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It is with great regret that we announce the passing of Raymond Buckland, an elder of the craft who will be sorely missed. His importance to the growth of both Wicca and Paganism cannot be overstated as he introduced Wicca into America in 1964, ultimately leading to the massive growth in the community there and elsewhere. He went on to write around sixty books that have been translated into seventeen languages, further extending his influence around the world. He has been a spokesperson for the craft in America for over five decades. Our sympathy and best wishes go to his family and friends at this difficult time.
Blessings from everyone at Children of Artemis,
may his spirit find it’s way into the Summerlands
- Column: Report from Frith Forge
Frith Forge, the first international conference focused on inclusive Ásatrú and Heathenry, was held Oct. 6-8 outside of Potsdam, Germany. The event was the first major project of the International Relations and Exchange Program of the Troth, a U.S.-based Heathen organization with members around the world. The German host was Haimo Grebenstein of the Verein für Germanisches Heidentum (Association for Germanic Heathenry).
The conference had 31 attendees from t12 countries: Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. 14 religious organizations were represented: Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry, Ár nDraíocht Féin, Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost, Ásatrú Ibérica, Asatru Schweiz, Asatru UK, Distelfink Sippschaft, Eldaring, De Negen Werelden, Nordisk Tingsfællig, Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige, Thor’s Oak Kindred, the Troth, and Verein für Germanisches Heidentum.
A Storm and a Sacred Center
Those of us who arrived on Thor’s Day (Thursday) were greeted by the Wild Hunt – not the news and commentary website you’re now visiting, but the furious host of the sky described in a German newspaper of 1832 as a troop that makes “quite a racket” as it that passes by “in the upper layers of the air.” The day we arrived, the storm Xavier blew gale-force winds across northern Germany, killing at least seven people, knocking down giant trees, and crushing cars.
A group of us rode a shuttle bus from the Berlin airport to the hostel hosting the conference, and what should have been about a one-hour drive stretched to almost eight. At one point, we waited for two hours under a full moon in the forest for a crew to cut up and clear the remains of an ancient and massive oak that lay across the road after being felled by the storm. It was actually a bit fairy-tale-like, and it gave us an opportunity to get to know each other before joining the rest of the attendees. We waited for other trees to be cleared, as well, and we were quite happy to finally arrive safely at the hostel.On Friday morning, Grebenstein led an opening ritual meant to create a sacred center for the duration of the conference. It took place outside, beneath massive oak trees at the edge of the lake known as the Glindower See. Participants were asked to bring soil or water from their homeland to place in a bowl next to the altar in a ritual centered on “the union of the different soils (homes) in a bowl/well that will be the ‘center’ of the conference permanently.”
This was the first time I had seen the Hammer Rite performed at a Heathen ritual, and it was striking to see how its performance and other elements of the rite seemed to be derived from Mircea Eliade’s idea of the “symbolism of the center” laid out in The Myth of the Eternal Return, whether directly or through a chain of influence in modern pagan religions. Afterwards, explaining some of the details to a non-Heathen friend attending the conference as a representative of the American Theological Library Association, I wondered how much of Heathenry today puts theories of 20th-century scholars of religion into ritual practice.
From Ancestry to the “Alt-Right”
The first of the conference presentations was “Ancestor Worship and Its Role in 21st-Century Ásatrú” by John Potts and Gunna Einarsdottir of De Negen Werelden (Netherlands). Their in-depth discussion of ancestor veneration examined literary and archaeological sources for historical practice, nineteenth-century influences on concepts of ancestry (including the tracing of a line from racialist Völkisch thought through the work of Vilhelm Grønbech and into modern Heathenry), and various approaches to ancestry in today’s practices. They concluded by highlighting the small step that can lead from ancestor veneration to a racist ideology of Blut und Boden (“blood and soil”), which left a bit of a question mark hanging over the opening ritual with its focus on soil and homeland.The ensuing discussion set the tone for the rest of the conference, with participants from various countries describing how their own Heathen communities address these issues. There was a wide range of approaches to ancestor veneration, from no interest at all (Norway) to a ban on calling on the ancestors in ritual (Austria) to aspirational ancestry (U.S.) to viewing house-spirits as ancestors (Germany). The discussion was followed by a ritual for “Remembering and Celebrating the Ancestors” led by the presenters, which made a strong connection between theory and practice.
The rest of the day was taken up by presentations on organizations represented. The basic idea was for all of the Heathen groups to learn about each other’s histories, structures, policies, and practices as part of the conference’s larger goal of building and strengthening bonds between Heathen communities. Before the conference, Grebenstein emphasized “a need for mutual engagement in order to understand each other better,” stating that
The world is becoming weirder at an accelerating pace, and this happens everywhere. In my experience, this has an impact on personal relations, and I consider that to be not good at all. As Heathens, Pagans, and Ásatrúar, we do share at least a similar – or even an equivalent – mind-set as a foundation for frith [old Norse “peace”]: dialogue, friendship, and mutual respect. I honestly consider Frith Forge to be an act of international understanding.
Diana Paxson spoke about the founding of the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015. Like many at the conference, she discussed a recent and fundamental change on the Heathen landscape. For the first time, she has participated in public protests, driven by Asatru Folk Assembly founder Stephen McNallen’s partnership with the so-called “alt-right,” saying, “I got through the 1960s and 1970s without getting involved in a rally, but that has changed.” She now feels that the current political climate and the open involvement of some Heathens with white nationalism requires her to get involved in public protest.
This is an important change. In Paxson’s 2006 book Essential Ásatrú: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism, the brief discussion of racism in the religion makes no mention of McNallen or his organization. None of the many mentions of McNallen and the AFA makes any reference to racialist beliefs. In fact, Paxson includes the AFA in her annotated list of Heathen organizations for new practitioners to check out, writing without challenge that the group “states that it opposes racial hatred and honors other indigenous religions.”
This public neutrality regarding the AFA has been a stance within the Troth for many years. The most recent edition of Our Troth, the organization’s monumental two-volume textbook on Heathenry, includes material by McNallen. In her presentation at Frith Forge, Paxson made clear that times have changed, and Heathens of positive intent must change with them.
The announcement of McNallen as a speaker at the Berkeley rally in April led Paxson to take a public stand. In her presentation, she stated that McNallen is a “smooth speaker” who “has disguised his true feelings for 30 years,” but is now “letting it all out.” Recently, he has shifted from a long policy of carefully using terms such as “Northern European” and “European-American” to posting on his public Facebook page against “anti-white demagogues” and signing his posts with what he told historian of religions Mattias Gardell is his own shorter version of the notorious “14 words” coined by white supremacist David Lane of the terrorist organization the Order: “The existence of our people is not negotiable.” Whether he is pushing or following the new young leaders of the AFA, both he and the organization are now openly embracing racist positions and groups.
In this new reality, with right-wing Heathens wearing helmets and marching in rallies with Identity Evropa and other extremist groups, and with neo-Nazis including runes and other Norse symbols in their logos and placards, Paxson felt she and her group needed to show up with banners and signs reclaiming the religious symbols of Heathenry. “Part of my identity as a Heathen,” she said, “is to protest the hate groups using Heathen symbols.”
The long shadow of McNallen’s organization chilled some discussion at the conference. When Troth steersman (board president) Robert L. Schreiwer asked for video cameras to be shut off when he discussed the AFA, some European members expressed dismay at the fact that Troth leadership fears lawsuits from McNallen’s organization if they speak out too clearly about racist elements in its policies and statements. The threatened use of lawsuits to intimidate, they said, was a distinctly American phenomenon.
Post-conference discussion has included much back-and-forth over how to best forward inclusiveness in worldwide Heathenry while also providing help in identifying racialist and white nationalist groups for those who are new to the religion or not connected to a larger community. The aversion to direct conflict has led some members of the Troth’s leadership to oppose specifically naming any racist (or “exclusive”) organizations in the website now being designed by participants to promote inclusive Heathenry and serve as a resource and guide for those new to the religions.
Organizations of Many Kinds
This differences in approach and relationship to exclusive and inclusive groups and individuals became clear during the presentations of the various organizations at Frith Forge. Some European groups have historical ties to older organizations on various sides. Verein für Germanisches Heidentum began as Odinic Rite Deutschland in 1995 but unanimously changed its name in 2006. Eldaring began as a Troth partner group but formally removed “Troth” from its name in 2006. The second group seems to take a more rigorously anti-racist stand, with Ulrike M. Pohl declaring that “drawing a clear line once and for all” makes racists avoid the group’s events and prevents them from wanting to join the organization.
Some European groups have a relationship with the public that is radically different from what is usually seen in the United States. Having taken an overtly inclusive stance from its beginning, Sweden’s Samfundet Forn Sed responded to a journalist writing an investigative feature on the organization shortly after its founding by acting in a completely transparent manner, giving him all of their paperwork and making members available for interviews. He later confessed that he had planned to write about them as a racist group, but — given complete access — he was totally unable to.
Norway’s Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost seemed likewise straightforward in their stance against racism, which has been strongly pronounced since the organization’s beginning. All potential members go through personal interviews and screening, and there is a clear willingness to exclude unwanted people. In contrast to the regular American desire to “avoid being political,” Silje Herup Juvet strongly stated, “We are political! We have a political platform stating ‘welcome to a multicultural society.’” Rather than allowing racists and nationalists to set the public terms, she said, “We took control of the narrative and made a statement of all our positions.”
Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost cooperates with other minority religions in Norway (including Muslims and atheists), and its members refuse to attend events that also include Heathen organizations that are not publicly declared against racism. “Being not racist is not enough,” said Juvet. “You must be anti-racist.” Indeed, the organization goes further than many others and keeps an archive record of the sayings and actions of national and international Heathen individuals and groups.
The Norwegian organization is also notable for its growth and accomplishments since its founding in 1995 and its state recognition the following year. Now with nearly 400 members and 10 blót groups (analogous to American kindreds), Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost receives the same annual monetary amount per capita as the state Lutheran Church of Norway. For ten years, the group has had its own graveyard in Oslo. As of August, the organization owns an impressive 600-square-meter community house with library, kitchen, dining hall, multipurpose hall, and 40 beds. The property is situated between two wolf packs and also includes a small barn and fifty acres of forest. The group’s goal is to use the building in ways that bring positive attention to inclusive Heathenry.Some of the other groups that presented at Frith Forge were much newer and much smaller. Netherland’s De Negen Werelden was founded in 2007 and currently has 32 members. Rather than officially identify as a church, they chose to be designated a cultural association. Denmark’s Nordisk Tingsfællig was formed in 2010 after the largest Heathen organization in the country affiliated itself with McNallen and the AFA. There are now 15 members in the inclusive group, and new members must take an oath that includes both a statement against racism and one affirming they do not associate with people who hold racist views – in effect, affirming the strong stances regarding race and multiculturalism in the organization’s bylaws. Ásatrú Ibérica was founded in 2008 and officially became a cultural association in 2017; the Spanish group currently has nine members.
The Troth’s own presentation went quite far over its scheduled time, due to the large number of questions from the other attendees. The elements that brought the most question and comment were the role of clergy and the ban on hailing Loki in ritual.
The Troth’s clergy training program is quite different from anything in the other organizations — some of which have no clergy at all — and the roles of clergy members as counselors and officiants were also a bit far from the experiences of many members of the audience. Paxson, who oversees the training program, gave a solid explanation of her perspective on and philosophy of clergy training and the role of the goði in the community.
The Troth’s Loki ban states that Loki cannot be hailed as part of a rite at any event sponsored, funded by, or representing the Troth, including events hosted by local groups affiliated with the Troth kindred program. There was a heated reaction after the policy was explained, with at least one audience member stating that this seemed like the enforcement of Christian doctrine. Grebenstein said, “If you get rid of that stuff, you get a lot of European support.” His statement was greeted by a round of applause.
In the evening, Schreiwer led a candlelit ritual to the Germanic figure Holle. He had not been present for the other organizations’ presentations and had actually missed his own scheduled talk on Urglaawe, a newer Heathen religion that focuses on Pennsylvania German culture, so he prefaced the rite with explanations of his tradition’s beliefs and rituals. He also offered his own perspective on the toasts and speeches of each attendee, explaining how Urglaawe belief did or did not agree with their statements. While many of us know Holle as the Frau Holle figure of German folklore and fairy tale, she is a major goddess for practitioners of Schreiwer’s faith.
From Public Theology to Hailing Loki
My own presentation opened the program on Saturday morning. I attended Frith Forge as goði (priest) of Thor’s Oak Kindred and a member of the Troth clergy program. I read my paper, “A Better Burden: Towards a New Ásatrú Theology,” which addresses common approaches to writing on theological issues within the cluster of modern Heathen religions, addresses some pitfalls that have arisen in work that strongly focuses on either secular scholarship or personal religious experience, then forwards the idea that Heathens build a new public theology that fully engages with contemporary issues. The paper concludes with my offer to edit the first anthology of such work and to seek a publisher. Those interested in the project can read the paper here.
Grebenstein gave a talk based on the book Sterbendes Heidentum (“Dying Heathenry”) by German ethnologist Bernhard Streck. He also explained theories presented in relatively recent academic work by Bernhard Maier and Jan Assman. Grebenstein’s theme was that Heathens should “look for inspiration in other polytheistic cultures that still exist or haven’t ceased as ancient Germanic or Norse polytheism have done.” He asked the question, “Why not learn from others that have ‘survived’ Christianization or have not even been touched by it?” For him, Heathens are engaged in reinvention rather than reconstruction.
The day was packed with a wide variety of talks. Paxson repeated her presentation from the Parliament of the World’s Religions, “Staving off Ragnarök: a Heathen Response to Climate Change,” which views the current ecological crisis through the lens of Norse mythology. Juvet and Gunna gave a brief report on Heathen and Heathen-related festivals around Europe.
Pohl made a fascinating and deeply researched presentation on Frija, addressing a wide range of materials from literature, history, linguistics, and archaeology. She discussed Roman reports and modern scholarly theories on early Germanic tribes, medieval literary sources and laws, German folklore, archaeological artifacts, and much else. I hope that she will publish her work as a paper to serve as a resource for a wider Heathen audience.
After an unfortunately under-prepared PowerPoint presentation that led an audience member to ask, “What’s the point of this lecture?” things got back on track with another presentation from Paxson, this one titled “Balancing on the Rainbow Bridge: How do We Reconcile Ethnic Pride, Inclusive Ideals, and Heathen Tradition?” She strongly challenged the term “universalism,” stating that it “is not the correct term for what we’re doing.” Instead, she advocated for “inclusivity,” the term commonly used by participants throughout the conference. She challenged the view that a European religion should be for Europeans only and forwarded a notion of inclusion via acculturation into a group and through articulation of shared values.
Grebenstein led the second main ritual of the conference, focused on an idea of “frith to take.” In a beautiful rite, attendees were encouraged to reflect on information exchanged and friendships forged, then to take what they had gained throughout the conference and bring it back to share and energize their own local communities. One of the highlights of Frith Forge occurred during the ritual, when the horn being passed around the circle came to Juvet. She announced she was breaking the Troth’s Loki ban and hailing the trickster, then said, “This is how we do it in Norway,” took a large draught from the horn and ran along the ring of participants while gleefully spitting the liquid over several of them. Some were scandalized. Most were amused. Vive la différence.
Inclusivity vs. Diversity
The evening concluded with a large-group discussion of “Frith, Hospitality and Inclusion in Heathenry/Asatru.” According to Amanda Leigh-Hawkins of the Troth’s International Relations and Exchange Program, the goal of exchange was
to discuss how inclusive groups and individuals handle the challenge of when and how to be (ironically) exclusive of hateful or disrespectful individuals in order to provide a safe, peaceful, and diverse group space or organization. We will address racism, nationalism, sexism, ableism, homophobia and other LGBTQIA+ concerns, and any other form of prejudice in Heathenry/Asatru… This will be a time to build alliances among inclusive groups and individuals so that we may more strongly support our shared inclusive values together, rather than in isolation.
The discussion was long, intense, and sometimes heated. There were strong differences of opinion over how to best deal with organization members found to belong to hate groups or to espouse racist views. Some issues that had bubbled up at times earlier in the conference were more clearly articulated here, and differences between American and European approaches were more prominent.
Perhaps the most profound difference was how the inclusiveness – the foundational theme of the conference – was understood. It was quite clear that, for the European Heathens, inclusivity is not synonymous with diversity. For the Americans, standing up for our beliefs means actively welcoming Heathens from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, celebrating together in ritual, and building communities that reflect that diversity of the United States. For the Europeans, similarly standing tall really seemed much more about speaking out against resurgent and racist nationalism, keeping hateful individuals out of their organizations, and actively challenging those who hold and promote racism. The Americans seemed very wary of publicly denouncing individuals and organizations that everyone agreed are overtly racist, and the Europeans seemed somewhat taken aback by questions about the all-white make up of their inclusive groups.This emphasis on inclusivity, coupled with a total lack of diversity, was really the glaring flaw of Frith Forge. In the 21st century, it’s no longer enough to have a room full of white people earnestly discuss the need for inclusiveness. We are far past that point. We need to have diverse voices in the discussion. We need to have diverse voices leading the discussion. If Frith Forge happens again — and I sincerely hope that it does — building a diverse group of participants must be a priority. It’s not enough to have one or two African-Americans, because they will inevitably be seen as “speaking for their people,” and that’s not good for anybody involved. There has to be a mass of people from diverse backgrounds in order for discussion of inclusive Heathenry to have any real heft.
There also has to be participation from people of color who have left inclusive organizations after being made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. It will be difficult for some to hear their testimony, but it needs to be heard – especially after one participant performed an imitation of an African-American woman’s manner of speaking during the large-group discussion on inclusivity. There are attitudes and behaviors that even those of us who argue for inclusion have deep within us, and the only treatment is to dig deep into our assumptions and lay them bare. The process is painful, but real change always is.
This conference was a needed first step. The organizers did a lot of hard work to make it happen, and the result was extraordinary. A major outcome of the final discussion was the agreement of the participants to work together on building a website resource on inclusive Heathenry and Ásatrú that will have detailed information and guides for the general public and religious practitioners. One of the important ideas regarding the website is that it will provide guidance for those new to the religion — especially young people — to help them recognize warning signs of racist or otherwise extremist Heathenry. Such a resource is much needed and can do a lot of good.
Grebenstein closed the conference as he opened it, with a ritual of the sacred center. Hopefully, the presentations, discussions, and conversations at the conference will continue to resonate within the participants and lead them to push for positive change within their own organizations and communities.
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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.Read more »
- Update on 2015 murder investigation of Texas Wiccan Marc Pourner
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Tex. — A Texas man, Daniel Kirksey, was arrested Thursday in the 2015 murder of his former boyfriend Marc Pourner, known as Axel in the Pagan community. As we reported previously, Pourner was a solitary Wiccan practitioner as well as the co-founder and facilitator of the popular Pagan Facebook forum “the Cauldron – a Mixing Place for Witches, Druids, and Pagans.” He went missing in November. 2015, and several days later he was found dead in his car.On Nov. 12, 2015, Pourner reportedly received a late-night phone call. After a tense conversation, he abruptly left his apartment and never came back. That Friday, Pourner’s family contacted Randall’s, Pourner’s place of work, and found that he had never reported for his shift. Over the next day, through local outreach, family members received a tip on where Pourner’s truck might be located and called the sheriff’s department.
The tip proved accurate, And deep in some thick woods, officers found not only the vehicle, but also Pourner’s body.
Within 24 hours of finding the truck, the sheriff’s department had a suspect and, in coordination with Tippecanoe county sheriff’s office in Indiana, the suspect David Brown, Jr. was arrested.
In a February 2016 grand jury hearing, more was revealed about what actually happened that night. Brown and Kirksey called Pourner from Kirksey’s home to tell him that someone was “following Kirksey and wanted to kill him.” When Pourner arrived at the home, he and Brown had “a heated argument […] It was there that Brown punched Pourner several times and then bound and gagged [him].”
Using Pourner’s truck, Brown then took Pourner to a remote location, where he strangled him and torched the truck. The court records also indicate that Kirksey witnessed the entire act.
Brown remains in jail with a trial date set for Dec. 18. His indictment lists his charges as capital murder with a felony, which includes his alleged kidnapping of Pourner. Kirksey was not charged with anything at that point.
However, this changed last Thursday, when the the Montgomery county SWAT team arrested Kirksey at his home for assisting in the kidnapping. He is also reportedly being accused of “burning Pourner’s bag and cell phone in an effort to dupe detectives.”
At the time of Brown’s indictment, Pourner’s mother Jolena Pourner told The Wild Hunt: “We knew from the beginning that Daniel was possibly involved because his explanations didn’t add up. We’d been concerned because we felt Daniel was using Marc.”
According to reports, Kirksey was witness to the entire series of events that took place Nov. 12, including the murder:
“Kirksey initially told investigators that [in the apartment was] the last time he saw Pourner alive but later told them he was in the truck with Brown and Pourner, according to court documents. He said he saw Brown take Pourner out of the truck once they arrived at Firetower Road before hitting him again and then strangling him to death, detectives said.”
Kirksey, who was originally set to testify against Brown at the upcoming trial, is now “facing first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping and third-degree felony tampering with physical evidence charges.”
In a Facebook post within a group titled “In Loving Memory Of Marc Pourner,” Jolena Pourner wrote that she was “doing the happy dance.” She added, “The man who betrayed you by helping (or at least watching) David Brown murder you was arrested today. Daniel Kirksey was arrested this afternoon for felony kidnapping & tampering with evidence. He just thought he was going to walk away free by testifying against David Brown. I’m glad the state realized he wasn’t a credible witness & will proceed with the trial next month without Daniel.”
Jolena Pourner said that she will be at Brown’s first court appearance in December, along with friends. Members of the online Pagan community who knew Marc through his various forum administration roles have said that they will be sending their energy and support to the Pourner’s over the next month as the case continues to unfold.Read more »
- Pagan Community Notes: TDoR 2017, Interfaith Podcast, new Pagan survey, and more
TWH – Today marks Transgender Day of Remembrance. People around the world are honoring those people that have been lost in 2017 due to transgender-related violence. There services and rituals that are being held specifically within Pagan communities.
Trans woman Brianne Ravenwolf of Circle Sanctuary will be co-facilitating a ritual, which will live stream on Facebook at 1 p.m. central. We spoke with Ravenwolf in 2016 for our annual TDoR article. She said, “For me [TDoR is a] very solemn day and has been. It reminds me of all the violence worldwide against our trans* community, more so in other countries. When I hear about the violent murders, beatings, and especially the suicides when a lot of us get so depressed especially when family and friends choose to not love us, or accept us a human beings. That’s where more education will help.”
Also on Facebook, author and activist T. Thorn Coyle offered a prayer for the day. It reads in part, “Avalokitesvara, read the names of the dead. Faro, remember the names of the dead. Ymir, look at the names of the dead. Indra, read the names of the dead. Ometeotl, remember the names of the dead. Asushunamir, carry our tears.” The prayer was co-written by Coyle and Tristissima. What is remembered, lives.
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A podcast offered through Auburn Seminary, “Fortification,” is hosted by writer and activist Caitlin Breedlove. Breedlove is a member of the Pagan community, and is currently Auburn Seminary’s vice president of movement leadership. The podcast, which is now in its second season, features Breedlove interviewing a diversity of guests from faith leaders to filmmakers.
Through those discussions, Breedlove highlights the many various “perspectives and personal reflections from those on the front lines of movement-building and learn what drives their thinking and what role faith plays in their lives.”
This season now has two episodes completed. The first features community leader Robert Mckenzie and the second, speaker and activist Brian McClaren. Her next guest will be Isa Noyola, a trans Latina activist and leader. All podcasts, including season one, are available for streaming.
Fortification is both a project of Auburn Seminary and Standing on the Side of Love, a campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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Holli Emore, who is a masters student at Cherry Hill Seminary as well as its executive director, has launched a Pagan-specific survey to assist her degree work. Emore writes, “The purpose of this study is to find out the reasons that people are in groups or are solitary practitioners, what are their personal needs for spiritual support, how they currently connect to such support, and how they would prefer to do so if they have no access at this time.”
She is hoping that the results of her study will assist “Pagan leaders, educators, and groups, and help social workers, mental health counselors, first responders and law enforcement provide more effective and sensitive services to Pagans they are assisting.”
The survey is completely anonymous and voluntary. It is the second survey recently launched to get a closer look at the workings and views of Pagan communities. The other is the study on views of death by Durham University student Jenny Uzzell.
In other news:
- Rev. Don Frew has a new article out in the Interfaith Observer. The article is titled “A Pagan’s Adventures in Egypt.” It chronicles his experiences in Egypt over time from a Pagan religious perspective and student of history. He concludes, “We were pleased to find that in Egypt the old gods are still alive – not just in the vibrant wall paintings and in the spirituality of Pagan visitors from the West, but in the hearts of the local people as well.”
- Staffers at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic maintain a biannual journal called The Enquiring Eye. It features articles on Witchcraft, folklore, magic, the landscape, Paganism, and “everything in between.” The next submission date, Dec. 31, is for its spring edition. All details are listed on the site.
- Thanksgiving will be celebrated this week in the U.S., and with that comes the beginning of the holiday season, including preparation for Yuletide festivities. Everglades Moon Local Council in Florida is preparing for its annual Turning of the Tides event. The Grove of Gaia in Pittsburgh has invited the public to its Yule celebration. Circle Sanctuary has started Operation Circle Care to help active-duty military, and Philadelphia Pagan Pride will be hosting a sock drive beginning Dec. 17 during Krampaslauf.
- Pagan band Spiral Dance has launched its newest album, called Land & Legend. On it are 11 new songs, including the one featured in this video:
Tarot card of the week with Star Bustamonte
Deck: Tarot, the Complete Kit
Illustrations by Julie Paschkis, Designed by Paul Kepple, published by Running Press Book Publishers
Card: major arcana #5, the Hierophant
This card speaks to inner knowing, the pursuit of wisdom, and not compromising your beliefs to attain status. Sometimes, the devil is in the details. For the week ahead you’ll need to pay attention to what is happening both inside and outside of your own sphere of existence. How others view you can have an impact and a more conventional and familiar may offer the best results.Read more »
- Honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017 with Raven Kaldera
TWH – Tomorrow marks the 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Around the world, organizations and individuals will be hosting events, memorials, and vigils to remember those who have been lost due to transgender-related violence. It is a powerful day – one that is part of a larger month-long transgender awareness campaign.
Held every Nov. 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) marks the death of Rita Hester, who was murdered in her Boston apartment in 1998. The case remains unsolved to this day. A year after her death, writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil in San Francisco to honor Hester’s life and to bring awareness to the issues faced by transgender people. The 1999 vigil became the very first Transgender Day of Remembrance. Shortly after, other awareness campaigns and movements were launched, including a website for remembering those who have died.
18 years later, the movement has grown. Throughout November, activities are held, culminating in the day of remembrance. The TDoR campaign’s main site hosts a list of not only the worldwide activities, but also the names of people who have died as a result of transgender-related violence over the past year.
Each year around TDoR we invite a transgender member of the collective Pagan communities to join us to talk about personal experiences and about TDoR.
This year, we welcome author, activist, and educator Raven Kaldera from Massachusetts. Kaldera is an FTM transgendered intersexual shaman in the northern tradition,a minister in the Pagan church of Asphodel, and one of a growing number of speakers for the trans dead.
Kaldera has edited and authored 39 books, including Hermaphrodeities: the Transgender Spirituality Workbook. Kaldera says that he has been “a trans activist, a teacher of alternative relationships, a sex educator, a builder of bridges and a walker between worlds, and a troublemaker, for over two decades.”
He lives with his “large crazy polyamorous family on a little homestead.” He adds, “They have voted [me] the Evil Overlord of the Transsexual Empire, and built him the website as a birthday gift.’Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.”TWH: First, have you seen or felt any noticeable change in awareness in the mainstream public’s understanding of transgender issues? If there has been a change, has that change been positive?
Raven Kaldera: We definitely have more press than we used to, and thus more public awareness. Ironically, I think more of that is because of celebrities like Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner, and the occasional trans character in films and TV, than anything that the trans demographic is actually doing in and of themselves, but at least we’re not quite the mythical beasts that we used to be. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I think it’s a necessary thing, first and foremost. We aren’t going to get anywhere if we are a dirty secret that everyone is supposed to pretend doesn’t really exist except for occasional freaks on talk shows.
People need to know that we could be your neighbor, your mail carrier, your dentist, your coworker, anyone you run across in your life, and that’s not a big deal. Part of being more visible, however, is that by definition we are more visible to haters – the people whom it’s impossible to reach with reason or compassion, who need to hate something because of their own internal pain. . . . haters gonna hate, and sometimes they will turn that hate into violence, which puts us in danger. I know that some of the older transfolk I know, who transitioned decades ago when we were just all mythical beasts to most people, are not happy because they are more easily recognized and it’s harder to hide. I respect their fear, and I know the very real danger that it comes from, but at the same time that’s a necessary side effect of getting where we need to go with regard to the goal of social acceptance.
TWH: What do you believe is the biggest threat to the community’s safety? If you could wave a wand to change one thing that would make the biggest impact, what would that one thing be?
RK: It’s hard to nail down any one thing, but if you go to the core of what causes homophobia and transphobia — and those are different things, but the latter comes directly out of the former in the minds of the haters we’re talking about — it’s conservative, fear-based religion of all sorts. Even people who aren’t religious and don’t like transfolk, when pushed, come down to, “I can’t explain it but I just think it’s wrong,” and what they mean is, “I was taught it was wrong and I’m not interested in challenging that social programming,” and who built that social programming? Conservative, fear-based religions.
And the answer is that transfolk — and active allies of transfolk — who belong to those religions, or at least to more liberal versions of those religions, need to do religious activism within their faith communities to change that. Even if there will be super-conservative holdouts, if things change in the more mainstream faith demographics— if transphobia becomes clearly a fringe extremist position — that’s going to change things.
TWH: With that in mind, how can non-trans people can be the best allies? What should cisgender people do or not do to help raise awareness, support their friends and eliminate the barriers discussed above?
RK: This follows right up on my last answer. Pagans who read this will say, “But I’m not in one of those religions! How can I help?” It is true that we can’t directly attack the core of the problem in that way, because our faith didn’t create that. We can do interfaith work, however, and be an example to members of those other faiths with whom we establish friendly and respectful relations, and in order to be a good example, we need to get our own houses in order. This means being positive about transfolk and their spiritual worth and value, and understanding that this is not only a biological reality but a sacred spiritual path of its own, even if it’s one that you don’t understand – because who understands all spiritual paths that aren’t your own? No one. Appreciating them as a good thing for others, that we can do. Learning about them, we can do that too. Educating one’s self leads to figuring out the most effective way to educate others.
Pagan groups that are built on the initiatory mysteries model need a small intimate group to work with, as opposed to large congregational-type groups such as the one I belong to. i think it’s OK to decide who gets into those groups by whatever personal criteria you want, whether it’s “only left-handed pink-haired piano players” or anything else. In bringing this up, of course, I’m referring to the various issues with gendered groups and the place of transfolk there. I think that the key to having an exclusive group without being trans-negative (or anything-else-negative) is to a) be very clear about the public language you use to describe your group members, and make sure that it is an inoffensive as possible, b) show an honest appreciation of the value and sacredness of people who don’t fit with your special-interest group, and c) bother to come up with a list of places to refer them to when they come knocking.
This includes small intimate initiatory groups supporting the concept of larger congregational-style Pagan groups, and possibly supporting those larger groups in more practical ways as well, because they’re doing the inclusivity thing that you’ve chosen not to. If you do claim to be an open and welcoming Pagan group, as opposed to a limited mystery tradition, act like it! Open your arms and your minds and find ways to make your group spiritually accessible to as many minority interests as possible. Be a welcoming congregation for real. Find out what the liberal-to-radical ends of other faiths are doing with that, and learn from them, and share ideas when you’ve nailed down some good ones.
Above all, make friends with transfolk. If you don’t have any in your circle of friends, why is that? Bother to ask the question and examine your life.TWH: How can the Pagan community as a whole do better to support its transgender members?
RK: We need more discussion and creative thought around spiritual resources for transfolk and the clergy who minister to them. When I published the first edition of Hermaphrodities, no one had ever published a gender transition ritual before. When modern Paganism was first starting out, we didn’t have a lot of rituals and prayers for coming-of-age ceremonies, for divorce ceremonies, for funerals and such. Now we have plenty of them. That came about because we accepted it as a need, and accepted that there should be many versions because Pagans have a multitude of traditions. We need to accept that transfolk will be around, and they also need a variety of resources, and apply ourselves to it.
I’d like to see rites for transition in many traditions. I’d like to see coming-of-age rites for a teen who feels they are a different gender from their early assignment, or feels they are both male or female. I’d like to see prayers that a non-trans friend or relative could say to protect a trans loved one, and I’d like to see thoughtful discussion as to what gods would be best invoked for such a prayer. I’d like to see resources for non-trans Pagan clergy who are faced with the issues of a trans group member who needs counseling or divination or a ritual or whatever, just as there would be resources for a group member who is trying to get pregnant or who is having trouble in school or whose loved one has just passed on. I’d like to see theological discussion about the gender-transgressive natures of some gods, and what that means for us, both trans and non-trans. As a faith demographic, we are incredibly creative – we just need to apply ourselves to it!
TWH: Often when talking about marginalized, oppressed, and silenced populations, we focus on the struggle, violence and pain. Take a moment to share something beautiful about the transgender community or about being transgender: a story or even a moment?
RK: I remember once seeing a Star Trek: the Next Generation episode where there was a planet-ful of people who were neither male nor female and it upset me, because they were portrayed as all dressing and looking alike, and there was an emphasis on the lack of their two clear genders as being the reason for this carbon-copy mentality. I don’t know what the writers were trying to do, but they’d obviously never been in an actual room with 50 people who were not traditionally gendered, because we are an amazing rainbow of human beings! Our experience with not being locked into one physical and/or mental gender can often allow us to loosen our mental bods not just between male and female, but between human and animal, human and spirit, and many other dualities as well. Once we get over our trauma, we have an open doorway to being a wider spiritual being, in a way that non-trans people have to use other channels to explore. It’s an automatic one for us, though; it is only our emotional baggage that prevents us from stepping — or falling — through it.
I’m a transgendered intersexual, meaning that I was born with an intersex disorder — congenital adrenal hyperplasia — and was reared female, and transitioned to male for reasons both personal and medical. I refer to my gender as “male of center.” I can hold energy that is almost-but-not-completely male, almost-but-not-completely female, and various shades of both. Learning to do that taught me how to hold many other shades of energy as well. For me, the pain of body dysphoria and the trauma of an unaccepting world eventually became the fire through which I was forged as a person with many fewer limits of self. I am less likely to say, “I could never become the sort of person who could do that,” and more likely to say, “Hey, look at how I did transform myself! How can I say what isn’t possible with me?” I think that might have taken me a couple more lifetimes to achieve this fully if I hadn’t been through this fire that forces us to transform ourselves even in the face of disapproval. Not that people can’t get there by other means, but I don’t know that I could have, at least as quickly and as thoroughly as it happened.
Also, we have the gift of perspective. There’s a zen saying: “Which fish discuss water? The drowning ones.” I think that any academic who is studying questions of gender should make a point of getting the opinions of at least a dozen transfolk, because we are the controls. Our perspective on how men and women interact, socially and hormonally and maybe even spiritually in some cases, is going to be very different from the fish who are only just beginning to question the quality of their water.
We are the cross-quarters between the elements – fire and air, water and earth, all the other combinations. We are the living reflections of gender-transgressive gods – Agdistis and Dionysos, Shiva and Baphomet, Athena and Lilith, Loki and his serpent son-daughter, and many others. Nature takes many forms and does not confine itself only to binary gender, and neither does human experience.
TWH: What does Transgender Day of Remembrance mean to you? Why is it important?
RK: It is many things. It is most literally a way to honor people who died by violence through no fault of their own, because of unjust and harmful social ideas. Murdered trans bodies are an obvious form of this memetic dysfunction. It’s harder (though, sadly, not impossible) for self-righteous people to justify that hatred in the face of a long list of wrongful dead. By speaking for the murdered trans dead — an angrier population of ghosts than any other I’ve had the privilege to work with — we let them know that they are not forgotten, not swept away so that the same problems will continue.
However, it is also a time of ancestor worship for me. In my personal shamanic tradition, we honor five types of ancestors: of the blood (genetic relations), of the heart (beloved non-related dead), of the mind (those whose words inspired you), of the spirit (those whose deeds inspired you), and of lineage (those with whom you share a bond of experience greater than wherever you came from). The trans dead are my ancestors of lineage. I claim them as ancestors, all of them – or, rather, they claimed me, and charged me with speaking and writing about them, as well as doing ritual and pouring out the pomegranate juice. (Pomegranate juice has become the traditional libation for them, in honor of the hermaphroditic god Agdistis, which was tricky back in the days when it wasn’t as popular and speakers for the trans dead had to search for tiny little bottles of it in the grocery store.) They are as much my ancestors as my blood kin and perhaps more, because they watch my back. If you are transgendered by whatever definition you care to use, you have the right to call on them as ancestors to help keep you safe. What they want most is to stop the senseless killings of those of their tribe, of our tribe. This holiday is the first official holiday of this tribe.
On the other hand, a transwoman sitting next to me at a TDoR once said to me, as the shaman of our tribe, “It pains me that the only holiday for this tribe is one of pain and mourning. Find me another one, to balance that.” I’m still working on that problem. When the time is right, it will blossom, as we are blossoming and coming into our own, with our own mysteries, our own sacred rites, and our own place at the table of humanity.
TWH: Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
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For those people who are attending organized vigils tomorrow or for those would like to participate in their own way privately or with their own groups, on the TDoR is posted the list of 2017 victims of anti-transgender violence. There are many others resources on the issues discussed for both trans people and allies. On the GLAAD site is a short list of legal resources and other types of support support. Now celebrating its third anniversary, the Trans Lifeline is available in the U.S. and Canada.Read more »
- Column: Psychogeography
Psychogeography is the effect of place upon the psyche and the importance of the psyche within the landscape. The term was first discussed in the early 1950s by Guy Debord of the Situationist International, who attributed its coining to “an illiterate Kabyle.” The concept itself is simple, ancient, and foundational to an animist view of the world.
In his essay “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Debord defines the term rather dryly and pseudo-scientifically as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.” The occultist and writer Alan Moore (who explores psychogeography in his graphic novel From Hell and in his novels Voice of the Fire and Jerusalem) adds another layer of nuance to Debord’s definition by emphasizing that consciousness also embeds itself into the landscape in turn: “in our experience of any place, it is the associations, the dreams, the imaginings, the history—it is all the information that is relevant to that place which is what we experience when we talk about a place.”
In adding Moore’s definition to Debord’s, we see that psychogeographical influence is not a one-way street in either direction. It is not just the effect of the material environment upon the individual, nor is it simply a figment of the human imagination (nor is that what Moore suggests). Rather, it is a reciprocal process, a relationship—or rather, an entire web of relationships.
Source of Discord
In a culture that has overwhelmingly lost its embodied sense of relationship to place, however, the landscape is choked and blighted by the demands of power and wealth. A recent article entitled “Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture” notes that since World War II, a dominant trend within architecture has been to produce monolithic buildings that are “intentionally chaotic and grating,” shunning all ornament, symmetry, and beauty—features of traditional architectures across the world. Traditional Chinese architecture, for example, incorporates features such as curved roofs, guardian statues, and “ghost walls” specifically to prevent the entry of unwanted spirits into the building. Modern architecture does the opposite.In China, the Boxer Rebellion of 1898-1900 targeted churches and factories for their disruption of feng shui with intrusive steeples and smokestacks (and telegraph poles for the same reason), as well as railroads and mines for offending the ancestors and land spirits. For the polytheist Boxer rebels and most other Chinese people at the time, an understanding of “psychogeography” or feng shui was incorporated into everyday life. Therefore, the destructive transformation of public space by missionaries and modernization was fiercely contested.
The Boxers were defeated through Western intervention. In the West, the psychogeographical terrain has also largely been lost to the ruling class, who have not hesitated to consolidate their control. On a material level, Debord notes that during the second French empire (1852-1870), Paris was redesigned to include “open spaces allowing for the rapid circulation of troops and the use of artillery against insurrections” but inimical to use by ordinary people.
However, Debord argues, psychogeography cannot simply be reduced to the assumption that “elegant streets cause a feeling of satisfaction and that poor streets are depressing.” Indeed, the opposite is often the case, as is horrifyingly apparent when gentrifiers attempt to pave over neighborhood soccer fields and community gardens with parking lots, or to replace murals of gods, saints, and ancestors with cookie-cutter condos. Anyone who is paying attention knows that there is more to the world than the material.
Therefore, “the revolutionary transformation of the world, of all aspects of the world, will confirm all the dreams of abundance,” Debord writes. Similarly, Moore argues that a mythical understanding of one’s surroundings has the potential to change everything:
If they understood the richness under the paving stones that they walk every day, if they understood the astonishing mythologies that were connected to these places, the histories, then they might feel more that they were walking through the eternal, golden city. If they were to internalize that, they might start to feel like the empowered and mythical creatures that inside they want to be.
Comfort to the Restless
The situationists developed the practice of the dérive or “drift” as a way to both break out of prescribed social activity and to explore the psychogeographical landscape. In his article “Theory of the Dérive,” Debord quotes a study of a student’s movements over the course of a year, which depressingly found that “her itinerary forms a small triangle with no significant deviations, the three apexes of which are the school of political sciences, her residence and that of her piano teacher.”
Breaking out of psychically impoverished loops such as the political science student’s, however, does not mean abandoning oneself to complete chance. Rather, it entails a complex engagement with the existing landscape:
In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.
Sarah Kate Istra Winter, in her book The City is a Labyrinth: A Walking Guide for Urban Animists, suggests that an “animist dérive” would “use similar methods but with a more overtly metaphysical approach” (7). Such an approach might include (but not be limited to) making offerings to local spirits and gods, incorporating divination and omen interpretation into one’s dérive, or praying to gods (such as Hermes, Mercury, or Odin) who are themselves known for being wanderers. Truly, “chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think.”
Toil of the Steed
In “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” Debord wonders about the religious implications of psychogeography:
It has long been said that the desert is monotheistic. Is it illogical or devoid of interest to observe that the district in Paris between Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue de l’Arbal? conduces rather to atheism, to oblivion and to the disorientation of habitual reflexes?
While the thought that certain modern architecture is atheistic in its tendency towards oblivion is certainly interesting, from an animist perspective, both the desert and the city are filled with spirits. However, Winter observes that “many polytheists and animists still think of the spiritual world as something only, or primarily, accessible in nature” (2). Her book is explicitly intended to broaden that perspective, especially for those of us who find ourselves spending time in cities (whether we wish to be there or not).
In Chinese polytheism, not only does each city have a tutelary deity who fills the office of Cheng Huang Sheng (“god of the moat and walls”), but local land deities who fill the role of Tu Di Gong (“lord of soil and ground”). In certain cities in Taiwan, the specific spirit filling the role of Tu Di Gong may vary from city block to city block. The town of Jinze outside Shanghai, famed for its canals and bridges, formerly had some sort of deity shrine at every single bridge. Though at least one of the shrines no longer exists in physical form, people still remember its location and worship there during festivals. This is psychogeography in practice.Animism cannot be learned from a book or the internet. An animist relationship to the world can only be cultivated through direct engagement and experience. As the Anglo-Saxon rune poem reminds us:
Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors
and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads
on the back of a stout horse.
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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.Read more »
- Column: the Season of Gratitude
The changing seasons are filled with symbolism, meaning, and traditions. It is a time that many people inside of western secular society are preparing for a variety of celebrations, gatherings, and feastings. Many within our intersecting religious communities of Paganism and Polytheism are transitioning away from ceremonies focused on death, harvest, and the new year.
The wheel, as it turns from fall to winter, can also harness reflection on those who have passed through the veil, and various opportunities of working through the shadow self. To put it lightly, this time of year is complex for a multitude of reasons.One aspect of this time of year — one that is also a staple of the changing fall season — is the concept and acknowledgement of gratitude. Whether these ideas show up in our personal lives or whether we are influenced within society by the Hallmark messaging of the Thanksgiving season, gratitude is a thing in November.
We see many people participating in various related activities, such as the 30 Days of Gratitude challenge on social media, and there is also a lot of “gratefulness talk” throughout families, workplaces, and even within spiritual communities.
The unwinding rabbit hole that is the definition of what gratitude is and what it means to be grateful differs depending on the medium being discussed. Disciplines like psychology use definitions of gratitude that vary from those definitions found religious frameworks such as Christianity. We have all heard of catch phrases like having an “attitude of gratitude” or the New Age idealism of the laws of attracting more things to be grateful for.
Despite differences, there are some intertwining concepts in the practices of embracing gratefulness in connection with spirituality.
There has been an increase in studies around the impact of gratitude on physical, emotional, and mental well being. Psychologists and others within the social sciences have shown a marked interest on how this very concept can create significant shifts in how people experience their lives on a emotional and physiological level. We often talk about the connection between how our “thoughts become things,” as a very cognitive behavioral therapy concept, and how our beliefs by acknowledging the ways that thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and behavior are interconnected.
Studies of the influence of practicing gratitude have shown improvements in areas of the immune system, blood pressure, increased joy, more sleep, and decrease in feelings of isolation. Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychologist and researcher on gratitude, explores all of these correlations and the integration of positive psychology modalities in the idea of wellness.
Here are several interesting definitions of what gratitude is from different understandings:
Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives. Gratitude provides us with a more intimate connection to ourselves and the world around us. In the feeling of gratitude, the spiritual is experienced. – Deepak Chopra
Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants. Gratitude is getting a great deal of attention as a facet of positive psychology: Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy. – from Psychology TodayMuch like the role spirituality plays for individuals, gratitude also has the effect of holding a space for hope and understanding within our lives as we are enmeshed daily with both good and bad experiences. Gratitude can be an antecedent for hope and a method of cognitive restructuring of the many ways we relate to our experiences.
Indeed, this cuts to very heart of my definition of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the sources of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. – Robert Emmons
There continues to be a focus in research on the correlation between how these tools -spirituality, beliefs, and gratitude – are utilized and how our ability to connect to our world with purpose and direction supports self efficacy. Gratitude has the ability to be a bridge our pasts, present, and future, acting as a mindfulness activity that brings us perspective. It is also important to note that gratitude can have an element of challenge for many people, and has been used in some settings as a demand, tool of manipulation, or as a way to measure one’s humility.
While potentially harmful uses of gratitude within interpersonal relationships and within society imply that having gratitude is a measurement of integrity, it is important to note that this is not the truth for many people. Celebrations of our lives and the many aspects of gratefulness can connect people to a broader understanding of themselves. But, at the same time, but there are also very individual and layered interpretations of what it means in one’s life.
What types of things are our Pagan and polytheistic community members grateful for this season? How does gratitude resonate for them? Here are some of the various quotes that came from others about what they are grateful for today.
Grateful for the harvest and knowing how to preserve and share it. – Mari Powers
Grateful for all the support and love I receive from friends and family, including the fur-children. And for dark chocolate with salted caramel. And for Earl Grey tea. – Kimberly Kirner
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow…- Jonathan Blanton
I’m grateful to be able to work for justice while rooted in a spiritual community. It makes all the difference. – Cat Chapin-Bishop
Gratitude for me is a means to apply balance on an emotional scale. When I’m depressed, overwhelmed by the world news, or just having a pity party then practicing gratitude can shift my perspective. Maintaining that emotional balance enables me to continue to “fight the good fight.” Gratitude is also a gentle way to explore privilege. We all have some places where we have privilege and many of us have places where we don’t. Gratitude for what we have opens us to sharing that privilege with others. Gratitude practice provides a platform, we still have to do the work. – LisaSpiral Besnett
I‘m grateful for my life’s hardships because understanding and learning from experience brings an inner peace only found through suffering. – Tamara Szewczyk
I think of gratitude as a lens to help us refocus how to perceive the world. If life circumstances feel they couldn’t be more bleak, just reminding myself that there are good things in my life and that I can name at least three blessings on any given day…helps me get out of bed in the morning. – Ravensong
I am grateful for my hard past, without which, I would not be able to appreciate and love my beautiful present. It has also taught my to be hopeful for my future, which I know will be stepped in love and abundance.– Lotus Raven Song-Ames
Gratitude is the simplest prayer. – Miskwaa Waagoshnini
As a person with terminal illness, I’ve been asked about gratitude by folks convinced it is connected to freedom from suffering. I get it. I’ve had gratitude focus times in my life, but gratitude feels like a way of comforting and maintaining complacency. I’m not grateful for the annihilation of our planet, for the oppression of humans in so many ways that it’s nearly impossible to breathe in what liberation should be for all of us. I’m not grateful that (overwhelmingly white/privileged) folks focus on gratitude soothes some out of feeling the urgency to act. It’s been urgent for hundreds of years. I am a spiritually grounded and positive person. I’m not flailing without a foundation of gratitude. What makes my life meaningful is not gratitude. It is connection. Beauty and joy despite the rest of it. Sorry, as a person who feels poisoned by the poor choices of humans I’m a party-pooper about gratitude.– Colleen Cook
I am grateful for friends who are still friends and send hugs even if they don’t know what’s wrong. That’s perfect love and perfect trust. – Ashleen O’Gaea
Almost all of my gratitude “quotes” have tunes.
“I thank the earth for feeding my body.
I thank the sun for warming my bones.
I thank the trees for the air I breathe and
I thank the water for nourishing my soul.” (by Ana K.W. Moffett) – Vicki Solomon
Like with many complex topics, exploring various aspects of gratitude can be illuminating and insightful even though they may not touch the surface of the depth of the subject. Exploring concepts, meanings, and connections to gratitude within various contexts falls into the category of being a big subject in a small space. The variety of ways by which individuals connect to concepts of gratitude, and celebration, and through which they connect to experiences will be as diverse as our communities.
There are no rights and wrongs in our various feelings of gratitude, only correlations, themes, and the significance of meaning.Science continues to explore the vastness of positive correlations between active practices of gratitude and physical, emotional, mental well-being. And we know that our beliefs and spirituality float in and out of each of those areas of a person’s lives experience.
What does gratitude mean to you? How does it show up in your life or your spiritual practice? How does concepts of feeling grateful resonate with the way you mediate the world?
How about that for some new Thanksgiving dinner table conversations?
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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or itsRead more »
- The London Temple of Mithras is now open to the public
LONDON — An ancient temple to Mithras in the heart of the city of London was re-opened this month after a significant amount of renovation.
The original temple was built in 240 A.D. by the Romans in order to honor the Middle Eastern god Mithras, who was popular among soldiers. It was not the only Mithraeum built in the UK; others include the Carrawburgh Mithraeum dated to the 3rd century Mithraeum,the Rudchester MIthraem on Hadrian’s Wall, and the Caernarfon Mithraeum in Wales, which was featured in the Merlin series of novels written by Mary Stewart.
These temples, like the one in London, were all situated underground.
In 2010, the Bloomberg company opened its new European headquarters on the very site on which the original London Mithraeum had once been.
That building lies over one of London’s lost rivers, the Walbrook, which marked the limits of the Roman settlement nearly 2,000 years ago. As the town increased in size and importance, the banks of the Walbrook were reclaimed, and Roman London became not only a major port of trade but a successful economic center with a population of around 30,000 people.
Parts of these walls survived in an area which corresponds roughly to the ‘Square Mile’ of the City of London and it still exists as London’s center of commerce today.
The Mithraeum itself was discovered in 1954 after the Second World War had ended and the effects of the Blitz were still being felt. Although there was substantial interest in the temple, the site’s preservation did not take priority. It was moved to a new location in order to allow for new office construction at the Walbrook location.
When, in the last stages of the archeological investigation, the stone head of a beautiful young man was found, thousands queued to see it. However, Britain was still recovering from the effects of the war, and there were comparatively little resources available to treat the temple properly.
However, Prime Minister Winston Churchill prevented the Legal and General insurance company from destroying the walls, which were kept in a builders’ yard until 1962.The god’s head and other artifacts were sent to the Museum of London. The wooden benches discovered at the site, which could have told future archaeologists more about the temple, were reportedly discarded.
In 2007, there was renewed interest in the temple and there was talk of relocating the temple back to its original location. However, that did not become a reality until the Bloomberg company purchased the Walbrook site, where the temple originally stood, and the project to reconstruct the temple.
Michael Bloomberg, the company founder, stated that the company regards itself as the steward of the site. “London has a long history as a crossroads for culture and business, and we are building on that tradition. As stewards of this ancient site and its artefacts, we have a responsibility to preserve and share its history.”
“And as a company that is centred on communication – of data and information, news and analysis – we are thrilled to be part of a project that has provided so much new information about Roman London,” he continued. “We hope London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE will be enjoyed by generations to come.”
Sophie Jackson, the lead archaeologist for the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), has been working on the site for years. Speaking about the site itself, she told The Guardian, “It was a mystery cult and its rites remain very well guarded mysteries. There is nothing written about what went on in the temples, no book of Mithras,”
“The one thing we do know is that no bulls were sacrificed there. It was a very confined space and I don’t think anyone would have got out alive.”
According to sources, one tenth of the Roman finds exhibited in the Museum of London come from the Bloomberg site. The very name of the Roman city, Londinium, was found here, in very early texts on wooden tablets, preserved by the boggy, waterlogged ground.
Further finds include the first financial document from Britain, which is also etched on a wooden tablet. There is a tiny amber amulet in the shape of a gladiator’s helmet and a hoard of pewter vessels, possibly used in rituals within the temple.A digital interactive resource giving further examples of the archaeological discoveries from the dig is accessible via mobile devices.
British pagans, regardless of specific religious affiliation, are excited by the rebuilding of the Mithraeum. TWH spoke with Payam Nabarz, a member of the organization Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) that is, according to its site, “a British initiative that advocates respect for what are commonly called ‘human remains’ and their related funereal artefacts.”
The organization’s “focus is the physical evidence of ancestors who don’t fall into the protective cloak of the Church, these being for the most part those ancestors who lived and died before the seventh century when Christianity began to spread through Britain.”
Nabarz is not only a member of HAD, but he is also an expert in the Mithraic tradition. He said, “I was part of the HAD meeting with the museum and project when it started. HAD became involved in the consultation over the fate of the temple.”
“I gave a number of suggestions about how the temple could be recreated to capture the spirit of what occurred like light, sound, and interactive aspect,” Nabarz explained.
“I gave them a copy of my book. And also suggested they look at the Newcastle museum reconstruction, and [that the] temple should be a living temple that you can visit.”
The London Mithraeum project has taken nearly years to complete, and includes a contemporary art installation, featuring works by Dublin artist Isobel Nolan. While the modern additions are helping to attract crowds, it is the temple itself which is exciting UK Pagans.
As Sophie Jackson states: “London is a Roman city yet there are a few traces of its distant past that people can experience first-hand. London Mithraeum is not only a truthful presentation of the archaeological remains of the temple of Mithras; it is a powerful evocation of this enigmatic temple and a fantastic new heritage attraction for the capital.”Read more »
- Political cartoon about witch hunts raises concerns for local Pagan
HIGH POINT, N.C. – Former city council candidate Megan Longstreet isn’t laughing after the local paper published a political cartoon that appeared to advocate for witch hunts.The cartoon, which appeared in the High Point Enterprise (HPE) paper the day after the election, said, “Proving that there’s nothing wrong with a witch hunt if there’s a witch to hunt.”
Longstreet is a Pagan and has identified as being Wiccan. Though not all Wiccans identify as Witches, some do. The newspaper says they did not have Longstreet in mind when they created this cartoon.
Longstreet, though, believes they did. She feels the cartoon was run to mock her religion and also felt the cartoon had a slightly threatening tone.
She says that shortly after the publication of The Wild Hunt article on her run for office and religious beliefs, HPE reporter Paul Johnson called her to discuss the article and its content. She says that Johnson asked if the TWH article was a joke.
“I said of course not. I’m openly a Pagan. I’ve been a Pagan and doing a worldwide Pagan radio show for quite some time,” continues Longstreet. She adds that Johnson then remarked that her opponent Monica Peters knew about Longstreet’s religion and may try to use it against her.
However, neither HPE nor Peters mentioned her religion during the election process.
Then, the day after the election HPE ran the cartoon about hunting witches. It was created by HPE staff and appeared in its Three Views section.
HPE Editor Megan Ward says the cartoon had nothing to do with Longstreet and was about the climate in Washington D.C. Ms. Ward says the idea that the paper would go after someone for their beliefs is “absurd.”
Ward told The Wild Hunt, “To me, her being Wiccan, we’re just not interested in that. This wasn’t against her or Witches.”
Longstreet says she knew that when she interviewed with The Wild Hunt she could be attacked. However, she did it anyway. “I wanted to be real and inspire other Pagans,” she explains.
While Longstreet says she finds this kind of prejudice unfortunate, she adds, “I refuse to present myself as something other than what I am and I encourage everyone I know to do the same.”
Ward said that she intended to call Longstreet to discuss the cartoon, and Longstreet did confirm that Ward had left a voicemail message for her, but they had not yet spoken as of press time.Read more »
- Georgia resident pressured not to pursue Pagan after-school club
DEMOREST, Ga. –One resident of this small town in Georgia says he has gotten resistance to the idea of starting an after-school religious club for children like his daughter, whom he is rearing Pagan. Elijah Gragg said that when he asked about the possibility, the only response he got was a local Boy Scout leader warning that all after-school activities would be cancelled before a Pagan club would be approved.
Gragg, who says he’s been a Pagan since he was 12 years old and now identifies as Kemetic, said he got curious when his kindergartner brought home a flyer promoting the local Good News Club chapter. This club is one of the missions of the Child Evangelical Fellowship, and it has chapters in thousands of schools around the country.
A 2001 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States made it legal for after-school religious programs, like the Good News Club, to operate on school grounds for enrichment purposes.
Gragg said, “She’s only been in school about a month and a half.” When Gragg read the flyer, he started wondering about how to similarly support her religious education in the schools. He said that he asked at the board of education about how he might start a Pagan club for students.
“I was told they don’t make those policies,” and he was referred to Fairview Elementary principal Jennifer Chitwood. He left a message, but never heard back.
What he did get, however, was a visit from a local volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, a man named Ian Nesbit. “I know the guy, but we are not friends,” Gragg said, and he was not expecting Nesbit, in his scouting uniform, to knock on his door on the afternoon of Sept. 28.
“He told me that [district officials] would shut down all after-school activities” rather than allow a Pagan club to be created, recalls Gragg. He believes that Nesbit was “there as a way to apply pressure” to stop Gragg from pursuing the idea.
TWH left a voice mail message for the principal, but no call in response was received by press time. When school officials do respond, TWH will follow-up will that information.
Gragg reportedly contacted local scouting officials about the incident. According to Scout Executive Trip Selman of the Boy Scouts’ Northeast Georgia Council, he promised Gragg that the situation would be “addressed.”
Selman explained to TWH that “if someone is representing scouting, as a volunteer or a staff member, we want to make sure they’re representing it properly.”
In his opinion, Gragg believes district officials “overplayed their hand” by sending Nesbit to warn him off Pagan after-school clubs.
“I just wanted to talk, and now I know that they’re going to have a fit.” Since then, he said that he’s been identifying Pagans who might be interested in helping him push his case with school board members. “I’m just one person, and those are fights that never end well.”
He’s been making inquiries, finding Pagans in his corner of Georgia, and identifying allies. He said that he has started to hear stories, too, like one about a metaphysical store in nearby Camelia that closed because locals “ran the owner out.”
He was not able to provide the name of that business, however, as he only met the owner in passing at a gas station. “It’s a bigger issue than I’d realized. I want to find Pagans who are willing to stand up for their rights to access.”
This isn’t the first time Gragg has felt forced to stand up for Pagan religions in this state, he said. He remembers one of his high school teachers giving a “30-minute lecture on why witches were evil,” and how he stood up to give a different perspective. “I got the ‘strange treatment’ for the rest of the year,” he remembers.
Gragg said that he’s gotten support from as far away as Atlanta, some 90 minutes’ drive, including a former council member from that city, as he reports.
“I want to make them defend being bigots in public,” he explained as his strategy.
“The only other option is the courts, and from what I understand they have the right to do that,” meaning shut down all after-school activities as a way to avoid having to provide equal access to Pagan club organizers.
Gragg said he will work on this issue and “make it right” as soon as he has the necessary resources to stand a fighting chance. In the meantime, he said that his daughter brought home a flyer advertising a different Christian after-school club just yesterday.
We will update this story as more information becomes available.Read more »
- Pagan Community Notes: Ma’at Temple, Maetreum of Cybele, Ken Laukant and more
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WICHITA, Kan. — The Ma’at’s Temple of Kansas has officially closed its doors. The temple was a public facility for use by the local Wiccan and Pagan community since its establishment in 2013. It held a library, ritual space, “permanent circle,” and meditation facility.
According to temple caretaker Bruce Blank, the temple was cited by the city’s zoning officials in 2016 for “not having separate utilities, restrooms, and lacking A.D.A. accommodations.” The cost to bring the temple up to code was “more than the lot owner and members could absorb, so the decision was made to sell the property.”
After the physical site closed down, community interaction reportedly waned, and Blank decided to shut down the organization’s corresponding online sites as well.
Blank has written a memoir for “detailing the birth, growth and demise of the temple.” The book is titled In H/er Many Names: the Ma’at’s Temple Archives 2013-2017 and reportedly “chronicles not just the [temple’s] successes but also [its] moments of struggle, conflict and … divisive issues.”
Blank notes that a new group, Circle of the Stag, has since formed to fulfill some of the spiritual needs of the local community.
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PALENVILLE, N.Y. — It’s been several years since the Maetreum of Cybele was embroiled in a property-tax fight with local officials who maintained that the organization was not, in fact, a church. Tuning in to activities there is now as simple as turning the radio dial to 102.9 FM, but as this is a low-power station, that’s only possible in portions of Ulster, Greene, and Columbia counties of New York.
According to Viktoria Whittaker and Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum of Cybele, the station started broadcasting over two years ago, in July of 2015, fulfilling a dream which had long been stalled due to the legal wrangling over property taxes. The site proclaims that the “Goddess’ voice of resistance” is “low power to the people,” and thanks to membership in the Pacifica network, they have been supplementing Pagan-focused news and music with programs such as Democracy Now!
Billed as the “first and only Pagan-owned, operated, and FCC-licensed radio station in America,” WLPP-LP is funded by Maetreum members and through donations from listeners. While streaming was originally an option, that’s currently not available as they need to get a new server to support that functionality. For now, driving to the picturesque Hudson Valley is the only option for listening.
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WONEWOC, Wis. — Circle Sanctuary has said goodbye to one of its members. Kenneth L. Laukant, age 47, died Nov. 9, 2017 in his hometown.
Laukant was born Dec. 17,1969 to George and Lucille in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. He was an active member of Circle Sanctuary since 2011. As is written in a memorial post on that site: “[Laukant] will be remembered for his humor, congenial nature, and quiet, steady service … He was always ready to lend a hand to raise the village and keep it lit.”
According to the local news, a celebration of Laukant’s life will be held Nov. 14 at Zion Lutheran Stone Church in Rock Springs. The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, people contribute to a fund that is being established to help support his two children. What is remembered, lives.
In other news:
- Solar Cross members continue their periodic “devotionals for the people.” This Sunday, Nov. 19, they are hosting one called Hecate Remembers led by Sarah Clark. “In the space between Samhain and solstice, time can feel out of joint,” Clark explains. “With all the anger and separation in our political cultures, we can feel marginalized and out of place. And within ourselves, in all our beautiful complexity, we can have pieces that feel stuck in time, forgotten, or out of place. Let us remember them, and re-member ourselves.” The devotionals are open to anyone, anywhere. Instructions are posted online.
- Correllian Nativist tradition leaders have announced that they will be sending a delegation to the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions to be held in November of that year. Press secretery Lori Blackman said, “In preparation of this event, the Correllian tradition has begun creating dialog with the breakdown of the parliament theme for discussion and possible resolution.” Witch School, which is a division of the organization, will host a “Global Wicca Summit” in September 2018 to discuss the question: “Is Wicca a global faith?”
- University of Bristol published a video in which Professor Ronald Hutton answers questions about witches and witchcraft. “The history of witches and witchcraft is something that has fascinated and frightened people throughout history. But who were witches and why has society been so wary of them?” Published on Halloween, the video was created in the wake of the publication of Hutton’s new book The Witch, a comprehensive look at the same topic.
- NILVX has opened up submissions for its summer 2018 edition. The theme is tarot. Editors offer this prompt: “Use one of these six windows as inspiration: I Magician, II High Priestess, III Empress, X Wheel of Fortune, XVI Tower, and XIX Sun. Create your own image for these cards. Tell a story about the characters you see. Provide an in-depth interpretation from one of your favorite decks. These are basic suggestions to get you going, but take this theme and create what you will.” The submission deadline is Feb. 1, 2018, and details are available online. NILVX is “a quarterly anthology of magic(k), mysticism, and the occult.” It brings “together the work of writers and artists from around the world to amplify magical themes and symbols through poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and art.”
Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte
Deck: Crow’s Magic tarot by Londa Marks published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: major arcana, #18, the Moon
The Moon is a complex card, stacked full of meaning with a strong feminine impression. It can reflect a cyclic approach or influence that may seem like either genius or madness. The week ahead is liable to offer some of both, especially where women’s issues are concerned. A landscape illuminated in moonlight can appear much different than when lit by the sun. This is a caution to verify what is being presented. Sometimes, a more powerful light source is called for.Read more »
- Pagan Things Made By Pagans For Pagans (A Holiday List)It's the Holiday Season, which means it's time to shop for your favorite Druid, Heathen, or Witch! Check out this list featuring Pagan things, generally made by Pagans, for Pagans. Read more »
- The Care & Keeping of Your Local Witch StoreMany of us are lucky enough to live near metaphysical, New Age, and Witch stores that cater happily and proudly to the Pagan Community. Hopefully if you live near one of those businesses, and assuming the owners are good folks, you patronize it. I strongly believe that Witch stores are vital to the health of our local communities. Read more »
- Bad Witch: Things Other Witches Do That I Don’tI often feel like a Bad Witch when reading about the experiences of my friends and peers, and that's generally because many of them believe in and do things that are not a part of my own practice. Luckily there are many ways to be a Witch and practice the Craft. Read more »Powered by: RSS Feed News Blocks