he described his teachings as being, “… an initiatory process elevating the total person from birth through death in a series of successive grades to master the ordeals of life by application of Craft religious ideals and philosophical outlook.”

      Wolfa Coven wrote in remembrance,  “His vision was not one of wealth and fame. His vision was only that which the Craft teaches.”

      What is remembered, lives!

      Positively Noteworthy

      As public Beltane celebrations made a return this year, many gathered to attend events like the famous Calton Hill Beltane Fire festival in Edinburgh, organized by the Beltane Fire Society. While the event was held in person this year, the group continued to offer some digital features, Tales From The Hearth, that had been utilized during the lockdowns of the two previous years for those unable to attend.

      As well as footage from other events, like the one held at Thornborough Henge in North Yorkshire, England.

      Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

      Deck: The Book of Shadows Tarot, Volume 1, As Above, by Barbara Moore, artwork by Simone Gabrielli, Grzegorz Krysinski, Franco Rivolli, and Pietro Scola di Mambro, published by Lo Scarabeo.

      Card: Ace of Fire – The Sun

      This week there is an emphasis on passions being sparked, and how personal energy drives the desire to be accomplished in tasks and pursuits undertaken.

      Conversely, ego allowed to run rampant with no checks and balances is likely to result in selfishness, hamper creative endeavors, and limit or sever collaborative partnerships.

      Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.

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