Pagan Community Notes: Week of July 18, 2022

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias –  Image credit: Dietmar Rabich – CC BY-SA 4.0 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. – Last week, concerns for the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias dominated much of the news reporting that centered on the Washburn fire in Yosemite National Park. The most recent reports seem to indicate that while the giant sequoias have been spared, over 4,900 acres have been affected by the fire which is only 50% contained.

While the National Wildfire Coordinating Group issued an updated report today that observed fire behavior is diminished, Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest continue to be impacted as the fire area continues to burn and spread.

Currently, 1,534 firefighters are assigned to the fire area, and fire suppression tactics, as well as previous burn scars from 2017’s South Fork Fire, have all helped to limit the scope and spread of the Washburn fire in certain areas.

The Washburn was first reported on July 7 in the afternoon near the Washburn Trail in the Mariposa Grove area of Yosemite National Park. By the next day, the fire area had spread to encompass 466 acres of the park and had increased exponentially in size over the past ten days.

Extreme high record temperatures and wildfires have also affected a number of European countries. France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, and Crete all have wildfires that are raging. France and Spain have multiple large wildfires that have resulted in significantly large evacuation orders.

The two fires consuming the pine forests in southwestern France which span roughly 100 square kilometers (25,600 acres) have resulted in the evacuations of over 16,000 people. High winds forecast for yesterday and today have complicated fire suppression efforts.

In Spain, over 30 wildfires have been ignited in forests across the country from causes that ranged from lightning strikes to human negligence to possible arson. Spain has seen an average of 25% less precipitation so far this year with some areas showing a 75% deficit compared to previous years.

While no fire-related deaths have been reported, Spain has seen over 360 deaths as a result of the extreme temperatures. Extremely high temperatures have been experienced across much of Europe, impacting countries as far north as Great Britain and Demark. High temperatures ranging from 102-109° F (39-43° C) have been recorded across much of Europe over the past week.

Maroš Šefčovič, currently Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations since 2019 and other previous commissioner for energy,  had previously warned member states in June that the extreme drought being experienced by some countries would result in the worst fire season to be experienced to date. Šefčovič has noted that the conditions in southern Europe are examples of how climate change will continue to have an impact.

“Statistics show that since 2017, we have the most intense, intense forest fires ever seen in Europe. And that we unfortunately expect the 2022 forest fire season could follow this trend,” Šefčovič said.

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TWH – The grift of impersonating high profile Witches and influencers in an effort to exploit their followers continues to be a problem across social media platforms like Instagram. A recent article in a British tabloid highlighted several Witches in the U.K. who have experienced the same issue that TWH reported on with high-profile American Witches and Pagans last month.

The U.K. Witches who were interviewed in the article echoed the same concerns and frustrations that their American contemporaries have – Instagram has taken no action to put a stop to scammers from creating fake accounts and then defrauding people.

All of the Witches who have been impersonated by fake accounts now have added to their profiles statements like: “❗️MY ONLY WITCHCRAFT ACCOUNT❗️”  and “My ONLY page.”

Alexa Thompson who posts on Instagram as The Barefoot Witch said, “We deserve to be taken ­seriously whether you believe in witchcraft or not – and Instagram doesn’t take it seriously. If it was a celebrity or a politician who was affected they would act. These scammers are blood-sucking leeches but despite reporting them multiple times there is no support from the platforms.”

Thompson went on to highlight how it negatively impacts Witches, as well as harming those seeking spiritual guidance, “With the pandemic and cost of living crisis people feel they have no control over their lives and are turning to witchcraft because organised religion doesn’t hack it any more. All the same, lots of people think what we do is nonsense anyway, that we’re crooks, charlatans, frauds. But these real crooks are making it much worse.”

Until Instagram and other similar platforms start taking serious steps to remove and prevent future fake accounts, it is unlikely that scammers will alter their practices of fraud.

Crossings of the Veil

Rhi Melissa Koetting

On July 10 Rhi Melissa Koetting lost her battle against cancer. The Gaea Retreat Center, where she served as caretaker for the camp, shared the following remembrance of Koetting. A memorial service is scheduled to honor her service and memory on August 6.

On July 10th, with the sun shining outside the cabin, Rhi Melissa Koetting hopped a ride on a vulture, and flew to the Summerland.

Rhi grew up in the Ozark mountains, where she was a Witch long before she ever called herself that. Her life’s journey led her to Kansas City, where she found Gaea – and with it, her life purpose and the love of her life. One summer, Rhi spent as much time as possible on the land, and she told a previous caretaker: “If you ever need anyone to do this job, I’m first in line.”
Not long after, she got that call. Half an hour later, she and Clint had packed and arrived. And from that moment, through every day of the last eighteen years, they lived on the land as its residential caretakers.

From the moment Rhi decided to come to Gaea, she served the land and all those on it. The work of her hands and heart restored its lost native wildflowers. Between her commitment to ethical leadership and her love of the land, the Board of Directors made its every choice only after answering Rhi’s question: “How does this meet the mission statement, and serve the community?” And when she was diagnosed with cancer, she stated she would fight it, because “The only way you’ll get me off this land is in a body bag.”

or Rhi, the community was her family. She saw every person who chose to sweat for the land, and she loved every single person who ever spent an hour taking care of “mom,” as she lovingly referred to Gaea.

Her love for all those on the land extended, naturally, to its non-human citizens. Rhi loved them so much that she once tied herself to a dead tree at risk of toppling, proclaiming “It! Is! Habitat!” Her favorite spot was the center of fourth field, surrounded by nothing but nature.

Winter at Gaea was Rhi’s favorite season, especially when the roads were covered in deep snow, sparkling in the sunlight. She was always praying for one more snowfall, and her rule was that it must snow on her birthday. During the dark and dormant part of the Wheel of the Year, with the buildings closed and the land blanketed in quiet, life was brightest. It was those times she spent next to the love of her life, Clint, her husband, her One Person.

She is survived by Clint, as well as her family – both blood and chosen: Her father, Jae; stepmother, Debbie; siblings, Chelsea, Molly, Jennifer, Misty and her Bubba; her in-laws, Patty, Bill, Darlynn and Bill. Her Gaea family includes past and present Board members, Audrey, Mike, Lorelei, Erin M., Gendah, Erin R, Mel, JD, Tara, Cat, Rhiannon, Shane, Ashley, Tiffany, Clarity and Tarah; all those who have cared for and served Gaea, and the entire Gaea community who loved her.

An all-day memorial will be held at Gaea on Saturday, August 6. Small rituals will be held at sunrise and noon. In the afternoon hours, there will be a fish fry (per her wishes) and potluck, followed by a memorial ritual at the lake. Gaea Retreat Center will be closed, except to those attending the memorial activities. All who loved her are invited. Registration is requested on the website; fees for the day will be waived.

We hope you will join us for this celebration of life, because Rhi often reminded us that what she wanted most was that we “keep on living even if [she] was dying – everything happens at Gaea exactly when it needs to.”

In other news:

    • While many people around the world have learned in recent years that the statues created in Greek and Roman antiquity were not just originally white marble, but instead often extravagantly painted in vibrant colors and in great detail, a new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will offer examples of exactly how they might have appeared. “For some, it will be a shock,” said Max Hollein, the director of the museum. “But one has to understand that our current, whitewashed idea of Greek and Roman antiquity is wrong. It’s false.” The museum features 17 Greek and Roman reconstructions that are placed near similar artifacts but that reflect the colors that likely graced the surface of the statues. The reconstructions featuring colors span from the early bronze age to the second century C.E. Artistic techniques from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Asia were adopted and practiced by Greek artists. While it is has been known by researchers and curators for some time that the many marbles found in museums around the world originally featured bright and sometimes even garish colors, it has only been in recent years that the general public has come to know this. The gilding of the statue of Athena in the Nashville, Tennessee Parthenon caused quite a stir when it was revealed. You can watch a video on YouTube that explains how researchers Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann produced the colors and patterns they used in the re-creations they created for Met’s exhibit.

    • DNA obtained from a 14,000-year-old hominid fossil recovered from southern China’s Red Deer Cave indicates that after undergoing testing and analysis that the individual was a modern human. Comparing the DNA extracted from the fossil to other samples of DNA from people around suggests that the branch of modern humans the DNA represents contributed to the East Asian ancestry of Native Americans. Some of the population is thought to have traveled north from southern East Asia along China’s eastern coastline and on to Siberia, the Bering Strait, and into North America. This most recent discovery helps to better define possible migration theories which are important for understanding early human populations and their migrations.

    Positively Noteworthy

    One of the most pleasant surprises this past weekend at the Mystic South Conference was a bluesy performance by Thorn Mooney with Nathaniel Johnstone on Friday night. Between the utterly charming lyrics and style of Johnstone with a counterpoint of Mooney’s seriously awesome blues riffs, they not only set the stage with pure magic but created the perfect warmup for Tuatha Dea.

  • Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

    Deck: Spiral Tarot, by Kay Steventon, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

    Card: Queen of Wands

    The week ahead is likely to reflect examples of continuity and the cycles of life as they relate to trust, creativity, and how passions are expressed. The qualities of generosity and directness and how they might be incorporated to enhance and expand an experience or approach may presumably be on display.

    Conversely, there also exists the potential for disruption and the breaking of cycles. It could be a good week for stepping out of toxic cycles that are on constant repeat and those that are not grounded in productive practices and methods of operation.

    Decks generously provided by Asheville Pagan Supply.

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