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Posted by Liz Williams

LONDON —  A march against wildlife cruelty will be held in London August 12.  The joint protest is being sponsored by The Badger Trust, the Make Hunting History coalition, and Care2.

Organizers write, “The key aim […] will be to call on the new Conservative minority government to bring an immediate end to the cruel, costly and ineffective badger cull policy and to strengthen rather than seek to repeal the Hunting Act.”

They also want to “raise public awareness of the barbarity of fox-cub hunting, otherwise known as ‘cubbing’ or ‘Autumn hunting’, which is currently in season and has started across the UK.”

Additionally, the driven grouse season starts August 12, the same day as the march, and is reportedly “detrimental to the much persecuted Hen Harriers.”

According to the organizers, the march is “expected to be the largest ever British wildlife protection protest” and will bring together “thousands people united in their determination to stop the government from playing politics with the future of our wildlife.”

Although opinions among UK-based pagans obviously differ on the issues surrounding various forms of hunting, the community in general remains opposed to wildlife cruelty as described by the host organizations. UK Pagans, across various spiritual paths, support of the ban on fox hunting, and a number of Pagans are currently engaged in activism against the more recent badger cull.

Fox hunting in the UK has been a practice for several hundred years, until a ban was introduced in 2004.  That legislation bans the hunting of wild mammals, most notably foxes, deer, hares, and mink, with dogs in England and Wales.

Drag hunting – the practice of dragging a bundle of scented material across the countryside to allow the dogs to follow a trail – is still permitted. Therefore, traditional fox hunts across the UK are still active.

Policing the ban is obviously problematic. Hunts are wide-ranging and often occur in remote areas, and the police are overstretched. Whether these hunts actually keep within the law remains a concern.

Badger culling was trialed in the South West of the country in 2013, in an attempt to control bovine TB. The theory was that badgers were contracting the disease and spreading it to cattle.

However, there is significant scientific controversy over whether this is actually the case. Now concerns are being raised over the way that the culls have been conducted.

This particular issue has raised concerns in the Pagan community.  Colin Lovelace said, “I just hope DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] see sense and at least stop killing badgers whilst they re-examine the huge amounts of data and evidence that shows culling badgers will never stop btb [bovine TB] transmission.”

“In my area, North Cornwall, there were relatively few farm breakdowns until culling began last year and since then the breakdowns reported by DEFRA on ibtb website has exploded,” Lovelace went on to say.

“As predicted, culling badgers increases outbreaks. All the research recently carried out shows infection from badger to cattle is minute, less than 5% as previously known from previous culls. 95% of infection is cattle to cattle or from contaminated slurry spread on fields. The weight of evidence against culling badgers is enormous but DEFRA refuses to look at it.

“The only way to control btb is better testing methods, vaccinating, and tighter movement controls of cattle…Very angry, very active doing everything in my power to obstruct this cruel and damaging cull.”

London March 2014 [See Li/Flickr]

Maggie Bond, a representative of the Pagan Federation said, “The badger cull is despicable and there is no scientific evidence to prove that badgers are spreading bovine TB. With regard to fox hunting, this is a so-called ‘sport’ and serves no useful purpose.”

She added, “Blood sports are archaic and have no place in the 21st century. The majority of the British public do not want the hunting ban to be repealed.”

Activist Diane Evans said, “The Badger culls so far have been inhumane, astoundingly costly, caused prejudice and violence in communities and not achieved the desired result ….yet they are still going on. The elephant in the room is the demand for cheap food and greed in the western world for choice and plenty of it regardless of the cost to animals’ lives and the Earth…

Evans has been involved in actions against Badger Culling and theFox Hunts. “Millions of people protest against Badger Culling and Fox Hunting and a good part of these follow a Pagan path,” she said. “I don’t believe we stand up against such barbarism just because we are Pagan but because we are in the main, decent people trying to protect these animals and the Earth we all live on. I guess the fact that we hold them in such high regard is why we followed a Pagan path in the first place.”

The level of feeling against these practices continues to run high, both within and beyond the Pagan community in Britain. There will be reportedly a considerable Pagan presence on the forthcoming march in the capital.

A Blessed First Harvest

Jul. 26th, 2017 07:31 pm
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Posted by The Wild Hunt

TWH — This weekend and next, many modern Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are observing the summer festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, Lughnassa, and Harvest Home. Typically celebrated on Aug. 1, Lughnasadh is one of the yearly fire festivals and marks the first of three harvest celebrations.

It traditionally honors Lugh, the Celtic god of light and many talents, and his foster-mother, Tailtiu.

wheat

[Sybarite48, Flickr/CC.]

In addition, the weekend brings the Ásatrú festival of first fruits called Freyfaxi. Both celebrations are celebrated with feasting, songs, games, thanksgiving, and the reaping of the first fruits and grains of the season.

There are many other late summer religious and secular holidays around the world, some of which are related to the harvest and some are not.

In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, followers will be celebrating Choekhor Duechen, or the first turning wheel of Dharma, July 27. The day marks the time when “the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, India, and first turned the wheel of the dharma.”

The Order of the Black Madonna, based in California, hosts a number of feast days in August, including an annual dinner in mid-August to honor the Queenship of Mary.

During this time, several Native American nations celebrate the Green Corn festival. This was particularly true of “Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Timucua, and others, who used corn (maize) as their single most important food source.” The ceremony and festival, also called puskita or Busk in English, was “an expression of gratitude for a successful corn crop.”

Outside the U.S., the Slavic communities celebrate Dozhinki, a pre-Christian harvest festival that happens in late August. This year, the holiday is dated Aug. 28.  

In the Southern Hemisphere, Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are readying for Imbolc, and other holidays focused on late winter and the coming potential of spring.

This year, the full moon arrives Aug. 7, and a total solar eclipse is coming to America Aug. 21. According to reports, the entire country, from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness at least a partial eclipse.

Here are a few recent quotes about the seasonal celebration:

“Lammas is basically about work, coming and going. Mind you, there are three harvest sabbats, and the trick with this first harvest that it falls midpoint of the fiery sign of Leo, which lends its ‘fixed’ energies of sustaining the cycle, to bring our work to full fruition; no slacking behind now! Magick demands much of us at this time. Toil and sacrifice are required if we are to claim the big prize come Mabontides.” — Heron Michelle, Lammas Ritual of Integration and Sacrifice

 *   *   *

“This August 1st, I suggest we forget everything we have heard about Lughnasadh or Lammas. Instead of treading that well-worn path, let’s forget about Celtic myths from long ago and the agricultural customs of 18th century English peasants.  Forget even the words ‘Lughnasadh’ or ‘Lammas.’  Instead, go outside. Look. Listen. Breathe in and breathe out. Bend down and touch the earth. And then ask what the world is telling you.  Listen for what calls to you. Discover what needs to be celebrated, or what needs to be mourned. And if the season still speaks to you of harvest or sacrifice or making bread, then so be it. But if not, don’t force it.” — John Halstead, “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again

 *   *   *

“What will I do during those 100 or so sacred seconds [of the solar eclipse]? Will I hold a ritual? Just revel in it? Hug my kids?[…] Would the descent into darkness (and then the return of the light) be better times for ritual activity? After all, those times are ~90 minutes long each, and that would make the whole time of totality part of my ritual if I started before totality and ended after it.  […] All religions have sacred times and sacred places. For those of us with a Pagan spirituality (as well as for many others), reality itself – and especially our Earth, moon and sun – often show us those sacred times. For many of us (and certainly me), this August 21st will be one of those most sacred times. What will those 90 seconds be like for you? I don’t think that can be predicted – we can’t decide when the sacred will touch us.” – Jon Cleland Host, “The Spirituality of the Eclipse

 *   *   *

“Lugh was the first god I got to know as an individual being. Before that, most of my practice revolved around the Wiccan idea of the Goddess and the God, or other concepts that some would describe as panentheist and others would describe as vague. This was before my encounter with the Ennead of Egypt that put me firmly on the road to polytheism, and I honestly don’t remember what I thought about Lugh. But I clearly remember how I related to Lugh – as an individual deity with his own sovereignty and agency. Did Lugh call me or did I pursue Lugh? My notes from the time are sparse and I can’t begin to remember. I just remember I felt a strong affinity with him. I am no master of all arts, but I’ve always had a wide range of interests, and Lugh seemed like he would be the perfect patron for me.” — John Beckett, “The Birth of Lugh

 *   *   *

“Lughnasadh is a very good time to express gratitude to the gods and the earth spirits for their blessings and gifts that we are now receiving. In times of microwave and frozen pizza it may seem anachronistic to thank for the harvest. Many of our modern foodstuffs make it hard to still recognize the waving grain on the field in them. And yet there is a way to connect with nature via the food that we eat. This is especially valid for self-harvested fruits. But also conscious eating, eating with focus on the food and not on TV or newspaper, is one way of expressing our thanks for the harvest – all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.” — Eilthireach, Deeper Into Lughnasadh

[Pixabay.]

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Posted by Terence P Ward

ATLANTA –The first Mystic South conference may be remembered as a time when Pagans, Heathens, and polytheists came together to put their collective best foot forward. It may be remembered as the year when the hotel lost all running water, and its staff had to go far beyond the normal call of duty to keep the environment safe and comfortable for guests. It may even be remembered as the conference with the free ice cream.

The conference ran July 21-23, and attendance topped out at about 250 people. That was confirmed by Star Bustamonte, the self-described “chief bottle-washer and lightning bug herder” for the conference, which was her way of saying that she was in charge.

According to hotel management, water was shut off by 9:00 the morning of July 22 because the pipe leading from the  water main had unexpectedly broken. Water is not only needed for cooking, washing, and waste removal, it is also required to run the hotel’s air conditioning.

“The system that they use to cool the hotel is a water-cooled system,” explained Bustamonte,”so when they lost the water they also lost the air conditioning. If you ever wanted to go to the sauna that’s right at the gates of hell, it’s been not quite that bad but it’s close.”

Bustamonte recalled that she got a steady stream of information as problems developed. “Somewhere between 9 and 10 a.m. [our hotel representative] came to us and said, there were some water problems and the water was going to be turned off so they could figure out what it was so they could fix it and it wouldn’t be more than a couple of hours.”

About an hour after that she came back and said now the whole hotel is going to be completely without water and then a little bit after that they realized it was actually the water main,” continued Bustamonte. “Which meant that it was on the city to find it and fix it. They weren’t sure what that was going to mean.”

Nashville resident Lori Newbury was a volunteer at the convention. “It was about 10:15 we looked at each other and said, why’s it so humid in here? That’s when we noticed the air was out,” she said. A veteran of many conventions, she said that this particular problem was a first for her.

[H. Greene]

By 2 p.m., the temperature inside the hotel had risen to 80 degrees in places, but it was even hotter outside. Hotel staff members were completely forthcoming about the issue. Wild Hunt editor Heather Greene is the Mystic South hotel liaison, and she was updated hourly by her contact as the day unfolded.

From nearly the beginning, the hotel management was forthcoming with Greene about all the ways the situation could unfold, including the possibility of a full shutdown. They brought in Gatorade, bottled water, ice cream, port-a-potties, and offered to waive room charges for that night.

That afternoon, Bustamonte praised efforts made by hotel employees. “I want to be clear that the hotel has gone out of their way to make sure that we’ve been accommodated for the conference.”

“I mean they put fans in the rooms, they’ve been giving out free water, they brought in port-a-potties but it doesn’t look like they’re going to need them because they’re going to be coming back online. In a terrible situation they’ve done really well.”

Oreon Millard, who traveled to the conference from Tennessee, was impressed by the efforts made to provide for guests’ comfort, observing that “they have poor staff flushing the toilets with buckets.”

As it turned out the porta potties were in fact needed as the water woes continued into the late afternoon and dinner hour.

[Nathan Hall]

Despite the hotel’s concerted efforts to provide for the guests, it wasn’t enough to satisfy everyone.

In addition to the Mystic South conference, the Crowne Plaza Ravinia was hosting four large family reunions, another smaller corporate gathering, and other individual guests. At least two of those reunions each had more guests at the hotel than Mystic South; Bustamonte said one was twice as large. The hotel was filled to capacity.

In the late afternoon, Dunwoody police had to be called when one hotel guest, who was not a Mystic South attendee, pounded on the manager’s office door demanding staff members come out; the individual was described as “irate.”

“Most people have been okay [but] there’s been a lot of complaining,” said Mystic South volunteer Caterina O’Sullivan. “A lot of guests were out on bus tours and when they came back that’s when problems started.”

“Our group has really handled this well. Pagans are used to these conditions from camping. People are used to the heat.”

Newbury said, “After watching a lot of complaints from other guests,I’m really happy to say the Pagans have sort of persevered.”

Bustamonte was pleased with how conference guests bore up under the difficult conditions. “Mystic South and all of its attendees have been pretty good and calm, this has become sort of like five-star glamping.”

Damaged ceiling reportedly caused by a frustrated guest [Nathan Hall]

The first fix for the broken pipe was itself a bust, and plumbers had to wait for parts to be delivered to give it another shot. That time they were successful, and both air conditioning and water were up and running again by 8 p.m. that night.

Guests went scrambling to their rooms for showers and rest. Then, Mystic South closed out the day on schedule with a ritual offered by local priestess Lady Magdalena and a Tuatha Dea concert.

By early morning, however, Mystic South’s hotel representative advised organizers that another pipe needed to be repaired, and that closing down the hotel would be required. However, the general manager agreed to hold off on the shutdown long enough for Mystic South to conclude its programming, timing the process to coordinate with the conference’s scheduled 4:00 p.m. end.

The final ritual was performed by John Beckett, Cynthia Talbot, Heather Campbell, and Jason and Ari Mankey. Beckett, who wrote the ritual script, sat down Saturday afternoon to pen some poignant additions:

“Yesterday we saw people doing what had to be done,” he said. “We moved some presentations, we gathered around the fans, we put up with the heat. The hotel brought in port-a-potties and bottled water and ice cream.”

Referencing the role of hospitality in the ancient world and much of modern Paganism, he noted, “we never forgot who we are and why we’re here. All the presentations went on. All the rituals went on. All those wonderful hallway conversations went on. This has been an awesome conference and I’m so glad I was here. . . . Things like yesterday are going to keep happening. And when they do, remember yesterday, and how we all responded. Do what must be done. Take care of each other. And never, ever forget who you are, and why you’re here, and what’s really important.”

Despite a situation that was covered by local news reporters, Bustamonte gave the conference high marks. “For a first year event I think it’s gone really, really well. I won’t say there haven’t been a few misfires and some things that could have gone better, but overall, I have to plug the staff, which is all volunteer, nobody gets paid have done an extraordinary job.”

She singled out Greene for liaising with hotel employees and managing technology, Marla Roberson for coordinating workshops, Ryan Denison for his efforts developing the academic track, and vendor coordinator Gypsey Teague.

“We couldn’t have done it without these people, she said.

The few Mystic South Guests who intended to stay over Sunday night were provided with complimentary rooms at other hotels. The Crowne Plaza Ravinia was shut down behind them as they departed, with high hopes that the problem would be fixed for good.

Bustamonte said that, after a short rest, the organizers will be planning for Mystic South 2018. The group thanked all the attendees, performers, vendors, presenters, and the hotel for persevering and for making the conference “a memorable, inspirational, and successful event.”

[Editor’s note: Columnist Nathan Hall, who was in attendance at the hotel, contributed to the writing of this article.]

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Posted by The Wild Hunt

ATLANTA — Attendees at the new Mystic South conference spent Saturday with no running water. A pipe leading from the water main had burst, leaving the hotel dry and without air conditioning. By midday, the interior temperatures were pushing 80 degrees and in some places well over. The hotel brought in portable toilets, bottled water, and ice cream to assist the guests.

Despite the problem, the conference, which was in its first run, continued on. Organizer Star Bustamonte said, “I was deeply inspired and impressed with our community when as a whole, our little conference was faced with a bit of adversity […]. Our attendees, presenters, and staff took it all in stride, went out of their way to help others, and didn’t even complain. The hotel staff stepped up and moved heaven and earth to correct the problem and were quite frankly, wonderful.”

The conference was able to continue through to the end, closing with a ritual on Sunday at 4 p.m. We will have a full account of what happened and reactions from attendees this week. 

*   *   *

BARNEVELD, Wis. — Rev. Selena Fox is celebrating 50 years of being Pagan. Fox entered the fledgling Pagan world in 1967, just as it was emerging through the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and other related cultural trends.

Fox is most known as the founder of Circle Sanctuary, which opened its doors in 1974. Then, in 1980, Pagan Spirit Gathering was born out of that community. Five years later, the organization, under Fox’s direction, formed Lady Liberty League to help protect the rights of Pagans throughout the U.S. Since that time, Fox has nurtured an extensive local community, and a network of people, through her many projects from rituals to podcasts.

Fox is celebrating her personal milestone and sharing her experiences in a series of three autobiographic podcasts during her Nature Folk radio show on Pagans Tonight Radio Network. It is called My Pagan Life. It airs Tuesday at 7 p.m. Central time.

*   *   *

TWH – Friday marks the anniversary of Margot Adler’s passing. Many Pagans, who looked to her for guidance along their own spiritual journey, will be remembering her through ritual and personal practice.

Adler was a celebrated NPR journalist and authored one of the most well-known books on modern Paganism, Drawing Down the Moon. Wild Hunt founder Jason Pitzl once said that The Wild Hunt itself would not exist if not for her support and her example.

More recently, Adler had been working on exploring vampire lore and our cultural fascination with that fantastic world.

Adler died in 2014 at the age of 68. In 2013, a year before her death, she wrote this:

We are all part of the life cycle. Like a seed we are born, we sprout, we grow, we mature and decay, making room for future generations who, like seedlings, are reborn through us. As for the persistence of consciousness, deep down, I thought, ‘How can we know?’ Perhaps we simply return to the elements; we become earth and air and fire and water. That seemed all right to me.

In other news

  • Wear Your Voice has published an article titled, “8 Witches and Healers of Color to Follow Online.” Some of the names on the list will be familiar to TWH readers and beyond. Journalist Donyae Coles writes, “For POC practitioners, the focus tends to be on healing and processing energy to increase protection and self-care. Witches and workers of color deal with the realities of existing in today’s world and speak from a place that uses healing practices as a way to combat oppression while reclaiming heritage.” See who made the list.
  • Starhawk will be joining Ahmed Salah and Joanna Macy in a public discussion and presentation titled  “Active Hope: What Must We Do Now?” The event, sponsored by Code Pink: Women for Peace and Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, will include live music and an organic vegetarian potluck dinner, wine and dessert reception. “Come and be inspired to move out of our silos and from inaction and despair over war, climate change, racial, economic and environmental injustice to active hope.”  The event will be happening at the Historic Fellowship Hall in Berkeley. Doors open at 6 p.m.
  • Many Gods West is being geared up for its third annual event. The polytheist conference is held in Olympia, Washington and kicks off Thursday night, Aug. 3 with Nathaniel Johnstone in concert. It then continues with a variety of programming throughout the weekend, ending Aug. 6.
  • As July comes to an end, many Pagans are planning first harvest celebrations. Circle Sanctuary will host its 42nd annual Lughnasadh event, called the Green Spirit Festival, beginning Friday, July 28 and running through Sunday. This year’s featured guest author is Max Dashu and the guest bard is Celia Farran.
  • Gaia Gathering, the national Canadian Pagan conference that is hosted annually in May, is seeking bids for the next event. Founded in 2004, the gathering travels from location to location each year in order to better allow people from all of the very large country the opportunity to easily attend as well as to feature different regions and local flavors.  The 2017 event was held in Calgary.

Summer music tour roundup

Jul. 23rd, 2017 06:32 pm
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Posted by Nathan Hall

TWH – Summer means many things, solstice, Midsummer, Litha and Lammas observances for some, but it also means festivals for the larger Pagan community and touring for some of our favorite bands. One of the hottest summers on record in the United States and around the world is making for some wilting weather.

“If I were to be honest, this has been a pretty rough year,” Sharon Knight said. She and Winter have been having a more challenging time than in previous years, feeling the pinch at home in Oakland where they’re getting priced out of the rental market. They’ve unofficially dubbed this the “fly by the seat of our pants tour” because of the difficulty they’ve had, among other things, filling all their tour dates.

Sharon Knight

Sharon Knight [Courtesy]

“I think people are feeling really uncertain about the fate of America, and how safe they will be, and that tends to make folks want to hold onto their money,” she said.

In spite of the challenges, “people really do come through for one another when times are hard, and we have been reminded of this numerous times throughout this tour.”

Knight said what helps make them feel rooted is the music itself, and that they always find shelter in their songs.

Sirius Rising festival has done a lot to lift spirits about which Knight said, “getting to spend time with sister musicians Ginger Doss and Lynda Millard and their giant open hearts is just awesome!”

Similarly, the Tennesse-based band Tuatha Dea has been having an “epic” tour season that actually kicked off in February. Their first show was in Florida, during which they hit a little bump with some noise complaints at a house concert and a visit by police.

“It’s not uncommon for us and we understand when this happens. We know we’re loud,” bassist Tesea Dawson said with a laugh.

Among the highlights she mentioned getting to play with SJ Tucker in St. Louis and at Heartland Music Fest with Ginger Doss and Lynda Millard.

Dawson’s favorite anecdote so far has been the band’s return to Canada, she said. After four years they returned to play at the Pagan Fest in Barrie, Ontario where the band was greeted “with open arms.”

“A lot of times it’s not so much the event or venue but the little things that happen that stick with me,” she said.

Tuatha Dea [Courtesy]

Exhausted from the long trip, Dawson described getting to the festival in time to watch Sharon Knight and Winter perform but skipping the drum circle later in the evening.

“We all went back to the camper and put on our pj’s and made cookie butter and jelly sandwiches. The whole group sat up until about 2 am together and just spent time together. I laughed so much that night that my sides hurt.”

This is so special to me,” Dawson explained, “because as you know we are family but it’s a rare occasion you can find all of us in one place at the same time. So when we find those moments like that on the road those are the most prominent memories for me.”

In the midst of their touring Tuatha Dea also managed to put out a new album, Kilts and Corsets in early June. Of the reception to the album she said, “we are just so thankful and gracious that the community has embraced it like they have. We put our heart and souls into this one and the love shown back to us has just been overwhelming.”

From North America out to the wider world, Wendy Rule took time to write on a fiddly iPad while she was on her way to The Netherlands to say that she had just wrapped up Summerland Spirit Festival in Wisconsin before playing at Treadwell Books in London just a few days later.

That event kicked off a short European tour where she will venture through The Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, and Germany before returning to the US for Hexfest in New Orleans in mid-August.

Wendy Rule

Wendy Rule [Courtesy]

“So far, lots of fun, great people, and a wonderful ten days camping in Nature,” Rule said.

The Moon and the Nightspirit‘s bassist, Gergely Cseh responded that after their latest album Metanoia was released in March they did a tour through Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, France, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

As for the summer, Cseh said they performed at Yggdrasil Festival in Italy and Hörnerfest in Germany.

“We were supposed to play in Ragnard Rock festival in France this weekend but unfortunately the whole festival was cancelled,” Cseh said.

Up next they’re going to be playing Prophecy Festival, which is held inside of a large natural cave in Germany. Cseh said he was looking forward to this one because they’ll be playing with friend Jasen Lazarov from the Bulgarian band, Irfan.

“This show will be a special one for us,” he said.

The Moon and the Nightspirit will round out their festival season at Festival-Mediaval in Germany in September.

Down in the southern reaches of Australia, it’s just past midwinter and much-loved performers Spiral Dance are gearing up to head toward northern latitudes. In September they’ll be starting their seventh international tour timed to coincide with the release of their new album, Land and Legend.

Adrienne Piggott, lead singer and lyricist, said that they love Australia but visiting other places feeds their inspiration and their souls.

“Whenever we go back to the UK we feel we are coming home, we have two band members who were born in the UK and Adrienne is first generation Australian from Irish/English parents, so it’s like we get to take the songs ‘home’ if you like, and honor our ancestors of that land from where the inspiration for so many of our songs come from,” Piggott said.

On the docket during the UK leg— five gigs with Damh the Bard— and another visit to the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms birthplace of the Glastonbury Festival which began in 1915.

After three weeks, they’ll move on to Georgia, to perform at Caldera Fest before they dip down to Florida to play at Phoenix Phyre, where they’ll be playing with Tuatha Dea and sitarist Rick de Yampert.

“We were very honored to be part of the Green Album that was released there last year to raise money and awareness for the Rainforest Trust,” Piggot said.

“So getting to meet a lot of the artists that were also a part of that album will be awesome and of course the fabulous folk from Tuatha Dea who were the instigators of the album and worked so hard to make it happen.”

Spiral Dance [Courtesy Photo]

Column: Remember the Shield-maidens

Jul. 22nd, 2017 05:52 pm
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Posted by Karl E. H. Seigfried

 

In late June, Jade Pichette started the #HavamalWitches hashtag on Facebook. Her explanatory post referenced the Old Norse poem Hávamál (“Sayings of the High One”) and was addressed to women who practice Ásatrú and Heathenry, modern iterations of Germanic polytheism. She called upon her audience to share their experiences of sexism within their religious communities:

So a hashtag #HavamalWitches has started to critique sexism in the Heathen community. Overall the women and femmes in the Heathen community have put up with a lot of sexism and this is basically us letting off steam and making transparent what we experience. It references the fact in the Havamal there are some really sexist stanzas so we are the Witches the Havamal warns you about. If you have posts to make please do, and if you are comfortable feel free to do so publicly.

As so often happens, the hashtag was quickly hijacked by straight white men who questioned the women’s knowledge of poetry, mythology, and history; who challenged the veracity of their testimonials of personal experience; who denied that misogyny and sexism exist within their own communities; and/or who insisted that men are the ones who are really discriminated against.

Of course, #NotAllMen acted like this. Some jumped in to support the women and argue with the trollish types. I followed one long Facebook thread that was completely swamped by men fighting each other. Despite the good intentions of the anti-troll brigade, the fact remains that men on both sides took over a hashtag asking women to share their experiences with sexism.

Man vs. Woman, Clauss Pflieger, 1459 [public domain].

This was not a unique happening. Over and over again, we see public online dialogue between women interrupted and dominated by men. This happens whether the initial posts are critical or celebratory.

Recently, men’s rights activist types were furious when the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin announced women-only screenings of the new Wonder Woman film “for one special night.” As with the #HavamalWitches thread, the nastiness of the reaction proved exactly the point being made – in this case, that women just maybe might enjoy one single evening of their lives celebrating and enjoying a female hero for a couple of hours without a chorus of condescension from male companions. For the men’s online chorus, this was absolutely and utterly unacceptable.

Earlier this week, the announcement by the BBC that Jodie Whittaker will be the thirteenth actor to play the lead role on Doctor Who (not counting John Hurt and other special cases) caused such a flurry of fury from men with opinions about women that some people began playing “13th Doctor Casting Comments Bingo,” collecting the completely predictable predictions of disaster and outraged declarations of wounded male pride that flooded social media.

Ásatrú and Heathenry have long struggled with a very vocal minority of practitioners who espouse racist beliefs. There is an incredibly strong stance in the mainstream of the religious communities against such extremism. Sexism, however, is a more insidious force. Heathen women have shared their experiences with sexist attitudes, behaviors, and statements even in organizations that are outspoken on issues of inclusion.

“On a Whirling Wheel”

When faced with divisive issues, Heathens often turn to their hoard of inherited mythology, poetry, saga, and historical accounts, supplemented by academic works both fresh and dusty. What insights into sexism, misogyny, and the social roles of women can we gain from such a turn to the past?

Hávamál, the medieval Icelandic poem cited in the #HavamalWitches hashtag, purports to be in the voice of Odin. It does have some strikingly sexist stanzas:

84. A maiden’s words must no man trust,
nor what a woman says,
for on a whirling wheel
were hearts fashioned for them
and fickleness fixed in their breast.



90. So the loving of women –
those who think in lies –
is just like driving a horse smooth-shod
over skidding ice
– a lively two-year-old,
and badly trained –
or in a mad wind maneuvering a rudderless boat –
or like a lame man having to reach
a reindeer on a thawing hillside on skis.







The poem’s presentation of gender roles isn’t all one way, however. The speaker is also critical of male behavior towards women:

91. I now state a bare fact
– for I know both sexes –
men’s devotion to women is not dependable.
We speak fairest words
when we foster slyest thoughts –
that deceives a delicate mind.




This multivalence of views also appears elsewhere in the Poetic Edda, the collection of Icelandic poems largely found in the Codex Regius (“Royal Book”) manuscript of c. 1270 that includes Hávamál.

In Lokasenna (“Loki’s Quarrel”), many of the goddesses speak out against the belligerently sexist verbal assaults of Loki. Nearly as many women as men speak in the poem, and their responses are equally proud and powerful.

In Völuspá (“Prophecy of the Seeress”), it is a female voice (or set of voices) that speaks of what has been, is, and will be. The audience is all of humankind – “the offspring of Heimdall” – and even the wisdom-drinking patriarch Odin himself must bring gifts and plead with the wise woman to share some of her vast store of knowledge.

The Seeress and Odin, Emil Doepler, 1905 [public domain].

However, side by side with these portrayals of powerful women, the Poetic Edda presents pictures of stark sexual violence. After the giantess Gerd (“Yard”) repeatedly refuses to leave her home and marry the god Frey (“Lord”) – who may have killed her brother – his messenger threatens her with beheading, killing her father, magical domination, starvation, social ostracism, and a host of other horrors culminating in sexual slavery:

35. Hrímgrímnir [“Frost-Masked”] the ogre is called
who will have you
down below the corpse pens:
let serfs there
at the tree’s roots
serve you goats’ urine.
Grander drink
you will never get,
girl – to meet your wishes,
girl – to meet my wishes!








In Hárbarðsljóð (“Song of Graybeard”), the one thing that the quarreling Thor and Odin (in disguise as Harbard, “Graybeard”) agree upon is how enjoyable it would be to commit rape together:

Thor: You had good dealings with the girl there.

Harbard: I could have done with your help, Thor,
to hold the linen-white girl.

Thor: I’d have helped you with that, if I could have managed it.

Harbard: I’d have trusted you then, if you didn’t betray my trust.

The same balance between inspiring portrayals of powerful women and sickening celebrations of sexual assault appear in prose sources. For every brave heroine, there is a violated victim of violence.

On one hand, there are the strong women of the Icelandic sagas such as the poet Steinvora. She confronts the Saxon missionary Thangbrand, proudly preaches paganism to him, boasts that Christ was afraid to accept Thor’s challenge of single combat, and sings verses gloating that her god demolished the priest’s ship.

On the other hand, there are reports of extremely violent sexual assault. The Arab chronicler Ibn Fạdlān tells the grisly tale of a slave girl who, after she is “befuddled” with alcohol, is raped by six men before being stabbed and strangled to death beside the decaying corpse of her dead master.

“A Decay of Her Honour”

Perhaps it is time for today’s Heathens to embrace the fact that they are part of a new religious movement (NRM) founded 45 years ago. Whatever subset of Heathenry practitioners practice, the beginnings of their praxis date to the first meeting of what would become the Ásatrúarfélagið (“Ásatrú Fellowship”) at the Hotel Borg in Reykjavík on April 20, 1972.

Although historical heathenry has roots that go back 4,000 years to shadowy origins in the Bronze Age of Northern Europe, modern practice follows in the footsteps of that fateful day when a dozen visionaries gathered in Iceland to revive the old way. What that small group began has now grown into a cluster of religions found in nearly 100 countries.

Despite declarations and denials from various subsets of Heathenry, these are not ancient religions that are practiced today but rather a set of overlapping new religious movements that revive, reconstruct, and reimagine ancient Germanic polytheism using elements gathered from a great variety of sources on long-ago beliefs and practices. We study and learn as much as we possibly can about the olden times, but we cannot escape the fact that we are citizens of modern nation-states who live in the twenty-first century and self-consciously practice post-1972 traditions.

As members of modern religions, we are not bound by holy writ. The poems of medieval Iceland are intense and inspiring, but they are not divine commandments of belief and behavior. They are religio-cultural products of a specific segment of a specific population at a specific time in a specific location, and they reflect the assumptions and prejudices of those people then and there.

Codex Regius stands behind Flateyjarbók (“Flat Island Book”) [public domain].

The fact that the poems contain conflicting views of women underscores their human and non-definitive nature. There was disagreement then, as there is now. No single, pure, and dogmatic heathen worldview waits to be unearthed by studious spelunking through the sources. To the contrary, the fact that there is a vast variety of views is something that can push us to accept diversity within and between our own communities.

This diversity of views can also be found in professional scholarship. For every Jenny Jochens carefully parsing medieval sagas and law codes for evidence of women’s roles in Old Norse society, there is a Vilhelm Grønbech celebrating the honorable “Germanic standard” of killing one’s own daughter for having sex outside of marriage, in order to save the family from “the danger arising from a decay of her honour.” Like all of us, academics allow their own worldviews to shape their views of the past, and the result is a set of widely divergent analyses of the same materials.

Commitment to Community

If ancient sources and modern academia alike present us with conflicting ideas about women’s roles and rights, maybe we should simply recognize that views of gender and sexuality are — like those of race and ethnicity — changeable concepts that evolve over time.

We are modern people with access to amounts of information that were unimaginable even a decade or two ago. There is nothing to prevent us from being mindful members of society rather than slavish historical re-enactors.

We shouldn’t need to recite poetic verses or cite academic sources to convince men that women are people. We should all respect women as individuals and honor their input, because they are human beings with identities and agency. Period. This shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but it apparently must.

Frey (“Lord”) and Freya (“Lady”) by Donn P. Crane,1920 [public domain].

It is possible for positive change to occur. Straight white men have to internalize the fact that they will not always be the authoritative voices and centers of attention. They have to understand that, in some situations, they need to keep their opinions to themselves and let others speak without interruption, reply, or rebuttal.

Maybe it is beyond the emotional capacity of some men today to accept that everything isn’t for them. As time goes on, these men will become increasingly marginalized as relics of a bygone era. Hopefully, they will at least find the self-restraint to refrain from committing the violent acts that they so often threaten online.

This isn’t a Heathen problem, necessarily, but it plagues Heathen communities as it does so many others. If we are proud of our commitment to community – and many of us are – let’s lead the way and work towards making our communities positive models of respectful behavior.

Sources used for this article include The Culture of the Teutons (Grønbech, trans. Worster), “Ibn Fạdlān and the Rūsiyyah” (Montgomery), The Poetic Edda (trans. Dronke, Larrington), The Story of Burnt Njal (trans. Dasent).

* * *

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.
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Posted by Crystal Blanton

I joined with several hundred people to celebrate Black women at the “Ain’t I A Woman” march in Sacramento, California on July 15, 2017. Several hundred Black women and supporters marched at 9:00 AM in 100 degree weather to the State Capital and sat in front of the steps to listen to the amazing Black women speakers at the rally. Among the hundreds of people participating in this first ever event, I was blessed to be present with my daughter, family members, and among other Pagan Black women.

[Crystal Blanton]

Black Women United, a Sacramento based group, organized this march in response to the Women’s march held in January. Adding to the conversation of women’s needs, this march specifically set out to address the often forgotten intersectional needs of Black women throughout history and in today’s current times. Intentionally basing the theme on the infamous Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman” speech reflected the very necessity that this march attempted to address. While much has changed in America, not much has changed for Black women.

Abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth was born into slavery and was an example of a strong woman fighting for the rights of Black women. Not only did Truth escape to freedom with her young daughter in 1826, but she also won am 1828 court case to get her son back from the man who owned him.

Truth was one of the first Black women to speak about intersectional issues within feminism and the specific plight of Black women in America. She called out the multiple marginalized positions that Black women carry in a society that has a history of systemic racism and sexism. Her work has become some of the most important within the feminist, especially Black Feminist, movement toward equality.

It was in 1851 that Sojourner Truth made the powerfulAin’t I A Woman Speechat the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Meredith Simon and Beverley Smith [Beverley Smith]

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!

And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?” It is with that spirit of acknowledgement and need that this march came to manifestation where Black women are taking center stage to declare that they are indeed a woman.

On the Black Women United website it says “The concept of AIAW is a challenge, but also an affirmation. It is not a question, but rather a powerful statement or declaration of our womanhood and demanding all of the respect and acceptance that should come with it.”

Speakers on the stage at the rally spoke one by one about the empowerment needed to survive today’s times and struggles. Some of the esteemed speakers included Dr. Halifu Osumare, Dr. Joy Johnson, Porsche Nicole Kelly, and Elaine Brown. The former leader of the Black Panther Party came onto stage with a powerful message for Black women. She told the crowd “it is time for us to put on our Harriet Tubman hat; it’s time for us to put on our Sojourner Truth hat; our Ida B. Wells Barnett hat; our Mary Jane McLeod Bethune hat; our Rosa Parks hat and our Fannie Lou Hamer hat. It’s time to take the lead. It’s time for our self determination because no one is coming to get us”.

From the moment I heard of this event I knew it was something I needed to attend with my 9 year old girl. Social science research continues to show that instilling a sense of positive racial socialization in our children has proven to be one of the most important elements of healing through the historic racial trauma of our ancestors and our continued challenges in today’s system.

The kind of magic that comes from a intentional, empowering, focused,and energetic event like this was exactly the thing I would want to expose her to, including my own need for Black women empowerment within this hostile world. I purposefully want to combat the messages of euro-centric beauty standards that condition our young Black girls to see themselves as less than beautiful and capable in society by exposing them to the very power of the Black woman.

[Crystal Blanton]

There were other Black Pagan women present at Saturday’s march. There were also other Pagan community members who came to give support as non-black individuals. It was a reaffirming feeling to see other people from the Pagan community being present for such an intimate and much needed moment in the movement of Black liberation.

I reached out to several of the Black Pagan women who also came to the event to discuss their reason for coming and why they felt it was important for them. Here is what they said:

When I heard about the Ain’t I A Woman March, I knew I was going to attend. I was important for me as a Black woman to support other Black women and join them in voicing our concerns. So on July 15th, two other pagan sisters and I made the 100+ trek to Sacramento and it was well worth it.

The speeches and performances were empowering and inspirational. I was glad to be with Black women united together for our upliftment. It was nice to see other races there to support us, but Black Unity was especially gratifying.

I’m was pleased to know the organizers made the march all-inclusive. As a Black pagan I feel were are often invisible. We are invisible to our mostly white pagan counterparts who “don’t see” our color. On the other hand, our spiritual beliefs are not widely accepted by the larger Black community. Many Black pagans have to hide the pagan part of themselves to keep family, friendships, and community ties intact.

I knew some the pagan women who were at the March. It felt good to be there and be our full free selves. I was just thankful to be around other sisters of like mind and spirit. – M.A.

Beverley Smith

Like many others, I watched incredulously as a man that many native New Yorkers know to be an empty, amoral business tycoon and mediocre reality TV star took the White House. It was no surprise when women came out in droves to protest the Sex Offender-in-Chief the day after the Inauguration.

What did surprise me was that no matter how traumatized by the assent of a serial misogynist, the majority of the women did not include Black women in either the formal planning or the actual event. Accounts of this were reported all over the nation, with the most egregious offenses taking place in Seattle and Portland, where Black women were reported as being excluded from both the planning and the protest.

Even while feeling oppressed, those white women didn’t see oppression rife throughout their own behavior and actions. The stories of non-white women being thrown out of planning meetings and having their concerns ignored, their participation controlled and – in some cases – openly rejected made a big impression on me. I was struck by the irony that the majority of the women represented by this march had actually voted FOR this menace and had marginalized and dismissed the very women who tried to sound the alarm BEFORE the election. It was obvious that their only concerns were how they, as white women, were affected by the new regime.

So it made sense to me when a Black women’s march was planned. It’s a unfortunate fact that, in so many cases, we need our own spaces, and I vowed I would be a part of this historic Black Women’s rally. The 7 hour (one way) drive did nothing to deter us. Wild horses could not have kept me and my daughter away.

What an absolute delight to be among people where I, as a Black woman, didn’t feel the need to “small up myself”. There was no need to argue for my humanity because everyone in attendance needed no convincing. I felt beautiful because no one in attendance would hold the white standard of beauty up as a mirror to my face. I didn’t have to carefully calibrate my speech and my “tone” to avoid upsetting/angering/scaring/offending anyone.

To be in a public space where love for my Blackness and the Blackness of everyone else was openly declared, without having to make excuses or debate was a breath of fresh air. To know that I was in a public space where my Black Girl Magic was appreciated and reciprocated was so delicious. To know that there was absolutely no need to plead the case for my humanity allowed me to relax, to enjoy, to commune with my sisters in an utterly safe space, without explanation or apology.

It was a blessing to spend time with my pagan sisters.  As it is, Black witches are rare in my area, and most of my friendships with Black pagans have been cultivated at the annual Pantheacon event. We Black pagans haven’t always found large pagan gatherings to be welcoming, and based on my own experiences at Pantheacon, it was splendid to be in a space where we didn’t have to watch our backs. We could be unapologetically Black.

And nothing could have prepared me for the thrill of meeting an original Black Panther, the esteemed Elaine Brown. I was transfixed by her speech, her beauty, her message, and her legend.

My daughter said it best: it was pure magic to be surrounded by so many beautiful Black women, so many Black people, and the people who love and support us. It was nice that the group was as diverse as it was, but if the truth be told, it could have been entirely Black as far as I’m concerned — that is how such loving and positive energy on a grand scale affected me personally.

It’s my hope that the Black Women’s March becomes an annual event. Because, ain’t I a woman? – Beverley Smith

I also had an opportunity to speak with Jasper James from Activism Articulated about their own motivation to work for the march with Black Women United as a Two-Spirited community member.

As a Black woman, my work as co-owner of Integrated Communications and PR firm, Activism Articulated, with Black Women United struck a deeply personal chord. BWU’s message of inclusivity was what ignited my desire to assist in bringing this idea of celebrating all Black women to fruition. As we strive to create relevant transformation within Black communities, there is often a divide when it comes to amplifying the voices of those who are the most marginalized within our own community, often due to our connection to religion and the White supremacist/colonialist views that accompany social norms. BWU committed to actively making space and creating a platform that allowed for trans and queer Black voices to be heard.

Additionally, it is so rare that we take the time to put aside the anger and the pain that comes with oppression and this march provided a space to do just that. It was essentially a platform for ALL Black women to honor, celebrate and love one another. We can no longer wait for the oppressor to bring the level of healing that we need to the table. We must take on this responsibility ourselves and the “Ain’t I A Woman” march placed healing and advancement of Black women’s issues at the center of every action. I am so honored for my company to have played a role in supporting this incredible uplifting event. We look forward to supporting BWU in their continuous efforts to uplift Black women while addressing the issues that specifically affect them.

Beverley Smith and Crystal Blanton [Beverley Smith]

The intersectional issues of oppression for Black women continue to exist today and continue to exist within our Pagan community as well. More often than not the Pagan community does not speak to the experiences of Black women and we have to seek outside of our community to find understanding and empowerment that specifically addresses our particular brand of need. It is common that we are lost inside of the euro-centric dynamic of Paganism; it is very much the same as within the feminist movement.

Too often conversations, events, or rituals specifically addressing the needs of Black people are dismissed as political, divisive or “social justice warrior” activities. Yet we know that representation matters and there is something very important about the process of being seen.

The impact of events and activities that engage Black women in empowering moments that reaffirm our individual and collective power is a truly magical endeavor. The ripple effects of these moments of togetherness serve as a much needed reminder that we are not alone in society, and we are not alone as Pagan women.

It is easy to feel isolated in our spiritual community when we are the far and in-between face in the crowd but even in small doses we are pretty darn powerful.

As the new political movement of our lifetimes continues to gain momentum and thrive, there needs to be a space for Black women to be honored, celebrated, and acknowledged. And I am grateful that there will be a space at the table for us Black Pagan women there too.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
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Posted by Dodie Graham McKay

CANADA – Last June, an online exchange set the stage for the creation of #HavamalWitches, a campaign that has sparked kudos and controversy in the Heathen community worldwide.

On June 27, Canadian gythia and now activist, Brynja Chleirich posted a meme from the group Feminists United to her Facebook page, which described a scientific study detailing how often women are talked over and silenced by men. Along with the meme she posted the comment:

Because it’s related to how I feel within my Heathen community and I’m gonna just grow a set of fortitude and leave this right here and go ponder or shit. Working with Heimdallr the past several years? This girl. I see.

The frustration that compelled Chleirich to make such a post was the result of being pushed to her limit: “I posted this meme because I reached my ultimate level of “nope.” I posted because it was an absolute reflection of how I felt as a solitary gythia within the Heathen community and ultimately illustrates my perceptions of how we, as women, are (either directly or indirectly) treated within the boundaries of what often seems “Heathenry As Defined By Men.”

[Danica Swanson]

The thread that followed became a discussion and opportunity for many other women and femmes to express frustration and anger. The commentary from these voices inspired Jade Pichette to create #HavamalWitches.

Pichette, who also serves the Heathen community as a gythia and works professionally as an outreach coordinator for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto spoke to The Wild Hunt about their motivation:

“I started the hashtag somewhat as just a form of venting,” Pichette explained, “but then we decided it was something that needed to continue.”

Although Pichette can take credit for originating #HavamalWitches, Pichette is quick to extend credit to the network of people involved in spreading the message. ”Quite frankly at this point the key organizers are any woman or femme who takes it up to critique sexism in the Heathen community, the hashtag was created by me, but is owned by all of us who speak up and create space in the face of misogyny.”

Part of Pichette’s day job includes using social media for outreach, so creating and thinking about thought-provoking messages is something that comes with the territory. #HavamalWitches is also in part by the popular “I am the witch the Havamal warns you about” meme.

“But the core was the sexism that I have seen over the years within the Heathen community, and how increasingly women I knew were leaving the Heathen community.” Pichette went on to explain.

The phenomenon of women feeling alienated and pushed out of Heathen communities was also something that Chleirich personally experienced, and was part of why she decided to take a stand and step outside of her comfort zone

“I have, personally, never spoken out about any such ‘political’ issues, especially one of gender,” Chleirich explained. “However, after over a decade of being denied what I feel to be my own personal power of ritual and its subsequent ability to bring to the folk ‘experiences’ of a deeply profound and personal revelation, it is time to speak out.”

“I had been ready to completely walk away from the community who, I felt, should have been a larger support of my Heathen journey.”

[Shane Hultquist]

The action of #HavamalWitches is reaching out of social media and into the physical world. At this year’s Kaleidoscope Gathering, to be held at Raven’s Knoll in Ontario, August 2 -7, there will be a panel discussion featuring Pichette, Chleirich, and Alli Keeley, another original poster of the hashtag.

Anticipation for the discussion is high, and the intention is to open the floor to folk of all genders, and to examine how to create a more inclusive Heathen community.

Keeley says, “(The) panel is to be an open discussion about the inherent misogyny in the heathen community. How ingrained it can be from small comments of ‘Well since Thor is in the Ve so should his wife’ to outright belligerent comments like ‘Viking women should be wearing apron dresses.’ ”

Chleirich also has high hopes for #HavamalWitches in action. “There is an incredible need of the women-folk of the Heathen community both in Canada, and worldwide to be heard, seen and valued for the experiences they have brought not only to their hearths and private practice, but also to those experiences shown and effected within the Heathen public community and ritual experience at large.”

Chleirch is also clear that the definition of “woman” includes any self-identifying/presenting woman.

Despite receiving worldwide support, not all response to #HavamalWitches has been positive, and many supporters have been threatened and abused online for using the hashtag, or posting related memes.

For Chleirich, who was recently the target of a violent assault, this was especially troubling. “I was shocked at some of the backlash purporting men’s perspectives at being made to feel bullied, shamed or off-put due to our obviously shocking statements.”

“The irony knows no bounds in this regard,” Chleirich continues. “One particular statement I received, personally, was ‘When we [men] feel victimized we can get mean.’ As a woman who survived an attempted murder assault Monday, July 10, 2017, this is clearly a trigger on monumental levels.”

The negative reactions have galvanized the need for #HavamalWitches in the eyes of many, as Pichette says.

“Yes there has been backlash. There have been many who have denied that any sexism or misogyny exists in the Heathen community. Some have critiqued the women participating as ‘rocking the boat.’

“In some cases women have actually received threats for their participation, which both concerns and frankly angers me. However, in many cases the backlash helps to prove the point of why #HavamalWitches is so important to our community.”

While the hashtag originated in Canada and has turned into an active topic for discussion on Canadian Heathen forums and at gatherings, the discourse #HavamalWitches is prompting is of value everywhere.

“#HavamalWitches is a global issue, Heathens from all over the world including Canada, US, UK, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark and more have participated.  If you are a woman or femme who has experienced misogyny is the Heathen community, please take up #HavamalWitches for yourself, you own it, we own it. We are the Witches the Hávamál warns you about, and you are not alone.” urges Pichette.

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Posted by Cara Schulz

BELLE PLAINE, MN – After The Satanic Temple offered to create a monument for inclusion in the city’s free speech area at Veteran’s Memorial Park, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the area, bringing an end to a year of controversy.

Just under a year ago, a two foot high sculpture entitled “Joe” was installed at the park. The sculpture shows a soldier kneeling before a cross shaped headstone.

In January, the city removed the sculpture, concerned about potential lawsuits as the park is owned by the city. Concerns were raised that having an explicitly Christian monument could be seen as discriminatory toward other religions.

Area Catholics protested its removal and demanded the monument be returned to the park. Then, in April, the city council voted to create a free speech area in the park and the monument was returned to its location.

Rendering of TST monument [Courtesy TST website]

It was at this point that The Satanic Temple (TST) of Salem, MA petitioned the city for permission to install a monument to honor non-religious service members.

The Satanic Temple (TST) has a history of challenging governmental actions that they see as discriminatory toward atheists and minority religions. Last year, TST created After School Satan clubs to challenge Christian evangelical groups who host after hours clubs inside public schools.

The proposed park memorial was a black cube inscribed with pentagrams and topped with an upside-down soldier’s helmet. A plaque on one side would reportedly read:

In honor of the Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its Constitution.

TST’s monument plan was approved by the city council and would have been the first of its kind installed on public property in the United States. Lucian Greaves, TST’s spokesperson, said Belle Plaine officials didn’t “offer any resistance, to their credit.”

TST said it was creating a monument that would genuinely honor veterans and not designed to simply shock or offend.

[Matt Kowalski]

However, the park’s memorial controversy reached a boiling point Saturday, when dueling protests took place at the venue. An estimated 100 people attended a “rosary rally” organized by America Needs Fatima, a Catholic nonprofit. They prayed and held signs decrying the proposed Satanic monument. Less than ten supporters of the Satanic monument were on hand.

Also attending were area veterans. “I don’t know who’s speaking for the veterans. I don’t know who’s speaking for us. We got no problem. We fought for this country for everybody,” said one local veteran in a video by RUPTLY.

Prior to these protests, the Christian monument was removed from the park by the family who donated. The family members expressed concerns that it could become damaged during the protests.

[Matt Kowalski]

In reaction, Belle Plaine city council voted Monday to rescind the free speech area. The park will now be free of any monuments.

Belle Plaine city officials released a statement Tuesday morning:
Last night, the Belle Plaine City Council voted to rescind a resolution enacted in February, 2017, that allowed individuals or organizations to place and maintain privately-owned displays in a designated space of the city-owned Veterans Memorial Park.

As called-for in the resolution, owners of all privately-owned Park displays currently located in the Park’s designated space are now being given 10 days’ notice to remove the displays. Our local veterans organizations are supportive of this action.

The original intent of providing the public space was to recognize those who have bravely contributed to defending our nation through their military service. In recent weeks and months, though, that intent has been overshadowed by freedom of speech concerns expressed by both religious and non-religious communities.

The debate between those communities has drawn significant regional and national attention to our city, and has promoted divisiveness among our own residents.

While this debate has a place in public dialogue, it has detracted from our city’s original intent of designating a space solely for the purpose of honoring and memorializing military veterans, and has also portrayed our city in a negative light.

Therefore, the Council believes that it is in the best interests of our Belle Plaine community to rescind the resolution, and bring this divisive matter to closure.

In a comment on TST’s Facebook post, announcing the council’s decision, Adam Nagel said, “Funny how Christians and Conservatives tout themselves as champions of the constitution, yet have such a hard time with free speech and separation of church and state.”

A conversation with Jason Mankey

Jul. 18th, 2017 06:33 pm
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Posted by Terence P Ward

SUNNYVALE, Calif –Jason Mankey credits his public visibility as a Pagan to the blog he writes on the Patheos Pagan channel, Raise the Horns. He is also currently that channel’s editor, a position which has put him in the crosshairs during the sometimes-tense ownership transition to BN Media, a company with a strong Christian influences.

He has been praised as a devoted priest of Pan and derided as a corporate minion. In the following conversation, a portrait emerged which is more nuanced than one can often glean from blog posts for and about an individual.

Jason Mankey [courtesy].

The Wild Hunt: Do you do anything with your life other than manage a blog channel at Patheos?

Jason Mankey: Despite what some people believe, Patheos Pagan is not a full-time job. I only spend about 10 hours a week working for Patheos.

The other 30 hours a week I spend at my computer are generally focused on book writing, figuring out what festivals I’m going to next, and creating workshops and rituals. It’s weird to have transitioned into Paganism as a full-time job but I’m mostly there. I’ve started teaching Wiccan-Witchcraft classes at a local store, so crafting lesson plans for that takes a lot of time too.

Because I really (really really) miss talking to human beings during the week, most Tuesdays I spend four hours working at a local used bookstore. In many ways these are my favorite work hours of the week. No one’s yelling at me, and I don’t have to think too much while I’m there. I also spend a lot of time taking care of my wife. I do the cooking and the cleaning. So yes, I do lots of things, and Patheos is only one small part of my life.

TWH: Writing and traveling both could easily be full-time pursuits. How do you balance them?

JM: I don’t think there’s a lot of balance there. If I’m doing one, then I’m not doing the other. The worst is a book deadline during February-March (ConVocation, PantheaCon, Paganicon) because I’m just not disciplined enough to write on a plane or in my hotel room. I know some writers who can do both at the same time, but I’m not one of them.

And festivals aren’t really a full-time thing. They are occasional occurrences, and I’d probably go broke or lose my wife if they were super-frequent. A lot of festivals I end up hitting on my own dime, or only have a few fees waived. (Yes, there are festivals where presenters pay their own way in, even if they have books.)

The kindest festivals will pay my travel costs and give me a place to sleep (usually this is easiest at outdoor festivals), but even if those things are taken care of festivals still end up costing me money. I’m always going to need snacks, cider, and probably some sort of caffeine drink in the middle of the day. I know some writers who take a fee on top of their travel costs, but I don’t think I’m worth that much, and besides, I love what I do. I don’t like to haggle about money.

Writing is mostly a full-time thing I guess, but I have trouble sitting still for six or eight hours a day writing. I’ll write book stuff for three or four hours, and then research something, or work on a blog post for some of the day. I’m lucky that I can dedicate so much of my day to Pagan stuff, a lot of authors work a full 40 to 50 hours a week at a mundane job and then write in the evenings on top of that. I count my blessings, because I know just how lucky I am.

TWH: Since we’re talking about writing, where do you get your ideas?

JM: I try to write about things that interest me. I love history, and I don’t see it written about very much in most Pagan blogs (or books) so I try to include a lot of that in what I do.

A lot of workshop and writing ideas stem from things I’m curious about. I’m not a spiritualist, but I’m fascinated that there was this huge “occult” movement in the United States for nearly 50 years and it’s mostly ignored in our history books.

Spiritualists were involved in all sorts social issues too. They were most all abolitionists, and the suffragist movement had a lot of spiritualists in its ranks. I want to share that story and that history, so that’s part of why I write.

I also think we as Pagans don’t do a very good job remembering our past. Sure we remember a lot of big names like Gardner and Valiente, but what about Leo Martello or Gwydion Pendderwen? We should know their stories and remember their achievements. We wouldn’t be here today without those folks. So keeping our history inspires me to write a lot, even if I can’t give those stories the justice they deserve.

When it comes to books, The Witch’s Athame was something I was asked to write about by Llewellyn. The Witch’s Book of Shadows came about because I was too scared to write anything “bigger” and wanted the tight outline writing a book like that provides.

TWH: Other than your blog, how much influence do your musical tastes have on your writing?

JM: Not all that much. In order to concentrate I tend to listen to jazz and big band stuff while I write. I get distracted when I listen to things with words because I find myself singing along (poorly) and concentrating more on the song than on the writing.

Every once in awhile I might put on some Doors, Loreena McKennitt, or Damh the Bard if I find myself trying to capture a very specific mood or emotion, but that’s rare.

Writing ritual is the one real exception. When working on Yule I’ll listen to Tori Amos’ Christmas album, and Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy for midsummer. But rituals are more personal things, books (and sometimes even blog articles) need to have footnotes and if I’m distracted I’ll miss them. I do love music though. There’s something very “Pagan” about it just in how it moves us. It’s transformative, just like magick.

TWH: Given that they are more personal things to you, how do you feel about rituals in books? Are they helpful to readers?

JM: I hope so, because I include a few in every book. Ritual can be hard to write, and for many years the rituals in our “101 books” were really rudimentary. I think we’ve learned a lot as a community over the last 30 years about how to write rituals in a way that are more inclusive and have more involvement between everybody.

With one exception, I’ve never seen writing ritual as something personal. It makes me feel more like a chef than anything else. I’m going to attempt to create something, and how it’s interpreted is up to each individual at the ritual. Great ritual writing is about setting up and creating the circumstances for a spiritual experience, what I don’t think you can do dictate is how each person in circle is going to interpret that experience. How a ritual resonates is generally the personal part.

I will add that in April of 2001 my grandmother died, and it came right as I was writing our community’s Beltane ritual. I was really close to my grandma and it hit me especially hard. (She was the first family member close to me to die.) That ritual ended up being personal, and it’s the only ritual I can remember writing that (and I know it sounds cliche) bared my soul to everyone. I remember crying while writing and being surrounded by flowers, which were beautiful, but were only there because they were memorial flowers. It was so strange to be focused on “rebirth” and “life” while writing a Beltane ritual and being surrounded by death. I somehow put all that of into the ritual, and then lost it after the ritual was over.

This was right before the age of everyone having a laptop or even a home computer so I wrote the whole ritual out on notebook paper. That’s one I’d like to get back.

Mankey with Geraldine Beskin in London’s Atlantis Bookshop [courtesy]

TWH: Have you ever participated in a ritual that you wrote, but were not facilitating?

JM: With some frequency close to home. When I was helping to run our local open circle I’d often end up writing ritual but then opt not to have a part in it. It’s fun to watch your words come to life without having to actually say them.

In my eclectic coven I created our ritual structure, so in some ways we are always using “my ritual” when we meet even if I’m not doing the heavy lifting that night. One of the things I probably like about being a Gardnerian is that I get to turn off my brain and use someone else’s ritual for awhile. That’s always nice.

TWH: Wicca is strongly associated with gender balance; Raven Kaldera recently observed that that duality is as important to Wiccan as communion is to Catholics. In your view, is there a place for non-binary persons in Wicca? If so, what place is it?

JM: As a practicing Wiccan-Witch (and a Gardnerian one to boot) the idea that “duality is as important to Wicca as communion is to Catholics” strikes me as a bit odd. There’s a part of me that wants to answer that with a sassy, “is Raven a Wiccan?” but that’s probably not going to be productive.

There are certainly some Wiccan traditions that place a strong emphasis on duality, and then there are others that do not. I believe Wicca is probably best defined by its practice and not its theology, which has always been hard to ascertain anyway.

And of course there’s a place for non-binary persons in Wicca. My deities are representative of everything’, including every gender and the genderless. And their place in the circle is wherever they want their place in the circle to be. The world of “Wicca” is a pretty big place, and there’s a lot of room within it.

TWH: What in the heck do you do for Patheos? Are you pulling the strings of a vast, conspiratorial web of intrigue?

JM: We have ties to both the Illuminati and several Rosicrucian orders. Our plan is to get Lady Sheba anointed (posthumously) as the Queen of all Witches and Pagans. From there it’s just total world domination.

[Author’s note: Mankey’s response included an emoticon after the above paragraph to indicate he was joking. It was not reproduced here, but he was in fact joking in his initial response to the question. He then continued with a serious response]

My job at Patheos Pagan constitutes a few specific things. I run our social media accounts, which means I spend a lot of time on Facebook scheduling posts from Patheos, and other places. We run articles from a wide range of sites on our Facebook page.

I don’t “edit” writers in the traditional sense. Writers who have blogs are free to write nearly anything and everything they want (other than badmouthing Patheos). When they are done they post it. I don’t see it until it’s posted just like everyone else.

I don’t go back and “edit” posts once they are up. I might fix a typo or something, but I’ve never changed the meaning of a post or even done any significant “editing.” Most of the time when I go into a post it’s to add or remove a picture. Images are great for promoting posts, and are also a great way to get sued, so I monitor pictures to make sure they are legal to use.

I don’t agree with everything that’s published at Patheos, and it’s not my job to. We want writers with different opinions and philosophies, which I think is representative of Paganism. We aren’t all liberals and we don’t agree on every issue and that should be okay.

I’m also in charge of recruiting writers for Patheos, and we are always looking to bring new writers into the fold. Bringing in a new blog is the most fun part of my job, and it’s really satisfying to see a new writer’s post go viral.

I also function as a liaison of sorts between Patheos (now owned by BeliefNet) and the writers at Patheos Pagan. It’s a tough balancing act because I’m not just the channel manager at Patheos Pagan, I’m one of our writers, and have been since 2012.

Patheos is a very big website and the traffic from the Pagan Channel is only a very tiny bit of the site’s traffic, but they’ve always treated the Pagan channel as an important piece of the puzzle. I get treated the same way and paid the same amount of money as the channel manager at Patheos Evangelical or Patheos Catholic. In my five years at Patheos I feel as if they’ve gone above and beyond to make us (the Pagans) feel welcome. There have been some bumps in the road, few relationships are perfect, but I think we’ve been treated pretty well there all things considered.

TWH: Let’s talk about the intersection of blogging and Paganism. For starters, has writing and managing blogs affected you as a Pagan?

JM: Blogging at Patheos Pagan has changed my entire life, and that’s not an exaggeration. Without Raise the Horns there are no books, no trips to Pagan Spirit Gathering as a featured presenter, none of that stuff, and I mean it.

I blogged a little bit before Patheos, and I had written in some magazines and done a lot of workshops, but I found my voice at Raise the Horns. That’s when I started putting together the discipline needed to write well (check out my output there in 2012/13-just awful!).

When I got my own blog there in 2012 it was such a big deal to me. Back then Patheos hosted the Wild Hunt, and Teo Bishop was a huge presence in the online community, and Star Foster was was amazing and writing nearly all the time, and my blog was right there next to those; it felt like such an honor.

The platform and potential audience just felt so big that it really made me work harder to live up to what everyone there was doing at the time. And the Pagan blogosphere is smart, the writers are smart, and the commenters are smart. You have to be on top of your game or you’ll get laughed out of the room.

There are a lot of blogs that survive on their own, but there’s something about being on a “blog hub” whether that’s Patheos Pagan, Witches and Pagans and now Pagan Bloggers, that I think is good for blogs and good for the community. “Like attracts like” is a fundamental rule of magick, and I feel like I benefited a lot from being only a click away from Star, PVSL, and everyone else who has ever written there over the years.

For all the gifts that blogging has given me, there’s been a less than ideal side to it too. There are several gray hairs on my head (hidden by dye, but I know they are there) that have come directly from being involved in the online world. I don’t like to get into it, but the online world has made me severely depressed at points, especially over the last two years.

I’m more cautious than I used to be, less trusting too, and I think that is a direct result of some experiences I’ve had online. There’s a lot more than could be said, but what good would it do?

Jason Mankey

[Courtesy]

TWH: Did Star Foster discover you, then, and invite you to blog at Patheos?

JM: Actually it was Jason Pitzl [founder of The Wild Hunt] who first suggested Patheos to me. He then got me in touch with Star and we talked about a blog there. That got put on the back burner and after a few months I started blogging at Agora (our shared blog at Patheos Pagan).

I was at Agora from about Imbolc to Beltane and when I asked Star about writing more at Agora she just said, “Do you want your own blog?” That was June of 2012 I believe. Star did come up with the name, and Patheos designed the banner. So Star did have a lot to do with it.

Her footprint from her days at Patheos is still pretty big. I think she brought in John Beckett and she created the Agora.

TWH: [At Patheos] in effect writers are paid to draw eyeballs to the sight. That has consequences such as an ad density that sometimes slows down page loads or elicits complaints from readers, and an understandable pressure to get more pages out of writers to convert into views. Do you think those complaints have merit, or is that just the best way to get Pagan voices out there? Are other models, not used at Patheos, which you’d be interested in trying, if only in an alternate reality?

JM: Up until now your questions were so nice and easy!

Patheos tried a subscription-based model, and the amount of people who signed up for it could be counted on my fingers and toes. I think people will pay for news, but not much else online, and that leaves us with advertisements. No one likes ads, but the alternatives only rarely seem to work. I’d love for Patheos Pagan (and Patheos in general) to be sustainable without ads, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.

Patheos take any trouble with advertisements very seriously. Response to things such as “my phone was highjacked by a free iPhone ad” are immediately looked into and hopefully fixed.Every major website I visit has advertisements, and occasionally those ads are terrible or highjack my phone and take me to the App Store. Sadly, that’s a part of the internet.

Hopefully when someone writes something it will draw eyeballs to the site, but I’ve never felt a whole lot of pressure from Patheos (old ownership or new) to get people to write. Do they want us to write? Certainly. Are people removed from Patheos for not writing? Absolutely not. We’ve had blogs lie dormant for a solid year when a writer has something going on in their life, and then they come back and it’s fine. If that’s pressure, we are really failing at it.

Isn’t the point of nearly every website to draw readers in? Even websites that exist through donations still want readers; if they don’t have readers there won’t be any donations.

I think Patheos is still one of the best ways to get voices from the Pagan community out into the wider world. It’s not the only way of course, but it has more reach than many other sites, and I think it’s great to see Pagans writing side by side with people from a wide variety of faiths.

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Posted by Heather Greene

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and members of Ásatrúarfélagið.

Ásatrúarfélagið.

Reykjavik — According to local sources, construction on the much-anticipated Ásatrú temple has been halted. “The unique design of the building, by architect Magnús Jensson, is not simple in execution.” Due to that fact, builders have run into “engineering challenges.”

In 2015, columnist Eric Scott spoke with Jensson about his unique design and the reasons behind it. “The temple will bore into the hill itself, leaving an interior wall of bare rock; water will trickle down that wall and collect in streams and pools built into the floor. These features are meant to tie together the indoors and outdoors, the constructed and the natural. […] The wooden walls and ceiling will slope up into a dome. According to Jensson, the shape of the dome is meant to evoke the female form, in contrast to the phallic associations of other religious buildings in Reykjavik.”

Jensson told Scott that he had no interest in duplicating ancient construction, but rather watned to build something that reflected modern practice. Despite the current setbacks, high priest Hilmar Örm Hilmarsson still expects the temple to be open by late spring, 2018.

*   *   *

LA BELLE, Penn. — In an update to a 2016 story, the newly formed Wiccan circle at the SCI Fayette facility is reportedly expanding to other prisons. Organizer Richard McCullough originally called the group the Alternative Spirituality Grove, but has since renamed it the group Green Willow Grove.

McCullough had been working on the project for over ten years, saying that it was a journey that took him “up and down, left and right, back and forth […] and in and out of the process of obtaining legitimacy, and acknowledgement of the Wiccan religion in prison.”

McCullough now reports that the Green Willow Grove, with support of their high priestess Lady Earla Burwell, will expand to include “inmates from across the country looking to start their own” groups. He wants to share the process, resources, and information with others who are trying to do the same thing.

 *   *   *
TWH
– According to Smithsonian Magazine, a library is needing help translating old magical documents. “The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period.” Some of the documents “deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits.”

The documents are online and available to anyone through the library’s Transcribing Faith site. Part of the objective is making it possible for the public and for researchers easy access to the material. “Manuscripts are these unique witnesses to a particular historical experience,” said Christopher Fletcher, coordinator of the project, to the magazine reporter. There are currently three magic-related manuscripts that the library is working to translate. We will have you more on this story in the coming weeks.

In other news:

  • Filmmaker James Myers has created a short video called Fortis Libertas or Brave Liberty, based on interviews that he did at PantheaCon 2017. Myers writes, “Frustrated and troubled by the current administration and all the craziness that you see in the news? Pagan or not…This is for you! Check out these timely and thought provoking interviews with three influential leaders in the Pagan world as they give advice on how to cope and survive these times.” His guests include Jason Mankey, Selena Fox, and Thorn Mooney with music by Celia. The video can be viewed through YouTube.
  • The Alexandria Temple in Denver is collecting unwanted calendars for its prison ministry program. “Calendars are very useful in prisons, and appreciated by the inmates who have them. Many chaplain’s offices give out calendars at the turning of the year, but there are never enough. Please help out if you can. We have already started receiving our too many calendars in the mail, and I know others have too. Rather than waste them, put them to use.”
  • Solar Cross Temple continues its online spiritual programming this weekend with “Devotions For the People: Praises for the Indwelling Spirit.” Sunday’s event is called “Ori Devotional” and was written by Lou Florez. He explains, “In Orisha traditions in Africa and the diaspora the Ori, or indwelling spirit, is considered the highest authority and divinity in the cosmos. It is this consciousness that first offers its consent before any of our projects, dreams, or goals can come into full manifestation, or before any other divinity or spirit can assist us.” Solar Cross has been holding these devotionals monthly. The subject and direction changes as does the writer. All directions and information on how to participate are online.
  • Mystic South is launching its first event this weekend. The three-day indoor conference kicks off on Friday and runs through Sunday in Atlanta. Held in the Crown Plaza Ravinia, the event is the first of its kind to be held in the Southeast. The Wild Hunt, which is based in Atlanta, will be hosting an informal pre-conference meet and greet in the hotel Thursday evening. All those who are attending Mystic South are welcome to come say hello to and chat with TWH team members and others.
  • Fall events are being announced as August arrives. Chamisa Local Council of Covenant of the Goddess has announced its annual fall event called Magical Mountain Mabon. Based in New Mexico, Chamisa host its three-day spiritual retreat deep in the Manzano Mountains, outside of Albuquerque. This year’s theme is “The Song Within and Circle” lead by S. J. Tucker.
  • Ninth Wave Press has put out a call for submissions for an upcoming publication: Silver Wheel: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Arianrhod. Details about the project are online, and “all proceeds from the sale of this devotional anthology will benefit the Sisterhood of Avalon Land Fund.” Ninth Wave is the “publishing arm of the Sisterhood of Avalon, and seeks to produce quality works about the Avalonian Tradition, Welsh Paganism, Celtic Religion, Druidism, and Women’s Spirituality.”
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Posted by Heather Greene

SALEM, Mass. — In an update to a previous story, the city of Salem has finished its memorial project dedicated to the people executed in its infamous witch trial hangings. It was July 19, 1692 that the first of three mass hangings took place; five people were killed including Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wildes.

A bench at the 1992 Witch Trials Memorial [H. Greene].

Mayor Kim Driscoll chose this date to honor the victims and to dedicate the new memorial, located at Proctor’s Ledge where the actual hangings took place.

As we reported last year, the hanging site has been ignored, forgotten, or left to speculation. Many people assumed that the executions occurred not far away at the top of Gallows Hill. However, with renewed effort and modern technology, the actual location is no longer a mystery.

“I find it is an incredibly important story that is often told wrong,” said Dr. Emerson Baker, professor of history at Salem State University, told the Wild Hunt. Baker has been studying 17th century New England for almost 40 years, and Salem’s story for over 20.

Baker further explained that, in 1936, the city of Salem purchased a strip of land near the base of Gallows Hill. It was labeled “Witch Memorial Land,” but was never marked or utilized in any way.

As it turns out, that small abandoned area is where the hangings actually occurred. A local team of scientists and historians, working under the Gallows Hill Project, announced this discovery in January 2016.

Modern day Witch Sandra Wright told The Wild Hunt, “This is knowledge I’ve had for years, based on writings discussing clues like the location of the North River, as well as maps from the 1800s.”

Wright is a third-generation Salem resident who is high priestess of Elphame coven. She and her husband currently live on land owned by her family for over 100 years – land that is located on Gallows Hill.

“When my husband was researching our home on Gallows Hill, trying to go back before my family acquired the property almost 100 years ago, insurance maps showed [Proctor Ledge] to be the location,” she explained.

“For years, Witches and psychics have asked me how I could stand living there with all the tormented spirits, and I said it never disturbed me. I grew up in it, and never felt any ill will or harmful energy in my beloved park or my woods.”

Gallows Hill Park [Willjay/Wikimedia Commons]

The space called Proctor’s Ledge is located behind a Walgreens, bound by Boston and Proctor streets. Since the Gallows Hill Project announcement, the city and local residents have come together to raise money for a new memorial monument at the site.

According to the city’s website, “The design and construction of the memorial, as well as improvements to the streetscape and the parcel itself, were funded primarily through a $174,000 Community Preservation Act grant, as well as dozens of small donations, many from descendants of those wrongfully executed at the site.”

The memorial itself was designed by Massachusetts architect Martha Lyon. In 2016, Lyon told a local reporter that, in soliciting ideas for designs, “opinions of the project are about as far apart as you can be.” Some ideas focused on the city needing to simply create a historical marker and to clean up the area for better access. Others had a broader vision, imagining a site that served as a reminder of the intolerance and injustices that perpetuated the trials. Still others were looking for a quiet, respectful memorial to the victims.

Over the centuries, the residents of Salem have not always embraced their locale as “America’s Witch City.” As noted by Lyon in her discussion of the new monument, the 1936 city board, who voted to buy the land at Proctor’s Ledge, could not agree on what to do with it, or why they were purchasing.

As recently reported by The Salem News, an old 1936 article demonstrates this point. When asked the site’s purpose, the 1936 board president said, “it was something to memorialize the affair of the witches.” However, another councillor said that he “did not think that was something of which they were very proud.”

Nothing was ever developed.

It would be years later that the city as a whole finally acknowledged and embraced its well-known past, as Baker explained to TWH in 2016. “The Crucible, along with Bewitched and then the 300th anniversary in 1992 all helped popularize it, along with the arrival of [Laurie] Cabot and other Wiccans,” he said.

It took the slow movement of time, a growing cultural legacy and mythos, and the arrival of real Witches to turn the city into what it is today, including its relationship with Witchcraft, past and present.

As noted, to mark the 300th anniversary of the trials, the city did erect a memorial, but it is not located at Proctor’s Ledge. The Witch Trials Memorial, as it is called, still remains in place, nestled between other buildings on a small plot of land.

The new memorial, which is located at the actual hanging site, is the next addition to the city’s recognition of its history and the unique culture that has since formed there.

[City of Salem.]

The Proctor’s Ledge Memorial will be dedicated July 19 at noon, as proclaimed by Mayor Driscoll. The event is open to the public and will take place on Proctor Street.

Leading up to the memorial’s unveiling, Discoll also proclaimed June 10, 2017 as an official “Day of Remembrance.” The proclamation reads:

WHEREAS:  325 years ago on this date of June 10the in 1692 Bridget Playfer Bishop of Salem Town was wrongfully and unjustly executed for the supposed crime of witchcraft, becoming the first of 25 innocent people to die as a result of the hysteria; and

WHEREAS:  All of the dozens of individuals were each wholly innocent and convicted based on spectral evidence, lies, and hysteria; and

WHEREAS:  Salem continues to shine a light on its history in order that all may learn from the lessons and legacies of this city’s past; and

WHEREAS:  The values of inclusivity, tolerance, open mindedness, and kindness are central to who we are as a community and are directly informed by the events of our past;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Kimberley Driscoll, Mayor of the City of Salem,  do hereby proclaim June 10, 2017 as:

A Day of Remembrance in recognition of the tragic events that unfolded 325 years ago commencing on this date, and do call upon the residents of Salem and all places to mark this occasion with reflection on the lessons and legacies of our community’s past and with acts of kindness and generosity to strangers and neighbors alike.

When asked this week about the new memorial installation and upcoming dedication, Wright said she still feels the same way as she did a year ago, adding that “the city is talking about amendments to the tour regulations that will prevent tour companies from taking tours to Proctor’s Ledge.”

She likes that idea: “I don’t think we need to parade tours there. There are many other places in downtown Salem that this subject can be discussed. Let those who are truly interested in seeing the actual site make their way there if they choose… as people have been for decades.”

“Determined tourists have been seeking out Gallows Hill on their own for ages,” she explained.

“They won’t need a guided tour or a crafted speech; the journey itself is part of the message the past has revealed to us today: if we are not vigilant, we could lose sight of the lesson, so we must work to protect the innocent and preserve the peace that came at too high a cost.”

In 2016, Wright made the comment, which she still holds to be true, that ultimately “Magick is not limited to line of sight or property lines.”

Despite all of the attention being given to any one memorial, “the current [of magick] runs beyond the square footage designated by the historians or the city government, and we can tap into it without needing to physically stand on the exact location, which has changed over the centuries.”

She said, “What once stood as an ominous cautionary tale to all whose eyes dared look upon it has since become the unassuming, neglected backdrop to a parking lot. That’s the magick of time.”

This year, magic has changed the city’s narrative once again, turning that neglected “backdrop” into a dedicated historical marker, a somber memorial site, and a place that people can personally embrace and remember the city’s famous past in whatever way or however they choose.

Updated 7/16/17 3:04 pm

Column: Whiteness is Dead

Jul. 15th, 2017 07:26 am
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Posted by Heathen Chinese

Whiteness is dead. James Baldwin proclaimed it back in 1972, prophesying ominously that there would be “bloody holding actions all over the world, for years to come.” The holding actions have gotten bloodier and bloodier with the rise of Trump and the self-described “alt-right,” but these are death throes of a doomed egregore. Whiteness is damned not by progress, but by entropy, by the truth that “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” It’s become cliché to state that “race is a social construct,” but from an occultist’s perspective, that which was birthed through sorcery can and must be killed by the same means.

Loyalty to the land, the black and brown and anti-racist ancestors, the gods and spirits [It’s Going Down].

Whiteness is dead, but we do not live in a color-blind society. To understand that whiteness is an egregore, a collective thought-form, is not to diminish the lived experience of black and brown people, but rather to contextualize it. I’ve quoted W.E.B. Du Bois on this subject before:

The badge of color [is] relatively unimportant save as a badge; the real essence of this kinship is its social heritage of slavery; the discrimination and insult.

Those experiences and that kinship are real, and the “badge” encodes those experiences, but the experiences themselves are anything but natural. The fact that, in the United States, “blood quantum” laws are used to determine federally-recognized Native American tribal membership while the “one-drop rule” has historically been used to define blackness show the flexibility of racist ideology in the interests of the white ruling class. And for many white-passing people of color who witness insult to themselves and their kin, it is obvious that the “badge of color” is not what is important, but rather the “social heritage.” Whiteness is also a set of experiences, but they are the experiences that result from allegiance to the egregore and the rejection of other forms of kinship and solidarity.

Whiteness is dead, but I see self-proclaimed anti-racists trying to resuscitate it. Personally, I don’t want to see any more groups of white people gathering for the purpose of talking about their whiteness, about their white guilt, about their white ally-ship. All that does nothing but reaffirm and reify whiteness. I want to see aspiring race traitors, aspiring accomplices, aspiring ex-white people.

Whiteness is dead, but it has always been an undead entity, and it must be staked through the heart if it attempts to rise again. Furthermore, its dead weight and toxins must still be drawn out and purged by each and every individual it has poisoned, including many black and brown people. There is work that must be done.

Devils

“Had I as many souls as there be stars,/I’d give them all for Mephistophilis./By him I’ll be great emperor of the world.” Faustus, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Whiteness is a classic Faustian bargain, bartering souls for power, accepting severance from ancestry in exchange for white identity. Whiteness was created in the plantation system, a lie used to break the potential for solidarity between indentured servants of European descent and black slaves, an attempt to mitigate rampant desertion to maroon and indigenous communities.

Time and time again, waves of European immigrants—the Irish, the Italians, the Polish—were offered this same bargain: abandon one’s ancestral customs, align with anti-blackness and the theft of indigenous land, and receive a few pitiful scraps from the table of power. Time and time again, the bargain was accepted—not by all, but by enough that the boundaries of whiteness shifted to accept its new recruits. The original pact has been reenacted over and over again.

A similar though not identical bargain is offered to some non-European immigrants, especially those from east Asia. These immigrants are faced with the choice to align with anti-blackness and become a “model minority,” or to reject assimilation and face the consequences thereof. Full whiteness is still out of reach, though recently some segments of the far-right seem to be more open to collaborating with certain Asians and white Latinos, especially when commonality can be found over the defense of patriarchy and so-called western civilization.

The Devil and Dr. Faustus [Wellcome Library].

To make a pact with a devil is to become aligned with it, to become unified with it in one’s actions in the world. Malcolm X was right when he said: “Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people…anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil.” The Boxer Rebels who blamed Christian missionaries and converts for a brutal 1890s drought in northern China also referred to European and American imperialists as 白鬼 (báiguǐ) or “white devils.” I bring up these historical examples in order to focus on the devilish choices and actions, however, not to attribute any inherent evil to pale skin.

To those readers with “white” ancestry: get thee to a crossroads, go. Break the compact that your ancestors made with whiteness, at whatever point they did so in the last five centuries. Your ancestors who came before that point in time did not see themselves as white, for that concept did not exist. Perhaps you need to go back further to find ancestors you can relate to, before monotheism, before patriarchy. However long it takes, reconnect to the old lineages, the lineages that stretch back to the stars. As Finnchuill reminds us, however, make sure that you do not confuse genetics with cultural or spiritual ancestry. Do not leave a power vacuum, for nothing is more characteristic of whiteness than the claim to be a tabula rasa, than allegiance to the Nothing, than the severance of old ties without the cultivation of new relationships. And when you leave the crossroads, whatever else you do, do not look back.

Oaths

“Wish me luck now, I have to leave you/Bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao/With my friends now, up to the city/We’re going to shake the Gates of Hell.” Chumbawamba, Bella Ciao

Treason to whiteness opens the road to new possibilities, new loyalties, new kinship structures. As it turns out, the ritual forging of new bonds of kinship is a very old practice indeed, found in many traditional cultures. The Chinese warrior Guan Yu, who died during the violent collapse of the Han Dynasty (220 CE) and was later deified as Guan Di, was famed for having sworn brotherhood with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei, and for his unwavering loyalty to that oath.

Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei [public domain].

Prasenjit Duara writes that Guan Di later became a god who oversaw oaths in secret societies:

For the rootless bandits and rebels of secret societies, the oath of loyalty that Guan Yu upheld gained an unparalleled salience. All rites and ceremonies among the Triads, for instance, including those performed at the initiation of recruits and the punishment of traitors, took place before the altars of Guan Yu and the founders of the secret society. (782)

Furthermore, for the criminals and rebels who worshiped Guan Di, “the oath symbolized loyalty to brotherhood, not to the state that had been their enemy” (790). Fictive kinship is also widespread in queer communities, in initiatory magical and religious lineages, and in gangs. For outcasts and outlaws, it is a survival mechanism. And to become a traitor to whiteness is to declare allegiance to those who have always been outside of it.

Michael J. Enright argues in Lady With a Mead Cup that Germanic and Gaulish war bands used rituals involving the serving of mead by the warlord’s consort, who was in ancient times a prophetess, to construct and continually reaffirm the artificial kinship of the war band:

Communal drinking, which had the purpose of creating fictive kinship, must also be viewed as having some of the aspects of a cultic act. It aimed at creating a non-natural bond of loyalty, and liquor was used because liquor was the medium through which one achieved ecstacy and thus communion with the supernatural. (17)

Oaths were sworn over the mead cup, witnessed by the prophetess, the warlord, the assembled warriors, and the spirits. The role of witnesses, both corporeal and incorporeal, is crucial to the act of swearing an oath. The oath-witnesses are the ones who will know if an oath has been broken, and who have the ability—indeed, the obligation—to hold the oath-breaker accountable. And even when no oaths are being sworn, the spirits are always watching: a person’s actions, especially when they think they are not being watched, show their true loyalties.

Loyalties

“The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, ‘Do not trust the pilgrims. Especially Sarah Miller.’ Wednesday Addams, Addams Family Values

In America, the indigenous and black and brown dead, whose bones form the land, whose blood and sweat and tears have watered it, are ever present, ever close, ever watching. No deeds can be performed, no words spoken, no oaths sworn without them taking notice. To those of us who are loyal to them, the colonial settler government is, was, and forever will be illegitimate. In these times of violence, chaos, and suffering, new kinship structures will have to be formed, new oaths sworn. Those who cultivate right relationship with the land and the black and brown ancestors will survive, those who do not will perish.

“Putrefactio” from J.D. Mylius, Philosophia Reformata, engraved by Balthazar Schwan, 1622 [public domain].

Whiteness is dead. Its grave is unmarked, its demise unmourned, its crimes unforgiven. A new day is dawning. The black sun is rising, the black sun of alchemy, the black sun that reveals hidden shadows, the black sun that heralds the putrefaction of whiteness and fascism.

A false king is dead. New sacral kings arise to meet the battle, queens who know the meaning of sovereignty, who know their loyalties and responsibilities to the land, the black and brown ancestors within the land, and the gods. The anti-racist holy war is here. Let the black flags fly, let the black flame cleanse the face of the earth. In the words of the anarchist Heval Demhat, who was martyred fighting against Daesh in Syria, “this is a fire that may have started here but it can, you know, candle elsewhere.”

Let the warlike ones come, let the howling ones come, let the pure ones come. And may the rattlesnake that is the embodiment of the black and brown ancestors come and heal the air and the water and the earth.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.
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