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
- Column: Sessions Thumps, Clergy Jumps
The executive branch of the federal government of the United States has gone biblical.
On June 14, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible while responding to criticism of his April 6 announcement of a “zero-tolerance policy” for “illegal entry into the United States by an alien” and his May 7 statements that the Department of Justice would work with the Department of Homeland Security to take children away from anyone “smuggling” them into the country.
The Attorney General’s comments were made one day after Catholic Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston released a public statement denouncing Sessions’ decisions on family separation. After drawing connections between giving aid to asylum seekers, preserving the right to life, and protecting female victims of domestic violence, Cardinal DiNardo addressed the issue of young children:
Additionally, I join Bishop Joe Vásquez, Chairman of USCCB’s [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] Committee on Migration, in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexico border as an implementation of the Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.
During his June 14 speech defending Trump administration policies on immigration, the grim visage of Sessions broke into a wide grin as he seemed to respond to DiNardo’s comments by providing religious justification for taking away children from parents who have illegally crossed the southern border of the United States:Later on the same day, Jim Acosta of CNN mentioned Sessions’ comments and asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Where does it say in the Bible that it’s moral to take children away from their mothers?”
And I would cite you to the apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent, fair application of law is in itself a good and moral thing, and it protects the weak. It protects the lawful.
Despite stating that she was “not aware of the Attorney General’s comments or what he would be referencing,” Sanders appeared to read from a prepared statement on her lectern as she responded, “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”
Christian Leaders Respond
The next day, Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe of the United Methodist Church issued a statement titled “A shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel” that addressed the statements of “our fellow United Methodist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”
The crux of the statement is the assertion that “[t]o argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel.”
Other Christian leaders made similar comments. The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s website features a post with the impressively lengthy title “COB Statement RE: Condemning Immigrant Family Separation; AME Church condemns use of scripture by Attorney General Sessions to separate immigrant families; From Lies to Liberation: the of [sic] Scripture to Justify Injustice.”
The bishops come out swinging:
We have heard much about the political cult of Mr. Donald Trump over the past few days. Students of cults understand that they abuse and misuse the truth of religious documents to control people and to bend their will. This practice of using “proof text” – scriptural text out of context to achieve some wicked end – is as ancient as the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the Wilderness (Luke 4).
Like Henry-Crowe, the AME bishops assert that the Bible cannot properly be used to justify what they themselves stand against: “The Bible does not justify discrimination masked as racism, sexism, economic inequality, oppression or the abuse of children.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic Archbishop of New York, made similar statements during a television interview:
I don’t think we should obey a law that goes against what God intends that you would take a baby, a child, from his or her mom. I mean, that’s just unjust. That’s unbiblical. That’s un-American. There could be no Bible passage that would justify that.
Dolan also made a further remark on the relationship of the Bible and the federal government: “God’s law trumps man’s law, alright?”A few days later, this assertion of theocracy over democracy was amplified by another American Catholic who often speaks on political issues, the Jesuit priest Reverend James Martin. Speaking with Newsweek writers about Sessions, he said, “Basically what he’s doing is cherry-picking. He’s taking a verse out of context. All of Paul is about how God’s law supersedes human law.”
Martin also asserted that Session’s “idea that the law is kind of an idol is ridiculous. God’s law supersedes all of that. We see I think the dangers of putting law in front of morality.”
Echoing the statements of the Methodist clergy, Martin told Newsweek that
Romans 13 has been used to justify everything from slavery to regulations in Nazi Germany. So again we see the danger of taking a Bible verse out of context and using it as a kind of weapon to sort of beat people into submission to the law. That is not what Saint Paul is about. That’s certainly not what Jesus is about.
The Jesuit concluded with a sentiment that appeared in many of the critical responses to Sessions use of the Bible:
I would say to Attorney General Sessions, with all respect, if you’re going to read that one verse from Romans, you should read the whole New Testament and see if you come out with a different understanding of how we’re supposed to treat our brothers and sisters on the border.
I would say to Martin and the others, with all respect, you’re following Sessions down the rabbit hole.
“When you call my name, I salivate like a Pavlov dog”
Kudos to all who spoke out against the Trump administration policy of separating children from parents at the border. We need more people of good conscience from all religions and of no religion to resist the downward spiral of jingoistic nationalism, racialist rhetoric, and crass cash-grabbing that the current administration is wallowing in.
However, these perhaps well-meaning clerics have stepped into a lane that has been quite busy since Donald Trump first declared his candidacy for president three years ago last Saturday.
Over these past thirty-six months, public figures in religion, media, and academia have allowed the Trump entourage to set the terms of the public discussion. Trump or one of his minions makes a confrontational statement or takes a belligerent action, and the Pavlovian reaction floods the airwaves and the internet.
A master of 1980s-style self-marketing, Trump manipulated the media into providing him with free advertising during the campaign. It seemed that every hour of news on the supposedly liberal National Public Radio would begin with a clip of whatever kooky thing the Republican candidate had said that day. Trump would assert that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists, and the pundits would dutifully discuss what percentage of Mexican immigrants can legitimately be considered criminals and rapists. The media agenda was set by its supposed subject.
This approach to dealing with Trump’s declarations and actions by giving them unfettered attention has continued unabated since he was elected. He rings the bell, and everyone drools.
Of course, the media should cover the president and his administration. Religious leaders should speak out when they believe the tenets of their faith are being used and abused by officials elected and appointed.
The big issue is that so many so often enter into the arena built by the Trumpists rather than resisting the guiding hand of the administration as it pushes them where it will. Instead of focusing on ongoing improper and criminal actions taken by the administration and its circle, so many allow themselves to be buffeted about by the endless manufactured outrages designed daily by Trump advisor Stephen Miller and the rest of the gang.
The specific problem here is that much of the response to Sessions’ citation of the Bible to assert that “God has ordained the government for his purposes” makes no bones about the fact that the Attorney General of the United States is claiming divine mandate for administration policies.There is a particularly American comfort with this hoary old idea – a comfort that has long been seen as bizarre by leaders of other nations.
In 2007, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair explained why he only spoke publicly about his Christian beliefs after he had left public office:
Well it’s difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system. I mean if you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say yes that’s fair enough and it is something they respond to quite naturally.
You talk about it in our system and frankly people do think you’re a nutter. I mean they sort of, you know you maybe go off and sit in the corner and you know commune with, with the man upstairs and then come back and say right I’ve been told the answer and that’s it.
A USA Today/Gallup poll the same year underscored Blair’s point, showing that being an atheist was the single largest disqualifier for American presidential candidates. 53% of respondents stated that they would not vote for an atheist, a number that was up a full 10% from responses to the same question seventy years earlier.
The poll showed that anti-atheism was by far the strongest prejudice among American voters in presidential elections at the time. By comparison, only 5% said they would not vote for an African-American, 7% were anti-Jewish, and 11% opposed a woman running for the office.
How many Americans agree with Sessions’ assertion of divine mandate? The Christian leaders discussed above provided no pushback against this claim and instead focused narrowly on the issue of family separation and whether or not the Bible could correctly be cited to support it.
By doing so, they allowed Sessions to set the terms of the discussion. The question being discussed was not, should federal government officials be citing the Bible to justify policy decisions? Instead, the common sentiment was, God’s law is above federal law, and the Bible can only be read in a way that supports our side of the public policy debate.
It could be claimed that these Christian clergy are simply promoting their faith as any religious leader would do. I call shenanigans on that idea.
As a practicing Ásatrú clergyperson, I would be horrified if an Attorney General stood up and publicly cited the Old Norse Odin poem Hávamál (“Sayings of the High One”) to justify the righteous Odinic power of the federal government.Anyone can discuss interpretations of ancient texts, whether they are clergy, practitioners, or atheists. Anyone can find a passage in one of these texts that can be read in a way that seems to justify their political beliefs, left, right, or center. This has been done from time immemorial. To argue that there is only one, true, and correct reading of a Biblical passage is to embrace fundamentalism.
What I believe should be left in the past is the claim by any official of a democratically elected government in these United States that their authority rests not with the will of the people but instead with the will of some particular deity.
Whatever Jeff Sessions may or not believe in his heart is his business and is an internal issue within his own faith community. Once he openly declares that the administration of which he is a part is acting with the force of divine will, it becomes a public issue. It is an assault on the foundations of our secular democracy, and it must be opposed.
The fact that so many Christian leaders openly and publicly responded to Sessions by declaring “God’s law trumps man’s law” is deeply problematic, as is the fact that the media featured their declarations without challenge. Would they have been so obliging if an Odinist declared, Odin’s law trumps man’s law, or if a jihadist declared, Allah’s law trumps man’s law?
The waters of public discourse have been willfully muddied by the Trump cohort, as evidenced by the gleeful grin with which Sessions made his biblical pronouncement and the belligerence with which Sanders gave her supposedly non-prepared reaction. When religious leaders respond by agreeing in spirit with the idea that their deity should determine the actions of government officials, they do nothing to clear the waters.Read more »
- Column: Safety Dance
We’re in the the long and lazy days of summer, and yet, out of habit, I’ve made it into the office. I’m sitting around, minding my own business. I’m good at that. (I’m also good at finding lint, but no one pays me for that.) In the summer, academics are often left to their own devices, daydreaming about research, or travel, or giving everyone an F – that kind of fun.But there’s a hellish risk to visiting the office in the low season: people want to chat. The abandon of summer empowers my colleagues to ask all sorts of questions. I tend to answer with a deep breath, a smile, and a silent thought.
“Are you having fun?” I was.
“I love bruschetta and Alfredo. How do you say bruschetta in Italian?” Vaffanculo.
“Can you make people do things with Witchcraft?” I clearly need more practice, or you would leave me alone.
“Do you feel safe around here?” Hmmm. Now that’s a complex question.
My colleague’s question about safety catches me off-guard. It’s Pride Month, and so when I hear the word “safe,” I automatically think about the term in that context. I understand the question as evoking the creation of safe spaces that have evolved over the past few decades to create a haven from prejudice.
My office is one of those safe spaces. I have a pink triangle “Safe Zone” sticker on my door, and I’m clear about what that means. It means that that a person’s minoritized gender or sexual identity has no bearing on whether they are welcome or supported. It also means that I will block any hate speech I encounter – gender, sexual, racial, religious, whatever it might be. I won’t allow it to happen here.
I also recognize, however, that we’ve allowed this term, “safe,” to take on a lot of bloat. Does being safe mean being free of risk? Does it mean being supported? Does it mean being welcomed? Does it mean being protected? In particular, I wonder if my colleague is conflating emotional safety with an academic freedom to debate controversial ideas. The latter meaning is a jargonized way of understanding the term “safe” that has been contextualized to the privileged space of academia.
The sign on my door is also misleading. I can’t really guarantee emotional protection. I also can’t really assure anybody that my office, lab, or building is risk-free. I can’t promise that a passersby won’t yell at them, insult them, or worse. I can’t promise that an innocent remark will not have bigoted overtones. But I can confront the person who makes that remark. I can insist on respectful dialogue and do my part to prevent abuse from recurring. And I can take steps to prevent a person from adding to the harm.
All of this is also true in the Pagan cultural landscape. We talk about festivals being “safe spaces.” We talk about ritual space as a “safe space.” We even expect “safe spaces” when we congregate for meetings.
Now, we should expect some of that safety. It’s not only expected given our codes for hospitality, but it’s also an acknowledgement of the reality that our community experiences real and present forms of discrimination. We experience that discrimination not just through ostracism, but through all sorts of marginalization, from the economic to the spiritual. So we should affirm that bias against Pagans, writ large, is real, and that we should create safe spaces in response to that bias.
That said, Paganism – in all its forms – is a choice. It is a path we select. We can acknowledge the sense of being called by the rightness of that path. We can desire freedom from being persecuted based on our practice. We can even experience a coming out of sorts, where we accept the implications of the path we’ve chosen and openly discuss them.
To do this does take bravery. But let’s be clear, this challenge is not the same as the struggle that trans people experience in accepting their identity or a gay people, or the struggle of being black in society. I could go on. These are groups whose realities were not created by choice, and their calls for safe spaces go far beyond comfort – they are a matter of survival. Their notion of safety is about literally being safe.
Given the recent public declaration about witchcraft from some powerful organizations, the NRA among them, I fear some of this may be true for our community as well – Satanic Panic II: The Phantom Menace, just as bad as the first. Even still, the burden is less. At the end of the day, we can pass.There is still more to discuss around this issue of safety, about the work that we do for spiritual and emotional clarity. When my colleague asked the question “Do you feel safe?,” the witch in me thought, I hope not. Spiritual work and awakening is not about embracing safety. It is an act of squirming through acceptance of self and others while drowning in countless realities and realizations. Spiritual leaders got there through spiritual boot camp. They never sought safety- they sought change.
I found my puzzled voice forced to ask a question: since when do Witches sail in safe waters?
The very act of referring to oneself as a witch is a violent assault on social normativity. Its use reclaims millennia of oppression and rejects a powerful social order. It is a political embrace of otherness, capable of penetrating the lies and commandments of the kyriarchy. In calling ourselves witches, we are not forging a safe space for ourselves; we are announcing that we are a sober and awakened threat, a tool for karma and justice.
Our whispers are shockwaves that cleave through illusions of control. Our spellwork is seen as an act of spiritual and material terror. We represent the power of subversion through truth. We carry mantles held by the spiritual leaders and mystics that have altered history. We cut through the cowardice built within organized faiths that demand obedience: we unmask the fragile egos of the powerful. We are a danger because we are free willed.
We are not the ones in need of safe space. We are the ones who can create it for others. I have no doubt that we will continue to do what Witches have done since Endor. (Not that Endor, Jedis.) We will comfort. We will protect. We will keep silent.Read more »
- Happy summer solstice!
TWH – For many people around the world, this week marks the celebration of the summer solstice, also known as midsummer or Litha. It is at this time that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun. The astrological date for this year’s solstice is June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern time.
In honor of the abundance of daylight and sunshine, communities have long used bonfires, music, dancing, and outdoor festivals as traditional features of both religious rituals and secular celebrations. In some modern Pagan practices, it is believed that this holiday represents the highest ascendancy of masculine divinity.There are several international secular commemorations that correspond to the midsummer holiday. In 1982, Make Music Day, held annually June 21, was established in France and has since spread to become a global solstice celebration of sound. On that same day, others will be honoring the United Nations’ official International Yoga Day, while still others will be taking to the warm summer mountain trails to celebrate Naked Hiking Day.
June also marks gay pride month — officially proclaimed as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month — which has grown in popularity over the past few decades. Events are held during this month to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, which happened in New York City on June 28, 1969.
June is also the month in which many countries honor fathers and father figures and, in the U.S, it also marks the observation of Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery.
While those celebrations mentioned above are all examples of secular-based traditions, there are just as many religious holidays that occur at this time, many of which are honored by modern Pagans, Heathens and polytheists. As already noted, there is the celebration of Litha or midsummer, or conversely Yule and midwinter.
The Fires of St. John festival, a Christian holiday, is also held at this time in many countries and is closely associated with the older midsummer solstice’s traditions, including bonfires and feasts. Similar celebrations are found in many European countries, often known by different names.
In Vodun, Lucumi and other African diaspora religions, there are a number of feast days celebrated around this time, including the feasts of Ochossi and Eleggua.
Here are a few thoughts on the season:
As modern Pagans, we have multiple options for what to focus on and how to celebrate this special point in the year. Most of us probably don’t have the resources to put on a huge midsummer mystery play the way the ancient Minoans probably did at their big temples, [b]ut we can celebrate with modern-style ritual that focuses on the Minoan deities who are associated with this time of year. – Laura Perry, Summer Solstice: Celebrating Modern Minoan Paganism
Midsummer is one of the times of year — and there are several — where the fairy folk tend to be more active. Unlike other times this increased activity is generally more benevolent, although what the good people consider benevolent and what we would describe that way may not be entirely similar concepts. – Morgan Daimler, Irish-American Witchcraft: Midsummer, the Fair Folk, and Some Advice
The summer solstice is the time to acknowledge Hekate as the keeper of the keys of all creation and along our personal journey. Three contemporary ways to incorporate Hekate into solstice workings include a gratitude ritual, personal sovereignty work and seeking her assistance for shadow taming . . . . While there are many aspects of Hekate that can be incorporated into summer solstice activities and rituals, I honor her as keeper of the keys. This ancient reference from the Orphic hymn and other sources resonated deeply with me from when she first called to me. I see her as the gatekeeper of all things, from the key holder for the doors I open throughout my life’s journey to the cosmic world soul that unlocks the material world. – Cyndi Brannen, Hekate and the Summer Solstice: Suggestions for Themes, Rituals and Correspondences
On the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and sunlight is channelled into the centre of the monument. It is believed that solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years. The site holds special significance for members of the Druid and Pagan community, who perform rituals and celebrations at the summer and winter solstices.” – BBC, Summer solstice: Thousands gather at Stonehenge for longest day
Happy solstice to all!Read more »
- Facebook promotion of WitchsFest USA blocked
NEW YORK –WitchsFest USA has been held each summer for the better part of a decade on Astor Place, but this is the first time the event has been deemed “spam” on Facebook, or at least the first time that a flag has impacted promotional efforts for the day-long street fair. According to co-founder Starr RavenHawk, posts touting the event have been widely removed as spam, and she herself has been subject to filtering that prevents her from even using the word “witch” on the social media site.All seemed well the morning of June 18, RavenHawk recalled, but when she got home at the end of the day she discovered a number of automated messages in her Facebook account. “All the posts, videos, and event pages had been removed as spam,” she said. Moreover, the same thing happened when those posts were shared by presenters, vendors, and others seeking to encourage attendance.
Many friends and associates tried to come to RavenHawk’s aid when she posted about the problem. Some offered advice, others theories about the cause. However, since direct responses from Facebook staff members are exceedingly hard to come by, it all amounts to speculation or hearsay. For example, one friend of RavenHawk’s advised — based on the opinion of another, unnamed friend who reputedly works for Facebook — that given the thoroughness of the removals, it was almost certainly the actions of a human being, not an algorithm.
Those removals cut through RavenHawk’s recent posts with the skill of a surgeon, putting the kibosh on anything she shared that promoted WitchsFest USA, its vendors, presenters, or entertainers, while leaving references to the Wiccan Family Temple — which she also founded — completely untouched.What was affected were Facebook events to promote the event, and posts originally placed on event pages highlighting particular vendors and presenters. RavenHawk sees a common element in that they all contained the word “witch.” However, the WitchsFest USA page itself, from which the event was hosted, has not been removed.
“They’re literally banning the event,” RavenHawk said. She’s followed the same format as in years past for how and when she posts on the event page, but without any substantive feedback she is in the dark as to what went wrong. Left guessing, she’s been “walking on eggshells,” trying to promote the festival through its Facebook page without creating events, but not entirely sure what might be taken down.
As it happens, RavenHawk herself seems to be given an extra level of scrutiny./ She can’t post the web address for WitchsFest USA, or even the word “witch,” on Facebook at all. When she tries — even in a private message — she gets a message advising that it’s blocked instead. An attempt to follow that link from the fair’s Facebook page returned a message, “We believe the link you are trying to visit is malicious. For your safety, we have blocked it.”
Other associates offered guesses as to why this has happened. One suggested that, in the wake of a recent post on an NRA site about Witches, the word “witch” itself is perhaps being targeted, presumably by unknown conspirators. RavenHawk also wondered if an individual, barred from contacting her by an order of protection, has anything to do with it; attempts at contact were recently made, she said.
In addition to following the online appeals process, RavenHawk said that a letter was drafted on Wiccan Family Temple letterhead, in which it was explained that WitchsFest USA is a fundraiser for the temple. While that’s true, it’s a difficult way to get money, as a considerable amount must be paid into city coffers to pay for the street fair permits, among other expenses.
The situation is frustrating, since a good deal of people still use Facebook to connect and other marketing avenues will need to be explored in short order if it isn’t resolved. It can also be seen as infuriating, because advertising on Facebook has been part of the marketing plan.
“They took our money, and were fine with it,” RavenHawk said, and have been since 2012. On the other hand, the price for the witchy keywords they’ve always used skyrocketed this year, starting at $750, and it was decided they were no longer a good choice given the narrow margins for the fair.
Despite these issues, WitchsFest USA 2018 will go on as schedule. It is being held July 14 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette, and will continue on July 15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Hell’s Kitchen on West 39th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues.Read more »
- Home explosion strands three Pagans
NOTTINGHAM, England — Around 4 p.m. on the night of June 6, an explosion ripped through the house of three Pagans in Bulwell, a suburb of Nottingham. The explosion destroyed their living room and kitchen. The explosion occurred just after Anthony Bowen, Phillippa Morgana Mair Cashion, and Vanessa Amy Bowen had gone to bed. Previously they were watching the Great British Bake Off. Vanessa Bowen and Cashion believe they would have been killed if they were still in their living room.
The police claim that a butane gas cylinder caused the explosion. Philippa said that the residents were unsure about the cause.
The blast killed the fish in their tanks, but their dog and rabbit survived. The Wild Hunt spoke with Cashion about the explosion and its aftermath. As of press time, their traumatized cat has not come out of the rubble of their home.
In an article in the Mirror, an English paper, the three Pagans were described as a couple and their unnamed “friend.” Cashion, the unnamed “friend,” described their relationship as a triad. They were saving money for a triadic handfasting; Robin Hood had once roamed in this area, and they plan to hold their handfasting in nearby Sherwood Forest where he purportedly hid out.Besides being Pagan and in a triad relationship, Cashion and Anthony Bowen live with disabilities. Cashion relies on a wheelchair. She has a cracked sacrum, migraines, fibromyalgia, and several other disabilities which cause her to suffer from more or less constant pain. Anthony Bowen has migraines and ulcerative colitis, among other conditions. He uses a cane and also experiences more or less constant pain. Vanessa Bowen provides care for the others.
Their cat, Thor, slept in the kitchen. After the explosion, that’s where they saw fire. Cashion cannot explain her rescue efforts. “Anthony and I jumped over the [collapsed] living room door. As we are both disabled, me more so than Anthony, I have no idea how we both did that. I can’t even stand long on a given day, but I put the fire out with a saucepan, as I thought the cat may have been in the room.”
Cashion said, “We got Thor in November; he was tiny, flea-infested, and scared of everything. . . . Even when he started exploring, he always ran back to me. He would sit on his hind legs and pull you down for hugs. He was incredibly affectionate. Every night since we had him, he’s come to me to say good night, head butting me, and bopping my nose. He has helped me so much. My health has improved quite a lot since he came. The idea of him cold, scared, and away from me was this huge dead weight on my chest.” Searching for Thor cost Cashion cuts and bruises and a huge glass cut in the sole of her foot. Still, she “would have stood in that kitchen again putting out that fire, if it gave me even a tiny chance of finding him.”The fire department arrived just as Cashion was putting out the last of the fire. At that point her legs gave way. She and Anthony Bowen were taken to the hospital to be treated for cuts.
The local housing estate has placed the three in temporary housing. Disabled people adapt their homes to their special needs. Over the years Cashion has built up these adaptions, which their temporary shelter lacks. “Being unceremoniously ripped away from all of these things has resulted in my health nose diving. An uncomfortable bed for me will result in 24/7 increased pain.”
Cashion and Anthony Bowen have dietary problems that severely restrict what they can eat. Donated food frequently falls outside those restrictions. One night, Cashion reacted violently to the available food. She “was on the floor screaming in pain for hours.” Only their friends and relatives know what food to bring.
The three Pagans escaped the blast with only their pajamas. The rest of their clothes remain in the ruins of their house. Cashion described their appearance when they went to the library. “I was wearing a hospital blanket as an improvised floor-length skirt, Ness [Vanessa Bowen] had one over her shoulders and Anthony was wearing a hospital gown and a pair of too-small jeans. Ness and Anthony had slippers, I had a pair of hospital issue slipper-socks. My wheelchair only had one pedal as the other was still in the house.” Since then, they have received some donated clothes.
Anthony Bowen and Cashion left their large number of medications in the ruins of their home. They have had to reestablish their inventory of prescribed drugs.
The danger of asbestos contamination complicates their situation. If the authorities find asbestos on anything, it will be destroyed.
These three Pagans deviate from the norms of “couple-ist” monogamy, Abrahamic spirituality, and “able-bodiedness.” Cashion has experienced invisibility and ignorance rather than overt hostility. She found a lack of awareness of the special needs that disabled people have. She felt that the housing estate workers would have looked more diligently for a cross or Bible in the rubble than they did for her Thor’s hammer. When she arrived at their temporary housing, she found the furniture reinforcing monogamy. “Two [single beds] were together and the other was pushed off on its own in the corner.” She also tells friends that “the reports should have me down as the crazy disabled woman that put out the fire, rather than a random unnamed person.”
Their mobility issues have prevented Anthony Bowen and Cashion from joining in with the Pagan communities of Nottingham. These three Pagans do, however, prioritize attending the local Pagan Pride event.
A GoFundMe site has been set up to receive donations to assist the three and their pets.Read more »
- Pagan Community Notes: the Binding, the Unnamed Path, Cherry Hill Seminary, and more
TWH – The NRA Institute for Legislative Action published an article in reaction to a documentary film titled the Binding that depicts modern Witches performing a binding spell inspired by Michael Hughes‘ work. First reported on by The Wild Hunt, the film, which was produced and directed by Patrick Foust, features members of the Firefly House and includes author and activist David Salisbury. Foust told TWH that the inspiration for The Binding came when [he] saw news footage of Witches conducting a binding ritual on President Trump in February 2017.
The NRA ILA reaction to the film was published June 15, and has since triggered a number of other media articles, including one in Fortune magazine and another at Raw Story. After the NRA writer discusses the film’s content, he or she reports that the organization “has not experienced any uptick in paranormal activity or supernatural suppression of [their] affairs.” The Fortune and Raw Story stories take a different tone, acknowledging the presence of modern Witches and mocking the NRA. Raw Story‘s article, for example, is titled “NRA whines anti-gun witches are hurling curses at them and Donald Trump.” The NRA article also triggered a number of social media posts both mocking the organization and also supporting it, including some religion-based warnings against the practice of Witchcraft. One tweet reads, “The occult is real and dangerous.The scriptures say specifically do not practice this evil art.”
Despite the growing number of media and blog reports on the subject, the film itself has not been released; TWH was offered a private showing for the interview in the original article. Foust says he will be entering the film in the upcoming fall festival circuit. As for Salisbury, he said that there have been some attacks but most of them are coming from other Witches and Pagans. “We all expected this. Pagans often enjoy being critical of each other rather than focusing on our own work,” he said, adding, “As for the gun people, I’m not worried. I have a great deal of privilege that enables me to do public work with relative safety. In any case, the conversation about protecting our youth from violence has a little more attention on it today and that’s what it’s all about in the end. The spell is achieving its goals in that way.”
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — In other political news, the Brotherhood of the Unnamed Path issued a public statement on the separation of children of immigrants from their parents, which reads in part, “We stand against these policies as dictated and enforced by the attorney general and the current administration. We condemn in the strongest terms the justification of these actions by statement of religious scripture or by indicating a need to intimidate and provoke fear.” The statement goes on to say that the organization “includes some whose families have been here only a generation, some whose families have been here many generations, and some are descendants from the people who set foot on the North American continent almost 20,000 years ago.” It was released June 17 and includes a call for the immediate end of this practice.
The Unnamed Path is a “spiritual tradition revealed to [its members] from the ancestors of men-who-love-men. It is rooted in age-old techniques practiced around the world that foster relationships with the divine, the ancestors, the spirits in the land and with each other.” It was founded by Hyperion, who died in 2014. The brotherhood continues to thrive, hosting a annual fall festival called Stone and Stang. As demonstrated by the recent statement, its members also engage in community actions and political activism.
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Cherry Hill Seminary and the University of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology will be sponsoring a conference in 2019. The event’s title is “Paganism and its Discontents: Enduring Problems of Racialized Identity.” The keynote speaker is Michael Strmiska, who is an associate professor in global studies at the State University of New York – Orange.
Cherry Hill Seminary is currently looking for conference papers. The call states, “We welcome papers that explore the following issues: ethnic vs. universal Paganism, attempted co-option of Pagan ideas and symbols by hate groups, addressing under-the-radar racism in Pagan groups, irredentist ideas in our mythologies, reconstructionism or racism and xenophobia?, the implications and consequences of Declaration 127, and the reemergence of ethno-nationalism and its impact on current events. “The deadline to submit is Dec. 3, 2018. The conference, which will take place in March 16-18 2019, will be held on the USC campus in Columbia.
In other news:
- Tomorrow marks the celebration of Juneteenth. In 2017, columnist Crystal Blanton reflected on the observance and its meaning today., writing, “What makes this particular holiday different than other culturally-based celebrations is the historical importance of this moment for all Americans. This specific day in time acknowledges a very important step in the shift of what was to become the next level of fight for freedom in this country.”
- Freyja, the grandmother of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, has created a digital book about her grandson and his life. The memorial book is titled Taliesin’s Rainbow: a Bard’s Story. It is available on this website, which was built after Meche’s death and in honor of his life and his heroism.
- Pagans in Australia are raising money to bring Damh the Bard and Cerri to the country for an April 2019 concert. Led by the band Spiral Dance, the community is planning the concert for April 17, which is the evening before the Adelaide Druid Camp. The location will be announced sooner to the event.
- Eye of the Telescope, the online journal of speculative poetry for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, will be publishing an issue focused on witches. “A witch is defined as someone who is said to possess usually malignant supernatural powers. Since speculative fiction covers fantasy and science fiction as well as horror, we’re going to focus on ‘usually’ in that definition. I want any take on witches with any gender,” writes editor Ashley Dioses. The deadline for submission is Sept. 15. The issue will be available Oct 15, just in time for Halloween.
Tarot of the week with Star Bustamonte
Deck: Wheel of the Year by Maria Caratti, artwork by Antonella Platano, published by Lo Scarabeo
Card: ace of swords
The week ahead will require a fair amount of focus, clear thinking and discernment. If you find yourself unsure of what is being asked of you or what you are being presented with, ask for clarification. This card almost always reflects decisive action.
Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.Read more »
- Tarot roundup: manga, Greek gods, Alice, and TV
Zeus, Dr. Who, Alice in Wonderland, Medusa, those Sex and the City gals, and manga-influenced art are featured in new tarot decks. Here’s a look.
Mystical Manga Tarot
Barbara Moore, illustrated by Rann, 78 cards, 175-page book (Llewellyn).
Barbara Moore calls herself a “tarot shaman” and says she uses the cards to explore “the magic and mystery of everyday life.”
She’s also the co-creator, with various artists, of Tarot in Wonderland, Cats Inspirational Oracle Cards, Earth Wisdom Oracle, the Gilded Tarot, Hip Witch Tarot Kit, Steampunk Tarot, the Vampire Tarot of Eternal Night, and other decks.
“A shaman is someone who, among other things, travels to worlds in non-ordinary reality to search for wisdom and guidance,” Moore writes on her website. “Shamans work with helping spirits and teachers, seeking to bring healing to the people they serve. While I am certainly not a traditional shaman, the work I do with tarot and the way I approach life is similar and incorporates shamanistic practices.”
In line with her steampunk, vampire and hip witch decks, Moore continues her tradition of mashing up pop culture and traditional tarot with Mystical Manga Tarot. French illustrator Rann uses the style of manga — those Japanese graphic novels and comics that feature sharp-chinned, pale-skinned, always-youthful characters — to render a deck that mirrors traditional Rider-Waite imagery. Even the hermit and the devil (a Pan-looking satyr) appear no older than 19.Curiously, Moore includes no discussion, or even a passing mention, in the 175-page, full-color guidebook of why she believes manga style is conducive to tarot, but she does take up the subject online, writing: “The images of Mystical Manga Tarot have that lovely modern balance of combining symbolic and evocative art. It would be easy to dismiss a manga deck as being merely illustrative but there is something special about so many of these images.”
The deck’s book, however, is more than a collection of card descriptions and divinatory meanings. 48 pages are devoted to how to work with the cards. A basic tarot glossary and a question-and-answer section are user-friendly enough for first-time tarot users. The questions include, “Can I use the tarot to spy on my ex or tell me if my boyfriend is cheating on me?” and, “Will cards show if someone is going to die?”
A lengthy how-to section includes six sample spreads and tips such as, “[p]retend a celebrity has asked for a reading and practice on them.”
The major arcana is described as “a map of a journey of enlightenment” as seen through the eyes of the fool. All descriptions of the 22 major arcana cards relate each card to the fool and his journey. “If the fool knew that death followed the hanged man, he might not have had the courage to live his beliefs so fully,” reads the segment on the death card.
The star description reads: “The fool’s commitments have been tested both internally and externally and, to tell you the truth, he feels pretty battered and worn out. Luckily he gets to visit the star.”
On the Llewellyn website, Moore says that the Mystical Manga Tarot “would be an ideal beginner deck.” Experienced tarot aficionados should find plenty in the deck to engage themselves, too.
Greek Mythology Reading Cards
Alison Chester-Lambert, illustrated by Richard Crookes, 50 cards, 112-page book (Findhorn Press).Alison Chester-Lambert certainly has the academic background to have co-created Greek Mythology Reading Cards. Along with studying Greek literature, she also earned a master’s degree in cultural astronomy and astrology from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Yes, a university degree in astrology. The school’s website says it “is the only academic degree in the world to examine our relationship with the cosmos.”
“The stories of ancient Greece gave its people their history, moral principles, laws, and their spiritual support,” Chester-Lambert writes in the deck’s small-sized guide booklet. “The different aspects of human nature and human experience all had accompanying gods and goddesses that could be learned from or consulted.
“Deities could be implored for support and guidance in times of stress, so if you suspected a lover of infidelity, you could consult Hera for help. If you needed strength in a task, Athena might assure you of victory. Perhaps Eros would tell of a passionate new relationship, or we might seek the supremacy and confidence of Zeus.
“The ancient Greek deities are still embedded in our world; we just stopped recognizing and crediting them. Perhaps using these cards will bring them into consciousness again, for their influence could be as powerful today as it was then.”
The Greek mythology deck is not based on a traditional tarot format. Instead of 22 trumps and 56 minor arcana cards, the set consists of 50 cards featuring gods, goddesses, heroes and other mythological figures. Illustrator Richard Crookes rendered the collages of images by digitally reworking public-domain photographs of classical and some modern artworks found in museums in Athens, Berlin, Naples and other cities around the world, from the Louvre to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Some of the art is well known: Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Jupiter et Thetis, John Singer Sargent’s Hercules.
Chester-Lambert pairs the mythological figures with an array of emotions, psychological states and concepts. The familiar deities mostly get the card they deserve: Ares is “warmongering,” Orpheus is “music,” Hermes is “journey,” Aphrodite is “attraction,” Dionysus is “merrymaking,” and Zeus is “supremacy,” for example.
Surprisingly, Medusa — which takes its image from a restored Gorgon from the temple of Athena in Syracuse circa 570-550 B.C.E. — is called “the feminine.” In the deck’s booklet, Chester-Lambert writes: “Medusa was one of three frightening Gorgons, or female demons, with live snakes for hair. . . . Myth says that the sight of her stare will turn a human into stone.”
She relates the tale of Perseus, who cut off Medusa’s head and kept it to use its stare against his enemies.
“The card implies that you may summon the power and magic of the primordial feminine or foddess power to help and strengthen you now,” Chester-Lambert concludes.
Other cards may send readers to a reference work to discover more about such lesser-known mythical figures as Alcmene (“unfairness”), Creusa (“secrets”), and Ouranus (“remoteness”).
Chester-Lambert provides only threadbare directions for reading techniques: less than two pages. She cites “the traditional Celtic cross layout” without detailing it. Those seeking more refined reading techniques will have to look elsewhere.
Tarot in Wonderland
Barbara Moore, illustrated by Eugene Smith, 78 cards, 360-page book (Llewellyn).Barbara Moore’s newest tarot is the latest of a handful of decks to mash up Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass — with tarot imagery.
“The images remain true to the Rider-Waite-Smith cards and will feel familiar to many readers,” the prodigious Moore writes. “Blending the traditional images with another well-loved work of art, the Alice stories, gives the cards a fresh feel. They are recognizable yet very different, creating a dreamlike sensation.
“This sense of strange familiarity creates a perfect state for divination. In readings, we want to find the truth and wisdom that has eluded us. To do that, we need to see differently. Tarot in Wonderland is a lens that helps us do that.”
That hookah-smoking caterpillar as the magician, anyone?
TV Series Tarot
Gero Giglio, 78 cards. 64-page book (Llewellyn).Breaking Bad, Mork and Mindy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Sex and the City, The Addams Family, VEEP, Dr. Who, and 70 other television shows are featured in the TV Series Tarot by Italian artist Gero Giglio, or perhaps not. None of the cards visually referenced by Giglio carry the names of their respective series, and neither are they named in the deck’s book. While The Addams Family as the ten of cups or Twin Peaks as the moon may be obvious, Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards character as the emperor may be too difficult for anyone except a TV critic to identify.
That leads to a tricky but intriguing proposition: do a reading with the TV Series Tarot in order to ask the cards to identify themselves.Read more »
- Column: the Radical Magick of Inclusion
[Today we welcome guest writer Michelle Belanger. Belanger is the author of the Psychic Vampire Codex and founder of House Kheperu.This year, House Kheperu’s Gather is being held in Oberlin, Ohio June 22-24. More information on the event, as well as House Kheperu, can be found at Kheperu.org]
Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Over on Twitter, 5000 Spells author Judika Illes reposted this the other week, along with the observation, “This is exactly how I started writing.”
What followed was a series of “me, too!” posts from accounts that read like a Who’s Who in Witches & Paganism. Christopher Penzcak was there, as was Deborah Blake and Devin Hunter. I chimed in as well. Couldn’t help it. Nearly all of the books I’m known for, from The Psychic Energy Codex to Walking the Twilight Path, exist because a younger me once scoured shops and libraries and came up empty on the topics I desperately needed – and having reliable sources at that crucial stage would have saved a lot of stumbling and tears.
And then I realized – at least in the Pagan community – Morrison’s statement holds true for far more than books. From the Temple of Witchcraft to Circle Sanctuary to The Wild Hunt itself, how many of our organizations and resources exist because someone hoped to find them in the world only to realize that they had to create them first? Again, I know it holds true for myself.
Outsider in the Circle
As a practitioner coming of age in the late 80s and early 90s, I struggled to find an established tradition that fit my experience of the metaphysical world. I’d grown up in a family of psychics. Energy work came naturally, as did a home-grown brand of non-theistic magick that I’d labeled will-work. When I stumbled across Wicca, it held some appeal, but it was so incredibly binary in its vision of the God and the Goddess that it was an immediate turn-off. Other systems weren’t much better, each for different reasons. In all the books I explored (like every solitary practitioner, my first teachers were books), I found pieces that echoed my own experiences, but only scattered and in fragments.Scott Cunningham, Dion Fortune, Michael Harner, Anodea Judith, Shakti Gawain – from each I took something useful, but no single writer’s teachings were a perfect fit.
Once I went to college and had the opportunity to seek out local groups, the difficulties only deepened. I remember meeting my first Wiccan who, upon hearing my experiences with energy work, flat-out told me I was evil and barred me from ever participating in her circles. The New Agers I found objected to the fact that I wore black and didn’t think it was a “negative” color. The psychics thought I was too skeptical. The parapsychologists told me I wasn’t scientific enough – and that was without even mentioning my practice of magick! Over and over again, I was told one piece or another of my personal belief system was wrong, destructive, or inconvenient, and it left me pretty embittered on trying to belong to anything.
More functional than the embitterment was a nagging confusion. You see, I was a religious studies major for most of this, and although I attended a Jesuit Catholic college, my focus was on NRMs (New Religious Movements) and the universality of mystical experience. And one thing that stood out to me as I explored all of these diverse groups was how similar they were once you stripped away their labels and their jargon.
Each of them, from my perspective, was seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between mind, body, and spirit. Nearly all of them were striving toward unmediated metaphysical experience with some universal source, whether they called it “God,” “Goddess,” “Christ-Consciousness,” or simply, “The Universe.” They accepted that people could perceive things beyond their five physical senses, and nearly all of them had some cognate for energy – whether they approached it through loan-words like prana or chi or knew it by a more home-grown term like “orgone.” In fact, as someone forced to be an outsider in each of their groups, my very otherness gave me just enough distance to see that they had more in common than they had differences. But their labels divided them.
Those divisions ultimately drove me to establish my own system, one where we could play with labels but also peek out from behind them, wink, and acknowledge the label as a convenient mask. I stripped away all the things I felt other groups kept getting lost in – robes, tools, symbols of Gods or Goddesses – so no one could mistake the prop for the power. I deconstructed ritual to its most basic components, placing the focus on the group itself and the simple fact that we felt connected when we chose to stand in sacred space together. What was left was a profound awareness of energy and how it flowed through us and between us, especially when we worked with common purpose.
Two years after its founding, I named the group House Kheperu after a passage from a creation myth quoted by Lucie Lamy in Egyptian Mysteries. Up until that point, I’d resisted anything more formal than just “the Family.” There was one label we stuck to, however, and it was the word that had cast me repeatedly as the outsider in all the other groups I’d explored. The word was vampire.
By Any Other Name
Before you scoff and quit reading, consider that both the vampire and the witch have deep and incredibly rich folkloric roots. Through their appearance in folklore, both have served as the inspiration for vibrant literary figures, and their literary characterizations have served to inspire portrayals across a wide variety of media in pop culture. The vampire and the witch both are mythic archetypes evolving through multiple retellings and, through those retellings, they serve as conceptual mirrors reflecting back to us integral, powerful, and sometimes rejected parts of ourselves.
Over the course of the 20th century, the witch was consciously reclaimed as a personal archetype, until the witch as a magickal identity stood separate and distinct from the wizened hag of folklore. These witches – as well you know – are real, living people with a vital tie to elemental powers, an affinity for magick, and a profound resonance with the cycles of the natural world.
Although we’re behind the witches by several decades, the same holds true for modern vampires. The vampire archetype, reclaimed from its folkloric roots, offers a potent magickal identity. That identity is focused on ties to the supernatural rather than the natural world. Vampiric magick is powered not from the elements or the land but from other living people (only with consent!), and vampires tend to resonate with night and shadow and all the mysteries lurking in the dark.
And before you ask – we didn’t think we were Lestat or Dracula any more than your High Priestess believes herself to be the Wicked Witch of the West. That’s the thing about archetypes: you can resonate with parts of them without believing that you are them. Like any other label, they’re tools that help us shape and channel qualities that might otherwise remain too abstract for proper use.
I and the several thousand people active in the modern vampire community didn’t arrive at the vampire as a magickal identity casually or easily, and the very process of adapting the word engendered a keen awareness of how we all shape ourmagickal language. Words have power – but that power is something that we choose.
House Kheperu’s choice of the word “vampire” with all its layered baggage is integral to understanding some of our most valuable work. That work is absolutely informed by my early group experiences, and it comes down largely to peoples’ relationship with labels – how they help us, but also when they hurt.
Internally, House Kheperu’s work with labels involves unpacking all the names and roles and titles we’ve picked up along our journey – through this life and all the others we recall. Father, mother, doctor, priest: every word we choose for ourselves can be a fence or a framework, holding us back or giving support. The onus is on the individual to seek, to assess, and ultimately to decide what’s useful, what isn’t, and what might have use again but should be set aside for now.
Externally, our work with labels leads us to facilitate dialogue between groups and individuals whose difference in language might otherwise obscure their common ground. For over two decades now, through books, events, and websites, we have been bridge builders, reaching out first within the vampire community, then extending that dialogue of inclusion in ever-widening circles. Those circles have come to encompass psychics and light workers, witches, Pagans, paranormal investigators, otherkin – pretty much any group on the Venn Diagram that overlaps on the subjects of spirit and energy work.
Since 1998, House Kheperu has maintained a strong presence on the Internet, but we’ve always functioned best face-to-face. In October of 2000, we started an annual event we call simply “The Gather,” and it’s become our main vehicle for promoting tolerance and dialogue among diverse groups.
There’s no denying the usefulness of Digital Age communication, but there’s a certain organic quality that gets lost in exchanges on social media, emails, and even in texts. Some of that again comes down to the limitations of language and how words can hold different meanings for everyone who encounters them. And this is why we find it so important to create inclusive spaces in real-time. There is a measure of freedom obtained through the anonymity of a web handle, but people really shine as their most authentic selves when they find themselves in a space that feels safe and free of judgment. The best real-time events foster a sense of communitas that allows even the most introverted among us to feel at ease among their tribe.
When I first started building such spaces, it was at the tail-end of the Satanic Panic when there was a very real threat of violence and wrongful imprisonment against anyone practicing a tradition seen as “occult” or “un-Christian.”Those spaces were our havens, and, at least in the Midwest, it very much felt like we were part of a magickal underground hiding from the oppression of our dominant culture.
Then, for a time, that changed. Our dominant culture felt like it was growing beyond its narrow-mindedness and its prejudice, at least for certain things. Alternative practices like yoga, Reiki, and mediumship became acceptable if not credible to a broad portion of mainstream culture, and thanks in part to media portrayals, even witchcraft didn’t hold the same “Satanic” stigma.
But lately, it’s been changing again, and those changes are disconcerting to say the least. On one hand, we’re alive in this amazingly connected time where many of the divisions between magickal groups seem to be melting away. I see witches writing about energy work and psychic phenomenon. I see New Agers and even some open-minded Christians feeling more comfortable exploring magick and ritual. I’ve had lovely conversations with Druids about vampires. So much of the dialogue that I yearned for when first starting out is happening and it’s glorious.
And then there’s this backlash, mainly from our dominant culture, but exclusionary elements driven by radicalism and hate have wormed their way even into fringe communities that previously felt safe. TERFs and incels and white supremacists – we can find them among gamers; they’re entrenched in geeky fandoms, and they’re here in our magickal communities as well. They may be a minority, but they are a loud and vicious minority, and they show no sign of going away.
In such an uncertain environment, it is more important than ever to foster spaces that are inclusive and safe. If we are beings of energy or spirit, then all the physical things society tells us to equate with our identity – skin color, gender, height, weight, age, orientation, abledness – are ephemeral anyway. They are things we wear for a time, but they are not the ultimate expression of who we are. Identity is something deeper and, while there is value in exploring how we appear as we dance in the masks of this moment, we must always keep in mind that they are masks. If we mistake the soul for its costume, we see the Other. If we look beneath it, we will see ourselves.
When we see that, how can we not create spaces for everyone? How can building bridges between multiple viewpoints be anything other than a radical act of magick?Read more »
- Column: the Impact of Collective Grief
In last month’s column we explored the topic of grief and some of the ways that people experience grief within our community. Such a vast topic cannot be exhausted in one article, nor should it be. With a topic like grief, one that is so very complex, there are many different aspects and approaches to unpacking its impact.
Individual grief will always be a part of the process of life just as loss will continue to be a process of life. The past month we have seen several high profile celebrity deaths that have promoted a lot of sharing around the sadness that death leaves behind. Collective grieving within communities and within society is a real thing, and we witness that manifest most obviously with the loss of celebrities. Grieving does not just symbolize the absence of a person, but also the loss of reflections, memories, and connections as a result.
You don’t have to know a person personally in order to grieve them, or to connect to that emotions that are brought about by that loss.Whether we are exploring the impact of loss in a larger societal context or within more intimate communities, the concept of collective grief is not something new. The ripple effects of the any loss have the potential to reach far and wide, and way beyond the boundaries we might have anticipated.
In Grieving in Community, Erin Coriell wrote the following about the importance of grief within a community context and the significance of hearing our grief:
In many indigenous cultures, grief is often a collective experience. Through sacred rituals and praise, grief is expressed out loud as a uniting force of remembrance. In the Mayan culture, each individual is given permission to grieve openly and mourn completely at the time of loss. Author Martin Prechtel describes grief as a poem, no matter how messy, inappropriate, amateurish, or loud, it deserves to be heard. There are said to be entire villages around the world that understand the importance of honoring grief as a community.
Here in the West, we seem to have placed a time stamp on grief. There seems to be an unspoken expectation that after some time, one will simply get on with life. This concept seems to be wrecking out entire culture. If we are unable to grieve in community, it is nearly impossible for individuals to heal fully. Grief demands to be heard, from all beings. This grieving thing makes us human, it is what unites us all at our core.
The recent deaths by suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade and culinary genius Anthony Bourdain have impacted many people in this very way. Discussions of depression, grief, loss and suicide have permeated social media, news and television. We often see this with celebrities and other well known people in society. The deaths of those with whom we connect through popularity or fame often put people in an emotional place to revisit their own mortality and the meaning of life.
Reminders of our own fragility can play a major role in the way we experience grief and the loss of those with whom we feel a connection.
Collective grief also has a place within the Pagan and polytheist communities. While there may only be several publications that share the news of a person’s passing versus the onslaught of media attention that celebrities get, the voicing of grief that takes over the internet and social media can have a similar impact. Within a community as small as ours, we often have a sense of knowing people through others, by affiliations, or over Facebook; this cultivates a sense of connection that we might not otherwise have.
It is important to note that the way a particular community frames related topics, like ancestral reverence, lineage and legacy, will also sculpt the way that a community processes or holds the passing of a fellow Pagan community member.
In the 30 days since this last column on grief we have lost several Pagans within this writer’s local California community: Reclaiming priestess Lizann Bassham, Faery elder Valerie Walker (Veedub), and the extraordinary Darrin Barnett. The collective weight of grief has been especially heavy this month, reverberating through many different circles and evoking many memories.
The Pagan History Project administrators said it best: “It’s a sad week for Bay Area Pagans – and beyond. What is remembered lives.” It has been a sad time indeed.
I found myself experiencing the collective grief of others even though I did not have a close relationship with the first two priestesses. My experience of grief deepened when I heard of Darrin’s death; my memories of him became enmeshed with the feelings of loss. My experience of this is a genuine reflection of just how collective grief happens, how the impact of loss moves beyond a small group and has an impacted our a whole community. And, the impact of that experience does not stop there; it becomes a part of the way that we relate to the legacy of the person for years and generations to come.
Out of all of the many different posts about the deaths of Lizann, Veedub and Darrin it became clear that the impact of their lives left a mark on many people, leaving behind a sense of confusion, sadness, joy, and gratitude. The reflections shared were just as diverse and vast as the people lost to us this month.Ellie Skye Faulkner wrote, “I can’t say that I have a detailed memory of Darrin Barnett, my memory is not that great. I can tell you how he made me feel. He was a teacher who saw potential, and I could see my potential through him. No matter how much time went by, he always offered his knowledge and protection. Which is really nice when you’re a teen/young adult witch with self esteem issues, trying to figure out which path to take. To have a community that sees you is very important, I am grateful to have been able to be in the same community as Darrin.”
Aline “Macha” O’Brien wrote, “The loss of Veedub to our Neopagan community is great, though not unexpected. I know she moved beyond the veil in the way she wished. The very first sabbat circle (as opposed to circling in class) I attended, also as a student of Starhawk, was co-hosted by Compost and the late Coven Honeysuckle Coven. That’s where I first met Valerie. The scene was unlikely: a penthouse in the Marina District of San Francisco, We two visitors undressed and blindfolded were led up a flight of stairs to the penthouse. It was Samhaintide. I don’t remember a lot of specifics; however, I do remember our being led on a trance journey to the Isle of Apples, standing in a forward-facing line, each touching the shoulder of the person immediately in front of them. We rocked back and forth as we sailed, singing a chant about ‘Set Sail.’
“This may be the same song that has been used at Reclaiming’s annual spiral dances ever since. This was back in the day when all Craft rituals were performed skyclad; thus, Valerie and I were both naked at our first encounter. . . . Valerie and I remained friends since then, although we didn’t cross paths frequently. I have always considered her available to me if I were to contact her and vice versa. In 2006 I produced a video screening and panel called Visions of the Past and Memories of the Future: NeoPaganism in California — thank you and your memory be praised, Charley Murphy — sponsored by Pacific School of Religion and the (SF Bay Area) Pagan Alliance. That happened to be at a time when Faery (what it was called when I was a baby Witch) practitioners struggled to give the trad a clear definition and there was a fair amount of discord. There were plenty of people from whom to choose for that panel from various tendrils of the wild Faery vine, and I was asked why I didn’t choose so-and-so or so-and-so (the favored Faery/Feri of the inquirer). Valerie, however, was a no-bullshit kind of person and Witch, besides being a long-time initiate, so I chose Valerie to speak on behalf of Faery at this event. Veedub was a huge presence, and will remain so, because those who knew and loved her will keep her alive in our memories. Hail the goer!”
Gwion wrote: “Dear Lizann, I am supposed to be writing about you but the words won’t come. More accurately, as soon as the words start to flow so do the tears. There’s nothing written on the page because everything I’d want to say is written in memories and laugh lines and moments of sublime stillness as two foreheads rested upon one another. I’m going to walk in the sun today and eat fresh fruit and skip a little as I do it. Perhaps I’ll find you there and you’ll guide my pen.”
Grief, while painful, can be one of the biggest indicators of the impact of life. How we preserve legacy within a community matters, and how we speak about those who have transitioned from this life matters. Some of the hardest challenges with collective grief include the process of recovering as a whole, not just individually. This parallel process is complex and takes its own course on the path of healing, often bringing us to a place of revisiting our own grief with each aspect of community in which we are healing. Every discussion, post, ritual, or community meeting has its own significance in the process.
Cultures throughout time have celebrated transitions from life to death, utilizing rituals and ceremony to memorialize the moment. There are also ceremonies and processes within modern Paganism that support the celebration of life, transition to death, and the healing of those who are dealing with the pain of the loss. Grief circles within spiritual groups, therapy settings, and community gatherings can be one of the most useful and beautiful ways to honor the collective experience that comes when someone transitions.
As we continue to experience the excitement of connection and the sadness of loss within the interconnected communities of modern Paganism, we will need to continue to cultivate a way to support the grief that is an essential piece of the human experience.
In the meantime I will continue to grieve the loss of someone I came to respect in this community while also holding space for the grief of my fellow community members. May we all find a way to celebrate those we have loved and lost.
Below is a ritual and prayer, written by Starhawk and adapted by Thea in 2017. It is used by some during the dying and grieving process and helps to ease the journey for all.
Beloved one, you are dying
Beloved (name), you are dying (dead),
But you are not alone.
We are here with you
The beloved dead await you.
You go from Love Into Love.
Carry with you only Love.
May our Love carry you
And open the way.
(Draw opening pentagram over loved one..)
Carry with you only Love.
Carry with you only Love,
Lay down your pain,
You are the best of men!
(Adapt lines as needed)
We remember you with love.
You go from Love Into Love.
Carry with you only Love.
May our Love carry you
And open the way.
(Draw opening pentagram in the West.)
Carry with you only Love.
Over the Rainbow Bridge,
You travel to the Summerland.
Waiting to greet you on the other side,
are the beloved friends and familiars who have gone before,
(All in group list the names of people who have crossed,
describe images of animals playing, and what delights will be waiting your friend).
You go from Love Into Love.
Carry with you only Love.
May our Love carry you
And open the way.
Carry with you only Love.
(Repeat this line a few times until you’re sure that the loved one has passed through the veil.
When you’re ready to move on say:)
What is remembered, Lives.
(Draw closing pentagram and then in the West.)
* * *
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 »
- Doreen Valiente Foundation gains full charitable status
U.K. — It is arguable that Doreen Valiente was one of the most influential women in British Wicca during the 20th century. A magical practitioner, writer, and recipient of a commemorative blue plaque on her home in the south coast city of Brighton – the only Witch in the world to be so honoured – Doreen’s legacy also lives on in the form of the Doreen Valiente Foundation. This foundation has now attained full recognition as a charity, providing an opportunity to look back at Valiente’s life, the work of the foundation, and its transition into charitable status.
Valiente was born in 1922 in Surrey. She became interested in magic as a teenager, running around the household on a broomstick and being sent to convent school as a consequence. She left at the age of 15 and refused to go back, going on to spend her wartime years as a translator in the intelligence centre of Bletchley Park.
“She was clearly able to keep a secret and used this ability in her subsequent writings on witchcraft,” says Philip Heselton, Valiente’s biographer.
After the war, she moved to Bournemouth, where she practiced ceremonial magic, and it was here that she learned of the existence of a spirituality known as Wicca, practicing in the nearby New Forest. She was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition in 1953 by Gerald Gardner, whom she read about in a magazine article and contacted. She subsequently became high priestess of his Bricket Wood coven.
“Gardner was important for Valiente in so far as he actively encouraged her to contribute to the development and writing of Wiccan rituals and ceremonies, and also promoted her as a public-facing representative of Wicca,“ says Dr Paul Reid-Bowen, senior lecturer in religions, philosophies, and ethics at Bath Spa University.
Valiente wrote a number of seminal texts for the Gardnerians, including the Charge of the Goddess, but split from Gardner’s group in 1957 and worked with a number of people on the emerging U.K. witchcraft scene, including Robert Cochrane and the clan of Tubal Cain.
Ashley Mortimer, a founding trustee of the foundation and a curator of the exhibition, said that Valiente “gave the modern Craft a robust religious litany and a logical framework. It was this that allowed it to be more easily passed on through initiation and is probably the reason it spread so firmly and rapidly and continues to expand across the world today. . . . Valiente put flesh on the bones of the written witch lore that Gardner had shown her.“
Valiente aided the Witchcraft Research Association throughout the 1960s and ’70s: this group was set up to investigate claims of a surviving ancient witch cult, and was the organization behind the publication of the magazine Pentagram. She was also involved in the group known as the Pagan Front, which later became the Pagan Federation, members of which remain very active in U.K. Paganism today.
Valiente lived and practiced in Brighton for many years until her death in 1999, bequeathing all of her collection of materials and documentation to her last high priest, John Belham-Payne, who established the Doreen Valiente Foundation. The latter’s website states that:
John came to realise that “the right thing” was to form a charitable trust and donate the entire collection to the trust so that it could never be split up, sold or used for personal profit and it could be properly preserved, protected, researched and made accessible to the millions of people whose lives have been influenced, whether they know it or not, by Doreen Valiente.
On 6th March 2011, the foundation was formed under the following remit:
• To protect artefacts which are important to the past, present and future of Pagan religions
• To make the artefacts available for education and research
The trustees resolved to set about the following tasks:
• seek charitable status from the Inland Revenue and subsequently the Charities Commission
• catalogue and prepare the artefacts for their new purpose, that of exhibition
• begin to give talks about Doreen Valiente and her legacy and to deliver mobile exhibitions of the artefacts
Inland Revenue representatives gave the foundation charitable status as far as tax was concerned in its first year, but registration with the Charities Commission can be a longer process. A gift aid scheme was launched to allow for donations by U.K. tax payers to be re-claimed by the foundation each year.
In 2013 and 2014 foundation members raised funds and succeeded in erecting heritage blue plaques to both Doreen Valiente (in Brighton) and Gerald Gardner (in Highcliffe). Several international conference events were also organised, and in 2015 the first public exhibition of items from the collection was presented at Preston Manor, Brighton, in collaboration with the Royal Pavilion & Museums. This featured, among other items, Valiente’s tarot cards, a couple of curse bottles, and an ivory wand given to her by Gardner.Belham-Payne died suddenly in 2016, shortly before the exhibition opened, but it nonetheless went ahead. A search is on for a permanent home for the collection, which is to form the nexus of a place of education and research into Paganism and Pagan-related history – a physical “Centre For Pagan Studies.”
The foundation leaders are active in giving talks and lectures to a wide variety of organisations: for instance, the Theosophical Society, the Women’s Institute, the Children of Artemis, Masonic lodges and Unitarian churches.
One of few Pagan associations to have been awarded charitable status in the U.K., the charity was officially registered on 25 May 2018 with that information now posted online. The registered charity number is 1178528 in England and Wales.
Speaking about her first experiences of what she believed to be the supernatural, Valiente remembered: “Just for a moment I had experienced what was beyond the physical. It was beautiful, wonderful. It wasn’t frightening. That, I think, shaped my life a lot.”Read more »
It is to be hoped that her legacy will open similar doorways to the next generation of Pagans.
- Gatekeeping & The GodsTo limit a deity to only a certain time or space limits that deity. If we believe the gods have agency, then we have to believe that the gods have the power to choose who honors them. But on the other hand, we have an obligation as human beings to treat deities and cultures outside of our own with respect. Read more »
- Triumph & Tragedy Amongst the Gods in Athens GreeceThere is no point in destroying the worship space of another unless you believe in the power that's housed there. Christians, with their belief in an omnipotent, all-knowing, all-powerful God, had to have known that their belief was a lie. Read more »Powered by: RSS Feed News Blocks