All the latest witchy news from around the world. On this page you can find the latest news and relevant information for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens and all walks of the Pagan Community.
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
- A blessed spring
TWH – While for many today marks the festive celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, this coming week brings the vernal (spring) equinox and the astronomical beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. The actual equinox occurs Mar. 20 at 6:29 am EDT (16:15 UTC). At the same time in the southern hemisphere, it will be the autumnal equinox, and the beginning of the fall season.Many Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists celebrate the spring equinox as Ostara, Lady Day, Shubun-sai, or simply the coming of spring. Within their own varied and diverse traditions, they find ways to honor or recognize the warming days and renewed growth, as winter makes its slow departure.
In addition, Apr. 1 brings the celebration, so to speak, of April’s Fools Day, which reportedly has roots dating back to the 1500s in Europe. In 1957, the BBC published its famous spoof video documenting Switzerland’s early Spring spaghetti crop. The video reportedly garnered mixed reactions. If nothing else, the video demonstrates the levity that the season can bring.
While the exact roots of April Fool’s Day are unknown, there is some speculation that the tradition is tied to the spring equinox with the season’s changeable weather and unpredictable weather patterns. In addition the day has also been linked to the story of life’s journey found in the progression of the major arcana of traditional tarot. April corresponds to the first card, the Fool, which is considered the point of life’s beginnings.
Other March and early springtime festivals and holidays include Holi or the Hindu festival of color, Higan in Japan, the Naw-Rúz or New Year in the Baha’i faith, the Christian holy days of Good Friday and Easter, and the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover. There are many others both secular and religious, including St. Patrick’s Day.
The spring equinox also marks the beginning of the U.S. Pagan festival season with the opening of Equinox in the Oaks held in Florida. This year, the festival is being hosted the first week of April.
While much of the country is still shaking off winter and even experiencing snow, Florida’s early spring weather is ideal for an outdoor camping and ritual event. Equinox in the Oaks, now in its fourth year, launches the festival season, which then expands north across the country as temperatures rise and winter recedes completely.
Here are few quotes celebrating the seasonal holiday….
What Are the Best Ways to Celebrate Ostara? I think the sabbats should represent what is going on in your back yard. Are trees budding and flowers blooming? Then celebrate that. Is it snowy and cold? Then build your ritual around the promise of warmer days or go out and have a snowball fight. There are no right or wrong ways to celebrate. – Jason Mankey, “The Witch’s Guide to Ostara”
The stormy side of spring here in Nova Scotia is foremost in my mind rather than the cuteness of eggs and bunnies at least partly because my youngest son has recently turned thirteen. The last thing he wants is an Ostara celebration like way back in his childhood days. His declaration hit me like a nor’easter. The wheel of my life has turned and I’m suddenly beyond making holiday magick happen for my sons. While trying to sort out what Ostara will look like without the cuteness, my thoughts wandered towards the deeper meaning of the Equinox.- Cyndi Brannen, “Hekate and the Spring Equinox: The Winds of Change and the Balance in All Things”
The first day of spring and the festival of chocolate…or so it feels like, which is OK with me. Darkness and light are in balance and we now enter a time of renewal and rebirth, the Earth is beginning to stir and starts to send out the first signs that spring has arrived. Celebrate fertility, abundance, new beginnings and put those plans and ideas into motion, get that manifesting on the move! – Rachel Patterson, “Magical Food for Ostara and Spring”
While perhaps only tangentially related to the holiday, it feels appropriate to include the alleged incantation that Isobel Gowdie used to turn into a hare. Gowdie, a Scottish woman in the 17th century, famously made four confessions admitting to witchcraft. Few records survive from that time so it’s unknown if she was executed but very likely did happen.
To turn into a hare, she would chant:
I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
And I shall go in the Devil’s name,
Ay while I come home again.
To change back, she would say:
Hare, hare, God send thee care.
I am in a hare’s likeness now,
But I shall be in a woman’s likeness even now.
However you celebrate or honor this seasonal change, happy holidays to you from our family to yours!
SaveSaveRead more »
- Column: the Question of Community Accountability
Many definitions and concepts change over time, depending upon the variables present with each the situation. The understanding of accountability is one of those very words that can invoke a myriad different thoughts, feelings, responsibilities and defenses, yet it is something that is prominent in so many personal and spiritual paths.
Of course various spiritual paths have differing definitions for such concepts, as definitions change and adapt to the culture of the specific religious community.Within the general Pagan community it appears that accountability has many varied definitions based on tradition; each path frames its role very differently within their own spiritual framework. There are often general discussions of agreement concerning the accountability to gods and spirits, but the same level of universal importance isn’t shown when it comes to the ancestors, physical communities, politics, or interpersonal relationships.
As intersectional threads are woven into our communities, variables of accountability start to shift and shape to the many different hues of our connections.
Therefore something that would otherwise appear to be a simple concept of integrity and responsibility starts to take shape very differently based on the characteristics of the community itself. And while we tend to be more in tune with our individual accounts of what we think personal accountability should look like, community accountability seems to be such a vast and vague concept that we have yet to really start those conversations within the Pagan community in general.
There are some very important lessons we can learn from the mundane structures of organizational accountability processes, especially in our time of evaluating how to best be a community and serve that very same community.
First let’s take a look at personal accountability and how that feeds into a larger ideal of community within Paganism.
In the Forbes article Personal Accountability and the Pursuit of Workplace Happiness, the writer defines personal accountability in an expansive way that can be relevant for different people. “Personal accountability is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and consequences. It’s a choice, a mindset and an expression of integrity. Some individuals exhibit it more than others, but it can and should be learned as it is not only the foundation for a successful life, but also a prerequisite for happiness.”
As many different traditions and paths have ethical guidelines that support a spiritual view of integrity, this appears to match to what many Pagans connect. Some paths choose to embrace ethics within their practices, like with the Wiccan rede, laws of Ma’at, Mos Maiorum, or other such systems of guidelines, and others have a less formal construct of engaging with Western concepts of what is considered morality.
With the ongoing challenge of coalition building within the Pagan community and within society at large, coming to shared agreements on concepts such as accountability as a larger community can seem quite impossible. Whether that is the direction we should be going or not is one that can be debated, but the potential impact of such conversations around accountability have a place in our ongoing work together.
After attending a recent training with Dr. Melanie Tervalon, I began to look at the work of cultural humility as a marker for how we engage concepts of community accountability beyond the dichotomous framework of “right and wrong.” Tervalon is a renowned speaker, physician, educator and community activist. As the co-founder of the multicultural curriculum program at Children’s Hospital Oakland, she co-created a curriculum that would become the basis for cultural humility training around the world.
The phrase “cultural humility” came from her work in developing a system of accountability to expanding our capacity to navigate relational interactions and systemic structures. While her work was pioneered during her time as a physician at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, California, the program has gone on to become the foundational work from which we build on to understand the intersections of culture, relationship, accountability, and self-evaluation.
The three dimensions of cultural humility include: lifelong learning and critical self reflection, recognize and challenge power imbalance, institutional accountability.
What immediately impacted me upon exploring the correlation between Tervalon’s work and the continuous need for accountability in society was institutional accountability being at the forefront of how we engage in the practice of humility. Personal accountability and critical self reflection is not enough in isolation without exploring power imbalances as it relates to accountability.I reached out to several community members to explore what community accountability meant to them and how they relate accountability to wellness within the Pagan community.
Community accountability is teaching what is right, doing your best to follow what you teach, and accepting where you have gone astray. We all teach, even when we aren’t in a leadership position, because we all have something to offer, and we all stumble. Accountability comes in accepting our flaws, doing what we can to fix whatever errors we’ve made, and making amends, apologizing, whatever is necessary to ease that situation, even if it can’t be returned to where it was.
I feel like we’re always growing in our interpersonal relationships. And as community we should be focused on building strong relationships, even with those who we may not immediately gravitate towards having a friendship. Looking out for each other‘s wellness becomes, I think, a part of the entire community; particularly for those we have stronger relationships with.
Accountability comes in how we speak about each other and the differences among us. Are we staying true to the ideals and philosophies we espouse when we see a community member becoming unwell? Are we reaching out and trying to help/aid/ally ourselves specific to the situation? If a person has become unwell, how is it impacting the community? I think this is the space where much growth should take place.
I think checking in, challenging thought processes, making sure physical health is being attended to, mental health is being attended to; these are all areas for growth. I miss having this in a community. — Traci
I believe each member of the community is responsible for the health and well-being of the community as a whole. As the community is only as strong as its individual members, if we aim to grow and maintain strong community, we must support those individuals who are marginalized and vulnerable. When we ignore bigotry and abuse, we become complicit in these behaviors, and allow them to undermine community well-being.
This also can impact the community’s standing in society at large, as harmful behavior of individuals is often construed to be representative of certain communities.
I believe that we can grow further, by increasing our insistence on intersectionality. For example, there are so many in the Pagan community who are on board with pushing back against misogyny and racism, but still make excuses for those who advocate transphobia.
I would also suggest we put more effort into reframing social justice and other issues impacting wellness as integral to spiritual practice. Many consider these topics to be merely “political issues,” and separate from the Mind-Body-Spirit connection. — Maeryn
Community accountability to me is being able to hold people within that community accountable for their actions, so for example, it would be if someone in the community was using the spiritual path to commit fraud or sexual abuse. Holding those people accountable to the damage that they can do to the perception of the spiritual path and also the mental processes of people around them is what is very important not only in a community but in our individual lives as well. People who allow things to slide when it can potentially hurt a lot of people or even if it has potential to hurt themselves are not self aware of their own actions and can be very potentially dangerous for themselves and people around them.
Honestly, you can always start small and grow the potential of helping others to be accountable. So starting on a small scale we could offer workshops or just general check-ins with your local Pagan community. There should be systems in place where people can go seek help that they need. For example, sometimes a lot of people don’t understand that their wellness has a lot to do with their mental state so being able to assess that and help with that I believe should be important within the Pagan community.
Also not with just mental wellness but, in general, health and financial wellness should be workshops offered within the Pagan community. I do know that some areas do offer things like that but they’re not widely and readily available for many pagans. I also believe that helping Pagan understand warning signs for different things can be life-saving. Having local Pagan communities post links for different resources can also help. Accountability starts with us as individuals. — Jara Lamont
There many reasons that the conversations concerning accountability have made their way to the forefront of Pagan circles again. It appears that these conversations become more prominent as incidents happen that skirt the grey areas around around legalities, infringement of the personal rights of others and protection of vulnerable populations, and just as any community is a microcosm of greater society, as movements find their way into our larger conversations they will often be reflected in our smaller communities as well.
We have seen this most recently with the way that the Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and trans rights conversations have also been topics of discussion within Pagan conventions and the interwebs.
Leadership within the Pagan community is another area that often sees conversation about the need for accountability and what it means to expect such things within our small, interconnected groups. Without a central body, institutional or organizational structure, conversations are often left dependent on the context of individuals involved, various structures, and subjective views on just how accountability might be applied to situations.
In Tervalon’s work, institutional accountability often means asking the hard questions involving our responsibility as a community to hold space for healthy, supportive, and humble engagement.
What does community accountability look like when violations happen? How do we engage people in measures to address unethical behavior, including abuse of power, sexual misconduct, financial abuse, racism, transphobia, physical or emotional abuses? Such abuses cause direct and indirect harm to individuals and the community at large.
Exploring the various processes that would be helpful to such our community could essentially be a part of the responsibility of this generation and our leadership. How can we build resources that allow us to support situations that need intervention in order to address them? Having resources for consent training, restorative justice, conflict mediation, cultural humility, and other such areas of need could be one of the major pieces in developing a sustainable and healthy community.
How can we remain restorative in our approach to one another’s wellness while also holding boundaries that keep others safe and whole?
Ignoring such things is not the right avenue to creating sustainable and safe places within our Pagan circles, groves and communities. In the aftermath of numerous Pagan community and larger society challenges that have contributed to individual and community harm, it just might be the time that we start moving toward an understanding of exactly what community accountability could look like.Read more »
- U.S students demand schools safe from gun violence
TWH –Around the United States yesterday, students walked out of classes or otherwise engaged in protests in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, which resulted in 17 dead and an equal number wounded. The Wednesday action manifested differently depending on, among other factors, parental and administrative support. While few student participants were available for this story, several adult Wild Hunt readers provided their perspectives from around the country.While many of these events were student-led, the date of Mar. 14 was coordinated nationwide through the Women’s March website, where it’s reported that 3,136 events were staged and organizers are seeking to ascertain the number of total participants. Some of those involved chose to wear orange — the color which protects hunters and separates toy guns from weapons — or the burgundy and silver school colors of those who died in Florida.
Melyssa Deel Posada lives in the state of Washington, where “administrations are excusing the absence of the student has a note from parents that they are aware. They are also only counting it as an absence if the student misses an entire class, and they are asking students not to leave campus for safety reasons.” Her sense was that many students in her state would be participating.
Posada’s children are not yet in school, but she has given the question of gun violence some thought. “I’m not for a weapons ban, as a gun owner myself. I [would] like to see early intervention as these things don’t just come out of nowhere, stricter background checks, mental health screenings, and reinforced school security.” She would also like to prohibiting gun ownership to those found guilty of domestic violence and animal abuse, “since these seem to be a sign that a person is capable of more violent acts.
“I see gun ownership as a heavy responsibility that we should be worthy of,” Posada concluded, “not some inalienable right that anyone should have.”
Officials in the Denver district where Ann Hatzakis’ children attend advised that plans would be age-based: elementary students would follow a normal schedule, middle-schoolers would have “safe spaces” to express their views as would high school students. Only the latter would not be prevented from leaving without a parent signing them out.
An email she received also was clear that “we will follow normal attendance policies. This means any students not present in their scheduled classes will be marked absent unless a parent or guardian provides permission.”
Hatzakis does not own a gun because she hasn’t “had access to both a firearm and a safe place to practice using it,” but in general she favors more regulation. Suggestions she offered included more stringent mental-health checks and regulation of gun-show transactions.In Massachusetts, Heather is both a teacher and a parent. “We have some of the strictest regulations, but kids are still scared,” she said. “Their fear is real. They are very aware that we can’t really protect them.”
In the district where she teaches, the events were student-led, although a cordon of police was to be in place surrounding the campus. Teachers could participate if all their students did or another teacher agreed to watch the remainder, and no student would be penalized unless they broke other school rules, such as for vandalism or smoking.
In her classroom, Heather said that she never goes more than few weeks into the year before students want to know about lockdown and other safety procedures. “In every single one of my classes, I’ve been asked about our plan for an active shooting,” she said, and she’s never initiated any of those conversations.
She is not a fan of the idea of armed teachers. “I lose my laptop in my room five times a day,” she said. “I do not want to carry a gun.” Even if she has colleagues more qualified, she wonders how law enforcement officers would differentiate them from the shooter.
Heather’s daughter Audrey’s school had a more scripted event planned, which entailed forming up as the number “17” for a photo op; she said it was organized entirely by school officials. She echoed her mother’s belief that the fear is real, saying, “It’s just awful. You don’t know if you know people as well as you think.”
Rahne, a high school teacher in the Hudson Valley of New York, reported that administrators in her district sought to create something more like an assembly, but didn’t get quite what they bargained for in the end. Plans initially called for assembling in the gymnasium, but then it was relocated to outside, and yesterday morning a shelter-in-place order was issued due to a social media threat — the second in two weeks — was discovered. Many students left the building anyway.
As a teacher, Rahne’s concerns over safety are only amplified by the suggestion made by President Trump that teachers be armed.”Teachers have to work surrounded by children; in other words, they’re surrounded by immature, unpredictable, and impulsive people every day. Especially in high school, those children are often stronger and have less self-control than teachers. This is an extremely stressful job, and sometimes even very good teachers hit the breaking point. I work in a district where, several years ago, one teacher attacked another teacher in the middle of a hall crowded with students. The weapon was a screwdriver, and the victim was stabbed 16 times before somebody was able to get the attacker off of her. There was no warning of the attack — it was a complete ambush.
“The victim survived. If the attacking teacher had had a gun, I don’t think the victim would be alive today, and I think a number of other people in the hallway would have been shot as well. When people have psychotic breaks, they don’t think about potential consequences for their actions, and so having armed people in the school would not be a deterrent for somebody in that state of mind.”Ryan Denison teaches in a Georgia high school. “Our district has chosen to allow a protest to happen and leave it up to the students,” he said when reached earlier in the week. “At my school our administrators will allow the students that want to express themselves and exercise their rights, within reason, to do so,” by gathering on the football field for the ascribed 17 minutes, representing the number killed in Parkland.
“There isn’t any promotion of the event and I haven’t heard very many of my kids speak of it. Quite a few did not know of the protest.”
Denison said his students haven’t been talking about gun violence without prompting, but when he went over safety protocols their fear was evident. “They were scared and unsure. A lot of them realize they don’t know how they would react. They express the fear of not knowing if it will happen here, because it seems to happen anywhere.”
He calls the notion of arming teachers the “most ridiculous idea I’ve heard in a long time.”
Like Posada, Denison is a gun owner advocating for stronger gun control measures. “No one is taking guns and very few have proposed that. We register, license and insure automobiles. . . . I had classes and I grew up with guns and was taught to respect them at an early age. It wasn’t an ‘ammosexual’ type thing. It was a tool that can deal death and should be treated as such.”
Elsewhere in Georgia, some parents feared administrators were cracking down, and hard. The ACLU had representatives at various Cobb County high schools on the lookout for rights being infringed, and are now investigating whether teachers physically blocked exits to prevent students from leaving.
One parent, Cristin Zegers, said that while nearly half of the 2,700 students in her child’s high school signed up for the event, only 262 actually participated. Administrators were “vehemently opposed to the walkout, citing their concern for safety and disruption of instructional time,” but parents found those arguments “disingenuous.”
Rumors that students would be removed from sports teams and student government were rampant, Zegers said.
While punishment for civil disobedience is always a possibility, it’s the threat of a disproportionate response which had ACLU representatives on hand. Zegers said she carefully went through the code of conduct with her children to determine what the appropriate consequences might be.“This has been a tremendous teaching and parenting opportunity for me with my three children. I am so proud of the teenagers who have stepped up to champion the cause of common sense gun laws, and I’m inspired by the budding activism in my own children,” Zegers said.
Amber Moon has only one child left in school, but as a police officer she sees things from that perspective as well. She very much thinks awareness of one’s school’s safety plans is important, as is the ALICE protocol: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
Her biggest concern ahead of the protests was that students might engage in vandalism or violence, which would diminish the message. “They will definitely get their point across faster and people will listen if it’s peaceful,” she said. “If people destroy cars and things like that during the walkout it lessens their message.”
As for arming teachers, Moon said that depends on the individual whether it’s a good idea, and therefore “my opinion is not to do it and focus on making the schools safer and harder to get into; I think school should look into safety glass, safe rooms, metal detectors, more than one school resource officer. We are never going to be able to stop people who want to hurt other people, but we should do all we can to make our schools [impossible] to get into.”
The sentiment among gun owners interviewed here that stricter gun control is needed was echoed in a recent article in Time, which included findings that 69 percent of NRA members favored stronger background checks, a figure that rises to 89 percent among those who do not own guns. On the subject of arming teachers, a white paper released from the Violence Policy Center reflects the sentiments interview subjects that it might not end well by compiling data from officer-involved shootings.
Reports on the national walk-out have dotted the mainstream media over the past several days, including inspirational photos of kids standing in front of schools, on fields, and in parking lots to raise their voice on a current and heated topic. Kids not allowed out of school took a knee to show support, and memorials were held.
We will continue to follow this story and the related issues as they develop.Read more »
- Magic and conjuring arts come to Canadian university
OTTAWA, Ont. – Carleton University has announced that it is seeking an appropriate candidate to be the inaugural holder of the newly created Allan Slaight Chair for the Study of the Conjuring Arts. It will become part of the faculty of arts and social sciences.
The university campus is located in Canada’s capitol city, Ottawa, alongside the picturesque Rideau River and historic Rideau Canal. It is also a short distance from Parliament Hill, the epicenter of Canadian federal government.Founded in 1942, Carleton’s standout programs include public affairs and policy management, sustainable and renewable energy engineering, and health sciences. More than 29,000 full and part-time students participate in undergraduate and graduate programs.
When news of this job posting hit social media, it caused a stir within Pagan, Heathen and Witchcraft communities. Some readers wondered if their experience as practitioners of Pagan spirituality would qualify them for the job, some speculated about how magic will be studied at the university level and others rolled their eyes at the Harry Potter references in the mainstream press announcements.
It is the nebulous use of the terms “conjuring arts” and “magic “ in the title for this position that has some interested people wondering.
The new chair was made possible by a $2 million leadership gift from the Slaight Family Foundation, and is being matched by the university. It is being named after philanthropist and family patriarch Allan Slaight, who made his fortune as a Canadian media magnate.
Slaight began his successful career as an on-air personality at a small radio station in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and went on to own 53 radio and two television stations, which he sold in 2007 for $800 million.
Alongside the traditional style of philanthropic endeavors such as donating millions of dollars to hospitals and cancer research, the Slaight Family Foundation, recognizing Allan Slaight’s lifelong interest in music, has also made notable donations in support of journalism, the National Ballet of Canada, and a long list of artistic and humanitarian causes.It is Slaight’s passion for stage magic that has prompted the establishment of the new chair at Carleton.
At the age of eight, Slaight became fascinated with the tricks and illusions of stage magicians, after seeing the legendary children’s magician Johnny Giordmaine performing behind his magic counter in the toy department of the Eaton’s store in Toronto.
In the 1940s, as a teenager, Slaight toured the country as a mind reader named “Will Powers.” He later changed his act to a magic show under the name “Slaight & Co.”
Even after building his career in media and broadcasting, Slaight maintained a keen interest in magic, and wrote often for stage magic publications. He also wrote The James File, a sprawling multi-volume set, reputed to be the largest work ever published on stage magic. It is based on the work of the highly skilled Canadian magician and illusion innovator, Stewart James.
Now in his eighties, Slaight is still enthusiastic about practicing stage magic. He co-hosts an exclusive annual invite-only conference called 31 Faces North, which features some of the world’s top magicians. His family foundation also sponsors the Allan Slaight Awards. These awards recognize excellence in magic, and nominations for work completed in 2017 are open until March 15, 2018.
The scope of what will be included in “the study of conjuring arts” is very broad, and details are vague. In a press release, topics considered to be related to conjuring arts cover a lot of territory including “the history of warfare, the use of political persuasion, neuroscience and psychology to the study of literary genres and devices, mathematics and game design.”
In the posting for the position, the university states that it is looking for a candidate who can “develop a new interdisciplinary academic programme and centre for multidisciplinary approaches to the study of magic and the conjuring arts.”
Nowhere in the job posting or media release for this program is magic as a religious or spiritual practice mentioned; it is instead linked to illusion, perception and deception. Magicians are cited as being among history’s greatest performers and influences.
During an interview with CTV Morning Live, Carleton University president Alistair Summerlee stated: “The serious side of this is that what we’re going to be asking somebody to do, is to use magic as an entree into the world of perception and deception, and that’s the piece that for me, I find really exciting because when you think about it, there isn’t anything that doesn’t involve the idea of deception and how on earth does that happen? How do people get taken in? So for me, this is a really exciting opportunity.”
There will be three main areas of responsibility for the new chair. The first will be to take the lead in developing Carleton’s position as a unique international resource for collections and artifacts related to magic. The university’s archives and research collection already holds a copy of Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, signed by Harry Houdini, and also the Art Latcham Memorial Magic Collection, comprised of 300 books, magazines, and ephemera related to illusion, sleight of hand, and related subjects.
The chair will also need to take the lead on research into perception and deception in a wide range of fields, such as science, politics, communication and media.
The third core responsibility will be for the chair to develop courses for the program, including such subjects as the history of magic, the history of performance and aspects of perception and deception.
The position has been posted since late February. An interdisciplinary search committee featuring faculty members from history, music, psychology, and film studies, among others, are working with an international search firm to find an ideal candidate to fill this unusual role.
Applications are being assessed as they are received, and will continue to be accepted until a successful candidate is found. Summerlee expects that the first chair for the Study of the Conjuring Arts should be in place by the summer of 2018.Read more »
- Uncovering the Past: altar of Zeus, Germanic battle, skulls and more
As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.
Altar of Zeus at Lykaion
MOUNT LYKAION, Greece — This mountaintop in the Peloponnese, and Mount Ida in Crete, are both claimed to be the birthplace of Zeus. Archaeological teams have excavated at Mount Lykaion for over a decade. The Greeks called the Zeus born at this site Zeus Lykaios. Cult activity occurred here from 1500 to 100 B.C.E. but gradually shifted to the city of Megalopolis on the plains below Mount Lykaion. Megalopolis was much easier to reach than a mountaintop. Dedications on the mountaintop ceased after 200 B.C.E. A hippodrome, stadium, and the altar of Zeus remain on this site, as well as other buildings.The site contains two sanctuaries. Worshipers created the upper sanctuary from 1499 to 600 B.C.E., and the lower sanctuary from 699 to about 50 B.C.E.
The upper sanctuary lies atop of the mountain’s 4,534-foot (1,382 meter) southern peak. Just below the peak, a spring gives forth water. Thunderstorms frequently occur. Eagles soar. It contains the sacred precinct and the altar of Zeus.
Most people think of an altar as some version of a table. This altar of Zeus, however, consists of a mound of ash and pulverized bone, where priests placed the offerings onto the fire. With a diameter of 100 feet (30.5 meters), this altar has an area of 7,500 square feet. In some places, it reaches five feet (1.52 meters) in depth. Sheep and goat bones comprise about 98 percent of the remains. Almost all bones were kneecaps, thighbones, or tailbones. The Greek writer Pausanias reported that two columns flanked this altar, and eagles crowned each column.
Archaeologists have found a variety of votive offerings at this site., including more than 50 Mycenaean drinking vessels, human and animal figurines, and a miniature double-headed ax. In addition, archaeologists found a human skeleton, buried in a shallow grave. Several writers from antiquity had alluded to human sacrifice at this site. Analysis revealed the skeleton to be that of an adolescent, buried sometime between 1099 to 1000 B.C.E. Among thousands of animal remains, archaeologists have only found this one human skeleton.
The lower sanctuary lies in a meadow below the peak. It contains the buildings associated with the Lykaion games. Like the Olympics, these games occurred every four years. Evidence dates the earliest games at this site to 699 to 600 B.C.E. The Olympic games, by comparison, began according to tradition in 776 B.C.E. Local villagers have recently restarted the Lykaion games.
Evidence of major battle in ancient Germany
TOLLENSE, Germany — Archaeologists have found evidence of a major battle involving about 2,000 warriors here. This battle occurred around 1200 B.C.E, along the Tollense River, between Berlin and the Baltic Sea. This may be the most significant battle of the Bronze Age in north central Europe, as no one had expected warfare on this scale in the absence of large population centers.
Skeletal remains covered a mile of the river. The bogs on the riverbank preserved the bodies. Evidence suggests that a causeway across the Tollense may have formed part of a trade network and been the critical factor in the battle.
DNA analysis of the remains indicates genetic relationships with today’s southern Europeans, Poles, and Scandinavians. Analyses of bones indicate scarring from previous battles. In short, north central Europe may have had a specialized warrior caste at the time.
Mesopotamian influences found among Tut’s artifacts
EGYPT — A German-Egyptian team has analyzed hundreds of fragmented gold pieces from King Tut’s tomb. These pieces have been in storage since the tomb was first opened. At entombment, workers would have fixed these pieces to “quivers, bow cases, and arrows.” While made in Egypt, these pieces show strong Mesopotamian influence in Egypt around 1323 B.C.E.
Funerary garden discovered
EGYPT — Jose Manuel Galan found a funerary garden in front of a rock-cut tomb of a 12th dynasty court official from Thebes. Historians were familiar with literary and visual representations of funerary gardens, but no one had previously found material evidence of their existence. These gardens would produce fresh offerings of fruits and vegetables for the deceased.
Turkish skull cult
GOBEKLI TEPE, Turkey — Archaeologists have found evidence of a human skull cult at here, at a site that dates from 9999 to 7000 B.C.E. Bone fragments at the site indicate postmortem skill carving and alteration. These alterations would allow people to suspend skulls from the stone slabs at this site.
Aztec wolf sacrifice
MEXICO CITY — Excavations at the Aztec Great Temple in here found evidence of a possible sacrifice of a juvenile wolf. Its body was adorned with gold ornaments for the chest, ear, and nose. The head of the wolf faced west, toward the setting sun. This burial dated from the period 1486 to 1502 C.E.
Below are some resources for Pagans interested in archaeology.
Interactive dig for field reports of current archaeological excavations
Realm of History At this site, people can sign up for daily emails about world history.Read more »
- Pagan Community Notes: W.I.T.C.H, Iowa Pagan Pride, Circle Sanctuary and more
MEXICO CITY – An organization named W.I.T.C.H. CDMX is hosting a public action in Mexico City, March 17. The event’s reported purpose is to bring women together to toss off the strains of oppression, abuse, and harassment. As written on the Facebook event page, “WITCH summons all our sisters to a night of spells, to the contemplation of fire,” and “to free ourselves, strengthen us and altar, in a symbolic act, reality.” The scheduled action has been named Icendario and is being a labeled a “revolution.”
W.I.T.C.H. reports that it is a nonprofit organization that is interested in art, magic, feminism, disruption. It appears to be taking its cue from the 1969 organization of the same name, and the more recent incarnation in Chicago. The scheduled ritual burning will take place March 17 at 6 p.m. in Mexico City in the Plaza de la Republica. The organizers write: “Let the spirit of the harpy eagle accompany us in each of our struggles, let us not let the illusion of limitation prevent us from flying together . . . . We will make the earth tremble.” We will continue to follow this story.
* * *
IOWA — A new group has formed to create community and host a new Pagan pride event in 2019. Cedar Valley Iowa Pagan Pride is being planned for 2019. The organizers say that the area hasn’t had “actual place for Pagans to gather . . . . for a long time.” The event will be held in Waterloo on the first weekend in September, 2019.
Involved in this venture is Earl Williams, the founder of Iowa Pagan News radio and the Praire Land Pagan Radio Network. Williams writes, “We are wanting people to be a part of the planning committee, fundraising, organizing the event and more.” The fledgling organization currently has a Facebook community group and a Twitter account through which the organizers can be contacted.
* * *
BARNEVELD, Wis. — On March 28, Circle Sanctuary will be hosting an afternoon of Pagan military service ribbon award ceremonies. Debuting in 2011, Circle’s military ribbon program was created to “recognize and express appreciation for Pagans who have served and are serving in the U.S. armed forces.” To date, the organization has presented more than 300 ribbons to Pagans all around the world, either in person or during online radio programming.
Circle Sanctuary has announced that it will be expanding the ribbon program by offering a call-in event at the Circle Sanctuary office. “This will be the first time offering such direct support to our Pagan military community, and we are excited to offer this opportunity to any armed forces veterans who identify as Pagan,” said Gretchen Lirtzman, communication coordinator. On March 28, interested parties will be able to call in to receive their recognition through a ceremony during a private phone call with Rev. Selena Fox. “Participants may call the Circle Sanctuary office at 608/924-2216 [from] 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. [Central time],” said Lirtzman, adding that ribbons “awarded that day will be mailed out by Apr. 4 to the address on file for each applicant who participates in this award ceremony.”
In other news
- Paganicon made local news this week in an article titled ‘The Twin Cities — aka Paganistan–will host a world gathering of Witches.” The article, which was focused on the upcoming Paganicon conference, upset a few Pagans due to the off-handed remarks to “flying monkeys” and “sharing potions.” However, the local Pagan community appeared excited by the publicity and unfazed by any kitschy references as they ready for their big event next week.
- “Saskatoon Witches are holding Wicca 101 classes,” reports the Calgary Herald. While the start of a Wicca 101 class is not news to Pagan communities worldwide, it is rare for mainstream media to report on them. In a video report, journalists interviewed Ryan Giesinger of Practical Magik and Curio Shoppe. Giesinger says the class is for people interested in practicing the religion as well as family members or friends who are curious about their loved ones’ spiritual path. The store recorded the Wicca 101 classes and has posted them to Facebook.
- A new volume of the Pomegranate is available online. Vol 19 no. 2, published in 2017, has been uploaded to the journal’s site for digital reading. As always, book reviews are free to all readers, but the other articles themselves are locked and available for purchase.
- Magical sigils have been a popular subject for Pagans and Witches working magic over the past few years. A new book on that subject is being produced by author and artist Gina Leslie. Titled The Art of Sigils, the new book is being self-published by Leslie, and she describes it as “an illustrated guide to using sigils to unlock your hidden creativity and manifest prosperity.” Leslie has launched an Indeigogo campaign to help finance the production of the book she says “she didn’t know she wanted to write.”
- Finally, another mainstream article caught the attention of the Pagans and Witches around the world this week. This one was published by Out magazine and featured a “new line of witchcraft items” being sold by the famous Olsen twins. The article which touts their $395 altars and $79 ritual candles had some modern Witches shaking their heads in horror and disbelief. The article is actual a satire written by comedian Greg Mania, who jokingly tweeted that he might be “turned into a voodoo doll” for writing it. The Olsens are not pushing an expensive line of Wiccan magical items, and that includes the amulet that summons Enya and sage stick for cleansing Old Navy. Interestingly and as a side note, Mania does admittedly have experience with magical practice and summoning. In 2017, he reported that he “accidentally summoned a demon at IKEA by trying to pronounce the names of the furniture.”
Weekly tarot with Star Bustamonte
Deck: Medieval Cat Tarot by Lawrence Teng and Gina M. Pace, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: five (5) of swords
The five (5) of swords can often be reflective of unfairness. This week is liable to offer up opportunities where we must determine and decide which side of a line we stand on. It is possible to be on the right side of an issue, even a winning one, and still end up losing personally. Discernment and being able to view long-term effects of actions are key this week.
[Decks provided by Asheville Raven and Crone.]Read more »
- Pagan artists present Third Offering at Paganicon
MINNEAPOLIS – The Third Offering Gallery art exhibit at Paganicon takes its name from the belief that there are, as blogger Steven Posch is quoted as saying, “three traditional offerings of gratitude to the gods – water (for life), food (for sustenance), and beauty (to feed the soul).”
Helga Hedgewalker, a Gardnerian high priestess and Witch who founded the Third Offering art show in 2013 with Pagan and fellow professional artist Paul B. Rucker, wishes there were more awareness, if not gratitude, for Pagan creators of all sorts.
“It can be very tiresome how every TV show, radio podcast, magazine article . . . looks to writers/authors as the only thought-leaders worth acknowledging in the Pagan community, as if no other skills or talents have merit,” Hedgewalker said. “Throughout most of human history, culture has been transmitted through the arts: painting, music, fashion, dance, theatre, song, chanting, beautifully made tools, sumptuous foods and drink . . . .
“Good ritual partakes of all of those things— not what is written in books. Let me be clear, an author can describe a ritual in a book, but that is not ritual. True magic is a sensual experience, where the cerebral and rational must be left behind. If we are to truly build a Pagan culture, then we need less authors and more artists, musicians, cooks and dancers. We need less talking about magic and more doing!” (She later added that those comments “may sound like I’m crabby about books, but that’s really not true. I love books.”)Dozens of Pagan visual artists will be inducing Paganicon attendees into a sensual experience when Third Offering runs once again at the conference, which will take place March 16-18 in St. Louis Park just west of Minneapolis.
Both Rucker and Hedgewalker, not surprisingly, believe art is a magical act – for themselves during the process of creation and, they hope, when viewers engage their works and those of other “visionary artists” (as they and other such creators often refer to themselves).
The belief that art is magical may be as old as art itself: the most famous of those 14,000-year-old Paleolithic cave paintings in France, according to britannica.com, is “a small image, both painted and engraved, known as the horned god, or the sorcerer. It depicts a human with the features of several different animals . . . . Its significance is unknown, but it is usually interpreted as some kind of great spirit or master of the animals,” and it and other paintings in the cave “may reflect the practice of magical ceremonies in the chamber.”
“Creative flow is its own transcendent state,” said Rucker, who along with Hedgewalker planted the seeds of Third Gallery when they held a two-person show at Paganicon in 2012. Friends since 1992, the duo also co-founded the Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists.
“Making art can be a form of deep meditation,” Rucker continued. “Sometimes the art-making trance becomes like lucid dreaming while awake. Mircea Eliade, the scholar of religions, described the shaman’s journey as a ‘round.’ The shaman goes from ‘here,’ the ordinary world, to ‘there,’ the spirit world or the other world, in order to receive a teaching, a vision, have a profound experience of a heightened reality. To complete the round, the shaman must return with a medicine, a teaching, or something that will benefit the community. This requires a technique ‘of ecstasy’ as he called it. It’s not so hard to go to the other world — people can take drugs or have altered consciousness in a number of ways. What’s much harder is bringing something back that can be shared.”
Rucker’s website includes his account of a vivid dream he had as a child, of a white stag “that took me to a moonlit grove, wild and rambling, filled with . . . the names of the gods and goddesses of the world. To stand anywhere in that holy place was to feel each divine personality completely. All were there, every divinity the human world had ever known, and the stag of the moon leading me on and on . . . . Even then I knew my task was to bring that magic back to this world, somehow, through making images.”
His need to make art, Rucker told The Wild Hunt, is “my method of acquiring a ‘technique of ecstasy’ so that the bits of sacred fire from the visionary plane could be held in something that others could engage with here, in this world.”
Rucker was initiated at 18 into “an eclectic Pagan coven, and I’ve been exposed to many different kinds of ritual and Pagan/Polytheist/Old Craft/Thelemic — you name it — metaphysical subcultures, and brings that experience to bear in his art.
“What feeds my soul in this arena is ecstasy and transformative magic. Not ‘belief merchandise’ and rubrics and long, talky discussions about the validity of ‘traditions,’ or ‘circle church.’ The purpose of public ritual, in my opinion, is not to feel all safe and comfy in a circle, but to create a vessel that can heighten reality, that can bring the wild magic of the other world into this one, that can properly prepare the ground for a god or goddess to be really present. I also see this as one essential purpose of Pagan art. Not the only one, but an important one.”For Hedgewalker, who attended art school at the renowned Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and earned a bachelor’s degree in visual communications, “the art I do outside of my day job is absolutely a magical act for me.”
She recounted a spring equinox ritual in 2015: “The priestess had drawn down the goddess, and she turned to me and said, ‘I am the muse, and I demand you do a portrait of me for this new age.’ ‘Ummm, yes, my lady, but I do not know what you look like,’ I replied. ‘That does not concern me,’ she said very sternly. ‘You will do this or I will remove my many gifts and blessings from you until the end of your days.’ I was left quaking with fear, for I had no doubt that this had been a true geas laid upon me.”
For nine months Hedgewalker struggled and fretted to find inspiration. Even invoking her muse in ritual failed. “I was starting to despair,” she said. “What if she really did steal what was most precious to me for all my life? I questioned the essence of my very existence and purpose in life. Who am I if not your tool, oh muse?”
Inspiration finally came in a vision on New Year’s Day 2016, and Hedgewalker completed her “Triptych of the Muse” in time to exhibit it in July 2016 at a show presented by the Minneapolis Collective of Pagan Artists.
“The priestess who had originally drawn down the muse, back at the spring equinox in 2015, came to the opening,” Hedgewalker said. “She stood stock-still in front of the triptych for a long, long time. Then, with eyes that weren’t quite hers, she turned to me and said, ‘The lady is pleased.’ I barely made it out of the gallery before I collapsed in sobs, the waves of relief, exhaustion, euphoria, and sweet agony all mixing together. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.
“Usually I do my best work in a trance state, and when I can achieve that flow, I believe the gods make themselves known and I am merely a channel for them.”As for visionary art becoming a magical act for viewers — “Good gods, I hope so!,” said Hedgewalker, whose paintings were featured in Llewellyn’s 1997 astrological calendar. “I have several paintings in my house where deities in-dwell in them,” she said. “Their eyes follow me as I walk through the room. The art becomes gateways to their spiritual realm if the viewer is open to the experience. I don’t know how often it happens, but sometimes the synchronicity of someone needing an image of exactly what I’ve just finished is intense enough to leave me reeling. It is gratifying and very humbling every time.”
Hedgewalker’s upcoming book with Estelle Daniels, Color a Magick Spell, is subtitled “26 Picture Spells to Color and Manifest.” On Hedgewalker’s website, she says she hopes the book, due in May from Llewellyn, will help people “use art as a way to unlock their creative and magickal potential.”
Rucker mentions his interpretation of Melek Ta’us, the Peacock Angel, “a tutelary divinity of primary importance for the Yezidi of Syria, and for the Feri culture/current of witchcraft.” His image went viral on the internet, and responses to the painting led him to believe that people see it as “a true and authentic portal to the Peacock Angel.”
This year’s Third Offering show is themed “Fire and Ice” and will feature 55 pieces from 24 artists, said art show director Jason Neu. Paintings, fired clay, digital photos on metal and works in other media are included. Awards will be presented in the categories best representation of theme, guest of honor’s choice, people’s choice (chosen by ballot), and best in show. Many of the original works and smaller print versions will be available for sale. A meet-and-greet with the artists will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 17.
As in past years, the show is juried, which means that a panel selects works to be exhibited from those submitted by artists. “The purpose of curation is not to exclude anyone,” Rucker said. “Third Offering is extremely inclusive, open to artists of every skill level and degree of professionalism.
“My main reason for a juried review process was to avoid the ‘rummage sale’ effect that I have often seen at science fiction cons, which often have ‘art shows.’ Because there is usually no curation whatsoever, people bring anything and everything, and thus the artwork presented does not integrate with itself. Curation, even on the most basic level, helps to cohere the show in a professional way.”
Read more »
- Saint Patrick, Druids, snakes, and popular myths: 2018
In 2012, Wild Hunt founder Jason Pitzl-Waters published an article called, “Saint Patrick, Druids, Snakes, and Popular Myths.”* To this day, it remains one of our most popular posts. Every year as March approaches, and even as March leaves, the article is read and reread and read again. With Saint Patrick’s Day coming up next Saturday, March 17, we revisit that article.“[Tomorrow] is St. Patrick’s Day, a yearly holiday celebrating Ireland’s favorite patron saint. While it’s a big event in Ireland (and used to be a very solemn occasion), in America it’s a green-dyed bacchanal where everyone is ‘Irish for a day’ (let’s not even start on the horridly stupid ‘unofficial’ St. Patrick’s Day celebrations on college campuses). For some modern Pagans (whether Irish or not), St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a day of celebrations, as they see Patrick, famously attributed with converting Ireland to Christianity, as committing something akin to cultural genocide,” Pitzl-Waters began.
This idea is based on a theory that the “snakes,” which St. Patrick (387-461 CE) allegedly drove out of Ireland in the 5th Century C.E., are actually a symbol for the Druids and their religion. This is not a far-fetched idea considering that the serpent is a common symbol for the Christian devil. Additionally, according to scientists, there weren’t any real snakes in Ireland at that time. In fact, there haven’t been snakes in Ireland for over than 8,500 years. The Ice Age performed the reptilian eviction, or the slaughter as it were, not St. Patrick.
Therefore, the offending serpents had to be something other than actual snakes. And, many modern Pagans have taken this snake as Druid metaphor to heart. For example, as Pitzl-Waters noted, “author Isaac Bonewits called the day All Snakes Day and penned songs calling for the return of the “snakes.”But that theory has also been up for debate and, at this point, completely debunked. In 2012, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic reconstructionist Pagan and scholar with extensive knowledge of Irish myth and folklore, said:
Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.
That idea was corroborated, in part, by a 2014 television special featured on the Smithsonian Channel. In Sacred Sites: Ireland, documentary filmmakers interview several scientists and Celtic scholars who all agree with Lupus. St. Patrick neither drove out snakes or “snakes;” nor did he single-handedly convert Ireland’s pagans to Christianity.
According to these experts, it was actually Halley’s Comet that evicted the metaphoric “snakes.”
In his book Blood & Mistletoe: The History of The Druids in Britain, historian Ronald Hutton notes that many of the details surrounding St. Patrick’s life and his work were changed and even fabricated hundreds of years after his death.
As quoted by Pitzl-Waters, Hutton wrote, “The importance of Druids in countering [Patrick’s] missionary work was inflated in later centuries under the influence of biblical parallels, and that Patrick’s visit to Tara was given a pivotal importance that it never possessed – if it ever occurred at all – to suit later political preoccupations. […] The only appearances of Druids in documents attributed to Patrick himself occur in some that are generally thought to have been composed after his death.”
Pitzl-Waters also quoted Celtic reconstructionist Morgan Daimler, who agreed, saying:
…The rest of Patrick’s hagiography has him dueling Druids right and left, killing those who oppose him with callous righteousness, so why would the story suddenly get cryptic about him driving the Druids out? Every other page was proclaiming it proudly! No, this particular tidbit – which is suspiciously exactly the same as a story from the life of a French saint – was always meant to be literal.
The earliest reference I have found to anyone thinking the snakes meant Druids (and thanks to the friend who helped me find it) is in the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries from 1911 where someone states that he believes based on a story that because a certain place was where the Druids last stronghold was and also the place Saint Patrick drove the snakes that the snakes must represent the Druids, but it’s just faulty logic (Evans Wentz, 1911). The snakes in the story were just meant to be snakes, just as the toads were toads and Saint George’s dragon was a dragon.
In an article titled “The True Story of St. Patrick,” Ireland’s Druid School speculates that the snake story, as well as the connection to the shamrock, were fabricated simply to help convert the masses.
The article reads, “It was as if the Pagan traditions were still so strong with the Lughnasa pilgrimage to the Reek in August that something had to be done to displace the old ways and such a fantastic story as dragon/snake banishing fitted the bill. It had to be long after St Patrick’s death or else everyone would know it was just made up fantasy.”
Historians appear to agree that paganism, in some form, did “thrive” for generations after St. Patrick died. Pitzl-Waters concluded, “There was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland, it simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography.”
He speculated that the snake story and other such details were added to Patrick’s story simply in order to “establish a heroic Irish saint” rather than to “eradicate traces of Paganism.”
However, despite the overwhelming scientific and historical evidence, the popular snake as Druid metaphor lives on. This is most readily seen in social media, where users perpetuate the idea that St. Patrick’s “snakes” were the country’s Druids.
In 2012, Pitzl-Waters wrote “some [people] cling to [the theory] simply because it feels right, or because they like the idea of a holiday dedicated to pagan/Pagan resistance to conversion.”
The evidence against that idea continues to build. St. Patrick’s serpents were not real snakes, nor could they have been metaphoric “snakes.” It does appear that the story was completely fabricated for one reason or another. And the “driving out” of both types of serpents, was triggered by completely natural, catastrophic events: climate change and a comet.Regardless, the holiday itself has grown far beyond this particular story and the boundaries of its original religiosity. St. Patrick’s Day has become both a cultural pride day for the Irish people as well as a secular extravaganza, if only in the United States.
For some the day is serious business and a day to connect with one’s ancestors and heritage, while for others, it’s simply a day to wear green, eat corned beef and get kissed (or pinched).
While it is may be easy enough to push aside the unnaturally green brew and leprechaun t-shirts, it is hard to deny the role that this holiday has played in Ireland’s history. As Pitzl-Waters noted, “To erase St. Patrick’s Day also erases a vital connection to Irish history and culture.”
For many modern Pagans, the holiday’s connection to religion, regardless of how the “snakes” were actually evicted, still looms in the background. But Lupus offered one suggestion for those people wishing to celebrate Irish culture on this day without embracing St. Patrick’s story. E wrote, “replace St. Patrick’s day with a day to honor Cú Chulainn.”
… given that Patricius may have usurped a local festival of Macha in the area around Armagh, perhaps what could instead be celebrated is the date that Cú Chulainn first took up arms, upon which he did so in order to fulfill a partial prophecy he heard that whomever took up arms for the first time on that day would be famed forever after; he only learned later that the rest of the prophecy revealed that the famous hero would only live a very short life, to which he responded that it would be better to live but one day and one night in the world if everlasting fame were to be attached to him.
This active taking up of the heroic life and all of its responsibilities, including death (most likely on behalf of one’s people, as a warrior), was the date on which he became the protector of the people of Ulster and thus of Emain Macha and his uncle Conchobor mac Nessa’s kingship. What more appropriate occasion, therefore, to celebrate the hero-cultus of Cú Chulainn than on the day that he decided to take up the heroic life?
There are alternatives as Lupus suggests. However, it is difficult to shift associations that are so deeply embedded in the modern cultural and commercial experience. However change can happen over time. And, it has. As seen above, the story of St. Patrick itself has shifted since it was first written. The day has gone from a solemn, Catholic-based story of heroic sainthood to a secular festival celebrating Irish heritage in all its glory, and many things in between.
* * *
[Editor’s Note: The original article was published in 2010, with updated versions published in 2011, 2012. The above article pulls quotes from the 2012 version.]Read more »
- Column: Whose Earth is the Earth?
Forward! And remember
To ask what our strength is worth.
In hunger and in piety:
Whose tomorrow is tomorrow?
Whose earth is the earth?
-Berthold Brecht, “Solidarity Song,” translated by Joe Grimm Feinburg in Songs of the IWW (38th ed.)
As reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and expanded upon by The Wild Hunt earlier this week, a folkish Heathen group, “Wotans Nation,” has purchased 44 acres of land in Meigs County, Tennessee. Wotans Nation intends to use this land as the site for an intentional Heathen community, with the stated goal of eventually becoming “the spiritual center of the Heathen religion in this nation.”
Despite that lofty ambition, the current plans for Wotans Nation sound like the designs for a commune or a Pagan nature retreat: structures for both permanent tenants and like-minded visitors to inhabit a community built on certain shared philosophies and group rituals. At the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, an intentional community in northeast Missouri, the philosophy is ecological sustainability and the shared rituals are timber framing workshops and cooperative singing weekends; at Oak Spirit Sanctuary, just down the road from me in Boonville, Missouri, it’s Shamanic Wicca and the cycle of esbats and sabbats.
To hear Wotans Nation tell it, “the nation” will be a place for Heathens to reconnect to the “power of nature” and to indulge their “primal instinct to return to [their] natural roots.” They claim life in Wotans Nation will involve “training programs in all aspects of natural living, theological study, ceremony, tradition, self reliance” [sic].
It is an appealing image on the surface, speaking to the desires many of us in the Pagan community feel for a way of life that improves upon the one we have. I can read parts of the Wotans Nation website and share the desires implied within its manifesto. I do feel that modern American life disenchants us from the natural world; I do feel that the bonds of community have grown weaker and weaker under the relentless pressure of neoliberal capitalism; I do long for a way of living that would let me feel more completely Heathen.
Unfortunately, as both the Times Free Press and The Wild Hunt have reported, the couple at the center of Wotans Nation, Angela and Eric Meadows, have a history with outright Nazism, having once been members of the National Socialist Movement and the League of the South. Although the website goes to great pains to avoid using the word “white” to describe the desired citizens of Wotans Nation, the language used instead makes that position clear: they view Heathenry as “traditional religious and spirituality [sic] of the indigenous Europeans that make up the majority in this nation,” a position that leaves little doubt of the connection being made between Heathenry and whiteness.
Most telling of all, the penultimate statement in their manifesto notes Wotans Nation hopes to “ensure a future for our faith, our folk and for our children” – a statement that may seem innocuous but resembles the infamous “fourteen words” of the white supremacist Odinist David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” I suppose it is possible that the two statements only resemble one another coincidentally – but let’s not kid ourselves. Eric Meadows once hosted the “White Power Hour” internet radio program. There’s no accident here.
Wotans Nation claims, in its most recent blog post, that it takes no political stances and endorses no political parties, that it is a purely theological organization. Such a statement in itself is a smokescreen, an attempt to obscure that theology cannot help but be political. Perhaps the founders of Wotans Nation no longer openly endorse Nazism, but their theology has white supremacy at its heart; it can’t help but reflect those politics, regardless of their claims to the contrary.
All that said, it should not be surprising to us at this point that there is a racist current in Heathenry, nor that racist Heathens would avail themselves of the opportunity to make a separatist commune in the United States. There have been plenty of attempts to create these kinds of projects in America, including many from both the Pagan and the racist wavelengths that Wotans Nation draws upon; in that sense, there isn’t much novel about this project, save for its mixture of the two currents.
One instinctive response to this story would be to declare the entire idea behind Wotans Nation to be “not us,” a foreign concept that bears no relationship to “true Heathenry.” That was certainly my first reaction. But I think it’s a disingenuous response. For one thing, we can’t just declare something “not Heathen” because it horrifies us – to do so absolves us of the responsibility to counter those elements within our religion. It lets us pretend that there is no relationship between the overt white supremacists and the rest of us, which is precisely the dynamic that allows white supremacy to maintain its grasp on the broader American culture. The truth is that developments like Wotans Nation are very much a part of Heathenry, and very much a part of Paganism in general; my personal revulsion to racism in Heathenry does not excuse me from having a responsibility to acknowledge and fight back against it. Quite the opposite.What troubles me about Wotans Nation is that the idea of a community where the residents joyfully and willingly make Heathenry a foundational part of their lives seems beautiful in the abstract. We spend so much of our lives in denuded, disenchanted spaces where we are made to think only in terms of how much money we can acquire and how many toys for which we can trade. The desire that Wotans Nation describes for a life centered around a connection to the wilderness and to religious tradition is one that seems wholly rational to me; it is a similar impetus that has kept me going back to the Gaea Retreat again and again for so many years. I think of my favorite place on Earth, the vé at Gaea called Forn Halr, an oak tree with a Thor’s hammer hanging from its bough; to me, it is a place of devotion and welcome. But I acknowledge that not all Heathens will see the same thing when they look at that tree.
Pagan land is a beautiful idea – a place to be free, to build communities that provide an alternative to the alienation forced on us by modernity. Wotans Nation, it must be said, would indeed provide such an alternative – but one that responds to disaffection with only further domination.
* * *
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.
SaveSaveRead more »
- Trader in illegal animal parts prosecuted
INVERNESS, Scotland — Gordon Taylor, the owner of an online business called Wild Wizard Crafts, has been prosecuted following a raid on his home. Taylor, known in the Pagan community as Kai Seidr, had posted animal parts parts for sale, including owl heads in jars, a pendant made from the foot of a tawny owl, and other items, directed at the Pagan and shamanic market.Seidr admitted to trading in parts from protected species and was given a £750 fine. Assistant prosecutor Laura Buchan is quoted as saying, “I welcome today’s sentence and the message it sends to anyone involved in this illegal market. The existence of such a market drives persecution of these protected species. In addition the prosecution highlights to other commercial sellers that they need to understand the legislation and take seriously their obligations in respect of the international convention on the trade in endangered species of fauna and flora.”
The law on dealing in animal parts is strict in the U.K. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 covers wildlife protection, including protection of wild birds, their eggs and nests, protection of other animal and protection of plants. Taxidermists are permitted to sell stuffed examples of currently protected species if they date from an earlier period (prior to 1947) such as Victorian or Edwardian examples. However, with regard to later species, they are required to show provenance: it is not, for example, illegal to stuff an owl that you find dead, but you need a certificate for it, called an A10. Certification is currently issued in line with EU law and requires the species concerned to be listed along with a log book number and cause of death (for example: hit by a car). There are then a number of options which must be ticked – for instance, that the specimen was taken from the wild in accordance with the legislation in the member state.
Tight laws do not just apply to British wildlife. Currently, trading in antique ivory produced before 1947 is still legal, but is unfortunately being used as a cover for illegally obtained ivory. The World Wildlife Fund is therefore seeking a ban on the entire ivory trade within the U.K. in order to stamp out the root cause: illegal elephant killing. They are also seeking tighter measures on wildlife trading offences:
“We are currently advocating for the introduction of sentencing guidelines for wildlife trade offences in England and Wales. A new report by WWF analysed 174 cases of illegal wildlife trade in England and Wales and found that sentencing was considered to be inconsistent and lenient when the high profits and significant harms of offending were taken into account. The report shows that one of the reasons for lenient sentences is that judges and sentencers might not be informed about the seriousness of wildlife trade offences.”
They are working with the Wildlife Crime Initiative, launched in 2014, which is a collaborative effort between the WWF and TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network). They state, “As part of the campaign in the U.K., we called on government ministers to recognise the importance of the National Wildlife Crime Unit – a specialist police unit working to stop wildlife crime in the U.K. – and commit to providing sustained, long-term funding for the unit.
“This was achieved in 2014 when the government extended its funding for the unit for two years. We’ll continue to campaign to secure the future of the unit, including funding for a specialist officer dedicated to the growing problem of illegal internet-based wildlife trade.”
Pagans, particularly people working shamanically with animal parts, need to be conscious that they must be aware of the law (ignorance of the law being no excuse) with regard to animal and bird parts, even if these are found items.
Seidr declined to comment to the Wild Hunt.Read more »
- Priestesses & Priests: A Somewhat Spirited Defense of TitlesTerms such as High Priestess or High Priest can be problematic, but I still think they have value. Read more »
- The 2017 Hornie Awards (Superlatives and Condemnations)Strike up the band and get ready for the red carpet, it's time for the most prestigious awards in all of Pagandom, The Hornie Awards! Read more »Powered by: RSS Feed News Blocks